Friday, September 28, 2012


Luxury: a pleasure out of the ordinary allowed to oneself

Commuter Husband was in Dallas from last Friday till this Friday. I did the 5:15am drop off at Southwest this morning.

What a Luxury to have him in Dallas for a whole week! 

Oddly enough he will be back tomorrow. We are trying out the new $50 round trip between Houston and Dallas on Spirit airlines. A great deal given that gas for a round trip runs over $100.

So we will have 9 nights in 10 days - more Luxury. 

As a Commuter Family, the usual perceptions fall in the background and we become aware of different ways to view life. The commonly accepted definitions just do not work for us anymore. That is okay.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Atonement - Jewish Style

Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I went to  the Kol Nidrei service last night (Yom Kippur Erev.)

As we prayed, I felt that familiar affirmation of the parts of Judaism that speak so very loudly to me.

For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

In my words: If you wrong another then you must seek forgiveness from that person. There is no other way. Righting a wrong is hard. Being Jewish means being accountable to others. But Judaism is practical too. If you sincerely ask another person for forgiveness 3 times then you have done all you can .

What is genuine repentance? When an opportunity for transgression occurs and we resist it, not out of fear or weakness, but because we have repented.

My struggle: I have been fighting this demon of late. We teach our children to say the words "I am sorry." We know that small children are not "really" sorry but the words are the start of a life long continuum. I am 47 and I know what the words mean. I know right from wrong. I know my weaknesses. I have changed much in my life. There are those parts left of me that are hard to change. Genuine repentance is hard.

In a Reform Jewish service, we have modern readings and this is one of my favorites on Yom Kippur:

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage
...To life everlasting.

by Alvin Fine

My Thoughts: Judaism focuses on the person you are in this life. If you do what is right and good now then the rest will take care of itself. There is no other life in which to do the right thing. My purpose in life is to make the journey. It is not always easy or happy - sometimes it is hard but then the sweet moments are all the more joyful.

Shana Tova!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Around the Dinner Table

As we are sitting around the dinner table eating beer-can grilled chicken and homemade mash potatoes, Youngest Son asks The Question "Well are we moving to Houston?"

The Dinner Table
As good love and logic parents, we responded with a question "Well, what do you want to do?"

Youngest Son honestly replied Yes and No to moving. The Yes reflecting wanting to be with Daddy. We then spent time discussing "it" as Oldest Son and I went for another helping of those delish homemade mash potatoes.

So, what are some of the things that made the No list supporting staying in Dallas?

  • Our house
  • Our neighborhood
  • Our temple
  • Our friends
  • The boys' school
  • "Our Life" (quoted from Oldest Son)

That is what "it" all boils down to ... we like the Life we have built in Dallas. That Life did not just happen. Commuter Husband and I have consciously sought out relationships with people, institutions and places to create this Life. If the measure of getting it right is happy, well-adjusted kids then we are there (for the moment anyway.) And, a Commuter Family lifestyle quickly and brutally wipes out much of that "take it for grantedness" (this is not a real word but it works here.)

The Vote. Interestingly, Commuter Husband votes for us to remain in Dallas as does Oldest Son. Youngest Son remains conflicted but leans toward staying in Dallas.

And how about Mommy with Commuter Husband (me)? Commuter Husband jokingly answers for me "Mommy wants to live in Nicaragua" ... he is actually not too far off ... so for now we will keep our address in Dallas and our Commuter Family status. But, as always, we will stay open to future opportunities. And so, Commuter Husband moves on to the mango pop-cycles for dessert and Youngest Son jumps up to clear the dinner table so they can watch the football game on TV...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Roller Coaster

My Favorite Quote from Parenthood (the movie with Steve Martin):

[Gil has been complaining about his complicated life; Grandma wanders into the room] 
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. 
Gil: Oh? 
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! 
Gil: What a great story. 
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it. 

This analogy came up in a conversation that Commuter Husband and I recently had ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some Days are More Special

Some days are more special than others, more holy ... it is a Mitzvah, a commandment, for Jews to hear the Shofar blow on Rosh Hashanah. Today, Youngest Son sounded the blast for Temple Emanu-El's family service.

Youngest Son has prepared for many months. Meeting with his teacher before Religious School and practicing over the summer to reach this day. Commuter Husband and I could see he was nervous - this outgoing, take-on-the-world child of ours. But ... sometimes it is good to be out of our comfort zone ... especially for this child.

The blowing of Shofar beckons us to to recognize the New Year, to look at our life over the past year and plan for our actions in the next. For many, it reminds them of a connection to G-d.

Youngest Son blew the Shofar beautifully. Yes, some days are more holy than others.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

6:30 Encounters

Youngest Son hanging (pun intended) in the hammock with Buddy
We have been camping with the boys since they were crawling babies - yes that would be at the campsite in the dirt and with the bugs and on top of the sticks.

Camping provides a time to let them run wild - so to speak. They explore, have fun and make decisions. Sometimes they fall or get poison ivy or are scared. But mostly they are just kids being kids.

I had an interesting experience with Youngest Son at Lake DeGray last weekend.

I am walking the quarter of a mile back toward our camp from the restroom. It is 6:30am. All quiet except for the gentle movement of the lake water and the birds singing in cool, crisp morning air. I see another person walking toward me - I quickly try to determine which adult from our camp is coming my way at this early hour. However, it is Youngest Son. Alone.

Surprise. Sort of. Youngest Son is usually an early riser. The Surprise is that he has decided to head down this empty road on his own. Then the Real Surprise: a White-Tailed Doe leaps across the road into the woods and right behind her comes her Fawn. Youngest Son and I both look at each other with a mutual "What just happened look?" It was a Moment. 

Then I walked my way and he walked his in the opposite direction.

Exactly 12 hours later at 6:30pm. I am walking the same quarter of a mile to the park restroom to take a shower. Again I see a body heading toward me. Again I meet Youngest Son walking. Alone. This time he is carrying a dopp kit. He has showered and is strolling back to camp. We great each other and chat for a moment.

Then I walked my way and he walked his in the opposite direction.

We met.
We shared a Moment.
We went opposite ways.
This is what I am supposed to do for my child. Allow him to go the way he chooses even if it is the opposite way ...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bit Stressed ... Let It Go

Oldest Son is #19
May 2012 - Plan and set up reservations for Family Vacation Yurt Camping/Boating at Lake DeGray, AR that includes 4 other families Sep 7-9

July 2012 -  Request vacation and book flights for Commuter Husband to be in Dallas for Oldest Son's 1st football game (ever) on Thursday, Sep 6, and then head to Family Vacation (mentioned above) on Sep 7

Sep 5, 2012 1:16 pm - So Excited that Commuter Husband will be home on a Wednesday and then a couple week days - what a luxury!

Sep 5, 2012 1:17 pm - Email from Oldest Son's football coach that the Middle School Football Games have been postponed to Sep 8, Saturday morning, due to heat

Sep 5, 2012 1:18 pm -  %%$!@*&^%$!!!!! ..... !!!!!$*&%$!!

Sep 5, 2012 Next 5 Hours - What to do? Family Vacation or Football Game? Commuter Husband Cancel Today's Flight and Drive Tomorrow? Take Vacation Days or Not or Save for Another Time? Phone calls, texts, more phone calls, more texts, emails, phone conference, emails, more texts. 

Sep 5, 2012 6:41 pm - DECISION. Oldest Son will miss 1st Football Game and we will take Family Vacation Camping/Boating Trip as planned. Commuter Husband will go ahead and fly home today, Sep 5, and take vacation days as planned even though no game Thursday. 

Much of Decision driven by Oldest Son's perspective on family commitments  - he actually gave his decision to the coaches at practice prior to our discussing with him. (He really is such a great kid.) But we all felt (feel) pretty yucky about missing that first 7th grade football game and now Commuter Husband will not be able to watch Oldest Son play for three more weeks due to work in Houston ... ugh. Oldest Son was one of a few Middle Schoolers who did not miss a single football acclimation training or practice from August 6th to today - every single day of hot, hot August. 

In grand scheme of things, all is good. A bit of drama, some disappointments, making tough choices, balancing committments and stress are all parts of life. 
Life Lessons appropriate for Middle School. 

And,  this commuter lifestyle will require me to Let It Go more often, for sure. 
Life Lessons appropriate for Middle Age.

Sep 6, 2012 6:58 am - Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son all in front yard playing football before school ... yes all good in the grand scheme of things ...

Commuter Husband throws pass to Oldest Son with Youngest Son trying to block!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cell Phones for Middle Schoolers & Tweens

We a have completed survived Week #1 with the children having cell phones.

Biggest surprise: Oldest Son's friends texting Youngest Son - did not see that one coming. Our intended relief of communication challenges with the kids has been realized immediately.

I have come to the important realization that the middle school and tween years provide an opportunity to teach our kids how to appropriately use a cell phone, text messages and email - just like we have taught them table manners and to say please and thank you and look people in the eye when they meet them. At this young age, we still have great influence and control. Frankly, they are also just so grateful to enter the 21st century. As we hit the Upper School years, I know our control becomes less and less as it should - we are trying to create that voice in their head that guides them when their parents are not around.

So our Commuter Family has come up with a mutually agreeable Cell Phone Contract and we have executed it. The boys' reaction? There was zero grief and Oldest Son even thanked and HUGGED us for putting the contract together so there is no confusion. Both boys asked me to email the rules to them! Here it is ...

Rule #1:    YOU will place your phone in the office by 9pm to charge. The cell phone is not allowed in your room at night.
Rule #2:   YOU will not use your cell phone during regular school hours. The phone must be on "silent mode" during school hours and left in your backpack. You must read and know your school's rules for cell phones and follow them.
Rule #3:    YOU will not use your cell phone on family days, at family meals or during other important family times.
Rule #4:    YOU will not text or email pictures or videos of any kind.
Rule #5:       YOU will make sure that each cell phone contact is a real friend or family member.
Rule #6:       YOU may only give your phone number to a real friend or family member.
Rule #7:       YOU will not answer any calls or reply to any texts unless you know who it is (Caller ID). You will always respond when Mommy or Daddy calls.
Rule #8:       YOU will not use your cell phone until your homework and chores are completed for the day.
Rule #9:     YOU will provide your phone for inspection whenever Mom or Dad requests it.  This is NOT a democracy!
Rule #10:    YOU are not allowed to delete any texts without permission from Mommy or Daddy.
Rule #11:    YOU will not send threatening or mean texts or emails to others.
Rule #12:    YOU are responsible for knowing where you phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.
Rule #13:    YOU understand that your phone may be taken away if you:
·               talk back to your parents or other adults
·               fail to do my chores, or
·               fail to keep my grades up
Rule #14:    YOU promise to alert Mom and/or Dad if I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don't know.
Rule #15:    YOU promise to alert Mom and/or Dad if I am being harassed by anyone.
Rule #16:    YOU promise not to use your phone's camera to take photos or videos of others without their permission. No embarrassing photos.
Rule #17:    YOU promise not to text one friend while you're spending time with another. That's rude and can hurt feelings. Text messaging and phone etiquette requires you to think about how your actions make other people feel.
Rule #18:    YOU promise not to text a friend when you've just had a disagreement, fight or angry with one another.
Rule #19:    YOU promise that, since text messages can be misunderstood because the recipient of the message can't see the sender's facial expressions or hear her tone of voice, you will make it clear that jokes or sarcastic comments are just that through the use of words, smiley faces, etc.
Rule #20:    YOU promise not to give bad news in a text or message.
Rule #21:    YOU promise not to gossip about others, trashing others, or be unkind in general about others in a text message or emails.
Rule #22:    YOU promise to follow the rule:
                  “Never say something in a text message or any online posting that you would not say to a person face-to-face”
Rule #23:    YOU promise to put down your phone immediately when a parent or adult asks or says “PHONES DOWN”
Rule #24:    YOUNGEST SON may not take the phone out of the house. On occasion, special permission to take phone other places may be given by Mommy or Daddy if logistics or circumstances require.
Rule #25:    MOM and DAD promise to:
·               Pay or supplement the cost of your cell phone on a BASIS THAT MAY CHANGE OVER TIME.
·               Pay or supplement the phone upgrades on a BASIS THAT MAY CHANGE OVER TIME.


Oldest Son

SIGNED BY: ______________________________________


Youngest Son

SIGNED BY: ______________________________________


Mommy with Commuter Husband

SIGNED BY: ______________________________________


Commuter Husband

SIGNED BY: ______________________________________