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Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

Protecting America’s Children

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

Sandy Hook victims

The sky was a flawless shade of blue on the morning of 9/11/01 in New York City, and everything was right with the world.  At 8:46am, everyone believed that a tragic accident had occurred with a small plane hitting the Twin Towers.  By 9:03am, when the second plane hit the towers, we all knew that wasn’t the case.  Instantly, the America that we once knew was gone.  From that moment on, every American had no choice but to accept the realization that terrorist attacks can happen on American soil.

We failed as a nation to protect innocent citizens on that day.  Shortly thereafter, we beefed up national security, and to date, we have not suffered any casualties from terrorist attacks on American soil.

Since 9/11/01 there have been over twenty school shootings, and yet, we have still not stepped up as a nation to address this problem.

We have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on U.S. soil, but as a nation, we are failing to protect our most precious resource…the children of America!

There are many issues that need addressing if we are going to stop the terrorism that we are experiencing in schools, but one issue is paramount.

Should we ban assault rifles for private citizens?  It would be a good start, but it is not a cure-all.

Should we provide more help to people with mental illnesses?  Absolutely.  But again, not a cure-all.

What if we allowed prayer in schools?  It may make a lot of people feel better, but it will not stop a maniacal gunman from shooting up a school.

All of these issues should be addressed, but there is one step that should be taken immediately to keep our children safe in school.

The time has come for America to beef up security in our schools the way that we did immediately after the 9/11 attacks.  The terrorists that have succeeded in carrying out their missions over the past 11 years are not Muslim extremists; they are young, disturbed, heavily armed, white males who share the same disregard for human life as the terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11.  They have been able to carry out their missions against innocent, defenseless targets with little to no resistance, and we simply cannot sit idly by and hope that this won’t happen again.  We have to proactively stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, we must fight fire with fire, and that does not mean arming teachers and principals as some have suggested.  A teacher’s job is challenging enough without having to add the responsibility of becoming an expert marksman to the list.  However, the country is filled with people who can handle the job, trained policeman and military veterans to name a few.

On 9/11/01, we learned a valuable lesson about our nation’s security vulnerabilities.  Since that time, we have had multiple school shootings, but we still have not learned our lesson.   We shake our heads in disbelief when there is a shooting at a high school.  We are sad for the families who suffer losses and we pray that it never happens in our local high school.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken the nation to its core.  Because the victims were so young and innocent, we cannot fathom how anyone can look into a terrified child’s eyes and pull the trigger without hesitation.  In many ways, this unspeakable tragedy is as bad as what happened on 9/11/01.  In some ways, it is worse.

On 12/14/12, in a tightknit rural community in Connecticut, the last bit of innocence that we had left in America was mercilessly taken away from us all in one fell swoop.  We MUST do whatever it takes to make sure that a tragedy like this never happens again!

Nothing that we do going forward will bring back the innocent victims whose lives ended way too soon.  The families that they left behind will never be the same, and no amount of time that passes will ever help to fill the void created by their passing.

The best that we can all hope for at this point is for this tragedy to serve as a wake-up call to America to do what is necessary to protect our children.

 

Please click here to learn more about each Sandy Hook Elementary School victim (slideshow in the middle of the page).

 

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What if It Was Your Child?

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Disbelief

Every time there is a shooting tragedy, gun lovers immediately launch into their usual 2nd Amendment diatribe.  In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where 20 innocent children perished at the hands of a gun-wielding maniac, I was hoping that we would be spared the “guns don’t kill people…people kill people” rhetoric, but that seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part.

I’ve always stayed away from proactively taking a public stance on this issue because it is so divisive, but in light of the slaughtering of innocent children, I decided that it was worth the risk of ruffling some feathers.

I believe that people should have the right to possess a weapon for self-defense, but I see no purpose in stockpiling weapons or possessing assault rifles, both of which go well beyond the scope of self-defense.

To those who staunchly disagree with my position, I have one simple question for you…

What if it was your child?

Take a moment before you post another rant about the 2nd Amendment, or another pro-gun image, and put yourself in the place of the parents who lost their children yesterday in Newtown, CT.

Close your eyes and imagine dropping your child or children off at elementary school.  You give them a hug and a kiss, tell them you love them and to have a good day.  You go about your day business as usual, with the full expectation that you will see your child at the end of the day like you always do.

Now imagine that you get a notification from the elementary school shortly after the school day begins.  You find out that there has been a shooting in your town, and your stomach is instantly tied up in knots.  Then you find out that the shooting has taken place at your child’s school.

You get into your car and drive as fast as humanly possible to the school where you are given instructions to wait outside, not knowing whether your child was a victim or not.

You see a line of children walking together in single file, their tiny hands resting on the shoulders of the classmate in front of them to guide them because they have been told to keep their eyes closed as they exit to shelter them from seeing the carnage that has taken place moments earlier.

You wait and watch as parents are reunited with their children, hugging, kissing and crying uncontrollably (parents and children alike).  You pray that your child will be the next one out the door, and you wait.  And you wait.  And you wait some more as you watch parent after parent breathing an emotional sigh of relief that their child is safe.

Now picture that the school officials come out and tell you that there will be no more reunions, and you are amongst the 20 sets of parents that is left standing, knowing that you may never see your child again.  You pray in disbelief that there must have been some mistake.  It’s tragic beyond words what has happened, but you can’t imagine that it can happen to you.  Not to your precious, innocent child who has so much more living to do.  Not to your child who gave you a hug and kiss and told you that they loved you just hours before.  The world can’t possibly be that cruel…can it?

Sadly, the answer is “yes,” the world can be that cruel.  And now you are left to pick up the pieces to be there for your other children.

Do you go home, look at their room, their photos and every other reminder of them and crumble to the ground wishing that you had been the one to take the bullet so that they could have lived?

Or do you sit down at the computer, login to Facebook, and shout to the world that you lost your child because there are not enough guns in the world?

Do you stand on a virtual soapbox raging about how we need to protect the 2nd Amendment at all costs regardless of the increase in the number of senseless shootings that take the lives of so many innocent people?

Do you even for a minute think to yourself…guns don’t kill people…people kill people?

The End of the Innocence

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Sandy Hook Elementary

“It was the best of times…it was the worst of times.”

Today started off on a high note.  My little one was excited that we were invited to her first grade class to help build gingerbread houses.  While we were helping her with her gingerbread house, my wife and I whispered and laughed to ourselves at how rundown our house looked compared to others in the class.

I sang the lyrics to a song that we both like in her ear, and we laughed some more.  The song is called “The Crazy Ones.”  In the song it says “we march to the beat of a different drum.”  While our gingerbread house didn’t look good in the traditional sense, I was proud of my little one’s originality.

She didn’t compare her house to others, and didn’t seem to care that ours was messy looking.  All she cared about was having fun and eating candy.  In a perfect world, that’s about all kids her age should care about.

Tragically, today proved that innocence is not guaranteed for kids of any age.

I brought my daughter home from school early after the gingerbread decorating was done.  She was up in her room when my phone rang.  It was my father-in-law, obviously distraught as he told me about the senseless shooting that happened this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  He was warning me not to turn on the news in front of the kids.

My heart sank as we spoke.  As soon as we hung up, I went right upstairs to hug and kiss my little girl and tell her that I loved her.  We’re always very affectionate, so she thought nothing of it, but inside, I was still trying to wrap my head around this devastating news.

For the past few days, one of my daughter’s front teeth has been hanging by a thread, but it didn’t seem ready to come out yet.  Once I heard this news, I was hoping that she would just leave it alone because I didn’t want the loss of her first front tooth to come on the same day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  As I was watching the news, she came to the top of the stairs with blood dripping from her mouth.

I had no choice but to pull the tooth, and comfort her as she cried hysterically at the sight of the blood.  I held her tight and assured her that everything was going to be okay.  And it will be, at least as far as the tooth is concerned, but after seeing the news today, it’s hard for me to believe that everything will actually be okay.

The world is a fucked up place nowadays.  We lost our innocence as a nation on 9/11/01, and we’ve seen more school shootings than any of us ever thought possible.  But the shooting of little, innocent, elementary school kids goes beyond anything that our minds can comprehend.  The last safe haven that we had no longer exists, and this is truly the end of the innocence.

I keep thinking about all of the joy that I experienced today with fellow parents decorating gingerbread houses with our first graders.  Everyone was happy, smiling, content in our little corner of the world.  I can’t even imagine what would possess anyone to stare into the eyes of all of those innocent faces, point a gun at them and pull the trigger. I’m glad that the shooter is dead, but I wish that he would have killed himself before walking into an elementary school with an assault rifle in his hands and malice in his heart.

I pray for the parents of those who inexplicably lost their child today in this tragedy.  Their worlds will never be the same.  Quite frankly, none of us will ever be the same either.

9/11 – Always Remember and Never Forget: A Nation United

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life, Life Lessons on September 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

When the second tower was hit on 9/11/01, every citizen of the United States was affected. At that moment, our age of innocence was gone, replaced by an everlasting threat of terrorism. And though we have since eliminated Bin Laden and many other terrorist leaders, the fact remains that we are not immune to future attacks.

Having personally experienced 9/11 from a very close vantage point (My 9/11 Experience), my perspective may be different than that of other people. But there is one thing that cannot be disputed…we were never closer as a nation than we were in the days, weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks. During that time period, we weren’t defined by our politics, our religion, our race or any other factor that has contributed to the divisive nation that we are living in now.

We were simply Americans!

Though tragic beyond words, the 9/11 attacks, in my opinion, made us all better Americans. It saddens me that it took a tragedy of epic proportions to strengthen our bond, and saddens me even more that the passage of time has allowed those bonds to be shattered because we cannot agree upon what is best for the country going forward.

Perhaps the divide was always greater than I realized, but it wasn’t as apparent before the 24/7 news cycle became so prevalent, and virtual soapboxes became so easily accessible through the use of social media.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we throw around phrases like “Always Remember” and“Never Forget” as our way of honoring the innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day 11 years ago. Our appreciation for the heroes of 9/11 comes to the forefront, as does our military pride. We fly the American flag proudly, albeit at half-mast, to show just how patriotic we are. But with less than two months to go until the presidential election, the red and blue colors on the flag are more representative of our differences than our similarities.

Barring any vote-counting controversy, we will know who our President is going to be no later than November 7th. On that day many Americans will celebrate, while many others share in their disappointment. Some Americans will be disenchanted no matter who wins the election, while others who have given up hope will just continue to live their lives the best that they can.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “always remember” to grieve for the innocent Americans who lost their lives, and for their families as well.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “never forget” that many other military lives have been lost in the wars that we have fought since that day to defend our freedom.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” the bonds that were formed in the wake of 9/11.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that there are people suffering to this day from 9/11 and its aftermath.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” that we are all Americans, regardless of who we vote for in this election.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that a nation united is much stronger than a nation divided.

On this, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I reflect on my memories of that day as I have for the past 10 years, while hoping that we can find a way to bind together once again as a nation because it is the right thing to do, and not because we have suffered yet another unspeakable tragedy.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

In Life Lessons on August 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm

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Living in a rural area, I rarely get the chance to spend the day in a bookstore without my kids, which is a fun (but totally different) experience.  Today was one of those rare occasions.  Sitting in the book store, I was surrounded by more books than I could count, immersed in an endless supply of entertainment and knowledge.  Many of the books were ideally suited to my interests, while many others were not.  However, I have a profound appreciation for all books because I know that each one holds great value to someone.

I went to the bookstore to do some research on getting my own books published (see photo above).  It was recommended to me by a friend who had a brilliant idea for a book, and after a lot of rejection, persevered and finally got it published by one of the biggest publishers in the industry.  I am proud of what he has accomplished, and extremely thankful for all of the advice and assistance that he is providing to help me join him in the ranks of published authors.

My friend and I met for lunch yesterday to discuss my book ideas.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while, but we picked up right where we left off years ago when we worked in the music industry together.

While we were driving, we passed the storefront that used to belong to the photography studio that my wife and I used to photograph our wedding years ago.  I was sorry to see that it was no longer there, but that feeling quickly turned to outrage when my friend pointed out that the restaurant on the other side of the street refused to seat him, his wife and their young daughter for lunch recently because of his looks.

Although there were plenty of empty seats in the restaurant, there were none available for a successful, published author who happens to hold a high-level marketing position with an entertainment company.  In his spare time, he is launching his own line of hot sauces and promoting a concert tour that he created.  With a resume like that, who could blame the restaurant for humiliating my friend and his family by refusing to allow them the privilege of dining in their hifalutin establishment?

After all, despite his many accomplishments, my friend is guilty of having long hair and tattoos that are not hidden by clothing.  I guess it’s irrelevant to the owners of the restaurant that many of their “appropriate” clientele probably have strategically placed tattoos that they only expose when they want to show their wild side.

Did my friend look like the few other patrons who were in the restaurant at the time?  No, but he was dressed the same as others who were deemed worthy enough to serve.  And I’m pretty sure that his money was the same shade of green as the other patrons as well.

Given the choice, I would rather eat fast food on the curb with my friend than ever set foot inside of a restaurant who thinks nothing of judging a book by its cover.

Penn State Football: Did the Punishment Fit the Crime?

In Life Lessons, Sports on July 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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The NCAA came down extremely hard on the Penn State football program today by levying a $60 million sanction (the equivalent of one year’s football revenues), a 4-year bowl ban, a drastic reduction of scholarships (from 85 to 65), in addition to vacating every win dating back to 1998.  The announcement was made just one day after Penn State voluntarily removed the Joe Paterno statue from the front of Beaver Stadium.

As a result of the vacated wins, Paterno is no longer officially the winningest coach in college football history, but that is of little significance in the scheme of things.  The program that Paterno built may never again be considered one of the elite in college football, and the university has only itself to blame for shamefully covering up the vile crimes and abhorrent behavior of Jerry Sandusky in an effort to avoid tarnishing the Penn State football brand.  Yet somehow, many people still love Paterno in spite of his despicable decision to help cover-up Sandusky’s crimes.

Even the most diehard fans realize that football is just a game, not a matter of life and death.  Sadly, that fact was lost on all of those in the Penn State administration who placed a higher value on football than it did on the protection of innocent children whose lives have been forever altered by their selfish decisions.

Did the punishment levied against Penn State football today fit the crime?  Absolutely!

However, like all NCAA punishments, there will be collateral damage to people who had nothing to do with the crimes committed or with the cover-up that happened for several years afterwards.

There is no sadness or anger as great as that of Sandusky’s victims and their parents.  Their lives will never be the same.  Any good parent should also be saddened and disgusted about what transpired at Penn State, even those parents of the current players who are being severely punished for something that was beyond their control.

While Paterno is looked at as a deity amongst many Penn State students and alumni, no one should feel sorry that his legacy is forever tainted.  No one should lose any sleep over the fact that he is no longer listed in the record books as the winningest coach in college football history.  And no one should bemoan the fact that his statue was taken down because it had become a source of great controversy.

The student athletes who are being punished by the sanctions levied against Penn State today are the only ones who deserve any sympathy, because they are being victimized as they pay for the sins of high-powered grown-ups who could have, and should have, put a stop to Sandusky’s heinous acts.

The Penn State faithful who are still having trouble accepting the removal of the Paterno statue and the sanctions levied against the university should think about Sandusky’s numerous victims and their families.  Before chastising the NCAA or the current Penn State administration for their actions, they should ask themselves…

“What if Sandusky had molested my child, and Joe Paterno chose to look the other way instead of doing something to prevent it?”

An honest answer to that question will leave little doubt that the punishment absolutely fit the crime!

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Hard Times: Lost on Long Island

In Family, Life, Life Lessons, Television on July 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

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No one ever thinks that it could happen to them…until it does…and then they understand just how quickly the “American Dream” can turn into the “American nightmare.”  In what has to be one of the most depressing documentaries ever, Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that bad things happen to good, hard-working people.

There used to be a perception that people who needed any kind of government assistance were lazy, unmotivated and perfectly content to “live off the dole.”  In some circles, that perception still exists, and while it may be true for some, it certainly is not true of those who were once considered middle class and upper middle class not too long ago.  Anyone who thinks otherwise should take an hour out of their day to watch this eye-opening HBO Documentary.

Seeing the shear agony on the faces of those who were brave enough to share their story with the world should be enough to at least alter the perception of those who think that government assistance is a crutch that merely prevents people from trying to find steady employment.  It simply is not the case.

Growing up on Long Island, I didn’t see much poverty, although I’m sure that it always existed in places that I never frequented.  My only real exposure to poverty as a kid was in Manhattan when my father used to take my brother and me to the Bowery to see the “bums.”  Back then, they weren’t called homeless.  And though many years have passed since I last visited the Bowery, I do remember that the “bums” did not seem particularly desperate, rather more resigned to living on the street and drinking heavily.  That’s not to say that some of them weren’t in real pain, but they just didn’t seem as hopeless and sad as people are today (even those who still have a home).

For those in dire straits, the sobering statistics shared on Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island offer very little in the way of hope:

  • 25 million unemployed and under-employed people in America
  • There are 4 job-seekers for every available job
  • Average length of unemployment is over 9 months long
  • The longer people are out of work, the less likely they are to find a job
  • Long-term unemployed suffer more often from physical and psychological health problems
  • More than 5 million personal bankruptcies have been filed since 2008
  • More than 6 million homes have fallen into foreclosure since 2008
  • Today, a record 45 million people use food stamps
  • Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have more than tripled since 2007

In May of 1947, the suburban dream began on Long Island in Levittown with 2000 affordable homes being rented and then converted into purchases with no down payment and monthly mortgage payments equal to the rental price.  The concept then spread across America.

The first apartment that my wife and I shared together was a rental in Levittown.  When the homeowner died and the house was sold, we were asked to leave the property.  The job market at the time for elementary education teachers on Long Island was very difficult, so my wife gave up on the dream of becoming a teacher and we moved to Manhattan.

Even though my wife had given up her teaching dream, we still planned on living the “American dream.”

After moving around a bit, we ended up back in the suburbs of Suffolk County, where we saw first-hand that life on Long Island quickly got to be very expensive.  Being a real estate agent at the time, I foolishly believed that the irrational exuberance of the real estate market would continue and home prices on Long Island would keep rising, so we purchased a home at the height of the market.

All bubbles burst, so it is not at all surprising to me (in retrospect) that the real estate bubble burst as well.  And as a result, the suburbs are now the fastest growing area of poverty in America.  Those who think that foreclosure and bankruptcy could never happen to them should not think in such absolute terms.

The stories featured on Hard Times:  Lost on Long Island were about successful people with good jobs who lived within their means.  But when income is lost for whatever reason, it is impossible to continue to live the same lifestyle, even for the most disciplined among us.

Unlike most fictional stories that come out of Hollywood, this documentary did not feature many happy endings.  Only one of the people featured in the program was finally offered a job (after a two-year search).  The others continue to struggle and one story ended in tragedy.

Dave Hartstein, a 35-year-old chiropractor and father of three (including an infant with Downs Syndrome), died after contracting Hantavirus while cleaning out the basement of his home to put it up for sale.  He and his wife, Heather (an out-of-work school teacher), had filed for bankruptcy and were trying to work out a loan modification with the bank at the time.

At the end of the documentary, a still shot of the Hartsteins walking with their kids is displayed as Heather sadly states…”We had the dream, the dream was lived…the dream ended.”

Please share your experiences (anonymously if you would like) in the comment section below.  If you, or someone you know, has been out of work for a long time or forced to rely on any kind of government assistance during this economic crisis, please share this post on Facebook (or privately).  At the very least, those who are suffering will know that they are not the only ones who are going through difficult times.
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It’s Been a Decade Since…

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on July 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm

The surgeon told us to prepare for the inevitable.  After an improbable battle that lasted for five days, we were told to say our goodbyes.  I gave my father a hug, kissed him on his head, told him that I loved him, and said goodbye.  I told him that it was okay to let go, and that I would keep him in my heart forever.  I knew that there was nothing more that could be done, and I also knew that he was already gone as I said my final farewell.  All that was left to do was to wait for a life-altering call from the nurse who had spent five days taking care of my father and my family.

We sat on a bench outside of the hospital on a hot summer night.  We all accepted the fact that we were about to receive the news that we had dreaded for days, but we were still in shock and almost numb to what was about to happen.

It’s been ten years to the day since I got the call that my father passed away.  It’s been ten years, and yet I can still remember the exact minute of his passing.  I can put myself in that moment as if it was happening right now.

The two worst days of the year for my family and me are my father’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing.  Never a day goes by that I don’t think of him several times, but these two days are somehow more painful and raw than the rest.  These are the days that we are left to wonder “what if?” and “if only…”

They say that time heals all wounds, but that is not really true.  While the pain doesn’t sting quite as much as time passes, it never truly goes away.  The void that was left by my father’s untimely passing will always be there.

It struck me the other day that losing my dad ten years ago marks a full decade since he has been with us to celebrate the moments, both large and small.  Ten years sounds like a long time, but a decade sounds and feels even longer.

As a society, we look at each decade as a collective moment in time.  We define each decade by the events of the world, pop culture and trends in music, fashion, television, movies, etc.  It’s our way of compartmentalizing our lives so that we can share nostalgic trips down memory lane with our friends and families.

Being born in the late 60’s, I have no memories of what life was like in that decade, but I have very strong memories of my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s, and my early adult years in the 90’s.  Some of the greatest memories of each of those decades were created with my dad.

Time marches on.  Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, months turn to years, and now years have turned into a decade.

If not for the fact that my two children were born in the first decade of the new millennium, I would look back at this past ten years as a “lost decade.”  Even with my children, the past decade can best be described as bittersweet and incomplete.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since I’ve spoken with my dad (aside from the occasional conversation that happens all too infrequently in my dreams).

Despite all of the advances that have been made in the past decade, I still find myself holding on to the past with an unbreakable grip, longing for days gone by, and wishing that this was all a bad dream.  If I could have just one wish, it would be to give my dad and my kids the chance to create the memories together that they were deprived of because of a tragedy that happened a decade ago.

For the most part, today was okay.  Spending the day with my wife and kids the way that my dad would have spent his day off gave me some solace and some inner peace.  While I couldn’t stop my mind from drifting towards my dad all day long, I did my best not to let it affect the kids.

Tomorrow starts the second decade life without my dad, which seems almost surreal.  Like this past decade, I fully expect to think about him every day, and keep him in my heart as I promised him I would a decade ago.

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One Journey Ends…Another Begins

In Family, Life, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on May 30, 2011 at 8:12 am

In the summer of 2009, we decided to relocate from the only place that we had ever called home (New York) to try a different way of life in Texas.  When we first arrived, everything was new and exciting.  And though we missed the family and friends that we left behind, we did our best to embrace the change.

By the time that the holidays came around, my wife and I both started to miss New York.  The honeymoon phase of living in Texas was over, and we had settled into the usual routine of life, which only intensified the homesickness.  We had our reasons for the move, but we both started to question if we had made the right decision.

The thought of moving back to New York was already on our minds when we went back to visit last summer.  After three weeks of traveling back and forth to squeeze in as much time as possible with everyone before returning to Texas, we knew that we would be moving back to New York.  The only question at that point was whether to leave in the middle of the year, or to wait and let the kids finish school to minimize the disruption in their lives.  We chose to wait for the sake of the kids, but it made leaving Texas that much more difficult.

My daughter, who started out the year screaming, crying and clinging on to me as I dropped her off at pre-school ended the year loving school and making a lot of friends.  Her first pre-school was a terrible fit for her personality, but the one where she spent most of the year was absolutely perfect for her.  Even though she was hesitant to give the new pre-school a chance at first, she quickly made great strides under the caring and compassionate teachers at the new pre-school.

At the end-of-the-year picnic, my little one ran around laughing and playing as if it were just another day at the playground.  Thankfully, she couldn’t fully grasp the concept that saying goodbye to her friends at the end of the day was actually vastly different than any other goodbye that she had ever said to them.  As she hugged her best friend, my wife and I got choked up, but she seemed none the worse for wear.  And though she has had her moments of hesitation about leaving Texas, she is easily swayed when we point out things that are waiting for her on our trip back and upon our arrival back in New York.

My son was old enough to understand what was going on when we left New York, and he was not happy with us at all for uprooting his life.  On the trip down to Texas, we made a number of fun stops along the way, and by the time we got to Texas, he was doing fine.

We stayed with family for over a month when we got to Texas, which made the transition for my son much easier.  He and his cousin are almost the same age, and have many of the same interests.  Having a friend to play with on a daily basis helped my son adapt to life in Texas very quickly.  Once he made a number of friends in school, he really never looked back to New York.  He was prepared to stay in Texas, even if it meant missing out on a lot of time with his grandparents and family back in New York.

Day to day life in Texas wasn’t all that much different than day to day life in New York.  However, my wife and I were both affected by the things that we were all missing out on:  holiday traditions, milestone birthdays, family gatherings and the culture that made us who we are today.

Kids are much more resilient and adaptable to being in new situations.  Because my son was enjoying his life in Texas, he didn’t give much thought to the things that he was missing out on.  And even though he will make new friends when we get settled in New York, the thought of leaving the life that he has built in Texas was very upsetting to him.

Leaving Texas is bittersweet for all of us for various reasons.

My wife got to spend time with her sister who moved to Texas several years ago.  She became friends with my sister-in-law’s friends and became close with the people that she worked with.

My daughter made a lot of friends and fell in love with pre-school.  Because she was so young when we left New York, she doesn’t really remember our house, and only associates New York with the family that is there and the beaches that she loves.

Personally, I enjoyed various aspects of Texas, but it would have been much easier for me to leave had things gone according to plan this football season.  I had all but guaranteed that my son would end up playing for one of the coaches that I knew from previous seasons, but when my son excelled in tryouts, he was drafted by another team.  At first, I was disappointed, but after speaking to his new coach for a few minutes, I realized that we were going to have a great time in his final season of Texas football.

I’ve been an assistant football coach for years.  I’ve enjoyed my time on almost every team that we’ve been a part of, but this year was different.  When our practices were over, we would all hang out at one of the houses near the practice field.  The boys would all play together as we discussed the team over a few beers.  Before long, I became good friends with the head coach and his group of friends.

If we had ended up on the team that I thought that we were going to end up on, it would have been much different for me.  The coach of that team is a nice guy, but I would not have formed the kind of friendship with him that I did with the head coach of this team.  Ultimately, I would have left Texas with a number of casual friends, and leaving would have been fairly easy for me.

Life often times throws you a curve ball.

Before this football season started, it would have been very easy for me to leave Texas and go back home to New York.  Even though I am looking forward to going home, it is not without any regrets.

I knew how hard this was going to be on my son, so I purposely planned things to do on our trip back to New York to replace his sadness with happy memories that will last a lifetime.

Our first stop along the way is in Oklahoma.  I’ll be writing about our Oklahoma experiences in the next day or so…stay tuned!

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A Surprising Amount of Traffic on the “High Road”

In Life, Life Lessons on May 3, 2011 at 7:54 am

On Sunday night, I fell asleep early on the couch.  As is often the case, I woke up in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep.  Bleary-eyed, I flipped to ESPN to check out scores and highlights.  A flash of red caught my eye on the scroll as it passed by and I saw a mention of President Obama.  I immediately went back to see what it was.  I was shocked to see that we actually got Bin Laden.

Like many others, I was happy to see that Bin Laden was dead.

I quickly flipped to the various news channels to get more details about what happened.  Just like 9/11 and the days following it, I found myself glued to the coverage.  The only difference this time was that I was experiencing more than just news coverage.  I was also reading peoples’ reactions on Facebook.  As the day progressed, I saw more and more people posting a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. (which it turns out was only partially his words, the rest were added by someone else to make their point).  The quote intimates that it is wrong to celebrate anyone’s death.

Ironically, the 9/11 attacks brought us all together as a country, but the killing of Bin Laden seems to have created a divide how we view his demise.

So many people are disgusted with the Americans who celebrated at the White House and at Ground Zero.  Somehow, they have twisted these celebrations to be on par with the celebrations of the fanatics and zealots who danced in the streets on 9/11 after the attacks.  How they arrived at this comparison is beyond me.  The two celebrations are nothing alike.  And while I wasn’t out in the streets celebrating, I have no problem with those who were.  Maybe I would have been a part of it if I were in the area.  Maybe I wouldn’t have.  There’s no way to know for sure.

For those who believe that we as Americans should take the “high road” and not celebrate the death of Bin Laden, I simply ask….why not?

This evil monster has forever changed our way of life and our way of thinking.

I can still remember the morning of 9/11 as if it were yesterday.

The sky was so blue and so perfect that it looked more like a painting than reality.  It was the kind of day that put a smile on your face and made you happy to be alive.  It was peaceful…until the first plane hit the Twin Towers.  And then…it was mayhem!

Most people did not have a front row seat to the 9/11 attacks.  I did!  And my front row seat lasted for much longer than it did for most, so maybe my perspective is a little different. (Click here to read “My 9/11 Experience…”)

I did not lose anyone close to me on 9/11, although I thought that I did for a while when I was unable to reach my wife who was working in the area.  I cannot imagine the pain of those who lost loved ones on that day.  The “lucky” families actually got to bury their loved ones.

Most were not so “lucky.”  Most had memorial services with no burial afterwards, because their loved ones were vaporized, and their final resting place is known to the world simply as “Ground Zero.”

When that coward Bin Laden planned these attacks against innocent people, he never gave any consideration to the families who would never get to have a proper burial.  And yet, his brother requested his body back so that they could give him one.  For those who like the high road, you should be pleased to know that our government disposed of Bin Laden’s body in a respectful way, in a way that followed the laws of Islam.  They cleansed his body and made sure that he was buried at sea within the 24-hour timeframe that his religion mandates.

By way of comparison, most families of 9/11 victims held off on having any kind of funeral or memorial service in hopes that they would have something…anything…to bury.  Imagine waiting to honor your lost loved one because you are holding out hope that you will get back a finger, a toe or a small bone fragment.  That’s all that I could think about yesterday when the news showed how we disposed of Bin Laden’s body.  He didn’t deserve the proper burial that he got.

As Americans, our government left us no choice but to take the high road in disposing of Bin Laden’s remains.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen them vaporize him on television for the world to see.  At the very least, I would have waited more than 24 hours to bury him at sea, and I wouldn’t have prepared his body for the burial.  I would have dumped him in the sea like the piece of garbage that he was.

My happiness to see Bin Laden dead quickly turned to rage about what he did and how he was treated with respect after we killed him.  It made me angry to see so many people taking the high road and saying that this was not a time for celebration.

One of the things that makes this country great is freedom of speech, so I have no problem with people voicing their opinions.  I guess I’m just a little bit surprised to see more disdain for the celebrations of Bin Laden’s demise than joy over the fact that the world is a better place without him.

This isn’t about closure for me, and based on the interviews that I’ve seen with family members of 9/11 victims, it isn’t for them either.  I realize that there will be others to step up in his place and carry on the hatred of America.  This is about justice.

Celebrating Bin Laden’s death is about justice finally being served.  It is about showing the rest of the world that if you attack us, we will stop at nothing to eliminate you.  It is about showing supposed allies that we will do whatever it takes to achieve our goal, even if it means stepping on your toes.  It is about showing the rest of the world that we are a force to be reckoned with even if we lose our grip on being the world’s biggest financial superpower.

Celebrating Bin Laden’s death is about American Pride.  It is not barbaric bloodlust.  And it certainly does not mean that we are reducing ourselves to the level of those who danced in the streets on 9/11 when thousands of innocent people were killed.  The celebrations are nothing more than a visceral response to the deserved killing of an evil coward who is responsible for the most tragic day in American history.

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