Waiting for the restlessness to pass

The driver in the blue Honda in front of me braked suddenly without warning. The sun had just started to go down in the horizon and the reddish-amber sky matched the Honda’s red brake lights. Fortunately, I had been paying attention and was able to break easily to avoid an accident.

Traffic on the four lanes of highway going into Washington, D.C. and the four leaving the city were crazy. I had driven the highway countless times over the past six months since I first started dating my girlfriend (who would later become my wife). However, on this day, I felt like the traffic was especially hectic, in part because I was driving my new car.

My old Renault, which one of my brother’s had graciously handed down to me, had seen me through thick and thin until it had nothing left to give and had finally given way. After a late night of work, it had left me stranded me.

I needed a car to get to my first real job as a newspaper reporter. The job didn’t pay a ton so I had to be careful in how much I paid for a car. I poured over car advertisement after car advertisement, went back and forth with a saleswoman at a local car dealership, and purchased my first new car, a Geo Storm. (Before you laugh, I got a great deal on it.)

I drove off the lot happier and prouder than I had ever been in my life. I was making something of myself (or so I thought).


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Taking a sick day

I had ambitious goals for the day. I was going to check off several key items from my Work To Do list. I turned off my alarm and got up out of bed. I made one tentative step in front of the other until I made it to the bathroom. I took one look in the bathroom mirror and nearly passed out.

I turned around and went right back to my bed. My to do list would have to wait. Everything would have to wait.

I’ve been sick the past few days with whatever bug is circulating. I have a sore throat, a croaky cough, a drippy nose, and a general fogginess that has cut my attention span to shorter than a ten-second Snapchat video.

To top off, I’m an absolute horrible patient.


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Fly Eagles Fly

When I was young, I was spoiled.

When I was seven-years-old in 1975, I sat down to watch my first National Football League game on TV and my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, won it all. Just like that. The Steelers beat my brother’s favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, by a score of 16-6 to win the Super Bowl.

My father took my brothers and me to the local fire hall, where he occasionally volunteered, to watch the game. We lived in Central Pennsylvania so seeing the Steelers make the Super Bowl was a big deal.

IMG_8041I remember being excited for the big game, all the while mesmerized by the TV and pregame hype, even back then, surrounding the championship game. I would alternate between rough-housing on the floor with one of my friends and watching anxiously on the fire hall sofa, turning an old yellow rabbits foot over-and-over in my hands. (Who knows if the rabbits foot was real, it was something that one of my brothers had picked up at a Ringling Brothers Circus and I had inherited.)

I’m sure I watched other games, but the next definitive game I remember came one year later when the Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X in the Orange Bowl. Once again, I watched the game with my puffy yellow rabbits foot clamped in my hands. (And yes, I find it funny that even back then I hated the Cowboys.)

I would go on to watch the Steelers win a total of four Super Bowls in six years. Yes, I was spoiled.


It gets complicated

When I became a young man, I moved with my wife first to Washington, D.C. and then later to Southeastern Pennsylvania where she grew up. Spoiled or not, I continued to root for the Steelers, but I soon felt out of place. I felt that if I was really going to become a member of the community, I needed to change my allegiances.

When it came to baseball, I had rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates as kid, but they couldn’t compete with the bigger payroll teams like the New York Yankees or Los Angles Dodgers and fans of the team would watch annually as their best players walked away to other teams for more lucrative contracts. In a strange way, I felt like the Pirates had abandoned me as a fan so I didn’t feel guilty now rooting for the once despised Philadelphia Phillies.

From a football perspective, the Philadelphia Eagles were the team of choice. I dove in headfirst. The Eagles had success in the 60s prior to the creation of the Super Bowl and have come close a few times, but have never won the big game. For the past twenty-five years or so I’ve rooted for them year-in and year out, but have never experienced Super Bowl bliss.


Super Bowl or bust

In any event, the Eagles are on the precipice. They beat first the Atlanta Falcons in a close  NFC Divisional Playoff game 15-10 and then came back and thumped the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Divisional Championship. They’re in Super Bowl LII. And like in the old days for me, they’re once again playing the man in the black hats. Instead of the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are going up against the New England Patriots, the modern day bad guy.

Like everyone in the Philadelphia region, I want the Eagles to win, but I want them to win for a million other reasons too. Here’s a few of my reasons:

IMG_8039For the old guy who I regularly run into at lunchtime when I grab a soda or snack from my local convenience store. I’ll be in a rush and I’ll run into him and he’ll greet you with a hearty smile. He’ll inevitably give a rundown on Sunday’s game and his thoughts on the team’s chance for the next week. He likes to tell stories about when he was a kid and how the 1960 Eagles team defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13 in the 1960 NFL Championship at Franklin Field, the city’s last championship in the days prior to the Super Bowl. He’s suffered through thick and thin, but he’s remained a fan.

For the fans, who the media likes to paint as rude, antagonistic fans, but miss out that they’re like fans of any large metropolis. There’s some good, some bad. Would I wear a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys jersey at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles home stadium? No, probably not. If you’re respectful to others, you more likely will be left alone. However, there’s always that one percent that might very well spill a beer on you. In this day and age, though, I think you could say the same thing about any large stadium in America. You walk into Giants Stadium in New York with a Cowboys jersey, let’s see what happens there. Or wear an Oakland Raiders jersey in Kansas City. The media likes to run out the tired, hackneyed line Philadelphians once booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. The truth is a bit murkier, but many of these media elite care more about a good story than telling the truth. In fact, a recent Washington Post study found that per-game arrests over the past five seasons were highest in San Diego, New York, Oakland and Pittsburgh. Not Philadelphia.

–For fathers and sons and daughters. When I asked an acquaintance the other day where he was going to watch the big game, he told me he was going to watch it with his ten-year-old daughter and his dad. I shook and scratched my head for second. I don’t know the guy well, but I thought he had told me this past Fall that his father had died. He saw my look and told me that he used to go to every Eagles game with his father, it was that way win or lose, but now watches the game “in spirit” with his dad. The local media has been talking and writing a lot this week about how families are such a big part of Eagles tradition. The idea being that families come together each week to watch the Eagles play.  And these fans have been waiting a long time for a championship.

–For Philadelphia. The city played an instrumental role in the American Revolution and is the home to the Liberty Bell. The city has much to brag about, but it often takes a back seat to other large East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Forget about the more cosmopolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Philadelphians love their football. For once, I would love to see the city celebrated for something rather than recovering from another disappointment.


My prediction

What’s a Super Bowl without a prediction? When Sunday comes around, I’ll be cheering on the Eagles. I feel confident in a win, I think the Eagles have more than enough weapons and, more important, I think the Patriots time in up.

Just to be safe, though, I’m still pulling out that old lucky rabbits foot that I grabbed for good luck oh so many years ago. It’s worked twice before. Let’s hope for a third. I’ll take all the good karma I can get.


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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My wish for the future

I walked to my car searching for the right words to describe the celebration. My coworker couldn’t have been happier. He had a smile that spread from one side of his face to the other. I couldn’t blame him for beaming. After more than twenty-some years with my company, he was retiring. A large group of his friends and coworkers had gotten together to wish him well.

Two weeks later, I attended a second retirement celebration for another friend. We had worked together at another company a number of years ago. We had lost track of each of other when I had moved on, but had reconnected in recent years. The celebration this time around was a more intimate lunch to match his personality. The common denominator for both retirees: their smiles.

They couldn’t have been more content and relaxed. They both looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off their shoulders.


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Going out for a long walk: My dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail

The guy in the picture has sun-drenched hair and a scraggly beard, but looks fit. His excitement and elation jump off the computer screen. He holds up his arms in celebration, a hiking pole dangles down from his arms. The woman in the picture has her arms in the air too and an even bigger smile.


The two took the photo after they completed the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200-mile National Scenic Trail that extends from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The two started their hike in late March and ended six months later in early September. Like most thru-hikers, they walked during the day — averaging about 8-10 miles in the early going and then 15-20 once they got stronger — and slept in a tent or one of the 250 shelter sites spaced about a day’s hike apart along the trail. They kept a regular schedule and every seven days or so, spent a night in a hotel or hostel in one of the communities near the trail, where they rested and loaded up on provisions.

Since the trail was completed in the 1930s, more than 12,000 people have hiked the full-length of the trail, known simply as the A.T. Historically, only about 10% to 15% of those who make the attempt report to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that they completed it. The husband and wife were two of the most recent hikers to accomplish the task this past fall.


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Giving Father Time the heave-ho

My wife recently celebrated a big milestone birthday. Leading up to the big day, I noticed that she was feeling a bit self-aware about the milestone. The usual stuff, everyone complains about getting older:

  • She woke up one day worrying that the pain in her knee had gotten worse because she was a year older.
  • Another day she joked that over night her hair had gotten grayer.

To help celebrate the big day, I set up a small surprise party with a few friends and family members. I also tried to cheer her up on the day itself with a card and a few presents.

To me she looks as beautiful today as she did the day we met so many years ago. (Scratch that, she looks prettier.) The funny thing is that I celebrate the same birthday later this year and have had the same crazy thoughts about getting older.

I get up on the wrong side of the bed and instantly blame the gathering years. It doesn’t matter that I spent an extra 30 minutes at the gym the previous day and having slowly been increasing my mileage on the roads.  In my mind, I’m falling behind to the “younger me.”


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Fighting writer’s block

The words and ideas come fast and furious. I can’t get them down on the laptop screen fast enough. They spill out of me bucket after bucket, more defined than the one before. I string two phrases together and two more replace them around the bend. I finish with one blog and before I know it I’m stockpiled with two more.

When this happens, life is good. I can’t help but smile. I mean really smile from the inside out. When I’m in this zone, little can get me off the track. A horrendously long commute home in the snow, no problem. A higher-than-normal heating bill, “hey that’s the way it goes sometimes.” I’m laid back and I feel good about life.


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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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The year in Writing from the Heart: 2017

When I was new to the workforce, I wrote every day. I churned out copy faster than President Trump, love him or hate him, pushes out a new tweet. When my career took a few unexpected twists and turns, I wrote less, but still needed a creative outlet.

Fortunately, I got the idea for this blog. I created the blog three years ago to get back in the writing habit. I’ve come to love the immediate feedback. I need to make some improvements to my site to make it easier for others to find and read, but I still love the instant feedback.


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