Monday, May 26, 2014


This past week we had the opportunity to celebrate a milestone in my wife’s life.  Yes, it was her birthday!  In our house / family, we like to celebrate our birthdays, if for no other reason that this important day was the day that we came into being!  Therefore, it is a special day.  However, we all know some people that are happier to let their birthdays pass by under the guise that they feel that all it signifies is that they are another year older and another day closer to the end.  I personally have always wanted to strive to make it to my 100th birthday (with my faculties intact), which means that each year is a celebration not only for the day that I came into this world, but another day closer to my goal!

Our birthdays are key milestones in our lives (especially if we reach specific numbers), but we all have other milestones that we should celebrate, such as anniversaries, births of our children (counts as a double celebration), graduations, etc.  While we celebrated Debbie’s birthday this week, I realized that this was not the only significant event of this past week.  As it ends up, I met Debbie the day after her birthday.  Mutual friends introduced us, which the wife of this couple did give me the line, “Have I got a girl for you.”  Initially, Debbie and I spoke on the phone, and then I decided to stop by where she was working.  I figured that I was coming home from playing softball on my company’s team, and the uniform might impress her.  Of course, there was no reason for her to know that I had no athletic abilities…yet.  We decided to meet after work…and as they say, the rest was history.

One of Webster’s definitions of milestone is “an important point in the progress or development of something: a very important event or advance.”  The day we met went by very quietly.  Sometimes, we do not always recognize a milestone, as they are not a day with a lot of fanfare.  Sometimes, we need to reflect on our lives to be able to identify these important events in our lives.  People have asked how we met, or how we knew we were meant for each other.  However, nobody asks the more important question – when did you meet?  I went from a young, single man without too many cares in the world, to finding somebody that would cause me to want to make myself strive to be better; someone that I would want to be proud of me; someone that I could care for, have a family, share my life with and love “until death do we part.”  That day is a major milestone in my life.  Having been blessed with finding someone that is special was truly a gift in my life.  Moreover, I am glad that it comes the day after my wife’s birthday, so that I can celebrate her birthday, every year, and the following day, be thankful for meeting her those years ago.  Happy birthday, Debbie, and may you have many, many more wonderful milestones to celebrate in your life.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Relay for Life

“We are going for a sonogram.”  I remember when I first heard those words from my parents.  I was a father, as Gab was born earlier that year, and I was very familiar with going with Debbie for sonograms to see the fetal development of what would end up being our daughter.  I remember thinking, “Don’t tell me my Mom got pregnant.”  “It might be nothing, we will have to wait and see,” said my father.  When the results came back from that and other tests, we learned that my mother had cancer.  This was my first experience with cancer.  My father went on to say that there would be further testing and eventually it was determined that she needed an operation and during surgery, they realized that the cancer had metastasized and she would require chemotherapy.  In the following months we did not know what the eventual outcome would be…we could be hopeful, but Mom was not getting stronger.  Yes, she had some good days…but in the end, a vibrant life left us. 

I know my story is not unique.  In the years that have followed, I have lost other family members to cancer and have other family members that are survivors, who must remain diligent in their follow up doctor visits.  Last June, our town of Paramus did their first Relay for Life.  The event was run by High School students in conjunction with the American Cancer Society.  I have cousins that have been involved for years with an event where they live and they often talked about how important the events were.  My wife was the captain of our team.  We called ourselves “F*** Cancer”.  The event started at 7:00 pm and our team had a representative walking throughout the night until it ended at 5:30 am.  There were ceremonies early in the night.  Then at about 10:00 came the silent walk.  First, they ask the survivors and their caretakers to walk the track, followed by everyone else.  During the lap, we walked by lit bags with the names of our beloved family members that lost their battle and those that survived.  I still choke up thinking about it.  It makes you realize how fragile life can be and how grateful we are for what we do have.

I do not often make an appeal.  I do believe that charity is important and that we each need to find the causes that are meaningful to us to help.  Having seen the impact of this disease in my family and in my community, I believe in this one.  If we can help to raise money for research, or even just raise awareness, we can all participate in combating this disease.  Below are the links to help.

Please feel free to share a personal story of your experiences below.
Thank you, in advance, your support. 

Click here to visit my PERSONAL page.
If the text above does not appear as a clickable link, you can visit the web address:

Click here to view the TEAM page for F*** Cancer
If the text above does not appear as a clickable link, you can visit the web address:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chopped Challenge

“You have 20 minutes in this round and the round begins now.  You may open your baskets.”  This was not Ted Allen saying these words to kick off a round on Food TV’s popular show “Chopped,” but Wayne Zeiler playing MC at a cookless, bakeless event.  A similar idea was used where four teams that had to create three different courses from a mystery basket, then placed them in front of a panel of judges and were scored on their foods taste, presentation and creativity.  In this event, no one gets “chopped.”  We had four teams compete – two families, 3 teens (including my Rebecca), a father and daughter, and a pair of mature couples.  As soon as the first round started, we all watched in anticipation of what the output would produce.

For me, the interesting thing was to see how these teams would develop and how everyone would be able to work together, as there were four groups and each were showing a different approach to the event.  I watched our mature group with the two couples.  Each person instantly took up a role.  One person was responsible for opening the cans, one for chopping the item, one for combining and one for plating.  They looked as if they had done this before.  I wondered who would take command of the team with the two families, and to my surprise, it was neither of the mothers.  The oldest child on the team (a high school senior) had in his mind what was going to be produced and made sure everyone on his team had a task.  I was impressed that he even found something for the least skilled to do each round.  The father-daughter team had a brain storming session before for they took any action, batting around ideas in loud voices at each other.  Once the decision was made, they split up the tasks and off they went.  My daughter’s team, well, they had a different approach. Anyone that had an idea threw it out – if they liked it, they all jumped up and down with excitement and laughed, if not…total silence.  Then the person that made the suggestion started.  Each component was treated the same way, and by far, they seemed to be having the most fun.  By round three, they did gel together as a team.

The key with any team is that there is communication between the team members, a shared vision and a commitment to work together for a shared result.  Too many times, in business, we have to work with team members selected against their will for a project, and because of that end up doing nothing.  Or, we have people that do not want change to occur and do nothing.  Even worse, I have had project teams where one person does not want to change what they are doing and will vocally assault the project and provide a negative impact / influence on the other team members.  I have a cousin that often refers to that behavior as never having learned to play in the sandbox.  Meaning that as kids, they were never taught how to play together and share their toys; instead, it was all about them.  Many people fail to realize that as a group, we can sometimes achieve more than as an individual.

“Time’s up.  Please bring your dish up to the judges table.”  Each round ended the same way and each team had to send one representative up to the judges table to talk about their teams’ dish.  As a competition, yes, one team did win.  However, from a teamwork point of view, each one person on each of the teams pulled together to form four competing entities.  Each team had a vision, communicated between each other and worked together to present four individual plates before the judges.  It was great to watch them all play well together in the sandbox!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Precious Young’uns

As a parent, there is one thing that can easily swell our hearts, bring instant joy and constant happiness – our children.  Debbie and I have now been in the parenting business for over 19 years and we continually feel blessed by the little packages of joy that were delivered to us by the stork 19 and 17 years ago.  Yes, I do not really believe that the stork delivers babies any more, even if in my mind he would be the same one that sold pickles on TV a few years ago.  The pride that I feel is not always limited to my own children, but at times the children of friends and associates when they achieve accomplishments in their lives.

Last Friday night, the USY youth group that my wife and I co-chair led the Friday night services at our Jewish Center.  The kids, ranging in age from 15 – 18, volunteered to participate in the service and went up when it was their turn to lead the prayers and all of them did a great job.  The great feeling that we felt were not only for watching these formerly little children carrying themselves as young adults (including our Rebecca), but also the sense of what they have learned and the potential direction of their lives.  Based on some of the recent reports regarding the decline of youth involvement in religious institutions, it was wonderful to see this group be involved and shows signs of remaining somewhat committed in the future.  Now it is true that I do not know what the future holds for them and the direction that they will pursue, at least there is a sense that they have gained something up to this point.

Sunday, we again had the chance to kvell (feel happy, proud) as we went to watch our older daughter, Gabrielle, sing with her choir for the last time this school year.  I have to say, the singing level between the concerts we went to at the end of high school and the caliber of the choirs we heard was a huge difference, with the chance to clearly hear the different vocal parts and the blending of voices.  We sat there amazed that our child was a part of this group.  Nevertheless, there she was, standing up there and singing.

I do not usually spend the time to gush over my children.  I talk about them and their accomplishments and then move to other topics.  I am, however, a firm believer in the importance of family.  I value my wife and children, our brothers and their families, and, of course, our parents.  I feel fortunate to be in this family.  When they achieve things, I am always proud of them.  OK, now that I’ve gushed, it is time to move on…