Category Archives: Inspirational

Being a mother…

After 17 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, ‘I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.’

* * *

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been alone for 20 years, but the demands of my work and my two boys had made it possible to visit her only occasionally.

* * *

That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.

* * *

‘What’s wrong, aren’t you well,’ she asked?

* * *

My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.

* * *

‘I thought it would be pleasant to spend some time with you, ‘ I responded. ‘Just the two of us.’ She thought about it for a moment, and then said, ‘I would like that very much.’

* * *

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last birthday on November 19th.

* * *

She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. ‘I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed,’ she said, as she got into that new white van. ‘They can’t wait to hear about our date’.

* * *

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. ‘It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,’ she said. ‘Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,’ I responded.

* * *

During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation- -nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie.

* * *

As we arrived at her house later, she said, ‘I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.’ I agreed.

* * *

‘How was your dinner date ?’ asked my wife when I got home. ‘Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,’ I answered.

* * *

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.

* * *

Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: ‘I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.’

* * *

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: ‘I LOVE YOU’ and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till ‘some other time.’

***

Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you’ve had a baby…. somebody doesn’t know that once you’re a mother, ‘normal’ is history.

* * *

Somebody said you learn how to be a mother by instinct . somebody never took a three-year-old shopping.

* * *

Somebody said being a mother is boring ….. somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver’s permit.

* * *

Somebody said if you’re a ‘good’ mother, your child will ‘turn out good’…. somebody thinks a child comes with directions and a guarantee.

* * *

Somebody said you don’t need an education to be a mother…. somebody never helped a fourth grader with his math.

* * *

Somebody said you can’t love the second child as much as you love the first …. somebody doesn’t have two children.

* * *

Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery… somebody never watched her ‘baby’ get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten or on a plane headed for military ‘boot camp.’

* * *

Somebody said a mother can stop worrying after her child gets married… somebody doesn’t know that marriage adds a new son or daughter-in-law to a mother’s heartstrings.

* * *

Somebody said a mother’s job is done when her last child leaves home… somebody never had grandchildren.

* * *

Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don’t need to tell her…. somebody isn’t a mother.

Pass this along to all the ‘mothers’ in your life and to everyone who ever had a mother. This isn’t just about being a mother; it’s about appreciating the people in your life while you have them….no matter who that person is.

Teacher instills a love of words, but the lesson is about life

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Phil Holmes has taught English for decades, first to the privileged but lately to the disadvantaged. His method and his intensity make a solid connection with both extremes.
By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Phil Holmes, one of the great English teachers of his generation, is standing before a class of high school seniors, trampling all over their self-esteem.

It is a Thursday in October, not long into the school year. Holmes gazes out at his class, his proper prep school face set off by white hair and rimless spectacles, and tells his students, all of them black kids from South Los Angeles, that the first grading period is ending “and most of you will be getting Fs.”

The students stare, dead silent. For perhaps the first time today, he has their full attention.

“This is not a good start,” Holmes continues, his tone stern but even. “But on the other hand, it’s not unusual.”

Class dismissed.

Holmes spent 35 years building his reputation at Harvard School for Boys and its successor, Harvard-Westlake, which attracted some of the best, the brightest and the richest students in Los Angeles. His teaching methods, his curriculum, his empathy, his intensity, his relentless demand for clear, well-ordered thought, changed kids’ lives.

More than that, he shaped wave after wave of young teachers, many of them now working at some of the most influential educational institutions in America.

But when he and a colleague wrote a book describing their teaching method, publishers scoffed. Of course their method worked! Their classes were filled with bred-for-success overachievers! Who couldn’t teach them?

So in 2002, at a time when most people his age were sliding toward retirement, Holmes accepted a teaching job at View Park Preparatory High School, at Slauson and Crenshaw boulevards.

A public charter school founded by Mike Piscal, one of Holmes’ Harvard-Westlake colleagues, View Park wanted to find out if high-quality teaching could make a difference in the lives of underperforming black students.

Holmes offered the school a gold standard. If a View Park student got an A from him, Principal Robert Schwartz figured, it would mean they were ready to compete with the best of the best.

But what if they got only Fs?

Watching Holmes teach over the course of the school year — which would be the last in his 41-year career as a classroom teacher — the answer came slowly into focus.

That Thursday in October began with students filing into the 12th-grade English composition classroom that Holmes shares with a younger View Park colleague. He was dressed in a suit, green dress shirt and tie, black loafers, his hair neatly trimmed, his bearing attentive.

Just before the bell, one of his students poked her head in, hoping to get excused from class. “We’re taking a makeup test in AP history today,” she said. “Do you mind?”

“Yes, I do mind,” Holmes said. “We’re doing something very important in here.”

Read the story here.

Blackstar Project: taking back the community

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, at 11:00 am C.S.T, seventy-five courageous, principled and hardworking men–ministers, former gang members, law officers, fire fighters, teachers, construction workers, business owners, social workers, retired elders, community members, and students–will bring this movement of Black men to the community where the mass arrest occurred. Men will come together to walk the streets, talk to the people and bring hope to a community that has not seen much hope.

They will knock on doors, visit youth in schools during the week, take youth to churches on Sundays, play basketball and baseball with young males, teach teenagers how to “hustle legit,” encourage young fathers to take care of their children and encourage young men who have had a brush with the law to finish school, secure gainful employment and remain law-abiding. These Black men will be role models for other Black men around the country to launch a similar Movement of Black Men, while standing up for their communities, their families and their children. Chicago’s Roseland, Woodlawn, Englewood and Uptown communities are also scheduled for this effort

Organizations collaborating to do the work that needs to be done to stop the violence among our youth in Chicago are ABBA Church of Renewed Faith, Afrikan American Council of Islamic Brotherhood, Black Souls Organization, Block Club University, Blyden Delany Academy (Milwaukee, WI), Center for Community Development Initiatives, Citizens for a Safer Community, Hip Hop Detox/L.E.A.R.N Charter School, Kidz Off The Block, P.E.A.C.E., Peoples Army, Ministry Network Coalition, No Limit Ministries, TEECH Foundation, Williams Youth Services, 100 Black Men of Chicago and The Black Star Project.

This effort has no funding. Although funding would help the Movement of Black Men with its overall mission, these organizations are not waiting for foundation or government money before they start their work. We are simply the laborers doing the work that is necessary in the vineyard of Chicago’s mean streets. We are not the police. We will not arrest anyone. Our communities don’t need more policing; they need more strong, positive Black men. And we will not try to be tougher or more macho than the men with whom we will speak in these communities. We want to work with them as we replace the violence and fear in Chicago communities with hope and promise.

Please join us. If men want to participate in this effort or if you want to bring the Movement of Black Men to your city, please email blackstar1000@ameritech.net, call People Acting Responsibly Empowering Neighborhoods Together (PARENT) – 773.285.9600 or visit

Crabs in a barrel: an interesting lesson.

To be in the barrel, either the crab getting out or the crab trying to keep others in – you must have been caught in the first place – snatched out of your home, where you were born. Was it meant for you to be caught? And if so, for what purpose? Some of us will provide nourishment for others, some will make it out of the barrel (out of the frying pan and into the fire), some may be thrown back, etc., etc., etc.

To have been caught you must have been desired, must have some value and worth, must have a purpose. Whether the purpose is fulfilled or not is an interesting question as well, for if all things happen as they should, then whatever happens was meant to be. That argument becomes very challenging for the philosopher because he starts experimenting with the what if’s. Actually the what if’s don’t matter – just the what is’s (smile)

Just as we all have a (what some would argue as being instinctive) will to live, that causes us to fight and struggle against death, so too are we so predisposed to act and/or react to a given set of circumstances such that there are no alternative responses. We can say that we could have, should have, and all that – but we do what we do and it is up to us to decide what that means for us – whether we are going to learn from our choices, benefit from them, suffer for them, whine about them, or build on them.

If ever I find myself in a barrel. If I ever find myself a slave. If I ever find myself deprived, disenfranchised, robbed, imprisoned, or sabotaged – the best I can do is remember whose I am and focus not on my condition but the will of my Father, and, knowing that all things are possible (but not guaranteed) through Christ who strengthens me, play my hand the best I can and let God take care of the rest.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:
a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands.
You need to be able to throw something back

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you but, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.