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Trying to Explain Baseball

Do you enjoy sports? Do your children? Well in my latest blog post, I tackle the issue of sports and cheating. How do you tell an 8-year-old about steroids? Click the link to read about our conversation.
http://larrydbernstein.com/trying-to-explain-baseball

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Ferris Bueller No More

Drunken parties, packed bars, wet and wild (you fill in the blank). Yep, my weekend had it all. However, it did not include anything noted above. In fact, it was plain and ordinary.

I was 19 (or somewhere in that age range) and on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River. Cloudless sky, brilliant sun, light breeze, low 80’s –a beautiful Spring day. Some friends of mine and I were lounging on the river bank watching the water flow on. It was as if we were ready to film a beer commercial.
And yet…
“Yo man, I’m bored.”
“What do you want to do,” S asked. He was one of my closest friends during the high school and college years.
“I don’t know. Something.”
“Dude, it’s a beautiful day, and we’re all hanging out. What do you want?”
I looked around at the array of friends and acquaintances lounging around and sighed. “This is boring. I want an adventure.”
“An adventure? Who do you think you are Ferris Bueller?”
“I love that movie. Don’t mess with Ferris!”
“I know you do. How many times have you seen that movie?”
“A lot.” Sticking my hand out in greeting, “Abe Froman, sausage king, Chicago.”
“I know you know the movie by heart.”
“I weep for the future.”
“Okay, Abe I got it.”
“Anyway, what would be so wrong with a Ferris Bueller like adventure?”
“We’re not in the movies.”
I don’t remember how that afternoon ended. It was probably via some chemically induced haze.
So, I had it all and was bored. I wanted more.

Here’s a sampling of the events I experienced this past weekend:
Playdates for both of the boys,
Meaningful conversation with my wife,
Praying at the synagogue on Sabbath,
Tasty meals,
Food Shopping,
Playoff Football,
Vacuuming,
Writers group meeting,
Playing golf on the Wii.

There’s more, and it’s equally mundane. I’ll spare you the details. I’ll bet you had some of these and more on your plate this weekend as well. So you can fill in your own details.

You could say I did not have much going on this weekend. Yet, when Sunday night rolled around, I turned to my wife and said, “I wish it was a three day weekend.”

So, while I still know most of the lines and would be happy to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day off, I don’t need the same adventure. However, there are days. Nah, let me stop there. The plain and ordinary suited me quite nicely, thank you.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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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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Fishing with Lou

Calm waters, bonding time, thrill of the pull. Yeah, I have no interest in fishing. Seriously.
My Uncle Lou passed away when I was 10. Unfortunately, I only have vague memories of him. My uncle fought in World War II, marched in the Mummers Parade, and was a September call up for the Philadelphia A’s.
Uncle Lou was the type of uncle that would buy you ice cream even though you were about to go home and eat dinner. He was the uncle who would come to your baseball games. He was the uncle who would make every trip seem interesting.
And he was the fisherman of the family. My father could get sea sick during a long bath. So, if my brothers or I were to go fishing, it would be because Uncle Lou took us. However, the majority of the fishing trips were for my two oldest brothers. I was too young or at least that is what I was told.
One day my next older brother, NG (by two years) and I were playing with our new fishing rods that Uncle Lou bought for us. It was a particularly slow summer day. NG and I stood next to each other in front of our house. We were in competition as brothers always are. The goal was to see who could cast their line further. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember it made me want to go fishing.
Eventually, Uncle Lou decided that NG & I were old enough to go fishing. And I caught a fish. Well, sort of. I had a bite on my line and pulled it in under Uncle Lou’s tutelage. I was excited and dreamed of telling my older brothers about my big catch. So after a moment, the fish became visible – barely. The fish was no more than six ounces and three inches and bloodied from the fight with my line. The pathetic thing eventually fell off my line – becoming lunch for some other sea animal.
Shortly, thereafter Uncle Lou called it a day. The fish weren’t biting, and the weather was ominous. We stopped at a diner on the way home. Uncle Lou congratulated me on my near catch and told NG he would do better next time.
Unfortunately, there was no next time with Uncle Lou. He died rather suddenly leaving everyone sad. He was one of the good ones.
Anyway my next and last fishing trip was just an excuse to drink beer with a couple of friends. Oh well.

This was a semi-elaborate way of saying I am taking a break from blogging. You know like they say – I’m gone fishing. I don’t where that term comes from. I’m sure I cold Google it, and I just might eventually. Anyway, I won’t be posting for the next week to 10 days. I need a break. I just might pop on WordPress and make some comments, and I might not. The lack of commitment. I am a guy you know.
Lastly, I want to wish Happy Holidays to all of you who will be celebrating Christmas next week. May it be a wonderful, peaceful, and joyous holiday.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Lump in My Throat

There’s a lump lodged in my throat.

The gymnasium was packed on Friday morning at my son’s elementary school in Fair Lawn, NJ. The large crowd had gathered for the annual holiday show. The show, which began at 9:00 a.m., featured each grade from K-5 performing a song to celebrate Christmas and Channukah. There was dancing and speeches as well.

Children beamed with pride as they performed the numbers that they clearly had spent time preparing. Teachers nodded with satisfaction. Family members smiled, waved, and photographed.

My 6-year-old son’s kindergarten class took the stage last. He sang, did the hand motions, and bopped with the music. He blew a kiss to my wife from the stage and had her heart.

Joy, innocence, cheer. These words summarize the Holiday Performance. Everyone left happy.

The scene, the numbers, the insanity of it all makes the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School seem earth-shattering. Six- and seven-year-olds, shot multiple times. They probably loved cotton candy, Lego, and Spongebob. What did they dream? What did they wish for? What did they hope?

These mass shooting tragedies are getting too high to count. We shake our head and pity those involved. Then, the incidents meld into each other. And the number of victims and families torn asunder add up. What do we as a nation do to deal with our collective survivor’s guilt? Surely every parent has embraced their child a little tighter thankful for the opportunity to do so while wondering about the horror of those parents who no longer have that blessing.

Maybe, we can’t send our children to school anymore. Or the mall. Or the movie theatre. Maybe, we should all lock our doors and go on Facebook. A virtual connection is at least a safe connection.

Of course, living a completely isolated life is practically impossible and undesirable. So, instead, there will be talk.

We’ll get advice and details over the next few days. Pundits will pontificate, police will report, and politicians will bloviate. What can they tell us? This is why it happened, we have it covered, keep living, it’s okay to be scared, etc. Does that make anyone feel better? Does anyone feel safe now?

A mass tragedy can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. That is the lesson learned from this horror. Period.

On Monday morning, I will enter the classroom where I serve as a teacher. Certainly, I will teach a lesson, hope the students learn, encourage them to participate, remind them of homework, and push them to try their best. However, the mark of a successful class will be everyone walking out safely together when the bell rings.

The world has changed.

I have a lump in my throat, and it is not going away.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 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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