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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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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A grateful heart 

Several stores where I live seemed to start earlier this year with the Christmas decorations. I felt like they were ready for Christmas in August. When I turn on the television, I hit every Christmas show on the air. (My wife and her love of sappy Christmas romances on the Hallmark Channel could have something to do with that.) And then everywhere I’ve turned the past two weeks I’ve stumbled across advertisements for my town’s upcoming Christmas festival.

While I love the original Christmas story, the Nativity Story, I must admit that I have a special place in my heart for Thanksgiving. It lacks the commercial glamour of Christmas, but what it lacks in pizazz, it makes up in heart-felt moments.

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This year I’m done!

Every year in November and December, I complain about the work involved in putting together the annual calendar that my wife and I give out as a Christmas gift to family members. I’ll say, “that’s it, I’m done. I’m never going to do this again.” I mean what I say and deservedly so, since it takes a ton of work to organize and create, but then a year passes and I can’t wait to get started again.

I typically fill the calendar with key birthdays, anniversaries, and special events — everything from my parents in-law wedding anniversary, my niece turning 12, to the football schedule for my favorite college team —  and then load it up with photos from the past twelve months.

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It takes a ton of work and then when I have it together it takes a small fortune to get it printed and bound. Hence my threats about throwing in the towel. “Oh, no one’s going to look at it anyway,” I’ll tell my wife.

She calms me down and tells me to keep at it.

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Pleasant dreams with dad

I had the dream again. It’s the same one I’ve had for months. I’m walking on one of my favorite wooded, running trails. It’s Autumn. The trees are a bright orange, red, and yellow. Every curve, every twist, in the trail brings out a new colorful surprise. Large antlered deer, rabbits, and other wildlife run and play in the woods.

And, I’m walking with my dad.

This is probably a good time to say: my father died more than 13 years ago.

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My dream: a hug and a vision of peace

I’m flawed.

I get angry and fly off the handle easily with little warning. I’m selfish and impatient. I hold grudges and write others off for the smallest of offenses. I can be mean and disagreeable. I curse and swear and would sooner run over you than let you sneak in front of me on my way to work.

I criticize and complain. I focus on myself instead of helping others. Despite my many flaws, I look up to find Mary, the mother of God, waving to me to come closer. I shake my head and squint my eyes. She’s dressed in a long robe and her arm is definitely motioning toward me. I have to be seeing things. This can’t be right.

No, it’s clear as day. She’s got a bright smile that wraps around her entire face and is pointing and waving to me. I take a hesitant step forward. I look behind me. Is she waving to someone else? No, there’s no one there.

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Ten years from now, will this matter?

I came out of the classroom and wanted to scream. I had spent hours studying for the Econ 101 test, but I felt like I had been lied to by the professor. His test included a number of questions on topics that had been barely covered in class or our textbook and other content that had been discussed ad nauseam was barely even mentioned. Of course, I struggled on the exam and feared the worse.

I started walking back to my dorm, but I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, scream or throw a punch. Instead, I stopped and sat down on a bench under a small row of elm trees. The sun had set and it felt much later than the time. The black, starless night matched my mood.

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God’s gift: A little perspective

I pull into a parking spot and before I cut-off the engine and walk into work, I look at the inside of my car, how it’s aged, and then outside again at the sleek new German sports car in the adjacent spot. I marvel at the new car; everything about it seems to sparkle and shimmer. I stare at the car and imagine engineers hunched over desks with detailed blueprints working to give the car both precision design and speed. I remind myself that I need to get into work and reach for my messenger bag from the back seat. I  step out of my car and instantly wince at my “wreck-on-wheels.” My car is far from being a traveling wreck or old clunker, but nonetheless, I’ve started to call it one.

bmw-918408_640A little later in the day, I notice a new spot on the sleeve of my dress shirt. I wonder where it came from and how long it’s been there. I’ve been eyeing up some pricey new shirts online, and, maybe even a sports jacket or two, but I keep hitting a make-believe “pause” button.

Finally a little later, while cleaning up some things on my desk in my bedroom, I notice a bill that came earlier in the week for a recent visit my son had to make to the emergency room of the local hospital. My son was fine, but, when I sift through the charges, the dollar signs on the bill still catch me by surprise.

“I could’ve flown to London, Paris, Zurich, and maybe even made pit stop in Rome with how much they’re charging for a few small tests,” I complain to no one in particular.

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Finding myself in the silence

The long tree branches block out the sun’s hot rays — and on this day when the mid-day temperature hits the mid-90s, it is most certainly hot — but I’m most appreciative of the gentle breeze that runs through the woods.

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I tread carefully through the wooded area, moving from tree to tree, watching where I put my foot down. I take a step or two, stop and look around, and then then start up and take another few steps, before stopping again.

I’m walking as quietly as I can to see what I might find, perhaps a doe and it’s fawn or even squirrel or two rustling through the trees, but I’ve really come to get away. In my job, I’ve been running lately from busy meeting to busy meeting, conference call to conference call. And then my weekends seem to be filled up with trips and excursions, never really giving me any down time.

I’ve come for the silence

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