Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mini- Empty Nesters

It's one of those days that you know is a milestone which, I suspect, in hindsight may be even more momentous.

Today, for the first time ever, we shipped off all 3 members of Team Finland (ages 14, 12, and 10) to sleepaway camp for a month.

The consequence is that the NFO and I have the house to ourselves.

The practical benefits are many...fewer dishwasher cycles, loads of laundry, less hassle in the evenings and mornings. Certainly, the workload will decrease.  I, for one, am ok with that.

At the same time, it's a pretty strong reminder of how fleeting, in aggregate, the parenting experience is.  With Paco's Bar Mitzvah on the horizon later this summer, I can't help but have a series of "Sunrise, Sunset" moments flashing back to their birth and early childhood.  In an instant, we are here and they are all off for a month. Soon, I realize, they will be off for a longer period of time.

As my mom has said from the beginning, "the days are long, but the years are short" and I guess this is one of those mornings where it really dawns on you just how true that is.

It's really, really tough (though I feel like I am getting better at it) to savor the moments as they happen during the normal hustle and bustle of life.

It's particularly challenging for me because of my inclination towards Type A, achievement oriented behaviors. Sometimes, I am quite guilty of losing the forest for the trees.

Then, you see all three of your children board a camp bus (where you know they are going to have an amazing time) and you are jolted back into the most present of presents. 

Last week, I was in Israel and was talking with one of my cab drivers about children and family.  He was saying, "remember, the most important thing, at all times, is to make sure that your children know you love them."

Though my kids are well aware of my overarching paternal doctrine of "I am not here to make you happy," I think they are also aware of how I feel about them even if, at times, I don't express it so well or, worse, my other emotions such as anger or frustration get the better of me.

Last week was also Father's Day. I was only home for a few hours before leaving for Israel but before I did, I got 3 beautiful cards from Tikkanen, Jokinen, and Lakkanen.  What I particularly loved about them is that their words told me that, the things I was trying to teach them (consciously and unconsciously) are getting through.

I suppose that is really all you can ask for as a Dad.  I often say that, like technology, part of my job is to "make myself obsolete," to give them the tools so that they can survive and thrive- on their own- in the world because, aside from taxes (of course), we all know the other certainty of life.

It is my job to prepare them to live in the world without me and that means that, even though it is sad, not giving them experiences of being on their own and learning to deal with situations where the NFO and I aren't there, would be dereliction of duty.

I don't know if there is ever a point that you reach as a father where you think, "ok, it seems like my mission as it relates to my children is done."  But I do know that you have to continue to loosen the grip.

Today was a grip loosening day

Friday, June 08, 2018

What the Capitals Stanley Cup Victory Really Means to DC

For the last 10 years or so, when I would talk with people around the world the sports teams in Washington, DC, I would say the following:

"The sports teams in DC are just as competent and uplifting as the politicians in DC.  You can draw your own conclusions."

For years, the teams were either bad (Washington football team) or continually raising hopes and then crushing them in heartbreaking fashion in the playoffs.

Last night, however, the Washington Capitals changed that and won the Stanley Cup.

It was more than a victory that gave the franchise its first championship in 44 years.

To me, it represented something much more and I think it was something that was felt by many others in the area.

Especially since Trump was elected, when people would ask me, "where do you live?"  I would say:  "Oh, I live at Ground Zero for the Twilight the Washington, DC area."

The animosity, the marches, the protests, the all emanates from here and the discord and anger is felt and viewed globally.  In that respect, DC is unlike every other city in the world.  What happens here is on newspapers in Budapest and Seoul. I know this because I've seen newspapers in those places.

The same is not true in reverse.

So, it was really uplifting to see an entire sea of red jerseys that represented not "red states" or "Republicans" but represented an entire city, regardless of political orientation, socio-economic class, race, or religion rally around the team.

The pictures from the heart of Chinatown (where the arena is) reminded me of the pictures they show of viewing parties in European capitals during the World Cup.

Everyone was unified about and excited for the team.

For a city where unity is pretty much the last thing we feel or witness on a daily basis and is the epicenter of so much stress, anger, hostility, and division, it was special (for me, at least) to feel like we could all rally around something in common.

Yes, it's only a hockey game, team, and championship and soon enough, the emotion of the victory will fade, but (and this is perhaps why we love sports), for a brief moment, most of us could just feel great and connected to each other as part of a larger experience.

For the long-time Capitals fans, particularly those who showed dedication to the team through thick and thin, it was an even more special night. They earned it.

But for the rest of the city, even those who joined in later and later in the playoffs, I think the victory helped us all remember that, even when there is so many things that divide us, the feeling of being unified around something larger than ourselves is something that is worth fighting for and believing in.

Let's hope the politicians a few Metro stops away from the heart of the celebration took notice. And maybe, even, notice that it was the team's Russian Captain who made it all possible ;-)

Congratulations to the Caps, the fans, and the city.  #ALLCAPS

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

On ObamaCare, business creation, and investment

If you are a small business owner or a solo entrepreneur, I am curious how you feel about ObamaCare? (If you are not in that category, you are welcome to offer your comments, but please make it clear to others that you are not in a "buck stops here" position) Does it affect your business decisions (or not)? I am concerned that it is stifling new business creation and business growth. This is topical b/c our COBRA is expiring (yes, have had it for 18 months now). Now I need to buy a group plan (even though I don't want any employees), hire someone as an employee, pay payroll and social security taxes and a payroll service provider. So, I am incurring a bunch of unnecessary costs because I have to get a group plan instead of an individual plan because of the vast differences in costs of the two plans. And that's for the high deductible Bronze. We need to set aside more than $30,000 per year to afford premiums and budget for deductibles. What pains me more than all of that (and it really hurts) is this. I imagine that there are people working at companies with employer-sponsored plans who dream of starting their own businesses and achieving financial freedom, having a shot at the American Dream and creating jobs. But, because many people are not in a position to have $30k of free cash flow forecasted for the year right off the bat, they can't "go for it." That means businesses are not getting started and jobs aren't getting created. That saddens me. And that's on top of the deadweight loss associated with this. I blame ObamaCare for having caused the increase in premiums at astronomical rates over the past few years...something my cousin Lee, for example, who has spent his entire life in the health insurance industry predicted would happen. I don't want uninsured people to not have healthcare, but I believe the way to get the money to pay for that is by making it easier for people to start businesses that create jobs and growth.