Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

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It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

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January Shuffle 2.0

I did this a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed it so much I thought I would do it again.  So here we go! Continue reading “January Shuffle 2.0”

Reasons America & Delaware Are Still Great 2016 Edition

Many people in America today are facing an impossible choice.  We call this Election Day.  I am choosing to spend the day looking at all that is good about America and more specifically the state I live in, Delaware.  No matter what happens today, we can’t let anyone take away the spirit of what makes us Americans.  We have liberties we often take for granted.  Beyond the politics of it all, we all should want the best for each other, especially the children.  We have so much talent in this country.  Each mind is a unique and wonderful creation of beauty and grace. In Delaware, we have people doing things no one hears about, every single day. We have children who have so many gifts. We have stories of hope and inspiration. As a friend of mine said on Facebook the other day, we are more than this election.

It’s Time To Begin, Isn’t It?

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Yesterday, I was driving back from dropping my son off at school.  Many travel routes in Northern Delaware were congested due to a truck flipping over and dumping copper pennies all over I-95 in Delaware.  This caused havoc with traffic for the next 18 hours.  I drove down 301 South.  As I drove near an exit for Chestertown, MD, I made a decision to take some time for myself.  I visited Chestertown many years ago in one of those odd moments in my life that didn’t make sense until later.

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My wife would be picking up my son from school so I knew I had some time to kill.  I decided to drive down to the part of Chestertown where the Chester River winds pass.  I needed time to myself.  Away from Delaware.  Away from the craziness of it all.  Away from the DOE, the charters, the districts, the campaign signs, the legislators, all of it.  A chance to recharge my batteries.  I already know upcoming things I will be writing about.  Things that will be vastly different from anything I’ve written before.  I’m scared and excited at the same time.  It will be a radical shift.

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As I walked to the Pavillion overlooking the river, I noticed how quiet it was.  It was almost majestic.  I just stood there, enjoying the silence.  It looked exactly the same as it did years ago.  Nothing had changed.  But I had.  I don’t take these moments as much as I used to.  I need to.  To keep things in perspective.

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I didn’t stay super long, but enough to just calm down and relax.  To see the beauty in this world with fresh new eyes.  To remind myself that no matter what happens, it is still there if you take the time to see it.  I thought of my friend who lost his life in this town 24 years ago.  I thought of my mom who passed a few years ago.  I thought about 9/11 and the 15th anniversary of that horrific day.  I wasn’t sad.  I was at peace, for the first time in a long time.  I still feel the dead guiding me in ways I can’t explain.  Time is passing by.  Every single day I breathe life.  We all have a purpose no matter what it is.  Once you find out what that purpose is, you need to hold on to it and not let a moment pass you by.  But sometimes, you need to take the time to pause, to slow down.  To appreciate what has come before, what we have now, and the promise of what lies ahead.  It’s time to begin, isn’t it?

The Sound Of Angels

So I’m driving around earlier today putting up campaign signs.  I see one of my opponents has been very busy, so the hunt is on!  I’m driving by Dover High School and I see tons of cars there.  I decide to check it out.  If you have never been in Dover High School, the place is huge!  I see all these teenage girls running inside with black dresses.  I didn’t think it was prom, unless black is the new prom dress color.  I walk into the auditorium to hear two teenage girls singing “Killing Me Softly With His Love”.  It was a Choral concert.

For two hours I sat in that auditorium absolutely mesmerized.  It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.  But man, can those kids sing!  If I was blindfolded and didn’t know where I was, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if I was in the Vatican for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or at Dover High School.  They were that good!  I saw these high school students putting everything they have into this concert.  It was truly a gift from God.

A couple of students sang songs for their mothers and I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.  It made me think of my mom who passed almost three years ago.  But in-between my pangs of sadness, I felt a soothing and calm peace, like I had been lifted away from the burdens of the everyday world and brought to a magical place.

I recognized a few of the students from four years ago when I was a paraprofessional at a nearby charter school.  My how these kids have grown and their talent skyrocketed.  When I started my campaign for Capital’s school board, I came out with a lengthy article about things I wanted to see in the district.  If today was any indication, this district has the arts covered!  It’s the old saying, “Seek, and ye shall find.”  I didn’t think I would hear the sound of angels this afternoon, but I’m sure glad I did.

Mr. Brad Whitenight, the choral director at Dover High School, should be immensely proud.  What he has crafted is a miracle.  I thank you and the Dover High School Choir for the journey to peace today.  If you should ever happen to be driving around Dover one day, take a chance.  You truly never know what you will find.

Her Name Is Amy

Something happened yesterday in Delaware that shook them to their core.  She knew she would be forever viewed as the student who died because of something that happened inside her school.  She woke up yesterday, got ready for school, her mind heavy with whatever circumstances eventually led to her death, and faced the day.  She probably didn’t know it was going to be her last.  Her name is Amy.

She got to school and soon after found herself in a girl’s bathroom where she then found herself in a fight with another girl.  Others joined the fight and what may have been even odds soon became unbalanced.  As onlookers excitedly watched and some may have pulled out their iPhones to film the fight, the girl’s head went into a sink.  As instincts for defense flashed out of her mind I imagine she felt a sudden jolt of pain and then nothing.  Her name is Amy.

She may have felt her soul leap out of her body.  She may have seen her mortal shell no longer a vessel for her heart and soul.  She may have seen the confusion, anger, and sadness around her death.  Depending on what she believed, many things could have happened.  She felt a warmth and a light calling to her as she was welcomed into the arms of those she lost in her short time here.  All her worries, confusion, and anxiety lifted from her in an instant.  Surrounded by unconditional love with a true understanding of what existence is truly about.  Her name is Amy.

As she met our Heavenly Father and His Son, she understood why everything happened the way it did and she was at peace with it.  She may have shared some of that light and kindness with her family on Earth, and her friends, and even her enemies.  She may have seen the endless tears stretch across a nation yesterday as people who never knew her tried to grapple with what happened.  Perhaps she knew her death may have meaning in the long run and serve as an example of much-needed change on our world.  Her name is Amy.

She may have seen the pervasive darkness that surrounded the city she called home.  The true evil, mixed with moments of grace, as the city endlessly struggles to heal itself.  She may have seen the light inside each and every one of its inhabitants, struggling to bring out that light and let it shine.  She may have seen those who do not have a home to call their own except the hard streets.  She may have seen the endless debate, trying to find fault in her death.  But she knew her death meant she would have eternal life.  She understood that her freedom was our loss and for some, nothing would ever be the same again.  She knew some would attempt to change things because of her death and she smiled.  Her name is Amy.

It was the last day of her mortal life and the first day of her eternal life.  The things that mattered to her here were still with her but in her new life she felt a connection with it all.  She saw how one pebble could have a ripple effect on those around her which spread out around the world.  A butterfly effect.  She understood that human beings could make a choice, to give her death true meaning they would need to look outside themselves to understand the multiple reasons for answering the whys.  She understood the factors that led to her eternal life and no one thing could give a clarifying and simple answer.  From the time she was in her mother’s womb until her last breath, everything mattered.  How one smile to a stranger could have lifted their burdens of the day.  How one word of anger could have darkened the light inside someone.  How one tear of sadness could have hardened a soul to indifference.  While these things made her who she was, she understood that it meant everything to those who cried for her but none could understand the entire puzzle.  Her name is Amy.

She understood that it wasn’t just about education, or boys, or crime, or authority, or lawlessness, or anger.  It was about life, in all its shapes and forms and colors.  Every action, every thought, every moment… it mattered.  She saw the pictures forming in the minds of the lost and she knew one day they would understand.  She knew God gave each of us a piece of Himself and we could never see the full picture until we returned to Him.  She saw the technology with her name everywhere and she laughed, a jovial soul-cleansing laugh that spread throughout the afterlife.  Heaven got brighter yesterday as it does when every new soul joins it.  An unending light that gives each of us a piece of that light.  She understood this in her first day.  Her name is Amy.

Tonight we’ll build a bridge across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again tonight.

-U2-“A Sort of Homecoming”

 

 

Promoting Peace and Non-Violence In Our Schools Instead of Bullying And Violence

“Imagine what would happen if millions of our kids grew into adults with better skills to deal with conflict and to cultivate peace. It could fundamentally change our nation and world for the better.”

Huffington Post came out with an excellent article yesterday on school violence and bullying.  This is an issue that hits home for far too many students, parents and schools.  There are several great resources out there to deal with these issues, but the key is having the proper staff to implement them.

This is the key battle in our schools, not standardized testing and Common Core. But because of these two items, many schools and states have confused curriculum and testing with academic readiness.  It’s not just understanding the material, it’s developing the life skills to be able to take those skills into adulthood.  Schools can teach academic standards all they want, but if the student doesn’t have the social skills, none of it will matter.

To some, they believe this is not a school’s responsibility.  It belongs to the parents.  I agree, but only to the point that this is a parent’s responsibility while a student is at home.  So much of our children’s lives are shaped by what happens in school.  Peer interaction happens in an education setting the most in students lives.  Schools are obligated to provide these types of services, instead of accuse/blame/punish.  I will go one step further than the article written by Matthew Albracht with the Peace Alliance and say schools need to stop the interrogation techniques with students and not always assume one person needs to take responsibility.  What if it is a child with a disability and the “fault” is a manifestation of the disability?  Should a child be made to take accountability for something they can’t help?  What if a situation started outside of school and the student at “fault” continued it in school?  Should they be considered accountable if they didn’t necessarily start it to begin with?  These are heavy questions and the time is now for this discussion.

I think any peaceful technique to curb the violence in our schools is welcome, whether it is meditation or social learning groups or whatever works to peacefully stop the situations from occurring in the first place.  This means being proactive rather than reactive.