Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Voice from Above

Part One:
One daughter, two brothers, five coworkers, 59 immediate family members, 692 facebook friends.  Everyday I interact with a number of people who impact my life in a variety of ways and on many different levels and depths.  Throughout life we meet and intermingle with countless faces, never knowing whichinteraction will be a forgotten memory by tomorrow and who will still be sitting by our side in 30 years.  The gift given to all people that enables us to form relationships and bonds is a complicated and truly beautiful gift from our creator.  Sometimes the footprints that people leave on our hearts can last a lifetime.
 I believe that sometimes a bond can form that is so strong that death itself cannot sever a relationship and keep it from growing.  
My youngest brother entered his freshman year of high school the same year I left for college.  While I was not around for his high school years on a day to day basis, I was home enough to meet many of his friends and attend his baseball and basketball games.  They were all like little brothers to me. Sam was and is a social butterfly. He’s everyone’s best friend.  A school mate of his began hanging out at our house. He was there so much, that at times I would come home, my family would be out and about and TJ would be the only one there. Thomas “TJ” Zapp met Sam while playing baseball at Elsik high school.  They hung out all the time. Two peas in a pod. Over their 4 years of high school they shared many ups and downs, good days and bad, agreed and disagreed.  They were so close they were like brothers. They learned much about life together and although we did not know at the time, TJ would teach us one of our biggest lessons about the human condition.   During their senior year TJ began having trouble at home with family and moved into our house for awhile.  It really wasn’t much of an issue since he was always there anyways. J His family troubles began to dissipate as graduation grew near and both TJ and Sam began planning future. Talk of graudation always seemed to ease tensions for everyone.  
TJ decided to enlist in the United States Marines.  He left for basic training and I didn’t hear much about him for awhile.  Sam of course kept in close contact. Merely five weeks after TJ graduated basic training he was deployed to Iraq where his destiny and fate would collide with tragedy.  On October 8, 2004, only five months after graduating high school, the 18 year old Marine lost his life defending our country during Operation Iraqi Freedom at the Battle of Fallujah.  The news was numbing.  I received the call from my brother around 3:00 am and he told me the news as he fought through his tears, anger and despair.  His family was devastated.  The whole world seemed to stand still for awhile. 
After many weeks of heartache, life began to move on for everyone.  Sam often talked about TJ and went to visit his mother.  As the years passed by the scars left by TJ’s untimely death began to heal.
Part II:
Six years later, during the summer 2010, my mother and her husband took a two week vacation to New England. Their itinerary spanned Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and many small towns in between.  In true “Mom” fashion,  she decided to take a tour of the US Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  While on the tour she saw a tattered American flag hung on the wall with a plaque.  Coming from a family with a heavy military background, she was intrigued and began to read.  The plaque tells the tale of a US Mint worker who was deployed and asked to take the flag with him on his tour of duty.  The Mint operator agreed to let him take the flag as long as he agreed to return it. The Mint worker deployed with the flag and returned some times later in one piece with the flag.  Years later he again deployed and again asked if he could take the flag and again he was permitted to as long as he would return the flag.  It was on this tour; however, that the unit the Mint worker experienced an encounter like none he had ever had before. He was leading his unit under orders to attack the insurgent infested Iraqi City of Fallujah and the unit met resistance.  The story told of the battle of Fallujah.  It continued to recount the events of October 8, 2004 and the tale of two marines from this unit that lost their lives during this battle.
Frozen with disbelief my mother began to cry and her heart dropped. It couldn’t be TJ could it? She couldn’t remember the dates, but something in her gut told her this was the story of TJ’s last moments on Earth. She stood in the quiet hallway 1,000 miles away from the house where Sam and TJ spent hours upon hours laughing and playing.  How was it possible that she unexpectedly happened upon a quiet reminder that he existed. His life was real. Though time had passed and life had moved on, TJ’s life was being remembered in that small quiet hallway of the US Mint.  
To be sure she returned to her hotel room and looked up the date of TJ’s passing. Indeed this battle, this unit, and this story was about TJ. It was as if he opened the heavens himself and whispered down to Earth a gentle “Hello”.   The following morning my mother returned to the Mint and told her story to the people who run the facility. While cameras were not allowed in the Mint they assured her that they would send her a copy of the plaque that was on the wall. She also uncovered the name of the second Marine that died that day, a young man named David Ries.  
Through a little googleing and the magic of Facebook I was able to track down David Ries’ family in under an hour. They had no idea that the memorial inside the Mint existed and had been looking for Tj’s family.  Tj’s family was amazed and grateful for the exhibit that honored their son and told the story of his final day. His life was not in vain and the world would now know it. The US mint replaced the plaque with one that identified the Marines by name and sent medals and a flag encased in a cherry wood box to each of the families.  This cross country coincidence has brought peace and closure to our lives. 
While TJ can never be replaced in our lives, his memory will live on. The bond that he had with my brother and my family was an example of those special bonds that happen only a few times in a lifetime.   A bond that cannot be silenced by death. If you are even at the US Mint please take a moment to read the exhibits about the fallen soldiers and have a moment of silence.  Thank you to all the veterans and servicemen who protect us all.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Veggie Tale Poem from God to our Daughters

This is an excerpt from a Veggie tale video I watched with my daughter. I have never been more moved in my life than I was when I listened to this poem.  The Veggie tale story was that of Snoodlerella, who is a young girl that struggles with her self esteem. In the scene she just turned from a beautiful dolled up girl at a party back to her normal self.  She is unhappy with her looks and turns to leave.  The king enters the room and his character represents God. The words he tells the little girl almost brought me to tears. Silly right! It’s just a cartoon! But extremely moving nonetheless.  It goes like this:
Again there she stood with glasses and braces,
uncontrollable hair and cumbersome graces.
 So back to herself in that hall all alone
she sat down her cup and turned to go home.

“Excuse Me Young lady,” the voice asked.
 “If I might
with permission of course have the last dance tonight.” 
With me? She asked startled as she turned to the voice. 
You must be mistaken; I’m an awful poor choice.

Who told you your awful?” He asked.
“How do you know?”
“Can’t you see for yourself,
the whole world tells me so.” 

Then onto the dance floor walked the King as he said:
“Would you like to my child, hear what I think instead?”
 then the hall filled with music as the king took her hand. 
She asked “your majesty, please, I don’t understand?”

“I think you’re beautiful,” the King said as he smiled. 
“I treasure you deeply you’re lovely my child.
I think you’re beautiful your hair and your braces,
 your glasses and clothes your cumbersome graces. 

And many more traits which I could speak of,
there’s nothing about you I don’t truly love.
You’re kind and you’re honest, funny and smart.
You’re really quite charming you have a good heart.”

“Your majesty,” she asked as a tear came in view.
"I’d like to believe you, is that really true?”
“Of course it is true, every word that I say.
Daughter I am the King. I made you that way.

 I delight in your beauty, you’re wonderfully made.
I knew you before the foundation was laid.
 You’re precious to me, every hair on your head,
 daughter hear and believe.” The snoodle king said.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Making Moves Not Babies

Recently a girlfriend of mine was researching female executives and she was complaining to me that many of the successful women in corporations got there big break or job opportunity as a result of a marriage.  I was a little surprised that women were marrying into corporate positions at first, but as a divorce lawyer I’m not sure I have the right frame of mind about marriage anyway, but that is a whole nother blog.  The more I though about the idea of the “self made woman” the more I began to agree with her.  You always here stories about the American Dream where someone has gone from rags to riches, but I do think many of the fairy tale happy endings are centered around the success of men. It makes perfect sense if you really think about it. Most people do not hit the pinnacle of their careers until somewhere between 35-45 years of age. If you go back in time 35 to 45 years, you would find that the average woman was not what she is today. For example, in 1970, a little over 20% of women were enrolled in college while if you fast forward to 2010 and nearly 50% of all women attend college[1].  Also, in 1970 the average age of marriage for a woman was 20 years old. In 2010 the average age of marriage is 27[2].
All that being said I would like to propose to you that our generation of women will be some of the first self made women and in honor of that I would like to highlight 5 young women making big moves.
1.       Lauren Michelle BarrishEntrepreneur: Barrish holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas and a Masters of Business Administration from the prestigious Rice University.  She is the owner of the Houston Wave, a jitney shuttle company which launched in the Washington Corridor in 2009[3]. The success of the Wave under Barrish lead to quick expansion throughout Houston.  For more information about The Wave Houston visit the website at http://www.thewashingtonwave.com/

2.       Erin McClarty – Attorney at Law: McClarty holds an undergraduate decree from St. Thomas University and a Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law. McClarty graduated in the top tier of her law school class and landed a job as a contracts attorney for Weatherford International.  Her true passion; however, is for Non Profit Corporations. Erin sits on the board of many Houston non profits, gives speeches, and writes her own blog titled “Notations on Non-Profits” which has been listed as number 48 on the list of Top 50 Blogs you Aren’t Reading Yet.  To read more information on starting your own non profit or to track down McClarty check out her website at http://www.notationsonnonprofits.com/

3.       Crystal Washington-Martin – Entrepreneur : Washington holds a Bachelors of Science Degree from the University of Houston. She began her career very young in Corporate Sales and was quickly promoted.  She began managing her own department at the young age of 24. She is now the Owner of CWM Enterprises and is a marketing specialist, social media consultant and International key note speaker.  She has made appearances on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN Radio, Black Enterprise, CareerBuilder.com, MSN Careers, Black MBA Magazine
- Houston Woman Magazine's Evolving Eve Award. For more on Washington-Martin check out her website at

4.       Jamie Finke – Accountant: Finke holds a Bachelors in Administration from Sam Houston State University. She is an Accountant at Paradigm Geophysical which is a is a leading provider of enterprise software solutions to the global oil and natural gas exploration and production industry.  Finke also represents an increasing number of young women as she juggles her successful career and home life as a single mom. Jamie makes it all look easy! For more information on Finke or on Paradigm check out the website at http://www.pdgm.com/

5.       Brandi Holmes – Entrepreneur: Holmes is the Owner of Simply Flawless by Brandi, a business she began five years ago.  She spent many years as a make-up artist for MAC Cosmetics and left the company to start her own business. She is an accomplished make up artist and boasts many celebrity clients. Holmes is a gifted make up artist who is able transform women with her flawless makeovers. Recently Simply Flawless by Brandi has begun to market it’s own line of cosmetics.  A part from her business Holmes is also an accomplished singer throughout the Houston market. For more information on Holmes and Simply Flawless by Brandi check out her website at http://bholmes1.photobiz.com/

[1]Mather, Mark,The Crossover in Female-Male College Enrollement Rates. 2007 http://www.prb.org/Articles/2007/CrossoverinFemaleMaleCollegeEnrollmentRates.aspx
[2] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html
[3] http://www.thewashingtonwave.com/