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ResQgeek

July 2017

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A week ago, my wife and I were reflecting on the sad anniversary of the death of our younger daughter, six years ago.  While the pain of that loss isn’t as acute as it was, it lingers, surfacing from time to time as we reflect on the milestones that we haven’t been able to celebrate along the way.  Our daughter would be starting her sophomore year of high school this year and would be learning to drive.  Every now and then we see one of her friends and we are always surprised to see the young men and women they have grown into, because, for us, our daughter will forever be nine years old.


The very next day, we drove our older daughter and a vanload of her possessions down to the college she has chosen to attend.  We helped her move all the boxes into the dorm and lent a hand as she started to unpack.  After taking a break for lunch and stopping to pick up a few items at the store, it was pretty clear that she wanted to finish unpacking on her own.  So, after taking the obligatory photos, we climbed into the van and headed home.


I have seen many people posting about how emotional this moment is for them, the mixed feelings of sadness and pride that they feel as their children take these first steps into adulthood.  Many have assumed that my wife and I share those feelings, that we might have found the separation from our older daughter somewhat painful.  But honestly, this hasn’t been a big deal for us, not after what we’ve already lived through. Our older daughter hasn’t really left us, not in any way that is permanent.  We will see her again soon enough, and while she will continue to grow and change, we will get to experience it, even if from a distance.  The same is not true of our younger daughter.  She is truly gone, and we don’t get to watch her grow up and find her place in the world.


I am proud of my older daughter. She has worked hard, and I expect that she will do well in her new school.  I think she is looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that college will present.  She may not yet have a clear plan for her future, but she’s still young, and I hope she embraces this time to explore her wide spectrum of interests, to meet new people, and discover new ideas. In some ways, I’m jealous of the opportunities she has before her.


And so, her mother and I now get to adjust to a new stage of our lives, where we have more time for each other, with fewer distractions.  In light of all that we’ve been through over the years, it almost feels like we are starting over, getting to know each other anew.  Let the adventures begin!
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Because of our ski trip last week, we (obviously) could not gather with any of our extended families to celebrate Christmas.  So, now that we are home from the trip, we've started making up for that.  On Sunday evening, we went to my brother-in-law's home to visit his family.  They had been taking care of our dogs during our trip, so we were greeted at the door by two *very* excited dogs!  My in-laws had hosted a party the night before, so no one felt like cooking, so we ordered Chinese delivery for dinner, which may not be particularly traditional, but was delicious.  Afterwards, we exchanged gifts, and talked about our trips, both the one we had just finished and the other one we have scheduled for later in the winter.  My in-law's gift to my family was an offer to pay for our choice of snowmobile tours while we are in Steamboat Springs.  We just have to look at the selections and let them know which we'd like to do.  I'm leaning towards either the sunset tour or the moonlight tour, both of which include dinner, but I'll have to sit down with my wife and daughter and talk over the choices.

My brother and his family visited our parents for Christmas, and were driving home on Sunday, so yesterday we went to his home in Maryland for dinner.  My brother cooked an incredibly delicious dinner of fish and mussels, which was so good that there were no leftovers at the end of the meal.  We exchanged gifts here as well, small gifts for the kids only, and we played games with his family until it was time to head home.

My daughter and I are headed up to my parents' house on Thursday, to spend a few days visiting them.  Then, next week, we have to get back to our normal schedules of work and school.
I see all the #tbt postings on social media every Thursday, and while I can appreciate some of the fun in finding and posting old photos and stories, I am generally not one who participates in the weekly throwback Thursday theme.  However, today is Thanksgiving Day here in the US, and I'm finding myself thinking about how we celebrated when I was a child, and thought I might share some of my memories.

As best as I remember, Thanksgiving was *always* celebrated at my grandparent's farm.  We would drive over during the morning, and my brothers and I would spend the morning playing with our out-of-state cousins who were staying with our grandparents, while the adults visited and finished preparing dinner.  When the weather was nice (and sometimes even when it wasn't), we would play soccer or football on the side lawn, or tag in the hayloft of the barn.  We might go for a hike in the woods, or explore along the creek across the road.  It was often chilly, and sometimes there was snow, but we always tried to play outdoors, if only because there really wasn't all that much room inside the house.  If the weather was really bad, we might play some made up game upstairs and in the stairwell.

Dinner was a huge feast.  My grandfather would lay a sheet of plywood over the pool table, which would then be covered with tableclothes, and then set for dinner.  Most years, it would be my cousins and their parents, my brothers and me and our parents, my grandparents, and at least a couple of my grandmother's brothers, who lived just up the road.  That meant that there were at least a dozen people seated around the table, and some years we might squeeze in as many as 18.  The meal itself was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Roast turkey, with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Squash, corn, cranberry sauce and bread also graced the table, along with plates of pickles, olives, carrot and celery sticks.  The adults drank wine and the kids all drank fresh apple cider, which we probably had pressed out in the barn just a couple of weeks earlier. For dessert, there was a selection of pies: apple, pumpkin, lemon mirangue, mincemeat.  Anyone who walked away from that table still hungry wasn't putting in an effort!

After dinner, my brothers, cousins, and I would go back outside to play until dark.  In the evening, we would gather around the kitchen table to play games.  Sometimes we played cards, but there was a whole range of other games that made appearances over the years: Aggravation, Pit, Pictionary.  There was conversation and laughter, and eventually, some of us would be hungry enough to make a sandwich from the leftovers.  Inevitably, the day would eventually draw to an end, and we would have to head home.  But those Thanksgiving days linger in my memory as some of the best memories of my childhood.
We are rapidly approaching our first holiday season since my mother-in-law passed away.  My mother-in-law has been a fixture in our celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas, hosting and preparing Thanksgiving dinner most years, and coming to celebrate Christmas with her grandchildren every year.  So, as these holidays draw near, my wife is feeling this latest loss acutely, and is preparing to cope with it in her time honored way...by avoiding things.  On Thanksgiving, she will be working at the hospital for a 12 hour day shift, which leaves me and our daughter to fend for ourselves.  My brother-in-law and his family are going out of town to spend the holiday with his wife's family, and I simply can't bring myself to venture out into the worst traffic of the year to travel anywhere.  I expect that the day will be a chance for some quiet father-daughter time, though I'm still trying to figure out how to snag an invitation to a local Thanksgiving dinner without seeming entirely too desparate...

(no subject)

Jul. 6th, 2014 06:55 am
resqgeek: (Ambulance)
I enjoyed our family gathering yesterday, even if I did eat too much food.  It was good to chat with my aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as the few of my father's cousins that dropped in.  I was disappointed that two of my cousins and their families couldn't be here, though.  One couldn't make it because their car is in the shop for an insurance repair, and the contract for the rental they are using doesn't allow them to come this far.  As for his brother, the official story is that he can't afford the time off, having just started a new job a couple of weeks ago, but someone also relayed the story that he apparently said something about not being able to spend that much time in the car with his wife.  I hope that was a joke, because I would hate to think that he and his wife are having relationship troubles.

The entire event had a much more restrained feel than it usually does, probably because of the situation with my grandfather.  My father and uncles did sit down with him yesterday, and it sounds like he took the news far better than anyone expected that he would.  Still, it was a difficult and stressful morning for those directly involved, but it needed to be done.  We couldn't keep pretending that there was a chance he would be able to live on his own...there were too many people who knew that we were emptying out his apartment, and eventually he would have found out from someone, which would have made things much worse.  My parents are relieved, because it gets things out in the open, and they can now focus on his health issues, instead of his living arrangements.

I wish I could get more time to spend with this extended family.  I enjoy visiting with them, but seeing them just this one time each year never feels like enough.  Looking back, I remember these gatherings as being far more fun when I was younger.  My brothers, my cousins, and I would play and talk all day and far into the evening.  Now, we find ourselves more involved in setting the event up and cleaning up afterwards, and it feels like we have less time with each other.  It may just be my perception, but it always leaves me a bit melancholy in the evening, as I realize that the day is done and we will soon be going our separate ways for another year.
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Yesterday was Independence Day, but I found it difficult to give much thought to celebrating the birth of my nation.  I'm feeling a bit strung-out, emotionally, at the end of this week.

Wednesday was an extremely long day, and not just because I was up by 5am and didn't get back to bed until after 2am Thursday morning.  I went to work to finish up somethings before disappearing for several weeks for some much needed vacation time, but I knew it wasn't going to be a normal day at the office.  The week before, the former wife of one of the supervisors in my work unit shot and killed their 7 year old daughter, before killing herself.  While I can't say that I am close friends with my colleague, he is someone I like and, having lost a daughter myself, I felt compelled to go to the funeral as a gesture of support.  Of course, it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the summer so far, so that wearing a suit to work for the funeral was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing compared to the burden he now has to endure.

After finishing things up a work, I went home and packed a few days worth of clothes, picked up my daughter from her best friend's (16th) birthday party, had a quick supper of leftovers, and headed out to brave the holiday-heavy rush hour traffic with my daughter as we headed to my parents' house for the weekend.  It took us an hour to work our way around the Beltway into Maryland, but after we squeezed past an accident just before the state line, traffic thinned out quickly and the rest of our trip was uneventful, even though it was 2am before we arrived.  My daughter did about half of the driving, gathering some much needed night-time driving experience.

We were up early on Thursday, with a long day planned.  My brother and his family had been planning to join his longtime friend and his family for a day at the Darien Lakes amusement park, and my daughter and I had been included in the invitation.  My daughter has become a huge roller coaster enthusiast, which is why we drove up on Wednesday night.  We arrived at Darien Lakes under overcast skies, but were hopeful that the weather would clear, which it eventually did, but not until after we had endured a couple of hours of soaking rain.  We did manage to ride all six of the roller coasters in the park, and my daughter got to spend some time with her young cousins on rides more age appropriate for them, but it we were cold and wet, which made for a long day.

Yesterday morning, my daughter and I visited my grandfather at the local nursing home, where he was recently admitted after being in the hospital briefly after a taking a fall in his apartment.  He has become incredibly frail and weak, and the staff does not believe that he will recover sufficient strength to be allowed to return to his home.  He hasn't yet realized that this is his new home, and as my extended family arrived yesterday (for our annual get together this afternoon), my Dad and his brothers had a long discussion about how to break the news to their father.  None of them want to be the one to tell him that he can't return to his apartment and independent life.  They roll-played various possible scenarios, trying to form a plan and to make sure they were all on the same page.  They are planning to visit my grandfather this morning.  My parents are the only ones who live here locally, so it has been their burden to deal with my grandfather's issues by themselves up to this point, and it is clear that it has taken a toll on them.  Combine that with their efforts to close my brother's estate, and it is quite clear that my parents would really appreciate a long respite from any further bad news.

I'm looking forward to the family gathering this afternoon, even though the issues with my grandfather are likely to dampen the mood somewhat.  In addition, a couple of my cousins and their families weren't able to join us this year, and I will miss them.  But even so, it will be nice to catch up with those who are here, sharing stories and laughter.  It is a shame that we don't see each other more often, but we are scattered across several states, and everyone has time and money constraints, so we just have to make the best of the time we do have together.
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After spending Mother’s Day weekend in Chicago visiting my brother, for the final time as it turned out, I guess it was fitting that I would spend Father’s Day weekend at my parents’ home for his funeral. Because his final medical crisis and death occurred during a business trip, the funeral was delayed by several weeks to allow for the cremation and shipping of his remains. Perhaps it was this extra time that allowed me to absorb the impact, or maybe it was because we weren’t particularly close, having only recently begun to heal a long estrangement, but either way, I was a little surprised that my emotional reaction was fairly subdued. Which is not to say that I didn’t feel any emotion, but this wasn’t, for me, the crushing loss it clearly was for my parents (among others).

My parents had delegated the responsibility of collecting photos of my brother to display at the wake and funeral. I collected photos from various people by e-mail, and looked through our photo albums for others. I scanned and printed, and ended up with almost 60 photos that we were able to display for those who joined us to remember my brother’s life.

On Friday, I met the parents of my brother’s girlfriend, who had travelled from the NYC area to pay their respects and to support their daughter. We ate dinner early so we could be at the funeral home early for a brief prayer service before the wake opened to the public. When the visitors began to arrive, I was able to chat with a number of people that I hadn’t seen in years (or decades in some cases). There were members of the extended family that I don’t get to see very often, and a number of people that my brothers and I grew up with. But I think the biggest surprise for me was the arrival of Sister Annette, who was the principal of our high school when my brothers and I attended. I think I was told that she is now 95 years old (which means she was in her mid- and late 60s when we were students), and seemed to be in great health. As a student, I don’t remember having had much interaction with her, but somehow it was still deeply touching that she made the effort to pay her respects.

The parish church we attended as children has been closed, so the funeral mass was held at my parents’ current parish, in the next town. While the pastor knows my parents, he doesn’t know me or my brothers, but in spite of that, he managed to collect enough stories about my brother to provide an appropriate homily. The hymn selections included a couple of songs that threaten to bring tears to my eyes in the best of times, so those were perhaps my roughest moments, emotionally.

My parents had discovered that there were available burial sites next to my grandparents in the cemetery where much of my mother’s family is laid to rest, so my brother was interred there, next to our grandparents and great-grandparents. My parents also purchased sufficient space so that they could be laid to rest there as well, eventually. Only the family came to the cemetery for the final interment, which was a very brief service before the urn with his ashes was placed in the ground.
The rest of the day on Saturday was spent visiting with friends and family, and I think the final visitors left my parents’ house about 9pm. I headed to bed shortly afterwards, and headed home fairly early on Sunday morning. I’ll be back up there in three weeks for the family reunion, and we’ll be able to visit some more.
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In an update I posted a bit more than a year ago, I expressed my belief that my brother was unlikely to survive to his 43rd birthday. Well, he managed to prove me wrong about the timing, but not about the ultimate outcome. Last spring, he managed to regain sufficient strength to embark on a job hunt, ultimately securing a new job with the US Treasury Department. The job required a fair bit of travel, which made his doctor unhappy, but he did begin attending regular AA meetings. However, his progress towards sobriety was uneven, at best. He showed up to at least one job interview drunk (which alienated him from the friend who had encouraged the boss to grant the interview), and there is evidence that he continued to drink, even while attending the AA meetings.

About a month ago, his doctor scheduled him for outpatient procedures to address additional verices in his esophagus. It appears that the prospects of this procedure scared him, and he arrived at the hospital intoxicated. In addition, his red blood cell and platelet counts were dangerously low, so the doctor ordered blood transfusions before he could perform the procedure. What was scheduled to be an outpatient operation turned into a weeklong hospital stay. In the end, they were unable to stabilize his red blood cell or platelet counts without blood transfusions, which suggests that he had caused significant bone marrow damage. The Monday after leaving the hospital, my brother went straight back to work, to the dismay of his doctor.

Just two weeks later, he collapsed during a work-related meeting in the Chicago area and was taken the Northwestern University hospital in Lake Forest. He was (again) experiencing massive hemorrhaging, and was being given large blood transfusions. My parents drove out to Illinois, and arrived to find my brother sedated. As his condition became somewhat more stable, they reduced the sedation, but he remained unconscious. By the end of the week, he continued to require blood transfusions to support his circulatory system and had not awakened. The doctors indicated that there was one possible surgical procedure, but it was unclear if he could survive the surgery, and even if he did, it appeared unlikely to give him more than six additional months.

My parents made the difficult decision to not pursue any further aggressive medical care, and to have him moved to a hospice facility. The next day, I flew out to Chicago and spent a day and a half with my brother and parents. The first day, he clearly knew who I was, but his mental capacities were clearly impaired, and I don’t think he was fully aware of where he was or of his condition. By the next day, I was no longer sure he knew who I was, though he still recognized our parents. As I left to return home, I wasn’t sure that he had more than hours of life left. Again, he proved me wrong, surviving almost a week before finally succumbing to the inevitable.

While I was there, my parents and I made arrangements for his remains to be cremated and shipped back to our hometown. My parents will be returning home today, and will be scheduling the funeral at some future point when it will be convenient for as much of the family as it is possible to accommodate. It appears that there will also be memorials in the New York City and Washington, DC areas, where he had large numbers of colleagues and friends.

My brother and I were estranged for many years, and while we had reconciled, our efforts to bridge the divide between us was still a work in progress. In addition, because of his slow decline and his inability to truly become sober, I think I have been emotionally preparing for this outcome for some time, and this is anything but a surprise for me. I am more concerned about my parents and the impact this will have on them. I know that the loss of a child is a devastating blow, even when you have had time to anticipate it.

It appears to me that my brother struggled with his demons for a very long time. Now he is at peace, but there are so many who will miss him.
Last Thursday marked the second anniversary of the tragic accident that took our younger daughter from us after just 9½ years. While I had planned some low key tributes for the day (including some BookCrossing releases), we really didn’t plan to have any major commemoration of the day, since we prefer to remember her life, rather than focusing on her death.

About a week and a half ago, the head coach for the field hockey teams at our daughter’s high school approached us with a couple of questions. She was aware that the anniversary was coming up, and noted that the teams were scheduled for scrimmages that day. She wanted to know if we had plans, indicating that there would be no problem with our daughter missing her scrimmage that day if she needed to. After hearing that we didn’t have any major plans, she asked if there was something that the teams could do to mark the anniversary.

After some thought and discussion, we agreed that both the varsity and the junior varsity teams would wear pink t-shirts bearing Becky’s name for the scrimmages (they couldn’t wear official uniforms in any event, since they weren’t official games). We helped prepare the shirts for all the girls on both teams, as well as for the coaching staff. When the teams arrived at the field for the games, the coaches explained the significance of the shirts to the coaches for the other school (an all-girls Catholic prep school), who indicated that they would include Becky in their pre-game prayer.

After the games, the teams posed for a group photo on the prep school campus, with the Washington Monument in the background:

I think it speaks highly of the coaching staff that they took the time and initiative to do commemorate this anniversary of a child they never knew, the younger sister of a player who has only been a part of the team for about a month. To me, it shows that they are concerned with much more than just playing field hockey and winning games…they really care about their players and what goes on in their lives beyond their sport. It means a lot to us that they chose to remember our younger daughter with us, but it means even more that they care enough about our older daughter for them to take the lead in this memorial.
Back at the beginning of May, I reflected upon the Travon Martin case, and the how actions can appear racist, even when they aren't necessarily intended to be such. About a week ago, a member of my wife's family shared an image on Facebook that has me thinking about this again. I wanted to comment on his post on Facebook, but decided that it wasn't worth creating a family feud.

image hidden because some may easily find it offensive )
Looking back at my previous entries, I see that I haven’t written anything about how my mother-in-law is doing since just after New Year’s. How How my MIL is doing )
I have been terribly negligent about posting here, and it hasn’t been for lack of material to write about. I have at least half a dozen topics I’ve been meaning to post about, some of which will probably evolve into an entire series of entries, if I ever get around to posting them. Some are reactions to the news and events. Others are related to things going on in my life and family. Still others reflect the evolutions I’ve been experiencing in my personal belief systems and my increasing levels of comfort with what I believe. I really need to recommit to writing about all of this, if only to record it for myself, so I can reflect on it in the future.

Where to start? I think I need to start with my brother. My brother's ongoing struggles )

The holidays

Jan. 7th, 2012 03:06 pm
resqgeek: (Default)
The holiday season has run its course, and I finally have a few minutes to sit and write. This has been, without question, the most stressful holiday season in my life. My mother-in-law was discharged from the hospital in the week before Christmas, and came to stay with us while she finishes her recovery. Her medical needs, especially during that first couple of weeks, caused a significant upheaval in our routines. The stress levels increased even more when my wife found out (just two days before Christmas) that the unit she works on at the hospital, which was closed temporarily in September, will not be reopening, effectively leaving my wife unemployed. We also discovered that the basement wall was leaking water, ruining the carpeting in our big family room (at least that turned out to be an easy fix...we had a blocked downspout, which has been fixed and re-routed, so we should resolve the issue).

After Christmas, I did manage to get up to New York to visit my parents, but only for a couple of days, which really wasn't as much time as I would've liked. While I was away, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with a case of shingles, which is causing her a great deal of discomfort. We have been struggling to find the right balance of pain meds that will keep her comfortable without leaving her too groggy to stay active enough for her physical therapy needs.

My mother-in-law is making progress, albeit not necessarily steadily. She has setbacks, but overall, her strength is improving, and it seems likely that she'll be fully recovered enough to live on her own in a couple of months. With the holidays gone, the stress levels are subsiding, and I think we are beginning to feel like things might actually be starting to look up.
My grandmother’s funeral was Friday afternoon. It was a small, short service at the funeral home, attended by her surviving sister and her children, her surviving daughter and all her grandchildren, as well as a dozen or so friends. There were a few tears, but only a very few, and the day was filled with far more laughter than crying. My grandmother had, in some ways, been preparing for her death for years, getting rid of the extra clutter of a lifetime and organizing papers and such. During her struggles with her health during the final few weeks, she was clearly ready for the end, perhaps even hopeful that it was imminent. Those same weeks, gave the rest of us time to prepare ourselves, so that when the end came (in a very sudden and peaceful manner), it really wasn’t a shock for anyone. She remained mentally sharp right up to the very end, feisty and stubborn as always.

On Saturday, my parents, siblings and cousins all met at her house, to dig through her remaining possessions to claim anything that we might want before the rest is sold or disposed of to settle the estate. I took some photos (though a cousin took most of the old ones to scan so we can all share them), and a watercolor painted by my late-aunt (depicting roller coasters at an amusement park in Montreal, for my roller coaster loving daughter). I also took the boxes of paperbacks that my mother had picked up at library sales for my grandmother to read, to register and release through BookCrossing. The other thing I took was the stack of War Ration Coupon books from World War II that were in the drawer of the writing desk. Perhaps they should go to the local historical society, but I really wanted to hold on to them, since they have family member names on them.

Ordinarily, a funeral isn’t a preferred reason for a family gathering, but this one turned out to be fairly pleasant, as we remembered the many good memories of my grandmother. Since she was 95 years old, there were *LOTS* of memories, including a number of stories that I hadn’t heard before. Now she’s at peace, and we can remember her long and full life with only minimal sadness.
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Yesterday morning, my grandmother passed away while eating her breakfast. She had been unwell for a couple of months, shuffling between the hospital and nursing homes for much of the summer. As my father wrote on FB: " It was very quick and painless and she was more than ready to go, but there still will be a hole in our lives."

She was 95 years old, and had lived a long and full life. Along the way, she'd experienced the losses of a brother (killed in action during WWII), her son (traffic accident in the 1960s), her husband (heart attack in the 1980s), a daughter (leukemia, about a decade ago) and a great-granddaughter (my daughter, a year ago). She is survived by a sister, a daughter, seven grandchildren and a half-dozen great-grandchildren. We will be gathering in Western New York over the next couple of days to pay our respect and celebrate her long life.
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All-Stars

Jun. 21st, 2011 10:41 am
resqgeek: (Default)
For the first time since my daughter started playing soccer, back in 2006, my daughter was selected to represent her recreation league at the regional all-star tournament.  We have known other girls who were selected for the all-star team in earlier seasons, but the timing of our daughter's selection was ideal, as this will be her last season playing youth soccer (she is planning to switch to field hockey in the fall).  The tournament was organized in a non-elimination, points format, where each team played each of the other teams in their group, and the team with the best record winning the championship.  My daughter's team was in a group with four other teams from around the region and would play four games in two days.

I wasn't prepared for the results.  My daughter's team and one of the others were badly out-matched, each scoring NO goals as they struggled to an 0-3-1 record.  My daughter's team was placed last on the goal differential tie-breaker, as they had allowed more goals than the other team.  The team that won the group posted a perfect 4-0-0 record.

Along the way, I learned that the winning team selected their all-stars back in September, at the beginning of the fall season, and that they had been having weekly practices since then.  Contrast that with our league's selection at the end of the spring season, with only two weeks to prepare for the tournament, and the results become anything but surprising.

Under the tournament rules, players are eligible if they play for a recreational league team during the season and do NOT play for a travel/select team during that same time period.  There does not appear to be any rules governing the selection of the all-stars or the timing of that selection, so that these details are up to the individual leagues.  This means that the undefeated team does not appear to have violated any rules.

The problem is, that it strikes me as a violation of the spirit of the tournament.  I would think that an all-star tournament for recreational leagues should be a way to reward those recreational players who showed outstanding performance during the season.  The very nature of a recreational league is that participation should be about having fun and learning the game, rather than a focus on winning.  Selection of the all-stars at the beginning of the season is unfair to players who might otherwise show surprising development during the season, and shift the focus away from the ideals of fun and learning and places it firmly on winning the tournament.  In the end, it makes the tournament less fun (except maybe for the winners), and makes the all-star status less meaningful for those that were selected for their performance through the season.  What started out as recognition for a job well-done becomes a frustrating struggle to preserve some dignity on the field.  It was painful to watch.

The behavior of the coaches and parents for the better teams in the group was awful as well.  In one of our games, we trailed 5-0, and the coaches for the other team were still screaming at their girls, demanding that they continue to press their attack, even after it became all too clear that we were never going to be able to make an effective effort to come back.  The parents were even worse, yelling at their daughters when they made mistakes and encouraging them to be aggressive in their play against our weaker team.  What lessons are these girls learning from their coaches and parents?

I suppose I should be glad that our daughter's recreational league fosters an environment that does not promote such attitudes.  We rarely have issues with coaches or parents who promote winning at all costs or are mean-spirited towards other teams.  While we celebrate victories, the emphasis was always on effort and fun, rather than the final results, and the girls generally enjoyed themselves, even when they didn't win.  All of which left me feeling disgusted and frustrated by the attitudes of many of the other teams I saw play at the tournament.
We were given tickets to see ICE! Featuring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at the Gaylord National Resort, at National Harbor, MD. After juggling our schedules to free up some time, we headed across the river Friday afternoon to visit the exhibit. I understand that there are long lines on the weekends, but when we arrived, around 4pm, there was no line. It still took us a while to get to the ice exhibit, though, because we had to enjoy the exhibit of Dr. Seuss's art that decorated the waiting area where the crowds queue when it is busy. There was a wonderful collection of original artwork from his books, as well as early work from his advertising career and his personal paintings. All of it was characteristically Seussian, and it was fun to look at. When we finally reached the ice display, we put on the blue parkas they handed out (the display is maintained at 9°F (-13C)!) and stepped into the freezer. They used something like 2 million pounds of ice to build the display, much of it colored in Dr. Seuss primary colors. The displays tell the whole story of the Grinch, from his mountain top lair, to Whoville, with the Grinch stealing all the Christmas "stuff" and ending with the Christmas feast after the Grinch's conversion. It was all really well done and the carving was incredibly detailed.

On Saturday afternoon, my daughter performed in her fall piano recital (video available at youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aojQZj0nbF4). She played Faber's "Tempest", which sounded a bit like a George Winston piece to me. It is one of the more difficult pieces she's performed yet, and while she did miss a note in the middle, she still did really well. I enjoy going to the recitals and seeing how the various students improve each time. The most advanced students are becoming truly impressive pianists!

Yesterday, friends of ours invited us to attend a community spaghetti dinner and Christmas Carol sing-along hosted by their church. There was an overwhelming amount of food, and the crowds were almost too big for the available space. After dinner, we all settled into the church to sing. People could request songs, lighting candles to dedicate in memory or honor of loved ones. The songs were a mix of religious and secular holiday music (with a couple of Hanukkah songs mixed in...one dedicated to the memory of the victims of the holocaust). It was both fun and moving, especially when someone dedicated "Frosty the Snowman" to the memory of our daughter.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I managed to get our outside Christmas decorations up (better late than never, eh?). Now I just have to put up the tree and figure out what presents to buy for everyone...
It has been more than three weeks since the tragic evening when our darling daughter, Becky, was killed while riding her bike. While we continue to struggle to come to terms with this loss, we have found a great deal of comfort in the overwhelming community support we've received. Our mail has been full of sympathy cards, many of them from strangers, and the online comments have poured in from around the world. There were almost 400 people at the candlelight vigil the community held in her memory, and our church was almost completely full for her funeral. I was told that the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery stretched for a mile and a half.

In some ways it is remarkable that our 9 year old was able to touch so many people in her short life. But as I reflect on her life and personality, it becomes less surprising. She was born on Valentine's Day, and seemed to embody the spirit of that holiday. She was an exceptionally outgoing child, always ready with a smile or a hug. It didn't matter if she had known you for years, or had just met you...it was always clear that she was happy to see you. Her love of people was completely honest, without any guile, and it seems that everyone loved her for it.

It is this aspect of her personality that has become her legacy. At the candlelight vigil, my wife began asking the students from Becky's school to remember Becky by hugging someone each day at school this year. Someone overheard her, and printed up stickers with her picture that read "Becky's love lives in Me!!! Live her love by sharing Becky's Hugs!!!" and handing them out to people during the visitation hours at the funeral chapel and at the church during the funeral. Someone lamented that it was a shame there wasn't time to have buttons made. After the funeral, we actually ordered buttons, and have been handing them out to people who knew Becky, or have been touched by her story. We have been asking people to keep her memory alive by sharing hugs in her name. It is our hope that such expressions of compassion and care will help to make the world a happy and friendlier place, one hug at a time. And we don't think that would be a bad legacy for 9 year old to leave behind.

Here's a news video about Becky from one of the local TV stations: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local-beat/Parents_of_9_Yr__Old_Killed_in_Bicycle_Accident_Speaks_Out_for_First_Time_Washington_DC.html (Based on feedback I've received, this video may be blocked outside the US.)
Some of my readers here have met my daughters. Others have read about them in my posts here, and seen the pictures I've uploaded. It is with a heavy heart that I must share the tragic news that our younger daughter's life was cut tragically short yesterday evening. I don't know how much time I'll be able or willing to spend online in the next few days, so if you don't get a response from me, please be patient. I'm still deeply shocked by the suddenness of this, and am having great difficulty accepting that our beautiful little girl is gone...

article from the Washington Post
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