Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why do I do what I do

For those who may not be aware, every year I help to plan and put on the Baltimore/Washington Ride for Kids. This ride, along with 36 other "Ride for Kids" held throughout the year in 37 locations around the US, sponsors the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. We are their main source of income for research, family support, information services, etc. Before the rides started 25 years ago, a child diagnosed with a brain tumor had about a 4% chance of survival. Today the survival rate is about 60%. An enormous increase, but NOWHERE NEAR the survival rate it should be! (I'm basing the numbers from memory of the training session I had a week ago, can't guaranty I'm remembering right)

I started attending the rides in 2001. I had seen several magazine columnists write about the events, so figured I'd give it a try. I had no idea of the emotional impact this event would have on me. Every ride has a number of sidecars and big bikes up front. These bikes hold the true "Stars" of the ride, children currently undergoing treatment for, or have survived brain tumors.

I attended the ride again in 2002, with my new bride. Laya also saw and felt the emotional impact. At that ride I spoke with some people I knew who volunteered for the ride. One of them suggested I attend a Task Force meeting and see if I'd be interested in joining the Task Force that plans the ride, or at least be a volunteer at a future ride. I attended the meeting, and really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the folks on the Task Force. I joined, and the next year, 2003 I assisted the parking lead. In 2004 and 2005 I led the parking team myself. Then in 2006, the ride was on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana. Also about this time I was becoming more observant, and part of the parking lead's job is to train parkers on Saturday, which I no longer wanted to do (required a long drive from home). So I trained a new person to become the parking lead, and that year I only helped to plan the ride, I didn't actually ride. After that year, the Task Force would check the calendar with me to make sure the ride wasn't on a Yom Tov.

Last year I helped to register clubs (the clubs that brought in the top amount of money got to ride directly behind the kids in the following year's ride), and I was supposed to do that again this year. However, I found out there was a conflict, and the parking lead was not able to attend. So I became the parking lead again (someone else agreed to do the training on Saturday for me). This year's event bust out the previous record, and we raised over $276,000 for the kids. Not only that, but my club raised the most money this year (with the help of some friends who credited their amounts to the club, and who just became honorary members!), so next year we get to ride up just behind the kids. I hope to ride, it'll be the first time since 2002 that I actually ride in the event.

But anyway, back to the heart of the matter... Why do I do this.

Take a look at this picture. These kids are all survivors. There were a total of 11 on stage, these are just some.

Paige, the beautiful little girl being interviewed, is 4 years old. That puts her smack in between Tikvah and Ahava. I thank G-d that my kids are healthy kids, (ptu, ptu, ptu) and feel like it is paying back (keeping up the good to help other kids who are not so fortunate). Plus, this type of activity gives a positive public view of motorcyclists. There are still many people out there who go by the old stereotypes of motorcyclists all being gang members, brawling, dealing drugs, etc.

And finally, I have to admit, it's also fun. At the end point this year, I was responsible for making sure 345 motorcycles were able to park without creaming each other. I'm happy to report I was successful! (see below.)

and no, I don't have big, beefy shoulders. There's a guy with a black leather jacket behind me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Transitioning to Shabbos

Jacob Da Jew recently wrote a post about how his brother-in-law recently joined the workforce, and now truly appreciates the "rest" you take on Shabbos.

For me, it was the opposite. I wasn't Shabbos observant until about 2-3 years ago (I never did mark down the exact day I started). Before that, I couldn't figure out how people could observe Shabbos. After working all week, I eagerly awaited the weekend to do all the other things that needed doing. Shopping, going out, having fun, taking rides, etc.

When I married my observant wife, she said she accepted me as I was, and would not change me to try to make me Shomer Shabbos, kosher, etc. And for the first year or so, that's what it was. In fact I used to teach motorcycle classes once a month over the whole weekend. But something happened. I began to miss the Friday night Shabbos dinner. Eventually I made arrangements so I could be home on Friday night, but still teach Saturday and Sunday. But then something else happened. Now I was missing going to Shul! Huh? Where did this come from? I used to only go to Friday night services a few times a year. Now I'm disappointed that I'm not at services on Shabbos? Hmmmmm. Okay, so now I don't teach on the weekends anymore. But still, gotta have my e-mail! I check it several times an hour when awake! Well, hmmm, I guess I really don't get all that much email on Saturday. Maybe I don't need to check that often. You know what, I don't need to check at all. Let's just turn the computer off before we light the candles. Give the hard drive a rest from its constant spinning.

Boy, this is really going to be boring. For over 24 hours, no TV, no computer, no driving around and shopping. What the heck will we do anyway? Well, Shabbos dinner on Friday night is nice. Good family time. Saturday morning I get the kids up and let my wife sleep in a little bit. Then when she's up (maybe with a little nudging from me) I go to shul (the wife and kids will join me later) and I really enjoy davening there. In the afternoon, I play with the kids, or they go to a neighbor's house and run around wild there, and I get to take something I haven't taken since Kindergarten... a nice nap. Some dinner, then if Shabbos ends early enough, Havdalah for the whole family, otherwise we put the kids to bed, and a little private time to talk with my wife before Shabbos ends.

You know what? I like this! I don't miss the Saturday hullabaloo I used to participate in. It's nice to get a rest in, take a break from the average week. I've turned 180 degrees, now instead of being annoyed with Shabbos "interfering" with my schedule, I actually look forward to it and the break it gives me every week.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

They don't teach boys this kind of stuff!!

So Tikvah is now into wanting braids in her hair. Here's my first ever attempt. It actually held for most of the day, just some hair on both sides of her face came out. (of the braid, not out from all her hair! I didn't pull that tight!)

One of the older girls in the shul did a great job braiding her hair last week. Took about a half hour to do though. She actually made three separate braids, then braided those together. I don't think I have the patience for something like that.

Ahava seems to have inherited my curly hair. (drives me nuts! I think it was Rita Rudner who joked about wanting to iron her curly hair) I don't know if braids will ever be in the cards for her.

So anyone know of some good websites or other places where I can learn to do a better, neater job of a braid?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Traveler or Tourist?

Every morning when I boot up my computer at work, we get a splash screen with various daily information. Part of it is a "Quote for the Day." I first read the quote for today quickly, but something struck me, and I went back and read it more slowly.

"The traveler sees what he sees.
The tourist sees what he has come to see."
G.K. Chesterton

I'd like to be a traveler, but many times I just wind up being a tourist. When I was in Israel for my first (and so far only) visit while my sister-in-law was getting married, I wanted to travel, but my parents-in-law mostly took us to various places. Some were interesting, but some were just them going down memory lane. My biggest disappointment was at the Kotel. While I was there, I saw the stairs that go up into the old city of Jerusalem. My in-laws had other things they wanted to do, and wouldn't take me up there. Every time I tried to find a chance to go back, they'd have another place they wanted to take us to, or something else we needed to do (I admit, the wedding was important. ;-) ) Towards the end of the visit I finally got a chance to break away from them, and went back to the Kotel. I went up the stairs and saw the many shops and restaurants. It was amazing to behold. I walked around and even up onto some of the walls that surround the city. What a beautiful view! I spent a few hours wandering around, looking at everything. At one point I made a wrong turn and noticed the stores became all Arabic. Something my mother-in-law feared would happen, and would be the end of me. I just turned around and headed back where I came from. No one made any problems. Out of my entire two weeks in Israel, those 4 hours or so are what I remember best.

When I return to Israel again (we are planning a return trip to see my sister- and brother-in-law, plus my niece!) I do want to tour various places, but I hope I'll get some time alone to get into a traveler mode as well. It's a totally different view.