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

Defrost? Maybe not

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The 4:30 alarm is terrifying. I did what I could to soften its power. The piercing tones have been replaced by Edvard Greig’s “Morning”, and the volume is as low as I can get it.

Still, soothing oboe or not, the first notes assault my eardrums and I throw back the covers, dismount from the bed like an aged gymnast finishing a pommel horse routine, and fumble with my phone lest I wake up my wife or children.

It’s a heart pounding, breathless, confused three seconds of terror, but it’s effective.

It begins the morning routine. I’d like to say, after a few minutes I am energized and ready to face the day, but that never comes. I start the laundry, stand in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do next, and ultimately decide to go back to bed. I repeat the process at 6:30, much to my wife’s delight (insert sarcastic tone here).

But 6:30 is really too late. I am in charge of breakfast, lunches, backpacks, clothes and transportation, and we have to be out the door at 7:09 or the Universe will crumble; my universe anyway.

Seventy days into the school year, and you’d think it would be smooth sailing, but it isn’t. Something always seems to get overlooked, and I am too frantic to notice. 

“Oh yeah, Benny has lace-up shoes now, that’ll be five minutes.”

“Wait, Mike, you forgot to do the other side of your homework, get started.”

“Wait, we’re out of bread? Now what am I making for lunches?”

Extinguished pilot lights, resetting of mousetraps, lost keys, lost homework folders, lost shoes, lost lunch boxes-each eat away valuable minutes and no matter what I do, we are running to the truck ten minutes behind schedule.

And now…Winter.

Frost shrouds the windshield.

It isn’t completely icy yet, but it requires more than a casual wipe of the wipers.

Ugh. I forgot.

“Ok, everyone back in, gotta let the truck warm up.” (Translation: Screw you New England.)

We wait. I have another cup of coffee and the boys dance to music on “Alexa.” Soon enough our break is over and everyone climbs into the slightly warmer cab of the truck. Leather seats creak and the sound of seatbelts buckling is more pronounced in the crisp air.

“Look Dad, snowflakes are on the window!”

I hit the brakes and put it in park. 

Snowflakes are on the window.

He’s right. There it is. The ice isn’t a hassle or hardship. It’s a reminder:

Slow down. Stop. Take a breath. What do you see?

Crystals form and stretch over glass, yet heat billows inside the truck. We’re together and warm and if we concentrate, and listen to a four year old, we can look at something beautiful and fleeting.

What else am I not appreciating?

Months ago  my morning routine was much different. Stormy clouds weighed on my shoulders, and a job that was negatively impacting my outlook on life closed in around me.

I would hold my face in my hands as the water cascaded over me in the shower, wondering where I went wrong in life. I dreaded everything. Sunday evening blues set in and sleeping more seemed better than thinking about work. Little could break through my negative attitude. What difference was I making? Why am I not more grateful? Where’s my passion? What am I doing? How can I get better? I’m trapped.

I would mutter good-byes and give half-hearted hugs and kisses. I’d stare out the window and ride along the highways rushing towards unhappiness, head on the headrest, thumbs on the steering wheel and cursing the sun for making me squint. 

I’m not making that commute anymore.

Mornings are tough. Winter is cold. Time waits for none of us. I’m not sure how to unlock it all, but I think the first step is gratitude. Live an intentional life. Find the beauty in a frosted windshield.

A mile down the road and those snowflakes will vanish.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

Four Day Weekend

“Four day weekend and tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Mikey, what do you want to do?”

“Dad, I am going to run upstairs, put on my bathrobe and play videogames all afternoon. I have…No! Home! Worrrrrrrkkkkkkkk!”

“Sounds perfect. How ’bout you Benny-boy? What do you want to do?”

He looks out the back window of the truck at the leaves blowing  across the front yard. His four year old eyes squint in the setting sun and he sighs happily.

“Drink.”

Both boys do exactly as they say. Mike is in his bathrobe before I walk through the front door, and Ben is double fisting Yoo-Hoo!’s before he takes off his jacket.

By Thursday morning the house is filled with the delicious freedom of a four day weekend, and the delicious smell of roasted vegetables. It’s for the Thanksgiving Day feast at my in-laws. 

The house my wife grew up in, is small and cozy and warm. The boys disappear to the “Lego room” and the rest of us flip through a mountain of Black Friday flyers in the living room. Stuffed mushrooms and coffee and wine appear and disappear like dreams and the end of dinner leaves us wondering, “Why am I so full?”

The temperature is below freezing, worse with the ferocious winds, but I am determined to uphold the tradition of the post dinner walk. We bundle up the boys and Grammy gets the dog and away we go. 

Tears freeze to our cheeks and my little one cries, “My knees are cold!”

I guess that’s what happens when from waist up it’s three layers, a down jacket, scarf and hat, and below the waist is just jeans.

We touch the bridge in town with their grandfather’s name on it and suddenly they aren’t so cold. They climb over the steel girders and walk the railings like a tightrope. It’s a small adventure, braving the elements, searching landmarks and the reward is dessert at Grandma #2’s house. They run back. If it’s for joy or to get warm I don’t know. 

While Grammy’s house is safe and warm, Grandma’s house is a frenzy of family. Ten cousins wrestle on the couch. They sit two to a chair watching YouTube videos as my older nephews almost have my son convinced they’ve turned him invisible (secretly I wish I had thought of that one).

My boys cry when I tell them it’s time to leave.

By Saturday the tree is up and the train is chugging around its base. I take a picture of the four year old. He is under the tree and I immediately know what he is feeling. 

I’m seven and I am laying under my own Christmas tree. Snake-Eyes hangs from a branch and a few other G.I. Joe’s are riding the rails of the electric train set. I look up. It’s strange, I’ve never been under the tree looking up. I am dazzled by the sight. A secret pine-scented world reaches heavenward. It is a maze of branches and blinking lights. A hint of tinsel and ornaments peek through the gaps and wish I could shrink myself down and live among the boughs and trunk. It’s a secret quiet world. The magic of Christmas from the inside. I wonder if anyone else has ever done this or if it is my own private discovery. I hope it is my own.

By Sunday night the backpacks are getting ready for the morning commute, and my sons feel the weight of sleep a little more profoundly. I tuck them in. The baby snores lightly as Mike climbs to the top bunk.

“Well, what was your favorite part of the weekend?”

“Seeing everyone.”

“That’s sweet. How come?”

“I don’t know. I just like when we’re all together.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

40% Off of Zagg and Thunder! Today Only!

Today, Cyber Monday, please purchase either of my books from my website http://www.spowerks.com and you will receive 40% off of your purchase.

Buy one for your child, have them work on it the next few weeks and then wrap it up.

Imagine opening the gift of a book that your child has illustrated. They are sure to make the Grandparent Hall of Fame!

  1. http://www.spowerks.com
  2. click “Our Books”
  3. Click on the “Lulu Buy Now!” button
  4. Follow the steps to make your purchase.

Thank you for your business, and I wish you a Happy Holiday Season!

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

 

Pass the Popcorn…(sniffle)

 

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Movie night.

God, I love it.

The darkened room, the flickering light, the music of the show all holding us, transfixed across the gap of screen to couch. Will we recite familiar dialogue? Will we fly alongside familiar heroes or cry at the loss of a favorite character? Or is tonight something new, the story unfolding before us like a path lit only by each new step?

We gasp and laugh and grip the blanket a little tighter. I glance at my son seconds before his favorite part; he doesn’t disappoint. His eyes grow wide and his mouth inches open. He explodes with laughter, and all is right in the world. 

“Dad, can you make us some popcorn?”

The microwave hums as I lean in from the kitchen to the living room, half in the light and half in the dark, gripping the door frame on one leg watching the story move across the screen. It beeps and pull myself into the light. If it stays too long inside it will burn, and we can’t have that. I pour the contents into a plastic bowl.

A blue plastic bowl.

What’s this?

It floods back to me in an instant. Our beloved bowl, the one with Pop-corn! written in script within a tiny cloud atop fading red and white stripes, its edges scalloped like a sea shell, and its once circular circumference now elliptical from so many hands and so many washes in the dishwasher has been…retired.

She had served us at parties too, but it never sat right with me seeing her filled with Doritos or corn chips. It seemed blasphemous to see her in the harsh light of day, instead nestled between us on the couch in the dark theater of our living room. That was her true home, her true calling.

My wife was shocked by our sadness and overcome with emotion, “We can keep it!” she yelled as I held it over the trash can, the sound of “Taps” coming from somewhere. But no, in the end the bottom was scarred from years of hot butter, and a crack had formed somehow. “Nothing gold can stay…” right Ponyboy? 

We give her quite a send off, probably more than any dishware deserves, plastic or otherwise, and my son concludes the ceremony with a salute. I applaud his choice: The salute, that action synonymous with duty and service. How many movies reflected off its sides? How many bags of popcorn had spilled their piping hot contents into its bottom? How many times did our hands touch within its walls? Were they a chance encounter or a reach for more than buttery sustenance?

Good-bye popcorn bowl. On the eve of Thanksgiving as we prepare to share food and drink with loved ones, and tell stories of gone ones, I will think of you, our companion on our weekly escape from reality, as we sat huddled on the couch…

Together.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Pizza, Hot Dog, Pretzel, and One Big Apple

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The view from our reasonably priced hotel room (we paid more to stay in Buffalo!)

Some kids are just made for the city.

Don’t get me wrong, millions of kids enjoy the city every year. They don cute little outfits to see a show on Broadway, or skate at Rockefeller Plaza. They window shop at Macy’s and marvel at the electricity of Times Square.

They see the sights and wonder how people can live here. It’s exciting but it’s so fast. It’s so dangerous. Too many cars, too many people, too much to do and not enough time.

The hours roll on and feet get tired. By the end of the day they yearn for their own house and their own bed. New York is great…once in awhile.

“Mike, instead of a party this year how about we go back to the city?”

His head jerks up from his homework and his eyes are wide.

“Best. Birthday. Ever.”

A few weeks pass and Mike is leading us to Platform 14 for the Metro North. So begins the first trip where he isn’t holding our hand. Pride and loss swirl through my heart.

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Metro-North New Haven. The flat brim hat is growing on me.

We step into the concourse of Grand Central Station and immediately look up. Constellations trace the ceiling and the noise of thousands of people rushing back and forth evaporates into the ether. It’s my favorite building in the city.

We walk the six blocks to the hotel stopping to watch an enormous Veteran’s Day parade march down 5th avenue. A firefighter shakes our hand and gives mike a little American Flag. He waves it proudly as we hustle across the crosswalk.

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View from the lobby at Marriott Herald Square

The hotel overlooks Herald square, and if you stretch to the left you can see the Empire State Building out of our window. I watch him stare. He’s quiet (rare) and pensive, and I am dying to know what he thinks. I don’t pry because I understand. New York is filled with people and things to see, but sometimes the journey is more internal. Possibility abounds, and you can’t help but wonder where your place in it may be. It’s awesome and often lonely. He looks so at home here.

He declines a seat on the subway, though at least five people offer him one. He wants to stand, surf the rails, live the strap-hanger life. He wants to be a part of it, wants to feel the sway of the car as it races through the dark. They laugh at him in wonder, but I’m not surprised. My son has this affect on people. He smiles back at them, but does his own thing. What’s left to teach him?

 

The Staten Island Ferry is free. We make the hour round trip to New York’s most dismissed borough because he wants to see “Lady Liberty.” He snaps off a few pictures as she comes into view.  He seems excited and this makes me happy. I hope symbols such as these maintain their integrity and worth to us as humans. In times of unease and mistrust, their importance is significant.

After a visit to my old apartment (Mike was not impressed) and a “full experience” cab ride, we walk the Highline. It’s an abandoned elevated train track converted to a park, and I am transcended. How cool. You can never walk two stories up. It’s either street level or looking down from the dizzying heights of gravity defying skyscrapers.

The experience is different and new to me. We start at Gansevoort Street. The gentrified meat-packing district is an interesting mix of grit and trendy “gastro-pubs.” Vegan restaurant here, a clan of cigarette smoking twenty-somethings spilling out of a bar there.

Paintings and sculptures line the Highline sparking discussions that span the topics of Spider-Man to reparations for slavery. There aren’t many nine-year-olds around us and Mike is a star. 

The rest of the evening rushes past us too quickly. The smell of ink and paper from Midtown Comics, a hot pretzel on the steps of the New York Post Office, dinner at Macy’s, a $108 elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building (my wife’s favorite) and dessert from a bodega in the hotel room.

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On the steps of the Post Office

In the end we walked 12.4 miles. No whining, no crying, no pleas to go home. “I want to live here one day,” he says as he drifts off to sleep.

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Hustling for the train down Park Avenue. Look at the form!

The next morning he leads us down Park Avenue to Grand Central. He runs up a flight of stairs outside a building and jumps  off the last few steps to the sidewalk. A pair of businessmen watch him. One smiles and looks at me. I know what he’s smiling at: the unadulterated joy of treating New York like a playground. 

We drive to my parents house to pick up Benny. My mom grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and she misses the life. She listens to Mike recount every detail of the trip. She talks to me alone in the kitchen over a cup of coffee.

“One time I went back to the city to go shopping or do something,” she said,  “It was great. When I got home my mother-in-law raised her voice and said to me with a shake of her head, ‘Why did you have to go to the city to do that?'”

She stares out the window and I feel her longing.

“Some people just don’t get it.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

I Love You Big Brother

 

IMG_0568I go where you go.

I do what you do.

I love you.

You knock me down.

You pick me up.

You brush me off.

You squeeze me too tight, but it’s ok. 

 

I miss you when you’re gone.

When you play with your friends I feel forgotten.

I yell for your attention.

I kick your shins, but I cry when I hurt you.

We play together.

You teach me.

You unlock mysteries for me.IMG_0320

You kiss my head when I’m sad.

I laugh at your jokes and you laugh at mine.

I feel safer when I’m with you.

You held me on the day I was born.

We have been connected ever since.

Do you see the way I look at you?

I go where you go.

I do what you do.

I love you.

Always.

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-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

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