October 23, 2007

R.I.P. Jessie

Please, if you have a moment, go and share your condolences with Jim, one of the few very good guys. Jim's wife, Jessie Peacock, was killed by a drunk driver on October 20, 2007. Jessie leaves behind three young sons and a husband. Jessie home schooled her boys. The void left in their lives now is honestly too horrible to contemplate.

I had a lot of interactions with Jessie over the last year. She was a hell of a class act.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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October 16, 2007

You know what can make a day happy?

A day can be happy when it starts at 6:30 ack emma with Hidden Fortress (and reading the subtitles to two pyjama clad kids) and ends with sharing some double decker Moon Pies with those same kids.

Yup. That's all. Everything that comes between is just filler.

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Baseball without peanuts

I think that life, in small part, is a constant process of risk assessment. Some risks you can control and some risks you cannot control but you assign a probability factor to the uncontrollable risk and then sort of just move on with your life, knowing, as best you can, that the uncontrollable risk has a high or low probability of happening. You know what I am talking about, even if you don’t recognize it. You do it. You hear someone has some horrible disease and you become concerned about yourself or your family and you run a quick, unconscious, check on your genetic history (no one in the family has had this or anything similar) and a quick check on the standard environmental factors (I have not worked in the chemical/asbestos/whatever industry or likely been exposed) and you breath a sigh of relief as you think to yourself, gee, I am not likely to get this, and you move on to express sympathy and offer help. Sounds familiar, right? Of course it does.

Sometimes, though, you get a curve ball. No one on either side of my or my wife’s family has an allergy to peanuts. So, while we have run into people who have kids who have these allergic reactions, I was pretty sure that it was not an issue for my family.

Well, until now. The baby has one. A severe allergy to peanuts.
We discovered this on Sunday when, at lunch, his face swelled and become covered with white, raised welts and he began coughing and crying and sneezing. The doctor, hearing he was crying and believing he was breathing ok, advised me to drive him down to Greenwich hospital (where he was born, coincidentally).

So, there we are, whipping down the Merritt parkway at 85 miles an hour, in the SUV, when, exhausted from his ordeal, he decides to take a snooze (I realize later). Only, he doesn’t respond when I reach back and grab his leg. Nothing.

I pull into the gas station by New Canaan going 70 mph, convinced that my baby has stopped breathing and that I better get 911 on my cell phone right away. I screech to a halt and the noise and motion wake him up. So, I decide, ok, he is breathing and maybe he is just completely exhausted. I pull back on to the parkway to continue on down, my heart going a million beats a minute, or so.

Have you ever gotten your SUV up to 90, on a twisty parkway, while reaching your right hand back into the back seat to get your index finger under a baby’s nose to make sure you can feel him breathing?

I may have lost two years, or so, of my life on that drive.

We get to the hospital and an EMT immediately comes over to my car, saying, “I figured something was wrong when I saw you come speeding up the ramp”, and he brings us right into the ER and directly to the doctor in charge. By this time, the swelling now includes the whites of the boy’s eyeballs (this was really quite disturbing; I have never seen anything like that before). They need to weigh him but he flips out when I try to put him down on the scale.

His crying continues at a very high volume and with great intensity as they take his clothes off and put him in a baby hospital gown. It then takes two nurses, and me, to hold him down on the bed to get the intravenous line in his arm so they could start the steroids and the other medicine. It upset me to watch this line go in his arm.

It takes forever to calm him, after that.

We sit there, he and I, in the examination room, my shirt soaked from chest to back by his tears, as the medicine starts to work. The benadryl makes him sleepy and he naps on me for about two hours. When he wakes, I feed him some lunch and we wait.

We wait until a little after 8 that night; some seven hours after we pull in to the ER. They need to observe him for a six or seven hour period after the medication is administered.

He was a lot better after his nap. He ate and the swelling had gone right down. He took my hand and we took several laps together in the ER, him in his little gown and diaper, all smiles, by that point. All smiles, up until I asked a nurse to hold him so I could go to the bathroom. He came with me, in the end.

We were home very late, with all sorts of prescriptions for things like Epi Pens and with instructions about making sure he eats no other nut products. The house is being purged of them and when we went out to eat on Monday, we confirmed that the restaurant was not cooking with peanut oil.

We are all a bit exhausted and kind of freaked out by the need to be even more vigilant going forward.

You assess these risks for your life but, like all risk plans, your assessments do not always survive contact with reality.

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October 11, 2007

A random sort of an update

I have not had a lot of time to write and nor have I had a lot of time to string together a coherent, much less organized thought. So, throughout today, I am just kind of going to peck away at an entry. I am going to fill this page with random, disconnected, patternless thoughts and reflections. You can tell one from the next by the "* * *" I will use between each one. That's about it. Let's begin.

* * *

Apple picking with children on a warm October morning, moving from tree to tree on a steeply pitched orchard hillside, followed by ice cream and a warm apple dumpling. That is a mighty fine way to start a long weekend.

* * *

Taking the kids by myself on Columbus Day while my wife was out during her thing was nice. I had the boys in bed for their naps and the Girl Child all to myself. We settled down for some serious cooking.

First, we took some our newly picked apples (Gala and Cameo) and made apple sauce. I have a great recipe for that. You take 8 apples, peel and core them and cut them into chunks. Add 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons water, some cinnamon, and cook them over medium heat, covered, for about a half an hour, until they all are sort of mushed down. You will know what looks right. It tastes fabulous and is especially good warm.

Then, she helped me wash and strip a huge amount of basil so we could make our own pesto. My wife bought this garbage pesto from the store and I was inspired to make the real thing. We bought fresh basil from a farm stand, fresh garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and we had good olive oil. Put it all together, and it is a thing of beauty.

* * *

Hunter trials are fun. Do you know what they are? A horse show that involves the horse going at a gallop and jumping hazards that are meant to mimic what you would see in the woods if out hunting foxes. You know, downed trees and streams and fences. Very cool. I took the kids to watch as I thought the Girl Child might find it inspiring.

You see, the Girl Child was just on a pony that decided to jump all by itself over a fence. The riding instructor told me that most kids would have freaked out and started to cry. Not my girl. I was told she laughed. I was also told I have one tough, fearless little girl. *sigh* I have decidedly mixed emotions about that.

* * *

The Boy Child came home from pre-school and told his sister that he had started yoga and that the class went into New York City. She doubted him. She wrote a note to his teacher (her old teacher) that posed two questions: Did the Boy Child have yoga and did the Boy Child go to New York City? Yes or No, please circle the word you want to use and sign your name next to each question. The teacher complied. I wonder how much trouble the Boy Child will be in when she finds out he did not go to NYC.

* * *

The Boy Child attended the next level up in the group class for cello at his Suzuki music school. The teacher played bits of music for her class and asked the class, and then the parents, what song she was playing. No one was able to answer a single question. The Boy Child, just visiting from the class below, then answered for every one, confusing only the 2nd and 3rd minuets, I was told. It got to the point where the teacher simply played the song and turned right to the Boy Child for the name. The teacher was amused that he knew every song by name and by the opening notes.

I am more than a little bit impressed.

* * *

I have been contemplating wealth of late. I have been wondering, what would I do if financially I was no longer required to practice law for a living? What, if I had the financial means to do anything, would I do with myself?

I have no idea. Do you have an idea about what you would do? If so, would you share it with me?

Part of my problem is the pressure I feel to make the "right" decision. This is not a new problem. I have always felt compelled to make the right decision with regards life choices but I have never understood, until recently, and even now my understanding may be imperfect, that there may not be such a thing as a right decision. Life goes on in stages and it may be that a decision you made some years ago, thinking that it was the right decision that would set you on the correct course for many years to come, well, it may be that the decision has been rendered incorrect merely by the passage of time and the change in life events.

So, I am trying to pull away from the thought habits of a lifetime and try not to say, ok, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. That simply is too much.

No, the "right" decision is the decision that most closely matches up between your desires and your responsibilities (both as currently existing and as reasonably projected). For instance, your desire may be to go live in Florence (or wherever) for a year. But your responsibilities (including providing proper schooling for your kids) may preclude this. In that instance, you need to either find a way to align the two things or modify the desire side of the equation. And always remember, your desires (at least mine, but I am fickle) can change in a very quick period while your responsibilities tend to linger and remain and not change as quickly as your desires.

It is the match that may lead to a "right" life decision.

Or so I am thinking this week.

Still, I have no idea what the "right" decision would be for me if I didn't have to practice law to pay for such mundane things like food, riding lessons, squash court fees, mortgages, etc.

What would I do? What would you do? And, how would you go about figuring out what you would do?

For the foreseeable future, mind you, this is an entirely theoretical discussion. OK?

* * *

So, another member of the family has been diagnosed with cancer. A cousin, a close cousin in his 60's, has been the pain he has in his hip and leg is not related to a back problem but instead is bone cancer.

I feel quite powerless to help or do anything. He is a lovely man. He kept my father company while I was being born.

* * *

I am not excited by the impending (sooner than I would like) turn to 40. The odometer ticks over soon and I kiss goodbye to my thirties. They were, on balance, good years. I will reflect on them further, no doubt, in another post -- I certainly don't lack for the impulse towards maudlin self-directed nostalgia -- but I think the whole idea of becoming 40 is weighing me down, just a bit.

* * *

I think that, while I could continue, it might be time to bring this to a conclusion and just post it. And so, why not?

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October 04, 2007

The words of a mother: all strung together

Someone sent me this excellent (totally safe for work) video of a mother's daily words all scrunched down together. I think it could apply to a father, too, by the way:

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October 03, 2007

Further to last words

I had written about a "last lecture" given by Dr. Pausch, recently, and wondered, what would you say if you had the opportunity to give your last words to people you loved.

Well, yesterday, I got a partial answer to that question. Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my 95 year old great-aunt. I met up with her grandson, my cousin, in the parking lot outside the funeral chapel and he told me that she had called him on the phone the day before she died. She shared with him her last lecture, if you will. As with so many things in her life, it was direct and to the point and exquisitely focused on what is important in Life. She spoke to my cousin with the full knowledge that she was going to die and she remained in possession of her faculties pretty much right up to the very end of her long and wonderful life. Here's what she said:

"S____, I am going to die. Take care of your family. Good bye."

That was it, my cousin told me. Short and to the point. She was clear about what was important to her: family.

She was quite a lady, my great aunt.

And yes, I did end up speaking at her funeral. No one spoke about the importance of Judaism in her life, about celebrating Jewish holidays and living the Jewish calendar. So, I got up and did that. Her grandchildren thanked me for it. And you know what, I made everyone laugh, too. She would have liked that, also.

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Credit Markets: writ small. Really small.

I had a discussion some time ago with my two oldest children about money and how you use money to pay for things. My wife sometimes thinks I treat them too much like adults and should probably dial my comments back a little when I talk to them, but I disagree. Anyway, we talked about money and credit cards and checks and I explained to the children how each one of those things really worked.

I guess it sunk in because this is what I overheard when the Girl Child (age 6.5) and the Boy Child (age 4.5) were playing "store" next to where I was reading the newspaper (they had just agreed on the price for whatever they were buying/selling and were now arranging payment terms):

BC: Ok, I'll take it. Let me give you a check.

GC: Uh, I would rather take cash. A check is just a promise to pay, you know.

While I am quite pleased she remembered our discussion and understood it and applied it, I am equally saddened by her unwillingness to take her brother's marker. Still, an exquisitely focused grasp of reality, my little girl.

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