50 Shades of gray

As I get older I find that I’m becoming a contrarian. Well, I suspect I’ve always been one, I’m just becoming even more of one.

When everyone goes left, I go right. Whenever everyone goes right, I go left. It’s that way with big and little decisions

Here’s what I mean:

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What do you believe?

I’ve walked up to a grieving mother, asked about her deceased daughter, and wrote about it. I’ve watched Army reservists, called to active duty, give good-bye hugs and kisses to teary-eyed friends and family members before they shipped out to the Middle East, and wrote about it. I’ve dived headfirst into the most personal topics from my own life and wrote about it.

So, how come then I get squeamish writing about my Catholic faith?

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Losing a phone, a wallet, and then my marbles

We waved to my youngest son and he came running over to the car. As he got closer, I noticed a troubled look on his face. He’s usually all smiles. On this day, there was something else. He had a look of fear, like he was worried, but didn’t want us to know.

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He opened the car door and instead of getting in he started rifling through his backpack to find his phone. When he couldn’t find it, he told us he was running back to the parking lot where he had been practicing with other members of his school’s marching band. The look on his face though gave me little assurance that he was going to be successful. He had that pained look of agony and anger that you get when you’ve lost something and have no idea where it might be. I felt trouble brewing and immediately asked my daughter to go help him.

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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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If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

James Lipton, the executive producer and host of the Bravo television series Inside the Actors Studio has had some of the biggest names in the film industry on his show. The guests have included a who’s who of personalities: Paul Newman, Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Harrison Ford, and a host of other stars.

Lipton interviews his guests one-on-one on their career and inspirations before quizzing them specifically on ten simple questions. The questions are all relatively straightforward. They include: What turns you on? What turns you off? What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do? And a few others.

I haven’t seen all 22 seasons, but of the ones I have seen I’ve always been interested in the response to the last question. “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

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Operating on fumes

The minute I step outside the door the crisp air hits me with the force of jackhammer drilling into my sidewalk. It’s hard, it’s with a jolt, and it’s with definitive force and power. I wrap my overcoat tighter around my body and walk briskly to my car.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been rushing into work in the middle of the night to help train my European coworkers via video conference on a new piece of technology. It hasn’t exactly been the middle of the night and I’ve burnt a bigger chunk of the candle in other stages of my life, but the late nights and early morning hours have still taken a toll.  

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My difficult day: life & death up close

I’m not sure what put me over the edge. My first thought was two sad stories I saw on my local news on a terminally ill teenager and a woman fighting breast cancer.

It could have been the realization that my children are getting older. They’re no longer little kids, running around the house. In a few years, we’re going to have a tougher and tougher time getting everyone together at the same time for the holidays.

In addition, I’ve been putting in a ton of hours in my job. I have a major project coming due in a few months and my work-life balance has certainly been tilted too much in one direction. It could have been the Christmas lights or even the picture a friend of mine sent me of him and his newborn baby.

I had a million thoughts racing through my head, but nothing prepared me for the news I got later in the day.

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Stern parent to trusted mentor

When our daughter was young and regularly wore pink, she would sit at our dining room table, feet not even big enough to touch the ground, and I would sit at my make-believe throne. I would harangue my daughter to eat her breakfast, go to school, do her homework, clean her room, etc., etc.

I would bellow out to do this and do that. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I was just trying to help her and give her the direction she needed. King Brian was in full command. In my mind at least, I wore a crown of jewels and commanded on high.

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Patiently waiting for more patience

I remember the night like it was yesterday. I tossed and turned. My mind raced with questions and outcomes — some good, some bad. I turned on some music to help me fall asleep, but nothing really seemed to work.

I was worried. I had spent the day in a series of panel interviews. I was interviewing for a newspaper reporter position for a mid-sized newspaper in Connecticut. I had put my best foot forward, but I had no idea what the editor and his team thought of me.

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The meaning behind the day

When Corporal Alvin York and his small patrol found themselves behind enemy lines and pinned down by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire in war-torn France late in October 1918, they had few options. They could continue to suffer losses or fight their way out for their own survival.

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