Dealing with my two mini-me clones

My oldest son wanted to get in and get out of the store. He couldn’t wait to try the running shoes on, make sure they fit like he expected, and get back home. The clerk asked him a few questions about fit and color. He grunted yes in response, got what he needed, and was done in less than five minutes.   

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My youngest son wanted to participate in the “whole experience.” He’s running track and field for his middle school for the first time and wanted to make sure that he took full advantage of the shoe-shopping opportunity. He wanted to try on every shoe in the store. And then he really wanted to get down to business and to compare Shoe A vs. Shoe B.

If I had let him, I’m pretty sure he would have grilled the sales woman on the weight of each running shoe, composite materials, and a host of other details. If he would have had his druthers, we would’ve turned the shopping trip into a day-long experience to check out other stores and the host of other running shoes on the market.

Talk about two different personalities.

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The dreaded group project

I hated two words in high school.

It wasn’t test day, SATs, detention or demerit. Everyone hated the thought of exams or getting in trouble, but I hated something else completely. What could be worse? I hated group projects.

“I need you to find a partner,” the teacher would say. Every part of my being would start to panic and dread the work. I panicked for a variety of reasons:

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A sucker for a good story, even This Is Us

I’m a sucker for a good story.

When I was a kid, my parents had a family friend. He had a folksy manner and a slow drawl that drew you into any story he was telling. My parents would occasionally make the long Sunday drive to visit with him and his wife. The adults would sit around in rocking chairs in the living room or porch and talk about big people stuff — you know what I mean, the weather, the increasing cost of bread and milk, whatever was on the front page of the Sunday newspaper, run of the mill stuff. My mom would ask if I wanted to go outside to play, but I found his memories about playing minor league baseball or working in a lumber yard entertaining and would stay inside to listen, fearful of missing any of the story.  

I’m older now, much older in fact, but I still love a good story. I love how a story with a great beginning, middle and end can pull you in wherever you are, no matter what you’re doing, and make you feel something you weren’t expecting. It could be anything: surprise, anger, happiness, or even tears of sadness.

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If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

James Lipton, the executive producer and host of the Bravo television series Inside the Actors Studio has had some of the biggest names in the film industry on his show. The guests have included a who’s who of personalities: Paul Newman, Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Harrison Ford, and a host of other stars.

Lipton interviews his guests one-on-one on their career and inspirations before quizzing them specifically on ten simple questions. The questions are all relatively straightforward. They include: What turns you on? What turns you off? What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do? And a few others.

I haven’t seen all 22 seasons, but of the ones I have seen I’ve always been interested in the response to the last question. “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

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A day at the beach

As I walked slowly on the beach last week, I took in an extraordinary scene: a group of youngsters perching themselves on the edge of the sand and ocean water. They nudged and pushed each other to venture closer and closer to the water. Once the waves, full of force and power, came crashing to the shore, they turned abruptly and raced each other back to safer ground.

I was only in town for a couple of days, but couldn’t help but laugh at the scene. I kept waiting for one of the younger ones to fall into the ocean spray.

In contrast, the adults in the group stood stone-faced every few feet apart from each other with their backs to the ocean watching the craziness, making sure none of the youngsters wondered too far away from the larger group.

A new family at the beach? Sort of, but not exactly the human kind. I got a front-row view of a large flock of seagull chicks. I’m no nature expert, but they looked exactly like their human brethren.

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Great job!

I walked to my car the other day for my drive home from work with a spring in my step. I wouldn’t say that I was skipping, but my heart certainly was. I started the car and the next thing I knew I was pulling up to my street — at least in my mind, my normally tedious commute lasted less time than it takes to push the start button.  

I went into work tired and even a little grumpy for no particular reason. I went home smiling from ear-to-ear. What turned my day around? What changed in the span of a few hours?

A bonus? Nah. A new job? Nope, same one I’ve had. A new suit? Nope, same rumpled clothes I’ve been wearing.

I flew home that night, my feet barely touching the ground, because of a few simple words of appreciation. Another manager had congratulated my team on meeting a key deliverable. That’s it, that’s all.

But those words meant as much to me as a new bonus.

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Slaying the green-eyed monster

The monster lies in wait for its prey. The monster’s hair is dirty and matted, its dark green eyes look like murky cesspools and goopy drool slithers down its mouth. The monster’s claws and fangs glint in the nighttime sky.

The monster rises up from its crouch and chases its prey — me. I run in a crazed panic. It’s like this for me. I wake up each morning to find the hot breath of the monster chasing me.

It’s not a real monster, but one still just as powerful. He represents everything we all must battle each day: jealousy, greed, envy, pride, resentfulness, and a million other horrible thoughts and feelings. I find that I especially must fight the monster.

And so I run and run and run.

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Do you do windows?

With the weather taking an unseasonably warm turn last weekend, I took the opportunity to scrub the large kitchen window in my house like my life depended on it. I scrubbed and scrubbed trying to get a winter’s worth of old spider webs and other gunk off the window.   

We were having visitors later in the day and I wanted the window to look spotless. As I scrubbed smudges off both sides, I was reminded of an erroneous belief of mine — or so I’m told that it’s erroneous — that once something is cleaned, it should stay that way.

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