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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Sharing an Historic Election as a Family

In Family on November 8, 2016 at 7:56 pm

little-one-voting-2016

This election cycle has been daunting (to say the least).  For the first time ever, our kids were heavily involved, more by osmosis than by choice.  The 24/7 news cycle, combined with two polarizing candidates, has made our home something of a political hotbed over the past year or so.  You can probably imagine how weary my kids have grown of this seemingly never-ending election, since most grown-ups are totally burnt out at this point.

My choice for this election was the most difficult one that I’ve ever made, and it would be an understatement to say that I took the scenic route to get here.

Early on, I thought that one particular candidate would have been the best for the country because he was the least divisive of all.  I was putting country ahead of personal beliefs in that circumstance.  Once it became clear that his campaign wasn’t gaining any traction, I shifted to the candidate that resonated with me the most.  Once his campaign came to an end, I flirted with the idea of voting third party since I’m not in a swing state, but that idea was short-lived.  Although I favor a system that goes beyond two parties, I found myself at the crossroads of the two major party candidates.

Early on in the process, I had decided that one candidate was never going to get my vote, and I’ve stuck with that decision for over a year.  That left me with the bitter pill of voting against someone, rather than voting for someone.

What I’ve learned throughout this process is that every vote cast for either major party candidate meant being able to forgive something.  Perfection simply doesn’t exist, nor does near-perfection for that matter.

Over the past few months, as people have dug in, I’ve seen that the news of the day wasn’t really moving the needle for decided voters, only for the undecided ones.  Those on the left would react strongly to news from the right and vice versa.  This has only added to the divide in the country, and has made this election must more vitriolic than any other in my lifetime.  I was dug in, but more against one candidate than in favor of another.

I was prepared to use my vote to try and stop the candidate that I would never want to see in the Oval Office.  But, over time, I started to do more research on my own, and stopped buying into the perception created by the media and those on social media.  Once I put my pre-conceived notions to rest, I was able to open my mind to the possibility of enthusiastically supporting one candidate over the other.

Everyone has a core belief system, a set of values that transcends any candidate.  For most of this election cycle, my views aligned mostly with the candidate that I chose.  This wasn’t a gut feeling.  I answered every question that I could on www.isidewith.com on more than one occasion, and the results always came up with two candidates above all others, but only one of them is in this election.

Like most people, my wife and I have lived through our fair share of trials and tribulations.  Thankfully, we’ve always been there for each other, regardless of the situation.  We’ve grown together over the past 25 years together, and though we come from different religious backgrounds, we have instilled a strong belief system in our children.  It’s a belief system built upon not just a tolerance for the way that others live, but a full acceptance of it.

As I mentioned above, no candidate is perfect, but there is one that goes against everything that we believe.  When I opened my mind, I started to realize that the candidate that I voted for, though not without faults, has a very similar belief system to my wife and me.  We agree on most issues, issues that go beyond candidate personalities, issues that are important to us.

I can’t fault anyone for their choice, because I haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.  I don’t know everyone’s most important issues, or for the most part, their core belief system.  While I may not agree with choosing a particular candidate, it’s not my place to tell someone that they’re wrong.  That being said, I have witnessed some terrible behavior from a handful of people, and that has forever changed my opinion of them.

If you look at the picture on this post, you will see me voting with my little girl.  Surprisingly, she has shown a stronger interest in this election than my son who is four years older than her.  I’m proud to say that the values that we’ve instilled in her have come through in our discussions with her about this election.

Ever since I became a parent, my focus has been on doing what’s best for my children.  Every decision that my wife and I have made during those years has been with my children in mind, often times at personal sacrifice, but that’s part of being a parent.

The journey to this moment has been long and arduous.  There has been a great deal of handwringing throughout this election process, but regardless of what happens tonight, I’m at peace with my decision.

I’ve been an independent all my life, but so much of what has happened in the last year has made me commit to a party for the first time since I turned 18.  Making this decision is probably more difficult on my children than it is for me.  It’s not easy being in the vast minority when you’re in school dealing with other kids who have strong beliefs based on parental influence.  My son has already dealt with a classmate judging him for not being in lockstep with most of the community.

Tonight, my wife and I brought the kids with us to vote.  My daughter helped me fill out my ballot, and my son helped my wife.  Hopefully by tomorrow, we will be on the side of history as Hillary Clinton is elected as the first woman president of the United States.  Even if that doesn’t happen, we will still have shared an historic moment together, provided that Chuck Schumer is re-elected to the Senate (which is a virtual lock).  It has already been decided that he will become the first Jewish Senate Majority or Senate Minority leader.

My hope is that, regardless of what happens tonight, we can move towards becoming one nation again (although I realize that it will be very difficult).  I’ve done all that I can do to make the best decision for my family and me.

Based on what I’ve seen on Facebook, a number of friends were going to disagree with whichever candidate I voted for.  I would not want to go through this process again, but the one silver lining in doing so is that it gave me the opportunity to get comfortable with voting for a candidate that I believe in, rather than voting against the candidate that I don’t.  It’s a much better feeling to enthusiastically support someone (at least it is for me).

I purposely haven’t openly supported Hillary on Facebook because I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable back and forth from Trump supporters.  Now that my vote has already been cast, there is no longer a reason to debate the choice.  I’ve made my decision, and I’m at peace with it.  I wish the same for everyone else.

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What If?

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on October 9, 2014 at 8:47 am

What If

“What if?” is a question that my mom tortured herself with since my dad passed away in 2001.  The passage of time never diminished her need to know what would have happened if we had done something different, something more extreme in the hopes of an unlikely miracle.

Wondering “what if?” reached its peak each year during our family’s “hell week,” which happens every July.  It begins with the anniversary of my dad’s accident and ends with the anniversary of his passing.  That is always a difficult week, but there used to be a reprieve that lasted until his birthday in March, when we all can’t help but wonder once again…“what if?”

Today marks the final day in another “hell week” for my family.  Today I find myself asking “what if?” on the first anniversary of my mom’s untimely passing.

What if she had taken the test that she feared taking earlier?  Would she still have had the complications that she had from her surgery, which led to more surgery, which led to her ultimately passing away and leaving us all in shock once again?

What if she was able to reach me earlier on the day of her test?  Would I have been able to travel to the hospital quickly enough to give her a hug and kiss and tell her that I loved her before her surgery?

What if the doctor’s appointment that sent her rushing for emergency tests was after her birthday weekend, instead of the Friday before?  What if we didn’t “celebrate” her birthday praying for her to wake up at her bedside?  What if we had the chance to have one last birthday celebration by going out to dinner together (which was one of her favorite things in life)?

What if she got to read the heartfelt, handmade birthday cards that my kids made for her instead of having me read them to her as I said my last goodbye because I knew that the end was near?

What if my daughter could have given her the card that she made for her for this birthday, even though she knew that there was no place to send it?  What if my son could have called my mom to share his excitement about the home run that he hit on her birthday with the bat that she gave him for his birthday?

What if, instead of having two “hell weeks” each year from now on, our family didn’t have any?  What if my dad got to meet the amazing kids that my mom used to look to the sky and tell him about?  What if my mom got to see the kids that she adored grow up, graduate high school and college, get married and have kids of their own?

What if life was fair?  I guess I’ll never know…

Living In The Moment Instead Of Capturing It

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on May 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Image

Life lessons can be found in unlikely places if you are open to learning them.  As a modern-day parent, armed with the requisite equipment (smartphone, digital camera, camcorder), I am always at the ready to capture every “important” moment, in addition to others that wouldn’t fit into the aforementioned category.  At least I was until recently, when I had an epiphany spurred on by Louis C.K.’s stand-up comedy routine.

We tend to look at any celebrity in a different light, but when it comes down to it, Louis C.K. is my peer.  We both have two kids, are close in age and spend enough time on social media to be able to appreciate the absurdity that often takes place in the medium, Facebook in particular.

If I revealed that I had discovered a way to experience life’s moments in incomparable HD-quality, many of you would immediately start Googling for reviews to see what others thought.  The bad news is that you wouldn’t find the information that you’re looking for, but the good news is that there is no cost and you can start experiencing this incomparable HD-quality immediately.  This sounds too good to be true, so there must be a catch, right?  Yes, there is!

The epiphany that I had, and the life lesson that I learned (courtesy of Louis C.K.), is that the best way to experience this HD-quality life is to put the camera down and live in the moment.  In his routine, he joked about how we all live our lives through a tiny, two-dimensional lens when we could be experiencing these moments in real-life 3D.  To be fair, the funniest part of the routine came afterwards when discussing what to do when posting these videos on Facebook, but it is not “family-friendly,” and cannot be shared in this forum.  However, you do not need the punchline to appreciate the legitimate point that he made with his observation.

Putting down the camera is easier said than done, but I was determined to do so the next time that the chance came to live in the moment instead of capturing it.  Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wait too long.

With Louis C.K.’s words still ringing in my ear, I sat down in my seat to watch my 7-yr old daughter’s dance recital.  My wife wasn’t ready to join me on my mission, so she was in charge of the camcorder.  I took a few obligatory photos, but for the first time in six recitals, I experienced a “life-sized” moment, and enjoyed it more than ever before.  A malfunction with the camcorder had my wife in a frenzy.  In previous years, I would have also been in a panic, but I simply told her that we never watch them anyway.  I shocked myself with this newfound rationalism!

Memorial Day Weekend brought another major test of my willpower.

We have established a family tradition of kicking off the summer by attending the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.  It is a spectacular event that must be experienced firsthand to truly appreciate.  In previous years, I took some photos during the early parts of the show, but when the headliner came on (Blue Angels or Thunderbirds), I kicked into full “capture-the-moment” mode.  At times, I would be shooting photos blindly into the sky with one hand while videotaping with the other hand.  I lucked into a few good pictures, but I cannot tell you how the videos came out because I have never watched them.

This year, I decided that it was time to live fully in the moment, and I did.  I didn’t take one photo.  I didn’t shoot any video.  I didn’t even turn my “battery-challenged” smartphone on to share the moment on Facebook.  Undistracted, I used all of my senses to take in this awe-inspiring show.  I found myself gasping at times as I watched the FA-18 Hornets pass within feet of each other at incredibly high speeds.  This is a staple of their demonstration, but I never appreciated the intense danger of the moment when viewing it through a tiny camcorder screen.

My brother-in-law joined us for the first time this year.  Photography being one of his favorite hobbies, he was intent on capturing every moment.  By the end of the day, he had taken 281 photos, a number that certainly would have been higher if he wasn’t budgeting his battery time for the main event.  My son took over 100 pictures, even though he was largely uninterested for much of the day.  My wife took some shots on her phone to send to friends, and my sister-in-law took some too.

As we sat around the table when we got home, I shared Louis C.K.’s insight with everyone.  In spite of the fact that they all took pictures, they agreed that his point was a valid one.  I asked my brother-in-law how many pictures he would have taken if he was using film instead of digital memory.  His answer (24) spoke volumes about how the convenience of digital media has made it too easy for us all to live life through a lens, capturing every moment instead of living in them.

Most people left the beach that day with numerous photos of the Air Show.  I left with a handful of photos, all of which were shots of me with my wife and kids.  Out of the thousands of photos that I’ve accumulated through the years of attending the show, one sits squarely on my mantle as a reminder of the experience.  It is a simple close-up of the four of us at Jones Beach, and one of my favorites because it brings me back to a moment in time.  The Blue Angels are awe-inspiring, but I wouldn’t trade a perfect shot of their performance for the family photo that means so much to me.

The majority of my life’s most memorable moments were not captured in photos or videos, but I remember them just the same because they have left an indelible, vivid imprint on my mind.  I don’t need to flip through photo albums or scan my computer to access them, so the argument can be made that the best way to capture a moment is to live in it fully.  It took Louis C.K.’s words of wisdom to bring me to this realization.  Hopefully, it will do the same for those who read this story.

Empty Crate, Empty Bed, Broken Hearts

In Family, Life Lessons on March 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Empty Crate Empty Bed Broken Hearts

The following is a story about a morally bankrupt dog breeder named Jonas Stoltzfus, who is an “approved breeder” for a broker website called Greenfield Puppies.  According to the broker’s website, they do everything possible to prevent mistreatment of animals, and inhumane breeding practices.  They make no such promises for how their breeders treat humans.  Perhaps if they policed their breeders’ business practices, a very bad situation could have been avoided.

This story is not a plea for sympathy.  Having been through some very tragic times, what Stoltzfus did to my family and me pales by comparison.  By sharing this story, my hope is that anyone looking to do business with this unscrupulous man will think twice before taking a trip out to Amish country in Pennsylvania and look elsewhere for a family dog.

Here is my story…

This month will mark five years since the painful passing of the only family dog that we’ve had since my children were born.  For a long time, my kids didn’t want to get another dog because of their love for our dog that passed, and to avoid the pain of ever having to go through something like that again.  But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds.

Not long before my mother’s sudden passing in October, she told me that she wanted to get my kids a puppy.  Throughout her entire life, she had a paralyzing fear of big dogs.  Her perception of “big” is likely different than most people.  The only dogs that she felt comfortable around were those of the toy variety, so naturally, she wanted to get the kids a puppy that would never grow up into a big dog that she would fear.  Though not as extreme, my daughter also has a fear of big dogs, and has been longing for a little dog for quite some time.

I still hadn’t made up my mind about whether or not I was ready to take on the responsibility of a dog when my mom passed away suddenly.  In the difficult months since her passing, the thought of getting a dog never really crossed my mind.  However, after a trip to visit a family member with a toy breed, I decided that the time was right to give the gift that my mom wanted to give to the kids.  Seeing the joy on their faces as they played with this dog made it a fairly easy decision.

I started doing research on my own to find the dog that would be ideally suited to our family, while honoring my mom’s intentions.  I discovered an adorable mixed breed puppy on Petfinders.com.  When my wife got home, I took her upstairs to discuss the idea of getting this dog.  She didn’t know that I had been in discussions with my mom about getting a dog for the kids.

After some hesitation, and staring at this adorable little puppy on the computer screen, she agreed that we could look into it.  I made a call early the next morning and listened to a voicemail message that said the fastest response would come by e-mail or text, so I e-mailed and waited.  I texted and waited.  I texted again and waited some more.  I called again, and got the same message.  When it became abundantly clear that this shelter wasn’t going to respond to my inquiry, I started to look elsewhere.

My search took me to the website for Greenfield Puppies.  I scrolled down and found a breed that I had never heard of before.  It was a “designer” breed called a Cavachon (King Charles Cavalier and Bischon Frise). It was exactly the type of dog that my mom envisioned and that my kids would adore.  The litter of 8 puppies belonged to a breeder named Jonas Stoltzfus.  It seemed like fate had stepped in when it turned out that my favorite one shared my mother’s name.  I immediately called and left a message about which puppy I was interested in, and asked the breeder to call me back.

Several hours later, the phone rang just as we were sitting down for dinner.  I rushed upstairs to take the call in a place where the kids couldn’t hear me because we were going to surprise them with the puppy.  He told me that the puppy that I was interested in was still available, but that he would need a deposit to hold it past the weekend.  This conversation took place this past Wednesday.  When I called back to arrange the deposit after speaking to my wife, I got his voicemail and left a message.

On Thursday morning, I left another message trying to arrange for a deposit on the puppy.  Around noon, I received a call back from Jonas’s brother, Henry.  He told me that Jonas was at work, but assured me that the puppy was still available.  He also said that a deposit wouldn’t be necessary because he didn’t anticipate it being a problem to hold the puppy until this Saturday.  Later that day, Jonas called me back and confirmed what Henry had said to me earlier.  He told me that he would mark down that the puppy was being held for us.

My wife and I decided that it was going to be a logistical nightmare to keep this a secret from the kids because we needed supplies before bringing the puppy home.  When my kids got home from school on Friday, we told them about the puppy.  They nearly burst into tears of joy when they saw the puppy that bared their beloved grandmother’s name.  When I told them that it was a gift from my mom, my daughter looked up to the ceiling with arms open wide and said…“Thank you, Mimi.  I love you!”

With no time to spare, I took the kids to Petco (an hour away) to buy the necessary supplies for the puppy that would be ours by the weekend.  My wife stayed home feverishly organizing and puppy-proofing the kitchen for our new arrival.      

While I was out with the kids, Jonas called my house and left his address on the answering machine, because it is not listed on the Greenfield Puppies website.  Jonas asked for a return phone call to confirm the time of our arrival.

I put his address into my GPS, and found that it would take us just over 3.5 hours to get from our house to 197 South Groffdale Rd in Leola, PA.  I called him back from my cell phone and told him that we would arrive around noon on Saturday.

Exhausted from our day, I arrived back home with the kids at 8:15pm armed with everything that we would need to bring our new puppy home.

Customarily, our family has a hard time getting out of the house on time for one reason or another.  However, we were out the door by 7:40am, excited to bring our new addition home.  We gassed up the car, grabbed a quick breakfast for the road and were on our way with time to spare.  This would give us the chance to grab a quick lunch before picking up the puppy for the 3.5-hour ride back home.

At 10:41am, my cell phone rang in the car.  My wife answered it, and a look of despair washed over her face as she handed me the phone to speak to Jonas.  He asked me if I got the message that he left at the house at 8am.  I told him that we left before 8am to make sure that we arrived on time.  He said that he called to tell me that the puppy was sold to people who got there before me.  When I got infuriated with him, he told me that I should have still been home at 8am to get the call.

I was rightfully enraged and let him know it.  Not only was it not his place to tell me what time to leave my house for a long trip, but he was the one at fault for making an agreement over the phone and then going back on his word.  His empty apology was followed by him telling me about his “first come, first serve” policy.  The fact that we had an agreement meant absolutely nothing to him.

He told me that there were other Cavachon breeders in the area and that I should contact Greenfield Puppies to see which ones had available puppies.  The number that he gave to me did not work.  Truth be told, I was only going to call it to complain about him, not give this broker another chance to disappoint my family with another bogus breeder.

My kids were understandably crying hysterically in the back seat of the car when we got the news that our puppy was gone.  They couldn’t understand why someone would go back on their word like that.  To make matters worse, we were 2.5 hours from home.  Jonas offered no explanation as to why he didn’t call my cell phone earlier.  He simply placed the blame on me for leaving too early.

Knowing what I know now, I am glad that we didn’t end up getting our puppy from this morally bankrupt “businessman.”

My wife and I took the opportunity to teach the kids a life lesson about how to treat people, but it did little to take away their feelings of betrayal and heartbreak.

As I said earlier, my goal in sharing this story is to enlighten others, not garner sympathy for my plight.  If you believe that the public should be warned about people like Jonas Stoltzfus, please share this story on social media and ask your friends to do the same.

Thank you!

Finding Solace on the Diamond

In Family, Life, Life Lessons, Sports on October 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Z 1st HR

Some of my fondest childhood memories occurred between the chalk lines of the baseball diamond.  For many years I have shared these memories with my son.  Deep down, I always hoped that he would feel the same way about the game that defined my childhood.  To this day, no matter what the situation, I still seem to find solace on the diamond.

For the first time ever, my son played fall baseball this year.  It was the first football season that he has missed since he was five years old (see “Saying Goodbye to Pee Wee Football”).  The transition out of football had its challenging moments, but ultimately, he embraced the change and made the best of things.

The last game of his season was supposed to be played on the day that my mom passed away (see “Dear Mom…”).  Needless to say, my son never made it to the game as we spent that day shopping for clothes for my mom’s funeral.  It was a heartbreaking moment as we drove past the field on the way home from the mall, and we saw all of his teammates warming up for the game.  Thankfully, the league added another game as a bonus, so my son got one more chance to take the field on the day that he returned to school.

My expectations for the last game were virtually non-existent.  Under the circumstances, I just wanted him to get through the game the best that he could.  After sharing what my son had been through with the league director, he was slotted as the leadoff hitter for the home team.  He stepped up to the plate in the first inning with the baseball bat that my mom gave for his last birthday, wearing the batting helmet and batting gloves that were also part of the gift.  Always fearful of what could happen on the football field, my mom was overjoyed to buy him everything that he needed for baseball (her favorite sport).

He swung hard, but missed the first pitch.  The second pitch was a ball.  At that moment, I just hoped that he would be able to focus enough to put the ball into play.  The last thing that he needed in his fragile state of mind was a strikeout.  He drove the next pitch into the gap between the left and center fielders.  From the bleachers, I yelled to go for two.  When I saw how far out the ball was in the outfield, I yelled again for him to go all the way.  The look on his face as he touched home plate for his first homerun ever is something that I will never forget.  I ran to the dugout to give him a hug, congratulate him and tell him that he made Mimi very proud.  He followed up his homerun with two hard-hit singles, the best day of hitting that he has experienced thus far.

For those few hours, my mind was focused on how proud I was of my son, and it temporarily eased the pain and sense of loss that I was feeling about my mom.

Over the weekend, the two of us spent a few hours together on the baseball field.  He took his usual batting practice, and then pitched to me from behind a protective screen.  As much as he enjoyed hitting, he seemed to take more pleasure in watching me drive the ball deep into the outfield.  It was fun to relive my glory days, but more importantly, my son and I got a much needed respite from the overwhelming sadness that we’ve been feeling.

He has been trying to put on a brave face since my mom’s passing, but this morning, he finally confided in me that he was hurting badly.  He can’t understand why his life has changed so drastically in such a short amount of time, how we went from a planned birthday celebration for my mom to a funeral in a matter of days.  He so badly wants to tell Mimi about the homerun that he finally hit.  I do too.  We can only hope that she was watching with my dad.

The cold winter weather will arrive sooner than we would like, but until then, I plan on spending as much time as possible playing baseball with my son, and finding solace on the diamond.

 

 

 

Dear Mom…

In Family on October 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

Dear Mom,

When we spoke just before you were going for the test that you feared, I never imagined that it would be the last conversation that we would ever have on Earth.  The shock and pain of your loss has reached a new high today, now that the mourning period with the family is over and the kids have returned to school.  There are no more distractions, just the harsh reality that this isn’t some bad dream that will end when I wake up.  During these painful days of the past week or so, I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to pick up the phone to call you for support.

The ride back upstate after you passed away was pure torture.  As devastated as I was, I couldn’t imagine the moment that I would finally have to tell the kids that their beloved Mimi was gone.  I will never forget the moment that I held them tightly with tears streaming down all of our faces, as I told them how much joy they brought to your life, and how you loved them with all of your heart.  Z took it very hard, and Little One did too, although she couldn’t process it in the same way.

After I broke the news to them, we spent the day shopping for clothes for the funeral.  Shopping for clothes was something that we always did with you, so you can imagine how difficult this was for me.  Towards the end of the day, after a frustrating time trying to find what we were looking for, a wave of emotion hit me, and I began to cry in the store.  Little One asked what was wrong, and I told her that I was sad.  To which she replied…“are you sad because we’re having trouble finding what we’re looking for?”  I told her that I was sad about you, and then asked…“have you ever seen me cry in a store when we can’t find something?”  Normally, I would call you right away to share a conversation like that, and we would laugh at the things that come out of Little One’s mouth.  I can’t tell you how much I’ll miss those moments with you.

On the way to the funeral, Little One was asking a lot of questions as she tried to wrap her mind around what was going on.  Z kept trying to change the subject as a way of protecting me.  He did the same as the questions started again at the cemetery.  You always said what a special boy he was, and he proved it once again in my darkest hour.  If you were watching, I know that you would have been so proud of him for his consideration.  He even saved me a rainbow cookie when I went for a walk during Shiva because he knew what they represented to me.  Granted, he took a bite out of it first, but he thought of me before finishing it.  He truly is as special as you have always said that he is, and I know how lucky I am to have a son like him.

During the funeral, I brought both kids up with me to deliver my eulogy to you.  I honestly don’t think that I could have finished it without them by my side.  So many people came to the service that we had to move it to the large chapel, which was nearly filled to capacity.  The people from your office were truly devastated by your passing.  In case you didn’t know, you made a real difference in their lives, and the lives of all of those who you had business dealings with, including one of your favorites, whose annual holiday party you eagerly looked forward to each year.

After the funeral and the cemetery, the entire family went out to eat in the city.  Although I was quiet, and hurting badly, there was one moment that brought a smile to my face, because I know that it would have done the same for you.  All four of the grandkids were playing a game of telephone, each one giggling harder than the next as they whispered into each other’s ears.  Even though you couldn’t be there with us, I hope that you were watching just the same.

The whole family really stepped up to help us out with all of the arrangements, and for that, I will be forever grateful.  We couldn’t have gotten through this without them, and they have made sure to let us know, in no uncertain terms, that they will be there for us every step of the way.  They all share in our pain and disbelief.

On the last day of Shiva, Z and Little One both needed something from the store because we packed our bags in haste.  With your money, I went to Target and got what they needed.  It was small, but they were appreciative.  When I told them that this was from Mimi, Little One looked up at the ceiling and said…“Thank you, Mimi!”  She paused, and then said again…“Thank you, Mimi…wherever you are.  I miss you!”  I held her close, and told her how much I loved her as tears streamed down my face.

There was never a good time for this to happen, but I wish that the surgery took place a few days later so that we could have had one last birthday celebration with you.  The kids were so excited to see you, to give you their handmade cards and to go out to dinner together.  Even though you never made a big deal out of your birthday, I wish that we got the chance to spend it celebrating, rather than praying for you to wake up in your hospital bed.  I wish that I got the chance to give you a birthday card so perfect, that I didn’t even read any others, a first for me.

It read…

For My Mother

With thanks for always being there

You have always been there for me

No matter what I’ve needed

You’ve comforted and sacrificed

You’ve helped and interceded

I think back on the many times

When I’ve felt down or lost

When you did all you could for me

No matter what the cost

My life’s been changed in many ways

By your warm and loving touch

I’m very grateful, Mother

And I love you very much

Happy Birthday

I want to thank you again for being the mother that you were to me, and the Mimi that you were to my kids.  Your time with them was far too short, but you gave them memories that will last a lifetime.

Your life was never the same after we tragically lost Dad in 2001, but you carried on in the face of adversity.  You taught me more lessons than you probably even realize, and I will do my best to make you proud going forward.

There are no words to describe the void that I will feel for the rest of my life.  And though things will never be the same for any of us, I take some solace knowing that you and Dad have been reunited in Heaven.

Please watch over all of us together.

I Love You,

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A World Of Fantasy

In Family, Life, Sports on September 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

A World Of Fantasy

When Waldo’s Life launched on January 1, 2010, it was a simple, no-frills blog.  Through the years, it has evolved into much more than I ever anticipated.  Truth be told, I never expected anyone outside of my Facebook friends to read so much as one article back in 2010.  There has been an ebb and flow to Waldo’s Life – periods of constant updates, followed by long breaks for various reasons.  With no real goal in mind, other than to share my thoughts on various subjects (most notably my family life), it gives me great pleasure to announce that with this post, Waldo’s Life will break the 100,000 page view mark.  The title of the post – A World Of Fantasy – has nothing to do with reaching this milestone, however, it is a perfect representation of what this blog is about – Waldo’s Life.

For many years, I was the commissioner of a fantasy football league that I created.  Like millions of other people, fantasy football became something of an obsession, but that was before I had children.  Once my kids were born, it became unrealistic to glue myself to the television all day long on Sundays to see how my players were doing.  And since I took it very seriously, the only real alternative was to give it up entirely.  I missed it at first, but that feeling went away very quickly.

As my son’s interest in football grew, we decided to have our own weekly version of fantasy football, in addition to making weekly picks of the games.  It was a no-stress way of enjoying a hobby that I once loved.  Eventually, my wife and daughter wanted to get in on the action as well, so they made some picks midway through last season.

This year, we decided to create a 4-team, family league (Waldo Fantasy Football League).  Much to my surprise, I am the least competitive of the four of us.  My son takes great pride in having the highest scores (which happens often).  My wife does a celebratory dance when one of her players scores a touchdown, and my little one is so focused on the games that she didn’t even say hello to me this morning.  Her first words today…“Who won the Broncos game last night?”

When I decided to quit playing fantasy football, I did so with the intent of being there for my family on Sundays.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a scenario where family day and fantasy football would be one in the same.  My wife, who used to mock my obsession with fantasy football, now has trouble pulling herself away from the NFL RedZone channel, which shows the scoring plays for every game as they happen.

To paraphrase one of my favorite all-time bands (Triumph)…my family truly is lost in a world of fantasy, and life in the Waldo household has never been more entertaining.

A special thank you goes out to all of those who have been a part of the Waldo’s Life journey to 100,000 page views!

Saying Goodbye to Pee Wee Football

In Family, Life Lessons, Sports on September 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Pee Wee Football

Our son was only five years old when he strapped on a football helmet for the first time.  He was raised to love the game long before he ever stepped onto a football field.  The picture of him dressed as a football player for Halloween when he was two years old is one of the most memorable of the thousands that we have taken of him over the years.  He wasn’t gifted with the natural ability that some other kids had, but he practiced as hard as any kid that I’ve ever coached through the years.  As a result, he developed into a very good football player, a lunch pail kid with average size and speed, but more heart and determination than most.

He had his challenges through the years – most notably trying to live up to the impossible expectations that go hand-in-hand with being a coach’s son – but he never lost his passion for the game.  Pee wee football helped shape him into the kid that he is today, which is why it was incredibly difficult to take it away from him.

Kids stop playing pee wee football for various reasons.  Some don’t have what it takes to withstand the physicality of the game.  Others lack the mental discipline that it takes to function as a part of a team.  Politics surrounding parent-run pee wee football leagues has caused numerous kids to leave the game.  None of the aforementioned reasons caused us to make the decision to pull our son out of pee wee football.  Although we were exhausted by the politics, our decision was based strictly on protecting him from harm, now and in the future.

There is risk in everything that kids do, sports in particular, but the risk that football poses is unique, and one that we were no longer willing to take.  The fact of the matter is that we are armed with information in 2013 that simply wasn’t available in 2007 when our son started playing tackle football.  No longer is the term “getting your bell rung” an acceptable description of concussion symptoms caused by a blow to the head; at least it isn’t to those who have evolved and taken heed to the warnings about head injuries.

Armed with the knowledge of the potential lingering effects of repeated blows to the head, we chose not to allow our son to continue playing the sport that has meant so much to all of us.  Understandably, our son was not happy with our decision.  And though we have shared numerous stories with him about the potential long-term effects that playing football could have on the rest of his life, he would strap on the helmet today if we told him that we changed our minds about letting him play.

Our son is angry, frustrated and sad about not being able to play the game that he loves, and I don’t blame him.  I was only allowed to play one season of football in junior high school before my parents refused to sign the permission slip to let me play again.  I felt all of the emotions that our son is feeling, and I had only played football for one season.  He played eight seasons of football, so I can only imagine how much more intense his feelings are right now.

Pee wee football parents are incredibly passionate about the game.  Most who read this story will probably disagree with the decision that we’ve made.  Not too long ago, I would have disagreed as well.  However, parents who find themselves questioning whether or not they want to allow their sons to continue playing football out of concern for the potential lingering health effects down the road, may find solace in the fact that a football coach (who loves the game) chose to make the same difficult parenting decision.

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3-13-13

In Family, Life on March 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

3-13-13

Today’s date is 3-13-13.  It is most likely the only time that most people will experience seeing this date on the calendar.  Sadly, my dad isn’t one of them, but I know that he would have gotten a kick out of it as he celebrated his 71st birthday.  He celebrates this birthday in heaven, hopefully with some of my grandmother’s famous chocolate cake (3-3-13 marked four years since her passing).

Numerology aside, today is a day to think about my dad, and wonder what might have been if he hadn’t been taken from us on that shocking day in 2001, shortly before 9/11.  In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago, but in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday that we said our painful goodbyes.

I thought about trying to make this post exactly 313 words in honor of this day, but decided against it because it would either be too short to fully describe my feelings, or too long to ramble on before sharing the post from last year that says it all –  Stairway to Heaven.

Valentine’s Day 2013 – “Here’s to Us”

In Family, Life on February 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Here's to Us

Valentine’s Day is the one day each year where couples acknowledge their love with tokens of affection, but the other 364 days of the year are what matter most, because real love happens in the middle of the chaos of life.  When my wife and I started dating over 20 years ago, we looked forward to Valentine’s Day because we would always do something special to celebrate the occasion.  Things were easy back then.  We had plenty of disposable income and all the time in the world to spend it.

Time goes by faster than any of us realize.  Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and months turn to years.  As the years go by, it gets harder to recreate the Valentine’s Day moments that we had when we were dating, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I am one of the lucky ones whose relationship goes much deeper than mere tokens of affection.

Roses are beautiful, but even if they are maintained with great care, they still die in a week or so.  Most women love chocolate, and my wife is no exception, but they usually don’t last more than a few days…especially with kids in the house.  Romantic dinners are nice, but don’t make for memories that will last a lifetime.  Those memories are made during the other 364 days of the year.

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to celebrate many Valentine’s Days over the years because of what we have built together amidst the chaos of life, not because of romantic gestures that happen one day each year.

Life certainly isn’t as simple as it was when we were dating.  Like most couples, we have been through our share of trials and tribulations dealing with the curveballs that life can throw at you from time to time.  We have moved halfway across the country and back, and we have lived in more houses than most.  But as the lyrics to Kiss’ song “Beth” go…“a house just ain’t a home.”   No matter where we live, we always have a lot of joy and laughter in our home, and that’s what matters most.

Being married to a dreamer is not always easy, but to my wife’s credit, she has always been there to stand by me under every circumstance.   I am truly blessed to have a wife whose definition of happiness has absolutely nothing to do with what we have, and everything to do with who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family.

On this Valentine’s Day, I dedicate Halestorm’s “Here’s to Us” to my wife.  It has quickly become one of our favorite songs.  And even though all of the lyrics don’t apply to us, some of them seem like the soundtrack to our life…

We stuck it out this far together

Put our dreams through the shredder

Let’s toast ‘cause things got better

And everything can change like that

And all these years go by so fast

But nothing lasts forever

Here’s to us

Here’s to love

All the times that we messed up

Here’s to you

Fill the glass ‘cause…

Through the years, we have learned that our dreams don’t always come true, but as long as we stand together, there is always hope that they may in the future.   We have had our share of disappointments, but things can and do get better.  Life is filled with highs and lows, and neither lasts forever.  Like most couples, we spend most of our life somewhere in the middle, and that is where most of the memories are made.  I appreciate the significance of Valentine’s Day and grand romantic gestures, but I know that the other 364 days of the year are what matter most in our lives.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

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