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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Trashing a good story

The old man’s eyesight was fading and he couldn’t get around well without his walker, but you could usually find him each day on the front porch of the local grille. He’d be dressed in a pair of denim bib overalls and soiled work boots gently rocking back and forth in an old rocking chair. He’d show up late afternoon and within a half hour or so, you’d find a small group of locals circled around him on stools listening intently to his every word.

The man served as a B-17 bombardier during World War II and spent most of his life farming in the small Virginia community and had a lifetime of stories. As a young reporter, new to the area, I came to count on his stories and perspective.

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I spent hours listening to him. You’d tell him a story that you thought was of particular interest and he’d come back with three or four better ones. He had a story for every day of the week and two for Sunday. The topic didn’t matter, he’d start talking and I’d be drawn-in immediately to whatever story he was telling.

He told stories about growing up dirt poor and taking care of his six brothers and sisters; how he managed to scrape together enough money for an education; and how “a young hick” like he used to call himself, came to travel to Paris and Rome and still found his way home to his wife and a life as a country farmer.

You’d ask him about his day and he had a way of making something as simple as taking his garbage to the local dump sound like poetry. Fast forward to this week. I was going through some old papers and couldn’t help, but think about the old man. I love a good story, so much so that I hoard them. I have stacks and stacks of stories, some related to my job, others dealing with topics that I want to write about in the future, and still others touching on self-help topics.

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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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Uncharted territory: Taking a leap of faith

A coworker ran up to me in the parking lot in a panic. I’ve been helping her prepare for a job interview for a new position with our company. She wanted my advice on how to approach a sensitive question.

A friend I worked with years ago has been considering a career switch. He’s unhappy in his job and is close to quitting and going into business for himself. Fortunately he’s in the financial position to make the move, but wants to be sure before he makes the jump. Another friend is struggling with what to do with a sick parent, whether a visiting nurse will be enough or if she should consider admitting her to a nursing home.

To top it off, my 17-year-old son and many of his friends are thinking about their options next year. He’s applied and been accepted to several colleges, but also is thinking about serving in the armed forces.

It must be that time of year. I feel like everyone I’ve come across lately is burdened down by a challenging decision related to career, college or the future.

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Uh-oh moments

I’ve had a few moments lately. You know the kind. You hit the send button on a key email and the note you wanted to go to two people goes to twenty. You scramble to recall the note, to pull it back, but you come up with nothing but thin air. It’s too late the note has already been delivered and opened.

Your heart sinks faster than one of the deck chairs on the Titanic to the icy bottom of the North Atlantic. You throw your hands up in frustration and fall back in your chair. We all have these types of uh-oh or “oh shit” moments.

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Lost in a world full of small talk

I’m awestruck by my wife.

We’ll walk into a room together. It could be a room full of friends and family or full of strangers. I’ll go to hang up our coats, to the restroom, or simply turn my back for a minute and I’ll return to find her in the middle of a large group of people deep in conversation.

The topic of conversation could be the most recent presidential election, how late our son’s school bus driver is every day, or even the winner of last year’s Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter. In short, she’s a people person. She shrugs it off, but in reality she loves chit-chatting and talking with people.

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Betcha you can’t put down this blog

I walk into the room straight out of a scene from a James Bond movie. I have on a crisp, blue suit and gray tie. I reek of class and sophistication. I walk with purpose as the crowd steps back to let me through to the center table. A roulette wheel, black jack, poker, the particular game doesn’t matter.

The room falls to a whisper as I step up to the edge of the table and nod to the dealer. I flash a slight smile and place my bet. I have everyone’s attention. The dealer goes into action. There’s a hush and in unison the crowd lets out a deep breath as I win. I nod again and let my winnings ride. Of course, I win again, and again, and again, and again.

Okay, you get the picture. That’s the dream. I’m a high roller and everything’s coming up roses.

Now here’s the reality and here’s why I’ve never been much of a gambler or even a risk-taker for that matter.

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