My Summer School

summer schoolWhile it’s not quite time to start preparing to go back to school here, with about two weeks of summer vacation left for my girls, I can look back at all that I learned over the last eight weeks.  As they get ready to go back to school, my summer school is coming to a close.

Lesson one was (and as if this writing is) 16.0’s lifeguard career at a semi-local water park.  Forgetting the driving and scheduling that I ended up jumping through – I can honestly say I am proud of the work ethic she has shown this summer.  It’s clear to me work ethic is a learned trait.  I saw my mother work hard to provide a home for her three children – and I’ve tried to emulate that.  From my days at Valley Caterers (perhaps even before that when I was delivering newspapers) through my career.

I’m pretty sure my girls have seen how hard I work to make sure they have a happy home to live in – OK, sometimes I remind them too.  They don’t get everything they ask for – but they know that nothing comes without work, and that is a trait 16.0 has shown this summer.

Lesson two came just this week when 13.5 had her orientation for high school.  I have to admit, having them both on the same school schedule will help me.  But 13.5 got into the orientation and took it seriously.  She even surprised me by jumping into fall athletics at the school (she tried out for and made the tennis team).  For her, this is a whole new approach to school – being active and eager.  We’ll have to go over to the school next week to get her into an art class she really wants to take (another sign of her taking an active interest in her education).

I spent a lot of time with her over the last 12 months talking about taking a new approach – no long lectures, no screaming matches.  Just timed conversations that seemingly worked.

Lesson three was also last week when 16.0 took a week off from lifeguarding to return to Camp Good Grief as a volunteer counselor.  This was something I introduced the girls to about five years ago as a way to be able to talk about the loss of their mother.  Both have said their years there were good – and I’m so thrilled 16.0 feels the need to give back a week to help other kids overcome an obstacle they’ve dealt with.

Two weeks to go until first bell at the high school.  I supposed that’s also two weeks to go until my summer school is out.

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Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the New Year

Steve Harvey Miss UniverseI have to admit right at the onset, not only didn’t I see the faux pas that occurred during the Miss Universe pageant when Steve Harvey crowned the runner-up the winner and then had to fess up to his mistake, the only reason I even noticed it was because of social media (and I mostly ignored it).  The only reason I’ve even thought about is the girls and I had the chance to meet Steve Harvey this year and appear on his show.  So what do Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the new year have to do with one another?

(Outside a chance to repost the link to the appearance the girls and I had on the show that is).

The new year is a blank canvas for all of us – a chance to look back at the year that was and reflect on what went right, what went wrong and what we can take away from it all.  The new year is the ultimate do over – much like Steve Harvey had about a minute after realizing the mistake.

You take a look around, realize what you’ve done, assess how to fix it and move on.

I’m sure the news-cycle will move on fairly quickly on this moment for Steve and once Christmas passes us by – we’ll all begin to look at the promise of 2016.  We all face at some level the rough and tumble of the news-cycle – just not always played out across social media, traditional media and whispered in every corner of world.

Mistakes happen, it’s a lesson we all probably started learning when we were six years old – and now and then can use a reminder.  Am I happy that my next book won’t be available for the start of the year – no.  But a chance to learn from the reasons for the delays and a chance to move on and try again next year is just around the corner.

Just as Steve Harvey did during Miss Universe – stop, realize what you’ve done and be honest with yourself and others and move on.  That’s all we can do.  History is done, the moment we’re living is now and its the one we all need to focus on.

We’re 10 days away from a clean slate – a chance to reset and restart.  Take some time now to asses what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve come up short on and what you want to do.  The moment of Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the new year will come and go quickly – the moment of changing the narrative is ongoing.


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Actions and Reactions

action and reaction The last few days have made me realize it was time to instill a few new lessons.  And maybe I didn’t handle it as well as I could – but my girls will learn that in life there are actions and reactions – and sometimes even consequences like a tough conversation with peers, or having to face up to our own decisions.

In a lot of ways, my girls have had to grow up a little faster than I would like, so I’ve tried to shelter them some from certain moments in life.  I’ve tried to help them through some uncomfortable moments, take the lead with teachers and parents when tough discussions had to be had.

It may be time though for them to face up to more of their actions and the reactions they’ll get from others.  The goal is not to unleash the world on them, but to make them understand the Yin and Yang of life.

Case study one came Sunday.  We spent the early part of the weekend skiing, and got home around nine Saturday night.  I was up around 7AM (normal for the weekend) and did my shopping and hit the gym.  I came home around 11 and found 12.5 up and messing around on her phone.  I told her she had an hour and a half to her softball practice and a little more than an hour before we had to leave.  I even made her breakfast.

After eating, I told her practice started in about 40 minutes and we needed to leave in 20 to be on time.    40 minutes later, she came down the stairs, and we set out on a 20 minute drive to her practice five minutes before it started.

She put her headphones in and didn’t say a word to me during the drive – so I had time to think.  I decided she would have to walk in alone and explain to her teammates why she was 20 minutes late.  I’m not sure she understood or even realized what I was doing, but that’s OK for now.

Case study two came tonight when I picked up 14.5 from play rehearsal at school.  Among her activities is a class at our temple that meets once a month.  The session this month conflicts with the rehearsal schedule.  We talked about her going to her temple class on Wednesday.  When she got into the car today she asked if she could skip the class.

In a moment I’d like to have back I abruptly told her yes, but she had to inform the rabbi and cantor she would not be in class this week.  It’s her decision, not mine and she can live with it.

In calming down from that conversation I realized that maybe I had been making things too easy on both girls – and they don’t realize that actions and reactions have consequences.  So, now my new campaign is to help them learn this little life lesson.

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A Lesson Learned, A Lesson Planned

A lesson learnedI hope in life I never become too old to learn a lesson.  Last night after a brand new experience, I realized not only a lesson learned, but a lesson planned for my girls.

I’ve been driving for 30 years now.  I think I have driven a car in 48 of the 50 states and at least five countries (without putting too much thought into it).  Last night for the first time in all those miles I suffered a blow out while driving.

The good news, I was alone in the car and never lost control.  The back left tire blew while I was rolling my way on the world-famous Long Island Expressway.  I pulled over, took a look at the tire (down to the rim), assessed where I was on the road (narrow shoulder) and where I was geographically and decided my best move was driving half a mile to the next exit and getting into a parking lot just off the road.

I called my roadside company.  Maybe it was some kind of karma pay back for my post yesterday about technology running amok, because everything I lamented yesterday came to pass as I was stuck in a never-ending phone tree.  After finally reaching a person they told me at least an hour.

Being able-bodied, I decided to change the tire myself.  Now, I have helped people change tires, I have seen tires changed.  Until last night I had never changed a tire myself.  Check that off the bucket list.

About 15 minutes after I started, I was underway with a donut tire on my car and heading to a place to get a new full-sized tire for my car.  I spent another 10 minutes trying to get to anyone at Allstate Roadside to cancel the call, but that is impossible.  So I left.  About 10 minutes into that trip, the tow truck called to tell me they were at my location.

The one thing the experience confirmed for me is that before either of my kids head out on their own in a car, they will learn how to change a tire.  Not that I expect them to do that, but they should know how to.  They’ll have roadside (I would highly doubt it would be Allstate BTW) to call.  But knowledge is power.

So, I’m not too old.  A lesson learned, a lesson planned.  Keep your eyes open for that lesson you can learn, and pass along.  You never know when it will show up.

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The “I” in Introspection

IntrospectionAs someone who grew up playing team sports (and still plays them), you learn early the old axiom, “There is no “I” in team.”  As someone who can easily spend a lot of time in their own head analyzing and over-analyzing, I can turn that axiom to say I know, “The “I” in introspection.”

One of the reasons I keep this blog up is to give me a chance to put my thoughts in one place, and take a snap-shot of a moment in time inside my own head.  Sometimes there is a message in there that I stumble across.  Sometimes I find the wording I am looking for to help me resolve an issue.  And sometimes I just need a place to ramble.

If you’re reading this, expect the latter.

In a lot of ways, life can be looked at as a series of milestones.  As you cross each milestone stopping to take a moment to look back and derive a lesson or two is not the worst thing you can do.  That is the introspection.

When I’m playing hockey or softball, I’m part of a team so there is no “I.”  But when slowing down to take a look at a milestone crossed, or a life event occurring, although there may be others standing with you it’s a moment for you to look back and inward as an “I” and see if there is anything you can learn.

The “I” in introspection.

When I hit those moments I use my own little scale to rate myself:

  1. Can I look at myself in the mirror in the morning?  After whatever that milestone is (good or bad) its important for me to be able to say I was true to myself.
  2. Can I talk to my kids about it? I want to be able to share with them in the same way I hope they can share with me.
  3. What is the take-away? There has to be something learned to take forward. Life doesn’t just happen, its a participation sport and in every action and interaction there should be something that you can use to shape your future.

So on the field or on the ice when I play it’s as part of a team.  There are other times thought when there is the “I” in introspection mode.

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Sixth Grade Math: Patience (Not Another Common Core Rant)

Sixth Grade MathAs we hit late Sunday morning today, 13.5 is still sleeping and I am hanging with 11.0.  After her weekly pancake breakfast (I should blog about that too one day), much to her chagrin I knew about a math test tomorrow, so it was time to study.  This is not another Common Core rant, instead patience is whats needed for this sixth grade math romp.


So the first missive in this was asking her when she planned to study.  With a shrug of her shoulders she disappeared upstairs and returned 10 minutes later with a post-it sized piece of paper saying she wrote down all she needed to study.  I looked at the paper and told her to fire up the computer in the living room.

Next came her effort there.  She spent about 10 minutes doing a handful of problems on the state’s Common Core website.  What would have been nice is if she was working in the lessons and chapters that would be on the test tomorrow.

So, now in the right lessons, she’s spent 20 minutes doing problems – she refuses to print out the pages, so she is making notes on small pieces of paper and then we are reviewing. First problem, she graphed wrong.  This is about detail and checking work, so she needs to keep at it.

There is a lot of concern about the Common Core math lessons, and frankly I am not going to pile on to that bandwagon or pretend that I am troubled by my kids learning math a different way than I did.

Instead, my issue is more in my own house, where I just can’t get 11.0 to adopt good study habits.

Patience.  Breath.  Math.  We can do this, and still enjoy Sunday – I know it.

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Learning To Hold The Line

Chores are done todayIn our house allowance is not just doled out on a weekly basis.  It’s both earned and functional. Earned through doing chores and functional because during the school year allowance comes on Monday morning and if you want to buy school lunch, see your allowance.  Then came tonight, 13.0 announced she was meeting some friends for dinner at Friendly’s and I was funding it.  Where I need a lesson in learning to hold the line? I reached into my wallet and gave her money.


Before I over analyze this one moment, there are many areas I do hold the line that are far more important to me than a couple of bucks spent at Friendly’s.  At the same time though, I gave both girls allowance plus extra money when they went to camp-which was for the summer.  And they did not have to do any chores all summer long for that money.

The goal is not to be a hard ass about what amounts to less than $1500 per year between the girls.  It’s really more about instilling a sense of value in the girls.  I go to work everyday and earn money.  They can do some work and earn some money too.  Kind of the quid-pro-quo of life, right?

But, like most things, it’s just not black and white.  There is the social part to it and the lessons that the girls need about being independent and being able to do things like go to dinner with their friends.

So, yeah.  I’m still learning to hold the line, but at the same time I’m learning to manage the age gap between them and encourage other healthy behaviors (even when eating at Friendly’s).  Never to old to learn a new lesson, right?

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The Ruse of the Do-Over

Action and ReactionThink back to the days when you were younger playing ball in the street.  A car came or the ball hit a branch over-hanging the street sometimes after an argument you did a do-over.  Nothing happened, and you get to replay the moment.  Later in life though comes the realization, the do-over is a ruse.

Adult reality is more aligned with Sir Isaac Newton’s law of physics: for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.  And there is no do-over.


Mistakes happen.  People are emotional creatures which helps cement the randomness of actions and reactions.  Then there are the consequences.

Out in the street there was the ruse of the do-over.  Yes, you can replay that moment.

Later in life, actions and re-actions come complete with consequences.  And there in lies the rub of life.  Stand there, and realize Newton was right.  Actions spur equal and opposite re-actions and when emotions are added predictability is gone.

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Hmmm The Human Moments

Things That Make You Go HmmmThere are moments, and often they are the ones we hope don’t happen, where we can take a step back and say,”Yeah, we’re human.”  You can scratch your head, rub your chin, let out a, “hmmm,” but then off you go back into life again.

I’m pretty sure I had one of those moments last night.  In this case it was probably a few weeks if not longer coming and its a chance to take a step back and realize where you’re at what you’re doing and just go, “hmmm.”

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While there are hurt feelings for sure and the never-ending string of self-questioning what if’s and could it have been different at the end of the day, it’s a human moment.

So as I was driving along last night through a light snow the Queen song “We Are The Champions” came on, the line, “And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few” resonated a little louder than the rest of the song.  Yeah, I’m half culpable.  But as my mom used to say when two of three of us got into a fight, “It takes two to tango.”

And in this human moment, two people with caring in their hearts and even love on their minds manage to have a human moment.  That’s OK.  It’s a chance to scratch your head, rub your chin and let out an audible, “hmm.”

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The Week That Was

Here in the New York area there have been and continue to be images of heartbreak, tales of destruction and moments where the best in people all shine through.  Yes, the gas lines will go away, and yes the “recent” memories of the massive storm Sandy will fade-but in our case I hope the lesson we all lived through will last.  The early indication is that it will.

Compared to many in the area and many we know, the girls and I escaped relatively unscathed through what was dubbed the Frankenstein, but was really a massive super-storm.  Not far from our house, a week later families remain in dark cold houses, piles of garbage are on the curb.  We have friends who have not even made it home yet, safely ensconced in a hotel, waiting for FEMA and insurance.

While we survived the storm, power and roof in tact, as the winds were whipping and rain was pounding we were opening our doors to friends and neighbors who were not so lucky.

Earlier today while 10.0 and I were making lunch, I commented that the house has not been this quiet in a week.  She and I were the only people here.  At one point last week there were nine kids and five or six adults.

So now with the relative silence to think and reflect, I asked 10.0 if she knew why we let so many people in.  Her answer confirmed she understands.  “We share,” she said.  “When our friends aren’t as lucky we share with them.”

So, it was a trying week in the Metropolitan area, nothing new there.  Even as the moments fade hopefully the lessons will sustain.

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