My own lil’ time machine

A friend of mine recently gave me a unique, one-of-a-kind gift. You can’t find one of these in an Apple store or on Amazon. You can’t even travel across the globe to a quaint little shop in some faraway country to pick up a gift like this.

My friend gave me a mini time machine that allows me to go back to an earlier time in my life. Think H.G Wells Time Machine, Doc Brown’s Delorean from Back to the Future,  the time traveling TARDIS from the Dr. Who TV show, or if you must, the hot tub from the Hot Tub Time Machine from more recent fame.

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Looking for a quick retort

I have the best of intentions.

It could be someone you run into in the convenience store or someone you see on the street, it doesn’t really matter. They say or do something rude and demeaning. I want to comeback with a one-liner or a quick retort that puts the offending party in their place and takes the tension out of the moment. 

Despite my best of intentions, I’m usually the one left grasping for words. I search for the right ones that will make everything right again, but they seem to run away from me. We’ve all faced these types of situations. Lately, I’ve seen to have my share of these experiences. 

When I do have a comeback or a zinger, it feels more like the proverbial equivalent of the neighborhood tattletale crying out in a whiney voice, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. 

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Fair season: For a good cause

My friends and I walked down the festival midway like we were a benevolent king surveying his court. It didn’t matter that our court was small in size, certainly less than a football field. We sauntered up and down each row like we owned the park.

We’d get there early and stay late. We’d walk down the middle of the fairway to volunteer or talk with friends. We’d come prepared for the festival, with a pocketful of pennies and quarters — saved up throughout the year — to try our luck at the various games of chance or to fill our faces with food.

As a kid, I looked forward to summer and the two firemen’s festivals in the community where I grew up. The first one would be held in mid-July and then the second would be held a few weeks later, usually around the first weekend in August at a local park.

The fire companies used the three-day festivals to raise money to help purchase new fire equipment, ambulance supplies, everything they would need throughout the year, and to keep their head above water. The festivals would run large raffles, have a local band for entertainment each night, and have small kiddie rides and games. They would sell barbeque chicken or chicken corn soup and a wide assortment of deserts and ice cream. Just imaging the Amish chicken corn soup makes my stomach rumble with hunger.

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Mocking a cliche

Like many things, they started out interesting. They were fun and fresh and seemed to offer some bold insights. And then they were everywhere and quickly tiresome and boring.

What? Finger spinners, Snapchat filters, or the Vineyard Vines whale? No, I’m talking about the internet feature “Letter to My Younger Self,” of course.

I’ve counted at least five of them, or various versions of the theme, in magazines and online on social media over the past week. Celebrities and self-help gurus seem to love them. They talk of key accomplishments, trials overcome, steps not taken, and a million other things in between.

They tend to be favorites this time of year because of graduation and the passing of the torch from one generation to another. They remind me a lot of graduation speeches and, while sometimes interesting, many have lost their touch or power.

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Like other fads that have come and gone, “the letter to myself” now come across as clichéd and trite. As a writer, I still love them, but I wish the person writing them would just once be honest. I mean, really honest, brutally honest.

The truth shall set you free

What do I mean? I’d love for the writer to say “that [fill in the blank] tattoo you want on your shoulder, save your money” or “the trip to the beach with 20 of your closest high school friends, skip it to go backpacking with your brother across the Appalachian Trail.”

You know what I mean, right? I want the writers to give the unvarnished truth. I want them to spill the beans so-to-speak. I want to know about the crazy party they would’ve skipped or the embarrassing act that got them into trouble. I want to know where they went wrong and what they would change so that I and others can learn for ourselves and avoid the same mistakes.

Dreams with a splash of realism

Instead, writers often talk about wishing they had taken more chances and followed their dreams. My radar goes off. Dreams, really? I’m a big believer in the power of goals and dreams. However, I dream of a life of leisure. Does that mean I should quit my job, run away to New York, and demand that I be penciled in as the starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees? Or run away to Caribbean to spend my days relaxing in sun and surf and partaking in fruity drinks on a soft white sand filled island?

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No, I may wish it, but that’s not going to work.

I want the truth, because we all make mistakes, they’re a fact of life. You can’t change reality. You can’t go back in time. You can’t always get the proverbial cat back into the bag. Instead, we often have to face the music. We have be present in the moment and to move-on and overcome. We have one life and we need to make the best of it.

At least that’s what I would write if I were to sit down and write a letter to my younger self.

 

How did I come to rely on my smartphone so much?

We don’t just cross the line. We race past it traveling 80 mph.

My family has a mobile plan with a national carrier that limits us to 10 GB of data. You would think that 10 GB would be plenty for us and it was for a long period, but over the past several months, we’ve obliterated our allocation. In the process, we’ve cost ourselves a few extra dollars. We could switch plans, but we’ll more than likely have to pay more for our coverage, so for the time being, I’m trying to keep a lid on our usage.

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When we got the bill last month, I couldn’t wait to dive into the bill. I was ready to pounce on the guilty party. I was sure that one of my sons, or even my daughter, had wasted the majority of the minutes on some new game or app. I couldn’t wait to threaten to take away their phone or put in any number of restrictions. My glee turned to a frown, though, when I found out that the biggest user of data the past month had been me. My children were right there with me, but there I was in black-and-white Arial font the biggest user of data in my family.

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Making dreams come true

Parenting has its challenges. Whether you stay home with your kids or work all day and have to pick them up and race somewhere, your job is never complete. There’s always something to do (um, what are we having for dinner?) and you’re often left feeling like you’re working without a net.

But once in a while, you have a day that’s just perfect. You get to see your children in a new light or achieve something they’ve been working on. It can be a big or small event.

For me, one of the fun things recently has been helping my kids make their dreams become a reality. I’ve been blessed that I’ve had a few of those days lately where everything comes together. I’m convinced that there’s not a better feeling in the world.

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In a New York state of mind

A few people on the train car chat back-and-forth, but it’s mostly quiet. People alone in their thoughts and their phones and the noisy click-clack of the train wheels. My daughter and I chat about her upcoming internship. My son usually has his phone out playing some game or app, but this time he’s watching everything: the other riders walking up and down the aisle, the train crew collecting tickets, the passing New Jersey wasteland, etc.

The three of us sway with the tossing and turning of the train, but soon we come to a stop. We’re at the end of the line, our destination; the self-proclaimed center of the universe; the Big Apple; Manhattan, New York City

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Our car may have been quiet, but the minute we step off the train, we’re in the middle of a mad rush up the stairs. Every time I come to New York, I get the same feeling, the same image of the multitudes rushing out of the train like it’s the  last day of school, the anticipation, the rush to be free.

We’re jammed together one on top of the other, but finally we get the top of the stairs and soon make our way out of the station and out onto the street, where we run into even more people. If we were traveling at a leisurely 50 mph in the station, we’re now pushing the speed up to 70 or 80. There’s no dawdling, there’s no stopping to check our GPS. People are coming at us from every direction. You move or you get swallowed.

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My biggest regrets

When I was in the seventh grade, I should have asked the girl in my English class to our school dance. When I was in college, I should have been more persistent and found a way to pay for the cost of a semester studying in Manchester, England.

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In my mid-twenties, I should have stood up sooner to a bully manager who treated his team like hired servants. In my thirties, I should have taken more time off from work when my kids were born. (I took time off, but I should have forgot about checking email and voice messages until I returned to work.) In my forties, I should have learned how to let worries fall off my back.

In the grand scheme of things, my regrets are minor. We spend our lives running from this to that. We turn 13 and can’t wait for our birthday so that we’re another year closer to 16. If not old enough to drive, then we want to turn 18 or 21-years-old. We get a new job and can’t wait for a promotion.

If we don’t watch, it’s over before it even started.

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I’m no dummy

First a little background. I’m a smart person, I’m no dummy. I paid attention in elementary and middle school and later in high school.  I earned a bachelor’s degree from a large public, research-based school. If we’re getting into resume specifics, I later took night classes to get a Master’s in Business Administration. Heck, I even have a professional certification from a prestigious Ivy League School that I promise I didn’t pilfer from a Cracker Jack Box.

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I read my local news. I follow national and world events. I keep abreast of things happening around me and in my career field. Why the curriculum vitae and the focus on all the background information?

If I’m so smart, then how come my local auto mechanic, can make me feel incredibly small and dumb?

I had to take my car to the shop this week and I left the shop feeling about the size of an ant. He was explaining why my “check engine light”  lit up on my dashboard and the work he had completed to get the car back on the road.  If I could repeat what he said, I would, but I’m pretty sure that if I started to describe it here, I would soon head down some farfetched path, use the wrong terminology, and look even more foolish.

So I repeat, if I’m so smart, then how come my mechanic can me make me look so silly. Or is it just me?

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Life’s unwritten rules

A couple of weeks ago, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Edubray Ramos threw a 96 mile fastball over the back of the head of New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. The two glared at each other, tempers on both teams temporarily flared, and the Phillies manager got ejected, but the game soon continued.

The Phillies would go onto lose the game 4-3. Ramos claimed the pitch got away from him, but it more than likely was in retaliation for the way Cabrera handled himself after he hit a game-winning three-run home run last September. Cabrera celebrated the home run by tossing his bat and throwing his hands in the air.

While a little out of the norm, because of the close game, baseball has dozens of unwritten rules. If a pitcher hits one of yours, you hit one of theirs. When a pitcher reaches the fourth or fifth inning and has given up no hits or walks, be sure to not mention it, lest you jinx the pitcher. If you’re up by five runs, do not show up the other team by stealing second base. The list goes on and on.

Life is not all that different. It has some of the same type of unwritten rules. We all follow them. Some more diligently than others. Many are just good manners or common sense. Others are a little more complicated. When we follow these rules, everyday life tends to work like clockwork. When we fail to follow them, all hell breaks loose.

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