Happy Birthday: Hello teenager

When I became a teenager in the early 80s, we listened to Rick Springfield sing about Jessie’s Girl and Diana Ross and Lionel Richie sing of their Endless Love; played Pac-Man and Centipede in a downtown arcade, read George Orwell’s 1984, went in droves to see The Empire Strikes Back and spent our free time trying to figure out a 3-D combination puzzle called the Rubik’s Cube.

We worried that the Soviet Union — including Russia — would one day nuke us, cheered when the Iranian hostages came home and the U.S. launched the first space shuttle, and watched amusingly as a rich, young billionaire named Donald Trump made headlines in his bid to take over Manhattan.

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Memorial Day: Honoring the fallen

When the military releases their names, it’s just ink on a page.

Two Army Rangers, Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed while conducting a night raid against an ISIS-led group in eastern Afghanistan in late April.

You continue reading and the names start to have more meaning. You look at their ages and see that Rodgers was 22, Thomas 23. You find out that the two Rangers, who had each served three deployments overseas were struck possibly by friendly fire in the opening minutes of a three-hour firefight in the Achin district of the Nangahar province. The district is a primary base of operations for ISIS in Afghanistan and has been the site of multiple joint counterterrorism missions.

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You pick up another story and you learn that both men joined the Army shortly after graduating high school in 2013. Rodgers’ former track and assistant football coach said he talked often in high school of his dream of becoming a Ranger. They both quickly progressed up the ranks, earning numerous decorations, and were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based in Fort Benning, Georgia.

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How did I come to rely on my smartphone so much?

We don’t just cross the line. We race past it traveling 80 mph.

My family has a mobile plan with a national carrier that limits us to 10 GB of data. You would think that 10 GB would be plenty for us and it was for a long period, but over the past several months, we’ve obliterated our allocation. In the process, we’ve cost ourselves a few extra dollars. We could switch plans, but we’ll more than likely have to pay more for our coverage, so for the time being, I’m trying to keep a lid on our usage.

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When we got the bill last month, I couldn’t wait to dive into the bill. I was ready to pounce on the guilty party. I was sure that one of my sons, or even my daughter, had wasted the majority of the minutes on some new game or app. I couldn’t wait to threaten to take away their phone or put in any number of restrictions. My glee turned to a frown, though, when I found out that the biggest user of data the past month had been me. My children were right there with me, but there I was in black-and-white Arial font the biggest user of data in my family.

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Babies are such a nice way to start people & other stories

My three kids have “big people” problems.

–Dad, I’m going to need a car to get around for my summer internship, what should I do?

–Dad, which meal plan should I choose for college?  I’m thinking about Meal Plan #3, but it costs $800 more than the other two. What do you think?

–Dad, I’m thinking of joining the marching band in the Fall, can you give me $150 to cover the middle school activity fee.

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Making dreams come true

Parenting has its challenges. Whether you stay home with your kids or work all day and have to pick them up and race somewhere, your job is never complete. There’s always something to do (um, what are we having for dinner?) and you’re often left feeling like you’re working without a net.

But once in a while, you have a day that’s just perfect. You get to see your children in a new light or achieve something they’ve been working on. It can be a big or small event.

For me, one of the fun things recently has been helping my kids make their dreams become a reality. I’ve been blessed that I’ve had a few of those days lately where everything comes together. I’m convinced that there’s not a better feeling in the world.

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In a New York state of mind

A few people on the train car chat back-and-forth, but it’s mostly quiet. People alone in their thoughts and their phones and the noisy click-clack of the train wheels. My daughter and I chat about her upcoming internship. My son usually has his phone out playing some game or app, but this time he’s watching everything: the other riders walking up and down the aisle, the train crew collecting tickets, the passing New Jersey wasteland, etc.

The three of us sway with the tossing and turning of the train, but soon we come to a stop. We’re at the end of the line, our destination; the self-proclaimed center of the universe; the Big Apple; Manhattan, New York City

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Our car may have been quiet, but the minute we step off the train, we’re in the middle of a mad rush up the stairs. Every time I come to New York, I get the same feeling, the same image of the multitudes rushing out of the train like it’s the  last day of school, the anticipation, the rush to be free.

We’re jammed together one on top of the other, but finally we get the top of the stairs and soon make our way out of the station and out onto the street, where we run into even more people. If we were traveling at a leisurely 50 mph in the station, we’re now pushing the speed up to 70 or 80. There’s no dawdling, there’s no stopping to check our GPS. People are coming at us from every direction. You move or you get swallowed.

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A mother’s faith

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of another day, a lifetime ago, when my mother picked me up from college and took me out for dinner.

It was a Friday. I remember being tired from staying up late the night before to finish a 10-page paper and study for a test. I walked out of the test thinking I had bombed it and felt pressured to use the weekend to come up with a plan, any plan, to somehow salvage my grade.

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I can’t tell you much else about the paper or the exam, but I remember walking to the edge of campus where my mother met me. She had called me the previous day and asked if I wanted to get together for dinner.

We went to Elby’s Big Boy restaurant, a chain long since shut down, where she fretted over me. I had lost more than 15 pounds since the Autumn and looked pale. She worried that something might be wrong. I shushed her. I told her I was just busy. I didn’t have time to be sick. (It would turn out later that she was right. I was anemic and doctors were able to get me back on the right track with the right prescription, but that’s a story for another day.)

In any event, my mom chatted me up and made sure that I ate, ordering me a fudge brownie sundae when I went to the restroom. She updated me on the local gossip and peppered me with questions about my classes and my friends.

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My biggest regrets

When I was in the seventh grade, I should have asked the girl in my English class to our school dance. When I was in college, I should have been more persistent and found a way to pay for the cost of a semester studying in Manchester, England.

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In my mid-twenties, I should have stood up sooner to a bully manager who treated his team like hired servants. In my thirties, I should have taken more time off from work when my kids were born. (I took time off, but I should have forgot about checking email and voice messages until I returned to work.) In my forties, I should have learned how to let worries fall off my back.

In the grand scheme of things, my regrets are minor. We spend our lives running from this to that. We turn 13 and can’t wait for our birthday so that we’re another year closer to 16. If not old enough to drive, then we want to turn 18 or 21-years-old. We get a new job and can’t wait for a promotion.

If we don’t watch, it’s over before it even started.

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Parenting like royalty

Social media has a way of taking up our time and filling it full of mindless junk, but it still occasionally provides a nugget of gold.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I stumbled last week across a series of everyday pictures on the British Royal Family. I really could care less about the monarchy. I’m not a fan. I pay attention to them as much as I pay attention to The Real Housewives of Orange County or any other sensationalistic reality show, I know they exist, I know they have a large fan base, but I’m not one of them.

BlogphotoHowever, a picture of Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, pulled me out whatever I was doing and instantly took me back in time. The picture was of Kate and her two-year-old daughter, Princess Charlotte. In the shot, Kate looks like she’s had it. Who knows if that really was the case? Kate could have been trying to make a point or even playing a game. In any event, I choose to believe that Kate isn’t all that different from the rest of us parents, reached her breaking point and threatened the young princess with a necessary “time-out.”

My kids are long past time-out chairs and 1-2-3 warnings. I mention sending them to their room and we all have a good laugh. I grab my sons arms to look him in the eyes and I’m the one looking up. 

Despite the passing of time, I can certainly relate to Kate’s dilemma. With that one picture, my mind took me back to any number of times when I was exhausted from work or family commitments and the challenges of parenting had become enough.

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I’m no dummy

First a little background. I’m a smart person, I’m no dummy. I paid attention in elementary and middle school and later in high school.  I earned a bachelor’s degree from a large public, research-based school. If we’re getting into resume specifics, I later took night classes to get a Master’s in Business Administration. Heck, I even have a professional certification from a prestigious Ivy League School that I promise I didn’t pilfer from a Cracker Jack Box.

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I read my local news. I follow national and world events. I keep abreast of things happening around me and in my career field. Why the curriculum vitae and the focus on all the background information?

If I’m so smart, then how come my local auto mechanic, can make me feel incredibly small and dumb?

I had to take my car to the shop this week and I left the shop feeling about the size of an ant. He was explaining why my “check engine light”  lit up on my dashboard and the work he had completed to get the car back on the road.  If I could repeat what he said, I would, but I’m pretty sure that if I started to describe it here, I would soon head down some farfetched path, use the wrong terminology, and look even more foolish.

So I repeat, if I’m so smart, then how come my mechanic can me make me look so silly. Or is it just me?

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