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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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…

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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.

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.

 

 

 

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!

“End Of The Summer” – Theory Of A Deadman

In Life, Music on August 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Very poignant song for those who have attended or worked at a camp. It truly captures the emotion of saying goodbye at the end of the summer.

Hard Rock Daddy

Theory Of A Deadman

The end of the summer officially occurs on September 21st, but for most people, the unofficial ending comes much sooner than that.  For people with children in school, the end of the summer takes place the day that school starts.  For many others, summer ends after Labor Day Weekend.  However, for those who attend or work at a summer camp, the summer ends – for all intents and purposes – the moment that you say goodbye to the place that you’ve called home for nearly two months.

School won’t begin in New York until early September, but now that camp is over, it feels as though summer has ended.  The days leading up to the beginning of school will be spent trying to entertain kids who not only bore easily, but are coming off of a camp experience where they were fully engaged on a daily basis.

Anyone…

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Jason Collins: The First Openly Gay, Active Professional Athlete in Major Sports

In Life, Life Lessons, Sports on April 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Jason Collins - Sports Illustrated

The featured NBA story in the headlines this morning was about Dwight Howard being ejected from what may have been his last game in a Los Angeles Laker uniform.  The Lakers were dominated by the San Antonio Spurs and unceremoniously eliminated in a four-game sweep.  This morning, the conversation was all about Howard’s lack of leadership and where he will play next year.  This afternoon, no one was talking about Howard anymore because something of actual significance happened in the NBA.  Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay, active professional athlete in the major sports.

I wish that Collins’ revelation wasn’t a major story, but it is because he is the first active professional athlete to stop living a lie, something that should have happened a long time ago.

I hope that more professional athletes will come forward now that one of their peers has been the first one to jump into the frigid waters of the proverbial pool.  It’s 2013, and the time has come to let people be who they are regardless of their profession.

Although Collins readily admits that he wishes that someone else had already blazed this trail, the world of professional sports couldn’t have found a more eloquent spokesman to open the door for others.  Pulling snippets from the “coming out” article that he wrote for Sports Illustrated would not do Collins justice.  It should be read in its entirety to understand where he is coming from (click here for full article).

I wish that I wasn’t pleasantly surprised to see so many NBA stars coming out to show their support and admiration for Collins, but I am.  I guess seeing so much intolerance in the world has made me something of a cynic when it comes to people accepting others for who they are.

I wish that I was surprised to see a fellow professional athlete question the life that Collins lives, but unfortunately, I am not, given the anti-gay statements that some NFL players have made recently.

It is ignorant to think that being gay is a choice that Collins has made.  If it was a choice, then why would he spend his entire life trying to fool the world into thinking that he was straight, his twin brother in particular who has played with him all the way through college and into the NBA?

No amount of logical reasoning will persuade those who are steadfast in their anti-gay beliefs, and that is a shame.  And even if most teammates, players and fans accept gay professional athletes with open arms, the unaccepting ones will undoubtedly shout their point of view from the rooftops and perpetuate unnecessary controversy for the foreseeable future.

Like Jackie Robinson, Collins will likely deal with his fair share of intolerance going forward, assuming that he signs another NBA contract.  As a deep bench player who is a 34-year old free agent, his opportunities may be limited for legitimate basketball reasons.  Hopefully, at least one team will give Collins a chance to show the world that an openly gay athlete can thrive in professional sports.

There have been rumors recently that some high profile, gay NFL players will be coming out this season.  In various interviews on ESPN today, former Dallas Cowboy, Darren Woodson, has stated that he is absolutely certain that he played with gay players during the Cowboys dynasty days of the 90’s.  Woodson, like many other professional athletes, was solely focused on winning games and competing for championships.  The sexual preference of his teammates never entered his mind.  And while he admits that there will always be some intolerant “knuckleheads” in any given locker room, he believes that any player who is dedicated to doing what is necessary to help his team win, will ultimately be embraced by his teammates.

Until today, gay athletes in professional sports had remained closeted due to a fear of the unknown.  Thanks to Jason Collins’ courageous decision to be the first openly gay, active professional athlete, others will be able to stop living a lie.

Hopefully, one day in the not-too-distant future, the NBA will honor Collins in the same manner that Major League Baseball honors Robinson, and have all NBA players wear the number 98 for one game during the regular season.  It would be a fitting tribute to honor the man who broke down the barrier that has lasted for far too long in professional sports.

Boston Bruins Fans Deliver Greatest Rendition of National Anthem Ever

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life, Sports on April 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Boston Bruins Fans

The National Anthem is played before every professional sporting event and many amateur events as well.  For the most part, it is a largely ceremonial tradition that goes relatively unnoticed unless it is badly butchered by a celebrity or delivered in a memorable way at events like the Super Bowl, or Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock performance.  Before last night, no one would have ever imagined that the greatest rendition of the National Anthem would take place at a regular season NHL game.  Boston Bruin fans made sure that the first major sporting event following the terrorist attack on the city will be remembered for many years to come.

Boston is a city that is steeped in tradition, particularly when it comes to sports.  The tradition of having Rene Rancourt perform the National Anthem at Bruins home games dates back to 1976.  With 37 years of experience, you would think that Rancourt would be immune to nerves, but for the first time ever, the powerful opera singer was nervous.

Last night, more than any other performance in Rancourt’s career, the meaning behind the National Anthem was front and center.  Every time that he had practiced singing the National Anthem since the bombing of the Boston Marathon, he burst into tears.  He didn’t think that he could get through the performance without breaking down because his city had just suffered through a terrorist attack.

With tears glistening in his eyes, Rancourt took to the ice and began to sing the National Anthem as he has done so many times before.  “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so…” is as far as he got before 17,565 Bruins fans joined in and sang in unison “proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.”  The fans would flawlessly finish the entire National Anthem with Rancourt acting as a conductor, singing along for brief moments, but overpowered by Boston fans showing their resolve in the face of tragedy.

Years from now, no one will ever remember that the Bruins lost the game in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres, but the world will never forget the greatest, most emotional rendition of the National Anthem ever…

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.

While You See a Chance – Take it

In Life, Life Lessons on February 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Take a Chance

“When some cold tomorrow finds you…When some sad old dream reminds you…How the endless road unwinds you…While you see a chance – take it…Because it’s all…on you!” 

It is said that success begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Most people don’t find out whether this statement is true or not because they don’t want to venture outside of their comfort zone.  After all, it is called a “comfort” zone for a reason.  For some people, like top athletes, fear of failure is a greater motivator than achieving success.  On the other hand, fear of failure can also be a paralyzing factor that causes you to remain inside of your comfort zone and promise yourself that you’ll do something when the timing is right.  The problem with this mindset is that life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the timing is never right!

Life just happens, and time slips away faster than any of us care to admit.  When we lie to ourselves about “someday,” we are simply setting the stage for future regrets.

I recently came across a video entitled “What if Money Didn’t Matter?” (see below).  It is only three minutes long, but that is all the time that it took to make me take action and start making changes to live the life that I want to live.

 
If you took the time to watch the video, you may have also had an “a-ha moment” that made you think twice about your future.  The day that I watched the video, I decided that I would replace “someday” with today, and immediately sprang into action.

It has been a few weeks since I watched the video, and a lot of progress has been made in a short amount of time.  I reached out to people from my past that I thought could help me achieve my goals.  Each of them agreed to help me in whatever way that they could, just as I would for any friend that needed my help with something.  One former colleague in particular has been instrumental in helping me come up with a unique idea that will lay the foundation for the future.

The action that I have taken over the past couple of weeks has been on my mind for a while, but I was guilty of putting it off until the timing was right.  Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of motivation to put plans into action.  And though there have already been bumps in the road, and more will certainly follow, there is a lot of satisfaction derived from putting the wheels into motion and enjoying the ride, no matter where your journey takes you.

As “The Great One” – Wayne Gretzky – famously said…“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”   Steve Winwood’s lyrics  go hand-in-hand with Gretzky’s message…“While you see a chance – take it!” 

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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