30 Years Ago the World Stopped – Memories of The Challenger

christa130 years ago, the world stopped as nine dreamers vanished in a cloud of smoke into the atmosphere.  An event so emotionally damaging to a classroom of students that watched in exhilaration as their Teacher-in-space Sharon Christa McAuliffe joined payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist on a journey to the stars.

It was a dream come true, yet one that would end in tragedy just 73 seconds into the flight.  73 seconds into a magical countdown to space exploration, it was all over.  Students around the United States and the world watched as the shuttle vanished and the commentators spoke with uncertainty as to what had just transpired.  I remember the worlds vividly, “I hope they were able to survive.  I just don’t know.”

I recall leaning against the wall of the hallway, standing on line for lunch when Mr. Adams, our sixth grade science teacher walked slowly in the center of the two lines anguished.  He asked for our attention and explained to us what had just happened.

AP8601281739My older brother, whose passion for news and culture led to a six hour VHS tape of continuous news coverage and replay of the explosion until it was permanently branded into our brains.  It a time when our emotions and actions made us do things that were unexplainable.

As a child, becoming an astronaut was as important a dream as becoming a professional baseball player.  The idea of seeing the Earth as a small round object surrounded by darkness and stars was something we could only imagine in our sci-fi comic books.  To be Buck Rogers and maybe even meet an alien was the furthest spectrum of our over-zealous imaginations.  That all ended in seven adventurers in 73 seconds.

I have thought a lot over the last few years about what events truly magnified my senses and left an impression tattooed in my memory for the rest of my life.  For most, 9/11 is that moment.  An event so heinous; so shocking and so absolute that you became numb inside while being overtaken with silent anger.

The tragic event that occurred on January 28, 1986 was my event.  I had never witnessed or understood an event that froze my senses and awakened a level of understanding prior to this.  Like eating the apple in the Garden of Eden, this was the first moment I began to see a world I had never known; a world where people get hurt and good people die.

That was 30 years ago.  Even today, I can visualize all 73 seconds and beyond when that Y shaped stream of smoke appeared and the shuttle was gone.

memoria2I visited the memorial at Kennedy about 15 years ago.  I had goosebumps as I read the names.  I started to think of the students of Christa McAuliffe, and though they have grown up, my mind gravitated to those students watching as their teacher and mentor vanished into the sky in an instant fiery death.

When President Obama announced just before midnight that Bin Laden was killed in May, 2011, I was in a bar.  The crowd cheered, the bartender bought everyone a round of shots and within 3 minutes, everyone was back to their conversations about school, sports or drinking.  I looked around and thought about the Challenger.  In 1986, it was a time when we let out our emotions and tragedy had a moment to settle in.  Not much time has passed in the perspective of human evolution, but an entire world has changed.

Today, I will place extra special attention on remembering those brave members of NASA and their ultimate sacrifice.

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Two Matzah Balls – Jewish Love Story

love1Two score, seven months, three hours, forty-two minutes and sixteen seconds ago, two matzoh balls fell in love somewhere between Delancy Street and that pickle stand on the corner.  These were no two ordinary matzoh balls you see; these two were very different.  One was a strong military matzoh ball and the other, a working matzoh ball.  Unlike others, their story is filled with magic and intrigue.  It’s not like they met and dated because they lived near each other.  Come on, this Jewish fairy tale has to be better than that.  Throw in an Alan Ladd, Danny Kaye, and Johnny Mathis and you have yourself a regular epic.

To make a long story short or short story long, matzoh guy liked matzoh girl, but matzoh girls soup bowl was too far away so matzoh guy asked out matzoh girls friend whose bowl was on the same table as Matzoh guys.  Are you still with me?  Ok, good.  Now there is the excited matzoh girl, her friends and both their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and cousins twice removed….I think you know how far and deep Jewish guilt can go.

Let us just say they are now married.

Then there was the honeymoon and oh what a honeymoon.  Thus came noodle number one.  Noodle one was lonely in the soup bowl because there were no other noodles to play with so Mom and Dad Matzoh Ball decided to make another noodle.  Now there are two very cultured and mature noodles playing in the hot water and did they know how to groove to the music.

love2A few years later, Mom and Dad Matzoh Ball got bored.  Oops, looks like another noodle.  One destined to a life of formal wear.  This noodle was young and couldn’t understand the older noodles games so Mom and Dad Matzoh Ball felt it only right to have one more noodle in the bowl.  Yet the bowl was a bit too small so they moved out of the New York bowl and found a new larger New Jersey bowl.

Forty years later and only four minor setbacks, Matzoh guy and Matzoh girl are still happily floating in the same soup bowl sharing the love, understanding and caring that have kept them together for all these wonderful years.

And now, on the cusp of this most wondrous occasion, the noodles would like to present them with a chance to relive their first, memorable honeymoon with a four day, three night trip to Niagara Falls.  But please, no more noodles.

 

Sculpting Souls – Original Poem

scuplt1With the gentleness of his shaking hands, he molds the clay
Weariness on his aging leather skin; deep breathes hoping this one won’t be the last
A sculpture of souls

Now, his mind grows confused
Once a leader guided by the spirits in the clouds; now a relic, soon to be mourned under the basking sun

His hands hold a lifetime of healing; touching the soft petal of a flower; dropping grains of sand to the ocean like an hourglass; singing with the birds the harmony of nature

A warrior whose hands have not killed
A healer; a medicine man whose only cure was to swallow the essence of life

Now his hands saturated in a river of pain; too brittle to pray

This sculpture of souls pouring the memories of his childhood into a room of a skeletal remains

What become of his life; lost loves; dreams and hopes?
A mortal who reaches for immortality
So close to the clouds; so far from a home he once knew

hands1Now is a time to rest
To sleep under the stars that have protected him in all his journeys
He will think of her as his mind races for a dream world
Tonight he imagines one more sunrise

We can change the world..with words

words3The Amazon Original series Betas follows the trials and tribulations of a group of aspiring techies in San Francisco that have developed the BRB app, a social platform that could revolutionize the way we connect.  Late in season one, Trey Barrett, the creator and CEO is face to face with Zack Casper (what we would call the screen version of Mark Zuckerberg).  This Silicon Valley giant asks Trey want he wants to do and he simple says, “I want to change the world”.

A bold statement that could make a dreamers hair stand up on end.

We look at Facebook and the IPhone and ask ourselves, did Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg change the world?  The answer is yes.  The debate on whether it has changed for good or bad will never have a victor, but they altered how we live our daily lives.

Over one hundred years ago, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison stood in those same shoes.

Prior; Sir Isaac Newton, MichaelAngelo, DaVinci and Socrates.   All visionaries.  All contributors to the evolution of mankind.

One constant has remained that truly has “changed” the face of human existence: Words.  From the scriptures of the Bible to the vows of marriage, words have remained as the cornerstone of existence.

Words have motivated, inspired, taught us right from wrong, given us the courage to take on insurmountable risk; and taken us to the highest points on Earth.  Words have the power to move mountains and put us in a state of peace and tranquility.

words1How many times in our lives do we find ourselves asking the question, “What will be my legacy?”  Did we lead a life of virtue and value in a period that is corrupted by the insanity of greed and power.  Tomorrow there may be one individual that will be 1.4 billion dollars richer, while on July 29, 1890, a penniless artist had his life taken away.  That man continues today to inspire us with Starry Nights and Sunflowers.

In a pile with hundreds of other nameless faceless peasants, lied the remains of a man that composed a symphony by age 8 and continues to be heard and interpreted around the world.

Words give birth to music, thoughts, ideas, theories, dreams and new evolutionary realities.

Words believe.  Words trust.

It is within us to be great; not for the money in our wallets or the exposure we receive, but the way we inspire.

When you think about your legacy and what you have contributed and more importantly, have you changed the world, look at the people whose life you have touched.  Not with anything material, but your words and kindness.

Listen and hear the worlds all around you.  They are connected to something wonderful.

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Why Additional Gun Control Legislation Just Won’t Work

numb1This morning, President Obama is discussing executive actions on gun control.  It is a noble act and in light of one of the most violent and deadliest years the United States has seen (outside of Civil War), it makes sense from the framework of a political mind.  In fact, on December 25 (Christmas), there were 27 gun related homicides (not including suicide) which was more than eight combined countries around the world for all of 2015.

The issue is simple:  These are just words on a piece of paper hidden behind the walls of a historic building with very little chance of leading to positive change.  I know that is a rather negative statement, but what we are witnessing is a political response.  When we have a tragic event, someone or something must answer and take responsibility and that is guns.

We are just brushing one thing under the rug but ignoring so many other key elements of the problem.

Let us take a look at other factors that need critical attention:

  • With population increase, there are volume increases in sub-groups within a population.  As federal and state funding decreases, some groups do not have the resources, shelters and often go undiagnosed.  That is the population of mentally ill.  As there are struggles to have institutions to house these individuals and health care cost concerns that result in so many going undiagnosed, we have a national issue of mental illness that needs immediate attention and resolution.
  • Social media has created a culture of immediacy, laziness, emotional disconnect, public forum without thought, process and due diligence and accessibility.  With the lines of global communication open, digital addictions, forced agendas and opinions and a general human disconnect, we are shut down from emotional connection and fragile to brain washing.
  • numb2The millennials are the “second” generation to fall pray to the social kidnapping that is creating a society of followers that are weakened by economic turmoil, lack of jobs, violence, overcrowding and hatred.  The parents were the first to begin with Farmville and end with the celebration of the Ku Klux Klan and Donald Trump.  Without strong parenting role models, our children have little hope.
  • Wage disparity.  The gap between the extreme rich and much higher majority in the poverty category has always been a part of the US infrastructure.  Now we are at the worst levels in over half a century and the gap is getting larger.  Money is the root of evil for many.  When 1% can buy 50% of the people, you will get backlash.
  • Education issues.  Ignorance is bliss.  Are there still schools and parents that believe blacks should still be slaves, rednecks shouldn’t date their family and financial institutions and politicians  are greedy agenda driven thieves.  Yes.  They are still pushing these narrow minded appeals on today’s youth.  Also, the quality of education is driving the US down in science and mathematics and make it difficult to compete for some of the most competitive careers as well.
  • Finally, apathy.  We are walking around like zombies (thus the popularity of the shows) without feeling, without emotion and most importantly without the need to feel responsibility for our own actions.

Maybe we need to look at all the factors and develop, not just legislation but examples of positive change not just for the good of our home, but the future of our planet.

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A New Beginning – Original Poem

photo1I climbed so high I could see eternity
Deep beyond the clouds into the cosmos
My life is free; unconditional release
Circumventing the orbit of the sub conscious world we call reality

I can see clearly now
The grey smoke of hatred and fear have subsided
The vision is as clear as the entrance way between Heaven and Earth

The future belongs to another
A generation of change
The children are the guiding force in a world void of direction

They will overcome; destroying the immoral pit
Sharks swimming all around their parents
Venomous water snakes penetrating their skin with the poison of lust and greed

There is no rescue for them
No sign of retribution for the sins so deep they burn through the words of the bible with laser accuracy

A new book will be written
New laws, not governed by the lawless
Upheld by the innocence of right

Laughter will replace tears
The needy will reach out their hands as the powerful

photo2No following
The dignity of leadership will guide
Teaching one another
Lessons in pride, dignity, confidence and value

A new world order where money is but a symbol of a another time; another place; a relic of the past

It will be a place where children will slide down rainbows
Hugs will be the standard currency
Love will dictate all living things

A new beginning is upon us all

Caution: Some content may be too difficult to read

silenceI have a green coffee mug that I have had since 2013.  It cost a dollar.   I know that because I saw it at the Dollar Store.  I use it almost every week and plan to keep it until I lose it, break it or die.  Why?

It was given to me as the final gift of a 41 year old friend that lost her life to brain and spinal cancer.  She didn’t have a lot of money or the chance to shop as she spent most of her last few months in hospital beds, but she felt the need to get gifts for her special friends that spent days and nights by her side.  She also gave me scratch offs that yielded me $7.00.  All in all a nice bounty.

I am reminded on a daily basis that life doesn’t run by any simple rules of fairness or equality.  In fact, for many good people, it sucks.

So often in my past, when I witness or am impacted by something heinous, I look to something good to balance that out.

Lately, that is becoming more difficult.

Recently, I was impacted by some events that sent shivers down my spine.  Here are only a few:

Last June, nine innocent worshipers were senseless assassinated in their church where they sought salvation and prayer because they were black.

In October in Carlise, Pennsylvania, a 61 year old HIV positive man raped a six year old boy while another man videotaped.

In October, Derek Jones, 37 of Rocky Mount, NC was arrested for the alleged rape of an 11 year old.

All three men are behind bars, but awaiting a fair and just trial.  For the murderer of nine, the initial opening statements will not occur until 17 months after the slaying.

touch1On Thursday morning at 6:00 AM, just hours after the EmanuelAME shooting that left nine dead in my home city of Charleston, I watched the sunrise and stood in silence listening to the water in the harbor and wondering how and why.  The silence in the air was deafening as I waited for some sign to tell me there was a purpose.  There wasn’t.  The victims wanted to go home to their families and live a full and long life.  To this day, I have not stood on the sidewalk in front of that church.

Several months ago, I was in mixed company and current events came up and I was lost as I don’t watch much television, watch any news or read newspapers.  One woman was shocked.  She couldn’t comprehend why.  I explained that the important things in my life are all around me.  They are the people, things and events that shape my life.

Millions will react to every celebrity death, every plane crash, every bombing and for a few brief moments (because that is all this world of immediacy will allow us) we will mourn and move on.

I wish we all took some time to think and be still.

A song found its way to me and it symbolizes my goals for 2016 and beyond.  Be still for a moment, left emotions absorb into you and find a way to give just a little goodness.

Lets Be Still – The Head and the Heart – Video