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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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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Goodbyes are the hardest

When I was a young boy, my mom would gently wake me before my two brothers. It would still be pitch black outside, but since I was the youngest, I had to get up first to get a shower and get ready for school.

I never wanted to get up. It was always a struggle, in no small part, because I hated elementary school. My mom though encouraged me to keep trying and to give school a chance.

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Once I was dressed, my mom would have my favorite cereal ready for me. While I ate breakfast, we would chat about little things, how school was going, about my basketball practice, whatever book I was reading.

We couldn’t talk for long. My mom carpooled with a neighbor from up the road and soon enough she would pull up to our house. As soon as we saw the car lights outside the kitchen window, my mom would gulp down the last of her coffee and give me a quick hug. She’d tell me to have a great day in school and to do my best. She’d then run outside for her ride.

I didn’t want her to go, but I couldn’t do anything about the situation. I would walk to the window and watch the car drive away down the hill. My fingers pressed against the window, I would stay to watch the last remnants of the car’s taillight fade away into the distance and only then would I take a deep breath and go back to getting ready for school.

Goodbyes are the hardest. 

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One sad look, a friend forever

She looked up at us with the saddest brown puppy dog eyes. She looked so tiny and fragile in the store window. I leaned over to get a closer look and she reached up and pawed the window.

Paw to fist, fist to paw, we were instant friends.

We had to make a quick trip to pick-up something at our local mall. We never go to the mall. We buy most things online now, but coming out of the mall, we stumbled across the little guy.

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A large tag in one corner announced that she was a beagle and her name was Annabelle, a big name for a little puppy. She couldn’t have weighed more than a few pounds. I guessed that a stiff wind might send her tumbling. I whispered through the window, “hang in there big guy.” She didn’t bark, she didn’t whine, she just kept looking up at me.

We have an eight-year old dog that takes much of our time and I have my doubts about the store. I worry about where it gets its animals. I suspect most come from nearby puppy mills, but I still joked with my wife and son that we should take the puppy home.

“What do you think? Can’t you see Annabelle in our home,” I asked.

I could see Annabelle, our other dog, Nittany, and my son playing in the front yard. Annabelle and my wife snuggling on the couch. Annabelle and Nittany lounging throughout the day. (My wife didn’t quite share my dream. She promptly told me that Nittany would have none of the friend stuff. Nittany has been the queen of our family for too long. She wouldn’t react well to an intruder in her home.)

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In the end, we continued on our way and walked out of the mall. We had other errands to run and I still needed to get ready for work the next day. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about Annabelle: Is there anything more adorable then a puppy?

If I had a large farm or even had more time to take care of and train her, Annabelle would have been ours in a heartbeat. In the end, though, she needed another loving family. In the end, Annabelle needed a family and not a spur of the moment purchase.

We made the right choice for Annabelle and us, but it still took everything I had to not drive back to the store. Oh the love of a family pet. Oh the love an instant friend.

 

Starting over after tragedy

I turned on the television last week to see a story on a husband and wife clearing away mud and debris caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. They told the reporter they were still without power and lacked the basic essentials.

The husband tried to keep a brave face and said much of the house could be replaced, but he teared up when he talked of family mementos and photos that had been destroyed. The two turned away from the camera and went back to work. They looked exhausted and weary.

Later that same night, I saw another report on a California married couple who managed to survive six hours inside their neighbors pool while their entire neighborhood burned to the ground.

The Santa Rosa couple had gone to bed and woke to find thefire upon them. They tried to get away, but with no place to turn, they ran to their neighbors pool and huddled together in the pool while flames overtook everything around them. After the terrifying night in the pool, the couple walked back to their home to find it completely burned along with their SUV and truck.

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When all else fails, there’s always Netflix

I’ve been swamped lately. During the week, I’ve been running from meeting to meeting for hours on end, and then on the weekend, I’ve been busy with family obligations. Fortunately, my wife and I will be going away for a long weekend in a few weeks.

Besides the weekend away, I scheduled an extra day off for myself. I’ve been thinking about the best way to use the day. Some people like to spend their free time at the movie theater. I have a good friend who likes to go hunting. Others like to go shopping.

The choices are endless, but I’m down to my top ten:

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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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Calming an impatient heart

At the first spot I stopped, an old man clasp his hands together across his chest, casually leaned his head back, and closed his eyes. In the next stop, packed with people nudged up against each other in tiny chairs, the teen next to me bent forward with his headphones on and scrolled through his music playlist.

I had to make a number of stops a couple weeks ago to my local garage to get my car worked on and then to the barbershop and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else seemed to be dealing with “the wait” better than me.

Besides the old man and teenager, two men talked lazily about what they planned for the upcoming weekend and a guy my age whistled a show tune like he had all the time in the world.

And then there was me, my right leg restlessly moving up and down and my eyes bouncing up every few seconds to try to make eye contact to see if it was my turn. I’d sit for a few minutes and then stand-up abruptly to walk to the door to look out the window. I couldn’t go anywhere. My phone was dying and I couldn’t call anyone. Where did I think I was going? Who did I think I was going to call?

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My five biggest parenting mistakes

I checked the calendar on my smartphone one more time. My coworker was running late. We were supposed to meet for coffee early in the morning before our schedules got too crazy. We needed to come to agreement on a key section of our project plan.

He’s normally an obsessively punctual person so I was surprised when I didn’t immediately see him in our company cafeteria and even more surprised when he showed up fifteen minutes late looking flustered with his bag flying behind him and his shirt tail sneaking out of his pants. He apologized and explained that it had taken everything he had to get out the door.

I told him to get his coffee and take a few minutes and we could start when he was ready. When he came back he told me that his 6-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter both had meltdowns and didn’t want to go to school. He ended up making matters worse by screaming at the two of them. Everything went downhill from there.

I told him that I could relate and shared that I’ve had more than a few parental failures in my day. We chatted about our families for a few minutes and then quickly tackled our work issue.

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Seeing 20/20

The optometrist clicked on the lens and asked: “Which is better, line 1 or line 2?” We had been at this game for ten minutes, but to me it felt like an hour. I squinted my eyes together hoping it would help and, when it didn’t, I admitted to the doctor that I had no clue. In mock frustration, I added, “you’re the doctor, you tell me.”

glasses-928465_640The young doctor laughed at my lame attempt at sarcasm, but I really wasn’t joking. Getting your eyes checked annually is a good thing and I appreciate my eyesight, but I’ve come to dread the test. If you’ve been to an optometrist or ophthalmologist lately or wear contact lenses or glasses, you know what I’m talking about.

The doctor enters the room and runs through a flurry of tests all with the purpose or goal of seeing you fail. And oh, how I fail. Yes, I get that they have a “method to their madness,” but they need to test and prod for your weak points. Where is your point of failure?

For someone with poor vision like me, I spend the entire visit straining to be perfect and second guessing myself. I can make-out the third, fourth and fifth letters in the fifth line, but I’m guessing on the first two letters. Was the first letter an O or a Q? And what about the second: an E or a C? Does that count?

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