When I grow up

avatar-3127928_640The little kid stood back from the small table in the corner of the dentist office, where he’d been playing with a couple of toy die-cast cars, and told his mom that he wanted to become a veterinarian when he grows up so that he could help his friend Petey’s dog. He told his mom that the dog, named Shadow, needed to have surgery on its back leg.

His mom patted him on the shoulder and told him that was nice to have a goal. He went back to playing and she went back to reading messages on her phone. A few minutes later, he told her that he changed his mind. He instead wanted to become a racecar driver so that he could drive fast. He would drive her everywhere they needed to go.

“And I would drive really, really, really fast Mommy,” he said, pronouncing “really” so that it sounded more like “weally.”

She again patted him on the back.


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Getting goose bumps

When I step away from my desk at work, I look out of a corner window, out over a walking trail, picnic tables, and small pond that serves as a calming oasis in a maze of corporate buildings and local roads.


I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been taking more and more advantage of the opportunity to look out over the pond. I’ve been stepping away from my desk and whatever deadline I’m working on, to look out over and reflect on the nature in front of me. I’ve been taken away by the surrounding Sycamore trees and the pond’s restful qualities.

My time spent in thought hasn’t been a complete waste. I’ve been caught up in recent weeks by a small flock of Canadian Geese. They swim across the pond and lazily forage and graze the grass along the shore. They’ll take a zig-zag route, with no rhyme or reason, across the pond and small plot of grass. They seem to have not a care in the world.


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Following Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues of a good life

Benjamin Franklin lived an astounding life. The founding father in his day was a leading author, printer, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat. His resume is so long that I could continue for days.

Franklin’s probably best known today for drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and for his experiments with electricity. The legend though started small.

When Ben Franklin was a young man, he came up with and committed himself to a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues.


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In Memoriam: Happy on the inside

The DJ had the music turned up so loud that I couldn’t hear my college fraternity brother talk. We filled up our cups with more beer and went upstairs to the second-floor landing to watch out over the rest of the party-goers. While still loud, I could hear a little better what my friend was telling me.

He was a senior getting ready to graduate; I was a freshman trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. In my mind, he had it altogether. He was decisive, I was unsure of myself. He was smart and had strong speaking skills. I stuttered and stammered and sometimes had trouble expressing myself. He was weeks away from graduation and a clear path to riches and success, I still had 90-plus credits and was three years away from even thinking about graduation.


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Keeping the wolves at bay

They come when you least expect them. You’re going about your day, you’re responding to an important work email or doing chores around the house, you’re deep in your own thoughts and the next thing you know you look up to see that you’re being chased. There’s five or six of them, running effortlessly, running stride for stride with you.

The keep their distance, but are still close enough to attack. They flash their menacing teeth, jagged and as sharp as switchblades. One false move and they’ll pounce, pulling you to the ground, and slicing you into pieces. You’re at their mercy.


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When God steps in . . .

I came home to find my wife and three kids sitting at the kitchen table, legs dangling over their chairs. My oldest son had a huge grin on his face. I noticed first the smile and then later the large bandage on his arm.

I figured there must be a story to tell and, boy did they have one. The kids were watching television in our basement rec room and my son, who was seven or eight at the time, was leaning heavily on a glass coffee table that sat in a corner of the room.

doctor-563428_640My wife was on the phone on hold, waiting to talk to a “live person” with our health insurance carrier about a bill we had gotten in the mail. The next thing my wife heard was a crashing sound. The glass top of the coffee table had given away and my son went crashing through to the bottom. (For the record, we had lectured him incessantly about sitting on the table.)

My wife ran to the basement to find our son seated in the middle of the coffee table remains with blood running up and down his arm. She feared the worst. She cleaned him up the best she could, wrapped his arm in dish towels and whatever else she could find in the kitchen, carried him to the car, and raced to the emergency room.

Push the story ahead twenty minutes and what could have been a tragedy turned into just a scratch. He was fine, none the worse for wear. When I came home and saw everyone happy, I cringed thinking of what could have happened.

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The battle over the Oxford comma!

The English language is a frustrating friend.

She’ll wow you with great writing that reaches across the page and touches your soul. She’ll string together stunning phrase after stunning phrase that turns the mundane into something out-of-this-world and leaves you breathless.

And then you sit down to write and she’ll trick you into using “there” when you should use “they’re” or is it “their.” Another day, you’ll spend countless minutes going back and forth figuring out whether to use affect or effect, confusing you to the point where you decide to just choose another word. You go with “impact,” knowing that without “forcible contact” in the meaning, you’re using the word incorrectly. A third day, you write down “imminent” when you mean “eminent.”


English grammar and punctuation are a puzzle and I’ve been fooled too many times to count, falling in love with commas when I should be using semicolons; misspelling words that would be simple enough to spell if I just looked them up in the dictionary; and forgetting the simple rules that we learned as pint-sized elementary school kids.

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A dinosaur goes back to school shopping in the age of Amazon

When I was getting ready to go off to college back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, my mom and I went to our local mall to get a bed spread, shower tray, and new clothes, including several pairs of jeans. We made a day of it. We went shopping and then ate lunch at a pizza parlor located in the mall that we both liked.

I remember grabbing a slice and the enormity of the situation finally hitting me. I would be off on my own in a few days and I wouldn’t be coming home for a very long time. I was excited, but worried about how I would pay for everything and how I would survive on my own. My mother must have sensed my uncertainty and told me to do my best, everything would work out in the end.


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‘Do you believe in miracles?’

I was crammed on top of the two kids on either side of me in line. We had very little room between us and kept taking turns stepping on each other’s toes. Fortunately all three of us were on the smallish size, otherwise one of us would’ve surely taken a pointed elbow to the eye or mouth. I remember too that one of the kids was chewing gum, because I could smell the Chiclets Gum he had in his pocket.

Our teacher had brought our class out on the cold February Friday evening to sing for the residents of a local nursing home. As we had at past events, we would sing a few church hymns and folk songs like “America the Beautiful.” We were positioned in two lines in a semicircle in front of the residents who were seated in their rockers and lounge chairs. The residents seemed happy to see us. They waved and had big smiles. We, on-the-other-hand, were nervous and shy and couldn’t wait to get back to the car to listen to the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team take on the Soviet Union.

We didn’t know much about my hockey. None of my friends nor I grew up playing or watching professional ice hockey, but we had been following the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid on TV and knew that this was a big game. The minute we finished up singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind,” we didn’t need to be told twice to get our jackets. I had come with several other students with my teacher and jumped into his car and settled down right away to hear the game on the radio. (Of course, we watched the game on ABC later that night when the network ran a tape-delayed version of the game.)

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Waiting for the restlessness to pass

The driver in the blue Honda in front of me braked suddenly without warning. The sun had just started to go down in the horizon and the reddish-amber sky matched the Honda’s red brake lights. Fortunately, I had been paying attention and was able to break easily to avoid an accident.

Traffic on the four lanes of highway going into Washington, D.C. and the four leaving the city were crazy. I had driven the highway countless times over the past six months since I first started dating my girlfriend (who would later become my wife). However, on this day, I felt like the traffic was especially hectic, in part because I was driving my new car.

My old Renault, which one of my brother’s had graciously handed down to me, had seen me through thick and thin until it had nothing left to give and had finally given way. After a late night of work, it had left me stranded me.

I needed a car to get to my first real job as a newspaper reporter. The job didn’t pay a ton so I had to be careful in how much I paid for a car. I poured over car advertisement after car advertisement, went back and forth with a saleswoman at a local car dealership, and purchased my first new car, a Geo Storm. (Before you laugh, I got a great deal on it.)

I drove off the lot happier and prouder than I had ever been in my life. I was making something of myself (or so I thought).


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