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Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

social_connection-300x300I am outgoing, the first one into the party and the last one to leave. At least I used to be, back when I went to parties. I make acquaintances early and often, even now. Maybe it’s my self-deprecating grin, or my willingness to go with the flow, or even just my ability to talk to total strangers as if I’ve known them my whole life. If I’m in a room there’s no doubt you’ll know it sooner rather than later.

But I’m not up for networking. I do it, just by nature of being outgoing. That is, I often make connections with other people who could help me or who I could help career wise, and I have an extensive Rolodex of names and numbers. But generally that’s a side effect, not what I’ve ever truly spent time and energy on. Which also means that I don’t actively cultivate these relationships, and generally my acquaintances stay just that — acquaintances.

My wife, on the other hand, is a natural networker. I think she would do well as a political fundraiser because she’s passionate about what she believes in, and she makes connections as easily as I’ve ever seen anyone else do it. While she isn’t outgoing — she’ll never be the loud, gregarious one in the room — she makes the most of her time around others who fit in her wheelhouse of connections she can utilize later.

I admire that about her, and sometimes I think it would be worthwhile to be more like that instead of just outgoing. Like tonight, for example. We were at a Down syndrome celebration dinner (World Down Syndrome Day is 3/21) and she was working the room like a… political fundraiser, but she wasn’t doing it for money. She was connecting with her network, and creating more contacts along the way. It is mesmerizing to see.

There’s just something to be said about making connections. We do it differently, but in our own ways we do it just as well.

Sam

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“For the love of money is the root of all evil.” ~1 Timothy 6:10

e12614b36f3cf0e2bc82d636af260050Love is a broad term. Some use it quite liberally, to encompass everything from tacos to their grandmother, while others quite specifically only say love when they mean the romantic kind. I guess when I see the word love I immediately think of family, but I can truly say that there are other things I love. Money just isn’t one of them.

Let me back up. I appreciate money. I covet it. I want more of it. But not because of the money itself — instead, it’s the power that money represents. I love power, and there’s a thin line between money and the power that can come along with it.

I’ve spent the majority of my life without so much as two nickels to rub together at any one point in time, living paycheck to paycheck and hoping a job is just around the corner when the previous one comes to an end. On the rare occasion that I’ve had more than a small amount of money at one time it hasn’t been about stockpiling it. It’s always been about supporting my family.

That’s what I think is the real difference between money, and the love of money. I would never roll around in a bed full of hundred dollar bills for fear that I would inadvertently lose on in the frolicking. That hundred dollar bill could be a year’s worth of milk for my family. Yes, that’s the difference. I don’t love money. If I could get those necessities and support my family without it, I would be just as happy.

il_570xn-485309020_tecvMoney is as money does, to loosely quote Forrest Gump. It’s a means to an end. That’s one reason I would worry if I hit the mega jackpot or received an 8 figure bequeathing from a long lost relative. Because I could with that kind of money easily take care of my family and still have a king’s ransom left over. With that kind of money I could fall in love, quite easily. I have an addictive personality, so I know I would develop an unhealthy attachment to having and maintaining it.

So I guess I agree that the love of money can be the root of some evil, but all evil? Too many horrible things happen in this world that have absolutely nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the depravity of human nature. Too much goes on that speaks to deeper levels of evil that money cannot touch. While I get the overall issues that can be associated with having “too much” money, the “mo money mo problems” scenarios that have cropped up all too often, I can’t make that blanket statement.

It’s not money, but how we deal with it, the true value we place on it, that really matters. Evil is as complicated as love, with many entrances and many hidden hallways to it. The love of money can be one of those conduits, but it is certainly not the root.

Sam

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fatecoincidencecoincidence: a remarkable concurrence of events which have no apparent causal connection with each other.

fate: the development of events, beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? Growing up with a strict religious background it was something that was just understood. It was God who brought about everything, and we were just the paeans who had “free will” but who were just endlessly spinning our wheels, lost in sinful pursuits. I’m not going to say that we called it fate, but it was a close cousin, at the least. Manifest destiny maybe?

So I grew up, and I discarded my religious upbringing — well, discarded the vast majority of what I considered flawed thinking. But did I jettison this idea of predestination as well? I didn’t really give it much thought, but I did know that I believed we as individuals had some say with the way things turned out in our lives. I knew that sometimes when things happened that I hadn’t anticipated, or that in retrospect turned out to be advantageous, I couldn’t always pin it on coincidence.

Case in point: in February of 2003, my special lady and I decided that we would get married on May 20th of that same year. The date was set in stone because on the 18th I was to graduate from college, on the 19th we were to bring my mother back to the train station, so we knew well ahead of time what the schedule would bring. We also knew at the time that our favorite band, the band that was responsible for bringing us together, was going to release an album that year as well, but it wasn’t until late March that they settled on a release date. Guess when? May 20th.

It doesn’t end there, though. That same band broke up in 2009 and went their separate ways, but late last year they decided to reunite after nearly 8 years apart, to release a new album and embark on a tour. I swore we would go see them if they came anywhere near Philly, but we had to wait a couple weeks before they released a list of tour dates. Tour dates just came out, and guess when they’re coming to a venue just a quick ferry ride from Philly? You got that right. May 20th.

Coincidence? I think not. If it is, then it’s one hell of a big coincidence, that they would be playing the perfectly placed venue on our anniversary, so many years later. I think it was meant to be — kismet — fate — destiny — whatever means the same thing in this case. I love it that these parts of our relationship dovetail so neatly with the band that brought us together in the first place, time and again. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, so secure in some kind of plan for my life, be it divine or whatnot.

It’s funny how those things happen, and I guess it doesn’t even really matter if it’s coincidence, if it’s fate, or if it’s some weird amalgamation of the two. What matters is that my wife and I are heading to Camden on May 20th, and we’re going to see an amazing show as our anniversary present to ourselves. And that’s something special.

Sam

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breadsticks2We ate at the Olive Garden tonight, the one that used to be a specter, the one that would show up on search engines but that we could never find. Until they finally built it… and people came.

Of course it took us nearly six years after they arrived to make our way to the faux Italian ambience and cookie cutter nature of the restaurant that shares its name with one of my most hated foods.

The woman at the front told me we would have to wait “about 20 minutes,” but the time between getting our fancy pager and actually being seated was more like five minutes when all was said and done. I think I spent more time getting situated on the bench out front than I did waiting.

Kelly was our server, but it wasn’t about her, not really. It hardly ever is when we go to restaurants. It’s really about the people sitting around us, about the inevitable conversation that floods our ears as we wait for our own food to arrive.

…a kid was crawling between the legs of his family members as his adults tried to corral him back into their booth, threatening him with having to sit in the high chair if he didn’t shape up.

Tonight there was a birthday party in the small semi-private room to our right, and I got the feeling this was a regular Friday night occurrence, as another group with balloons took up residence when the ones who were there when we arrived left the building. Luckily we escaped the awkward moment when the cake is about to be cut, and the serving staff all gather ’round to sing off key to the birthday boy/girl. Apparently they’re too evolved to do that at the Olive Garden.

On the other side of the little divide between the booths a kid was crawling between the legs of his family members as his adults tried to corral him back into their booth, threatening him with having to sit in the high chair if he didn’t shape up. They used a couple of choice phrases under their breath, and I hoped my own children didn’t hear them. I needn’t have worried as my two were desperately trying to win at Tic-Tac-Toe at our own table. They had no time for shenanigans, or to learn new swear words.

5ee240bbb237e2e736a6d27bf72da23dOther servers swarmed in the background, always there but somehow only shadows of themselves, melting into walls, blending in with their surroundings like stage hands dressed in all black. Until they arrived at their tables, when they suddenly had everything in hand and smiles on their faces. Kelly showed up when we needed her, but she didn’t hover. She really couldn’t anyway. There were lines up front the entire time we were there, and they probably continued long after we left.

The food was good too, just like we had it at the Olive Garden in Philly, at the Olive Garden in New Jersey, at the Olive Garden in Missouri, pretty much at every Olive Garden that has ever existed, because that’s their shtick, isn’t it?

They’re classic Italian, but they’re not classic Italian, if you get my point. They’re big on the breadsticks, which are first to the table and first scarfed up. Then the appetizer, which was more bread, but this time with cheese. Then the kids’ meals, the main course, and the desperate attempt to get us to order dessert. I don’t blame Kelly. It’s her job. All the while the music played on level one overhead. What else? Italian jazz.

At some point during the evening a glass broke, the sound of shattering reverberating in my ears long after it was reduced to shards and cleaned up — erased from existence. I don’t get these newfangled devices that sit on the tables, the ones that allow us to order desserts and appetizers, to call our server over, and to pay our bills. Eventually, if I stare at the screen long enough it will do what I want on its own. I know it will.

Tucked inside its warm bosom were four mints, carefully wrapped in Olive Garden finery…

But it didn’t, and I had to learn how to use my fingers to press options on the screen, to slide my card through the reader, and to sign as well. It’s strange, not putting my card in the padded envelope, not handing it back to the server and hoping there’s enough money in my account so she doesn’t come back and tell me it was declined. It’s a brave new world out there.

The padded envelope was there, though, almost a ceremonial homage to all things restaurants used to be. Tucked inside its warm bosom were four mints, carefully wrapped in Olive Garden finery, the perfect end to a transaction that passes for a traditional Italian meal anymore. Just ask those people we passed on the way out, seated on the bench with pagers in hand.

Sam

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sia-this-is-actingLife is a series of actions and reactions, the interactions between us and others, between us and our surroundings, and between us and our own minds.

We wrestle with decisions every day, fighting against thoughts that could tend to derail us. We have expectations that we strive to achieve, provided we actually believe they are possible to achieve. We adjust to the things that happen to us, and are praised when we do it in a particularly solid and creative way.

Yay! We made the best of a bad situation! Congratulations! We got it done when others thought it couldn’t be done!

But the secret is much more damning, that we generally let the world happen around us, and we are pushed along with its ebb and flow like detritus caught in the waves. The positive things that happen in our lives are usually the result of being in the right place at the right time, or of capitalizing on something that happens to break the right way.

There’s a strong element of chance in how things go for us, even when we do our best to make things happen the way we want them to, and on some level we all know it. Think about when a team wins a championship and the star player thanks god for giving him or her the ability to compete at that level, or when a television producer gets up at an awards show and says how lucky he or she was to be in front of everyone accepting whatever award.

How much is chance, or luck, involved in what ultimately happens to us? I think about my own relationships — my friendships, my marriage — and I realize how much that can truly be applied even just to me and how things have gone in my life. If I hadn’t liked a particular band, and if my wife hadn’t liked the same band, and if we both hadn’t decided that band was worth it enough to join its internet mailing list…

The “Ifs” are endless, because every move we make is a move we didn’t make in another direction. We can’t possibly know how every single one of those moves would have turned out if we had made them. Is that chance, or is that destiny? Is that us making our own way, or is it something so far beyond our capability that in a million years we couldn’t make the same combinations occur if we tried?

clapper-02You know, on a daily basis we do way more reacting than acting. We let things happen to us instead of going out and making things happen. That’s why we’re generally surprised when someone says they went out and made something happen. “Good for you!” we say, with our jaws hanging on the ground, and we say how we are now inspired to go out and make thing happen for ourselves.

Then we go right back to reacting. It’s human nature. I would say I have genuinely acted on two major occasions, and both times were major risks, but I took them because the possible outcomes were important enough to me not to leave them to chance, not to let the tide take me back out again with the other refuse.

You’d think since both those times turned out so well (one of them was deciding to move here to be with the woman I love) that I would take that as a sign I need to do more acting instead of reacting, that I should stop letting “destiny” bounce me around like a beach ball.

I am working on it, but it’s hard to fight human nature unless there’s something large at stake otherwise. The problem is seeing that each instance is something large in and of itself, that the possibilities are endless, that opportunities are vast and potentially phenomenal for those who take control of their own future.

I’m still working on it.

Sam

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cute_sitting_fox_journalDear Journal,

When I was 10 I got my first journal, and I named it Fox because it had a painting of a fox on the cover. It was rather generic, but I was excited about it anyway. It was my excuse to go into my room and put my thoughts down on lined paper instead of scraps left over from shopping lists and whatnot.

Of course, as happy as I was having a journal at long last, I didn’t know how to begin writing in it. I had no precedent, and I knew no one else who admitted to keeping a journal, only girls with diaries. So I just took out a pen and started writing on page one. It went something like this:

Dear Fox, I am writing in you because I got you as a gift, and I don’t want you to be bored. I don’t know what I will tell you, but I promise I’ll keep you safe. Well, I can’t promise that because there is no lock on you, but I’ll keep you under my bed and no one ever goes under there. I’ll write in you more tomorrow.

I didn’t write in Fox that next day, or the one after it. I got busy with life, and it was three months before I wrote in him again (it took me forever to determine whether he was a girl or a boy). By that time I had pretty much forgotten why I needed a journal in the first place, but I came back to him anyway, and I’m glad I did. Because I finally had some secrets to put down on paper. And put those secrets down I did.

For the next several months I wrote in Fox more days than I didn’t, which was the beginning of getting my thoughts out, thoughts that I would never dare share with another living soul. When I look back at it now, though, it’s funny how irrelevant those secrets and thoughts really were back then.

Dear Fox, thanks for listening.

Sam

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l

Every time I walk into a Starbucks I know exactly what I’m going to order — a cup of coffee, regular coffee, in the Venti size. Oh, with room for cream. I have always done so, and I will probably always do so, every single time I walk into a Starbucks. But I can’t just leave it there. I always feel the need to mess with the employees (baristas, whatever) by staring up at the board and feigning indecision, by hemming and hawing as if I’ve never been in a Starbucks before.

Barista: Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get for you today?

Me: Uh. Um. Do you have a regular coffee?

Barista: Well, we have many different varieties of coffee, as you can see on the board.

Me: But, do you have just regular coffee? You know, like I would make in my Keurig at home?

Barista: Sir, this is Starbucks. We have many different kinds of coffee.

Me: So… uh, I just want a regular coffee, in the, um, small size.

Barista: We carry Tall, Grande, and Venti, sir.

Me: But if this was a regular cafe, which one would be a small?

Barista: I guess that would be the Tall.

Me: But Tall sounds like it would be ginormous. I don’t want a ginormous cup of coffee. I have a tiny bladder. I want small, and I know they rhyme, but you get it, right?

Barista: The Tall is just like a small here, sir. [He says, showing me one of the cups. The line behind me is getting restless because they all know their orders.]

Me: So, if I just tell you I want a regular small coffee, can’t you just translate it into whatever language you use here and get me a regular small coffee? Like the kind that I can make in my Keurig at home?

Barista [to the other barista behind the counter]: Regular coffee. Tall.

Me: Now, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

I’m nearly certain he spit in my coffee when I was looking down at my phone, typing in this conversation so I wouldn’t forget it. But damn, that was so worth it.

Sam

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