Monday, May 29, 2017

OMG – We Have a College Grad!

I cannot believe that our little Gab is now a college graduate.  She IS a young adult, and logically I know that she is old enough…WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!  In my mind, I still see my little girl, dependant on her parents.  OMG.  OMFG!  Gab is a college graduate!  Yes, she worked hard, graduated Summa Cum Laude and with University Honors; she deserves all the rewards of her efforts.  We are extremely proud of her!  She not only graduated from her formal education, but also graduate from this part of her life.  As both Gab and Bec would say, she is now a real person.  They are right – even though my graduation from college was 32 years ago, I remember being excited, nervous and a little scared at the realization that I had the entire world and lifetime ahead of me.  I am very excited for Gab reaching this milestone, even as I hold back the tears.  I did not expect the flood of emotions, and for someone that general does not display or talk about them, it was unexpected.
As the baccalaureate candidates moved their tassels from the right to the left side of their caps, it dawned on me, that in some way, Gab is not the only one to graduate.  As parents, Debbie and I, in part, subtly graduate as well.  Yes, Bec is still in school, but with Gab, as she moves onto the next stage in her life, we, too, have to begin to transform ourselves as parents to help her with this new phase.  As a student, Mom and Dad are always there for them, and whether living at home or away, we have always been there.  But, with this next stage in life, there are new transitions, new challenges and new opportunities ahead.  While Gab has to face them, we need to be able to provide a new and different support for her.  While we received no “Marriage Handbook,” and no “Raising Children Handbook,” the “You Now a Have College Graduate Handbook” did not show up either.  This is a time to embrace the opportunities before us, whether as a college graduate, a parent and, to some extent, as sisters.
“I love graduation season!” Bec happily exclaimed.  She reflected on the excitement of her graduation of High School and how now that Gab is graduating, she will be next.  There is something exciting about leaving your school life behind.  32 years ago, when I graduated from Lehigh – I was done with school and looking forward to the future before me, to make my own path, to put my mark on the world and take on whatever came my way.  Life is exciting!  As we age, we take on responsibility that could weigh us down…but, only if we let it.  I am still excited at looking forward to what is to come, for my girls, for Debbie, for myself and as a family.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  While graduating school might seem like a destination, it is merely one-step on a life long journey.  As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Each step along the journey should be happily celebrated, and as we graduate each phase, we can happily look forward with great anticipation to the next step.
Congratulations to all who have graduated this season, and best of luck as this journey we call life continues!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Responsibility – It Is Up To Me

The doctor handed me a small bundle, my newly born daughter.  She was only a few minutes old, but I knew things were never going to be the same, because with that truly newborn child in my hand, I realized the immense responsibility that I had been entrusted with.  Debbie and I had been married over four years at this point, and to be honest, living with someone comes with responsibilities – responsibilities towards each other and responsibilities that are shared.  By making the decision to bring another life into the world, we now had the responsibility to raise, nurture, care and love the child we now have.  And with being blessed a second time, though that one point of clarity did not need occur, we still had an equal responsibility.  For Gab and Bec to be successful in life, it was (and to some extent, still is) our responsibility to prepare them for their futures. 

I find it interesting, as I go through life, hearing people not always wanting to take responsibility.  You can hear it in conversations where outside forces seem to supersede personal responsibility.  Once someone starts down the path of “pointing fingers” as an explanation, it has the potential for making things easier by relieving the responsibility for oneself and one’s actions.  I once heard speaker George Zalucki explain that many people have a thick chain attached to their backs.  Attached to the chain is a heavy, wooden trunk that you are dragging along.  The trunk is labeled excuses.  This is where one goes when they make an excuse – “I could have done that, but [fill in excuse]”, “I meant to do this, but [fill in excuse]”…  In what might have been a two for one sale, there is a second thick chain with another heavy, wooden trunk.  This one is labeled blame.  Once you make the excuse, it is time to reach into the second box and start pointing fingers – “It’s [fill in person’s name] fault that [fill in excuse].”  This visualization is for a person that does not take responsibility.  As Dr. Wayne Dyer, bestselling author of “Excuses Begone!” writes, “Blame is a neat little device that you can use whenever you don't want to take responsibility for something in your life. Use it and you will avoid all risks and impede your own growth.”

I know these are some hard hitting words.  Nevertheless, becoming more aware of this over the past few years, through speakers, writers and listening to people talk, I can see the way this lays out.  The box of excuses is not always for after the fact; it becomes the source prior to an event.  Once the setup is there and the “event” occurs, the excuse can be re-enforced afterwards and then the finger pointing, or blaming, can begin.  “Well, if you don’t do this, such and such will happen and it will be your fault.”  This sentence deflects the speaker from looking at him or herself, from taking on the responsibility for their part, and already made it clear that they will not be responsible.

If we are to live our lives to our fullest potential, we have to be the ones responsible for ourselves, for our actions and for our results.  No successful person, in sports, business or life, pushed off their responsibilities and made excuses to get where they are.  I happily took on the responsibility:

  • As a parent, to raise Gab and Bec to the best of my ability  
  • As a husband, to be the best spouse for Debbie I can be
  • As a person, to living up to my potential as best I can
  • For my success, to achieve on my own and on my terms
  • As a volunteer, to give of my time and help others

I like being responsible – this way, I do not waste time on excuses and for blaming other for my failings…

Monday, May 15, 2017

One Day This Could Be Me

Many years ago, when I was in my teens, I remember being outside of our house in Glen Rock and my dad having a conversation with some of his friends.  At the time, these men were in their mid-40s and the topic of conversation was the onset of various aches and pains that they were feeling as they began to age.  For some reason, that small slice of memory has stuck with me, most likely causing me to wonder if I will be having a similar conversation with my friends as I get older.  I am at an age where my peers have had knee replacements, hip replacements, back surgery, take medicines for this and that, etc.; but no general conversation about our aches and pains.  Many of us are blessed with still having our parents alive.  Through the wonders of advanced medicine, we all have the opportunity to live longer lives, be productive members of society longer and, unfortunately, become more prone to ailments, etc., than prior generations.  Our conversations are not about us, but are more about our parents.

As children, most (but not all), look towards their parents for wisdom, insight and, yes, approval.  The last one in that list does not change, even when we have children of our own, have some successes in our lives and are completely independent from our parents.  In my mind, my father is still fit, able to get around easily and be a sounding board (whether we or not we agree on everything is irrelevant).  Because of this view, I (selectively?) forget that he had back surgeries, strokes and uses a walker.  My eyes see this, but my mind does not.  As with all living creatures, as we get older, the signs of aging keep creeping into view.  At my age, if I extend my fingers straight out and look at the back of my hands, the skin is no longer taunt and no longer has a youthful appearance.  This means, that as our parents age, we need to become more alert to the changes that they are going through, as hard as that is, and as much as we do not want to see it.

Yes, you got it.  Our conversations are not about our aches and pains, but about our parents’.  Whether they are close by, or at a distance, when needed, we all run to check on them.  It does not matter if they are nearby, a state away, a short flight away or in a different country, we go to them.  There has become the role reversal – when they fall, we are the ones to pick them back up, tell them everything is OK and encourage them.  They had done these things for us, now it is our turn to do for them.  Part of accepting the fact that they are older helps when it comes to providing them advice and making decisions that really are for their benefit.  While we remember to enjoy our children while they are young and the various stages that they only go through in their lives, we now must remember to do the same with our parents.  For once those stages pass, they only live on in our memories.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Music to Our Ears – Gab Takes the Stage

Debbie and I took our seats in the front row; we were very excited to be here.  We had travelled a long way specially for this event and looking forward to hearing the speaker.  Two young women, recently mentored by the speaker, took the stage and asked the audience to be silent, asked us to turn our ringers off and then proceeded to their introductions.  With loud applause, the speaker stepped up into the center of the stage, well dressed, wearing a big smile, looking confident and ready to begin.  My heart swelled as I held back the feeling of tears in the corners of my eyes.  With great pride, we were there to see Gab take the center stage.  Yes, I mean our Gab!  That was our daughter up there!  She was no longer the little child, but a young adult whose presence drew in the room’s attention.

The long road to this point was, literally speaking, 120 miles from our house to the auditorium.  However, on a more conceptual road, this path took years to arrive on this spot.  There was being in the Wizard of Oz while in elementary school.  Gab acted in plays throughout middle school and high school, including a few independent productions.  Then there were the years of piano lessons, learning the flute, and picking up the clarinet in her senior year.  In a few weeks, before the slight bend in the road, will be the graduation from four years of learning many instruments, singing in high-level choral groups, training to be an educator and student teaching.  Debbie and I were the proud parents and Rebecca was the proud sister, as we were able to see the culmination of path traveled present itself on stage.

OK – I am the gushing parent.  In Yiddish, the word kvelling comes to mind – beaming with pride. As a music education major, the presentation was part of Gab’s honor program.  The title of the presentation was “ABA Form for Non-Musicians.”  We saw a glimpse of this future teacher to be as she “taught” us about this basic musical structure.  Gab talked about Oreo Cookies and chocolate.  Everyone in the room sang together.  We raised our hands to give answers.  We laughed.  Gab played some piano where we had to be interactive with her.  Then she bowed while we clapped our hands – she had completed her talk.  Our teacher-to-be had just taught a roomful of adults; this was a glimpse at what Gab has to provide to the future musicians of the world, and we could not be prouder of her!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Everything Revolves Around Whom?

“God helps those who help others.” ~ Amit Abraham, Personality Development Through Positive Thinking

There I was, minding my own business, quietly driving my car to work, enjoying the bright spring morning.  The road I am on is a main road through a nearby community.  I see a car coming up from the side street, and notice that it is not slowing, even though they have the stop sign.  I know that this person will blow through the stop sign and pay no heed to the car that has the right of way (which would be me).  And, sure enough, there he went.  This was clearly a case where someone does not care about the other people on the road.

There is the Zig Ziglar tenet that says, “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want in life.”  This presumes that one of the key paths to success is being willing to help others and not focus only on yourself.  By helping to ensuring other’s successes, both you and the people you help have the opportunity to succeed together.  Most of the successful people have not been so by themselves, but have provided success for the people they surround themselves with, including the ability to increase wealth (think of the number of millionaires created from Microsoft’s beginning).  The commitment and mindset has to be REAL and part of one’s nature and values.  I am amazed at the number people I observe that are in it only for themselves, such as in the following examples:

  • To get home from work, I travel on the NY subway system between my office to the Port Authority.  The general rule of thumb is that the people on the platform open up a path for the people exiting the subway – makes sense.  This past week, as I had one foot on the subway and one off, someone elbowed their way in saying excuse me, I need to get on this subway.  Where she expected me to go, I am not sure.
  • When leaving a plane, or a bus, most of the people follow the basic rule of thumb – passengers exit from the front moving towards the back one row at a time.  This is a very organized process.  However, every so often there is that one person that jumps up from the back and elbows their way to the front.  We were recently on a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Newark, where we notice the actions a man and wife.  By the way that they were dressed, they clearly were a religious couple.  We tend to think in our minds (not to judge) that religious folks tend to have a higher standard.  Guess who was the first to jump up, did not let other people in (per the order of seating) and pushed their way forward?  I am not sure where his religion stresses “me first.”

I would be remiss if I only pointed out the acts of selfishness and not noticed acts of selflessness / kindness / consideration.  During rush hour times, a seat on the subway can be a rare and precious commodity.  On occasion, people will give up their seats (including me) for an elder person, someone that is pregnant, a child or with a disability.  I sat next to a young woman that whenever someone she thought would like to sit actually got up from her seat and would walk over to that person to offer them her spot.  Many times when a seat becomes vacant, it is a rush to grab it.  Not in this case.  Even though the response she received each time was, “No, thank you,” it was great to see that she still tried to reach out to be considerate of the those around her.