04 July 2014

REBORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY


MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly when I was little, and as the next sibling above me in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss. 

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I was 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than Chris, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park outside of Cleveland, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

TEENAGED ANGST AND ALL, my friend Robin and I were looking forward to the fireworks. Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day and we were really looking forward to the evening.

When we were about five minutes from Lakewood Park, the sky turned from beautiful sunshine to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, Robin and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. So much rain drenched us that we were shivering, and the temperature felt like it had dropped by twenty degrees in just a few minutes time.

And then there were the power lines. . .live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as Robin and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. The transistor radio was on — and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones Robin and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

It was Lakewood Hospital—my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.

Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had hit Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed the sister of one of my classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother — who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 45th anniversary of that day.

On the 30th Anniversary I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up the phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God—that if he would spare the life of my brother that I would not fight with him—ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.


But forty-five years later I am happy to report that God did indeed answer my prayers — on that night when the storm changed everything.

24 December 2013

NATIVITY and TRAGEDY


SOMEWHERE IN CLEVELAND, there is a child being born at this very moment. Somewhere, pure spirit is being inspired into form. 

For Chase Alan Carter that moment arrived five years ago on December 22nd at about 2:35 a.m. at Fairview General Hospital — a stone’s throw away from the city limits. His father, Nick Carter is a 16-year old high school student — a good kid who became a young man that morning, and will forever be charged with the awesome responsibility of fatherhood.

But this is a Christmas tale of two teenaged Nick’s — and a few hours earlier, with the Christmas break finally upon him, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was anxious to hang out with his friends, so he jumped into the back seat of the 2001 Hyundai and sped off towards the Great Northern Mall. “Free,” he must have thought while cradling himself into the back of the car. “No school for two weeks.”

Ten miles away, Nick Carter’s girlfriend was about halfway home — at 5 centimeters. She was being brave, but she was exhausted. The two had checked into the hospital some 15 hours prior, not knowing, of course, what to expect. My 16-year old son Gabe was by his side; excited for his young friends and determined to be with Nick until the baby was born. They yammered on and on about this profound experience and Nick imagined aloud about how different his life would be from this day forward. He seemed simultaneously calm and hyper — and the two friends were embarking on their vacation together in a new and very unusual way.

NICK RAUSER came from a ‘mixed family,’ and his Dad married the mother of Alicia, a dear friend of my eldest son Jacob. As with so many families brought together through divorce, Alicia and Nick had their awkward moments, but eventually they grew quite close. Nick teased his stepsister often, as teenagers are wont to do, but Alicia would usually giggle or feign anger — and the teasing would subside. Late on December 21st, while Nick and his friends were enjoying their first few hours of freedom from school, they didn’t know they were heading right into the teeth of a classic Lake Erie snowstorm.

AT ABOUT 10:15 p.m., a worried Gabe called home. “Dad, they’re saying that the baby is upside down,” he said with obvious concern. “Nick is kind of worried and the doctors are too.” I did my best to talk Gabe down from his anxiety. “This happens a lot more than you think, Gabe,” I told him. “Be strong for Nick — he needs to know that everything is going to be all right.”

A few minutes later, Jacob called from across town to tell me that the storm was getting bad in North Olmsted, but that he was okay. “I’ve already seen two accidents, Dad. The police blocked off a road near the Mall. I’m coming home.” Unbeknownst to Jacob, he had just witnessed the evolution of a tragedy. Within a few hours he was to receive a text from Alicia, and it was then that he discovered that her stepbrother was in an accident — the very one he saw outside the Great Northern Mall. The crash took place at 10:25 p.m. and Nick Rauser was rushed to St. John’s Hospital in nearby Westlake.
He was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.

AT 2:56 a.m., THE PHONE RANG AGAIN, this time from Gabe at Fairview Hospital. Chase Alan Carter was born — as the family of Nick Rauser grieved. 

On Christmas Eve, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was buried. . .it was a beautiful remembrance of a life cut far too short. Across the border of North Olmsted, the baby boy of 16-year old Nick Carter was enjoying his second day of life. He is indeed a Christmas child — held in the loving embrace of two teenaged parents.

During this Holiday, in the wake of this nativity and tragedy, we should think to embrace our children more — no matter what age they are. As they open their presents, as they bicker over the Playstation or the new computer and cause parents anguish, we should commemorate the love we had for them as infants. 

They may not live the life of Jesus or work miracles, but as this Christmas tale of two Nick’s shows — we should cherish each moment — and take nothing for granted. The Rausers did just that — and the Carters are now following their path.

Today of all days, love your children. 

Merry Christmas.

09 November 2013

NOT IN MY BACKYARD



The Great Lakes are home to the largest body of fresh water in the world. It has been said that if you stood on the moon, you would instantly recognize the enormity of the Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. Covering more than 94,000 square miles, these “freshwater seas” hold “an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water, or about one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply,” according to the Great Lakes Information Center. In the U.S. alone, these magnificent lakes account for about nine-tenths of the U.S. supply of fresh surface water.

So the idea that yet another nuclear power plant could surface on Lake Erie — there are already three — should scare the daylights out of everyone. Both the Davis-Besse and Perry Nuclear Power Plants are located adjacent to Lake Erie, and in Michigan, the Fermi II plant is located next to Lake Erie near the city of Monroe.

There have already been two near catastrophes at Davis-Besse. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant was responsible for “two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States” since 1979.

So when people say, “not in my backyard” to wind turbines on Lake Erie, have they considered that just one catastrophe on Lake Erie could decimate up to one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply?

I sure have.

If your ‘backyard’ is Lake Erie — everyone should embrace the future — now. We should do it before Ontario puts a fourth nuclear power plant on the shores of this — the most shallow of all of the Great Lakes. Estimates from a 2004 Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) report states that 12,000 wind-industry jobs could be created in Ohio, a region decimated by the loss of manufacturing jobs. That is second only to California.

For once, we should follow the lead of the innovative visionaries in Holland who have not only embraced wind farms, but dozens of other innovative environmental solutions. 

We need to take the leap — and accelerate the development of renewable energy on the shores of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes as a whole.

In Ohio, Michigan, and the Midwest, millions are out of work. The fear of losing it all is beginning to hit home. In that context, this NIMBY—not-in-my-backyard mentality over wind turbines just doesn’t work anymore —especially with a fourth nuclear power plant on Lake Erie's horizon.

People need jobs. We need power. The future of power generation in the Midwest is there for the taking. We can shift to wind power and push the nuclear threat away from the shores of our Great Lakes.

It is irresponsible to not act.



#
PHOTO CREDIT: dani_boi1221

22 October 2013

RETURN TO THE PROMISED LAND



READERS OF MY WORK KNOW that over the years, I have consistently written about the quandary of the poor and homeless in our society. My blog post,"One Paycheck Away From Humanity" reported about the growing numbers of homeless I witnessed while GENERATION RX was being screened at the Cleveland Film Festival. "How the Other Half Lives" shared my journey to the other side of the world, only to be reminded of the homeless men I met as a young boy in Cleveland many moons ago. 

One year ago, I posted my 1991 film, "The Promised Land" online after days of restoring the documentary. It is a film about homeless war veterans and hordes of men and women caught in the grip of poverty — and forced to the streets to survive. During the restoration process, the memories from 20+ years ago came flooding back...and as I watched the film for the first time in over a decade, so did the tears. During the frigid Cleveland winter of 1991, at 4 a.m. — in six-degree weather, we found dozens of men sleeping under a bridge in an area known as 'the Flats,' a stone's throw from the arctic air blowing off Lake Erie. 

Many of my interviews with the men are featured in 'The Promised Land,' alongside stories of the “middle class homeless.” As I outlined in the film's description at my channel at vimeo.com, 'The Promised Land' was the highest-ranked TV program in prime time, but most importantly, it raised nearly $500,000 in donations after its first showing — and just under $1,000,000 total. The donations went directly to transitional housing, veterans groups, Foodbanks and job training for the poor and homeless. 

It's a story about people living on the brink of disaster. . .and a few who crawled their way back — inch by inch — to self-sufficiency. One of those was a woman named Kathy Pinkis, whom I had met months earlier when I was producing a fundraising video for the Cleveland Foodbank. Kathy was a lovely lady with red hair; she was educated and articulate. She was a single Mom who nearly lost everything after her divorce. When I first interviewed her, she cried...and movingly so. When I asked to interview her again for 'The Promised Land,' she peered at me and said “yes, but this time I am not going to cry.” I smiled, but realized that this would be a very difficult promise to keep. Kathy was a passionate survivor — she wore her heart on her sleeve. 

Near the end of the still-tearless second interview, I told her I was a new father, and that I couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been for her with her young children in tow. . .with only $100 to last six weeks. Kathy broke down. “I vowed then that I would do whatever I can to help someone else so that they won't have to go through what I went through...because it was the worst time in my life . . . and I won't ever be there again. . .ever.” The tears flowed once again. 

As I stated above, the film was a big success: Emmy nominations and an International film award were the topping to near seven-figure success in fundraising for the homeless. 

And Kathy was right. . .she never was forced to return to the streets to survive. 

About two years after 'The Promised Land' aired on television, I received a phone call from one of Kathy's teenaged sons. He began by introducing himself and by thanking me for including his Mom in the film. She had healed her bruised psyche after the trauma she'd endured, but now, he said bravely, “Mom is in the hospital with liver cancer...and only has weeks to live.” I was distraught with the news and as I hung up the phone, I promised Kathy's son that I would write her immediately...and did. 

In the letter, I told Kathy what an inspiration she had been to hundreds of thousands of people; that she was a voice for so many — and that she was selfless. . .willing to recount her painful story publicly not once, but twice in order to help others. Almost singlehandedly, I said, she had shattered all of the myths people harbored about the "face of the homeless," she, with her shining red hair and educated air. “You touched them all,” I wrote. “They felt your courage. You gave others hope. You are a hero.” 

A few weeks later, Kathy's son called again. His Mother read the letter many times. . .MANY times. She smiled, he said, and cried. . .and smiled again. “But she was at peace when she died,” he said. “Thank you.” 

As you watch 'The Promised Land' — twenty years after it was produced, you may note an eerie connection to the present. As you meet Kathy and all of the others I had the privilege of speaking with, I hope you will be motivated to help the poor and homeless wherever you live. Foodbanks need food, the homeless need beds, and millions need job re-training if they expect to survive. They are among us, everywhere we care to look. 

Do so in honor of Kathy Pinkis, the thousands of homeless veterans, the poor and the unemployed who need your help. . .now more than ever. And do so with a grateful heart. . .for all the riches you possess. 




YOU CAN VIEW 'THE PROMISED LAND' AT THIS LINK: http://vimeo.com/18652969

23 September 2013

INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN FOR LETTERS FROM GENERATION RX BEGINS

17 September 2013

COMING SOON: LETTERS FROM GENERATION RX “VIDEO TEASER”


The teaser video for LETTERS FROM GENERATION RX is coming your way soon … here’s a low-grade still from the video. Please help spread the word!

28 August 2013

MARK TWAIN NEVER LOST AN ARGUMENT


I sent the following to Congressman Jim Renacci via Twitter. After all of the gerrymandering orchestrated by his GOP allies in Ohio, he is, sadly, my Congressman.
From Dennis Kucinich to “Tea-Party-Jim Renacci?” Yikes.



"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
                                       — Mark Twain

04 July 2013

REBORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY

MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly when I was little, and as the next sibling above me in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss. 

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I was 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than Chris, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park outside of Cleveland, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

TEENAGED ANGST AND ALL, my friend Robin and I were looking forward to the fireworks. Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day and we were really looking forward to the evening.

When we were about five minutes from Lakewood Park, the sky turned from beautiful sunshine to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, Robin and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. So much rain drenched us that we were shivering, and the temperature felt like it had dropped by twenty degrees in just a few minutes time.

And then there were the power lines. . .live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as Robin and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. The transistor radio was on — and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones Robin and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

It was Lakewood Hospital—my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.

Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had hit Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed the sister of one of my classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother — who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 44th anniversary of that day.
On the 30th anniversary, I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up the phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God—that if he would spare the life of my brother that I would not fight with him—ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.

But forty-two years later I am happy to report that God did indeed answer my prayers — on that night when the storm changed everything.

14 February 2013

YUAN FEN

DON’T TELL MY MOM I SAID THIS, but someone once told me — in the strictest of confidence — that my mother “fell in love every month” until she met and married my Dad. Having waited until I was “mature enough” to get married — only to get divorced a few years later — I guess I can understand how even my Mom could have enjoyed years of fickle feelings before having her heart set ablaze by my Dad. It seems like human nature, especially in the context of relationships in the 21st century.

Of course, once Mom made a decision, that was that. There would be no looking back. Sixty years later, Mom and Dad, both in their 80s, remain true to their vows. . .and very much in love.

Many of our Moms and Dads — members of “the greatest generation” — have enjoyed similar longevity in matrimony. Today, however, with marriages lasting between 6-7 years on average, one must ask if the “Me Generation” is truly unable to keep a commitment. . .about anything.

This uneasy, chronic dissatisfaction is all around us. I was having dinner with a very successful, affluent, female medical doctor a few years ago when the conversation shifted to relationships. “What is it with men, “she rightly asked, “and why is it that you are all unwilling to get married?” She outlined her case against men very firmly, beginning with, “Men don’t want companionship, they want control,” before adding that “men won’t marry a powerful woman with a great career…especially if they make less money than a woman.” 

“Is it REALLY that, Doctor,” I recall asking. “Is it that men are afraid of powerful women? Perhaps so. Or is it that we live in this ‘Me’ centered universe, devoid of loyalty and unconditional love? Could it be that we live in an age where few have the patience, the tolerance, or capacity to forgive — like children forgive their parents on a weekly basis — and that we are living our lives as if life is always greener on the other side of the mountain?”

She seemed perplexed, and we went on like that for hours. Maybe something resonated with her, as six months later she reported back that she had indeed found her man, and was engaged to be married.

Thus, is there anything more beautiful — or maddening — than love? We see it portrayed in movies, television, books and magazines all of the time, of course, but while they do justice to the word in an imaginary, Hollywood-kind-of-a-way, do we really know what the reality of love is?

I wonder.

Yeah, I admit it .. I have cried at the line (“You had me at ‘Hello’,” from the movie Jerry Maguire) EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve heard it spoken. I think it touches a raw nerve of unfulfilled love within me, and allows a deep and abiding sadness to surface. Is it ONLY because of ‘Hollywood magic’ that this takes place. . .am I being manipulated by the cold orchestrated efforts of the media machine to go see the next Cameron Crowe movie? Again, perhaps.

Yet when this sadness occurs, it highlights that those feelings within me, no matter how glorified or artificial they may appear in Hollywood, do indeed exist. Is it because Renee Zellweger’s character is so willing to accept Jerry Maguire, a man full of vanity and failures and flaws, at his lowest ebb?

If we are looking for love at all, THAT is what keeps many of us in the game .. believing that there is at least one perfect woman/man out there in the Universe. It is the unconditional, the solid-as-a-rock notion that “I will stand beside you always…even when you are broken…” that keeps us coming back for more.

The Chinese have a concept called “Yuan Fen,” for which no direct translation exists in the English language. It is a visual, contextual combination of destiny, tried-and-true effort and, well, luck. Yuan Fen, like so many things Chinese, is a karmic phrase meant to illustrate the importance of fate and diligence in our lives. For a relationship to work, one needs both “yuan,” the fateful, pre-destined meeting of a man and a woman that creates the possibility of lasting love — and the “fen,” or the action of sharing and WORKING toward fulfilling that destiny together.

It is a lovely concept. Since yuan fen acknowledges the deeper meaning of events in our daily lives, it also highlights the need for shared energy and commitment to make “the dream come true.”

The can be no “fen” without “yuan.” Without hard work .. and perhaps a little luck, there can be no yuan fen. This, it would seem, is the part of the equation which alienates those of us in Western culture, because let’s face it, if things get tough in relationships, most of us cut-and-run. 

Our lack of commitment — our unwillingness to stand shoulder to shoulder during difficult times — is probably the simplest reflection of life in the material age, and a society built on instant gratification.

IT IS NOW NEARLY 20 YEARS since my first-and-only wife divorced. We definitely did not experience ‘yuan fen,’ but I love and admire her just the same. She was the bearer of many laughs .. and many lessons. I am grateful to her.

As another Valentine’s Day arrives, I still believe the idea that fate, destiny and karma may deliver my yuan fen to me some day .. if it is meant to be. It is the “eternal optimist” in me. Some of you may think that my beliefs make me naïve. Perhaps .. but I always believe that love will complete the circle .. for all of us.

My prayer is that you will find your “yuan fen” as well, if that is truly what you seek .. and that you will be willing to work for your blessings, like so many in “the greatest generation” did before us.

Happy Valentine’s Day. . .and peace to you all.

24 December 2012

NATIVITY AND TRAGEDY



SOMEWHERE IN CLEVELAND, there is a child being born at this very moment. Somewhere, pure spirit is being inspired into form. 

For Chase Alan Carter that moment arrived on December 22nd at about 2:35 a.m. at Fairview General Hospital — a stone’s throw away from the city limits. His father, Nick Carter is a 16-year old high school student — a good kid who became a young man that morning, and will forever be charged with the awesome responsibility of fatherhood.

But this is a Christmas tale of two teenaged Nick’s — and a few hours earlier, with the Christmas break finally upon him, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was anxious to hang out with his friends, so he jumped into the back seat of the 2001 Hyundai and sped off towards the Great Northern Mall. “Free,” he must have thought while cradling himself into the back of the car. “No school for two weeks.”

Ten miles away, Nick Carter’s girlfriend was about halfway home — at 5 centimeters. She was being brave, but she was exhausted. The two had checked into the hospital some 15 hours prior, not knowing, of course, what to expect. My 16-year old son Gabe was by his side; excited for his young friends and determined to be with Nick until the baby was born. They yammered on and on about this profound experience and Nick imagined aloud about how different his life would be from this day forward. He seemed simultaneously calm and hyper — and the two friends were embarking on their vacation together in a new and very unusual way.

NICK RAUSER came from a ‘mixed family,’ and his Dad married the mother of Alicia, a dear friend of my eldest son Jacob. As with so many families brought together through divorce, Alicia and Nick had their awkward moments, but eventually they grew quite close. Nick teased his stepsister often, as teenagers are wont to do, but Alicia would usually giggle or feign anger — and the teasing would subside. Late on December 21st, while Nick and his friends were enjoying their first few hours of freedom from school, they didn’t know they were heading right into the teeth of a classic Lake Erie snowstorm.

AT ABOUT 10:15 p.m., a worried Gabe called home. “Dad, they’re saying that the baby is upside down,” he said with obvious concern. “Nick is kind of worried and the doctors are too.” I did my best to talk Gabe down from his anxiety. “This happens a lot more than you think, Gabe,” I told him. “Be strong for Nick — he needs to know that everything is going to be all right.”

A few minutes later, Jacob called from across town to tell me that the storm was getting bad in North Olmsted, but that he was okay. “I’ve already seen two accidents, Dad. The police blocked off a road near the Mall. I’m coming home.” Unbeknownst to Jacob, he had just witnessed the evolution of a tragedy. Within a few hours he was to receive a text from Alicia, and it was then that he discovered that her stepbrother was in an accident — the very one he saw outside the Great Northern Mall. The crash took place at 10:25 p.m. and Nick Rauser was rushed to St. John’s Hospital in nearby Westlake.
He was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.

AT 2:56 a.m., THE PHONE RANG AGAIN, this time from Gabe at Fairview Hospital. Chase Alan Carter was born — as the family of Nick Rauser grieved. 

And yesterday, on Christmas Eve, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was buried. . .it was a beautiful remembrance of a life cut far too short. Across the border of North Olmsted, the baby boy of 16-year old Nick Carter was enjoying his second day of life. He is indeed a Christmas child — held in the loving embrace of two teenaged parents.

During this Holiday, in the wake of this nativity and tragedy, we should think to embrace our children more — no matter what age they are. As they open their presents, as they bicker over the Playstation or the new computer and cause parents anguish, we should commemorate the love we had for them as infants. 

They may not live the life of Jesus or work miracles, but as this Christmas tale of two Nick’s shows — we should cherish each moment — and take nothing for granted. The Rausers did just that — and the Carters are now following their path.

Today of all days, love your children. 

Merry Christmas.