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Monday, January 28, 2013

Hero or Goat?

Sometimes life puts us in difficult situations where we worry about ourselves way too much. We worry that we are going to end up as either the Hero or the Goat. But sometimes….sometimes things turn out a lot different than you expect!
Last weekend I played in a baseball tournament in Palm Desert. This was the first time our Halo Baseball Club had entered a 55+ and over tournament and I know what you’re thinking, a bunch of old guys with canes hobbling around the bases. But surprisingly, these guys can really play. They were diving in the outfield, sliding headfirst into second and throwing curve balls and sliders with outstanding velocity. One thing for sure, everyone had their competitive juices flowing and nobody wanted to lose.
On Sunday, our team was down by four runs and things were looking bad. If we lose, we go home. If we win, we go to the Finals on Monday. Late in the day we made a surge and closed to within one run. We had runners on 1st and 2nd and lots of momentum, but there were two outs and guess who coming up. That would be me….and I am not exactly the best hitter on the team. In fact I was hitless in the game so far and yet here I am coming up to bat with the game on the line. The good news was their pitcher was tired, and I had hit the ball hard my last two at bats, so that gave me some confidence. As I walked to the plate I checked my third base coach for signs and all of a sudden I hear the umpire call “Time Out” due to darkness. I dropped my bat in disbelief!

But the umpire wasn’t done. Since this game was important, the umpire told all of us that we were to get in our cars and drive 10 miles to Palm Springs Stadium where the lights were on and we would finish the game there. I never heard of anything like that before and nobody else had either.

As I drove to Palm Springs Stadium I kept thinking about the difficult situation I was in. My team was counting on me and I didn’t want to let them down. I knew for sure I was going to either be the Hero or the Goat! But why me? Well, maybe this was going to be my time to shine? Or maybe I would fail as I have so many times in the past? Either way, I was really feeling the pressure of the situation.

So here I am at Palm Springs Stadium, walking up to the plate again with the game on the line. Every muscle in my body was twitching but my mind was focused on the pitcher. I know he’s tired so I’m going to wait for a pitch I can drive. The first pitch was low for a ball. My confidence rose a notch, but that was his last pitch of the game. They pulled him and brought in a new pitcher who was huge and threw extremely hard. As he warmed up I noticed the worried looks on the faces of my teammates. I shook that off and focused on the job at hand. I let his first pitch go by. It was a screaming fastball on the inside part of the plate, strike one. Okay, now I’ve seen his best stuff and for some reason, it didn’t bother me, I just knew for sure I could hit this guy. I relaxed my shoulders and stared out at the pitcher, and in my mind I started saying, “Bring it on, Bro” and my confidence rose again.

All of a sudden the pitcher steps off the mound, turns and throws to second. He picks off the runner and the game is over! The game is over and I’m left standing at the plate with my bat in my hands thinking…. “What just happened?”

Well, what happened was that we lost the game. But what happened afterward was far more important! As we walked off the field I never heard the slightest grumble from a single player on my team. Nobody got down on the player who got picked off second (he was one of our best players anyway) and nobody seemed to be angry about the loss. There were nothing but positive attitudes, firm handshakes and hugs all around. We came to the tournament as a team, we played hard as a team, and we lost as a team. As I looked around, I realized it was never about any one particular guy or one particular at bat. It didn’t have anything at all to do with me or the guy who got picked off at second. It had to do with being part of a team and sharing everything that goes on with that team, be it good or bad. I love my teammates and maybe things didn’t turn out the way I expected....or maybe they did after all!

Matt Shults fires a fastball from the mound for the Halo Baseball Club
I am a member of a team and I rely on that team. I defer to the team and sacrifice for the team because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion. ~ Mia Hamm                   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Walk It Off

This past week my Dad celebrated his 80th birthday, or at least I assume that he did. In fact I can picture him up there in heaven right now, eating cake and ice cream, and blowing out 80 candles with his huge smile and big dimples gleaming. It’s been 13 years since he died and I still miss him every day. His birthday reminded me how lucky I am to have had a Father who demonstrated his love for me daily, often with his famous “words of wisdom”, and even more often with his arms wrapped around me.

I learned so much from my Dad that helped me find happiness in my life, but I think there is one lesson that stands out from all the rest, a painful lesson but a very important one. I first learned it early on as a 10 year old little boy and then again as 40 year old man. It’s a lesson about courage.

The first time….. My Dad was in the Marine Corps so we didn’t have much money and often had to live in military housing. Talk about cheap, it doesn’t get any smaller or cheaper but at least our home was always filled with love. When I was 10 and Christmas rolled around, I wanted a bicycle. Every other kid on the base rode their bike to school except me, but I knew my parents couldn’t afford it. Somehow they came up with a brand new, shiny red Schwinn Bicycle, the exact one I had picked out of a magazine. I was the happiest kid on earth and immediately went for a ride with my friends. We stopped at a park and left our bikes on the curb. When we got ready to leave, I discovered my brand new bike was gone…stolen! I ran all the way home crying and I will never forget the look on my Dad’s face when I told him. A few days later, after the police reported they could not find my bike, my Dad and I sat down for a talk. He asked me if I remembered what the Coach of my Little League team told me when I got hit by a pitch.  Remember what the Coach told you…"Walk it off". Well, this is another one of those times when you are going to have to “Walk it off.” So I did, literally, walk it off, and…. kept walking to school. Over time, I learned to accept the situation and feel good that I handled it the way my Dad taught me.

The only picture I have of my new bike - Christmas Day 1965

The second time…. My Dad was dying from esophageal cancer at the age of 67. It’s a cruel cancer where doctors have to disconnect your esophagus from your stomach, which means you can longer eat or drink. So you literally starve to death over a few months until your body shuts down. I was at the hospital almost every single day and I cannot remember one single moment when my Dad looked sad or scared. He was always smiling, always joking and always squeezing my hand. Sometimes he couldn’t talk because of the tubes in his throat, but when he could, he would always tell me he loved me and he was proud of me. My Dad was supremely brave, but I wasn’t. I was scared, confused and really angry. But then my Dad would see the fear in my eyes, grab my hand and squeeze it and that would always calm me down. He reminded me to have faith in God and trust the path He puts us on. Near the end he said, “Son, I don’t think I am going to be able to “Walk this one off”. I think I’m going to need you to do it for me!”

My Dad before he got sick
I will never forget my Dad or his wonderful words of wisdom. And I will always be forever grateful that he taught me the meaning of courage and faith. He taught me that sometimes bad things will happen to good people, but that doesn’t mean we have to suffer or be sad. If we have courage and if we have faith in God, all we have to do is Walk it off!
                                     Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the decision
                                                     that something else is more important than fear.     
                                                 ~ Ambrose Redmoon

Monday, January 14, 2013


It was real early in the morning and we had just moved to a tiny beach cottage on the sand at Capistrano Beach. That’s when I felt it. As I lay quietly next to my wife in our bed….it washed over me like the sweet fragrance of a foggy mist hovering over the early morning ocean waves.

My wife was sleeping soundly covers pulled up tight and she looked beautiful, so peaceful and relaxed, yet so very vibrant at the same time. I felt it and I sensed she felt it too, even in her sleep. It came upon us as if it were a silent message sent directly by God himself. It felt special, kind of like that feeling you get when a really great song comes on the radio and the singer hits that high note that makes your adrenalin rush and your skin explode with goose-bumps! As I looked at her, I thought about all the things we have been through together, the good times and tough times....and I instantly felt overwhelming love for her. My heart began to swell and my eyes began to tear….and I got goose-bumps!

I’m not sure what it was….but I’m going to call it an “eternal moment”, because it’s one of those moments that you know will forever be remembered!

An eternal moment is a moment in time when time itself doesn’t exist, where everything stops and you feel like, at least for that moment, everything makes sense. It’s a moment that fills more than just a page of your life, it defines your life and gives meaning to the person you have become. Freeze it if you can; savor it and immerse yourself in it for as long as you possibly can. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will still be able to recall those “eternal moments” in your life, for they truly are special gifts from God….The day you graduated, the day you fell in love, the birth of your first child, the smell of Grandma’s cooking, or maybe it was the day your Dad told you he was proud of you. Eternal moments are necessary because they remind us that beyond material possessions, there is so much in life to be treasured and most importantly that love is, and always will be, the greatest possession in life.
Very early yesterday morning a beautiful double rainbow appeared over the ocean in front of my home and it reminded me of how beautiful life can be when we focus on the right things. I thought about all of the material possessions I have had over my life time and how unimportant they seem compared to God’s love and the love of another human being. I thought about that rainbow and I thought about my wife still sleeping, comfortably warm in our bed, trusting me to protect her and blessing me with all of her love in return.
And darn if I didn’t get goose-bumps all over again!

A Double Rainbow appears over Capo Beach on July 2, 2012

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.      ~ Henry Van Dyke

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A few days ago, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, something woke me up. It sounded like a voice, but I’m not sure what it was. My wife was still sleeping so I stayed in bed longer than usual and thought about all the crazy things that happened to me in 2012. There has never been a year in my life in which things changed so much… and more life lessons were laid upon me.
There were several important events that occurred, such as my oldest daughter starting Chapman Law School, my youngest daughter graduating College and securing a job as a Paralegal at a Law Firm, my oldest son announcing that his wife was pregnant with their second child, and my youngest son moving to Florida for a new job opportunity that has worked out well. So there was a lot to celebrate, but there were also three life changing events that happened that can only be described as very good, very bad and very ugly!
The Good…..
My wife and I decided to sell our home. It was a beautiful, huge, three story home with gorgeous views and an acre of land. But with our kids grown and our needs changing, it seemed like a good time to down size. We loved that house because we built it ourselves and lived there over 10 years, but we decided a change might be exciting. After we sold it, we put 90% of our belongings in storage and moved to a tiny beach cottage. We are living simply now and have never been happier nor more in love. Living simply really puts things in the proper perspective!

Living simply at our little Beach Cottage
The Bad…..
One Friday in July, while driving through a busy, crowded parking lot, I accidentally ran over an elderly 84 year old Chinese woman. It was the most traumatic moment of my life. I went with her to the hospital and continued to visit her and pray for her daily. Over and over again I asked God to heal her. She was hospitalized for months but finally recovered and was released in October. The whole thing has been amazing for two reasons, 1) She has never once blamed me for the accident or had a harsh word for me and 2) We have become very close friends. I visit her every single week and take her for walks, and in return she paints me amazing pictures. I guess that poem about Footprints in the Sand is really true. “During your times of trial and suffering, it is then that I will carry you.”

Joe and his special friend....Mrs. Chen

The Ugly…..
In my wholesale lighting supply business there were three key people who had basically been with me since the start. Late in the year I had to release two of those people and it was really hard for me to do because I cared for both people very much. But I had to put that aside and do what was best for the business. The amazing thing is that we hired three new people to take their place and the new people are awesome, which has resulted in our company setting a record for sales in the fourth quarter. I guess making ugly, tough decisions isn’t ever easy, but not making decisions.... guarantees failure!

My awesome staff at Lighting Supply, Inc.

All three events were life changing for me and at the same time......they were important “life lessons” for me to learn. When I finally got out of bed…. I realized whose voice it was that woke me up!
                                                   Everything that occurs in your life is
                                                  part o God's   plan to wake you up.    
                                                                           ~ Leonard Jacobson