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Morning-Shower Phobia

Arachnophobia, claustrophobia, xenophobia. There are phobias for just about everything. I, thankfully, suffer from none of them. Well I’m not big on heights and you don’t want to see me around ketchup and iced tea. But other than that, I am just short of normal.

I took a self-imposed break from blogging though I continued commenting on other people’s blogs. Anyway, the break from blogging coincided with my break at school. Movies, Chuck E. Cheese, a visit to mom, editing of my novella, a staycation with my wife only, and sleeping in till 8:00 (yes, that is a big thing in my house) were just some of the highlights from my break. Of course, I found some time for self-loathing and questioning of my direction. However, the best part was not setting the alarm and moving at a different pace.
On Tuesday night, I had my clothes out, lunch made, lesson plans prepared, etc. I had psyched myself up and was ready to return to work. Then, I made a terrible mistake. I checked weather.com. The site said it would feel like 9 degrees at 6 a.m. That is the time at which I am standing on a street corner praying for the bus to come. My heart sank as my resolve froze. Uggh. I added a pair of long johns to my pile of clothes.
Wednesday morning came, and I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom for my shower. You see, there are two types of people in this world: “shower-before-bed” people and “shower-in-the-morning” people. I happen to be the latter. Thus my shower serves a dual purpose: a clean start and a wake-up call.
I looked at the shower and had reservations. Let me tell you about our shower, and you will understand. It takes a couple of minutes for the water to warm up. Once it does warm up, it can be scalding. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, why don’t you just balance the hot and cold knobs so the water will come out at a temperature you are happy with. Sounds logical. However, my shower is not logical. The knobs are inconsistent, so I never know where to turn them to in order to get a comfortable temperature.
As I have mentioned many times, I often lack patience. So, sometimes in my rush to warm up the water, I turn the hot up too far. It will be a comfortable temperature when I get in and suddenly the water will be scalding. Then, I will turn the hot water down and pump up the cold water and a minute later, the water is freezing.

I have little tolerance for extreme temperatures. So, I spend half the shower jumping away from the water. I jump so often in the shower that it could be a new kind of exercise. You have zumba, pilates, and shower dance (sounds like it should be way more erotic than it actually is). This drastic change in temperature makes washing my private parts an act of faith. So, one minute, I’m burnt like a beach bum and the next minute, I’m frozen ala Walt Disney.

Then, you have water pressure. Well, you may have water pressure, but my shower sure doesn’t. Give my two cups of water and an hour, and I can generate more pressure than my shower.

So now, I have made a change. I am no longer a daytime shower person. It is too scary in that shower on cold winter mornings. In fact, you could say that I have a fear or phobia of my shower. There’s got to be a name for morning-shower phobia.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Do Shirts Count?

Do Shirts Count?
Eight presents for eight nights. That’s the way Chanukah works in our house. Each night the drama begins anew. We say some prayers, sing a song, and presents are distributed.
And I hold my breath. Praying that the children will be happy with their gifts.

A friend of mine was holding court recently. The topic was Chanukah presents. Specifically, can clothes be given as presents? Now, there are no holy books with great sages’ views on said topic. So, we are left to our own wits. My initial reaction: “Of course it counts.” However, my friend, whose youngest child is in 11th grade, presented his three children’s arguments. Clothes don’t count. They are a necessity. It is a parent’s obligation to clothe their child. I think my friend might have a lawyer or two in the bunch.

From this Jew’s perspective, Christmas gift giving seems less dramatic. If the children are given a slew of presents or even just a few, you can throw a shirt in or something similarly practical. The child might be disappointed, but with the knowledge that the next present is right there, waiting to be opened – hope remains.
However, with Channukah, the next present is 24 hours away – an eternity to a young child. Each night there is pressure. My wife is the gift buyer in our house. She puts in major hours scanning the internet to find the ‘right’ presents for the boys. I am both impressed with the effort and care and a bit scared. She’s intense. So, if the children aren’t happy, it is my wife who feels more of the sting.
All of this being said, when BR received a shirt the other day he freaked out. By the way, it was a Lego Ninjago shirt. He loves Lego. He also got a scooter that he can use indoors. Anyway, he was not happy and did not feel any need to refrain from showing his displeasure. Through tears, he kept repeating, “I don’t want a shirt. Why would you give me a shirt? I want toys.” (At least he was rolling around on the scooter while he was bawling.) We tried to reason with him, but he was in meltdown mode. Better to back away and let him cool down a bit.
Part of me was pissed off. Doesn’t he know how much his mother works to find the right presents for him and his brother? Doesn’t he know that some people don’t get any presents? Doesn’t he know that one should always express gratitude when given something?
I’m sure he knows all of this – on some level. It is our (my wife and I) job to make sure BR and SJ grow up to be gracious and appreciative – even when they get a shirt.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Get on the Boat

An old joke:
A great storm has taken place and massive flooding has occurred. A pious, holy man stood on his roof to escape the flood. As the water continues to rise ever higher, a boat comes along. The boat comes up to him and the people inside offer the religious man a ride. He declines, “No thank you. G-d will save me.” While those in the boat are surprised at his reaction, they recognize he will not get in, so they drive off. This same happenstance occurs two more times. Each time the end result is the same. The pious man declines by saying, “No thank you. G-d will save me.” Eventually, the holy man drowns.
The holy man gets to heaven, and he has his moment to speak with G-d. He says, “G-d, I don’t understand. I pray to you regularly, give charity, study the bible, and do acts of kindness to the stranger. I am a true believer. How could you let me drown? G-d replies to the religious man, “I sent you a boat three times, but you refused to get on.”

When offered an opportunity, take it. Don’t question. That is the lesson I take from that joke. You don’t know where or when opportunity will present itself. However, that doesn’t matter. Remember that Stevie Winwood song, When you see a chance, you take it.
Too often, I am a double clutcher to use a basketball comparison. The player who double clutches despite an open shot has his shot blocked. He/she can’t believe the opportunity they have, so they pause for a split second. Well, in that split second, the opportunity has come and gone.
I wonder what if, playing out multiple scenarios in my head. I tell myself I am being wise and practical. I tell myself I have:
children depending on me,
food to put on the table,
a mortgage,
private school tuition bills.
I have, have have. Too often, these blessings can double as burdens.

This week is Chanukah. A very brief summary of Chanukah – The Jews overcame the Greeks, the superpower of the day. The Greeks had ransacked the Temple. When the Jews came to the Temple to rededicate it, they found only one day’s worth of pure oil which was needed to light the menorah (or lamps). They lit the menorah, and miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights by which time more purified oil was able to be secured.
One could easily ask why did they even bother lighting the menorah? The oil was not sufficient and ultimately would have disappointed. However, the people took that chance and let G-d determine what would be. They had faith. Another question which is commonly asked is why celebrate the holiday for eight days (of course extra jelly donuts, latkes, and presents is the answer most kids give)? After all, the first day was not a miracle. There was enough oil for one day, so the miracle took place over the final 7 days. One answer that I have heard to this dilemma particularly impresses me. The fact that oil lights at all is a miracle. It is not an acknowledged miracle but an everyday miracle. The lesson I learn from this is to appreciate the every day.
So as my family and I celebrate Chanukah and I contemplate the end of the year, I have lessons to relearn. I need to move forward, and pledge to get on the boat when it shows up at my door.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Feeling Better

102.3! No, I am not referring to a radio station.

“I told you I didn’t feel well,” I said, vindicated. I was shaking, my teeth were chattering, I was itchy, and I felt a perpetual need to pee.

And I was scared.

The last time I had a fever was about 30 years ago. I was 10. I woke up on Saturday morning, excited to play little league basketball. As a child, I lived for little league; some of my best memories come from me playing on various teams for the Bustleton Boys Club. I played basketball and baseball. My soccer career ended after one year when I didn’t even score one goal (I was robbed!), and my team was 1-7-1. Anyway, I woke up and called for my mom. Five minutes later, she removed the thermometer and diagnosed me with fever.

“But doc, I want to play. My team needs me.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ahh mom. Come on. I’ll be fine.” I tried getting out of my top bunk bed. Was it me or was the room spinning? It was me, and I was done. I resigned myself to missing my game. Turns out the flu bug was going around, and many kids had to miss the game.

So, you could say I am not used to being sick.

My family and I had been at a synagogue event – parent/child learning. My wife was the organizer, so she was running around making sure everything was going smoothly. As the hour turned to 8:30 pm, SJ was getting cranky, and I was feeling more and more uncomfortable.

“Will you take me home? Daddy doesn’t feel well. So, can you take me home?”

SJ said through muffled tears, “What about mommy and BR?”

“They can get a ride home from someone.”

“Okay. You can take me home, and I’ll take you home.”

“Thanks buddy. I really don’t feel well.” BR told my wife we were leaving. She was ready for this contingency. A meltdown can come at any time at that hour. She just did not expect me to be the one melting down.

A rough Saturday night of Advil and fitful sleep followed. However, upon waking up Sunday morning, my fever was gone. G-d bless drugs. I probably should have relaxed and taken it easy, but I didn’t. After all, I am not used to lying in bed sick.

102.3 is back to being a radio station. And that is music to my ears.

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Please Come Back

It’s enough.

But it’s still on my mind.

Don’t bore your readers.  They’re tired of hearing you talk about this.

But aren’t you supposed to write what is on your mind? Isn’t that how the best blog posts get written?

I guess so. But consider your audience.

I do consider them, but I need one more entry, and I think it will be out of my system.

I’m sorry. Did you hear that? It was a conversation I was having with my writer self. I recently read about someone else conversing with their muse over at a blog – authenticlifejourneys.com I follow (and recommend by the way).

Anyway, the storm and its affects are still on my mind. You see my family and I are still without power. I know, I know – so many people are really suffering while we are just inconvenienced.  I understand and feel bad for complaining.  However, last night the temperature got below 50 in my house while the darkness descended by 5. It was a long cold night and I am sick of this! I want my life back.

This weekend was a tease. We spent the weekend at my mother’s condominium. Heat, light – ahh the comforts of modern life.  It was beautiful and so appreciated.  It was hard to leave. I prayed that when we got home, and the electric would be back on.

No such luck. The electric company (PSEG) said we would be back by Sunday at midnight, then Monday at midnight, and then Tuesday at midnight. The have a PDF with each county and when the power will come on at each place. If they can predict it with such accuracy, why can’t they just make it faster? I’m sure they are doing their best but that does not take away the frustration.

I have been moving slowly since the storm has hit. This is not like me – I’m a doer. I make lists. I accomplish.  And now Sandy has struck, and everything has changed. Life has taken on a Ms. Havisham like pace.

I woke up last night somewhere in the early a.m. after dreaming of warmth.  I popped my head out from under my covers hoping that the heat had come on. The chill that hit my nose put reality in my face. I readjusted my hat and snuggled against the flannel sheets.

In the meantime, I am back at work and the children are back at school. We will return home as if it was a normal day. Then the darkness will descend, and we will be left sitting and hoping that tonight will be the night when normality truly returns.  I am tired of this!

 

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Let me Help

It was a beautiful late summer day. The streets were crowded with people milling around. Aimlessly.

“I think we should go down there,” I said.

“Why” my fiancé asked?

“I want to do something. Maybe, we could help somehow.”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what we could do there.”

“Yeah, dude,” my roommate added. “I don’t even know how we could get there. The subways are not running below 14th.”

“We could walk from 14th. It’s not so far. I want to help out. What good are we doing sitting here?”

The three of us stood outside of the temporary Red Cross building. By the time we had gotten there, they were no longer even taking blood.  All we could offer was dried goods – soap, power bars, etc.

“I think it’s nice that you want to help, but there is nothing we can do,” my fiancé said.

I scoffed in frustration and replied, “I want to see what those bastards did. I want to see with my own eyes.  I want to help. We’re just sitting here. Sucks. I’m going a little crazy here.”

On September 12th, 2001, there were probably many such conversations going on around the city.

It’s natural to want to help others in times of trouble.  When we hear that a friend, neighbor, or family member is ill, one of the first questions we ask is, “How can I help? What can I do?” It is the normal reaction and one that binds us together. People want to help and feel useful. Being productive allows one to feel pride, accomplished and useful.

Since before the storm began, I have felt compelled to organize my home. I have been going through drawers, closets, and desks. Throwing out, straightening up, and sorting through. There is chaos outside my door. Everyday life has been thrown into tumult. However, in my home, I will keep order. I suppose you could call it a coping method. I’d like to think it is a good method – cleaning the house while not driving my family too crazy.

On Tuesday afternoon, I went into my backyard and gathered up the largest limbs that lay strewn about and placed them on the curb. Today, Thursday, I called the Office of Emergency Management a couple of times. I wanted to offer my services – a healthy, relatively strong body. No answer. I spent over an hour and a half raking leaves and gathering sticks. The trashcans are no longer in the garage, the basketball net is no longer on its side, and the outdoor furniture is back on the lawn. Our house looks like it would normally on a fall day.

We remain without power. School is closed for the children and me. My wife’s work place is closed. So, things for us are far from normal.  Yet, many have it much worse and their normal will never be the same. I wish I could help.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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On the Binder

Do you recall having loose leaf binders in school? I remember having a blue cloth loose leaf binder. I got my first one in 4th grade. I liked the different sections, the yellow dividers, and the inevitable reinforcements. However, what I liked most about having a loose leaf was that I could doodle on the cover. Whether its flowers and hearts or monsters and trucks, I think you can learn a lot about someone if you look at their doodles.

Well, if somehow my old loose leaf binders could be resurrected, they would confirm that I was a sports lunatic. I used to draw these rectangles which I envisioned as banners hanging from the rafters. This is where the elite athletes would have their names one day. However, the day came a little early for those I chose from among the stars of the Philadelphia teams of my youth – Clarke, Barber, Montgomery, Carmichael, Erving, Toney, Carlton, and Schmidt.

I put these players and many others on a pedestal. I looked up to them and imagined what it would be like to meet them. They were more than athletes I saw on television. I felt as if I knew them. I see my high school students do the same thing today. They are completely obsessed with particular players – Lebron James could have a thriving fan club just comprising the students I had last year.

In the years since my early ‘doodles’, I’ve realized that I did not know where to ‘draw the line’ – pun intended. Being a professional athlete means that an individual has been blessed with great skill which he or she has honed through hours upon hours of practice. It does not mean the athlete is a good person. It does not mean that I know the athlete because I have seen them perform their sport. I do not know them, and I have no true understanding of the type of person he/she is.

I want my boys to enjoy sports. Enjoying and partaking in sports is good exercise and a great way for children to bond. However, I do not want my boys to obsess over sports and blur the lines between a star on the field of play and a wonderful person in the game of life.

Respecting and admiring the athlete for his/her talents is fine. However, I also want my children to respect the policeman who puts his life on the line, the fireman who saves others, the military man who protects the country, the teacher who enables children, the entrepreneur who seeks to make things better, the scientist who tries to find a cure, the doctor who helps people to feel better, the religious figure who gives guidance, etc.

The point is everyone who works hard, shows care for others, strives to better himself/herself is deserving of respect. No one – particularly someone you don’t know – should be idolized. When it comes to worship, you should look above for inspiration and not around.

When my children get their first loose leaf binder, they will surely come to doodle on it at some point. As they consider what to doodle on their book, I hope that they will go beyond my options.

PS. I wrote a newspaper article about the Penn State situation that is related to this. Here’s the link: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/163267936_What_to_do_when_idol_is_shown_to_have_feet_of_clay.html?page=all

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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