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Monday, December 19, 2016

Gift Giving

One of the best things about the Christmas Holiday Season is that you get to create your own special family traditions. My wife and I have started two new traditions in our family and hopefully both of them are creating great memories that will last a lifetime.

Our first new tradition is to take our grandchildren around town to look at Christmas light displays. Thanks to Siri and Google Maps it’s pretty easy to find the neighborhoods that have gone crazy with Christmas Lights. Last year, the entire time we were driving around, our three-year-old granddaughter, Penelope, led us in singing all the classic Christmas songs like Jingle Bells. Okay, so she didn’t know all the words, but she was really good at making up her own words, which cracked everyone up.

Our second new tradition involves the immediate members of our family including my wife, adult children, and their significant others. We usually start by meeting at a restaurant for Sunday Brunch and then the four girls leave to go shopping while the four guys leave to go golfing. Our family is so close and we have so much fun, that most of the time we even meet afterwards for another meal and a chance to laugh and share stories.

I love my family very much, but at Christmas time I do tend to get stressed out over one issue. I hate to admit it, but I have always struggled with gift giving for some reason. It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t put the time into it, I’m just not very creative compared to other people when it comes to gift giving, so I really stress out about it. Christmas is almost here, so I have already started agonizing over who wants what and what color and what size, and “Can they bring it back if they don’t like it”, etc. I know I am worrying more than I should.

And that got me thinking… It dawned on me that I have already given my family one of the best gifts possible…the gift of time spent with people you love…and I didn’t even have to stand in line or request a stupid gift receipt!
"And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, 
and lo the angel of the lord came upon them and the glory of the lord shone round about them, 
and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold, 
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. 
And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts, 
praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth - peace, good will toward men."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Somebody's Bucket List

I started working in the lighting industry in 1974 and believe it or not, I’m still in it 42 years later. Over all that time I have been extremely fortunate to develop a lot of customers who have become close friends. Unfortunately, they sometimes move on to other companies or retire, soI lose track of them. But last week I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a really long time.

I first met Dave when I was only 20 years old. He was working for a large firm in Irvine as a Maintenance Supervisor and I was a skinny long-haired kid who was trying to sell light bulbs. I remember being intimidated by Dave at first because he had an important position with a very prestigious company. However, my boss told me that Dave’s company represented huge potential for us as a customer, soI better not be scared and I better not blow it. (I must say my boss at that time had an interesting style of motivating his employees.)

When I first med Dave, he appeared to me to be this big tough Hispanic guy, with a gruff exterior. He would often speak to his staff in Spanish and then turn around and speak to me so fast that I had trouble understanding him. But despite my youth, my inexperience and the fact that I kept saying, “Huh?” every time he spoke, he gave me multiples chances to bid on his projects. Over time I earned Dave’s trust and began to do a lot of business with him, while developing a close friendship as well. Early on I discovered that although Dave might be gruff on the outside, he had a heart of gold on the inside. He often spoke lovingly about his wife and two adopted daughters, so when I ended up adopting a Hispanic child of my own in 1983, I named him “David” and told Dave I named my son after him. He knew that wasn’t true, but I think he still enjoyed it every time I mentioned something about my boy named David.

I hadn’t seen Dave in over 25 years, but last week a mutual friend called me. (Chris worked with Dave at the same company and is still a very good customer and very close friend of mine). Chris said he got a call from Dave who wanted get together for breakfast and reminisce about the good old days. I was surprised that Dave even remembered me, but quickly agreed and we met Monday morning at RJ’s in Dana Point Harbor. It was so great to see Dave again but quite surprising that he would drive 82 miles each way just to have breakfast with me. When I asked Dave why he drove all that way to see me, his eyes watered and his expression softened and he simply said, “I’m 76 now, I have a disease that I can’t shake, and seeing you again was on my bucket list.”

Driving home that evening I couldn’t stop thinking about what Dave said. As a young man, I looked up to Dave and appreciated all that he taught me as a young struggling salesman…and I truly enjoyed our time together immensely. But I had no idea how important I was to him. I do now… and it makes me realize that for every friend that disappoints us, there are plenty of others who just might have us on their “Bucket List”. 
The most I can do for my friend, is to simply be his friend.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, December 5, 2016

Instruction Manual

After a hard day at work I really enjoy relaxing on the couch, watching a good movie. Last week my wife and I were watching a new movie called Bad Santa (whatever you do, don’t watch this one with kids!) when my wife asked if I would like some popcorn. I said, “Sure, but let me get it.” I got up and grabbed a box of microwave popcorn out of the pantry, but I’m no cook, so I asked my wife how long do I nuke this stuff?” She didn’t answer right away (because she was on her phone, which you know…never happens) but then she said, “about 4 minutes.”  

It was probably about 3 ½ minutes later that the fire started. I thought I smelled smoke, turned around and flames were shooting out of the microwave. I jumped off the couch and scrambled to shut that baby down (yelling expletives the whole time). Not only was the popcorn obliterated but it scorched the entire inside of the oven leaving a gooey residue that stunk so bad I was forced to dis-assemble the microwave from the cabinet that very evening and throw it outside into the yard. Guess I should have read the instructions!

So this week guess what? I purchased a new microwave! It took me forever to find the right one because it had to be a small “under-cabinet” style because we don’t have much counter space in our tiny beach house. I found one that would work, but the weird thing is the mounting holes were randomly positioned, which made figuring out where to drill the holes in the cabinet really difficult. I measured several times and finally drilled 4 holes. However, when I tried to mount the stupid thing, I could only get 3 screws to go in. I fought with it for over an hour and finally decided to drill a larger fourth hole and use a fender washer so that the screw wouldn’t fall through the hole. The next day as I was taking out the trash I heard something rumbling around inside the microwave box. It was the operating manual and inside the manual was a paper template for positioning the screw holes. Guess I should have read the instructions!

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but guys like me (you know us real men) don’t like to read instructions because we’re supposed to figure things out on our own, like MacGyver does, right? But then you might ask, “So, how’s that working out for you?”, and you would be right, it doesn’t always work out for me. Which got me thinking that there are always going to be problems in life that pop up (like popcorn) and need fixing. But where is the instruction manual for life? Where can I find the wisdom and direction I need to solve problems and be happy? What book has all the answers? Last night I figured it out as we were watching another movie. It was a really old Dino De Laurentiis movie starring George C. Scott. It was pretty good. It was called, “The Bible”.

All the misery and evil which men suffer from vice, 
crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, 
proceed from their neglect of the wisdom contained in the Bible.
~ Noah Webster