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Screw a Border Wall, Let’s Build a DOME

My daughter came home last night from her first job as a barista for a local Boba Tea eatery, crying.

“They don’t like me, mom! I’m doing the exact same level of work that all the new kids are, and they keep calling ME out cuz I’m not Asian.”

Several other barista type jobs at various locally businesses to which she applied told her flat out they only hire Asians (which, at least in my neighborhood, includes Indians, from India). Since most of the fast food and convenience stores here are owned by Asians, this has severely limited her choices for simple, flexible, part-time work.

The first day of this job, a month back, she came home and said, “My manager called me their ‘diversity hire,’ since I’m the only White person who works there. It hurt my feelings. He made me feel like I didn’t get the job cuz I deserved it.” Every day since, she’s come home with other racist comments most of her managers continue to make.

Our daughter has a 4.3 gpa, is a hard worker academically, and socially. She is the only White person in her group of friends. She’s worked very hard, and continues to do so, to be a part of this Asian crowd, that is now well over 75% of her high school in an East Bay suburb of the San Francisco Bay area.

My son wasn’t so lucky. Boys going through puberty are all about bravado, one-upping each other. Girls are about connecting, communicating, building their community. Our son was excluded and bullied for not being “A”sian, throughout middle and high school. He had no friends at all, though he tried again and again to ‘fit in’ with them, from Karate to Robotics to Chess clubs and more. It broke his heart daily, and mine as well, watching my beautiful, open, kind kid ostracized for being White. He will likely struggle with a damaged self-image the rest of his life because of these formative experiences.

Yet, neither of my children are racists, like so many of their Asian friends and associates. My daughter gets bullied often, even from her ‘friends’ with thoughtless comments: “I only date Asians. I don’t find White girls attractive,” from the 4 out of 5 boys in her group. My daughter would love to get asked to proms, on dates. She watches her Asian girlfriends get asked out. She does not.*

These are REALITIES for all of us, Asians and Whites, here in the global melting pot of the San Francisco Bay Area, and yet my children are still not racists. Why, when so many are?

My husband is a software architect. He’s been creating and deploying SaaS offerings for over 25 years here in Silicon Valley. Every job he’s ever had in the software industry, and trust me, he’s had a lot of jobs, he’s worked almost exclusively with Asians. While offshore H1B labor has been brought here by the tech industry since 1990, this massive Asian influx globally was not anticipated. In the last five yrs, the companies he’s worked for, whether the staff is 30 or 3000, in IT, or any other department now—close to 60% are of Asian descent. And yet, my husband is not racist, though he’s been passed up for many position by Asians on work visas and H1Bs.**

I invited my daughter’s best friend and her family to our Thanksgiving dinner last year. I’d met Yi, the mom, only once before, but my daughter spoke of her often when she’d visited her BF’s home: “Her mom is really nice. And she says the same stuff you do. She jokes that you must really be Asian, the way you get on me about homework.” I was grateful my daughter found the humor in her comment, instead of the likely unintended slight. “You guys should get together. You can make a new girl friend, mom.”

The girls arranged a late January lunch, and the four of us went out for Thai food. Yi and I eased into a smooth dialog. Fifteen yrs my junior, she was quite express, articulate when I asked her questions, but she rarely turned my interest around, which I’d say goes for most people I’ve met. A tech-visa transplant from China in her early 20s, she’d been a single mom since divorcing her White husband a decade before. And while I did not feel a personal connection, with few common interests, a profound one existed between us. Raising two kids, a boy my son’s age, and a girl, my daughter’s best friend, Yi loves her children the exact same way, with the same intensity as I do mine.

She suggested we get together again at the end of our luncheon, but I did not pursue it, and neither did she. Thanksgiving came around eleven month later. The girls were having a school vacation sleepover celebration the weekend before the holiday, and my daughter’s BF told us her family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But she confessed she’d like to, as I served breakfast the next morning. Well, of course I invited her, her mom and brother right then. She was so excited she texted them, and the girls were jumping up and down, cheering, moments later with her mom’s response.

The seven of us ate turkey, and stuffing, and shared stories of thanks around the table that night. We played Pictionary after dinner, and laughed and laughed. When the kids exited the scene to play video games, Yi, my husband and I spoke of politics, religion, crossing all social lines of decorum. I was pleasantly surprised how open she was to dialog beyond the surface. And though we have radically different perspectives, the exchange was engaging, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable for all three of us. Even better, the kids bonded that Thanksgiving, and since have established a once-a-month excursion.

Globalization is a REALITY. It’s happening, right now. Most first world nations are being inundated with immigrants looking for that illusive ‘better life.’ Like it, or not, global integration is here, and, as my husband, and our kids know, it is mandatory, simply must happen, for humanity, and our very small planet to survive us.

“One wish,” my mom asked my sister and me on our drive home from elementary school back in the old days. “Anything you want, what would it be.”

“World peace,” I’d said. It was the mid-1970s, and a common catch phrase, but I meant it. Without war, or economic disparity, I believed in our creative potential to problem solve, and our unique ability to work together to realize our fantastical visions. I didn’t know about the hunger of greed then, insatiable, and colorblind.

It has been particularly hard on my kids, this globalization process. It deeply saddens me that they must suffer the slights of blind prejudice, just as the Asians in past generations had to suffer the racism of the ignorant Whites here. It terrifies me—the global competition for fewer jobs my kids will be competing for after college. Yet, I still advocate for globalization. This very small planet must integrate, or we will perish, and likely take much of the life here with us, with the destructive technology we’ve already invented.

My daughter worries she’ll never meet anyone to date, yet alone marry, but I assure her she likely will. And it’s even likely that man will be Asian, since 36.4% of the global population are Asian*** and more than half of them are men. “It doesn’t matter where someone came from, what their heritage, or place of origin on the planet,” I’ve preached to my kids. “Choose to be with someone kind.”

A border wall surrounding the U.S. entirely will not stop Asians from flying in from China and India, Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia and other emerging Asian nations. Nor will it stop the Middle East, South Americans, Cubans from coming here. Seeking to keep us separate is a fool’s play. Communication is key to build bridges over our differences, allowing us to meet in the middle and mutually benefit from our strengths. Ignorance and mistrust breed with distance. Nationalism is just thinly disguised racism.

Asians, Latinos, Syrian’s, and Palestinians, are all different cultures, not separate races from Caucasian. We are one race, the human race. Globalization—the blending of cultures—is hard for everyone, scary, new, threatening to our social structure, but a must if humanity is to survive, even thrive. The beauty of interracial marriage is the same thing that bonds Yi and I, as parents. We both passionately love our kids. She can’t possible hate Whites, since her children are Asian/White. Combine two cultures, at least on a localize level, defeats racism, as most every parent loves their kids with intensity Yi and I do. It’s one of our best bits about being human—the magnificent, spectacular, all-encompassing love we get to feel for our children.

*Regardless of the sociology, it is unusual in the extreme to see an Asian man partner with a White women (though common the other way around), both here in the States and abroad.

**Hiring offshore for less money, now being exploited by every social network from Facebook to YouTube, to Mr. Trump’s summer staff at his Mar-a-Lago estate, lowers the pay rate for all of us. It’s no wonder U.S. income levels have been stagnant for years.

***As of July, 2019, there are approx. 1.43+ billion Chinese (in China), or 18.41% of the global population. Indians (in India) are a close second, with approx. 1.37+ billion, or 17.4% of the total world population. Combining just these two Asian cultures, their world population is 4.1 billion people, or 36.14% of the world population, and that is just within their respective countries, not actual global numbers including visa work-holders and undocumented immigrants abroad.

https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/

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How to Start Up Lean

Entrepreneurs,
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Lean Startup Entrepreneurial Series makes starting and marketing a business doable, in 3-steps, step-by-step—Marketing PROCESS, not theory or startup stories—the practice of marketing a business to thrive: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732543100

Good luck on your startup journey!

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Your Job Suck? Make Your Own!

Have an idea for a product or service, but have little money, and no clue how to create a business? Perhaps, you are currently marketing an offering that isn’t selling much, and you’d like to get more attention from your marketing efforts?

Lean Startup Marketing teaches the RAF Marketing Method of turning ideas into offerings of value, for profit. This three-step process gives you practical, doable steps to build a sustainable business, and get the greatest response on your marketing efforts, at launch, and beyond.

Bestselling author, and Stanford marketing instructor, J. Cafesin, takes you on the journey of your professional career—creating your own business—from idea through launch, at little to no cost. 

LSM Workshop 1: PRODUCTIZATION, is the process of getting intimate with your idea, or developing product. Neglect to productize your offering, and at best, your marketing efforts will get little traction. At worse, ignoring Productization leads to startup failure. Productization must happen before BRANDING (Workbook 2). Implementing the steps of Productization, in order, allows you to produce tightly targeted marketing campaigns that motivate viewers to click, try, or buy your offering.

• MBA to marketing novice, Workshop 1: PRODUCTIZATION provides all the marketing you’ll ever need to know to become proficient at marketing…anything.

• Create Productization Lists filled with content to use in your branding, marketing and ad campaigns throughout the life-cycle of your business.

• Identify Target Markets and Users who will likely buy your new offering.

• Construct an Elevator Pitch to succinctly chat up your new venture.

• Perform Competitive Analysis, and find differentiators that make your offering unique.

• Choose an effective Profit Model to make money on your offering.

• Project Horizontal and Vertical markets for current and future offerings.

LSM is not marketing theory. Each workbook, filled with slides, challenges and assignments, is a step-by-step guide you’ll refer to again and again, to assure you are on the proper path to building a thriving business. The LSM series provides specific, low-budget, actionable steps for marketing your offerings, to sell directly, or launch your first offering as a profitable startup. It’s time to become your own CEO, and create a career you love.

LSM Workbook 1 is available here:

In Print (recommended): https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732543100

Ebook (slides appear smaller): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L9LC8NS

Boy Scouts of Christian America

After his scout meeting, our 11 yr old son announced he was never going to advance to Eagle Scout, as we’d all hoped, when he ‘bridged’ from ‘Webelo’ Cub Scout to become a full-fledge Boy Scout.

Attaining the Eagle rank is often the end goal of a scout and his parents. It looks good on a resume and shows commitment to a program over an extended span of time.

These are the opening lines on an Eagle Scout information page for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and one of the reasons we encouraged our son to stay in their program.

But the rank of Eagle Scout was not attainable for our son, his troop leader had told him last Friday night. Even if he got all his merit badges, and fulfilled all the other Boy Scout requirements through middle and high school, he was not qualified to become an Eagle Scout.

To achieve Eagle Scouts, or any other rank, Boy Scouts must live the Scout Oath, which requires belief in God. 

My husband and I introduced our 5 year old son to scouting. Fourteen Christians and one Jew, and our kid was the only member of his Webelo troop being raised without religion. Most of our neighbors, and our kid’s classmates, attend the local church. My husband and I are Atheists. Our kids are not privy to the benefits of participating in this tight-knit religious network. Scouting seemed like a positive way for our son to meet other boys his age in our area. 

We didn’t consider the Boy Scouts an exclusively religious organization. We’d heard stories, of course, and knew of the pending lawsuit in the supreme court filed by a father for discrimination against his son who claimed to be an atheist. It motivated me to ask the women at the Cub Scout table during school registration if their troop was religious, and if so, how. Both women assured me their den had several different faiths among its members, and their policy was to keep religion at home, not practice it in scouting.

They were true to their word during the first five years our son belonged to their troop, participating in most events from hikes to community drives to popcorn sales, and earning quite a few merit badges along the way. Religion, even prayer, was never practiced or promoted. He bridged from Cub Scout at the end of fifth grade, and became a full Boy Scout with the aim of eventually becoming an Eagle Scout in high school.

After his new troop’s first official gathering a few months back, our son informed me the Boy Scout troop he’d bridged to said prayers at the end of their meetings. I asked him how he felt about that. He confessed he’d already branded himself a non-believer, when the scout master asked him to lead the prayer at the end of that first meeting. He’d refused, stating he wasn’t sure there was a God, and he thought praying was a waste of time because he was certain there wasn’t anything listening. Though he’d been publicly labeled “misinformed” by the scout master at that meeting, and endured jeers and taunts from several of the boys, every Webelo he’d been with the last five years had bridged to this new troop. Our son didn’t want to look for a new non-religious troop, with a bunch of kids he didn’t know. He just wouldn’t recite what he didn’t believe, he’d told me.

That wasn’t good enough for advancement, according to his new scout master, who asked him again last Friday night to say a closing prayer. No matter how lax about religion our son’s lower division troop, rank of Boy Scouts and higher stuck to the rules of the BSA, he told our Boy Scout. A religious association, and faith in God is required for rank advancement. Commitment to community service, practicing Scouting’s core values of honesty, compassion, as well as continually exhibiting diligence as a contributing team member, were irrelevant. Belief in a god was more important than social service. Atheism is a sin, the scout master assured our son at the end of last Friday’s meeting.

I could lie that I believe, my son suggested, if I have to…

Think that’s a good idea? I asked, glad to be driving, which made it easier to keep emotional distance and sound casual.

Maybe. I just don’t get why I have to pretend I believe in God. The Boy Scout handbook says we’re supposed to “respect and defend the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.” But they’re not.

Ah, from the mouths of babes…

He’s right, of course. Click on the ‘Litigation’ link on the official BSA website, and bring up the “Duty to God” page. Part of the Scout Oath proclaims the scout will ‘do his duty to God [and country].’ Every level of advancement requires a promise or show of faith in God. Boy Scouts are instructed to respect the beliefs of others, but only those that believe in the Christian/Judaeo God.

Nowhere in the BSA literature we received and perused before or after our son joined the Boy Scouts did they say they were a faith-based organization that required their members to be believers to receive equal rights and priviledges as those granted to religious members. Had they disclosed this with all transparency, as do churches and other religious organizations pushing their beliefs, I doubt my husband and I would have channeled our son to participate.

We impose no religion on our kids. We discuss it often— the concept of one god verses many; various cultures and their belief systems from beginning to modern man, using everything from the Tao to biblical references. Our kids get additional religious education through their friends and faith-based celebrations with family. My husband and I hope to expose our children to many possibilities, and let them discover their own spirituality.

Parents who provide religious training for their kids early on, and, it would appear, register them in Boy Scouts, are looking to validate their beliefs by indoctrinating their kids with the religion on which they were raised. And most of these parents have never stopped to consider whether the rhetoric their parents sold them is truth. They are blind believers, and turn their children into the same.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) takes a strong position, excluding atheists and agnostics,” according to Wikipedia.

Perhaps the BSA is a front for the church, and works to convert unsuspecting non-believers working to advance in their organization. Hook the kids without religiosity when they’re young–in Cub Scouts. Get them to work hard for advancement, then deny them further advancement unless they convert to Christianity. Whatever BSAs agenda, and our son now sees they clearly have one, the meeting with his troop leader last Friday night soured him to continuing in scouting. It’s a shame, really, because the Boy Scouts have so many positives to offer. Weirdly enough, they tout the same morality I preach to my kids, like being courteous, and honest, loving and compassionate. The only difference between us is I don’t believe a god gave us this wisdom. I give credit to humanity, over eons, watching what works, and doesn’t.

There is no god that’ll save us from hate, prejudice, nationalism, exclusionary sects like the BSA who lure kids in, like the Pied Piper, under the guise of community involvement, then change the rules mid-play. Regardless of our differences, religiously, culturally, politically, PEOPLE, me and you, must use our collective wisdom to unite for humanity’s continued evolution.

What is EVIL?

What is EVIL?

It is not murder. It is not lying, cheating, stealing, or breaking any of the 10 Commandments, or Hitler, or Donald Trump. It is NOT a state of being. EVIL is an ACTION, or lack thereof.

True EVIL is indifference.

We are ALL indifferent at times. Every time you pick up your cellphone behind the wheel, you are demonstrating you don’t care about anyone else but yourself. You are 26 times more likely to injure or murder others looking at your mobile while driving. You are actively participating in EVIL, as you are indifferent to anyone but your own desires.

Hitler was indifferent to the horror, the suffering, the murder of 6 million Jews that he initiated. So was every commander who followed his orders, and every German who turned a blind eye to protect themselves, and let it happen.

We are on par with Hitler every time we text while driving.

Church, even Christ won’t save us from our sins of indifference.

The effects of indifference reverberate. You cause an accident while texting, and hurt my kid, and I no longer care about you, your kids, your life. In fact, I hate you. I want to see you harmed!

Every time indifference is demonstrated it generates more EVIL.

Indifference lets corporations like PG&E murder 8 people in San Bruno when the utility diverted the money needed to fix the pipes into bonuses for top paid execs. When COMCAST demands full payment for delivering half the service, they are practicing EVIL. So are the customer service representatives working for them, who claim they’re ‘just doing their job, as they are told to,’ like Nazi Germany, where neighbors became indifferent—didn’t really care what happened to the Jewish kid that their kid used to play soccer with.

Every time we don’t stand up to indifference, we are participating in EVIL.

Indifference is like a genetic disease, handed down through the generations.

Parents who don’t give a shit about their kids, raise kids who don’t give a shit about anyone (even themselves).

Educators who care more about their pensions, putting in 2/3rds of a workday, and working only half the year, teaches indifference to everyone but themselves.

Students (without wealth) who are indifferent to learning, don’t study, don’t do the work, choose YouTube or gaming over doing academics, become front line canon fodder in the military as the only paying job they can get, or end up criminals, or homeless.

Drivers, indifferent to everyone else while they fulfill their desire to upload a Snap, murder close to 4,000, and injure up to 500,000, one half a MILLION people, kids, dogs…etc., a YEAR. Think you know how to drive and text at the same time? Your indifference is supporting your ignorance, which is only surpassed by your arrogance.

EVERY DAY, half or more drivers I see are chatting or texting away, and I fight the urge to ram my car into them. If they stop where I do, like the store, and I pass them in the aisle, I want to spit in their face, for no other reason than to get them to PAY ATTENTION TO SOMEONE OTHER THAN THEMSELVES.

When a COMCAST customer service rep tells me to get another modem, knowing it won’t make my internet connection any better because they know, and COMCAST knows, they don’t have the bandwidth to support the neighborhood’s wireless devices, I become irate, rude, indifferent to their plight, as they are to mine.

Every time we encounter indifference, we become more indifferent.

Stand at the Pearly Gates, and the first question St Peter is likely to ask is were you GOOD or EVIL in your lifetime. Lie, and go to hell. Say you’re GOOD, and believe it? If you spent more of your life addressing and responding to your own needs and desires than anyone else, count on going to hell.

Assuming, like me, you are a non-believer, why worry about anyone else if the only reward is in this life? Take as much as you can get, seems to be the attitude of so many these days, religious or not.

While self-interest is the foundation of our nature, indifference is not. It is taught, shown, modeled by all of us, at times. We begin life as solipsists, then grow to narcissists through our teens and early 20s. Maturity means we’ve expanded our awareness beyond just ourselves, and often put our own desires aside to actively care for others.

Indifference, to justify doing whatever you want (from lying for COMCAST, to driving a fuel-guzzling SUV, to texting behind the wheel of it) chips away at our humanity with every slight. This toxicity of EVIL ultimately endangers every living thing on this planet. Demonstrate you don’t care about me, and I won’t care about you. We self-protect, which ultimately serves no one, not even ourselves.

CARE BEYOND YOURSELF, and SHOW IT, and we not only insure our survival, we give our childrens’ children, and way beyond them, a chance to experience living, and the opportunity to thrive.

The Future Out of Time

I was 9 years old the first time I saw the future before it happened.

It was a warm fall evening and dad and I sat on the flying bridge and sang, talked, and reveled in the beauty of the setting sun over the languid Pacific as we made our way to Catalina Island that Friday evening. My mother and sister were taking the public ferry over in the morning–mom too afraid to cross the channel in our 30-foot cabin cruiser at night.

There were no moorings available at Avalon, Catalina’s main harbor, which was always preferred for its calm sea protected by the rock breakwater. We had to pick up a mooring at St. Catherine’s, a small harbor on the north side of Avalon, exposed to the open ocean. Boats moored there continually pitched and tossed. Mom wasn’t going to be happy when she arrived with my sister on Saturday.

It was well after dark when dad got the boat in position and I grabbed the flag attached to the mooring line. I yanked the heavy rope out of the water, slipping and sliding on the deck as I secured it to our boat. By the time we laid anchor and tied the mooring lines it was almost 8:00 p.m. We caught the first water taxi to Avalon where we dined at the Flying Yachtsman, a favorite steak house for boater and locals. Just me and dad, captain and first mate, we ate mostly in silence, relishing the good meal after our long voyage.

We were almost through with dinner when a Coast Guard buddy of my father’s happened by and joined us for dessert. I was a little disappointed that my dad got involved in talking with his friend, Jim, and I was suddenly out of the loop. But I ate my apple crumb cake turning my head attentively to whomever was speaking, pretending to listen, though lost after the first few lines about horsepower in Jim’s new twin, fuel-injected engines.

After dinner, dad accepted Jim’s offer for a ride to our boat in his dinghy. I sat at the bow of the eight-foot skiff and dangled my hand over the side, letting my fingers comb the frothy waves created by the dinghy’s forward motion. My father sat in the center to keep the weight balanced, and Jim screamed over the engine as he drove. He described the damage from the Santa Ana winds that had blown through the island the previous week. Huge waves, some over 20 feet flooded storefronts. Several boats smashed into the shore when their mooring lines ripped from the ocean floor in St. Catherine’s.

And that’s when reality shifted. My awareness of where I was became distant, background to another. On some level I knew I was still on the skiff rounding the breakwater to the open sea on the way to our boat. But that’s not what I saw…

I wake on our boat in the middle of the night and lift my head to see the deep red light of the digital clock turn from 3:30 to 3:31. I glance over at my father sleeping next to me on the pull out bed in the main cabin. He’s turned away, snoring loudly. I slide the small curtain aside to glance out the window, and instead of the expected blackness I see a white sailboat six feet from our starboard side. It takes me a second to get that we’re about to crash into each other, suddenly aware that during the night our mooring line must have broken and we are free floating. Deck lights lit and mast lights on, every detail of the sailboat registers in my head–white, with light blue trim around the portholes and polished teak decks; identification numbers on the bow: K6749.

Then I was back in the dinghy, my finger’s freezing in the water. I snatched my hand out of the sea, tucked both hands between my legs and sat rigid as Jim pulled his dingy up to the stern of our boat. My father bid him goodbye with thanks as we boarded our vessel. Before my dad crossed the deck to the cabin I started ranting.

“Dad, our mooring line is going to break tonight and we’re going to hit a sailboat!”

“What are you talking about?” He stopped and turned to face me.

“I saw it. We’re going to smash into a sailboat at 3:30 in the morning. We have to move the boat now!”

“What do you mean, you ‘saw it?'”

I just stood there staring at him. I knew he wouldn’t believe me if I told him I had a vision. Hell, I didn’t believe me. But I knew what happened on that dinghy wasn’t a dream or fantasy. I knew I’d seen the future. I went back to proof by instance.

“Dad, our mooring line is going to break tonight and we’re going to hit a white sailboat with the call numbers K6749 if we don’t move the boat. So can we just move it, now please.”

Dad took the empirical position as always. “Do you see any white sailboats anywhere near us?”

By the moonlight the closest one I could see was a few rows up and far to the right. I couldn’t make out the call numbers, but I could see it had long narrow rectangular windows, not portholes. I shook my head.

“Okay. And hasn’t our boat been secured here all evening, the mooring clearly holding fast?”

“Yes.”

“And even if our mooring did break, we’d have the front anchor to secure the boat from drifting, isn’t that right?”

“Yeah. I guess.” I started to doubt my vision with his compiling logic.

“Well, what I’m guessing is when Jim told us that the mooring lines in St. Catherine’s harbor broke last week with the Santa Ana’s, it scared you. Did you hear him say that all the moorings were replaced with new ones?”

No. I’d missed that part because I was inside my head living an alternate reality at the time. “No. I didn’t hear him say that.”

“It’s late, sweetie,” my dad said, going into the cabin. “Let’s get ready for bed.”

—–

When I woke up in the middle of the night and the first thing I noticed was the digital clock turning from 3:30 to 3:31, I knew instantly that my earlier experience had not been a fantasy born of fear. I held my breath as I moved aside the curtain. I knew before actually seeing it that we were almost on top of a white sailboat. It had moored next to us while we slept.

I woke my father, screaming for him to get up as I scurried around him. He followed me out to the deck and saw that we were about to hit a sailboat, got the 12-foot push pole and wedged it between our two boats to avoid them smashing into each other while he put out the side bumpers. He told me to lift the front anchor and then yelled to the people on the sailboat to rouse them. As I moved along the narrow ledge around the side of our boat I noticed the call numbers K6749 printed on the sailboat’s bow.

The captain of the sailboat finally came on deck, got his push pole and kept our boats apart while my father ignited our diesel engines. Slipping and sliding, struggling to pull the heavy anchor out of the water onto the bow of our wet deck, I almost fell off the boat several times, which, to this day, over 40 years later, my father says was his greatest concern whenever he recites the incident, though he always adds “Something else happened weird that night…” but he can never recall what. I’ve never reminded him, but I’ll never forget.

**********

Similar experiences of ‘seeing’ the future occurred many times growing up, through my early 20’s. It came without warning, usually triggered by something someone said, and I would experience a reality shift in a flash. Sometimes, though rarely, it came in the form of a dream, but upon waking I knew it wasn’t a dream. Within hours the dream would play itself out in reality. Earthquakes were a big trigger. I would ‘see’ them before they occurred, know how strong they were going to be and the effects in their wake. Unusual events, generally with life threatening potential were also triggers, though rarely involving someone I knew. I saw car accidents, sometimes through the eyes of the drivers, hear about it the next day on the news, knowing what it was like in that car moments before, and then upon impact.

I don’t know where the visions came from. I knew they were glimpses of the future because they weren’t disjointed, like a dream or hallucination. They were sequential, tactile, visceral, a complete and instant emergence into another reality, separate from, yet similar to my experience of present time. I have not experienced one in over 20 years and I have no wish to. They were fundamentally frightening, and totally uncontrollable. The few times I told someone what I’d experienced before the event went down, no one ever believed me, until after. And I was never able to stop an event from occurring. Not once.

Seeing the future is pointless without the ability to change it.

(Of course, it can be argued I did change the future by alerting my father and thus avoiding a collision with the sailboat. But I never saw us hit each other in my vision. I ‘saw’ the exact same view out our boat window as the one in reality, at which time we were still six feet apart…)

Making a Difference

Typically on Sunday mornings my husband and I share articles from the New York Times. He’ll often read me pieces while I prepare breakfast or visa versa, and we’ll discuss the ones that pique our interest. The year end edition of the Sunday Magazine runs detailed obituaries on a handful of famous and infamous people who died that year. Though many are well known—actors, x-presidents and the like, some are more obscure, but they all share one thing in common. They all had [at least] 15 minutes of fame.

As my husband read on from person to person I began to feel more and more irritated. Where was the balance with the everyday hero—the dad who worked his life to support his family, or the career woman who slated her ambitions to be a mom? Their stories are equally interesting as some one hit wonder, or marginal actor. Even the most common among us had lives that mattered, that touched many, and deserve to be told.

On my mother’s death bed she asked me “Did I make a difference?” She stared at me with sunken eyes, her skeletal face practically begging me for an affirmative answer. And I gave her one. And, of course, it was true. She was my mom. She made a difference to me.

She turned me on to love, light, color, beauty, nature, music, art. She would often point out a vibrant flower, stop everything to view a sunset and be truly awestruck by its magnificence. She genuinely liked people. She was open to most all ideas as long as they weren’t filled with hate, or born of ignorance.

My mother was a humanitarian, and without prejudice, and she taught me to respect all things equally.

She was a wife for nearly 50 years. My father used to call her his ‘sunshine.’ Laughter and joy came easily to her. She exposed him to simple things—good talks during long walks, exploring new places, trying different foods. She sang all the time, had a beautiful voice that blended perfectly with my father’s melody.

My mom was a passionate and devoted teacher. She created a magnet ocean science program she taught to underprivileged and gifted kids that is still active today. I’d met several of her students, decades later while with my mom in the market or mall, who claimed they became oceanographers and biologists because of her influence. She loved kids. They were uncomplicated—what she pretended to be, even wanted to be, but wasn’t. She was childlike in many ways, always curious and loved learning.

As I sat on her bed and ran through her list of accomplishments, her expression became sadder and sadder, and my “turn that frown upside down” mother started to cry. She wanted to give so much more. She had so much more to give, but she realized, laying helpless in bed and gasping for every breath, her time had run out.

Two weeks later I stood over her grave and refused the dirt filled shovel the Rabbi handed to me. I knelt down and scooped a handful of moist, sweet earth from the freshly dug ground, smelled its musty richness, then let it fall off my hand and run through my fingers as I released it onto her casket. And then I silently thanked her for teaching me to recognize natural beauty and engage with it at every opportunity.

My mom died of cancer at 73. Over 100 people attended her funeral. Another hundred or more have contacted our family since her death to give their condolences—lives she touched, who will touch the lives of other, and so on.

Andy Warhol was wrong. Most of us live and die in obscurity.

But we make a difference.