Monday, April 17, 2017

The Best Way to Enjoy the Holidays – As a Family

As the opening strains of “There’s No Seder Like Our Seder” begin, I look around the room at the family and friends that have gathered to celebrate this first night of Passover.  Both daughters came home from college for the Seders, a holiday / event that they both look forward to each year.  Do we do a traditional Seder – Yes and No.  The underlying text we use – Yes.  The method of delivery – No.  The Seder has the potential for being a stuffy affair, but not in the Zeiler household!  I learned early on that the more fun we have, the more everyone stays involved.  In the back of my mind, I still have pictured Uncle Hy, at my Mother’s parent’s house, sitting at the foot of the table, head back and snoring.  

How many time do we go to some event and it is exactly the same way it was the previously.  Yes, there is some comfort in repetition and know every step by heart.  As I get older, in a world where each day has its own challenges, there is a warm feeling of doing something by rote as a means of comfort.  That would relate to me, but what about the other people in the room?  Can I really say, “If it was good for my grandfather…”?  When the girls were little, Debbie and I started to host the Seders, but we wanted it to be accessible to our children, including them and be fun at the same time.   The Seder had to be fun for the adults as well.  We started to look for things to enhance the experience, which included song sheet, which eventually became a part of our homemade Haggadah.  Then came props, some I use, some others use.

Gab’s freshman year, we did not know if she would come home.  She came home.  This year, both Gab and Bec were not 100% sure they were coming home – they were here.  When asked what they like about coming home for the Seders?  They answered that they enjoy the company, being with family, and our own tradition.  Everyone is involved in some way or other.  This year, Bec did all of the baking.  With some new kids at our Seder, the girls included them and helped created activities for them.  We are proud that our children realize the importance of keeping everyone engaged.

Sometimes, we go through the motions of ceremonies that have been handed down, as a way to connect with our past or share our culture backgrounds with our children.  Sometimes, we need to inject a little something to make it relevant, to make it fresh and to make it exciting.  How do you make your family traditions exciting?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Standing Naked on a Hill

Have you ever thought of standing naked on a hill? Where you can be the king or queen of the world and not have any cares in that moment?  It would be a moment unto itself, with just you and nature as one, feeling the cool breeze against your body, being able to see for miles and feel the soft grass between your toes.  What if, for one moment of complete solitude you could have this experience, would you take it?

I am thinking these thoughts, sitting here typing on a laptop, pre-dawn, relying on the lights in my kitchen, having just finished cooking my breakfast.  I look over to the electronic clock to see what time it is, so that I can plan the time to go upstairs and get dressed, then hop into my hybrid car to drive to the bus stop, which will take me to an underground conveyance (subway) leading me to the high rise building that I work in.  I will most likely read on my portable reader on the way and maybe check emails on one of the two mobile devices I carry (one for work, one personal).  I am a modern man, surrounded by all of the conveniences that make up my daily routine.  I could not have a lifestyle be further from existing naked standing on a hill!  The only breeze I feel is when I turn on the air and it hits my exposed arms and face…

Have we lost complete touch with the basics of life that our ancestors contended with on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Today, I can type a message using WhatsApp and communicate with friends anywhere in the world where there is a WiFi connection.  It is almost inconceivable to think that about 100 years ago, when my Grandfather was in Austria and his father was already in New York City, that the only means of communicating was via letter.  And that letter, once sent, could take weeks to reach its destination, depending on the ships that traveled across the Atlantic and the weather conditions. 

Take a look at any of our daily routines:

  • We wake up (alarm clock),
  • We eat breakfast (coffee machine)
  • We commute (car, bus, etc.)
  • We work / get educated (computers, etc.)
  • We communicate (IM, texting, phone, email)
  • We eat dinner (prepared, refrigerated, etc.)
  • We relax (TV)

There is a certain allure to the prospect of convening with nature, to have that moment where I can be one with the surrounds – standing there enjoying the view and meditating on life.  Of course, it would have to be a place of solitude – no one needs to get arrested for public nudity.  The weather condition, of course, would have to be just right – not too hot and not too cold (I am thinking of a reference to a Seinfeld episode).  I am not big on bugs and critters, because once they appear, things could get less comfortable – the thought of a mosquito bite in a usually covered area would be “uncomfortable.”  OK, standing naked on a hill would end up being more about getting out of my comfort zone than trying to impress anyone, and this morning, I am happy sipping my hot tea, hearing the breeze of the heat blowing, and typing on my computer.

Remember, it was Bob Dylan that sang the truism, “But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.”  …though probably not upon a hill…

Monday, April 3, 2017

Trimming the Bushes

Each spring, I get to look out my window and look at the trees and bushes that are on our property and on our neighboring properties.  A number of years ago, the town replaced a tree on the street side of our property.  I watch each year as the tree grows a bit more, with some new branches sprouting outward.  Spring also means that there is a chance that some of the dirt patches will begin to show some new growth, fresh grass which will help fill out the lawn. 

These thoughts come filtering into my mind as I stand in front of my bathroom mirror.  As I lean in closer, I cannot believe what I see.  At what point in my life did that one random hair sprout from my ear?  Not some short, barely visible peach fuzz, but one long strand.  Then I notice the single thread of hair dangling from my nostril.  In the language of our youth - WTF????  Where did that come from?  OK, I can remove those.  What, do not tell me…why is there a few unsightly excessively long hairs in my eyebrows?!?

I am quite sure that when we were younger, my brothers and I had at least a few laughs at people with excessive hair growth from places that did not seem normal.  Little did we know at that time, that one day, we too would have hair sprouting in unsuspecting locations.  Was it karma or just our bodies doing their natural thing?  Should we just ignore them, which I am having trouble with doing as I am writing about it…For example – what do I do with that one lone hair that sits ABOVE my watch – when did that show up?

Grooming is not just making sure that I comb my hair anymore.  OK – it is confession time, as I do not look this good by accident only.  I engage in…manscaping.  OK, it is now out there…I am publishing this.  I do trim my eyebrows.  I do remove any random hairs jutting from my ears.  I do pluck those annoying nose hairs.  I do shave those few hairs that live on the lower back part of my neck (only on one side though).  Next time you see me – do not expect to see these random hair growths – they will be gone.  I do work towards giving a clean, professional image, and now this includes the new efforts I have started. 

I know that many of us face this phenomenon as we get older.  Some hair grows slower, some hair falls out, it is just the unsightly locations of the fresh growth that is weird.  I am sure each of us has a different tale to tell about related things happening to us as we age… care to be daring and share with us?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Here I Go Again

I found out something interesting.  Over the last two weeks, I have come to notice my wedding band more, whether by looking at it, or merely touching it.  I also have a shirt and house pants from both the University of Hartford and Johnson and Wales University.  When I packed, I am sure it was unconscious the selections.  In hindsight, I realize that this is not true, that my family is always on my mind, even when traveling.

Recently, I wrote about Debbie and Bec traveling with me being at home alone during that time.  This time, I am the one away.  After the last experience, maybe I have become more cognizant or more open to realizing that whether home or away, when I am alone, I do miss my family.  I do wish Debbie came with me.  Yes, I know that I am working long hours, but it is the thought that she is nearby…I do wish Gab and Bec came as well, as I am a firm believer in the benefits of traveling, experiencing other cultures and spending unique experiences as a family.  I missed them enough to pass a spot that we were at as a family, in Hong Kong, eight years ago.  I am not necessarily the sentimental type, but traveling alone, missing my family and having a place with positive memories is hard to just push away.

OK – I admit, I did not sit in a room pouting or feeling sorry for myself.  I did make use of my time while away.  I had the opportunity to have dinner with a friend in Hong Kong that I last visited with my family 10 years ago.  It was great seeing her and her family.  I really appreciated that they made a traditional Chinese dinner for me.  In Australia, I had the unique experience of my friend from Down Under having me as a passenger in a 4-seater plane, a very cool experience.  One night, I even had the opportunity to see a very funny play before it comes to our own Broadway.

When talking to Debbie earlier in my time away, she mentioned how lonely she felt.  I know she said the same to me in the past, but this time, I was able to empathize with her more so than in the past, having recently been in the same position.  The lesson learned?  Being alone is just that…being alone.  For business travel, you might be around people, but once you are in your room, there is only you. When you are home, you might be around people and you might have things to do during the day, but once you are in your house, there is only you.  We are married over 25 years.  We know each other almost 27 years.  You get used to each other, having each other around and the comfort knowing that someone else being there, even if you are in different parts of the house.

Best part?  Coming home and within a few days being able to be together, the four of us.  It might have been for a short time before the girls went back to school and we drove home, but precious time nonetheless.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Up, Up and Away

The plane casually taxied down the runway.  Even though the plane was ready, the number of checks and crosschecks prior to reaching this point was important (proper procedures) prior to takeoff.  James went over the passenger briefing to make sure I understood my role.  It was time.  Gently, the plane left the ground and a big grin was on my face as a single word, “cool,” escaped from my lips into the microphone… 

Is it a bird?  Is it…OK, you all know the rest of this saying.  As a child (all those long years ago), I remember being excited to go on a plane.  My first time was a school break in 1971 where we were going to visit my Uncle Ace who lived in Florida and go to Disney in Orlando.  At the time, the park was only a few years old and only Magic Kingdom existed.  Going on a plane - It was so exciting.  It was not like today, where visiting family, etc., is easy enough to hop on a plane and go.  The amount of travel (FIND OUT SOME STATS) was not as prevalent as today.  Even as I got older, I still was excited about flying, including still preferring to sit by the window and watch take offs and landings.  I know there is some serious science behind this phenomenon, but to me, it is still magic.  Choruses of Peter Pan singing, “We can fly” is still a fascination, to leave the earth and be airborne.

“Don’t tell me until after you go.”

“Really, he’s going to take you up in a plane?”

“Nice knowing you, don’t forget to say goodbye before you leave, in case I don’t see you again.”

Some nerve! These were some of the comments I heard when I said my friend James was taking me flying.  Good thing I stopped looking to others to determine my opinions for me a long time ago.  Thomas Edison stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Do we do the same with opportunities to engage in new experiences?  For the last few years, I have come to believe that we draw circles around ourselves, which define our personal comfort zones.  Some of the drawn circles were “gifted” to us by others, but most we draw around ourselves over time.  

What if, you had a chance to try something completely unique.  No strings attached…would you take the chance?  Two years ago, as Jim Kirk would say, I boldly stepped where no man has gone before.  OK, let us make that no Zeiler man…by willfully stepping out of a plane.  Meshuga (Yiddish for crazy)? Yes.  A great experience – absolutely.  What if a four seat Copper mini, could sprout wings and fly, would you willingly take a seat in it?

As I looked out my window, the tiny 4-seater had left the ground, backed around towards the right and headed towards the city.  It was a beautiful, clear day, and we were able to see the mountains miles to the north and the Port Philip heads miles to the south.  The flurry of activity to my left was James forever in motion while piloting the plane.  James took the time to point out the sites between turning dials and maneuvering the plane.  Around the coast, past the city then it was time to alight back where we started.  James landed the plane more gently than most commercial flights.  And, like that, the flight and my new experience were over.  I was open to new experiences, and glad that Mr. Edison’s opportunity showed up as an Aussie mate dressed in jeans.