Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Astronaut Birthday Cake

At eight years old, my favorite sound was the school bell ringing at 3 P.M., which signaled the end of the school day!. Once outside the school, I would run to the corner and meet with my friends, my older Sister and her friends. We would begin our walk home in a large group, taking turns in exchanging the classroom happenings.

With each passing street the group shrunk in size as our friends went into their homes. The last two blocks was just my Sister and me. We always took a brief pause in our walk to check out the corner bakery and would marvel at the front window displaying the most sumptuous desserts,.

It was fifty years ago, yet the sight of this one particular cake is forever engraved in my mind. It was one week from my 8th birthday, “Look at that birthday cake!” I exclaimed to my Sister. The cake was a half dome, smothered with white icing and three astronauts planted on the top. “Oh man, my birthday is coming up and I hope I get that cake!” I said excitedly to my Sister. My Sister, had inherited the disciplinary side of my Mom replied, “Forget about it, it’s probably too expensive, Mommy can’t afford it and if you eat it, you’ll get fat!” I was pulled away from the window with my wishes falling to the concrete. My parents had recently divorced and even my small immature mind sensed the dire circumstances.

The week passed quickly and my birthday came. It was on a Sunday and my Mother took me and my two Sisters to a local amusement park where we spent the afternoon going on rides, eating cotton candy and laughing at the clowns that passed by. A neighbor had joined us for our Sunday dinner, my favorite, roast beef and mashed potatoes. The table was cleared, and as my Mom came out from kitchen, she dimmed the lights and started a chorus of “Happy Birthday to you”. She lowered her homemade birthday cake with nine burning candles. My eyes focused on the candles and the wish I was about make.

The ringing of the telephone interrupted our song. . “Oh honey, please hold on to that wish…I’ll be right back.” I stared at the brightly burning candles reminding myself they had to blown out with one breath. A few seconds had passed when our neighbor suggested that we check up on Mom, as those candles were making their decent into the cake. We walked into her room and could not believe what we were seeing.. My Mother slumped over in her chair, her face in her hands and sobbing. The phone dangled by its cord. Our neighbor picked up the phone, listened, then said “O.K., I’ll tell the children, I am very sorry, she’ll call you back.” The neighbor turned to us and said, “I’m sorry, but your Grandfather has just passed away.” My Sisters shrieked and began crying, I was too confused. I ran back to the cake with the candles burning, drew a deep breath and wished this wasn’t happening, that my Grandfather was still alive and my mother wasn’t crying.
I blew out the candles and ran back into the room to the haunting sobs. It was my turn to cry.

The neighbor escorted us out of the room and cleaned up the table while my sisters and I wept ourselves to sleep.

I woke the next morning and had hoped the night before was a bad dream, but one look at my Mom and I knew this was real. I was always proud that my Mom was a pretty lady, but on this morning, she was a stranger to me. Her face was drawn; the life had been pulled from it. She wore large sunglasses to cover her puffed eyes and her hair completely disheveled. I could not believe that grief and sadness could change the way a person looked. “I will be going to California for the funeral; Lottie will come and stay with you for the week that I am away. Please behave yourself, and listen to everything Lottie says.”

The week passed my young heart was heavy with sadness and despair for what my Mother was going through. I prayed that when she returned she would look like “mom” again.

Our neighbor took us to the airport to meet her. As soon as we spotted her exit, we charged at her, her face seemed to brighten, her eyes still covered by the sunglasses.
We piled into the backseat of the car and she in the front and told us about her trip, how Grandma and our Aunts and Uncles were doing. She asked how we managed during the week and we filled her in. She turned around to me and said, “I know how hard this must be for you, as the news came at the worst possible moment. When we get home give me the names of your friends, I’ll make out invitations, and next week we will have a make-up birthday party for you.” I didn’t understand how someone could have a birthday party on a day that wasn’t their birthday, but I accepted my Moms suggestion feeling that I would never be able to celebrate my birthday on that same day ever again.

The following Sunday arrived and my friends showed up. We played board games, spin the tail on the donkey, ate candy and made noise. My Mom served up some hot dogs and just as we finished eating, the lights went out and she began a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You”, I shut my eyes and prayed that phone would not ring. When I opened them the brightly light cake was positioned in front of me. It was the astronaut cake! “WOW” I exclaimed, “I can’t believe it!” My lungs felt lighter and took a huge gulp of air, made my wish and blew the candles out with a hurricane force wind!

I leaned forward and removed the three astronaut figures from the cake. I licked the icing off their boots and placed them next to my plate. My Mom cut the cake and gave me the largest piece saying that the birthday boy gets the bigger piece. I dug my fork in and scooped up a piece that was larger than my mouth and as I began to stuff it into my mouth I glanced over at my sister who was laughing at the sight. My eyes caught a glimpse of my mom, who was once again smiling and looking like her beautiful self. For the first time in what seemed a dark eternity, my world seemed right again.

A parent knows all too well how confusing this world can be to a child. Grief, disappointment and deceit enter without an introduction or warm up. We are too unprepared to deal with the event but are always left carrying the scars of it.
The sky had fallen on my head, and her sky had fallen on her, yet she had the inner strength to come lift mine first. On that day, with allowing a few friends to celebrate and an astronaut cake she was able to take hold of my hand and walk me through a terrifying pathway of life.

So I have learned, with the love of a parent, a child will be able to defy the gravity of life’s harsh realities.

Peace…Marc J

Thursday, August 28, 2008


    Imagine for a moment, that movie theaters had no marquis. That's right, no names in the bright lights, no posters on the front doors. You enter the theater, sit down, and must watch whatever appears on the giant screen!

   Now imagine, that you are the main character in each movie!  "What? How did I get in this flick?" you would always ask yourself! "I must be dreaming!" The truth is, you would be dreaming!

  We close our eyes each night and are escorted into a theater where we have no idea what scenes are about to take place. Most likely, we are the main character, speaking lines and playing a part that we have not rehearsed.

  The other night I closed my eyes and was eascorted to my seat in this theater. The scene opened, and standing before me was my first love, wearing a wedding dress and white flowers in her hair. She had aged the many years that lie between us, but had that youthful look in her eyes. A voice spoke loud, "You may now kiss the bride". In the same instant a narrative explained that we met later on in life and were now being wed!"At Last" I breathed,as we both slowly leaned towards each other. Our lips met,and I could feel the warmth and tenderness of this special kiss. As our lips parted, I took her hand  and placed it on my heart heart. I smiled and said, "look how fast my heart beats from your kiss". There was a twinkle in her eyes, and a smile on her face as she said "you remembered".

  In the next instant I was jumping out bed, beads of sweat running down my neck and my heart racing as if I swallowed a bottle of rocket fuel! In my altered state I went straight to the bathroom and turned the shower to full blast. "What was that?" I mutered to myself as the water pounded down on my head. "What was that?" ....Puzzled like a person who lands in foreign country and can't speak a word of their language.

 I replayed the dream over and over, very careful not to edit or embellish, as if it was going to be evidence that would be submitted in court. I was locked in this altered state, unable to sort out the meaning. Her last words "you remembered" haunted me. What was it that I remembered?  What was it that she thought I had forgotten?  What could have created this whole scenario?  Slowly, the truth began to emerge, not all at once, but slowly, like the sun rising over the horizon.

   When we close our eyes and enter the arena of sleep, we let go of reality. Once reality is tucked away, a cinema that we are not aware of begins playing. The doors to our heart open and many emotions come pouring out seeking a direction.. If we are lucky, the heart will take them to place in time when great changes occured in our lives. If we are really lucky, they return to the point where the toe of innocense made its fist step into the sea of love.

    My rapidly beating heart occured at our first kiss.We always ask ourself when engaging in that first kiss,"what does he/she think?"  There was no denying thet her kiss could make my heart pound and I was happy to show her. She always responded, "yeah, but will you say that tomorrow?"  

   What I had forgotten in reality, I remembered in a dream!

Only in a dream can one be returned to place where all the broken promises are put back together to form an unbreakable vow.

  So, as you wander through your days and close your eyes at night, just know, that someone, somwhere has placed you in their cinema, reassembled all the broken promises and remembers what reality has taken away. May you rise in the morning knowing,there exists a place where there are unbreakable vows.

Marc :)



Thursday, July 24, 2008

Young At Heart

The newspapers are loaded with the back to school advertisements. As the school bells ring they signal not only the start of a new school year, but they signal the end of summer.

The first day of school was always exciting. It was a time to take the new sneakers out of the box, to sport a new outfit and the new lunch box! The first day was all about introductions. The teacher introducing herself, her expectations and her groundwork which had to be followed. It was a time to introduce yourself to your new classmates. In each new grade, the same exercise  was imposed upon us by the teacher. "I want you to stand up, introduce yourself and tell the class briefly what you did this summer"

There was one year, many years ago, that I couldn't wait to stand up and boast to my friends about my summer! I took a deep breath, "My name is Marc and this summer I visited my family in Los Angeles. I went to 5 Dodger games, saw Sandy Koufax pitch a no-hitter, went to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm. Spent a lot of time at Santa Monica beach,learned how to body surf on big waves. I went to Carmel California where I visited the Hearst Castle. Went to a drive in movie theater a few times. Visited the production lot of Twentieth Century Fox and saw them film the TV shows "WagonTrain" & "The Lucille Ball Show". Had lunch in the commisary and Rock Hudson was sitting at the table next to mine! Flew in a big jet, and that was my summer!

I remember getting my share of attention from the girls at the mention of Rock Hudsons name. It was resonated like Pavlovs theory. I employed it often.

One thought provocation often leads to another, my mind has intervened and asked me point blank.."O.K. Marc, please stand up and tell the class what you have done in the summer of 2008" 

(kness cracking as I slowing rise).... I purchased a Blackberry, Also purchased a compact car that gets over 30 miles to to the gallon. Had my first MRI, a hearing exam which revealed a hearing loss,. Got new glasses, stronger prescription, switched to decaffinated coffee. Between the blistering heat and smoke from summer fires and the soaring gas prices, spent quality time indoors. Painting doors, rearranging the pantry and closets.Dropped the Blackberry in the toilet. Went to a ballgame,caught the same fish twice in the same day! (I guess even fish can get bored). Scheduled a colonoscopy.

WHAT????  "I can't believe this" I murmed to myself. "I want to be 12 again!!".

There are pills, longevity diet plans, elixers, etc that all promise the "Fountain Of Youth".  Nothing can turn back the hands of nothing. The worst part about growing older is when you feel older.While there isn't a cure for aging,there is something that keeps the spirit vital and vibrant. The walk down the road of time should always be with chin up and the world in view.

This is best achieved with a simple dance, so if any of you ladies care to join in, my good friend Frank will serenade us while we slowly dance....

by the way,,,did I ever tell you that I once sat next to Rock Hudson?

...on 3 Frank..."1,2,3"

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you're young at heart
For its hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If youre young at heart

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on its way

Dont you know that its worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are, its much better by far
To be young at heart

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all youll derive out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart.

May your summer days be filled with dreams that will bring you warmth for years to come!...and may you stay, Young at heart!!!

~~~Marc :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Every Step we take

From the moment of birth we take countless steps. The paths go off in  many different directions and will intersect with other paths, but the last step we take brings us all to the same place, our death..

Imagine for a moment that you were living in 1776, and that you walked through a door and found yourself here in 2008! Highways, cities, cars, planes, cell phones, computers,supermarkets, toilets!! You would be overwhelmed by how far we advanced, but not knowing how we came to the way we currently live, much of this could not be fully appreciated.

We must take the steps, as ordinary as that might be.Some directions we choose, and some are chosen for us. Each is with a reason, whether we are meant to understand it or not. The language of Nature has been open to interpretation since man took his first steps.

Now too retrace some of mine.....

Fifteen years ago to this day, I was dressed in a coaches uniform and was surrounded by my team of 13 year olds, waiting for me to deliver a pregame pep talk. "Guys! Look at me". I commanded. I could see their eyes were focused on the opposing pitcher warming up on the mound. I could hear the boys whisper,"look how fast he is throwing the ball". "Yeah," chimed another, "that's Maudy Hernandez, he hasn't lost a game yet!"..."YET!!" exclaimed Bill Riggans,also a Coach of the team. "Even Nolan Ryan loses games...the best pitchers in baseball always lose games, and today is Maudys turn!"

Bills delivery of inspiration was strong and blunt.He insisted that the boys could beat anyone they wanted to with blindfolds on. I was the methodical one, always giving them a plan of attack. I'm certain if we were alive  5,000 years ago, he would have been the one telling David to kick Goliaths butt. I would have been the one to suggest that he aim between the eyes.

Yes, Maudy Hernandez was one of the best players in our park (along with Jeff Keppinger who now plays for the Reds). Opposing coaches were always in unison in admiring their talents and seeing their potential.

The years rolled by,Bill and I coached a few more years together and shared many great times together. All along, his hopes were for his son to play as long as possible. However, his son Shawn, was never given the opportunity to play in any of his High School games. Against all odds, he walked on at College, and against bigger odds, was drafted by Tampa Bay!

Bill and I stayed in touch over the years and  we kept tabs on the boys that played with us and against us. We had lost touch with Maudy Hernandez until  last August, when his face appeared on news. Maudy, a detective was shot in the head while stopping a man who was driving erratically. We were devastaed. We knew him not only as a fine athlete, but as a wonderful, very mature young man,who was humble in his victory. No one minded losing to him. His parents and younger brother were fixtures at the park as they watched every game and attended each of his practices.

Maudy was clinging to life, his prognosis was dark.

A few months passed and Maudy was in the news again, against all odds he survived and was being sent home. It was time to take the long road towards redeveloping his life.

Last year, Shawn suffered a season ending injury and could not play for the Rays.This year, against the odds, he recovered, made the team and is thrilled to be playing for a first place team (this too is against the odds, Tampa has never had a winning season!)

A few days ago the Rays came to town, Shawn called to let me know there would be tickets waiting for me at the Marlin Stadium. As I walked through the stadium, chills ran up and down my spine, recalling the pint sized boy with huge dreams, and how his father insisted he could outmatch each and every Goliath that stood in his path.

Bill was seated, I approached and said "your heart has to busting through your shirt!" He smiled, "I can't believe I am here!" "Well", I continued, "you can strike this off your bucket list". "Bucket List? What's that?"  I asked if he had seen the movie "The Bucket List" and then began giving him a summary and equated us to the two main characters."Oh yeah, well then I might as well cross off seeing Shawn play at the Marlin stadium, but heck, I still have one long list of things before I kick any bucket!"

Just then our conversation was interrupted by the voice over the loudspeaker system. "Ladies and gentlemen, please draw your attention to the mound,throwing out tonights first pitch of the game is Maudy Hernandez".  Bill and I gasped, tears filled our eyes, suddenly being at the stadium that night had nothing to do about Shawn. Maudy dressed in a Marlin shirt raised his arm and fired a strike to the catcher! The stadium rose and gave a standing ovation. Flanked by his parents, Maudy slowly walked off the field . As he was passing the Rays dugout, Shawn Riggans stepped out. Maudy stopped and with a look that his mind was playing tricks he said "Shawn is that you?" Shawn nodded, the two boys embraced, Maudy exclaiming "I can't believe you made it!" and Shawn echoing "I am so happy you made it through!". Shawn, Maudy and his parents chatted for a minute, then exited the field. Just as I was wiping away some straggling tears, the voice came over the loudspeaker once again, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please draw your attention to  first base where tonights honorary Marlin is Hollywood actor and film Director, Rob Reiner!" (He directed "The Bucket List"). I looked up into the night sky and smiled "got it".

  Within moments of that event, a stadium representative appeared in front of us and explained that Maudy and his family would like for us to come up to his box and say hello. Despite the years that had passed, the memories of all were sharp as we recanted the good old days at he park.

If you put meaning in your steps, they are never washed away by the sea of time.

Bill and I returned to our seats and spent the remainder of the game "coaching from the sidelines". "Come on Carl" Bill screamed "This is your pitch-take it deep".  I questioned why Carl why was batting 3rd in the lineup as a matter of fact, I questioned the batting order. Bill said,"Well the Coach is only two rows in front of us, why don't we just walk in the dugout and ask!"  ....and as the ump called "ball four" giving the opposing batter a walk I yelled out, "ball four?..It was right there!" Bill questioned my judgement saying I was too far from the plate and didn't have an angle. "I don't need an angle...I know if I was in the batters box , I would have swung at that pitch!"   The dialogue continued and it felt like we were transported back in time. Retracing years of steps in the course of one night!

The game ended and as we exited, I could not help but muse on how and why I was there that night. How all the steps that I and others have taken would lead us to this moment...a higher moment. A moment where seeing the extraordinary within the ordinary occurs.

Once again I realized the importance of each step we take. "Fast Forward" doesn't work.It would be like falling asleep on Space Shuutle before it takes off and waking up when its landing in Houston!

There is meaning and purpose in everything and every step you take. Should our paths cross we will see each other at level not imagined.

Its a new day...time for another step. May you step with Peace~  Marc





Friday, February 29, 2008

Mountain Of Knowledge-Castles made Of Sand

A warm "thank you" to Vish who selected me  this week for guest editor role. My only regret is that I could not mention the many other fine journals that I visit . Everyone here has a heart that reaches out with words. They are placed here , and like grains of sand they form a mountain of knowlege. Each of your experinces, each of your thoughts, each of your photos, evidence that the pathways to our soul is always open! All of your journals are a complete joy to visit !

Now, back to the topic....Mountain Of Knowledge...

I confess, I haven't quite gotten over the fact that Adam ASSUMED Eve knew what she saying when she said it was ok to eat the apple.

Not sure why, but "making assumptions" is definitely blended into our nature.How many times a day do we perform an act because we "assume" that act is expected of us?

I have made many trips to that Mountain of Knowledge, and only once did I come close to an answer.....................................


       One day I climbed to a plateau on this mountain, and as I was inhaling the soft breezes, I could hear cries coming from the side of the mountain. I went to the edge, looked down and saw two damsels were stranded on a ledge just 12 feet below!


 “Please help us” they sobbed. I rubbed my eyes, for these damsels in distress were no ordinary damsels, they were Wisdom and Peace!  I assumed  that if I could rescue them, they would share their inner most secrets with me! “Help is on the way” I called out. I turned to a nearby tree and broke off branches and leaves and fashioned a vine. I secured the vine around a rock and lowered myself down to the ledge.

I held one arm open to Wisdom and said “come, place your arm around my waist and I will carry you up”. Wisdom approached and as she took the vine from my hand , gave me a nudge. “Do you really think that Wisdom doesn’t know how to climb?” she asked with a smile. In the blink of an eye, she  climbed up to the plateau. I held my arm open to Peace, and said “come Peace, hold on to my waist and I will carry you up”. Peace approached me, and also nudged me to the side and placed the vine around her waist. “When you have Wisdom as a friend, you don’t need more”. In the blink of an eye, Peace was lifted up to the plateau. I looked up to see the pair looking down at me,”ok, very nicely done, please toss me the vine”. I said with a tone of defeat in my voice.   Their smiling faces disappeared and their laughter began to fade away. “The Vine!” I called out. Wsidom called back, “you don’t need a vine, you will figure out how to get back up, and when you do, you will be Wiser and at Peace with yourself!” As their laughter faded, I mused, now I know  why Adam made his assumption, it was his absolute faith in God that led him to believe he was ENTITLED to have knowledge!


 Believing and  having faith does not constitute entitlement to Knowledge! Knowledge must gained through experience , through pain, through struggle and through fear.I needed to be defeated by those damsels, to learn that it cannot be gained by assuming how to act! 

And I mused,  How foolish to think that Wisdom and Peace would need me to rescue them!


Yes, I still go back and climb upon that Mountain, despite the bumps and bruises and those "sprites" that inhabit it, each lesson learned bears the taste of fruit, wisdom and knowledge.!


Have a wonderful Week...towards the light......Marc :)


Saturday, February 9, 2008

The List

    It was the end of a long day and all I needed for a final send off was a glass of milk. I opened the refrigerator and reached in for the milk conatiner which had just enough to lighten a cup of coffee. This reminded me to check the can of coffee, which had enough grinds to make a "two sips" worth! I began taking attendance, Juice also low, bread, two slices of which one was the end slice. I glanced at the clock, 10:30 PM, just enough time to make it to the supermarket and thwart what would become  a dreadful morning.

  I pulled in the parking lot, opened the car door and barely had the energy to get out of the car. "I should be crawling into bed" I muttered to myself. I pulled a shopping cart from the rack, and slowly made my way down the aisle. As I placed the carton of milk into the wagon I noticed a neatly folded piece of paper resting at the bottom. I lfted it up and unfolded it to its original 8 1/2"X 11" size. It was a shopping a list and the handwriting with its soft curves was undeniably, feminine. The list read, ....ground beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, milk, cookies, ice cream.  Then in another column, away from this list, on the lower right hand side of the page was another short list,....Tampons, panty liners,douche, pamprin.  In an instant, I could feel a tingling run down my spine. My mouth dropped and my eyes widened, and I stared at this list as if I had uncovered a map leading to a buried treasure. I whispered to myself, "I can't believe it, the answer was in front of me all the time,and I never noticed!"

  Woman....Nourisher, sustainter, healer. She always places the needs of others ahead of her own. Of the two genders, she is more empathetic,and less selfish. She has been that way since the dawn of time. How was our Creator to know that he could trust one of genders to have such a power?  In order to feel someone elses pain,one must feel it for themselves first. In order to comfort another before you even think of comforting yourself, one must feel its own discomfort first. In order to willingly give life to others, one must feel the preciousness of life from within. So, our Creator, with his subtle ways, created a time clock of discomfort and pain,which  would serve as a reminder that one of the species would always be attentive, caring, loving to others. To provokea person in such a way they would  INSTINCTIVELY always place the needs of others ahead of her own....and so, Woman was created!

  I folded the list and placed it back in the wagon. I had come for a carton of milk , juice and coffee and came away with a new persepective, another piece of the puzzle.

Bob Dylan wrote, "The answer my friend is blowing in the wind". No words resonate with more truth....the answers are as close to us as the wind is to our faces!  All we need to do do is stop and feel it!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Another Coin In The Cup

    My daily walk to the office has me pass down this one block where the homeless congregate. Several weeks ago, upon reaching the end of this block, I noticed a new member to this brigade. An old man, bound to a wheel chair that had  warped wheels and a rotten wooden  board as a backrest. My heart sank at the sight of  him and his misfortune. He sat there lifeless, holding onto a soiled papercup that had a few coins in it. I stopped, reached in my pocket and tossed a few coins in. The sound of the coins woke him from his slumber.He looked up at me, "Bless you!Thank You! Bless you!" he said. The mere emphasis on the "thank you" sent goosebumps up my arms, and a tingling sensation down my spine. I never knew that 50 cents could still buy me such a thrill.

    Weeks passed, he became a permanent fixture on the corner, and my donation, a daily ritual. The other morning, I received a phone call as I was walking and was deeply engaged in the conversation. I walked past the homeless man, and was halted by his cry, "Hey! You forgetting me today?" I stopped, turned, and habitually placed my hand in my pocket and tossed a few coins in his cup. he smiled and drifted back into his slumber.

    After I finished my conversation I was overwhelmed by what had taken place. The whole act of charity had been sabotaged. I was giving out of habit, and he was thankless because it was something he come to expect!

 Gratitude is best expressed  when you receive something beyond your expectation.

Of course, I mused.  I am thankful for each day. Each day is like a coin in my cup. The day does not need to be filled with accomplihments or dreams being fullfilled. Just give me a day, and I can fill it with so many simple small things, that by the nighttime it is too heavy to lift. Just give me a day, where I can say a few "I love Yous" a few "thank Yous" and other mutually uplifting words, and I am in debted to the donor!. Just drop another day in my cup, where I am given minutes to recall what  it felt  like to hold your hand, hold you in my arms,  and look in your eyes. Just drop those minutes in my cup, allowing me another opportunity to add something to your memory! Drop this coin into my cup and I feel like the richest man on earth!

I am this way, because I have never expected how wonderful and fullfilling thesethings can be.

Tomorrow the sun will rise, and when I see it, I will hear the clinking...another coin in my cup!...and I will raise my head and thank the donor!

May you all hear the same jingling!