Fighting writer’s block

The words and ideas come fast and furious. I can’t get them down on the laptop screen fast enough. They spill out of me bucket after bucket, more defined than the one before. I string two phrases together and two more replace them around the bend. I finish with one blog and before I know it I’m stockpiled with two more.

When this happens, life is good. I can’t help but smile. I mean really smile from the inside out. When I’m in this zone, little can get me off the track. A horrendously long commute home in the snow, no problem. A higher-than-normal heating bill, “hey that’s the way it goes sometimes.” I’m laid back and I feel good about life.

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Pinewood Derby parenting lessons

When my sons participated in the Cub Scouts, the pack would always have a Christmas party. The celebration was always a ton of fun, until the very end of the evening. I dreaded that part of the night, because that’s when the pack leaders would hand out the Pinewood Derby kits.

Each individual cub scout with the help of an adult over the next few weeks would build a car from a kit that contained a small piece of pine wood, plastic wheels and nails that served as metal axles. The pack would have a race, complete with a 32-foot track and timer later in the March. The winner of each den would win a small trophy.

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The year in Writing from the Heart: 2017

When I was new to the workforce, I wrote every day. I churned out copy faster than President Trump, love him or hate him, pushes out a new tweet. When my career took a few unexpected twists and turns, I wrote less, but still needed a creative outlet.

Fortunately, I got the idea for this blog. I created the blog three years ago to get back in the writing habit. I’ve come to love the immediate feedback. I need to make some improvements to my site to make it easier for others to find and read, but I still love the instant feedback.

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Trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve

I couldn’t sleep. I turned to one side, then back to the other. I pulled my pillow over my head and clinched my eyes tight hoping that both would miraculously put me to sleep. I tried to count sheep, but nothing seemed to help put me into a blissful sleep.

I was tired, but I just couldn’t fall asleep. Despite my best efforts, I heard every little movement in the house. I’d hear a distant ruffling sound and wonder if the noise was one of Santa’s reindeers up on the roof — my guess was that Comet or Blitzen were acting-up —or simply a bush scratching against the house?

I’d count the minutes until I could race to the living room to see what Santa Claus brought my family and me. Christmas eve night is a sleepless night for many kids.

When I was very young, however, I remember one Christmas Eve when I swear I spent much, if not all of the night, tossing and turning. I didn’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past

A number of years ago, my eleven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son barged into my wife and my bedroom and bounced on top of our bed. Right behind them, their three-year-old brother waddled into the room too. His brother and sister reached down from their perch on the bed, grabbed him by the shoulders, and lifted him up.

I looked up in my half-awake state to see three little monkeys giggling and staring back at me. My wife and I looked at each other and pulled ourselves up to sitting positions. “Did he come, did he come?” my daughter asked. Right on cue, the two boys screamed out too, “Yea, did he come?”

They, of course, wanted to know if Santa Claus with his big red bag of goodies had come to our house and couldn’t wait to run downstairs to open their presents. They first had to convince my wife and I to wake up.

I grabbed the clock and let out a groan. The numbers on the clock told me that it was a little before 5 a.m. I considered telling the kids to go back to bed, but I doubted the move would work. My wife must have been thinking the same thing. She poked me in the stomach and told me to get moving.

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My life of Christmas crime

I tip-toed into my parent’s room. I’m not sure why I was worried about being quiet. My two older brothers were off doing something with their friends and my mom and dad had left to pick up milk and bread from the store and wouldn’t be back home for at least another 15 minutes. I had the run of the place.

In any event, I slipped into their room as quietly as I could, being sure to step over the two squeaky floorboards that announced your arrival anytime you stepped foot in the room.

I looked first under their bed and found nothing but a pair of my mom’s old shoes and a slew of dust bunnies. I then went to their closet. The room was small. If my mom was going to hide any Christmas presents in the room, the choices were pretty limited: underneath the bed, the closet, and maybe an old chest, but that was it.

I slid back the closet sliding and smiled. I had hit payday.

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Finding a Christmas tree bargain

I put my hands in my pocket, stood up tall, and told the salesman to take or leave my final offer. I wasn’t going to go any higher.

My wife and our three kids were hunting for a Christmas tree and off to one side of the small farm, we found the perfect Douglas Fir that we all seemed to like. The salesman muttered something about having to talk with his father, but when he saw that I was already starting to open my car door to leave, he caved in.

“You know, we’ve been busy today, let’s make a deal,” he said. “Let me cut the bottom and get it bound and up on your car.”

Or so I wished. In my head, I stood my ground and made the salesman come to my terms.

In reality, the salesman gave us a price. My wife and I looked at each other with an “oh it’s a little steep look,” but we both wanted to get back home with the tree to get it up in our house and would have caved in right on the spot.

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Their last phone call

Her son sought to calm her. He told her that his fellow submariners had everything they needed to live underwater. Argentinian mother Susana Miguens told the Wall Street Journal recently that she last spoke with her son Leandro Cisneros, a seaman in the Argentine Navy, in early November.

Unfortunately, she would never have the chance to speak to him again.

Earlier this month, the Argentina Navy said that it had officially given up hope of finding the submarine crew aboard the ARA San Juan. The 44-member crew left Ushuaia on November 8 bound for its home base of Mar del Plata about 260 miles south of Buenos Aires. Argentine Navy officials believe the sub took on water and had a fire in a battery compartment. The crew got the fire under control, but officials believe a later blast instantly killed the sailors and sent the vessel to the seafloor.

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My top five most overplayed Christmas songs

I let out a scream. I had had enough of sports talk radio, the rock station I was listening to seemed to fill the air with more talk than music, and Spotify and Audible weren’t cutting it.

I turned to one of the local radio stations playing Christmas music round-the-clock and, of course, within a few seconds of tuning in, the station started playing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams.

Now I live in Pennsylvania and love snow as much as anyone, but despite Andy William’s  pleas of “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting,” I can’t recall that I’ve ever gone “caroling in the snow.” Oh, I have nothing against Andy Williams, but I just had had enough of his song and, quite frankly, his voice. It seems that anytime I turn on the radio anymore I come across his song.

So, I, of course, let out a scream in my car. Fortunately for me I had my window shut and the guy in the car in the next lane couldn’t hear me.

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Help me Magic 8-Ball!

I got the miniature Magic 8-Ball when my daughter gave it to me after she attended a friend’s birthday party. She handed me the 8-Ball happily and told me that it was for me since her friend didn’t give out any parting presents for the parents.

img_7338.jpg“You came too. They should give party favors to the mommies and daddies too.” She was so earnest and concerned about me, I couldn’t dare to say no. I took the cheap plastic Magic 8-Ball into my office and sat it next to computer monitor. In the many years since, when I’ve been twitchy with nervous excitement or simply looking for a moment of inspiration, I’ve picked up the 8-Ball and shaken it. I can’t say it’s brought on any divine inspiration or gotten me out of any jams, but it’s still been a fun break.

Should I go to lunch with my friend Steve? Ask again later. Will the technical review and client acceptance testing process be completed on time? It is certain. The water has leaked out of the ball, making the advice hard to make out now, and it’s been pushed aside to a far corner of my desk, but there it still sat today until I decided that it’s usefulness had come and gone.

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