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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Evolution of Thankful

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table last night with my kids, my mom and friends I realized while the meaning behind Thanksgiving doesn’t change, we can (and I’d argue should be) aware of the evolution of thankful wrapped in the day.

Without going through my entire history – Risa and I were married a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. After our honeymoon, we came home, ate turkey with our families and headed off for Dallas and what we expected to be the start of our lives together.

Before we got to celebrate a Thanksgiving in Dallas (or fly home for Thanksgiving), Risa was diagnosed with a brain tumor – and to the best of my recollection we were in our apartment with friends and co-workers that first year.  Risa had her first surgery shortly after that.  There was a lot we did not know about what was ahead of us – but in the evolution of thankful we were happy to be together and with people who cared.

By the time our second Thanksgiving in Dallas rolled around – Risa’s condition was mostly stabilized and we started a tradition I try to maintain today.  At the time I was still working in broadcast news and November is a tough month to get time off.  So we invited the migrant folks from the station for Thanksgiving.  These were the Dallas transplants who did not have family in Dallas.  Again, my hazy recollection is about 15 or 20 people in our relatively small apartment.  But we had a lot to be thankful for and the evolution of thankful had changed again.

Over time we moved back east, had kids, moved into a house.  All the while our Thanksgiving dinner has been a mix of small gatherings and larger “events” always open to pretty much anyone we come across.

Our second Thanksgiving in Boston was our first as parents, and the evolution of thankful had changed again as we had a healthy girl to share the day with.

By the time we added a second child we were back in metro New York and had a lot to be thankful for.  Our youngest was born about six weeks before Thanksgiving and despite the looming shadow of a brain tumor – to the outside world we were a young family and had a lot to be thankful for.

I can remember eight years ago, Risa’s last Thanksgiving in the house with us.  I can’t remember who else was here because I realized the evolution had occurred again, and while we were together as a family, I also realized that image would not last.  Although we had a lot to be thankful for I realized the next evolution would be bigger than a move halfway across the country.

So last night as I looked around the table – I saw the start of the next change.  For Thanksgiving 2018, I’ll have a college freshman coming home for a few days.  15.0 and I will have to figure out what our life at home will be like without her sister.  17.5 will have to figure out how to acclimate back in after her first four months away at school.  I’m sure we’ll be thankful – just another evolution of thankful to come.

I have a pretty good idea what I think the evolution will be after next year – but as I’ve learned you need to roll with the punches and be thankful for the evolution.

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Cupid Undie Run Time Again

Please contribute:

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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Another Undie Run is Done

Cupid Undie Run 2015As Howie Rose says after a Mets win, “Put it in the books,” another undie run is done – all things being equal I’ll be back at it again next year.

For those who have missed out on this moment of the calendar – the Cupid Undie Run is an annual event done around the country in the weeks around Valentine’s Day.  In NYC, this of course is the dead of winter.  As a reminder, a small snow shower was in progress as I arrived at the starting line on 48th Street around 1230 Saturday.  By the time the run started, the snow had stopped – but the temperatures fell.

Which makes it the perfect time to strip down to your underwear and scamper along the Hudson River.  I clocked this year’s course at just over a mile (some years it’s a little longer, some years it’s a little shorter).

Unlike the turkey trot 5k or New Year’s Eve 5k I did with 14.5 over the last few months – the Cupid Undie Run is a fun run.  It starts and ends in a bar, and is as much a celebration of the season as it is a run – it’s certainly not physically challenging.

The undie run though is a fundraiser for the Children’s Tumor Foundation – and through the help of my family and friends and my company, I was able to raise $435 for this charity this year.  I heard at the event in NYC more than $15,000 was raised – which is a great number.

Feel free to check out my Instagram for some more pictures and videos from the day.  For 2015, another undie run is done.  Hopefully I’ll see you on the cold streets of NYC in 2016 for the next undie run.

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Lacing Up The Running Shoes For Cause

Cupid Undie RunWith very little “training” accomplished, I’ll be pulling on the running shoes next week, and stripping down to my undies for a one mile (or so) romp through Chelsea and the Meat Packing sections of NYC-it’s all for a good cause.  But even a mile at this point is an accomplishment.

The Cupid Undie run Run New York is a benefit run supporting the Children’s Tumor Foundation.  For me, it’s a chance with very little pressure to test out both of my knees.

By the time the run steps off next week it will be six weeks since my second knee surgery. So far, PT has been going well but I am just starting to run.  The good news about this one mile trek is that there is no clock.  I fully expect to be in the very back of the race, chugging along mostly trying not to take a bad step.

And since this is a fundraising run, I’ll invite all to make a contribution to the cause.  To start things off on my page, I’ve already donated the proceeds from my book, The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the cause.

I hope you’ll contribute too (and buy my book if you haven’t already).

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My Weekend to Ponder

So heading into a Friday night I’ve spent most of my day turning over in my mind a conversation I had last night while driving home from New Jersey.  Now, I know full well what a bad idea it is for me to put this out there-but it’s kind of what this blog is, so in for a dime-in for a dollar I guess.

Twice this week, once on Wednesday and once on Thursday in very different ways and very different circumstance my ability to sustain my side of a relationship was certainly questioned and perhaps even doubted.  Now the first one was not one that would make you stop and think all that much and I won’t dwell on it all that much.  But taken with the second event, it makes you think a little.  Enter my weekend to ponder.

So far, I’ve realized that during the last 20 years or so my direct inter-personal relationship was with my wife who was my wife who was in a pretty steadily deteriorating state dealing with a brain tumor.  In looking back, as she slipped away first intellectually and then physically I retreated inward.  I dealt with a lot of pressure between her care, child care, nurturing my career.  There was not a lot of time for me to sustain the social tool box that I had at one point.

Now professionally I am a different person.  Even with a group of people who are good friends who I would go to bat for and watch a back for any day of the week, it’s a different setting.

When it comes to opening up and being just me, guard down, planning turned off-I feel clumsy even if I’m not I still feel that way.  And there in lies the rub for me.  There are inter-personal settings where that kind of encounter is expected, and this week I learned at least once and probably twice I have a long way to go.

When I stand in front of the mirror shaving in the morning I know the person looking back at me is doing all he can and really pushing hard to be better at it.  Still, there is a nagging sense that I could be doing better.  Now to ponder how?

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A Promise Kept

Before I get into this blog, I want to let anyone know who reads it that it will not be the usual trial and tribulations of trying to raise two girls.  While it is about them, this specific post is really a place for me to put some of my own thoughts about the passing of my wife last week into one place.


A odyssey that began in the ER at a tiny hospital in Irving, Texas in October of 1997 essentially ended in a hospital room in Port Jefferson, NY in December of 2010.  What’s funny as I sat with my wife as she was “actively dying” I could not help but think back to that day 13 years and half a country ago.  The moments in time were so similar.

In 1997, I was there fighting tears as my wife of 11 months was told she had brain tumor.  I even remember the ER doctor showing us the CT scan that had the evidence.  Somewhere in the middle of that, one of my wife’s co-workers came in to check on her (my wife had collapsed at work and they were just checking on her).  I could barely speak, but my wife came up with a joke, “I’m fine,” she told her co-worker.  “Except for a brain tumor.”

And so my crash course on tumors, treatments, brain tumors and reading scans began.  One piece of great advice I got from my cousin, one of the top cardiologists in Florida, was simple and I used it as a guide throughout the next 13 years.  I can’t become a doctor by reading the internet.

As my wife went through an initial biopsy of the tumor and we found out the initial diagnosis based on the scan was correct–she had an oligodendroglioma Based on that diagnosis we made decisions in 1997 that would set the course for the next 13 years (although at the time we did not know what life expectancy was).

While anyone diagnosed today with the same type of tumor now receives a course of surgery to debulk the tumor and then regular scans to monitor its practice–in 1997 the recommendations was surgery followed by radiation followed by chemo.  The problem was we wanted to have a family.

In mid-November 1997 my wife went for surgery.  The conversation we had the week before that surgery would stay with me.  It was a time of stress and worry.  We had just had our first anniversary and we were talking about her expectations for a funeral, signing living wills and making sure I was able to speak for her and follow her wishes if she did not survive.

One of the isolated moments that really stands out is the morning of the surgery.  My mother in-law arrived in Dallas the day before (in a wheel chair for reasons that continue to escape me).  Despite our instruction to meet in the surgical waiting room, she decided to join us.  There she got to hear our discussion about organ donation (organs yes, skin no).

But my instructions, if something did happen were clear.  No heroic life saving techniques.  Make sure dignity is maintained.  And if she were to pass, the funeral would follow Jewish tradition as closely as possible.  This was my first set of promises to my wife.  Promises I would keep 13 years later.

A year or so after that surgery came the OK from her team of doctors to “resume” life.   And by resume life, I should point out meant going to MRI scans four times a year and blood tests twice a month.  If the scans would stay stable during that first year, a family would be possible.

So in 1999 after  series of four or five stable scans–we started planning our family.  For us the reality of the situation was always omnipresent.  There was no telling what would happen–this would not be normal.  But the one thing we agreed to was when the time came–whenever that would be, my place was with our child (and soon children).  She was going to go through a lot of personal risk to have children, and it was my job to make sure there was never a doubt about what was important or where the focus would be.

At first, despite the ongoing scans and tests things were mostly normal.  After she gave birth to our second child, things started to change though-symptoms returned and after a scare in a Tampa hotel room, and the second birth, it was also time for a second surgery.

Although we did not have the in-depth discussion this time, she made it clear to me what I was to worry about.  Our children.  Yes, I would be at the hospital for the surgery.  And yes, I developed as good a relationship as I could with the surgeon and the staff–but my focus was on the kids.  There would be no sleeping at the hospital this time.  Instead I had to be there for breakfast each morning with the girls.

It was a lot of long nights driving the LIE from NYC to our home-but I was keeping my promise.

Six years later, as her condition worsened, it was those conversations from 1997 and 1998 that I used to honor her, and make sure her wishes were realized.

In May, a month after her 41st birthday, I was planning her funeral.  Traditional Jewish.  I had a lot of help from the Rabbi at my temple-and at the time it looked like the downward slide would continue and things were imminent.   But things stabilized—and the end that looked so near became a much longer and drawn out process.

But that didn’t change the focus.  For as long as I could, I brought the girls to see their mom-even eat dinner with her sometimes.  When she lost the ability to feed herself, I had the girls feeding her.  If you want a heartbreaking moment, watch a 10-year-old try to feed her mother, and know its being done out of pure love.

But even that connection ended as symptoms worsened even more.  With her wishes for her funeral set, my focus was on the kids, and making sure they were prepared for what was happening and have the support they needed.

Then came the call–on a Thursday morning.  Things took a turn for the worse and I learned the hospice diagnosis of “actively dying.”

For the uninitiated, and I hope that is everyone and no one ever has to hear a term like that, it means the body is shutting down and the living process is actively ending.  “Is it hours, days, weeks?” was the question I asked.  Days was the most likely scenario I was told so I planned accordingly.

At that moment, what I really needed was time to figure out the best way to activate the plans I had made six months ago and manage the message to my kids.  No one was going to tell them anything until I did and no one was going to answer their first questions until I could.

As ironic as it sounds, the Long Island Rail Road gave me my best option to simply have a chance to take a breath and work it through.  I needed to get with the rabbi from my temple–a different one from May, but one I had been talking to for months and who knew what was going on.  My wife’s sister needed to be told, my mother needed to be alerted, my brother told and somehow I needed all of this to not get back to the girls until I was there.

Oh yeah, I also needed to get the hospital and say good-bye to my wife.

So there I am sitting in her room, fighting back tears and telling her how brave she is and there is nothing to worry about–I have things squared up.  13 years prior it was the same thing–and that’s a thought I can’t get beyond.

The next five days would be easily the worst in my life–and I hope the worst ever.  Each day I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do–starting with that Thursday night–and telling my kids their mom was dying and the end was near.  Friday was spent telling key people who would help me spread the word to friends and family and managing how my mother was handling the news.

Saturday morning I had to take my kids to see their mother and tell them how to say good-bye.  “I love you,” they said.  “Be peaceful and rest now.”

By Saturday afternoon-while preparing to host a Hanukkah party I had to tell them their mom had died.

In a perfect world, I would have been there–with her at the end of the odyssey as I was at the beginning.  But my world right now is not perfect.  Instead though I was where I promised I would be-with our children.

Finally came the funeral, which I have written about here.

It sounds a little folksy, but the gauge I use to measure if I am doing the best I can is if I can look into the mirror when I am shaving.  If I can look the guy in the mirror in the eye, then I am doing OK.

As I look back not only on the last week, but on the last 13 years, I have no regrets.  My wife lived the life she wanted.  We have two really great kids.  I kept my promises, and that guy in the mirror–I’m OK with him too.

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