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Category Archives: Family

I Hate Time Cliches, But They Fit!

I have written previously about my feelings regarding the passage of time. In case you don’t feel like going back and reading, here’s the relevant portion:

Lest you think I’m being melancholy, I’m not . . . though I will admit to occasionally feeling as though time has slipped by far too fast. However, I have a trick I use to deal with that and I’ve been doing it so long I really don’t think about it much any more.

I’m of the opinion the feeling that time has slipped by far too fast is a low-level form of self-pity. That trick I mentioned is something I used to do many years ago when I sensed I was feeling sorry for myself. I would pick a day, perhaps six months or a year ago, and try to recreate all the things I had done or experienced in the intervening time. I never made it to “today” because I always got bored from “reliving” all those things I had already done. Nowadays, I don’t even have to go through the exercise. I only need to remind myself of its efficacy.

I bring this up to explain my feelings (somewhat) when I worked on — and now look at — this collage I made of pictures of me and Aimee, my oldest. I’ve been teaching myself Photoshop and one of the most valuable skills one can master, IMO, is that of layering; and not just using layers, but being able to manipulate pixels through selecting and masking very selectively. While there are plenty of technical issues one must master in order to be able to successfully create multi-layer pictures (in a timely manner), there is most definitely an art to doing it well.

So . . . I’ve been practicing with creating memes and sarcastic photos of the Groper-in-Chief, as well as touching up some personal photos and creating new ones from old ones. Here’s the picture I put together that’s now causing me some consternation:

Aimee and Daddy

Aimee and Daddy

I was most interested in the speed with which I could select and create layer masks for each one of these photos (there are 10 separate pics, plus one barely visible as background). Resizing, aligning them properly, and putting them in the right order is not terribly taxing or time consuming, but selecting and masking requires some patience. This is especially true when you have essential tremors and your hands shake, at times almost uncontrollably. I also experience occasional “jerks”, where my hand just jumps for no specific reason, at least none I can discern.

Now that I finished and posted it — actually, yesterday on Facebook — I’m taking some time to enjoy the photos. They are, after all, some of my favorite pictures of the two of us. It’s important to keep in mind, I was childless until my 56th year; long enough to be pretty convinced I would never be a parent. I was resigned to this fact and content with my situation. Little did I realize I would have a 14-month-old, 25 lb. bundle thrust into my arms halfway around the world in the People’s Republic of China, shortly after my 55th birthday. The story behind how my wife and I decided this would be a good thing to do is a long one, and I have no intention of going into it here.

I have now been a father for 15 years. In addition to adopting Aimee, we returned to the PRC to adopt our younger daughter, Alyssa, when I was 59. I’ll do a collage of me and Alyssa at some other time. I don’t know if I have enough pictures of the two of us; second child syndrome and all like that, but I’ll put together what I’ve got.

What’s bothering me now about this picture is, every time I look at it I’m reminded that she is now a full-blown teenager and, as such, I represent everything wrong, lame, and stupid about the world to her. I know our relationship will never be the same. Actually, I knew it the day we adopted Alyssa, who was a real handful — still is, and that’s not hyperbole in any way. This, however, is somewhat different. I’ve watched enough of my friends’ and family’s children grow up and go through this. It’s not like I’m surprised or taken aback by it. It’s just that experience tells me she may not appreciate me again for another five years or more.

I’m 70 years old and already over a decade older than my father was when he died. I’m healthy, take pretty good care of myself, and expect I’ve got a while to go. However, even if I live into my eighties, we won’t have a great deal of time together. I only got a couple of years to enjoy the relationship my father and I started building in my mid-thirties. I still miss him and occasionally lament not having had much time with him after we worked out our differences. I want more time with Aimee when we can once again relate to each other without her being embarrassed or confused.

I do want that relationship with her, though only the passage of the thing I’m not sure I have a lot of is going to allow it to happen. I guess I have no choice but to wait. Do I have to be patient too?

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Thanksgiving: Passover For Indigenous People

Passover is a very meaningful holiday for Jews. During the seder, the ritual dinner that’s served that evening, the story of bondage by the Egyptians is recounted and thanks are given for their release after a series of plagues are visited upon the slaveholders, culminating in the slaughter of first-born Egyptians and the successful escape via Moses’s parting of the Red Sea.

Turkey Unfriended

Oops!

Thanksgiving has been a meaningful holiday for we “Americans”, first celebrated in 1621 but not officially until 1863, when President Lincoln declared it a national holiday. It was meant to celebrate the good fortune of the original Pilgrims, as well as that of all of us who came to live in this land.

Much as we have learned Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America wasn’t exactly as benign and wonderful as we were led to believe (certainly when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s), we now know the generosity of those indigenous people who provided for that first Thanksgiving we now celebrate, was rewarded with hatred and genocide.

I can’t speak for everyone but, as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is now a holiday in which we celebrate the love of family and friendship, as well as remember how deeply racism, nationalism, and white supremacy are rooted in our national identity. In this time of deep despair over the backward direction our nation is heading, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to a history that includes everyone, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic, as well as seek what objective truth there is, absent favoritism, nationalism, and whataboutism.

I hope everyone has – or had – a wonderful holiday, filled with love and generosity of spirit. I also hope everyone remembered – and remembers – we are far from blameless and sometimes we have – and do – stumble on our journey toward a “more perfect union.”


What’s In A Name Anyway?

Russia-US Flags

Detente . . . at least with nomenclature.

In a Facebook post, I apologized to the world for not having a more exotic name. After all, Rick Ladd is pretty much – other than the oblique reference to an acting family – anything other than exotic. After a few comments, I decided to flesh out my position, which follows:

My father’s given name was Isadore Edward Wladofsky. My mother’s maiden name was Annette Moldofsky. When they married, she refused to change from Moldofsky (which she hated) to Wladofsky, so they kept the lad, added another d, and – voila! – their last names became Ladd. I was not given a middle name, so the most exotic I could be is Richard Ladd.

However, I do have a Hebrew name, which is Ezra ben Yisrael. I also once considered changing my name back to what my father’s original name had been, plus adding a little Russian embellishment, as well as picking a substitute for Richard, as there’s no equivalent I could find in Russian. So . . . had I done it, my name would now be Petya Isadorovich Wladofsky, which translates to Peter, son of Isadore Wladofsky, but you can call me Petushka.


Another Father’s Day In The Books

I spend a lot of time on Facebook and, once in awhile, I write posts that are a bit longer than a paragraph or two. I seldom cross post here, but it’s a habit I’d like to get into. This was originally posted Sunday morning, June 18, 2017 and I’m memorializing it the following day. Better late than never, eh?


 

My father died nearly 33 years ago; my maternal grandfather passed earlier that same year. I never knew my paternal grandfather. For nearly two decades, Father’s Day meant precious little to me.

Nearly 15 years ago, despite my having concluded for over a decade fatherhood would not be something I would ever experience, 14.5 month-old Aimee Lian (Cen Fuxing) was placed in my willing arms, and I became an adoptive father. I repeated the exercise when 33 month-old Alyssa Bai Yuan (Guang Bai Yuan) joined our family a few months after my 59th birthday.

At times I still marvel at the reality I am a father, and have been one for quite some time now. Today, I give thanks for the tremendous responsibility this has placed on me, which I have happily embraced and thoroughly enjoy. I have no idea how I’m doing or, more precisely, how I’ve done so far. Both my girls are now teenagers, who are notoriously difficult to read beyond the rolled eyeballs, the “I know”s, and the wholesale dismissal of virtually anything I say or do.

Yet, I take comfort in knowing I have done all I am capable of. Being a father at my age has been the most challenging and, definitely, the most satisfying thing I have done in my life. Today I am grateful for my wife’s desire to have a family and for our two girls, all three of whom have caused me to become the man, the father, I am. That thought, on this day, gives me the chills and fills me with gratitude and humility.

Happy Father’s Day . . . Today and every day, to all the men who struggle to be the fathers they believe their families deserve.


How Seniors can Cope with Financial Stress

A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.

I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.

PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.


With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:

  1. Job Loss/Reduction – 51%

  2. Healthcare – 29.5%

  3. Other – 21.6%

  4. Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%

  5. Divorce/separation – 8.2%

  6. Bankruptcy – 6.7%

  7. Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.

However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.

There is more to learn about this issue and more information can be found in the full Senior Financial Stress Coping Guide.


Eighth Decade, Here I Come!

During my activity against the War in Vietnam, as well as other Peace & Justice movement activities I was involved in, I really never thought I would see my thirties. I know now I was a dreamer and a bit too wrapped up in my view of what was happening in the country, but I thought we were ripe for a revolution and I thought I would be on the front lines. That was nearly fifty years ago and time has given me a new perspective on life, the universe, and everything (H/T to Douglas Adams R.I.P.).

Today, however, marks the mid-point in my seventieth journey around our home star, Sol. It’s my half-birthday! I know . . . aren’t I a little too old to be celebrating half birthdays? I suppose, but this day has some other significance for me. Today marks the thirty-seventh year since a man surprised me on my doorstep in Venice, California, where I was living with my soon-to-be wife. He held me at gunpoint*, threatening to blow my “fucking brains out.” I managed to escape when he went to get something with which to tie my hands behind my back, something I had no intention of allowing him to do. I was prepared to attempt attacking him as he tried, but I didn’t have to. I had been preparing by slowly getting my right foot behind the bedroom door. I was lying spread-eagled on the floor, and each time he looked away I inched my foot closer and closer to the position I wanted.

Fortunately, I was able to get away from him by slamming the bedroom door (well, almost. The landlord had installed new carpeting and neglected to plane the bottom of the door, so it was almost impossible to shut it without a lot of force) in his face, levitating myself from the floor (lots of adrenaline involved at this point), grabbing my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun from the closet where I had carefully hidden it and practiced this very thing, and suggested he leave before I killed him. The remainder of the story is a bit convoluted and involved numerous calls to three different police departments before the first one I called finally realized they were, indeed, the proper jurisdiction for where I lived; about 200 feet east of Carroll Canal, on Ocean Avenue. It was years before I was able to finally throw off the hyper-vigilance this episode generated in me.

Also, this coming April I will be ten years older than my father was when he shed his mortal coil. This past September marked thirty-two years since he died. If you’ve read some of my other posts, his death weighed on heavily on me for quite some time. I was always considered the spitting image of him and my mother used to say “You’re just like your father” so often I was convinced fifty-nine was the limit for me as well. I think it wasn’t until I passed the age where he had had his second heart attack, and I had nothing more than moderate hypertension to deal with, I finally convinced myself I would likely live longer than he had.

So, here I am on the downside of my seventieth year on the planet. I actually used Microsoft Project to determine exactly when I would begin the second half of the year, and it was midnight today. Now, in celebration of having made it this far, and because it’s “the season,” I’m sharing two pictures I just found of a couple of my earliest Christmases. Next year is going to be interesting, no doubt. Perhaps it’s been long enough, and I can fully retell the story of this episode some time soon. This was a start.

rickysanta

Not So Happy. Perhaps Wondering Why I’m Sitting on Santa’s Lap When I’m Jewish!

rickysanta2

Much Happier. I Must Have Decided I Was An Atheist By Now & It Didn’t Matter.

 


 

* The link “He held me at gunpoint,” above, is to the decision in a re-trial the defendant won on one count of murder he was found guilty of. I was required to appear as a witness and, since he had become a jailhouse lawyer in the interim, he represented himself, meaning he was the one who questioned me when I gave my testimony. Two things – He was partially victorious on several other charges and the case was remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. As far as I know, he’s still in prison. Second, although the appellate court states he took three guns from me, he only took one; a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum, with which he shot and killed two people. I carried a fair amount of guilt around for quite some time before I could finally convince myself those deaths were not at least partially on me.


How Do You Talk To Children?

Came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it. I have seen adults doing these very things; in fact, I believe I’ve been guilty of it myself, though I make every effort to be engaged with children, especially my own.

I recently attended a new school orientation, as my 12-year-old is beginning 7th grade and it is her first encounter with middle school – we chose to keep her in her elementary school through the 6th grade, which we believed was useful for her special needs. I was very encouraged by the welcoming and uplifting tone everyone at the school took when dealing with the children. Better yet, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher is now the Director of Student Services at her middle school, and my wife told me she’s the only teach she had who didn’t complain about our daughter. Encouraging.

Take a look at this video and see if you recognize anyone; yourself or your child’s teachers or some of the administrative staff at any school. They’re not all like this, not by a long shot, but it’s important to keep in mind how easy it is to dismiss children and affect them in ways that will stay with them; possibly for their entire lives.


Beautiful Downtown San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful city by my lights, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay downtown again. I’m not sure I can count the number of sirens we heard in the less than three days we’ve been here on both hands . . . and feet!

When I was in my mid-teens I remember staying in Mission Bay, at the Bahia Resort. Days were filled with water sports and evenings were spent cruising around the bay on the resort’s sternwheeler paddleboat, the Bahia Belle. 

 

The Bahia Belle

The Bahia Belle

 
We always went with another family who had a son my age and, if memory serves, we imagined ourselves riverboat gamblers. I think we mostly, much like my 14-year old daughter, were just thrilled to be away from the scrutiny of our parents for a couple of hours. 

Last summer we came here and stayed in US Navy quarters, thanks to our traveling with a friend who is retired military. I was surprised to see we were almost directly across the highway from the USS Recruit, a landlocked training vessel that is (I believe) the only remaining artifact of Camp Nimitz and Camp Decatur, the Recruit Training Center/United States Naval Training Center where I spent my entire month and twenty-three day naval career fifty years ago. 

There are times I bemoan my short career in the Navy, as I was not in long enough to qualify for veteran’s benefits. On the other hand, having been born with club feet, one of which required surgery when I was five, I failed my enlistment physical and, but for my arguments at the time, by all rights never should have been sworn in. Because I did argue, and was sent to boot camp, I was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, allowing me to somewhat facetiously present myself as a “decorated veteran,” something I actually never do. 🙂

  

National Defense Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal


Now I sit in the Santa Fe Railroad station, but a few blocks from the hotel we stayed at, waiting to return home. My family got to tour CVA-41, the USS Midway, and spend most of yesterday at the San Diego Zoo, where our 12-year old was plotzing to visit. She got to see the Pandas and she’s a happy camper, which makes me happy too. 

We left our vehicles at home and used rail, busses, and our tired, barking dogs to wend our way through the weekend, but I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had for anything. The bonus is I’ve walked more both days than I have since I got my Fitbit ChargeHR, and so did the wife and kids. Can’t beat that!


Our Spring Break Denouement

All Aboard

All Aboard

We’re on our way to San Diego, aboard Train 768, from the Simi Valley Amtrak station a few minutes from our house. After a half hour layover at Union Station in Downtown LA, Fullerton is our next stop. I chose this method of travel thinking it would be a bit of a different experience for the girls. Also, the commute in a car is not one of my favorites. Frankly, driving is not one of my passions, even though I’ve done a lot of it. 

It’s the end of Spring break for the girls and I’ve been squirreling away money so we could do something before it’s too late. Our oldest will be 15 in less than three months and she already inhabits a different universe than Linda and I do, and this may be the last time we’ll be able to enjoy a couple of days together for many years.

After we get to San Diego we’re going to head to the hotel and see if we can check in early. If we can’t, we’ll check our bags in, head to lunch, and then to the USS Midway Maritime Museum. 

Tomorrow is reserved for the zoo. Our younger daughter really, really, really wanted to go to the zoo, so she’s very excited. I already purchased our tickets online, though I printed them out, as I wasn’t convinced they would accept the .pdf they sent and I saved to Evernote. The Midway has an app and our tickets are available in it. Amtrak scans everything (as does just about everyone, I suppose) and I just confirmed with the Conductor the .pdf they sent would be just fine off of my phone. I’ll do that on our return. 

The trip is a bit longer than if we had driven but, unless you’re Agoraphobic, it’s far less stressful. I am, after all, writing this as we now head toward Irvine. We’re headed almost due south and will soon be skirting the Pacific Ocean. So far, the urban scenery has been pretty grim. I’m looking forward to seeing some open, less sullied space. I need to give a shoutout to Google Maps, and GPS technology in general, as I no longer have to guess where we are. For someone with a slight bent toward orienteering, it’s a bonus. 

There’s a bunch of guys who, apparently, are on their way to a bachelor party, a fact I just learned after this rather loquacious woman got on and immediately started a boisterous conversation with them. I can barely hear them, but I’m sure most of the car can hear her, and her male companion who chimes in now and again. Unfortunately, Aimee (our oldest) has her ear buds nestled tightly in her music saturated skull and is missing the show. This was one of the reasons I thought the train would be interesting for the girls. Dang!

Just pulled into San Juan Capistrano; not a swallow in sight but, the Pacific is nigh. Surf’s only a couple feet and it’s a bit choppy, but there are some stalwarts out apaddlin’.

 

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


  
Cliffs

The edge of the continent, slowly eroding


  
San Onofre

San Onofre which, thankfully, has yet to melt down

We’ll be there soon and I have a family to attend to. So far, so good. There’s a bit of a party atmosphere aboard this train. Looking forward to exploring the Midway. Now I have to decide whether or not to punk the girls for April Fools. 😀 
 


Please Forgive My Selfish Indulgence

I was just going through some of my PowerPoint files, looking for one very specific file in which I’ve gathered many of the great, useful graphics (like this) Dion Hinchcliffe has created over the years. As I was searching I came across a program I put together for my mother’s funeral, which will have been eleven years ago this coming March 5.

Annette Ladd

My mother at about 18 years old. This is one of the pics I used for her funeral program

Maybe I’m just an emotional pushover, but the realization she’s been gone over a decade, that my father has been gone for over thirty years, and lots of people my age are dropping had me feeling pretty melancholy right now. I wept, but I’m not sure why. I don’t generally feel sorry for myself, but I think I was lamenting something we all go through; the loss of our childhood, our innocence, our loved ones.

Actually, the feeling is both bothersome and cathartic. I’ve always felt being in touch with one’s emotions — and giving vent to them on occasion — is both healthy and empowering, but I must confess to feeling a bit guilty expressing them in public like this. Nevertheless, it’s one of the reasons I have this blog. I’ll get over it.


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