Lessons Learned From a New Hip

Closing in on two weeks since I had total hip replacement surgery – and before anyone asks doing really well.  There are some lessons learned from a new hip installed that are worth noting (if not sharing).

  1. “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”  This is what most people who I know who had the surgery said to me going into it.  And generally I agree – I can say there was one minor complication in the hospital, but I woke up in the recovery room and for the first time in two years, my hip wasn’t bothering me.  I think for me, the timing was right – but I can understand why people ask themselves why they didn’t do it sooner.
  2. It’s really major surgery:  My only frame of reference for surgery was my ACL surgery almost six years ago and the less invasive MCL surgery I had six months after that (opposite knee).  Don’t let anyone mislead you – hip replacement may happen a lot, but its major surgery.
  3. Not sure the pre-surgery prep was on point: The doctor and hospital did a great job explaining the procedure, the expected outcome and even the path to rehab.  What they glossed over though was the actual surgical site and the reality of where they cut (right into your glute muscle) and the impact of that.  The only pain I dealt with was from the surgical site.
  4. I finally understand the opioid crisis in this country: I try not to take meds as a rule.  And certainly won’t take any high-end pain killers unless absolutely needed.  They start pushing narcotic pain killers before surgery. I managed to get through the surgery and post-op care without taking any narcotic pain killers.  Not everyone can do that.  I used Tylenol and ice to deal with pain and discomfort.  There was one night in the hospital the nurse spent 20 minutes trying to talk me into taking morphine – because they were going to start physical therapy (PT) the next day.  My thought process was: I just had major surgery, there should be some discomfort.  How am I going to differentiate pain if I am muting it all?  It’s a problem.
  5. I have great kids and support:  It’s not easy for me to ask for or accept help.  I want to be responsible for my stuff.  There are people who really helped out and got me through those first 5 or 6 days and I am really happy about that – and that I was willing to take the help.

There are probably more lessons from the new hip – but if I can go through this experience and come away pain-free and learn something – I’m ahead of the game.

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Girls and Their Hair

A lesson learned back in my teen-aged years about girls and their hair has generally served me well later in life. That lesson, just be complimentary, don’t be judgemental or critical.  It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, or don’t want to share it.  But girls and their hair share a unique relationship.

As an only parent to two girls generally speaking I have let my daughters keep their hair as they want.  I call it picking my argument.  It’s also probably a bit of survival.

For years, both girls have kept long hair.  17.5 was around mid-back and 15.5 was closer to her waist.  At the end of the summer, 17.5 decided to cut it off.  She had 10 inches of hair removed (and did some blonde highlighting).  The removed follicles were donated to Locks of Love for use in wigs for children with cancer.

This weekend, it was 15.5’s turn. She had 14 inches of hair trimmed off and will be sending it to Locks of Love on Monday.

What struck me about her plan was she was very talkative about it.  I don’t remember 17.5 saying much other than she wanted to highlight her hair.  15.5 was much more vocal, “Its my last day with long hair,” she said to me Friday morning.

Girls and their hair, it’s a unique relationship.  I was (or at least hope I was) reassuring to her and supportive of her decision.  We talked about how when she was younger and wanted no part of brushing her hair we had to give her a shorter “bob” cut.

When she was done and walked back to the car, I could see the immediate difference in the way her hair framed her face.  As I was waiting for her, I thought back to the days when I took the girls for haircuts – and the discussions I had with the hair dressers.

“Do you want layers?” they’d ask me.  “How about the front, just a trim?”

My response was always the same, “See what their hair looks like now, the same thing but shorter.”

Girls and their hair, not a great spot for a mostly dumb guy to start making drastic decisions.

Fast forward six or seven years, and my girls can easily articulate what they want for their hair (thankfully).  And of course share it quickly to social media.

It was there I learned the other half of 15.5’s long hair story – she dedicated the cutting her hair to her mom who died of a brain tumor seven years ago this month.  There are times I wonder if my girls remember the date, and other times I am astonished by their grown up actions and thoughts.

Girls and their hair.  Be supportive.  Be complimentary.  Don’t be critical.  And in this case be proud.

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8765 Times Seven

There are 8765 hours in a year.  That mean more than 61-thousand hours have passed since Risa passed away – and still time remains an elusive concept to grasp.  Sometimes the hours (and days and months) fly by as I am amazed at what we have accomplished.   Other times, I can feel each of the hours painfully tick by – seemingly without a concern of the one that will follow.

Perhaps its due to the time of year when this day comes that I get very retrospective.  Maybe it’s because sometimes in those long hours I wonder what would those who are no longer with us think about how we’re doing.  Would Risa be OK with the decisions we’ve made the life we’ve cut out? Would Risa’s parents be proud grandparents?  Would my father be happy with the way I’ve gone about being a father? Would my brother be an influence on my kids?

I’d like to think the answer to the questions are all the same – a resounding yes.  But in those long hours sometimes you never know.

I have a high school senior now.  She’s going to college next year.  Removing someone from the house and changing a dynamic that works.  Do we have the ability to make another adjustment?  I think so.

I have a high school sophomore now.  Her path is in the arts – something Risa would be far better at navigating that I’ll be, but we’ll figure it out. But is that path the right one?  I think so.

But all of that is the next 8765 hours.

The last 8765 were filled with accomplishment and lessons I think we can all look back on know the people we remember – not only today but everyday – would be pretty proud of the way we carried ourselves.

There were new faces and new experiences that helped fill out the last 8765 hours – and each is important in shaping the next.  Some will be influential for a long time to come.  Others are fleeting in their moment in our lives and some we’ll need the next 8765 (or more) to figure out.

But that’s life, right?

I think when my father died when I was young I was able not to dwell on it and let that moment define my life.  My hope is my kids are able to do the same – and I’ve been able to use my experiences to set them up to flourish.

There are 8765 hours in a year.  61,355 of them have ticked by since Risa passed away.  As we start the next block of time – we’ll do so knowing we’ve done our best, and will continue to do just that.

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Shared Experience

My kids have had their first Grateful Dead experience – and it was a success.  We shared the experience last night at Madison Square Garden as Dead and Company covered three hours or so of material.  As we were heading home, I realized this is just the latest in the shared experience my girls and I have.

Through academic achievement, school performance and athletic endeavor, my girls have allowed me to share in the experience of their lives.  Seeing their conquests and even some disappointment as time has gone along.

And since Risa passed away (nearly seven years ago) the girls and I have shared experiences – starting with skiing in the weeks after the funeral.  We’ve been able to enjoy that for years (even though 15.0 “retired” from the sport last winter).  We’ve done mud-runs together, vacationed together and celebrated life events together.

That shared experience I hope is a bond that the girls can count on – because as we rip days off the calendar this school year, we get closer to 17.0 going away to school.  Whether we’re ready for that or not – the day will come and we’ll have another shared experience (albeit this one apart).

 

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Life Isn’t A Hallmark Moment

At some point today during a scroll through Facebook I found a post about National Cancer Survivor’s Day – which I somehow thought was in June (it is).  The post was one of those copy and paste to status, so no telling when it was actually written.  But it made me think – we’re all kind of cancer survivors (at least in my house) and life isn’t a hallmark moment to be commemorated like that.

Hallmark as a euphemism for many industries – creates days and events (Santa Claus and  Valentine’s Day are the two that leap to mind first) that we commemorate and sometimes even celebrate.

I’m not sure cancer fits into that mold.

A good friend of mine and someone I’ve worked with for the last eight years or more recently beat cancer.  He and his family should celebrate that accomplishment and cherish all that life has to offer.

In the same way my friend is a survivor – I think the girls and I are survivors too.  We not only survive – but thrive in the world after Risa passed away from cancer.  In fact – I even consider the 12 years Risa battled (and beat) cancer as surviving.

I don’t think any of us think of life as a Hallmark moment – instead we embrace every day and celebrate the day for all we can accomplish and use it to prepare for tomorrow.

So let the first Sunday of June, National Cancer Survivor’s Day, be another day to celebrate the battle we all do with cancer (and all of the other diseases) and save the Hallmark moments for times you want to cherish.

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It’s Not A Popularity Contest

There are times – and I think it’s more now that my kids are older than when they were younger – when parents have to make a decision and the outcome is an unhappy child.  We know what call they want – but it’s not a popularity contest, so sometimes they’re just not happy.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve run afoul of expectations of both of my girls.  While I can see their point of view on the issues in question – I’m comfortable with my thought process and decisions.

When the girls were way younger a temper tantrum would ensue, and that would be over quickly once they realized the low impact it had on me.  In the tween years, there would be a more sustained protest, perhaps even an attempt to argue.

But in the mid-to-late teen years – there’s a whole different approach, I’m not sure if its intentional or not – but now I deal with passive aggressive, displaced anger and the occasional dirty look.

But the lesson I learned probably the day 17.0 came home from the hospital in Boston – its called parenting.  It’s not a popularity content.

It would be great for my kids to applaud every decision and I’d love to be hailed as a hero every time I say, “No” to something.  At least in my house, that’s just not the way it works.

So, I’ll deal with a few dirty stairs and try not to laugh when one takes out their anger on the other knowing it’s aimed at me.  I’m a parent, not a politician – and it’s not a popularity contest.

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Your Best and Hope

do your best and hopeGenerally, I try to keep things positive and keep it in perspective.  It would be easy to lament the things I’m either missing or have been without in life.  But I don’t think that serves me well – instead (and I use this metaphor a lot) I look in the mirror in the morning and hope the guy looking back knows you do your best and hope for the right outcome.

Admittedly, it sounds a little overly thought out – but a friend’s Facebook post recently got me thinking about not only my life my the lives of my kids.  Without sharing more than she may want in this forum – she’s a 9/11 widow and her daughter – who was a new-born on that day in 2001 recently went found her father’s name at the memorial in NYC.  My friend posted the text exchange she had with her daughter including a picture of the name.

Do your best and hope is probably standard thinking for any parent – or at least I would hope that it is.  But in the case of an only parent where you play two roles but can only be one person it has a different feel.

I grew up without a father.  He passed when I was in kindergarten.  I don’t think I missed out on anything in life – but I admit I didn’t have a blueprint to be a father.  This is when your best and hope has to work.

My kids are growing up without a mother.  What will their future as parents be? Was my best good enough? I hope so.

In my house, my kids have a closeness I never had with my brothers.  I’m not sure that’s just a function of girls and boys.  I’m not sure its a function of parenting.  Even when my older brother lived with us for a year, I still never felt that bond that I can see in my girls.

Back then I told my kids we were opening our house because that’s what you do for family – it was the best we could do at the time.  You do your best and hope.

So as we embark on the next school year with all kinds of firsts – 17.5 will drive to school, graduate in June, apply to college while 15.0 will move into honors English and advanced art classes – is my best enough?

It’s what I can offer.  Everyday I tell the guy in the mirror – just do your best and hope.

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Perspective On The Year Ahead

17.0 and I just got home from the first real college tour – last year we did a one-off college visit to NYU in NY but that (at least in my mind) wasn’t a real tour.  This time we did two of the State University of New York (SUNY) schools that would realistically be college destinations.  While one is still in the running and one is out – my lesson was in perspective on the year ahead.

17.0 is going into her senior year of high school.  For the most part I can recall most of that year (despite it occurring more than 25 years ago.  I really don’t recall such a big focus on the college tour – but that’s a different story.

As we were walking the second SUNY school today, I asked 17.0 what she was looking for on these campuses.  I think I wanted to know what she was using as her yardstick to measure one school against another.

Her answer was interesting – she wanted to measure out the campuses (small, medium and large); find out about campus life and maybe a little about her major.

I would have thought she would be more focused on the school’s proximity to town and what living in a dorm would be like.

Just a differing perspective on the year ahead.

As we were driving home, she asked me for a reminder of when she can go for her senior portrait (tomorrow).  Then she was focused on her yearbook quote.  I can’t even recall mine.  To be honest, I can’t even recall if we had them.

My thought on them though is you need to think about your audience 10 years out.  After all once the school year ends, the yearbook is put away – and comes out right before the 10 year reunion.  I’d like to think experience gives me perspective on the year ahead – but I could be wrong.

I’m going to guess that this year will be eye-opening for me – going through a lot of changes for the first time.  It’s been a while since there was this much upheaval – the good news is, hopefully I learn something by the time 14.5 is ready for her senior year.

That’s my perspective on the year ahead.

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Next Step – Driving

We’re about to reach a milestone of sorts in our house.  17.0 is about to hit the roads as a solo driver.  I’ve purchased a second car, next step is driving for the older one.  Much as I did when I got them mobile phones six years ago – she’ll have to sign a contract of responsibility.

Here’s what I have so far – wondering if anyone has any additional thoughts:

Agreement for Using My Father’s Second Car

The following outlines terms and conditions Teen Driver freely agrees to, understands and acknowledges for use of the second car belonging to my father, Car Owner.  These terms as presented and agreed to should be seen as a contract between Leah and Ethan for use of the car.  Penalties are outlined herein.

Section 1 – Basic Rules

  1. The car belongs to my father, Car Owner, and my driving of it is a privilege I have earned. _____
  2. The car will be kept generally clean and in good running order at all times. _______
  3. The car will be parked either at the top of the driveway with Car Owner’s car having access to get off the drive way first or in a proper overnight parking spot. _______
  4. No more than four additional passengers are permitted in the car. _______
  5. There can be no additional drivers of the car without the express (and situationally) granted permission of Car Owner. _______
  6. House curfew will be strictly enforced. Failure to keep to house curfew will result in forfeiture of use of the car for a period of time to be determined by Car Owner. _______
  7. Teen Driver will follow and obey all traffic laws. _______
  8. Any incident related to the car or its operation will be disclosed immediately. _______

Section 2 – Car Related Costs

  1. Under terms of this agreement Teen Driver will pay monthly insurance costs of $ XX.XX _______
  2. Teen Driver is solely responsible for keeping gas in the car. _______
  3. Teen Driver is responsible for all maintenance costs of the car including but not limited to oil changes, tire rotation, tire replacement and general maintenance. _______
  4. Teen Driver is responsible for any traffic fines relating to tickets or violations. _______
  5. Should any fines or violations result in points on her license Teen Driver will pay any additional insurance costs on a monthly or annual basis. _______

Section 3 – Expected Driver Behavior

  1. Teen Driver and all passengers will wear seat belts at all times when in the car. _______

  2. Teen Driver will not use her cell phone at any time while driving. _______

  3. A ticket for texting while driving will result in loss of driving privileges for a time period solely at the discretion of Car Owner. _______

  4. Driving while intoxicated or under the influence will result in loss of driving privileges. _______

There’s not stopping the next step, driving. But at least she’ll know she has skin in the game.

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Teachable Moments

It’s not lost on me that I just don’t update as much as I did when the girls were younger.  I could say time and commitments are the reason – and probably build a good case. But the reality is when my first post about bra shopping (more than seven years ago) this blog was about my day-to-day as  an only parent of two girls. While that hasn’t changed, my scope has.  We’ve changed from dad and two girls to a dad and two teens.  I do less parenting and spend more time looking for teachable moments.

To be clear, I’m still a parent.  I still get to say, “no.”  But I’m far more effective when I’m able to use a moment to convey a lesson.  It was just last week I realized I’ve come to embrace those teachable moments.

This all crystalized when 17.0 (I can’t believe that either) went to take her road test last week.  I just got a new car, and I had the temporary registration taped to the inside of the windshield.  Honestly, I had never looked at it.  I was just waiting for the regular registration to show up in the mail as it would in the course of business.

However, the road test day showed up before the regular registration – and it turns out the temp was not printed well and arguable the expiration date for the registration on my car was illegible.  Arguable because I was able to read it and the woman at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles office was able to read it – but the tester claimed he could not.

I could see the disappointment in 17.0’s face when the tester said he could not get in the car and take her for her road test due to the registration.  We headed for the nearest DMV office, waited on a relatively short line and got the sticker.  On the way back to the testing area, 17.0 asked me why I didn’t argue with the tester more.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

It’s time for 17.0 to understand that there are times it futile to argue with people who aren’t her father – there was no way I was changing the tester’s mind, so I went for solving the problem.

Both girls are traveling with international destinations this summer.  A couple of years ago when the girls were in camp there was a trip to Canada and it turns out their American Express debit cards did not work internationally.

And she passed her road test, wave if you see her drive by you.

This year, both girls are out in the world with credit cards.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

Now I’m trying to explain the importance of credit ratings to both girls, and get them to understand they’ll get a bill eventually.

We’ll see how that goes I suppose.

So instead of semi-pithy realities of being an only parent – I’ll try to document those teachable moments now – and a bit about how those lessons are received.

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