Reruns and Late Evening Garlic Bread

GUEST BLOG POST this week is by Preston Beach, a husband, father, surfer, musician, and high school English teacher. His wife Lori was diagnosed earlier this year with colon cancer. These are his words–the words of a good man:

Preston and LoriSo I’m sitting here with Lori watching reruns of Frasier on Netflix, listening to her easy laugh, after dinner-and she tells me she’s got a craving for Spuntino’s garlic bread…and they’re STILL OPEN!  So, I gotta drive down and wait in the pleasant patio next to the fountain for a side order.  Small price to pay for living a normal life.

She’s wearing her weekly fashion accoutrement, known as the chemo pump, so she’s staying home and waiting for me.  Obviously I haven’t left yet…she’s, as usual, doing really well after chemo yesterday; a little more tingling and numbness, some calf cramps, but still the trouper, the positive force in my life.  Garlic bread’s a small price to pay for that!!

She used to do this early in our marriage, around midnight, usually, when we lived on Coloma Street in  Loma Linda, near the Circle K:  “Honey, I’m craving a Hostess Ding Dong-will you drive down to the store and grab me one?”  The things we do for love…

Yes!  The things we do for love!!  The small things, sometimes involving a minor inconvenience, that say “I love you” and “your whims are important to me.”  And then the gratitude that rewards those little acts: back rubs, permission to go surfing the next day, and other things not to be mentioned here…

The Good Life is not made up of epic expensive vacations or new cars, bigger homes, fine dining, new clothes.  No, The Good Life is a Wednesday night together at home, some great sitcom reruns, the dogs lying at our feet, and a spontaneous garlic bread run to fill a craving. And the smile of gratitude from an amazing woman that I love deeply, and want to keep around for awhile. Appreciate what you got, folks.  Appreciate who you got…

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Is Personal Responsibility an Outdated Concept?

dog cleaning up mess

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last blog post. I’ve been really busy, and I’m fighting an inflection that’s sapped all my energy, and… and… and…  I just can’t bring myself to take personal responsibility for the fact that I procrastinated and prioritized other tasks over writing. Why should I take responsibility for my lack of action when leaders and public figures treat personal responsibility as an outdated concept?

George Bernard Shaw said, “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”  Increasingly, it feels as though we’re in a societal shift away from personal responsibility… a shift toward freedom without responsibility. From our top leaders to the most vulnerable in society, there seems to be acceleration toward excuses and blame, toward responsibility avoidance. If Shaw is right, in order to be free individuals we have to be willing to accept the responsibility of our actions—to admit our mistakes and work to solve our own problems.

One of the things I love about the good men in my life is their ability, their actual willingness, to take personal responsibility. They apologize when they’re wrong. They clean up their own messes and seem genuinely sorry when someone they love is pulled into that clean up. Whether it’s mud on the floor or a catastrophic personal choice, they step up and do their best to fix the problem. Good men understand a pivotal part of strength is the willingness to face problems and solve them. But it’s impossible to solve something when you feel no sense of responsibility.

Ultimately, on a personal level, the answer to my first paragraph question “Why should I take responsibility?” will be a strong predictor of my future writing outcomes.  The way I answer that question will directly affect my choices, my beliefs, and my future.

Ultimately, the way our country, our leaders, our fellow citizens answer that question will predict the future of our country. Will we be brave enough to retain liberty and accept personal responsibility? Or will we elect leaders and idolize individuals who encourage avoidance and blame? Our society will ultimately have to choose—do we believe personal responsibility is valuable or do we view it as an outdated concept.

Sources:accountable

http://www.empoweringparents.com/Teflon-Kids-Why-They-Avoid-Responsibility-and-How-to-Hold-Them-Accountable.php

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3202887/Hillary-shrugs-question-wiped-server-clean-like-cloth-insists-did-not-send-classified-material-secret-email-account.html

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/gop-obama-passing-the-buck-isis

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Strength for Service Not Status

voting booth Aug 2015

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the responsibility of those who possess strength and power. Maybe it’s because I just read an amazing quote this morning  “Strength is for service not status.”  Or maybe it’s because the early presidential race has again revealed the best way to get elected is by using your strengths for personal benefit and political advantage, rather than service to constituents and commitment to excellence.

I wonder what would this world look like if the strongest were the most committed to serving? What would countries look like if the strongest leaders truly served their people? What if strength and power in any form came with a mandate to serve?

On a small scale, I’ve seen these questions answered and the results are impressive. Our country’s and world’s leaders could learn a few things from good men I know. Many are strong and powerful, men who can manage an oversize dresser up two flights of stairs and lead in complex professional projects. Yet, what endears them to those they love and defines them as good men is the way they use their strength for service. The way they sublimate their strength to serve the causes and people they love, and channel their strength into determination and purpose rather than self-aggrandizing power.

Good men get it. Their strength is designed for not just their benefit, but for the benefit of others–their family, their team, their community, their world. Their broad strong shoulders are defending and comforting to others in difficult times. Their strength of character is a lifelong example for the next generation.

I’m watching and hoping for political candidates of both genders in the 2016 election who understand and are committed to strength in service rather than strength of status.  I hope when the primaries are over, someone is left standing who will embody service above political gain. I continue to hope because I’ve personally seen the amazing things that happen when strength and power are used for others’-directed service rather than self-important status.

Sources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/2016-election/384828/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/2016-presidential-candidates.html

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 15:1-2)

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Good Men are NOT Boring

Good men are not boring jpg

Good men are good men. Boring men are boring. These are not interchangeable terms. If you listen to a lot of voices in today’s culture, you might believe otherwise. But look closer. Observe good men. They’re reliable, trustworthy. They do the right thing for the right reason. There’s a big difference between that and boring.

I know many good men who are fascinating. They race motorcycles on weekends; they field scorching ground balls in a softball league; they create things with their own hands. They work hard and play hard, doing things that take courage and strength. Best of all, they care for the ones they love, oftentimes putting others’ needs before their own. That alone is fascinating to me.

So why does this stereotype exist? Why was there a time when my girlfriends and I talked about the fear of marrying a good guy because we thought he might be boring? (Yes, I admit it. I was part of that conversation.)

Here’s one big reason: narcissistic men sell product and pull us into the theater. That’s the guy portrayed on the commercials and idolized in the movies. He’s exciting, he’s daring. His narcissism receives our approval because he’s good-looking, works for the good guys, drives the right car, and gets the girl without even trying.

But that kind of self-centeredness gets old fast. The man we really want and need in our lives is a good guy who’s interesting. Apparently that fact isn’t lost on advertisers.  Recent ad campaigns, particularly from car companies, have begun to feature good men in their commercials. Have a look at these on YouTube:

My Bold Dad | Presented by The Bold New Camry | Toyota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un6uP6cykgo

Nissan 2015 Super Bowl Commercial | “With Dad”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw

Amy Purdy and Her Bold Dad | Presented by The Bold New Camry | Toyota

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsFs3iGRzCw

 I’m encouraged by these ads. They show interesting men being good men—real men who care for others, not just themselves.

I think it’s time we stopped portraying good men as a little low on the excitement scale. It’s time we destroyed the stereotype of the boring good guy and replaced it with reality. Good guys can be very interesting men… complex, others’ centered, passionate, and courageous. Good men are not boring. Boring men are boring.

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Good Men in Tough Times

grief4

Recently I asked the question “What is one characteristic of a good man?” Over 40 men and women responded with answers that ranged from thought-provoking to funny—“selfless” to “enjoys being clean.” All the answers spoke to character traits and I realized that sometimes it takes seeing a good man in action to really drive home the value of those traits.

This last week, I’ve watched three good men I know face painful, difficult circumstances. One man, after months of supporting his wife at her dying mother’s bedside, must now stand beside her in grief and loss.  The second man is dealing with his wife’s unexpected cancer diagnosis two weeks ago, surgery last week, and complications after surgery this week. The third man will be burying his second son this week—the second of three children to die from an accident.

I cannot begin to imagine the deep emotions these men are facing. But I know with certainty they will exhibit many of the traits the respondents listed.  I have already seen these men show integrity, reliability, commitment, devotion, accountability, and humility. These traits have been part of their lives for a very long time, and I have confidence they won’t disappear now.

The Greek philosopher Plutarch said “Character is long-standing habit.” Last week I realized once again that the term “a good man” isn’t something earned overnight. You don’t see a man do one thing and christen him with the title “Good Man.” Good men have decided to consistently live a life of integrity and honesty, to make choices based on a strong set of self-chosen values, and to stand firm to those values through difficult circumstances. Good men don’t look for an escape route when things get tough because they’ve spent their lives developing the traits that will guide them through fear, pain, and loss.

As friends of these three men, my husband and I are devastated by their losses and the pain their families are enduring. But there is comfort knowing a good man stands at the center of these three families, a man who is true to himself and humble before his God. There is solace in knowing that his traits of honesty, integrity, commitment, and humility will help guide decisions and forge a path through the darkness of today’s present circumstances.

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My Frustrating Day

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Yesterday, I was tired and frustrated. In my world those two often coexist. The funny thing is, today I can’t fully remember why things seemed so bleak yesterday. The day was filled with good and bad just like any other day, but being tired made all the little irritations grow into a sticky ball of frustration.  Fortunately, I’m married to a good man.

One of the best characteristics of my good man is his ability to help me feel loved and valued even when I’m not having a great day. He’s not one to “talk things out” – I have to reach out to girlfriends for that. He’s not quite sure how to say the right things to make me feel better. But he knows how to get me out of the house and involved in something I enjoy.  Last night, it was great music at a local jazz venue. Sometimes it’s just a walk through the neighborhood. He knows a kiss can smooth out a rough day, and he’s generous with his comforting hugs and kisses. And to his eternal credit, he knows how much I hate buying and schlepping groceries, so he does it. He even offers to do it.

It’s easy for me to take these things for granted. He’s always done them, so they aren’t unusual or flashy, which ultimately means his gestures of love and kindness could be ignored or viewed as predictable and mundane. My good man could end up wondering if his attempts at comfort were worth the effort.

B.F. Skinner’s research showed us the value of reinforcement in shaping behavior. Most of us learned about his research in our Psych 101 class. So if I neglect to tell my good man how much I appreciate his attempts at comfort and support when I’m having a frustrating day—if I don’t respond positively to his gestures, how will he know, and more importantly, will he feel they are worth repeating?

I can’t end this blog post with details of exactly how to do that, because frankly I’m still learning and each relationship is unique. What I can say for certain is this—good men try to give comfort. If he’s doing it successfully, let him know. Even one thank you or one hug is better than nothing.

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A Dad By Choice

Bob and Jimmie

For as long as I can remember, Bob Loder has been a second father to me—a dad by choice. Although I don’t share his DNA, my heart knows he’s my second dad as strongly as if his name was listed on my birth certificate. Like many good men around the world who take on the role of a second father, Bob made a choice to open his heart to my brother and me and that decision has had a profound impact on our lives.

Anyone associated with Loma Linda University Medical Center probably knows Bob as the person who founded and kept the hospital’s clinical lab running smoothly with his wisdom, management skills, and Southern humor. But Bob is so much more than that to my brother and me. He has seen us through our teen years, marrying and raising children, and weathering life’s unexpected challenges. He still encourages us when we launch new projects and counsels us when we need direction, even as he negotiates the physical challenges of aging. Bob has always been there for us, especially in the years since we lost our own father.

Across this continent and around the world there are millions of good men who have chosen to love children who didn’t receive their 23 chromosomes. Men who willingly accept the father role for their step-children, neighbor kids, foster children, students, and others… the list is long and complex. Some step in to fill a hole left by another man. Others like Bob simply add depth to an already good familial relationship.

This Father’s Day it’s a privilege to say thank you to Bob and men like him. Thank you for being amazing role models, showing us the depth and strength of a father’s love. We may never be your biological children, but we will forever be your grateful children by choice.

Photo of Jimmie and Bob Loder             Photo Credit: Susan Loder Gardner

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He’s Not Purposely Trying To Frustrate You

 

 

couple_communicating

Good men don’t purposely frustrate the women they love.  But it happens—often when there’s a need for information transfer.  The phone call he took about a party, a job change, or the kids’ schedules becomes an irritating game of Twenty Questions.

After many years of marriage and countless conversations with girlfriends, I’ve found getting the details about a phone call or an upcoming event out of a good man can be frustrating and confusing.  New Jersey psychotherapist Richard Drobnick suggests one reason:

He prioritizes productivity and efficiency in communication….When he tells a story he has already sorted through the muck in his own head, and shares only those details that he deems essential…He might wonder, ‘Why do women need to talk as much as they do?’”   

Details that aren’t completely worked out may not seem important to him yet. Specifics that are uncertain or superfluous aren’t worth repeating. While his wife or girlfriend wants, even needs, to “talk it out,” he has already done the sorting in his own mind and many of the details have been weeded out and discarded.

Even though it’s really hard, as women, we can start by assuming he’s not purposely trying to frustrate us or withhold information. Our good men deserve the benefit of the doubt in conversation. Sometimes we’ll just have get the details from another source.

Men, consider ways of transferring information that minimizes frustration and Gestapo-like interrogation. Maybe it’s as simple as documenting the main points before you forget them or texting the details before the information has been pre-processed in your mind.

Good men don’t always communicate exactly the way we women want, but they consistently strive to be good men. And when we remember that, it can balance out a lot of frustration.

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Appreciation Is The Best Father’s Day Gift

happy_fathers_day_69019-480x360

Father’s Day is just a couple of weeks away. If you are fortunate enough to have a good man in your life,  maybe you’ll give him a card and a Sunday afternoon together. Or you might even splurge for a gift he’s wanted… an iwatch or tickets to a game. But research shows the greatest gift you can give your dad or any good man in your life is respect and admiration.

In 2012, Cameron Anderson of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and his co-authors published an in-depth study showing overall happiness in life is related more to how much you are respected and admired by those around you than how much money you have in the bank.

So why is this type of appreciation so important? As I’ve talked with family and friends over the years, I think there’s at least one big reason: motivation. Men and women both need to feel their actions and hard work are noticed and valued by those they love. What’s the point of making money if your family doesn’t appreciate the things money can buy? What’s the point of working hard if at the end of the day you come home to people who don’t want to be around you? Why strive when no-one cares to notice?

This Father’s Day give the good men in your life something they’ll really value. Tell them what you appreciate. Let them know they have your respect.  Then show them you really mean it. Watch for the things they’re doing right throughout the entire year. Gratitude, respect, and admiration are timeless gifts everyone can afford.

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Daddy’s girl

Feb 56 - Eli Fund picture

I admit it. I was a daddy’s girl. Not because I defaulted into it, but because I found a lot of things to admire about my dad. He taught me to shake hands and handle myself in professional situations. He taught me to drive, showed me how flames burn in different colors, and got up early on Sunday mornings to launch the boat so my brother and I could ski before the Southern California lake turned to whitecaps. He loved to sleep in on Sunday mornings, so that last one was a real sacrifice for him.

My dad taught me what a flawed good man looks like. He wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes and sometimes did things that still baffle me. But he was a really good man. Someone I could respect. A man who kept his word, lived according to his morals and beliefs, and loved his family without hesitation.

He was my first introduction to the value of a good man, and I will forever be grateful for his example… one he forged from determination and hard work. He never had the advantage of that example in his own family. My dad was raised in poverty by his mother and grandmother.  He was truly a self-made man, encouraged by good men he encountered in his life.

There’s a valued place for good men in this world. But it seems easier to laugh at and belittle the role of men in today’s world. It’s standard practice to poke fun at their weaknesses, to highlight their insecurities, to portray them as inept and silly. As I think about the role my dad played in my life, I can’t imagine belittling him. Yes, there were things to laugh at and mistakes to point out. But to what purpose?

If we want to see more good men in this world, perhaps we need to point out the things we appreciate. Let’s talk about the traits we value… let good men know they have our appreciation and respect. Maybe then we’d have a lot more daddy’s girls, and a lot more boys wanting to grow up to be like their dads.

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