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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Perception and Time

I'm Late, I'm LateI have a confession to make – more often than not I am punctual, meaning early to on time.  For almost everything.  If I wanted to further this confessional moment (which I guess I will), being late bothers me.  When it comes to perceptions and time I’ve realized recently it’s not always a shared trait in my house.

This pertains more to 14.5 (unless it’s a weekend morning where I have to wake 12.5 up).  Apparently being 5-10 minutes late for my older one is socially acceptable.  And according to her I need to change my outlook on time to meet her needs, since my getting her going an hour before an event (or 40 minutes before leaving for school) is just too much time.

There are few things in life that are nearly totally manageable by the individual.  There are always dependencies on other people (friends and family), other things (mass transit, traffic) or events (weather) that can impact when you arrive.  But you can control when you leave, and manage the expectation of when you’ll arrive.

Professionally, I have a schedule at work and I try to respect not only my time commitments but the time commitments others have made to be in meetings (or on calls) with me.  I try not to go over, I try to start on time and I try to be on time.  Obviously it’s a less than perfect system since there are a lot of variables you can’t control.

A recent case study for this was yesterday when instead of a nice easy day of calls from the home office I was summoned out to New Jersey and the corporate HQ.  So, instead of going to the gym and getting into my day I had to fight traffic and do all I could be on time for 1030 meeting – leaving my house with two and a half hours to travel.  I was on time.  I have no idea if the people who summoned me out to Basking Ridge know what it takes for me to be there at 1030 without notice.  In this case perception and time are one in the same.

Yesterday my brother (who is still living in my basement for those keeping score), asked me about a trip he had to make for some on the job training.  I thought travel time would be about 40 minutes under normal conditions.  I had no idea what traffic would be like on a Saturday morning and no insight into the weather.  So I told him to leave an hour early and kill 10 minutes.  I have no idea if that is what he did, but in this case perception and time are one in the same.

So back to 14.5.  She had to be at an outing with her class at temple at 11 this morning.  It’s raining pretty steadily here and generally passing all the shopping locations on a Saturday morning can add 20 minutes to a drive.  The place without traffic is about 20 minutes from our house.  So, I left with an hour early – creating a 20 minute cushion.

You’d think  she was two days early for the carrying on I had endured.  Apparently, if I give her 10 minutes to leave the house she’ll move quicker than if I give her 40 minutes.  This is based solely (according to her) on the amount of time she’ll be texting friends.  I am not completely sure I see the correlation, but that is the argument.

I try to share with her my thoughts that people form opinions on you based on how you present yourself, and punctuality is the first item in that list – even before appearance.  A moment where perception and time are linked.  I’m not sure she agrees with the preface of the argument though.  As far as she is concerned, five minutes late is on time.

As for 12.5, I guess if it doesn’t involve waking her up it there is no argument to be made for perception and time.

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