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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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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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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Snap Decisions

Snap DecisionsThis morning I was playing back a conversation I had with 16.0 last night and it finally crystalized for me – the toughest part (so far) about being a parent to teen-aged daughters is the snap decisions that have to be made.  The moments I’m talking about are when you’re in the car or eating dinner and a subject comes up – and you’d like to say give me a few hours, but the verdict needs to be rendered now.  A snap decisions, and then you have to live with the consequence.

It’s not a new subject to struggle with. I found this from 2011 about snap decisions.  Although this context was much different I think the key is consistency.  The decisions that are a bigger struggle are the ones that fall outside of the flow of the day-to-day.

The most recent use case was 16.0 wanting to go to a party with some of her co-workers.  She got into the car a little after 7 and wanted to know if she could go.  Honestly, I was not thrilled with her going – not because I don’t want her to have friends at work but because this was with some of the older people she works with, who are in this country to work for the summer and living at a hotel a few towns away.  So, knowing all of this I held my breath and told her yes – and she knew she would have to figure out how to get back and forth to the party.  (I dodged the bullet when she couldn’t get a ride).

In thinking about this a little more – I realized a snap decision – positive or negative is actually easier in an only parent household.  There is no good cop/bad cop bit to fall back on, and no worry that the script won’t play forward.

So now I kind of like those moments when I get time to think about something and make a decision.  That’s not to say it’s still not a chance to agonize – just that agony can be dragged out before I’ve made a decision – as opposed to agonizing after another snap decision.

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Spring Time Of Year Again

spring into summerEven though the weather here in NY is very un-spring like, given all the stuff going on it’s spring for sure.  This spring is going to unfurl into a different kind of summer here, as only one of the girls is going to camp.  Make no doubt about it though, it is the spring time of year again.  But before that, we still have to navigate softball, track, finals, packing and new this year getting 16.0 ready for a job.

I’m hoping I am not short-changing the packing this year.  My thought is since it’s only one going to camp I don’t need all the time needed to pack, so 13.5 is not yet started camp packing.  We’ll see how that goes.

For 16.0, she’ll be lifeguarding at a water park about 30 minutes from the house.  What I hope she appreciates (I’ve said it to her exactly this way) getting her to her job is not my job.  Hopefully there will be carpools and the occasional über.

In the meantime – both girls need to keep focus on the end of the school year.  13.5 blustered her way through a research paper this weekend, and 16.0 has already taken an AP test.

So, packing will start soon for camp.  16.0 begins work over Memorial Day weekend – it’s spring time of year again – lot’s to get done before summer sets in, no matter what the weather is like.

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Still Talking

Still TalkingIt’s been nearly a month since I’ve managed to carve out the 20 minutes or so needed to update my blog.  Not that there haven’t been 20 minute stretches where I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, but rather just finding the mental (and sometimes physical) energy to compose 250-400 words in a coherent order has been tough lately – but that doesn’t mean I’m not still talking.

Most of my energy over the last month has been focused on getting started in a new job.  Without really meaning to, I went from one really large company to another.  While the job is very similar, it’s very exciting to be starting out on a new path with new challenges.

That new path has included two trips to Atlanta (corporate offices for this job), Toronto (to meet with customers) and a few extra runs into the city to meet with colleagues and customers.

Now a month in – I think we’re starting to find the groove and get into a rhythm of work and balancing the rest.

The spring also brings with it the bigger track season for 15.5, the more important softball season for 13.5 (including the school team) and the start of obstacle course races for all of us that get sprinkled in.

In looking at the school calendar, next week is also the close of the third quarter – which means its time to start getting into the home stretch of school and get the summer all teed-up.  This year 13.5 is going back to camp (we’ll do some shopping) and 15.5 (who will be 16 in the summer) is staying home and working.  No telling what that means just yet.

So yeah, I’m still talking – just more of it out loud (and often to myself) than on here just because for the only parent – spring is the busy season.

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Living In The World We Live In

social media school threatShortly after I got both girls out to school this morning, as I sat down to plot out my day and finish a cup of coffee in came a call from the school district.  It was from the line they use for robo called – ConnectEd they call it.  At that time of day, this is usually an innocuous call – report cards are released, athletic events at the school, PTO fundraiser.  Today it was not the case.  Today was a lesson about living in the world we live in for my older daughter.

This morning’s call was about a “numerous reports” of threats to the school.  Here is the text of the message from the school principal:

Good morning this <the> Principal of the high school to inform parents of a threat to the school circulating on social media.   We have received numerous reports of a “threat to the high school” being posted to social media.  To this point there have been no specific information posted or brought to our attention as to where the threat originated or what the threat is.

At this point we have increased our security presence at the high school and have contacted our School Resource Officer from the 6th Precinct who will be reporting to the high school.

I like parents of all the kids in the high school had a HUGE decision to make on almost no information.  It was interesting to see how things unfolded in the parent groups on Facebook and Pinterest – and some ran for the school to get their kids, others pontificate about the state of our society and some offered prayers.

In a decision I made – which I am not overly concerned being reflective or not of the rest of the community we live in – I decided to leave 15.5 in school, monitor things (not via social media) and be ready in case something came up.  My thought simply is this is the world we live in, and we need to live in – not be afraid of it.

Similar to going to NYC amidst “heightened” terror threats or air travel during these times – this is the world we live in, and we need to be living in the world we live in.

While parents lined up (and complained on social media about the disorganization) to get their kids from the school – I checked in with our police precinct.  It was looking more and more like the threat was a hoax.  I don’t want my daughter to be afraid of the things she’ll face in life, I want her to be smart and confront them.

I am not a reactionary thinker:

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society

And I don’t want my children to be.  I’d like to think I am deliberate in my thinking and hope to share that trait with my girls:

To deliberate means to carefully think or talk something through — it also means slow and measured, the pace of this kind of careful decision-making. If you chose deliberately, you make a very conscious, well-thought-through choice.

Admittedly, I did hedge.  I changed a couple of morning meetings to calls so I could be closer to home.  As the morning wore on and it became clear things had calmed down at the school I jumped back into the day as planned.  As I was heading toward my new office came the next ConnectEd call offering some further explanation:

You may be aware of a rumor that circulated yesterday evening, March 9, 2016, via a social media group message. After a thorough investigation by the <edit> School District, it was determined there was no confirmed threat to the high school or any school building within the District. The circulated social media group message never stated a threat was scheduled to occur; instead, it consisted of multiple parties asking if other recipients had heard of any possible risk.
As a precaution, the District involved the <edit> County Police Department, who confirmed there was no credible threat. Nonetheless, as an additional precaution, the District has increased security presence at the high school today, March 10, 2016.

As parents we all have to make decision – sometimes snap and often with little information and few facts.  I try to be consistent in decision-making – deliberate and not reactionary.  I want to teach my kids about living in the world we live in – not in an idealized past or non-existent Mayberry.

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One Hour A Day

one hour a dayEvery now and then I get a question from a friend,  a comment on this blog or just in passing – and generally it goes something like this, ” Wow, you have two teen-aged girls, a full-time job and you manage to get to the gym almost every day, how do you do it?”  Usually I just shrug and say I just get it done.  I realized this week though, the truer answer is – its my hour.  One hour a day I get to be fully in charge of what I do.

Sometimes its a little longer, sometimes its a little shorter – but that is my time.  I think I deserve to carve one hour out of the day for me.

Break it down – figure 6-7 hours sleeping.  8-10 hours working.  An hour getting the girls up and going in the morning.  3-4 hours juggling events and driving from place to place.  That’s 18-22 hours of 24 accounted for.  So one hour at the gym where I don’t have to check in on anyone, I can do what I want and reach my goals seems pretty fair.

And that’s the reason why I don’t use my phone at the gym – I am “off the grid,” or at least close to it.  Through the magic of iOS in an emergency I can still be reached – but whatever the call or text is, it will wait until I’m done doing my thing for that one hour.

The reality is, that hour can vary.  Some days it’s at five in the morning.  Other days it’s at 11:30 in the morning – usually its somewhere in between.  But it’s my one hour a day to not have to be accountable to anyone but myself.

That’s not bad thing.  In anyone’s life in 2015 there is accountability to so many people and institutions.  My girls have expectations of their father.  My bosses (and I have several) have expectations.  Although lesser – there are expectations from extended family and friends.  But for one hour a day I can hold myself accountable.

Some days I push really hard.  Other days it’s a lighter workout – but it’s my decision, for one hour a day.  There are great people at my gym to answer questions and offer encouragement.  There are great resources on-line to get motivation and new ideas.

The best advice I can offer – even if the gym isn’t your thing, take the hour.  You deserve it, its yours.  Go off the grid and be in the moment for yourself one hour a day.

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Dad Versus Dude

dad versus dudeDepending upon the setting, there are a lot of terms that can be used to describe me.  At work I hope its professional.  At home it’s usually dad.  To some it’s probably a-hole.  Others see me as a widow.  Some know me as a single (or as I prefer only) parent.  With my friends, I hope its kind of like a good dude they know – but that’s a tough line to walk when you battle dad versus dude.

Labeling things and people tend to make it easy to interact with them, but as you look at the landscape there are many labels we all wear – and usually several at the same time.

I’m dad 24/7.  Even over the summer when the girls aren’t home, I’m dad.  A case in point was last week while I was in California for work and 15.0 was in Canada on a camp trip.  Despite what the American Express Serve website says, it turns out her Serve debit card did not work internationally.  After two calls to Amex, the dad in me had to figure out a way to get my daughter money while she was traveling.  The dude in me wanted to go hit the beach with some work friends.  Both were accomplished, but I had to be dad before dude.

That problem came up during a quarterly business review for the group I report to (the reason I was in California) and was ensconced in a professional setting.  Not a single one of my co-workers knew in real-time that I was handling an issue with one of my kids and juggling communication between Amex, my 15-year-old and the group in the room for the QBR.  Hopefully I was able to be professional and a good dad at the same time.

(The end to the Amex story is a little complicated.  First it took me nearly three days to find someone to actually talk to with the ability to even explain to me what occurred.  It was another day before American Express came back to me with a solution so this problem won’t be an issue again.)

These types of overlapping moments are not the exception – but the rule.  While its great to be able to label and classify people and situations, it’s never clear.  There’s a fine line between divorced and separated.  I hope people see me as a friend, dude and dad who is also an only parent – I don’t want to be a widow first to anyone.

But while you control how your reflect yourself back to the rest of the world – how they interpret those signals is out of your control.  I’m sure there are more than a few who would consider me to be an a-hole.  I’m OK with that.  It’s not something I set out to do (I think).  But it’s their interpretation of what they see based on their lens.  And I’m OK with that.

The reality is I am all of the things I think I am:  dad, dude, widow, only parent, professional, even a-hole.  How you wear those labels though is the way others perceive you.

When it comes down to dad versus dude – I’m OK with being both, probably 75/25 or so.

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Balancing Time, Expectations and Reality

balancing expectationsIt’s about the mid-point in the part of the summer where he girls are away at camp – and my list of things I want to get done really has not done any shrinking.  It’s probably what I face each summer trying to balance time, expectations and reality to accomplish all my summer goals.

For some reason though this year it seems to be going a little slower.  I’ve had a bit more travel at the start of the summer, and I’ve had more work deadlines that usual – but still the list is not getting any shorter.

I think I realized my conundrum today when it took me more than 10 hours to go from making sauce to putting a lasagna in the oven.  Granted, not everyone starts a lasagna by making sauce first – but I do.  So, if you start there (it’s about a three-hour process), that 10 and a half hours is a little exorbitant.

Granted, in between I did two product demos, four calls and helped trouble shoot a compatibility issue.  But still, it’s the perfect metaphor for simply being way behind where I should be in the summer.

I go through both girls’ rooms in the summer – get rid of a lot of crap and give them at least for a day when they get home from camp a clean start.  It doesn’t stay that way long, but I can say I did what I could.  On top of that, I have a few home projects I am trying to get done – which are barely at the scratch the surface level.

There are three weeks to go – so free time will be the medium I use to get things done as I try balancing time, expectations and reality – or simply get some shit done.

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