End of Decade – Dad's look back

Tonight is the end of the decade. For me from 2010 to 2019 has been a decade of apocalyptic change. Yes, change happens to everyone, but for me, my life has been experienced the kind of changes that I could never have imagined. Divorce, illness, financial turmoil and a hard reset of my emotions were a significant portion of this decade. Don’t get me wrong, yes good things did happen to me, but I can say honestly, I’ve survived through a minefield of issues on a daily, weekly, month and yearly basis.. I’ve come out of ahead (or as I like to say “alive and kicking”) due to my determination to persevere through the difficult times and look for the light at the end of each tunnel that I found my self going through.

At the beginning of the decade, I had never heard the concept of “lifetime alimony” or truly understood what child support is. Even as my salary increased, my financial instability increased in proportion. All I knew at the beginning of the decade was being a dad and doing the best for my family. I existed to make my family secure..

When I started the decade, retirement was distant in the future and it was not really at the forefront of my thoughts. Today 9 years later, I think about retirement every day. Some days I find myself thinking all day long when can I retire and will I outlive my money? With the events of the past decade, I really cannot retire for at least 5 to 10 more years.. Ugh. If I had my druthers, I’d retire tomorrow and get a job at Walmart being a greeter.

When I started the decade, I was living the American Dream: I was a father who had brought into the myth of being an homeowner and being able to swim financially with a single income. That was just a pipe dream.. I owned a beautiful home which was my castle and two kids that were in middle and high school respectively.. So my priorities were preparing for their college education and I funneled as much into their education fund as I could do.. Yet in retrospect, I saved just enough for one child and not enough for another..

At the start of 2010, I had family, who I came home to every day and enjoyed being Dad’s taxi.. I lived for my wife and kids. We vacationed (multiple times) each year, fell deeper into debt and basically lived the American dream. Working to pay the bills and vacations was my mantra.. If I knew then what I know now, I wonder if things would have been different. Probably not.

Winter was beautiful as my house was a winter wonderland for the kids and for me, it was a joy to see them enjoying the home that my wife and I had raised them in. Summers were for pool fun and entertaining the extended family. Our home was a destination home for our extended family.. My home was referred to as “their summer home”. Holidays were meant for family togetherness. To me, I was living the dream, with me being oblivious to the nightmare that I would have in the second half of the decade.

On the outside a the beginning of the decade, it looked like we had a perfect home. A great home, a strong family and marriage.. Internally, my marriage was crumbling and my wife and I had started the path towards irreconcilable differences. We lived life to the max and every day we spiraled more and more into debt. As the dad, I “took from peter to pay paul”. I could have done things differently, but to do this I needed help and unfortunately this was not a version of reality that I was going to find at home.

During this decade I turned 50 and that’s when I realized, I was living a lie. I decided to speak up and this accelerated my marriage into a state of total un-fixable disarray. As everyone knows, you can never clap with one hand (except when you slap yourself). We both contributed to the dissolution of our marriage. By the middle of the decade, my marriage was over and my life crumbled around me. I lost my home (it became marital property) that I could not sell and I was now living in rentals.

My relationship with my kids (especially with my younger daughter) would never be the same. I’m not looking for any sympathy with these words, but to say that my divorce was financially destructive and would take the second half of the decade to recover. I could write extensively my situation during the middle of the decade, but that is not meant to be put into words here. After my divorce, I was determined to recover emotionally and financially. Today I can say, I’m in a good place on both.

This whole decade has been an experience in survival. I had everything, I lost my home and most of my financial stability, and now am on the path to recovery.. I see retirement being in my future ( I don’t know when, but retirement is in my future). The emotional turmoil that we went through taught us the appreciation for family and how fickle fate can be.

I had multiple health issues in this decade. What I learned is that I cannot take my health for granted. During the next decade, my health has to be my number one priority. My family is second and after that comes my career.

As I start the new decade, my kids are both educated. One child is giving back to society by being a social worker and the other is in college. My post divorce relationship with my ex-wife has become much better and we continue to co-parent cohesively. I am again a homeowner and am in a much happier place. I can best say that the past decade has been a period of tremendous change and upheaval.. Dad came out of it scarred but not beaten.

As I look forward to the new year and the new decade, I have optimism that this decade will be much calmer.. Hopefully, when I look back on this writing in 2029, I’ll be retired and alive! I’m hopeful of my kids succeeding in their life and for me to see them succeed. That’s what I would now define as happiness for me in the future.

I also have a list of things I want to do.. Go and see all four major opens for tennis (Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US Open (done!), tops my list.

I also plan on continuing with Dad’s Taxi and go back to the origins and become more humorous and insightful! I wish all my family, friends and everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous decade, which starts in a few hours!

Alexa, Talk to me!

You know when you have the Amazon Echo, there are times you you don’t have anyone to talk to at home or on the phone.. there is always Alexa. So I end up asking my Alexa  Echo devices(I have 2 of them), some questions. I’m always entertained to say the least. What overwhelms me is the sheer volume of skills that grow every week.  My favorite skill is to play Jeopardy.  Of course I rarely win this 5 question daily skill!

In most cases, I’m just listening to Pandora or just asking for the weather, but when I truly want to engage my Alexa, I try some of the following things. Of course you can see all the skills that Alexa has by searching for them using your Alexa app on your IOS or Android Device. 

The one thing I finally learned is how to make both of my Echo’s simultaneously play music as part of my Home Group.. yeah.. I’m typically late to the party.. but I do eventually get there.

I also look forward to the weekly emails that tell me all the new skills that she can do.. Do I need to get a life? Perhaps, but for pure entertainment value, you can’t beat Alexa as your live in….

Of course you can visit the amazon site for everything Alexa to remain up to date, but that’s too much work for me. so I just read the weekly emails.  From making your home smart to ordering, to shopping, Alexa to me is my one stop.. I think for me the next step is to get the Echo Show to so I can video conference with with my friends and family and annoy them in #realtime.

The one thing I had to get used to and at times still scares the heck out of me is that she is ALWAYS listening for her name and is absorbing.. So if you are on You Tube and this is what happened to me as I was researching You Tube for this post, she heard my computer and you can imagine the rest..

Now in the spirit of the holidays, below are some skills you can try:

“Alexa, help me create a holiday story.”
With the Holiday Story Skill Blueprint, you can create personalized holiday stories told by Alexa with your child as the main character.

Alexa, how many days until Christmas?”

“Alexa, open Holiday Song Quiz.”

Now to really get your jollies, try this: “Alexa, what can you do?”.. This will guarantee to keep you engaged..