SUDDENLY THE ROOM WENT DARK.


Bang! Bang! I was awoken from a deep sleep and jumped up from bed. My head collided with something hard and I fell back into bed. I felt an intense pain race down my neck and into my lower back. My face felt as if I was walking under a sprinkler. Immediately I knew what was coming next. I could taste the viscus liquid on my lips, I was bleeding. I looked up and  noticed the nail on the bottom of the upper bunk. I had not slept in a bunk bed in many decades and the bed had taken its revenge on my head. The pain became more intense and I grabbed the blanket and applied pressure to my head, but the flow of blood was stead and unrelenting. I felt as if I could not breathe. I tried to open my eyes fully but my sight was being obscured by the red flow.  I called for Paul, but there was no answer. I more carefully stood from the lower bunk.

I tried to move forward but did not get far. I was pulled  toward the floor by an unseen force at my left ankle.  I used my hands to cushion my fall and let go of the blanket and the stream of blood became a torrent. I heard the scrapping of metal against concrete and felt the coolness of the concrete floor under my elbows. The impact was painful and I screamed from its intensity.  I thought the pain in my elbows would be the worst, then my chin meet the concrete floor. My jaw was on fire. I pulled at my left leg but it was not going anywhere.

Bang! Bang! Bang! I had forgotten about what had awoken me. It was gun fire. I was certain of it. I shouted for Paul again, but there was still no answer. Suddenly there was an intense beam of light. The door slammed into the wall with a loud bang and the intensity of the light made me realize how dark the room was. I heard a loud voice in a strange language. Suddenly the room went dark again. There was a bag over my head.

YOUNG LIEUTENANTS


As I ran against the crowd the intensity of the gun fire increased. I had to ask myself why I was not going in the opposite direction with the rest of the crowds. It was not a question worth asking at this point since I had to get back to the apartment and get the rest of the family. The city was under fire from the rebels and I was determined to get the entire family out before the rebels took control. I was a known government employee and my family had always been loyal to the government. We would not be safe under the new regime. I had promised to get every family member out of the city. I had made the mistake of getting my parents out before meeting my nephews who lived closer to the front.

My brothers were on duty at the front and I was responsible for the safety of the rest of family. At first it seemed like I was doing the logical thing. I got the sick and the older relatives out and left the fit and young for last. I was hoping that they could run faster than the crowds. We were a fit family, we were a military family. All the young men were expected to join the service so we were always ready for war.

I pushed through the crowds and made it to the apartment complex. The sound of artillery was deafening, but there was no sight of combatants. The gates were open and the courtyard was empty. I stopped to catch my breath hands on knees. As I recovered from the run it hit me that the fighting must have entered the city proper. I never though things would get this far, but we were prepared. The sun was moving toward the horizon and night fall would arrive within the next 2 hours. I had to pick up the pace before nightfall. The red indicator lights were blinking. It was soon going to be really dark in the neighborhood, the mains power was out. I swiped my card and gained entrance to the complex. I would have to take the stairs since the elevators were powered off during emergencies. As I started the climb to the 5th floor a projectile crash through the door. I crouched along the stairway as what looked like a small recon drone scanned the room. As an intelligence officer it took me seconds to recognise the drone. It was a rebel recon drone. It scanned the room and moved toward the courtyard. I used the opportunity to continue climbing, there would be a few more drones moving soon.

I moved as quickly and quietly as I could. I finally got to the apartment breathless and sweaty. I knocked and the door opened quickly. The boys were ready. Backpacks were filled with food, water and weapons. They were well prepared for a fight. They handed me a survival kit. I was proud of their preparation but Max and Taylor were a little too eager for the fight. I repressed the thought and slipped my backpack on and told them about the drone. They had more information than I realized. They had seen the drone and had been watching as the fighting got closer to the neighborhood. It was not the ideal time to introduce them to the brutality of war, but it had to happen at some point. It took less than 5 minutes for us to debrief , plan and move out. I felt like I was a young lieutenants leading a small recon team. I was long pass those days but I too was itching for the fight. The family was safely away from the front and it was time for us to find the rest of our team.

SNOW


Living on the 22nd floor was great, but I felt a need to get out of the house. I had not left the house in about three days. It had been warm in the apartment and the closest I had gotten to the blizzard was watching from my window. For the first time in a long while I did not have to shovel a sidewalk or spread salt. It was a wonderful feeling. I was even happier with my decision to sell my car last summer. The last few days were even better that classes had been cancelled and my pantry was stocked and prepared for a long stint inside. It was going to take a special event to get me out of the house.

The view from the 22nd floor was glorious. I sat in the front of the apartment and sipped my cocoa tea and enjoyed what I saw. The apartment was in the front of the building overlooking the street and across from my favorite park. It was a great place to live in the summer and I was about to find out how much fun winter could be. Well not really, I was here for the summer not the winter. I had thought my research would have been complete before the first snow but it was not even thanksgiving and a giant snow storm had already stalled the city. My hope for a short winter without much snow was already headed in the wrong direction. I was still hoping but not hopeful. The old timers were certain that it was going to be a cold snowy season. I should have followed my instincts and taken the assignment in South Florida. But the draw of the city was too much. I convinced myself that another year in the cold would be ok. Only 2 months in and all my assumptions had already been proven incorrect. I was hoping I was going to get at least one prediction correct. It was not looking good.

Well, I did get one thing correct. The stray cat I had adopted was still around. Kitty was with me at the window enjoying the view. She was curled up by the heater with her face against the glass. The glass was cold and the floor warm, so I was lost as to why she was in that position. She was a cat after all, there is no making sense with them. Maybe she just needed to make sure there was an actual barrier there. The window was a giant pane of glass, it was in fact the entire front wall of the apartment. We had a postcard view. We sat in silence for what seemed like forever until she suddenly jumped up unto my lap and demanded my attention. I was not fast enough for her it seems so she started to lick my face. I started to pet her but she was not satisfied. She jumped off my lap and was back at the window and looking down intently. I followed her gaze. She was looking into the park. I gazed into the park just as intently as she did, but all I saw was a blanket of snow covering my running track.

I got back into my comfy seat and tried to get back to my mug. That did not last. Kitty was back in my face showering me with saliva. I followed her to the window, she was trying to show me something I assumed. I still only saw snow. I backed up to my seat and as I was in the motion of setting I noticed some motion in the tree line beyond the 400 meter track. There was just enough movement, but I could not tell what was moving. It was not windy so something other than the wind was causing the movement. I would have ignored it, but the streets were empty and the track was covered in snow, no one should have been out there. So I decided to go investigate.

I WILL NOT BE DECIEVED.


I could feel the heat of the morning sun sneaking through the crack in the heavy curtains keeping my room dark and cool. As I tried to hide from the heat the cacophony of bird chirps irritated my ears. I was usually an early riser but I had a little too much fun before going to bed. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled the curtains open and my eyes were assaulted by the brightness of the early morning sun. Ben was still asleep, neither the light nor the audio assault of the many birds stirred him. I could not sleep anymore. It was time to start my day. There was only one problem. My head was paying the price for the excessive of the night before. It came on slowly but I was definitely nauseous and the room was spinning faster and faster the longer I stood. My stomach felt like it was lodged in the back of my throat. My salivary glands oozed increasing quantities of fluid. I had not felt this poorly in many years.
I slowly backed up and rolled back into bed. I closed my eyes tightly, but there was no relief. Suddenly my stomach blew up like a tense balloon followed closely by the release of its contents up my esophagus and through my oropharynx and out my mouth onto the floor. The taste was not as bad as I thought it would have been. The back of my throat relived the bitter taste of the IPA I had had too much of the night before followed by the saltiness of the fries. I was happy not to locate the taste of the fish, it was not that good. It was a very fast review of my last meal followed by another quick reminder. After the third time I had had enough reminders. The bed had collected the last two explosions and the smell had gone from beer to unbearable.

The room was spinning and the light of the sunrise was burning my cornea. I closed my eyes tightly and remained still. I was not rewarded. The room continued to spin and the volcanic activity in my stomach continued. I lost count of the explosions, but the worsening taste did not escape me. I was certain that my stomach was empty but the expulsions continued. It seemed as if my duodenum was collapsing under the force of the attempts to pull the fluids from my small intestine. Closing my eyes did not stop my world from spiraling down the drain. Ben did not move a muscle. I felt as if I were dying a long slow death. I was too weak to get up and was now laying in foul-smelling cold vomit. All I could remember was my grandma, Mama, quoting the bible “Wine is a mocker, he so deceived is a fool”.
Next time, I will not deceived.

LONG COLD NIGHT.


I could just hear it, that clatter. It was like my head was about to explode. I tried to get up but it felt as if I was being held down by a bear. The weight on my chest was immovable. As I struggled I felt a burning sensation in my left arm and leg. As I struggled to get free of the weight that held me in place, the clatter became a pounding. My head was pounding and my stomach suddenly wanted to explode. The weight on my stomach became unbearable and I could feel the on coming eruption. I stumbled trying to get to the bathroom. With the urge to empty of my stomach I overcame the weight and stumbled to the bathroom and emptied my stomach onto the floor. There was an awful smell and the eruption just continued. I tried to reach the commode but stepped into the erupta and fell. My stomach continued to erupt. I smashed my head against the commode and felt a jolt of pain piercing through my body.

My eyes opened, but I did not see the commode. I was not in my bathroom. All I could see was white. That awful smell was still there and the taste of vomit in the back of my throat was pungent. I was cold and the world seemed upside down. I was upside down. It was my seat belt that was holding me in place with the deployed airbag in my face. There was vomit every where.

As I came to my senses I realized that it was the middle of the night. I was upside down in a ditch. I had had too much to drink and tried to drive home in the snow. I should have known better. Suddenly the pain in my left arm and leg became almost unbearable. I could not move my arm and I could see what looked like bone sticking out of my leg. It was going to be a long cold night.

LET THEM FLY.


As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.

My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.

We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.

My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.

I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.

THE GIFT OF WORDS


There is a time and place for everything is a saying that is banded about often. For me, Sunday morning is a time for words and words are key to opening the world. I learned my appreciation for words from my father and grandfather. Both read a lot and gave me the desire to read. The power of words are in their ability to transport. Unlike any other medium words are all-powerful. They transport both in time and place. How far we get transported is determined by our willingness to grasp the full meaning of the words we encounter. There is no short cut to getting to full understanding. All understanding comes via a dictionary. I had to learn that the hard way. I wanted to get the words without putting in the dictionary time. I resisted examining the meaning of unfamiliar words. My resistance stifled the growth of my vocabulary. Over time I have come to the understanding that a dictionary is an essential tool. I now check my dictionary as often as I can and am the better for it.

Sunday morning is my special day. Sunday morning is my newspaper day. Getting the Sunday paper and reading for hours is my joy. The importance of reading cannot be underestimated. I want to read for fun and encourage all to do the same. Sitting in a comfortable chair with a coffee and the Sunday New York Times makes my weekend. The feel of the paper between my fingers. The sounds and pictures created in my mind are always a joy. Giving that joy to my children is my goal.
Giving the love of words to our children is the most vital gift. We must give them that gift without reservation and allow them to express themselves. They will surprise and delight us. I love words because they have opened the world to me. They bring the outside in and the inside out. They transport and uplift. They transform and elevate. Giving the power of words transmits great expectations and challenges the receiver to greatness.

Let us challenge the children in our life with meaningful words. The love of words will open to them the broad expanses of life’s possibilities.

PLEASE CHALLENGE ALL OUR CHILDREN


The new school year starts with that optimism that is potentially infectious. Our children love learning and helping them learn is the primary job of their schools. The challenge is to present a plan and educational approach that brings the best out of all our children. How we do that is not as important as the philosophy of the system. The primary tool is between our ears.

The training of our bodies for athletic improvement is one of ever greater physical challenge and our brains are just another muscle. Only via challenging exercise can we have growth. The current obsession with providing advance programs in schools is commendable, but is missing the point of advanced programs. The focus as devolved into an attempt to promote and glorify the early learners. We are missing the biggest lesson of advanced programs. Our children can handle the challenge. What is missing is the capacity of the system to provide challenge to all our children. All our children will excel if we provide the challenge needed to grow their brain capacity. The is no genetics that provides advanced learning skills. Those skills are a result of the milieu to which our children are exposed. If expectations are high for all our children and the bar is set high for all we can achieve great things.

The constant excuse is that children arrive unprepared. It is a poor  excuse. The function of school is to mold and challenge the brains of our children. How we express that challenge is less important that the fact that challenge is provided. The goal is to provide a platform of learning. The current en vogue system is for bringing computers into our schools. Computers are a commendable introduction and like with all tools the approach to their use is the only important factor. The hardware should be cost-effective and our children should be allowed to break and repair them. Learning how to take care of the hardware develops confidence in a meaningful way. If the cost of the systems are low it provides the system with savings that can be better applied. Learning is about having the confidence to explore and fail. Failing in a supportive, constructive environment is where the most learning takes place. Failing at tasks in a system where the expectation is that all will succeed is the real challenge all our children need this new school year. Working hard to overcome failure is the best part of school. Let us provide that safe environment for success for all our children.

ARNOLD


We had the smallest office in the community work space we shared with three other local start-ups. It was my turn to prep the office for the day. We slept little and worked a lot, but the weekend was sacred, so we all went home. Under a bright full moon I fumble just enough with the keys to notice that there was an open window in the building adjacent to ours. I ignored it  but I did notice the slight irritation of chlorine in my nostrils. I ignored that too, and while opening the door noticed that it was heavier than usual.

I pushed the door open expecting to find something blocking it, but there was nothing. I checked the hook on the back of the door and there it was, a winter coat. It was a heavy-looking neon orange winter coat. Even in the Florida winter such a coat would be out-of-place. The slight hint of chlorine was more pronounced, but I ignored it.

We called our building the gym, since it was just a large industrial building divided into work spaces. In a previous incarnation it was a dance studio. The floor was made of wonderful material and felt great under foot, so most of us walked around bare footed. I ignored my intuition, took off my shoe and placed them on the shoe rack. The shoe rack was the water cooler of our office. We all wore shoes made by the Shoe Company. It was the first local start-up to make it big and we were all proud to show off our latest wears.

We were proud to share space with them. They had long pasted the start-up phase, but they still had that feel. Most mornings  I would go visit their sector to see what cool designs they had on display. Mike, one of the co-founders was always first in the office and we would share coffee and catch-up. He still slept in his office many nights and worked like a dog. Recently he talked about slowing down. He had gotten engaged and it was time to play more than he had been.

Mike and I were the coffee people and I was going to miss him discovering exotic blends. We had a deal with the coffee importer on the second floor. We rigged a shoot that delivered the latest coffee to us each morning. We had a coffee treat everyday. Coffee from the heaven we called it. As per our arrangement a new flavor was awaiting me. I did not hear anyone in the office but assumed that the heavy coat belonged to Mike. I setup the brew and decide to check Mike’s office and tease him about him having a winter coat in the Sunshine State.

As I opened Mike’s office that subtle scent of chlorine became a dense fog clogging my eyes and nose. I called for Mike but there was no response. As I caught my bearing I noticed that the office was a wreck. It was as if a hurricane had passed through. There was no sign of Mike, but I did notice several brown spots on the floor.
The six desks in the office had there draws out and the pictures from the wall were on the floor. The chlorine was choking and so I opened the windows. I hurried out of the office to avoid being overwhelmed by the smell.

I ran to the front door and opened it to get some airflow. On the way out I noticed that the other spaces looked just as I had left them last Friday. No one was to have been here over the weekend. My office was the only space containing any valuables so I went to check our safe. All I could think of was that we had been robed, but why the heavy chlorine smell. Once into my space I noticed it was essentially untouched. I called Mike’s number and I heard a phone ringing in the office. I followed the ringing to the community restroom and noticed his phone was on the window ledge. Mike was nowhere to be found and it would be another two hours before anyone else was expected in the office.

The state of Mike’s office, the smell of chlorine and Mike’s phone being in the bathroom was all suspect. You, Arnold, was the first person I called.

WHAT IS YOUR AMERICAN DREAM?


Every July 4th I remind myself of the courage of the founders of my country. The beauty of the declaration of independence is in the broad inclusiveness of the sentiments expressed. The global equality of mankind as expressed is at the root of the American dream. However, the history of our country is littered with the carcasses of failed policies and leaders who have not lived up to the lofty expectations of that celebrated document. The 4th should be used as a time to refocus on the sentiments expressed. This land of immigrants is not about where you were born, but about what you believe in. It is about fairness, equity and the continuous match toward a more perfect union.

The dream of America is alive and prospering despite all the attempts to distract. Some have lost hope in the self-evident greatest of the American experiment. I am not one. For people of color the American experience is that of continued heart-break, but there runs a determined strain of hope that as continued to improve our lot in this union. I read the declaration of independence on the 4th to be reminded of the promise and the progress. This is a marathon not a sprint, and we dream of true equality as we march toward that goal. This is my American dream.

I have hope because I have to be hopeful. I have young children and I know that the world has changed for the better and that change will continue. Most importantly I know that the growth in American society is irreversible because my generation and the following have made it so. As the country ages those who express the old prejudices have been out numbered and embarrassed into submission. There will always be a few stubborn ones. There will always be some expressions of darkness, but the light of equity is here to say. Progress has been slow and inconsistent but it is here to stay.

The continuous expression of hope and growth is why I continue to love my America. American greatness is derived from the philosophy of her people. If you were born in this land or emigrated the dream is the same. We are a people buoyed by hope and the understanding that we can be the best and always expect to be.

What is your American dream?