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Sunday, June 29, 2014

God Is Love - Part One

There are two parts to this story. Part One is about a very fast and very shiny 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner. Part Two is about how children believe in fairy tales and just about anything else you tell them. Although they seem unrelated… trust me…. these two stories do intertwine.

I was a 17 year old junior looking to purchase a muscle car so I could impress the girls in my High School when I saw an ad for a ’68 Plymouth Roadrunner. It was a true hot rod, fully decked out with a 383 engine, double barrel carbs, chrome Crager rims, Mickey Thompson Indy tires and a Hurst 4-speed shifter. It was metallic gold with a tan vinyl roof and absolutely beautiful to a young man seeking to make his mark in the world (and one hoping to get a date to the prom). I knew I would buy it as soon as I laid eyes on it, but one thing made me hesitate. Dead center in the middle of the back windshield was a bold red sticker in the shape of a heart that said, “God is Love”.

I attended church growing up and fully believed in God but I didn’t yet truly have a close relationship with Him. Plus I was a teenager worried about all the stupid things you worry about when you’re young like, “The guys are going to make fun of me if I have this sticker on my new car.” But the young man I bought the car from made a huge impression on me. He was super nice and extremely honest so I thought if he was totally cool and he had that sticker on his car, then who I am to take it off? I decided to leave it on.
I only drove that car for one year because the maintenance was so darn expensive and the speeding tickets cost me a bundle as well. So my senior year (although it broke my heart) I put an ad in the local newspaper. The first person to answer the ad was a young marine from Oceanside. I thought about removing the heart shaped sticker before anyone came to see the car but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I remember struggling with that decision for a while but then I realized part of me was proud that I had the courage to display my faith in such a public way and that removing the sticker now would totally cancel out that pride. The car was cool and the sticker was cool (in my opinion) and if anybody didn’t like it…too bad. Funny thing was the marine was this really tough looking guy with a flat top haircut, wearing camouflage uniform pants, a torn white T-shirt and smoking a camel cigarette. He looked the car over thoroughly and said, “This is one cool car, but does the sticker come off?” I responded in my deepest tough guy voice, “The sticker is what makes the car cool.” He didn’t say anything for a moment, but then reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. As he drove away, the last thing I saw was that sticker in the window... and I remember saying out loud to no one in particular, “God is love!”

What you are is God's gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.
~ Hans Urs von Balthsar

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bernice and Harold

On the back of my business card are printed three words...Honesty, Integrity and Respect. In fact those words are on the back of every business card of every person at our company for a very good reason; They are the core values that we believe in and strive to emulate. But that's easier said than done in today's crazy fast paced, high stress society, especially when it comes to "Respect".
Fortunately I was raised by parents who not only taught me about respect for all people, they also showed a great deal of respect for each other. My Mom was a really strong woman who was raised in a tough part of town. Her Dad died when she was young and I have a feeling she wasn't always treated with the respect she deserved. So she taught me that if I wanted to create a good life for myself I would have to work hard, be honest and always treat everyone I meet with respect. My Dad was a Captain in the Marine Corps so obviously his views on respect were deeply ingrained. I used to love the way the soldiers at the Marine Base would salute my Dad as he entered the main gate and I would get goose bumps as he fired back a strong salute to each and every one of them in return. That to me was respect on a big way!
Last Wednesday my wife and I went to Pepino's Restaurant in Lake Forest for lunch. We parked in the lot and as I opened the car door for her she thanked me for bringing her to one of her favorite places for lunch. We walked in, got a table and enjoyed a nice break from the busy work day, laughing an, smiling as we held hands at the table, which is just something we always do. We are still very much in love after 20 years of marriage and simply enjoy being together very much. No matter what we do, we always seem to prefer to do it together.
As we finished our lunch, an elderly lady walked over to our table and stood there smiling at us. We looked up and she said, "My name is Bernice and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy seeing two people who obviously love and respect each other so much. I noticed your husband opened the car door for you, held your hand on the way in, pulled out your chair for you and continues to hold your hand even at the restaurant table. That kind of chivalry and respect is rare these days. husband Harold used to do the same thing for me all the time. I'm almost 80 years old now and although we were married more than 56 years, we showed each other love and respect every single day of our lives. Harold died two years ago, so I miss him more than I can say, but seeing you two together today reminded me so much of the magical marriage we had. Thank you for reminding me how special life is when you love and respect your spouse...and they do the same for you. It brought back so many good memories for me!"
Bernice was obviously a very special lady and as she left the restaurant we couldn't stop smiling. We realized that we had inadvertently made someone's day a little bit better by simply giving each other the gift of love and respect....and I'll tell you one thing...that's a gift that's a whole lot cheaper than lunch!

Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners. 
 ~ Laurence Sterne  
Chivalry isn't dead yet!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Going Deep

Growing up I always wished I had a brother. To me having a brother seems really special for a lot of reasons. You share the same parents so you get to split the chores and gripe about it together. You always have someone to talk to and/or argue with. When you make a mistake or break something you have somebody else to blame it on. And you have more fun because there's two of you. Plus when things go wrong or someone wants to fight with you, you know your brother will be the first one there to help you fight back.

Well, even though my parents never provided me with a brother, I did discover a brotherhood of friends when I joined the Halo Baseball Club. Our club has 67 members and although we aren't truly brothers in blood, or even brothers-in-law, we are definitely brothers in the way we love and care about each other. For 10 years now we have played baseball together and before every game we gather on the mound for a prayer for the safety and protection of each man and his family. Unfortunately three of our club members have passed away so far, all below the age of 51, so we treasure every game and the precious time we have together.

At last Sunday’s game, as I led the prayer on the mound, I felt compelled to offer an additional prayer for one of our brothers. I had just found out that day that one of our members, Doug Gastineau, was going into the hospital on Tuesday to donate a kidney to his older brother who needed a transplant to survive. Doug hadn't brought it up (because that's the humble kind of guy he is) but when I heard the news from another player it shocked me and impressed me at the same time. I have always liked Doug and felt a close friendship with him because of his great attitude and kind heart, but now I realized even more how loving and courageous he really is.

The kidney transplant operation went well. When I visited Doug at the hospital just hours after the surgery, he was already awake and smiling. We talked for 20 minutes about baseball, chasing down fly balls, the art of laying down a bunt for a sacrifice and how hard it is to hit a curve ball. Speaking of hitting a baseball, very few members of our Halo Baseball Club have ever "gone deep" (slang for hitting a home run over the fence). We use wood bats and play on full size college and MLB baseball fields, so it's rare for someone to “go deep”. I've certainly never done it. But this past week, Doug Gastineau "went deep" in a way that truly defines brotherly love while laying down a “sacrifice” that will set a new record not soon to be broken in the Halo Baseball Club.

Doug strikes a batting pose just hours after surgery

It takes two men to make one brother.
~ Israel Zangwill

Monday, June 9, 2014

Appreciate The Moments

It feels like the older we get the faster time goes by. In my 30's the days flew by and in my 40's the weeks flew by. Now that I am in my 50's it seems like months are over before I know it. I'm not sure why that is, so I decided to make it my goal to figure out how to slow time down!

The first thing I did in my research was to make a list of how I spend a typical day. I figure that most of us blow through our days without really thinking...and appreciating...all the things that happen in a typical day. So I decided to break down a day in my life. Here is my Tuesday from last week.

Woke up at 5:24am - Waking up to me is always a nice surprise and way better than the alternative!

Said a Prayer and read the Bible - If the rest of my day goes bad at least I did one thing right!
Made Breakfast - I can't cook but I can make an awesome bowl of cereal!

Worked 5 hours at my Desk - Having an office at home means getting to work on time every day!

Jogged on the Beach - Saw Seagulls, Sandpipers and Senior Citizens holding hands as they walked!

Dressed and ate Lunch - Why does everything taste better when it's made by your spouse!

Drove to Office in Irvine - Fighting traffic is never fun but it helps to listen to loud Rock and Roll!

Made a Bank Deposit on the way - Spotted a young needy family on the street corner, gave them some money and a brochure on the South County Outreach which was only a few miles away.

Worked 4 more hours - I love what I do...I must because I've been doing it for 40 years!

Took a Golf Lesson - Costs a lot but maybe I will eventually hit more good shots than bad shots!
Went to Practice Range - Apparently besides lessons, you actually have to practice as well!

Met a new Friend for dinner - My wife and I enjoy making new friends and eating Chinese food!

Watched TV & Went to Bed - Laying in bed I spoke to God one more time just to thank Him for the awesome  woman next to me. Without her love and support my life would empty. Just don't tell her that!

My research was helpful because by writing out the events of a typical day, it's easy to see that a lot happens every single day. But do we really appreciate the good things and enjoy the special little moments as they happen?

During my golf lesson last Tuesday my instructor asked me an interesting question. "What do you think about and focus on as you prepare to play a round of golf?" I told him, "I focus on shooting a good score." His response was very enlightening. "Don't focus on the score, focus only on the one shot you are about to make. Clear your mind and think only about the shot at hand. If you do poorly, learn from it. If you do well, appreciate the moment!"  That's good advice about golf....and about life!

You'll have extra time in your day, if you simply stop to appreciate the time at hand.
~ Anonymous

Monday, June 2, 2014


Living at the beach is awesome, no doubt about it, but it does have a potential drawback. However I'm learning that a potential drawback can be a benefit... if I simply have the right attitude.

Our house is a duplex and our neighbor next door is a great guy. So we definitely got lucky. However the house immediately to the north of us is a rental unit that is one of the least expensive and therefore most popular rental homes on Beach Road. Every week there's a new group of people staying at that rental house and since they're on vacation they tend to let loose and party long and loud. It's not unusual to see alcohol being consumed at 8am, bonfires at midnight and just about everything you can imagine in between. Vacationers have even "borrowed" our patio furniture and stolen our firewood, so it can be pretty annoying. But my wife and I feel very blessed to be living at the beach so we have learned to be patient and try to cut the vacationers a little slack. In fact, my wife loves to cook so quite often she will take cookies to our temporary newest neighbors.

Last week, right on cue a new vacation group showed up. The first guy I spotted was really rough looking, with a huge beard, dreadlocks and tons of tattoos. My first impression (and shame on me) was that this was a guy that I didn't want to meet and I certainly didn't want to take cookies to him. However, later in the day when I returned from the store, I discovered my bearded neighbor had chased down our large beach umbrella that had blown down the beach in the wind. I thanked him for his help and spent some time talking with him. It turns out he is the opposite of his appearance and cookies are the least of what I should be doing for him.

His name is Mike Hyde and four years ago his infant son developed a brain tumor.  His name was Cash "Cashy" Hyde and as he battled cancer he endured more pain and suffering then any child should ever go through. Along the way he established quite a few medical "firsts" and helped to pioneer a new alternative cancer treatment that has now spread successfully around the world. Little Cashy died at the age of four but Mike and his wife went on to form the Cash Hyde Foundation, which not only raises money for pediatric cancer, but also builds "reggae runners" which are small, customized toy cruisers and wagons with IV poles mounted to them so that sick children can go for a ride and have a little fun.

It has only been two years since Cashy Hyde died. As his father told me his story I could see the tears form in his eyes and the pain swell in his heart. But I could also hear the passion in his voice about all the good his foundation was doing to ease the pain for children in more than 40 different hospitals throughout the western United States. Mike told me that sometimes we can only bring smiles to a child for a few minutes...but at least for those few minutes....cancer isn't winning!

What did I learn? Obviously you should never judge people by their appearance, but I also learned that if you take the time to get to know a stranger, quite often you can turn strangers into friends!

Cashy stares out a window in his hospital room
Kindness isn’t a big thing…its a million little things.
~ Anonymous