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Monday, December 19, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

Last week I had a really scary moment at work. On Monday we hired a new delivery driver who was riding with our regular driver, Tony, for training. About 9 am that morning our new driver calls me in a panic and says that Tony passed out and hit his head on the ground. He told me that Tony was conscious now and could speak but looked really pale and disoriented. I asked him where he was and fortunately he was less than a mile from Mission Hospital, so I advised him to take Tony straight to the hospital.

I got to the Hospital within half an hour and checked in with the Emergency Room staff. They told me they that Tony was hooked up to an IV and several monitors but they hadn’t yet figured out what was wrong with him. As I made my way to his room I kept thinking, “Tony is only 26 and such a nice young man, quiet and unassuming, yet very honest and hardworking. I really hope there is nothing seriously wrong with him.” When I got to his room it was a rather surreal scene. Here is this really good and decent young man lying in a hospital bed, with tubes and wires coming out of one arm and his young girlfriend, actually his fiancĂ©e Karen, holding on tightly to the other one. It reminded me how short life can be and how precious it truly is.
Later on that day as I was driving back to my office I heard an interview on the radio. They were interviewing Irving Kahn, who is one of the top investment bankers on Wall Street, about his current work schedule, the state of the economy and his take on life. The interview was brief because Irving Kahn makes it a habit to be brief. In fact when they asked him what was the one thing he would change to improve the world he said, “People need to use fewer words, be concise and get to the point, because life is short and should not be wasted.” The interview with Irving Kahn was being conducted while he was at work, at the ripe old age of 106.

And that got me thinking….. Whether we are 26 or 106 life is precious and should never be taken for granted…..because if someone who is 106 years old thinks that “life is short” then it must really be short!

    Irving Kahn at 106…. Still working and still enjoying life!

Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.                                      ~ Grandma Moses       

Monday, December 12, 2011

To Provide and Protect

This past week I was lucky enough to be invited golfing with Rod Carew. Even though Rod is a legendary Hall of Fame Baseball Player, I found out that in reality he is just a “regular guy”. He lives near me so we have become golfing buddies and last week we talked about a lot of things, things like faith, family, baseball and golf. But the one thing that Rod said that really struck me was, “how much he loved his kids”. He has children of his own that he loves, but in that particular conversation he was referring to the children he spends time with when he does charity work. Since he lost his own daughter to cancer when she was 12, he has devoted himself to providing for and protecting as many cancer stricken children as possible. That’s why he lovingly calls them, “his kids”!

When I heard Rod talk about children it reminded me how important my own children are to me. I have four grown children that I love very much. In fact, my youngest daughter, Brooke, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday and our whole family went up there to celebrate with her. Since this was a huge milestone in my daughter’s life, I felt like it was an important time for me to impart some words of wisdom. However, Brooke is already very intelligent, personable and resourceful, and she has heard lots of advice from me already. So I struggled to come up with the right words, words of advice for a beautiful young woman facing the harsh realities of a world in transition. We had already discussed so many important issues, faith, honesty, integrity, work ethic, the importance of helping others, etc., so what was left?

Then it came to me, we hadn’t discussed finding the right “man”. I have always felt that a father should set an example of what a real man is and therefore what a daughter should look for in a husband. But what is it that truly defines a real man? Well, here it is in a nutshell. Besides loving you for who you are, a real man is someone who is willing to provide and protect! Find a man who puts you first, isn’t afraid to work hard to provide for his family, and is willing to protect you at any cost, and you will have a man who is truly worthy of your love!

And that got me thinking….. Most young men become husbands first and then fathers later on. There is a certain poetic logic to that scenario because as husbands we learn to provide for and protect one other person. If a man learns that lesson well enough, then and only then will he be ready to provide for and protect many others, others he can call “his kids”!
The Graduate and her proud Mom!
Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is better.      ~Bob Talbert 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sports Authority

Somewhere in the Bible it says that in order to get into heaven, we have to “be like little children”. I am not quite sure exactly what that means but I think it refers to “joyfulness”. Children are really good at being joyful. They’re not afraid to laugh and yell with joy when they are happy, especially when they’re playing games or sports with other children.

I never really got to play sports when I was growing up. My Dad was in the Marine Corps and we were always moving so it was tough to meet people and make friends. But I do vividly remember the one time when I got to play on a Little League Team. We were living in San Diego and it was only for a few months, but I absolutely loved it. Being on a team helped me to make new friends quickly and baseball was like a little piece of heaven. I loved the smell of the dew covered grass in the morning, the feel of the leather glove on my hand and the sound the ball made when you threw it hard and somebody caught it just right with a loud “pop”! It’s funny but I don’t remember whether or not we ever won a game. I just remember how fun it was to feel like I finally belonged to something, like I was part of a team, a team that had fun together!

When I grew up and had four children of my own, they each had their own “sport”. One loved baseball, one loved hockey, one loved soccer and one love to sing and act in local theater. I truly loved watching them play and I have to admit it, my face lit up with joy almost as much as theirs did, when I got to see them having so much fun.

Later on in life I realized how much I had missed by not playing sports. I guess I was so busy working and raising children that I felt like I never had time for fun. But then I got the chance to join the Halo Baseball Club, which is basically just like Little League, except for grown men. I was 48 by then, but swinging a bat, running the bases and sliding head first into home plate made me feel like a kid again. I am still playing baseball, still part of that team and still very much a “joyful kid”; at least I still am when I am out there on that wet green grass!
And that got me thinking….. For most of us, life is always going to be a busy parade of hard work and overwhelming responsibilities. But it can also be fun if we make time to have fun. Allow yourself some time to play, to have fun and to feel joyful. Who knows, you might even get drafted by a heavenly team!

That’s me in 1967…The skinny kid, far left, middle row

We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time!
             ~Vince Lombar

Monday, November 28, 2011

Splintered Relationships

There was a time in my life, many years ago, when I was a single Dad. I had been married to the wrong person for many years and when I finally made the decision to get a divorce I found myself living alone with an 8 year old little boy. All of a sudden I had to figure out how to get him up on time, make his lunch, get him to school, pick him up from school, help him with his homework and fix his boo-boos, all while trying to run my own business. Needless to say, it was stressful, but it was also fun and my son and I bonded in a way that was very special

One night as I tucked him in bed, he complained he had a pain. I took a look and discovered a huge splinter buried deep into the bottom of his right heel. It was nasty and probably my fault since I let him go barefoot way too often. I went to get a needle and tweezers but as soon as he saw those implements of torture he freaked out and started crying. I tried to explain to him that if we didn’t get the splinter out right away, his foot could become infected. He would have nothing to do with that logic and sent me packing. Being a newly single father I gave up and figured I would deal with it in the morning. (How do Moms manage to deal with this stuff??) By morning, sure enough, we were headed to the doctor with a severe infection and pain that was a lot worse. 

Several years later I was at work and complaining heavily to my General Manager. One of our employees had carelessly wrecked a piece of equipment. I didn’t know it at the time but the employee was nearby and overhead every word I said about him. Some of what I said was true, but the words I chose were hurtful and not something I would normally say out loud. I guess I let my anger and frustration get the better of me because I failed to apologize or do anything about it. I should have apologized right away and made things right but instead I waited for weeks and, sure enough, that employee quit and went to work for someone else.   

And that got me thinking….. I should have learned something from those two incidents, because they teach the same lesson. A splinter is like a mistake. If you don’t get the splinter out right away…or if you make a mistake and don’t apologize right away…. it will sit there and fester until it becomes far worse and creates a great deal more pain in the long run.

Relationships become easier when you realize that you don't have to be the one at fault, to be the one who's sorry.           ~Robert Brault