Lost Luggage

lost-luggageThere are times life prepares you for a moment – sometimes you just have to wait 22 years for that moment.  For me, dealing with lost luggage was exactly that moment and I think I got the preparation for it 22 years ago.

Business took me to Amsterdam last week for the International Broadcast Conference (IBC).  Because of the way work goes, I had to change my plans a few days before I left – so my direct flight from NYC to Amsterdam became a connection through Washington, DC and a change in airlines from Delta to KLM.

The good news is I made it to JFK in plenty of time, an easy walk through Dulles followed and a pretty smooth overnight flight to Amsterdam got me on the ground at about 730AM – not well rested but ready for the day.  The plan was to grab my bag from the carousel, head to the hotel, hopefully shower, change and head to the RAI Center where IBC happens.

Problem is my bag did not have the simple transfer I had.  As best I could tell it never got out of Dulles.

Twenty-two or so years ago, when Risa and I took our first ever trip together – a cruise that left from Florida around Mexico and back our bags were lost too.  That is the last time until last week my bags got lost.  Not a bad track record.  Of course in that time I’ve become good at packing the carry on and limiting my chances for loss by flying direct.

For anyone who’s had to face this you know the drill.  Fill out some paperwork with the airline and hope for the best.

In this case though, I am on business travel.  All I have for clothing is a pair of Levi’s I’m wearing and a golf shirt I packed to pull on once the plane landed in Amsterdam.  I got lucky in that my hotel was built as part of a shopping mall – so before I headed to the RAI Center I headed to the mall and did some shopping.

This is where the flashback occurred.  Suddenly it was circa 1995 and Risa and I were busy looking for underwear in stores on Key West.  Back then I remember regretting the things I didn’t buy the first day – deodorant, a second t-shirt, a second pair of socks.  That training 22 years ago prepared me for the day.

It turns out my big issue with this battle of lost luggage was finding a pair of pants in downtown Amsterdam that would fit on my American hockey sized legs – since they were cut for Dutch men who ski.

I failed on the pants, got the extra things I needed – and was able to learn from that lost luggage lesson 22 years ago.  Call it a win and move on to the next.

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Cupid Undie Run Time Again

https://my.cupids.org/esd714

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https://my.cupids.org/esd714

Now that there is snow on the ground and temperatures have been closer to February like here in NYC – it must be time to strip down to my underwear and take to the streets of New York.  Yes it’s Cupid undie run time again.

If you’re new to my blog or to the run take a look at some of the pics on my Instagram (feel free to throw a like or a follow as well).  Then check back on February 13th as I’ll be adding more pics then.

The Cupid Underwear Run is a charity event raising money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation – so I am asking you to help and contribute.  Here is my personal page for contributions.  So you know I’ll also be matching the first $200 contributed this year through my company DTSG, LLC.

The logical question is why would I strip to my underwear and run around NYC?

As most of you know, Risa was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1997 and lived a productive life until her death in five years ago.  During that time, I saw first hand the damage a tumor can do to the human body and spirit.  As a parent, I can’t even begin to contemplate what it would be like to see my child suffering.  The nice thing about the underwear run is 100% of the money raised goes to CTF – there is no administration board to pay.
Look for pics on my Instagram next week – and please contribute.  It’s Cupid Underwear Run time once again.

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8765 Times 5 – Milestones Achieved

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the five years since Risa passed away 43,825 hours have ticked away.  Sometimes time just flies by as we go about our lives.  Other times, the hours drag as moments play out.  In the 8765 hours over this year some milestones have been achieved and moments have been shared.

Maybe the most significant was 13.0 achieving her bat mitzvah.  While I don’t think the struggle was any tougher than any family goes through convincing a 12-year-old that studying Torah and practicing prayers and readings is important – this had deeper meaning for us.  One of the few promises I made to Risa over the years she battled her brain tumor was that the girls would make it to their bat mitzvah.

Not only did 13.0 perform flawlessly – but she emerged as the young lady she is becoming.

With that goal accomplished this year it’s a chance to look back and reflect – but also to look ahead.

When I have a “look ahead” conversation with friends, somehow they all talk about paying for a wedding – I’m a little more of a realist and thinking about cars and college.

Sometimes as an only parent it’s tough to step back and evaluate how things are going.  I can look around and see signs of positive results – good grades in school, the ability for the three of us to communicate with one another, 13.0’s bat mitzvah, 15.5 setting out to become a lifeguard over the summer and accomplishing it and other tangible moments.

But sometimes out of nowhere comes confirmation that I’m sure Risa would be proud of too:

15.5 is in all honors classes and an AP class this year.  Her English teacher sent me an email last week about a moment from class that reassure’s me that there is a solid foundation to build on.

It seems the teacher’s mother is going through a health crisis and the teacher has been in and out of school.  She ended up canceling a test right before Thanksgiving, and told 15.5’s class it was due to the illness of her mother.  According to the teacher, 15.5 stayed after class that day and shared that she knew what it was like to have a sick mother and she would be there to support her teacher if she needed it.

How could a parent not be proud of the young lady they are raising?

One of the lessons I learned in childhood (raised by an only parent) is that there is no instruction manual for life.  You look at the moment, try to assess it and handle it as best you can.  You won’t always be right but if you decide with caring and compassion you won’t be wrong very often.

More than 350,000 hours have ticked off since my father passed away.  I think about him and Risa and wonder if I’m doing OK and what would they think about the way life for the girls and me has turned out.  I think it’s OK.

And so we’ll start to tick off another 8765 hours with more milestones to achieve.  We’ll build on our success and learn from our mis-steps and be able to look one another in the eye and know what is important and who we can count on – and all in, that’s not so bad.

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Measured Involvement

Measured Involvement - balanceAs the only parent of a teen (14.5) and a very close to teen (12.0) – I am kind of lucky.  My kids are still willing to do things with me.  Whether its going to a hockey game or skiing, sitting around and watching hockey or as we did on Friday night – making homemade pasta from scratch, we still do things together.  But I also practice measured involvement – so my kids can have as much freedom as possible, while I keep a sense of family and involvement in place around them.

I think I am honest enough with myself to fully realize that as time goes on, my kids will want to do less and less with me.  I try to teach them independence and let them experience it as well.  Some of it they like – open-ended bedtime on the weekend, able to go out with friends and picking out their own clothes to name a few.  There are some traits of independence I am sure they aren’t thrilled with as well – like doing their own laundry, learning to use their allowance for their expenses and having to do chores around the house.

The independence I preach allows me to practice measured involvement – so I am not omnipresent at every event they have.  I stay way back at 14.5’s track meets and soccer games.  I jump in only when the coaches need a hand at 12.0’s softball practices and games.  My practice is measured involvement in their pursuits.

They are in the middle of a three-day weekend – except for 14.5 going out to dinner with her friends Saturday night and 12.0 having softball practice Sunday morning they have not seen any of their friends so far.  I ask them if they have plans or plans to make plans – but I will not make plans for them.  That’s me adhering to my measured involvement in their lives.

You can find volumes written on the subject of parental involvement with their teens – and I haven’t read any of them.  Instead, I rely on being honest with my kids and myself.  I hope by now we can count on one another to be fair to each other.

We’ll reach a point (probably too soon for me) I’ll have to step even further back.  I am confident I’ve given them the lessons and exposure to the experiences to make good choices.  But I’ll miss being involved in things.  So for now, as far as they’ll let me, and I’m willing I’ll embrace the moments.

Measured involvement – so far it seems to be working, because neither of my kids is kicking and screaming that I am around.  I’ll chalk that up in the win column – for now.

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Managing Grades and Expectations

managing-expectationsWe’ve reached the mid-point of the first quarter of the school year – and unlike in the olden days when I went to school, through the “parent portal” I get a snap shot of where the girls are in school.  I can get almost real-time reporting on grades, assignments (and a few other areas).  But I don’t do that.

I check in from time to time, but I’d rather talk to the girls about how they are doing and get an assessment from them how school is going.  I can always go validate that with a quick log on to the parent portal.

This is a conscious plan on my part to let the girls manage their school – but I still get to jump in and try to head off problems that come up, and also give them props when it’s deserved.

The good news for me is that this was not available back in the olden times when I went to school – because I would not have fared all that well.  And I try to remember that slice of life when managing grades and expectations for the girls.

As I like to tell them, “I’ve already graduated,” this is their pathway to education.  I can admit to making mistakes along that path – and from time to time (usually when they ask) I admit them to my kids.  But I also try to guide them to avoid some of the mis-steps I had.

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Family Time in the Post Modern World

The girls with Travis Hamonic (l) and Brock Nelson (r)

The girls with Travis Hamonic (l) and Brock Nelson (r)

Today was a family day for us – courtesy of the New York Islanders.  It was their annual meet the team day at Adventure Land (an amusement park not far from our house).  As the day played out, I realized our time is like family time in the post modern world.  And that is probably not so bad.

Among the things I try to do is I try to raise two girls who can be independent.  I realize one will be 12 next week and the other is 14.5 – so they are not completely ready to be out on their own.  But it’s not like they are five and seven and need me in the middle of their worlds all the time.

So we wandered through the park getting autographs.  14.5 took lead in plotting the course.  The goal was the new players on the team, and the few players (John Tavares) we didn’t get at the event last year.  And we were pretty successful.  We met the new goalies (Halak and Johnson), the Russian imports (Grabovski and Kulemin), the younger players (Strome, deHaan, Lee and Nelson) and some favorites (Hamonic and Carkner).

We also bumped into some friends, the Ice Girls and did a few spins on the roller coaster, Frisbee and other rides.  A little more than three hours later – we headed out for lunch.

Up the road from Adventure Land, we sat at a chain restaurant and the girls were busy catching up with their friends via Instagram, Snap Chat and group text.  They were engaged with each other and their friends – the devices did not take away from the family time, but gave it that post modern feel.

I’m feeling good about not being a fan of the post modernist movement – but for family time in the post modern world, we do OK.

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When The Sum Has To Be Greater Than The Part(s)

The Sum is Greater Than the PartsMaybe it’s a sign of my age, the era we live in or just the way things happen.  At different points this week, I spent time with friends who are in varying stages of divorce-from being served, to deposition, to working on papers to getting ready for trial.  In all the cases there are kids involved and it was striking to me how all of my friends, and myself included, try to be two people at once-making our sum greater than the whole.

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It may not even be possible to be all things to our children, and I am pretty sure I am not guilty of that parenting faux pas.  Instead as a single parent-and its the difference between being a single parent and a divorced parent-I have to recognize when a fatherly hug is needed and when some motherly advice would help.

This week, 12.5 came home from school with a stomach issue.  This has occurred a couple of times already this year.  So we are working on strategies to make things a little easier.  It’s not an easy conversation for her (or me), but we get through it-the sum of being a single parent has to be greater than the parts in that case.

It also means having to sometimes sacrifice the things I want for the greater good of my kids.  My younger daughter’s softball season is starting up, and I make a huge effort to make all of the practices and games.  Mind you, generally I leave the house at seven in the morning and come home around 8:30 at night.

It would be easier to get her rides to practices and meet her at games-but like I need to be able to talk to 12.5 about her stomach issues, I need to be there as a proud father for 10.0 during the softball season.  The sum of my whole has to be greater than the parts.

Where the sacrifice happens though is when it comes to being my own advocate.  I do my bi-weekly therapy and go to the gym 4-5 times a week.  I am able to do those things in “down time” though from being a single parent-letting the parts recharge to make sure the sum can be greater.

And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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Measuring Success and Measuring Up

Measuring UpOne of the toughest lessons we learn in life, and one that is tough to explain to my kids is to try not to spend too much energy measuring yourself to your peer group-but rather to measure your actions to your own expectations.

But sometimes its tough to practice what you preach.

(Get Dad the Single Guy’s book The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning now)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself (I hope) silently comparing my parenting decisions against friends with similar aged kids.  I question if my decisions measure up or if I am too tough.  The good thing is that I can take away some different opinions and perhaps some new skills to try out.  But still, I find myself comparing.

Then I talk to my kids.

12.5 has friends who play sports, instruments etc.  While that’s not her interest, she is a great writer and story-teller and I push her to do those things more.  It’s a delicate line though, because you don’t want to create more work on top of school work.  When I talk about her great accomplishments in writing though, the feedback I get is positive.

I need to take a step back and measure her against her accomplishments, the same as I need to measure myself against my own accomplishments as a parent.

10.0 has varied interests and sometimes its tough to get her focused.  But she is really good at crafts, violin when she practices and when she wants sports.  Then I talk to the parents of her friends and I realize her in the aggregate her accomplishments add up.

I need to take a step back and measure her against her accomplishments, the same as I need to measure myself against my own accomplishments as a parent.

On the whole I have great kids and firmly believe we are all doing a great job of being the best people we can be.  Sometimes its nice to sit back and think about that, and other times its important to look around and see if there are ways we can improve.

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Back On The Bicycle Again

With some down time during a bright-sunshiney Saturday I set out on a bike ride with 11.5.  During a warm day last November 9.0 and I went out on a ride and I learned a lot, so I figured it was worth a shot to try it again.  The good news is I was not let down.  The bad news, I had ended up with a long walk.

Last  year when 9.0 and I went out on the ride I tried to keep it simple, so we essentially rode around the block to the high school and then around the track at the back of the high school. It was a great fit for the day, and something 9.0 talks about today.

This time, I wanted to give 11.5 the sense of freedom she could get on her bicycle. The sense of freedom I got when I was her age riding my bicycle around town.  Times and places are different but it was worth it.  So we set out going south of our house and pedaled along for a little more than two-and-a-half-miles before 11.5 said she was starting to feel a little tired.

We pulled over, had a little water and then set out to come back north toward our house.

Somewhere along the line she got a flat tire.  I’m not really sure how far she rode with the flat tire.  When we stopped about three-quarters of a mile from our house and I realized she had a flat I did what any parent would do.  I gave up my bike to her and set off walking her bike back home.

Off she went pedaling along around a curve and out of sight.  I was not all that worried that she did not know how to get home and when we stopped to turn around I told her we would go along the road, cross at the light and head for the gates to our community.

As I was pushing her bike home and waving to neighbors along the way, I was ready to point out how each time she wanted to stop I stopped for her.  Throughout the ride I kept checking to make sure she was OK.  Then when I was walking she was gone like the wind.

Except I got home before she did.  That was an interesting experience for me as a parent.  I knew I did not pass her.  I was pretty sure she was not hit by a car along the way.  I did pass one of her friend’s house and I saw the friend outside, so maybe she stopped too?  Not sure, but that would be the first stop I made on my “Where in the world is 11.5?”

As I was making my way out of the community she was pedaling in safe and sound.  So we have a good end to the story.

It turns out she went about a quarter of a mile passed our house to cross the street and then come back.  Not completely sure why she did this-but she did experience the freedom of being out on her bicycle and showed me she can navigate the roads near our house which are not necessarily bicycle friendly.

Lesson learned again.

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Sick Call: The New Twist

Another day-another sick call and another race home.  This time though it was a new twist on the old theme.

For the first time (and I want to reiterate the first time), my sitter who is here in the afternoon with the girls came up sick.  So instead of a call from the school nurse at 9:15, this time it was a text from her at 12:15.

The good news for me was the meeting part of my day was largely done with-but I had to do some prep for three key  meetings tomorrow.  Work that is easily transferable to the train.

Based on timing, I could make it.  11.5 would be home about 10 minutes before I got home and I would go right to the bus stop to meet 9.0.  That all fell into place quickly.

The wild card though is tomorrow-as noted, I have three key meetings tomorrow.  Not a lot of room to slide things around.  So along with the meeting prep, I spent some time coming up with a tomorrow strategy as well.

All of that in place, in time to do the Hebrew school car pool-get back home do a little more work and make dinner.

Just another day juggling on the single parent express.

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