Why I need paradise (heaven).

In Islam, Muslims refer to heaven as paradise. I am not a practicing Muslim. There are elements of the religion that I not only like, but make common sense & are attractive to me. As a matter of fact, I belong to no formal religion but in my home you will find more than one Holy Quran, more than one Bible, & even a copy of the book of Mormon. I di not purchase or seek any of them. They were all gifts. Which to me, is the Creator or the Universe’s response to my search for a spiritual home (which at times is nore active than others).

The first part of my life, I was baptised, raised in, & attended services at an Episopalian church. My paternal Grandmother & my maternal Grandfather were both deeply involved in the church & from kindergarden to the 4th grade, I attended All Saints Episcopal School on St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands where I’m from. When I was 15 years old, in 1979, my arents took a trip to Senegal, West Africa. Upon thier return, my father (who had also been raised in the Episcopal Church) had found & accepted Islam (or as he stated, Islam found him).

I was taught at a young age to give thanks before eating, say prayers before going to bed, & to be thankful for every day. I would be lying if I said I know the Bible or the Quaran well. I do not. I’ve always belived or maybe even hoped that there is something more to this life than the earth, than what we know. When I pray, I don’t have a solid idea as to who is listening but I feel & belive in the most inexplicable way, that I am heard. Yet at 57 years of age today, I still find myself wondering,”what if this REALLY is it? “What if this is all there is”?

That scares me. It’s almost bizare to think that I feel my prayers are heard, that there is more than this, yet I’m fearful that there may be nothing after this, that we simply turn to dust, & I wrestle with it. Iv’e told myself that I find comfort & solace by choosing to live my life as though there is a God & finding out upon death that I was right, versus living as though there is no such thing, then finding out upon death, that there is. Simple, right? Well it should be, but I still have moments when I wrestle with dispair that this world is all there is.

I know it’s my own mortality that brings these thoughts, seeing people die but as I write this, the exercise alone restores faith & I feel better than I did when I typed the first paragraph. I’ve come to accept that I NEED faith. I NEED heaven or paradise to get to. I have lived what I would call a charmed life. I’ve felt looked after & watched over. I’ve also wasted much of the time & life granted to me. But there have been times when I had no idea how I would get out of a challenging moment or get through a struggle, like anyone else & it’s at those times that I choose to lean hard on not just my supporting cast on earth, but on the entity, being or creator/God. That which is greater than myself. I’ll continue to be open to religion. I always will be, but I will search for faith. Search for love, give it freely, & give as much gratitude as I can, & live with the faith that paradise is real & that the service to others through the life lived here, will get me there. If your’e reading this, I love you.

What matters most in a special needs family?

With so many important issues facing us in this country & in the world at large, it can be easy to loose focus & get distracted. There are so many legitimate distractions around us. The issues closest to me (in no particular order) include the division among Americans which has the current President right in the middle along side the National Anthem & our flag.

The devastation in Mexico from this week’s earthquake’s & the destruction of island’s in the Caribbean including the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I come from. Where do I contribute? Where can I make the most impact? Where should we choose to focus our energy most? These items are as I mentioned, each very important to me. I have seen images of the islands of St. Thomas & St. Croix featuring places I frequented that are unrecognizable.

I have been blessed to know that my family members are safe. So while rebuilding a is a long road, one is removed from those challenges so while prayers have been answered, the daily worry is not as present. I have no idea what it is like to live through such a thing. In truth, NONE of these items can be ignored. Nor should they be.

Yet there is one thing that does stay with me every day..especially now & that is my  son Elijah, who is 11 years old & was diagnosed with Autsim Spectrum Disorder (ASD at the age of three). I worry less about the people who stare when he has a melt down in public, which can occur because the specifics stall in the restroom that he wants to use is not available, or because of anxiety he needs to be squeezed right away & cannot help but ask in a loud demanding way or even scream at times. Though at times these are very inconvenient, I’ve grown. This is one of the challenges/gifts of autism.

What my wife & I do worry about is his future & our future with him, especially as it relates to money, our own retirement, his independence & frankly, our own mortality. The things we worry about are things that I am sure are on the minds of most  people who are parents to children or adults with special needs.

Things that matter twice as much to our community but frankly, I KNOW concern anyone who earns a dollar & pays taxes, regardless of race religion, income, sexual orientation, or gender. Things we may not like or feel comfortable talking about but have to. Things I frankly hate talking about.. but have to. Things like…

  • What if one of  or both of us  passes away before he becomes an adult?
  • What kind of independence, financial & otherwise will our child have?
  • Who would fight for him if I am not here?
  • Will I myself be able to retire in comfort?
  • What options are there for me to put money aside for my child? How much of that money if any, will be lost to taxes? Is there a limit on how much I can save?

These questions & others like them have answers that live within the financial services industry but the industry has chosen to reserve them for the wealthy & affluent only. Much like the free services such as therapy, respite, & more that are available in the state of California where my family & I live, people cannot get what is available if they do not ask & if they do not know, then how can they ask? When it comes to financial services AND education, most don’t even know where to ask.. or sometimes what to ask. These words will be perceived as equal parts advertisement & information & because the need is so great, I do not mind. I am a professional in the financial services industry with more than a decade of experience.

My wife & in addition to our 11 year old son, have her grown daughters from her previous marriage who are ages  23 & 25, & for the last 9 years, we have been legal guardians to my sister in law’s 4 children, two boys & two girls, ages 12-18. My colleague, business partner, & friend, Brian Altounian & I have committed to educating & Serving the special needs community on what we hope to be a national scale.. to start with. As information becomes available regarding our upcoming workshops, seminars, & events, I will share. Wherever you are, as you read this, please share with those you know. If you have not found the answers to the questions noted here, respond. If you have found answers a success story to share, please do so & if by chance, you would like to be part of this movement in some way, shape or form, by all means, reach out. Whoever you are, if you are reading this, I love you.




I love someone with special need$

I remember when our son Elijah was diagnosed with autism,  7 years ago, at the age of three. My wife Laura had two daughters from her previous marriage & noticed what she thought were missing milestones in his development. Later, she would recall that these items seemed to reveal themselves after Elijah’s first round of vaccination shots. Many have & will continue to  debate the connection between the two &  I know the CDC says there is no  proof of a link  but if an individual is accused of a crime, what would convince you more of their innocence..them telling you that they did not do it, or that there is no evidence? Me? I’m not sure, but my only point is that it’s worthwhile to be vigilant & stay informed. When we got the diagnosis, it was over the phone & it was routine to the person on the other end. To my wife & I, it was a jarring punch to the gut, followed by a wave of doubts that surfaced in sections, especially as we approached his enrollment in school.

Shortly after Elijah’s birth, I  entered the field of financial services. Once Elijah was born & Laura returned to work from maternity leave,  I took two weeks off from my job as a Support Rep in the mortgage industry . Prior to Elijah’s birth, I had my resume on the market for about a year. There was little room for growth at my current job but once Elijah was born, I was looking for not just growth & income, but control. Some would say flexibility but I wanted control of my time. I found a great company, great people, & a great opportunity.

I began to learn things about money that I had only thought of in passing but once I became a parent, I thought of them all the time. Things like how my family would be effected if I passed away suddenly & my income died with me? Things like is there something we can do to put away money for Elijah when he grows up that would be protected against loss & taxes? Do we have options for our own retirement outside of our jobs that would  also give us protection against loss & taxes? I learned the answer to all of these was yes & we have been able to implement these concepts over the past 10 years. I knew from day one that other special needs families needed to hear this. I knew that most any family needed to learn these things. But I also knew that I did not want to step on people’s toes  or “bother” anyone. I’ve since learned that when we spend time wondering what people “might” think, that we are in fact thinking of ourselves, not about them. We wonder what they may think  of us. It’s been said that more people are addicted to the approval of others than to any drug, substance, or alcohol.

Personally, I think  the only thing will give me full piece of mind with regard to Elijah;s future  is actually living it, seeing it. But I also know the best way to get there is to live in the moment. I’ve heard it said that the best way to predict the future is to write it. That means no fairy tale, but reality. Our own reality. Once upon THIS time. Over the last 10 years, my wife & I have strengthened our union, we have taken in her sister’s four kids & are in the middle of the adoption process, & I’ve learned the following. As parents of kids with special needs, autism or otherwise, I think we worry about the same things as people who have typically developing kids.

We want our kids to have a fair shot at life, health, happiness. We all do. But in our case, we may worry more about the same things. The level of uncertainty is greater. What happens if any of us passes away suddenly? Will we be able to afford to retire? Will my child be able to earn his/her own income? Having found solutions to these & other financial questions, I’ve also grown past the notion of what people would think if I share it. I wonder what would happen if I chose NOT to share it. Is there a family whose questions would remain un-answered?

Might I add value to & impact a life of a child that is not yet even born? In the weeks to come, I will “up” my courage to live in the moment,once upon THIS time, by sharing  the kick off of an initiative to empower, strengthen, educate & serve all families, but especially special needs families. If you are reading this, I hope you’ll support our effort. The world needs more people that dare to give & live in abundance & we can never know too many good people.Stay tuned & be well.



28,000 days






What if your income were “taken care of”?

The Amazing Xperience

I literally just read an article about a proposal in Switzerland that has brought about great debate. Per the proposal, the Swiss government would provide for all citizens, a universal basic income grant. In my home country of the United States, this would be seen as  the idea of a  liberal, which would be soundly rejected by most who consider themselves conservative. As an African-American, from a cultural stand point, historically, I would be expected to lean toward the liberal & to be a proponent of this idea were suggested in the U.S.  As a child, not knowing details, I assumed that communism was a bad thing. As I got much older, I understood it in theory & realized that it is not a bad thing. But that is theory.

In reality it’s not simply bad but unrealistic.. simply because of the human element. Put people in charge of an…

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What if your income were “taken care of”?

I literally just read an article about a proposal in Switzerland that has brought about great debate. Per the proposal, the Swiss government would provide for all citizens, a universal basic income grant. In my home country of the United States, this would be seen as  the idea of a  liberal, which would be soundly rejected by most who consider themselves conservative. As an African-American, from a cultural stand point, historically, I would be expected to lean toward the liberal & to be a proponent of this idea were suggested in the U.S.  As a child, not knowing details, I assumed that communism was a bad thing. As I got much older, I understood it in theory & realized that it is not a bad thing. But that is theory.

In reality it’s not simply bad but unrealistic.. simply because of the human element. Put people in charge of an idea where they are supposed to not take extra for themselves & treat people fairly.. well you get  my point. When you have something that you have created, it changes the game, regardless of any good intention… which brings me back to the proposal in Switzerland.  Maybe it’s different in Switzerland but here in the U.S. such a proposal would some people, but most people would not treat it as help. Most people would come to depend on it. That is part of the nature of human beings.

If people are given fish instead of being given a proven effective way to catch fish, they prosper today, yet suffer tomorrow. For instance, take slavery in America. It has been documented that just as there were slaves who were ready to build anything they could on their own once emancipated, there were those who had been so damaged psychologically because they had from day one, been born into dependency. I don’t think it’s a liberal or conservative thing. I feel that it’s a human thing. But I assure you that if this proposal were on the table in the U.S., that would be the debate.. how liberal it is versus conservative which is a key to so many of our problems. We tend to treat each other as labels rather than souls. Might this work if each citizen were required to treat the income asa seed of some kind, something to grow on or from? Who knows?

Personally, I would be left to wonder what it would feel like to have built & created something that is MINE, that was not given to me, that I could have as a legacy for my children.I would feel that if the government gave it to me, that they can then take it.. be it because they wanted to or if they found themselves unable to support it financially. The feeling that we have & convey once we have built something is something that nobody  can ever take away from us.

I do tend to lean more towards a liberal mindset versus a conservative one.. when it comes to politics. But I’m aware that nobody is liberal about everything nor is anyone conservative about everything. The food for thought here stirs up quite an appetite for the mind. Again, if we treat each other more like souls & less like labels, we just might discover the best in ourselves. But let’s go back to the original question..”what if your income were taken care of”? Powerful question, but feeble, compared to the following  “what if your income was taken care of.. what would you do”?

28,000 days


I will be the very first to warn that this post is going to be “all over the place”. I’m at a stage in life, at 51 years of age, where there is NOTHING that I love more than my family, & doing what I can to make the most out of my days on earth. As a result, I’m big on personal development, learning, & success oriented principles.. especially as it pertains to adding value & love to others . I’ve seen so many people who I’ve met, known, loved or have been influenced by, pass away in the last few years. Aside from family members, for much of my generation & several others, Michael Jackson & Prince were THE artists whose songs & influence were the soundtrack to our lives. As a person of color, this especially meant something because often lost, is the subliminal message sent to a black kid when millions of people, regardless of race, gender or political affiliation, become enamored or flat-out fall in love with someone who looks like you, in a world where sometimes, the subliminal message of the media says otherwise (that’s a whole different subject which we could spend days on).

Shortly before Michael Jackson passed away, I had been lamenting the notion that so much of the world was not what it used to be. This is a thought I’m told that comes with middle age but as I straddled the ages between 40 & 50, I sadly came to the realization that in my youth, no matter what changes life brought, the antidote of new music was constant & effective. This hardly seemed to be the case as years went by. People seemed more cynical & everything started to move so fast. Technology took us further… sometimes further apart & music was not what it used to be. With Michael’s departure, there was on less light to shine through a sometimes empty world. When Prince died just over two weeks ago, I lamented similar thoughts  I had the pleasure to live in Minneapolis for 10 years from April 1986 to June of 1996 . During that time, I worked as a dancer & extra in two of Prince’s films (the concert movie “Sighn o the Times” & the Purple Rain sequel, “Graffiti Bridge”) & several music videos (Glam Slam, Tevin Cambells’s “Round & Round”).

These experiences afforded me the opportunity to make great friends, be a guest at numerous concerts & parties at Prince’s Paisley Park, & have few & brief conversations with Prince.  While some of this is work related, I had chances to see him as just a person. So my thoughts drifted to people I would not have met had not been for him. People I re-connected with. I thought of how short time is on earth. I wondered when Prince passed, was he happy? I hope he was. I pray to God that he was because he brought joy to so many. I wondered if I had my own dreams  of success through song, come to light & touched millions including those yet born, would I otherwise be happy? All of this brings me to the value of fulfillment, the fact that we have 28,000 days on average, on this planet. 28,000 days to love first ourselves by determining what means the most to us, what our goals & dreams are, then work like nobody’s business to make them come true. To serve & love people along the way. So on this day in May, on this mother’s day I first & foremost express my deepest gratitude for the gift that is my mother  Janet Francis -Turner, to my mother in law Sylvia Moreno & to my wonderful wife, Laura Francis. In alignment with my own purpose & desire to bring love to others. Celebrate your mothers & live your purpose.

Autism.. a villain.. or hero?



In the weeks leading up to the retirement of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, we’ve seen a handful of interviews , specials, & commercials. I’ve always been a basketball fan  & especially at this stage of my life, I’m intrigued by how people achieve greatness… at almost anything. The athletes or entertainers that I have admired in my life time, the reason for that admiration is more than anything, based upon a fascination with how they think. How anyone thinks & a common theme with Kobe, was people’s perception of him as a hero versus a villain.He shared a conversation that he had with his daughter about bees to which they are  allergic & he asked her if  a bee would be considered a villain or a hero.

Considering the value bees bring to the planet & the roles they play in ecology, one could easily say ” hero”. However, if one were allergic & stung by a bee & in an area far away from any medical help, you could easily choose “villain”. As a person who looks for the gift in every challenge, I pondered.. “is autism a hero or villain”? When my wife & I were faced with the diagnosis or our son Elijah at the age of three, autism was most certainly a villain whose but I not only wanted to kick but let’s be real, I went from utter sorrow & feeling helpless to bits of rage & wishing it was a living thing that I could kill. How anyone sees it will depend on their experience. Where does your child fall on the spectrum? How has living with autism affect you or your child?

My wife has said several times how much she loves Elijah as he is & I understand that. I feel the same way. It’s a part of whole heartedly loving him for who he is, as he is. That’s not to say that we would not love for him to be able to express his emotions in a more clear manner, increase his awareness & independence. Perspective is everything. When I think about what the future holds for him, not knowing the answer, wondering what life will be like for him after we left this earth, it scares me.

It makes my heart twist in the most helpless of manners & autism is at that point, not just a villain but evil incarnate. Yet my perspective, my desire & frantic effort to be the best I can be, to do everything I can to be a blessing in the life & presence of ANYONE who encounters me.. whether they walk by or enter my life,. my desire to be a hero myself to all my children, that is the hero in autism. The level of patience, courage, & compassion that I strive for. The very manner in which I love, look at, & hold in the highest regard, my amazing wife & the beautiful warrior that she is.. these are things that are a product of the hero in autism. In the coming weeks, I am going to be facing one of my fears, desires, & goals & that is all due to the hero in autism.

To provide for not just autism families but special needs families in general.. far & wide, options for basic, crucial & often denied, financial education & service, has long been a desire of mine. Solutions for some  of the very things I spoke of that concern me & my wife. In an effort to bring as much certainty & preparation to a now uncertain future. If you’ve taken a moment to read this.. thank you. I will be sharing as it is made available, the time, date & location where the first steps will be taken to bring this awareness & options to our special needs families. Families like yours & mine. This is also an opportunity to educate those who have not been effected in any way by autism or any other form of special needs. Because one day, that will change.. & they too will see a hero &  or a villain. Me? I see both. I fight to be a hero to love in all it’s forms & a villain to anything less. Blessings..


28,000 days


Voices & spirit..WHO versus how we are

Have you ever stopped to think about the people who you relate to the most, the ones that you are most drawn to, weather they are living people that you truly know & love or to some extent, even a celebrity? Ever asked yourself or noticed what you like about them? Even your spouse, your kids. Have you noticed that what draws us towards people in the most lasting way is not how they look but how they are (in the case of most celebrities, unless you know them, it would be how they at least appear to be)?

Even for our family, for whom the love is typically unconditional. That brings about the question, who are we? What makes us so unique as individuals? We are told that each of us is special. That for each of us, we were made special. On one hand, we have more in common than otherwise. Especially in terms of our needs. Clothing, shelter, knowing that we matter, & above all.. to be loved. But in the ways that make us who we are, we are as unique as our finger prints. Think of someone you know that has passed away. Have you ever met anyone exactly like that person in terms of how (not just who) they were?

The way they walked, talked. The very manner of being? I recently read about a revelation that a famous actress had when she lost her voice to laryngitis. She talked about how prior to that experience, she had associated her voice with who she was. After her experience & regaining her voice, she was forever changed because she realized that her voice did not define her. HOW she was, how she carried herself & who she was INSIDE defined her. I found this fascinating because as an aspiring vocalist since I was a child & even as an observer of people, I have always been into voices.

I’m drawn to nice voices. I find them to be like my music. All my favorite vocalist’s male or female, have speaking voices that I love listening to (listen to the distinct voices of Natalie Cole, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, or actress Sally Kellerman). Believe it or not, one of the first things I fell in love with about my wife, was her voice. So this idea that  even something as unique & beautiful as our voice, does not define who we are, was hard for me to follow. But as much as I find it to be the rhythm of life,  just like the sound of the ocean’s waves returning home, the whisper of a breeze, or the symphony that is falling rain, I understand. I understand that HOW we are defines WHO we are & I think if we observe the things that make us each so special, it might just improve the way we treat each other.. & ourselves.


28,000 days

Can ALL lives matter?????

The world_n

This past week.. in particular the last 24-48 hours, I’ve seen people upset with Barack Obama that the White House has not followed suit & been adorned in the colors of the French flag after the cowardly killings in France, while I’ve seen others comment on how the same amount of coverage for supposedly related attacks in Beirut have gone virtually un-noticed, while the same is true of an attack at a University in Kenya back in April that took the lives of over 100 innocent people.

In making these observations, I realized that I too was unaware or hardly fazed by these killings & while I have friends in France that I was worried about & relieved to know that they were all well, I don’t know anyone in Kenya or Syria. I do know that my heart sank deeper when I saw the image of a 3 year old  boy that drowned trying to flee to Greece with is family.

When I posed a question via Facebook in response to a thread were people were upset with Obama for the White House not being the colors of the French flag but covered in the colors of the rainbow when same sex marriage was legalized, I stated & asked the following. ” I could not help but notice that nobody’s profile including my own, bares the colors of the French flag. Does that somehow make you or I less sympathetic to the fallen in France? Can one say that we have less sorrow? What of the lives lost in Kenya, Syria, & Beirut? Are they valued less”?

I was told that in those countries, the government condones violence & does little or nothing to fight the barbarism that perpetuates these crimes against humanity. While France is a country who seeks to actively fight these cowards. As such, this person felt that it is in fact different. Which on one hand, I understand but at the same time, the transgressions of a people’s government or those that run it, are enough of an indictment. Must we judge them further by giving them less of our hearts or placing them in a different spot or order than those who’s government acts differently? I always prefer to look inward & ask what I am doing & examine myself before I look at or judge others & here is what I noticed.

As I mentioned, in countries that were further removed from democracy, I was not only less informed, but  to some extent, less connected.. though I obviously see no less value in those lives. By the same token, we find ourselves more moved, saddened, or dismayed when we see  the lives of innocent children taken.. versus innocent adults. It’s as though we allow the media to condition us into thinking “violence happens their”or “they are less civilized” so it’s not as big a deal when a bomb goes of there compared to a civilized society made of a democracy.

In addition, here at home, the very statement that “black lives matter” has come to mean for some, that apparently, other lives do not. Here is where I stand… for what it’s worth. ALL lives matter.. & the answer is a resounding YES.. to the question that nobody seems to be asking… “Can one be proud of his/her race AND country, love others no less, pursue happiness & still have the right to bare arms?  Yes, Yes, yes.. & one can be a tree hugging, peace-loving liberal & STILL KNOW that action is needed & at times fights have to be fought, that being a soldier of love may mean literally AND figuratively fighting those who see no shame, limitation or reason in their quest to intimidate or frankly slaughter those who do not look, think, or believe as they do.If you can read this…. I do love you.

The power of questions & the beginnings of love

I once heard that in the Mormon faith, people who are not Mormon are not permitted in the temple or church. Then I  became friends with several people who were Mormons, attended a memorial service, at a Mormon Church, & an aunt of mine also joined the church. I had a similar experience the Church of Scientology.

I attended a memorial service for the father of a dear friend & not only found it to be warm, caring, & exceptionally loving, but I learned that more than one of my friends were ordained ministers. I’ve always thought of myself as open minded & I considered myself to be without actual judgement or opinion about either religion. Yet I was a little surprised at things I learned so I wondered what other misconceptions I had about certain religions or about people. Religion has always been the scapegoat for the lunacy of man. This was the case in Salem Massachusetts, where people were burned alive if they were suspected of being a witch.

This was the case when racists burned (or sometimes still do) crosses to display their disdain of blacks or other non-whites & it is the excuse given by those who make it their business to  show disrespect at funerals for fallen soldiers who have served our country & been identified as gay. In this  & other similar instances, the blame was Christianity. In an age where media is more prevalent than ever.. where in instances, disturbed nut cases make it hard to distinguish truth from their purpose, & especially since the cowardice & horror of 911, Islam is perhaps the most common blame.

But Islam is no more to blame for the division among us than Christianity, or any other religion. We have to take responsibility for what we consume. We can’t always control what the media attempts to feed us but we have a say in what we choose to consume. Much of it starts with the perfection in which our spirits walk as we enter the world. We feel anything is possible & unless given or taught a reason to do otherwise, we treat people as they treat us.

The curiosity & innocence of a child can teach us much. If we would simply retain an honest desire to learn about & from each other & give in to the power of questions, rather than statements. I recently learned that  the great poet Rumi, was not just Muslim but specifically from, a sect known as the Sufi. He was a practitioner of an art or prayer known as the whirling dervish.

The Sufi’s, welcomed people of all faiths.. including Christianity, to learn this form of prayer/art. I had heard of Rumi but I had never heard this information before so my  most common question was, ” what else don’t I know”? What other misconceptions may we have of others & more important… about ourselves? When we attain a childlike, sincere thirst to learn about each other, good things happen. The world becomes smaller & a better place. In the case of Rumi & the dervish, I never knew any of this, though I heard the term whirling dervish, I  would have never associated it with religion.Yet just under 24 hours after learning of this, part of me felt like I knew all along. But we have to be open. To be open we need to just care..much like our children teach us.  28,000 days


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