Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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Dad’s Night Off

Dad's Night OffThis year’s holiday break from school is one of those never-ending ones – two full weeks off.  That’s a lot of time home – so given the chance I called for a dad’s night off.

Dad’s night off came when 12.0 (and as it turned out two friends) decided to make dinner.  Shrimp quesadillas were on the menu.  What could go wrong?

The recipe came from the girls’ Home and Careers class (think Home Ec if you’re over 40).  The night was chosen so I’d have a chance to do the shopping – and since I go to the store once a week, 12.0 needed to give me the ingredient list:

  1. onions
  2. green onions
  3. garlic
  4. cheddar cheese (not shredded)
  5. tortillas
  6. shrimp
  7. tomatoes

For years – even before Risa passed I did the shopping and most of the cooking.  While I could live without the shopping – I enjoy the cooking, and generally I am pretty good.  The nice thing is my girls have great pallets, so I can make (or try to make) just about anything.  So this night would be special because for a change, dinner was not on my “to do” list, and 14.5 and I would have a chance to enjoy the fruits of 12.0’s labors.

Even though it was dad’s night off, there was still some advisory work to be done – helping the girls chop onions, slice scallion and pan fry the shrimp.  Along the way I tried to teach them some kitchen basics about knife skills, how to mince garlic safely and how to plan their meal.

So, it wasn’t a true night off – but there were moments that made the little bit of work seem worth it.  12.0 and her friend made shrimp for the very first time.  They were amazed at the way they turned pink – cooking from the inside out.  I did buy already de-veined shrimp so I was able to skip teaching them how to clean the poop shoot.

And there was a discernible look of satisfaction on the faces of all three girls as we sat down, and dug into their creations.  It was tangible evidence that they are growing up.  Able to fish – as opposed to just having fish for a meal.  They own the recipe, and now the skills – one more step on the way to young lady status.

After a great meal – one I did not have to cook, I completed the role reversal with 12.0 and did her chores.  So I did the dishes and cleaned the table tops (14.5 had floors and garbage to contend with).  A chance to relax, share an experience and enjoy a meal someone else cooked – I’ll take it for dad’s night off.

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The Holiday Break Upon Us

Holiday SkiingWell, we made it.  With the holiday break upon us, and another year coming to a close we can all take a moment to sit back, reflect and project.  2013 was not so bad, and in looking ahead 2014 seems to have a lot of great possibilities – but first we need to navigate the holiday break upon us.

Now before doing what I do and rolling your eyes at another year-end romp through things that were and weren’t, keep reading.  This is not that.

Often when people talk about the holiday season, there is a sense of renewal.  The Hanukkah story is one of triumph.  It’s the day Christ was born, and it all culminates with the ball dropping in Times Square and we all get a fresh start on a new year.


For me (and I’ve never asked the girls about this), heading into the holiday break there is a different kind of renewal.  Three  years ago, when Risa passed, it was in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That year, Hanukkah was just starting (I remember lighting three candles, I could be wrong) and I was preparing for a funeral.  The blow-by-blow of that day is well chronicled so I won’t go into all of that.

Instead, I’ll focus on the moment of renewal.  The way things went from December 3, 2010 to December 31, 2010 were a bit of a blur.  The girls and I were home for the week of the funeral.  The went back to school the following week and I tried to pull the rest of our lives back together.  Then I went back to work for a week, and then the holiday break was upon us.

It was in that moment, kind of as a last-minute decision I set a course of renewal.  We went skiing.

I had done a lot of skiing before we moved to Boston and we had our first child.  After that I had gone 10 years without skiing.  The girls and I talked about skiing in the winter of 2009, but we just could not pull it off.  So, off we went.

Looking back at that moment I see it as the time we all began to realize we would be alright, there would be a life ahead of us.  We now had something we can share, a new experience and one that allowed us at that time to come together and enjoy memories-without having to relive the painful ones that were on the surface at that moment.

Last winter-with issues with both of my knees and a mild winter we were not able to ski.  But this year, the holiday break is upon us, and we will be off to build on our shared memories, enjoy our time together and remember that we can still have fun-and that’s not so bad.


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Holiday, Work, School, Spring Break-A Week of Juggling Ahead

Juggling on a TightropeSpring break 2013 is upon us.  The week ahead already has an interesting mix of holiday planning, school work to be done and for me more than work from home for the week.  All of that means its an exercise in time management and juggling to keep everyone on track.

Both girls have some homework over the break.  Mostly it’s prep work for the state testing that kicks off once they are back in school next week.  Add to that 12.5 needs to do a turn on her Bat Mitzvah speech this week and she needs to start conceptualizing the candle lighting she wants to do during her party.  For 10.0 along with the school work, she has to finish up her science fair project this week.


Mix in two seder dinners and one of them I have to go into the city for the afternoon before hosting and all of the other stuff that just comes up during the week-and well it’s all about keeping the chain saws in the air.

Juggling is nothing new to any parent.  For single parents it’s a unique walk across a tightrope.  In between all of the planned and scheduled activities will be the last-minute things that will come up-trips to friend’s houses, I’m sure a movie or two and who knows what else.

So, into a needed “down week” we’ll go, knowing full well there will be lot’s to do and lot’s of juggling to be done.

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Of Plans and Planning (Again)

As we finish the middle third of the holiday break, I’m reminded once again of the true juggling act it takes to plan for three people, and then to mesh those plans with others-it becomes a bit of a ballet that requires some precision.  But there is also a varying degree of plans and planning that I’ll try to accomplish versus others. (I am avoiding adding labels of a single parent versus a non-single parent for now because I am just not sure).

Whether it’s a day with family in the city or a quick get away with the girls the first hurdle is coordinating our schedules.  There are demands from friends to compete with, the random work call or email to juggle (even during a vacation) and just setting and measuring expectations.

Then comes meshing that schedule with people you are going to see.  If it’s a day out it’s a question of meals, meeting places and making sure everyone will find the day fulfilling.  If it’s a longer visit, there’s packing, travel time and the elusive setting and measuring expectations-as well as the sometimes daunting trip to navigate.

So this holiday break, after three days of planned events, comes three days of pretty laid back time.  The girls are mostly on their own to make their own plans.  But even then, there comes a certain amount of having to mesh the individual plans they make with the ebb and flow of the house.

I guess as a single parent one up side to all of that is there really is not a check and balance-I get to use whatever semblance of judgement I care to at that moment to validate or repudiate plans and proposals.

The downside to that is that when it comes time to say no, or have to re-think plans it’s on me as well.

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Could it Be? Am I Getting Better at This?

I could also call this update, what a difference five months can make.  Looking ahead at the schedule for school (or lack there of), work and all the other stuff-this week (and really this month) has the potential to be disastrous.  I think back to June and the struggle with partial school days, and other events tugging at me.

Now this week-11.0 only has school on Wednesday and Thursday.  9.0 is home on Tuesday and Friday.  I have a full day of meetings on Wednesday and have to prep for them on Tuesday.

But things are much calmer inside.  I feel like there is more control and less frantic running.

And that’s a good thing.

Yes, I made some changes: a better sitter, better infrastructure and the experience actually let me be calm about it all.  When I look at the entire month-it could be nerve-wracking.  Half days, no school, holiday breaks…

But this time, there is a sense of calm.  Calm because we’ve been through this.  Calm because there is not the feeling that there is so much else going on.  And on net, that’s a good thing.

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Lessons in the Apple Orchard

Not where we went apple picking thoughAs the sun set on Rosh Hashanna this year I took the girls for some apple picking.  For those who read who are not MOT or aware of the culture, part of the holiday is to dip an apple into some honey for a sweet year.  It’s admittedly a little quaint, but it works.  And we did that at temple-which spurred the conversation about apple picking.

One of the benefits of living as far from the city as we do is easy (or relatively easy) access to many of Long Island’s still operating farms.  We generally pick strawberries, apples and pumpkins each year, and sometimes some other items.  Also when we go east of our house, a stop at a farm stand on the way home is not uncommon.

Lesson one from the apple orchard was to get there ahead of the holiday next year.  It was pretty slim pickings in the fields.  We got about 10 apples-and I don’t have high hopes for any of them.  Thinking apple pies are about to be backed.

Last year, being what it was, the only picking we managed to do was pumpkin picking.  It was just too much with my wife in hospice and trying to get there on the weekend with the girls and still keep all the rest going.

This year, even with less than a plentiful bounty-the girls had a great time walking through the orchard and hunting down the few apples they could find.  It’s not about the haul for them-but about the activity.

Last year was the first since we moved out here (almost 9 years now) that we did not do apple picking.  I’m not sure 11.0 remembers when we went apple picking before we moved out here, but we did.  There is a kind of relaxation and familiarity to it, and it’s a nice little family event.

Lesson two from the orchard is to make sure I remember to look at some of these events through the eyes of my children.  To me, the trip was kind of a bust in that the apples were not great and I am not sure the apple pie (or apple sauce or apple cider) will be very good.  But that’s only a small part of what comes out of the apple orchard.

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Some Loose Ends-Here and There

So as anyone who reads my social media blog knows, I had a recent brush with unemployment.  Now, not the kind where you panic, but the kind that makes you think about where you are, where you’ve been and where you are going.  All in all, for someone who can spend a lot of time in their own head, it was not as bad as it seems.

Things for me at CBS (my former employer) really got sideways at the start of the summer–and through the combination of pressures not related to the job and a sense of apathy toward the job I really was not all that concerned about it.  I once had a room-mate who used to find my never-ending quest for a new job funny by saying that when thing go wrong for me in the workplace I don’t look to make it better–I look to make a change.

So when things went sideways that’s what I did.  Ultimately that helped cushion my landing a lot, in that I had so much of the networking done and my resume was on the street.

But at home–there really was not anyone I could talk to about it.  I am not one to open up to a neighbor.  My closest friend has his own job woes going on (I am trying to get him a gig at my new job now) and my therapist is paid to listen….

My girls were great through the process, although I don’t think they completely understood what was going on, or how on the edge we as a family unity were (and really are).  But support I got from them…but not being able to look across to someone and get a reassuring smile that it was OK.  No one to bounce a resume off for an opinion or to give me a quick read of a cover letter, or to let me know if my tie matched my shirt for an interview.

And the reality is my life has been that way for longer than I am generally willing to admit.  Now, I have a great network of friends both personally and professionally–and I got a lot of feedback on the resume, on the jobs I should be looking–and on the message.  All of that helped me land a job within weeks of being paid to walk away from CBS.

But that sharing moment is missing–and its been missing for a really long time.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, and I kind of missed it in total.  Grandma was here to be with the girls and get them to an event and do presents (and her presents tonight were by design).  But as I was taking 8.0 to an appointment she told me she made a wish when they lit the menorah.  I asked her what it was–and she wouldn’t tell me because “it won’t come through.”  I kind of knew that was the answer.

But what she doesn’t know is the hospice nurse called me today–and mom is slipping off a little more.  Not able to take her meds, not able to open an eye…

And me, I just have to walk the line one careful step at a time.

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