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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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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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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Jumping the shark 

When a TV show has had some level of success and starts to live off its reputation rather than come up new material or changes in a significant way in an attempt to stay fresh, television critics say it has jumped the shark.

The sitcom Happy Days is partially to thank for the phrase. In its fifth season, Fonzie, the leather jacket wearing, auto mechanic and star of the show jumped over a shark while wearing water skis. Critics panned the move and would later point to the shark jump as the moment when the show had reached its peak and was never the same again.

A few other oft-cited jump the shark moments: working class Roseanne and her family  winning the lottery; the series finale of Seinfeld; and when Olivia joined the cast of the Cosby Show to name a few.

I’ve been thinking of things outside Hollywood that have also jumped the shark. The television networks frankly come to mind, with more people nowadays watching Netflix and Amazon and the networks becoming more and more desperate for viewers, but there are many other things too:

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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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Ten things I want to learn

Like most people, when I was young, I learned how to read. A few years later, I learned how to throw a curveball, one decent enough to occasionally fool my friends, but not good enough to get anyone out in a real game. (The one time my coach put me in, I got lit up beyond belief, so I think I’m still working on that one.)

We spend a lifetime learning things. As soon as we come out of the womb, we work to learn everything about our new world. We go from listening and watching to rolling over, crawling, and graduate to talking and one day walking.

We never stop learning. The process is never-ending. For much of my life, I’ve been taking classes to get a grade or learn a subject or a train for a career. With two of my children now in college, I’ve been thinking about the things I still want to learn simply for fun.

 

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You can take the boy out of the country, but . . .

I shake my head some days.

I grew up in a rural farming community where small, simple church steeples outnumbered taverns and watering holes and you had to drive 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store.  Each small village had a post office and maybe a gas station. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to leave the community. While I had good reasons for wanting to get away, I’ve come to appreciate the small-town values that helped shape me.

I’ve lived now for most of the past thirty years in the suburbs and there’s much I love about my adopted hometown. I love that I’m close to the best of all worlds, close to the rapid, mile-a-minute pace of the city, but still relatively close to laid-back attitude that comes with open space and farmland.

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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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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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