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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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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‘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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The State of the Union with a family twist

A new take on a historically political event: President Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. The event will draw the attention from both his supporters and critics.

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution commands the president to “from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Past presidents have traditionally brought special guests and used the address as a chance to highlight policy wins and goals for the coming year.

Most state constitutions and many cities now have the same requirement.


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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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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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A new kind of College Signing Day?

The big man on campus walks across a podium in the Rice University basketball arena to the cheers and applause of more than 5,000 adoring fans. In their new book, The Power of Moments, Dan and Chip Heath describe the hoopla surrounding College Signing Day that a start-up charter school in Houston creates each year.

I can envision the scene in my head: coaches and the guest of honor seated at a table in the middle of the arena with two or three college hats with school colors situated prominently on the table. Mom and dad stand off to the side, their eyes beaming in the arena lights and the crowd explodes with excitement.


The head coach says a few quick words and then hands the mic over to the football star. Which will it be? Florida State, Miami or maybe a surprise school, Ohio State or Oklahoma perhaps?

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A misfit among misfits

The kid looked out of place in the waiting room.

His glasses were smudged and he couldn’t stop fidgeting in his chair. He kept bouncing his feet up and down on the chair and accidentally kicking his mother. She had it with him. She kept telling him to stop and he kept telling her that he was bored.

When I looked at him, I couldn’t help but think of myself at the same age. Like him, I had thick glasses; my hair curled this way and that, never seeming to flow in one direction; my clothes usually were rumpled or grass-stained from playing outside; and, when I moved, I moved in herky jerky, skittish movements, constantly hitting the kid next to me on the bus or one of my brothers at the dinner table.

I liked playing sports — any sport for that matter — but I wasn’t an athlete. I liked to read, but I wasn’t an academic. I liked talking with friends, but was far from being gregarious.

I was a misfit.


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Which pretend superhero are you?

DC Comics supervillain, the Joker, stared back at me across the conference table. His skin bleached white and his hair a ghoulish green, the Joker asked in a high squeal if the paper he held in his hands was my best work.

The Joker is a homicidal maniac, bent on creating havoc, and rarely, if ever, fights fair, relying on acid-spewing flowers and fatal laughing-gas. I knew better than to take his bait.

I simply imagined what would Batman do in this situation. I sat up in my chair in my best Caped Crusader pose, smiled back, looked him straight in the eye and said, “My team and I gave it our best shot. We put in a lot of hard work, sought out feedback of others and polished and polished our proposal until we thought it shined.”

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Where has the service gone?

The cashier greeted me with a quick hello and a smile, and jumped into the job of ringing up my grocery order. She went about her job with speed and confidence. When I handed her my money to pay the bill, she counted out my change in a slow, deliberate fashion so that I could see that she had given me the correct change. I chuckled quietly to myself. She probably thought I had lost my mind. I laughed because when I do pay with cash, which is a rarity anymore, the cashier usually hands me my change in a wad that I’m scrambling to put away so that I can get out of the way of the next customer. It’s a rarity anymore to see a cashier to go to those lengths.

Two days later, I went out with coworker for a quick lunch. We didn’t have a lot of time in our schedule, but we also needed to get away from the office. We needed the break from deadlines and if nothing else, staring at a mountain of emails. The waiter looked barely old enough to drive, but when we told him our time constraints, he got right to work getting our lunch to us. In fact, he had us in-and-out with time to spare


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