A Good Confession

He sat on the left side of the church. A thick rosary hung from his hand as he prayed, eyes fixed on the crucifix above the altar.

I hated to interrupt him, but he must have sensed me staring. He turned abruptly as if awakened from a deep slumber and said, “Do you want to go to confession?”

“Yes, Father.”

It had been a year since I was in a confessional. I blamed it on COVID, but that’s ridiculous. I hadn’t gone because I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, I was embarrassed, I was self righteous. “It’s not like these are the worst sins, I mean God loves me, there are people a lot worse than me, I say the rosary every day…” and on and on and on. Maybe I just didn’t want to stop sinning.

Well, whatever, I finally manned up and went.

I had a whole speech prepared. I’d sort of slide my sins into a new faith-based-manifesto proclaiming my love for Jesus and preempting any admonishment from the priest with a, “…and that’s I why I will go forth and sin no more.”

Instead, I knelt there, spilling out sins and frantically trying to remember the Act of Contrition (FYI it was literally taped on the bench in front of me.)

It was over in minutes. I felt like I had rushed it or that I had forgotten some major sin, but I couldn’t remember anything, so I thanked the priest and went out into the church to say my penance.

By my second Hail Mary I was crying like a baby.

Why?

Was it finally being free of what I had been holding onto for the past year? Was I reveling in Jesus’s unending faith and forgiveness for me? Was I proud of myself for finally confessing? Was I ashamed for ever doubting God’s love? Had I, through confession, given myself a second chance to live the life I want, doing the things I know I should?

Yes.

I encourage you to go. Who knows what weight will be lifted or how loved you’ll feel.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Simple Prayer

“God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.”

My eleven year old son made this prayer before his last track meet. He’s in sixth grade and has been yoked with running the mile and half mile races for his team, his two least favorite events. He comes home every day with a heavy heart.

Recently, during a flag football practice he injured his foot and legs. The pain was bad enough to draw tears.

Before his last track meet I put him to bed and he was distraught. “My legs hurt, Dad, I’m not sure if I can run the race tomorrow.”

I told him he can play it safe and wait until he was closer to full capacity though it might hurt his team. But, if the pain was just pain, and he could push through it, wow, that would be awesome. Because, if he could run the two longest races while injured, he would know, deep in his heart and soul, that he had accomplished something, something no one could take away from him. If he could do that, there’s nothing he couldn’t do. “And,” I said, “Don’t forget you can pray for strength.”

I missed his two big races the next day, but I made it in time to see him get trounced in a relay. The loss did little to dampen his spirits.

“Dad, today before the race I was so nervous my stomach hurt. So, I went to the port-o-potty and prayed. I said, “God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.’ And you know what? He really did. My legs instantly felt better and I got my best mile time ever!”

In a life of consistently being proud of my son this was the greatest. He taught me the power of simple faith and prayer. He didn’t just pray for himself, he prayed to help his team.

Think about that for a moment.

God loves this stuff.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Memento Mori

Memento Mori.

“Remember Death,” is, I think, the direct translation from Latin, but, what does it mean to me?

Death seems a dark concept to meditate on. I think about it more than I care to admit, and it sometimes spirals me downward. What have I accomplished? What legacy will I leave behind? How will they remember me if I die today?

The message is threefold:

Am I prepared to die, spiritually?

The things that bother me today, do they matter when compared to death?

How should I live my life if every breath could be my last?

It dawns on me that this is my purpose in life. To enter Heaven is to serve Christ. To serve Christ is to serve the sick, the homeless, the naked, the thirsty, the hungry, the doubters, the incarcerated, the dying and the dead. A life of service, prayer and confession prepares my soul for Heaven.

To find happiness is to seek it. The day to day aches and pains of life, act to test me, to wear me down. It is not to say these feeling and problems are not real or unimportant or insignificant. Instead they are a path to seek peace from God. I close my eyes when the pain is too great and I remember: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27.

It’s easy to think about what I would like to do if I knew I had one day to live. A cascade of sin, delectable in its temptation lays open me. But, when I contemplate those options I realize no taste of food, wine or woman would hold a candle to embarking on a great adventure with my family, to hear my sons laugh or watch them conquer some great obstacle. I’d spend my day reveling in their love. Imagine treating every day like that. Every single day seeking their happiness.

Pray, serve, and enjoy the good life. It’s not a bad purpose.

Memento Mori. Memento Vitae.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

D.A.R

Decide. Act. Reflect.

Is this the secret to life?

My mind reels with ideas. My imagination swirls and explodes in short bursts of energetic power. Inventions, careers, books, stories, epiphanies reveal themselves to me, yet nothing comes to fruition. Everything seems unlikely or impossible, so my desires and dreams remain locked in my mind.

Time slips by, and nothing changes. 

Still, a nagging thought follows me into sleep. What if I acted on the imperfect plan?

What happens if I make a decision, put it into action, and reflect on how it went? I imagine that reflection would lead me to another decision. That decision would lead me into more action and so forth.  

Isn’t that the better cycle?

I think I’ll try it. Maybe you should too.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

The Warrior Poet of 4th Grade

I estimate, over the past fourteen years or so, I’ve taught over three hundred students. They have ranged in age from five to eighteen, represent all races that I can conceive, and stick in my memory for good and bad reasons. I have reveled in their successes and helped them through hard times. 

I have attended funerals and memorial services for them and their families. They have made me laugh and cry, tremble with rage and ache for their security. I can’t, for the life of me, remember all of their names or faces, and the years I knew them are starting to run together.

I do remember a few quite vividly, and I certainly remember Dat.

Dat was a student in my first fourth-grade class. He was half Chinese and half Korean and by far the smartest amongst his peers. I remember him for three reasons.

Once, on the bus heading to a field trip, another student was crying. His classmates began snickering, and before I could say anything, Dat spoke up and said, “Don’t laugh at Luis for crying.” As he said it, he stabbed them with his eyes and a hard thin line of lips. He said nothing else, but the laughter ceased quickly.

Compassion and empathy.

Whenever Dat took a test, he never sat down. He would stand and lean over his desk, scribbling furiously. When flummoxed, he would stand straight, tap a finger on his chin, look up at the ceiling, and pace. This contemplative exercise always succeeded. “A-ha!” he exclaimed as he bent over again and finished his response. 

Dat always handed in his assessment last. I would walk over to him and whisper, “Dat, it’s time, my man.” He would hold a finger to my face, respectfully, finish his last thoughts, bow to the test, and say, “Mister…I have finished.”

With extreme reverence, I would place his test on top of the pile and nod solemnly. For some reason, I backed away, like a commoner leaving the court of a king.

Honor.

I had an old brown wing-backed chair in my room. My parents were going to throw it away, and I snatched it. I made a banner for it that read: The Throne of Knowledge. Students could sit upon the throne if they earned it. They could show exceptional self-control when others were off task, or help a friend when they needed it, or for feats of intellectual daring.

On a hot day in May, I announced, “Boys and girls, today we will have a Math Bee. The winner will sit upon the Throne of Knowledge for the rest of the day.”

Dat leaped from his desk, shook his tiny fist in the air, and exclaimed, “The Throne is as good as mine!”

He stood there with a raging fire in his eyes and a face contorted in a manic frenzy. His classmates looked on wide-eyed, and a few laughed nervously, but it was Dat who sat upon the throne after slaying the Math Bee.

For the rest of the day, as students passed him to sharpen a pencil, he would ward them off with an outstretched arm, “Stay away from my kingdom!”

Faith in one’s self.

Compassion, honor, and faith. 

Got Dat?

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Finding Purpose

Photo by Josiah Lewis on Pexels.com

Imagination is the source of your purpose. Let your imagination set you free.

My first Latin teacher was ancient. She was a year away from retirement and had based her career on one objective: conjugate verbs. The classroom was hot and quiet and mind-numbingly dull

In my second year, it was Mr. Pearsall. It was the mid-nineties, and Mr. Pearsall was that decade’s poster boy. He wore pleated pants, striped shirts with a tie, and wire-rimmed round glasses. He was young, a first-year teacher, incredibly smart, and approached Latin in a new way. We still conjugated verbs and translated ancient text, but we also learned about ancient Greek and Roman culture. We had toga parties and read Dante’s Inferno. We learned about gladiators and Greek Myths. I looked forward to every class.

Mr. Pearsall assigned us a project. We could choose to recreate a model of the Via Appia or the Roman aqueducts, we could make a diorama of the Agora, or we could write a modernized, four-paged version of a Greek Myth. I chose the latter.

As part of my project, I would also have to read my creation aloud to the class.

I remember the story of a young kid named Aeneas traveling to New York City. His father, kidnapped by a league of assassins who have taken on Greek Gods’ traits, must be found. Apollo uses a bow and arrow to kill his targets; another uses throwing knives in the shape of lightning bolts, like Zeus. Instead of traveling to the Underworld, he goes to an abandoned subway tunnel. Sisyphus does not roll a boulder up a hill; he’s a homeless man who tries in vain to get the dents out of a soda can. Tantalus scrounges for cigarette butts but has no lighter etc.

The Muse flowed through me that night in the green glow of my giant laptop, for, in the end, my story was twelve pages of action-packed text, not four.

So, to the front of the class, I went. I perched myself on a rickety stool and began reading. It was so long that as I reached the climax of the story, the bell rang. Just as it did, I heard a gasp. Talia, the cute sophomore in the front row, stared at me wide-eyed. “No!” she yelled, “I wanted to hear the end!”

I looked up, dumbfounded. Mr. Pearsall was grinning, “Obviously, an A,” he stated. Even the introverted heavy-metal kid in the back nodded approval.

Folks, this was magic.

Never in my life did I realize I had the power to bring out emotion in others purely through my imagination. I am, by no means, a great writer; still, something in that moment captured the hearts and minds of my Latin class.

I love telling that story. I feel it has power to it. We go through reality, wondering what lies ahead. We get caught up in the minutiae and mundane, yet I think we all search and seek for something else.

We wait and look for answers when maybe we should imagine them. What reality can we imagine for ourselves? What talents do we possess to realize that conjuring?

If, like me, you seek your purpose, go within, and let your imagination set you free.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Flow State

There are fewer things more beautiful to me than the beach in winter. Maybe its my New England heritage, but there is something romantic about cold overcast days and steel-grey water. Shells, driftwood, even the mangled fish carcasses, harassed by seagulls, have a place here before the glittering ripples of the Long Island Sound.

Connecticut shores may not have the soft delicate sand of the Caribbean, but the coarse grit and craggy boulders make a unique playground for the brave souls who prefer hops and climbs to a leisurely walk.

It’s here, among these ancient rocks, I witness child and nature merge into a rapture of kinesthetic movement. My son plunges down and scrambles up. He bounds from peak to peak. I am immediately envious of his ability.

I step precariously onto the nearest boulder. My own shaky steps are riddled with thoughts of twisted ankles and skinned shins.

I’m transported back to age fifteen. I’m rollerblading miles from home, careening down a steep hill in the middle of the road without a helmet. I lean right and take the turn to my friend’s house at thirty miles per hour, eyes streaming tears and muscles warm with strength.

I struggle to remember my thoughts that day but I cannot. I can only sense an emotion of freedom and possibility tinged with fear, but it’s fleeting. I look back to my son and I feel a connection we share in that very moment, me at fifteen and he at age eleven, right now and right then, decades apart but happening simultaneously.

We are in the state of flow, the absence of thought and the total connection to the task at hand.

It is a state of bliss.

I am desperate for this flow as I watch him from afar. He is a consciousness devoid of worry. No future and no past exist when he is weightless and leaping. He trusts only gravity and his own depth perception. He looks, imagines what will happen next and achieves it. He never stops. He never regrets.

Soon, he looks up, surprised to find he has come to the end of his adventure. He takes a minute to enjoy his surroundings and send a wave back to me, safe on the path. I’m sad the end has come, because I feel it is a metaphor to my own existence. Have I come to the end?

Then he turns around and gathers his legs beneath him, and springs back the way he came. I am struck by a realization, and a smile comes to my face.

The way back home has just as many boulders.

Happy New Year.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Feast of the Seven Fishes and Unlocking Life’s Secrets

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The line is long and the smell is invasive.

People swarm the place, jostling for position at the glass counter. They wave their tickets and shout their orders. 

“53!”

“Here!”

“Whaddya need?”

“Three pounds of cooked shrimp! A fillet of cod, and six lobster tails!”

And on it goes. The workers hustle and push past each other. They argue amicably at the register, and a few spouts of laughter erupt intermittently throughout the morning. It’s a reminder to the impatient customers, we aren’t unfriendly, just busy. 

This is City Fish, in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the day before Christmas Eve.

I love it. It’s my favorite day of the year. My dad pays for the fish, we have a beer then I head home. Carols blast from the speakers and I start wrapping scallops,  making clam chowder, and sipping my way through some Christmas cheer.IMG_0967

I’ve shared this day with my Dad and brother for the past twelve years.

My grandmother was Italian, and invited us every Christmas Eve to her house for a traditional seven fishes meal.

It was always strange to my siblings and me. The house would reek of fish and bony shards of smelt would hide among the tangles of oily angel-hair pasta. We’d smile and chew and fill up on bread, but our distaste of seafood only grew.

When Grandma got too old to handle all of the preparations, the meals came less and less often, and I felt the tradition slipping away to a faded memory. I decided to take on the holiday, a passing of the torch I suppose.

She guided me through the first few meals, and after she passed, I became more determined to continue the tradition.

I know I am supposed to complain about this.

It’s too stressful, we need to stop using food to celebrate, it’s too much money, it’s too hard to keep up the tradition…

But then it’s 11 o’clock at night the day before the party and the only sound in the house is Elvis crooning Blue Christmas and the sizzle of bacon in the pan. The house looks incredible and I am alone in the kitchen too focused on when to add the cream to worry about anything else in the world. My heart and soul is the space between stove and counter and fridge, and my religion is bathed in olive oil. 

Father: Celery

Son: Carrot

Holy Spirit: Garlic and onion

This is the secret to life my friends. I have unlocked it for you. Immerse yourself in the kitchen and cook for people. Find what makes you happy and use it to make others happy. You will never be disappointed.

The next night and the house is filled with love. Cousins chase one another IMG_0970and cheeks are red from the fire and wine. Music plays and I watch the scene unfold from behind my apron. 

As the last hors d’oeuvres is slid into the chaffing dish I stand on the hearth to make a toast. My youngest son runs to me as I start talking. He is my shy one, but now,  he looks out at the faces with me.  

I didn’t prepare a speech. My mind reels with what to say. How do I capture it? I want to say to everybody how much this night means to me. How this year has been eye-opening to me. How I struggle everyday to discover my purpose, how I fear for my future, how self doubt and self loathing threaten any progress I make in my new career if not for their support and for the morals and tenacity passed down to me from them and those now gone. I fear for my kids’ safety and for their own futures. I struggle and I worry and I eat and I wonder and I freeze. But this night and the days leading up to it I am who I most want to be. I am decisive and creative, and I have family and tradition on my mind. I am happy and relaxed and finding joy in the little things like watching my son scrunch up his face at the smell of fresh garlic, or the intoxicating aroma of food and coffee, or the refreshing sting of cold night as I run barefoot across the driveway to the garbage can. How I worry about our country,  not for what I see on tv, but for the unrealized potential I see in all of us, and how when family gets together like this, like this night, we feel happy and loved and this is how we will prevail as humans, by remembering our traditions and ancestors and keeping their spirit alive, by staying together and progressing from what they taught us…

But fish gets cold quickly and the smelts are burning, so instead I say, “Thank you all for coming. I love tonight, and I love all of you. Now let’s eat.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

‘Twas The Week Before Christmas

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‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through my home,

Lay Amazon boxes, everywhere that we roam.

My wife is done shopping or so she has said,

I haven’t started, and it fills me with dread.

The children are feverish and coughing and sick,

The infections and virus are spreading real quick.

To ensure the Nice List, the behavior is fake,

On the day after Christmas, the whining will wake.

And mom on the treadmill and I with my weights,

Furrow our brows, at what-the-scale-states.

When down in the kitchen there arose such a clatter,

I ran down the stairs to see what’s the matter.

I jump over needles from the fake Christmas tree, (how?)

I step on a Lego and mutter ‘Oh Gee!” (edited for content)

And there wrapped in blankets one nine and one four,

Stand my two boys among the Chrtistmas decor.

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The older is drawing a picture with care,

He shows it to Benny, who can’t help but stare.

It’s an artist’s rendition of Santa’s World Tour,

The logic makes sense when your audience is four.

“Is he real?” he asks later, with a tremble and shake,

“Some kids at school say that he’s fake.”

“Look in your heart,” I say without fear,

His body relaxes, but his face is unclear.

“The magic is in you,” I whisper and wink,

He nods and he smiles and you know what I think?

He’ll wake on that morning and jump to the floor,

He’ll see all his presents and I’ll have it…

Once more.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scattered Rainbows

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Freedom.

I think it means something different to all of us. 

I remember hearing a story of a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Twenty years later he was released and set free. The interviewer asked him what he wanted to do now that he was out.  His response?

To swim in a pool of water.

It touched me on some level. It gave me a glimpse into rigid imprisonment. The simplest  desire, to swim in a pool, always out of reach, stopped by men and concrete and iron bars.

I often think of that man and his dream. I imagine that moment, him standing on the side of the pool looking down into the depths of pillowy liquid.

Does he cry when he sees it? Does he dip in a toe? Does he take a moment to breathe in the chlorine or listen to kids splashing? I hope not. In my mind he stops on the way home, finds the nearest pool and cannonballs in, fully clothed, with a whoop!

Because who knows when opportunities arise? Who knows when something will come up that will stop us in our tracks and imprison us in some way?

I scheduled an overdue preventative medical procedure this morning.

I had put it off for years. I was too nervous to call. Too nervous to go. I’m overweight, I have high blood pressure, what if I’m not a good candidate for anesthesia? What if they find cancer? What if this will start the downward spiral of health? Doctors appointments, hospital stays, uncomfortable conversations…what if?

The nurse on the other end of the line runs down a list of health issues. I am supposed to stop her every time I hear one that applies to me. True I have to stop her two or three times, but I hear all of the things I don’t have and I start to feel better. I hang up, with a scheduled appointment a month from now, and hop onto the scale. Hmm, ok not bad (well getting better anyway)! I head downstairs to make myself a tea and start writing. 

I lean across my counter, blowing across the top of my mug, watching the steam mix with the sunlight streaming through my window. A rainbow near the fireplace catches my eye. I see two more on the fridge, and one on the door to the basement. I see short blocks of color strewn across paper towels and old homework. Blue sapphires dazzle my eyes and impossibly straight lines of green and red race across the ceiling and walls.

I look behind me. Owl, sphere and porcupine.IMG_0860

They were my Nana’s. I took them when she died, and they sit on the kitchen window sill watching the comings and goings of our family. I wonder if they feel imprisoned. They sit there motionless year after year, under appreciated and barely cared for.

I look again and see the dozens of rainbows sprinkled through the house. They reach the entire length from kitchen to living room.

I see those rainbows and I feel the weight of my worries dissipate. Years of fear and guilt for not taking better care of myself suddenly seem ridiculous to me. Why did I wait? Why did I imprison myself, why…

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is now. Today. Right now. This very second.

Do it. Whatever it is do it, and take care of yourself. Seek the freedom missing in your life.

Do it then find the rainbows scattered around you. Don’t look too far and don’t wait til after the storm is over. Sometimes they’re right there in the kitchen, from small pieces of glass, that catch the sunlight just right. 

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

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