Friday, April 30, 2010

When God Sends His Angels...

I'm a firm believer that God is always putting people into our lives to help direct us and get us through. He puts these Angels into our lives to help grow us and make us better people. If we're listening, we also end up growing closer to Him as a result. Sometimes, it seems like these people are sent in bunches, while other times you just keep plodding along with the people He's already put into your life.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I have to admit that, for the most part, my walk was not been the best with Him. I would have times where I felt encouraged, and He did keep putting great new people into my life to help me focus on Him. Four months ago, I could finally feel the Lord working on my heart. He was slowly transforming me, and He was mostly working through the people He had recently put into my life to help do this.

Over the past almost two years, I can think of five people who God has placed into my life who have had a profound impact. The saying "people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime" resonates with me, because it so applies with me. One of those people He put into my life was definitely for a season - a 10 month season. She's no longer part of my life, but I'm thankful for the time He had her in my life as she's the one more than anyone else who knew there was life beyond work for me. Not to mention she also was the one who planted the seed into my head about going back to school. We shared lots of laughs and thoughts many a lunch hour. I think I helped her too though as I was ALWAYS encouraging her... she also admired my passion for working out and pilates.

Another of these friends I haven't seen in over two months now. She's another ex-employee friend of mine. You talk about a great encourager! Although we didn't see each other all that often, the times we did spend together at work were amazing! From fun times and laughter to VERY deep and personal conversations. It was the whole spectrum! We still keep in touch via mutual friends (she's not a computer person at all). Hopefully one of these days soon our paths will cross again.

Those two Angels were put into my path the second half of 2008. In part two, I'll talk about the special people He put into my path last year.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

School, School & Some Pilates

Yes, that's my Monday-Friday life these days. Well, not really but it just seems that way and it's quite alright with me! I'm very much enjoying my time as a student at Cal Lutheran University. In another three weeks I'll be 3/8 of the way to getting my Accounting degree! This term, my Finance class is going well, despite it being a lot of work. My Advanced Accounting is actually going a little easier than the Intermediate Accounting did. For the summer term, I'll be taking three classes, though one is only two units. My midweek nights will be booked though as the classes are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

One of these days I'll hopefully not have a Thursday night class so I can make it to Trissa's pilates class at 24 Hour Fitness. Before school started this past August, I was one of her most consistent students. Next term will mark the FOURTH straight one I've had a Thursday night class at CLU. Bummer, I know. That said, I'm not being starved at all these days in the pilates department. Tomorrow will mark the fifth straight day I've had either a class at 24 Hour with Linda or a private session with Romina at the GREAT Teague Pilates studio I just joined. If you have any interest in pilates, I strongly recommend you check Teague out! You'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Lake Show RETURNS!

Just when I thought it was safe to write off my Lakers, out of nowhere came perhaps their best overall game of the season. The "Lake Show" jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back as they took on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of their best-of-7 series last night at Staples Center. They built their lead to 31-16 after the first quarter and 55-34 at halftime. The Lakers needed to make a statement after their embarassing Game 4 loss and they more than certainly did in that first half!

Just how dominant were the Lakers in the first half? They shot a stratospheric 65%, while holding the Thunder to an abysmal 26%! Yes, that's crazy dominance! The Lakers continued to keep the pedal to the metal in the third quarter, pushing the lead to as many as 32 points. The fourth quarter was all "garbage time" as the late, great Chick Hearn would say and they cruised to a 111-87 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

More important than the win, is that it looked like the Lakers may have gotten that swagger of theirs back. The much-maligned Ron Artest looked like he escaped the "Bermuda Triangle" for the first time in quite a while last night. Maybe he's doing some cramming so that he can finally fit into coach Phil Jackson's complicated offensive scheme. Game 6 of the series is in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Go Lakers!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why My Lakers Won't Repeat

Flash back ONE YEAR.... After finishing the 2008-2009 season with a 65-17 record, I was very confident that my Los Angeles Lakers were going to win the NBA title. Kobe Bryant had that look in his eyes - yes that look - the one which he had when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors during the 2006 season. Pau Gasol also had that look... Lamar Odom had that look... as did this young guy out of UCLA named Trevor Ariza. The whole team had that look!!! Indeed, these Lakers were playing with a chip on their shoulders after what happened against the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Finals. AND They had the complicated Triangle Offense of the Zenmaster, Phil Jackson, mastered! How confident was I that they were going to win the title? Well, I didn't even watch their clinching Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. Rather, I took in the CMA Fest in Nashville, while following the details of the game on my cellphone. During an intermission in the concert, I happened to catch the post-game celebration. I still remember the jubilation of Kobe hugging Pau... and D-Fish thanking the Lord for another ring... it was epic!

Now flash back to TODAY... During off season, there were rumors that the Lakers were interested in Ron Artest... yes, THAT Ron Artest! The one who infamously went into the stands one time going after a fan and getting suspended an ENTIRE SEASON as a result. My initial thought was this: he's simply not disciplined enough to fit in the Triangle Offense... In fact, he might not pick up on it AT ALL! Sure enough the rumor was a true one as Artest became a Laker and Ariza ended up in Houston. The 2009-2010 season started well enough for the Lakers record-wise, as they won 28 of their first 34 games... though that was a little deceptive as only 11 of those games were on the road. The rest of the way, the "Lake Show" went 29 and 19. Not a horrible record, by any means, but still not what you would expect from them. Although there were moments where the team looked in sync, there were many more where they appeared out of sync.

The above leads me to the main reason the Lakers won't repeat: Ron Artest STILL doesn't understand the Triangle Offense! You watch the Lakers play, and it seems like half the time he has no idea what he's doing out there. When in doubt, he tends to throw up an ill-advised trey with 15 seconds left on the clock. Although his on court behavior has overall been good this year, I can't say his head has been into the games. Indeed, my worst fears about Artest have been realized. Unless coach Jackson switches his role with Odom's, I'm afraid the Lakers simply don't have a chance at repeating. Look at what happened in Game 4 in Oklahoma City this past Saturday. The Lakers not only lost to the #8 seeded Thunder, they were EMBARRASSED by a 110-89 count! Game five of the best of seven series is 7:30 tonight at Staples Center. It's VERY conceivable, the Lakers could lose tonight's game. Even if they happen to get past the Thunder, I don't see the Lakers winning it all. The Nuggets look hungry. The Magic and Cavaliers look REALLY hungry! The Lakers don't look hungry. I really think Artest's apathy has affected the whole team, including Coach Jackson.

I'm now really looking ahead to football season to see if my New Orleans Saints can do what my Lakers aren't going to do: REPEAT!!!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Gym Etiquette 101

Being someone who has been interested in physical fitness pretty much my entire adult life, I've almost always been a member of a gym or fitness center since I graduated from college at UCLA. People such as myself work out to keep their body in shape and also for how we tend to feel afterward. Working out and sweating helps make the brain release endorphins or "feel good" hormones.

Public fitness centers such as 24 Hour Fitness require their members to adhere to some basic rules of etiquette. Now what caused me to be inspired to discuss this topic? Well, it was the simple breaking of many of the basic rules of gym etiquette which I recently have seen occuring at my gym. Some of these will seem obvious, others you'll probably be surprised I have to even bring up.

1) Bring a Gym Towel
Yes, this is an obvious one, but you would be amazed by how many people actually don't bring a towel into the gym with them. It takes me about seven minutes from the time I start on the elliptical before I'm sweating. And believe me, I sweat A LOT! Be courteous to all of the other members by bringing a towel and wiping off the equipment you've just sweated all over!

2) Adhere to the "5 Minute Rule"
Have you ever been to the gym and you see one person spending 15 minutes or more on a piece of equipment? Yes, it's rude and it's selfish for someone to "machine hog!" In today's busy, fast-paced world, people often only have a short amount of time to get their workout in. Be courteous and limit your time to five minutes on any one piece of equipment, making sure you wipe it clean of your sweat when you're done.

3) Never INSIST on Working In with Someone
Has this ever happened to you? You jump on a piece of equipment and not five seconds later, you get asked by someone if they can work in with you. As someone with a very long, small-waisted, flexible body type, the settings I use are different than about 99% of the members. As a result, I'm typically going to spend 30 seconds or more making sure I've got the equipment set up correctly for me. Consequently, having someone work in can be more than a little of an inconvenience. A minute or two isn't long to wait. Be patient and you will get your turn.

4) Don't Abandon Your Piece of Equipment
You would be amazed at how often I run into this one. You want to work on a piece of equipment and someone's towel is just sitting on it. A minute goes by, two minutes, soon it's FIVE and the towel is STILL there! Or how about this one which I encountered this past week. I was just about to jump on a leg curl machine when out of nowhere this guy zooms in on me and says "I need to do my final set!" I was actually ON THE appartus when he rudely interrupted me. If you're going to step away from a piece of equipment for a minute, at least have the common courtesy to leave a towel or a water bottle on the piece of equipment so that others know it's in use. At the same time, don't leave the towel there for more than a minute unattended as really you're hogging the piece of equipment when you do so!!!

5) Don't Be Mean
A few weeks ago, I inhaled my water wrong while on the elliptical and as a result, I lightly coughed a few times. A woman three machines to the left of me asked me "are you ok?" To which I said, "I'm ok, I just inhaled some water wrong." A week later, the same thing happens to me again and a guy on the machine next to me on the right yells so that EVERYONE in the gym can hear him say "THAT WAS RUDE!" I wasn't sick and I didn't cough in his direction... I simply had some water go down the wrong pipe. Not being a confrontational person, I pretended to ignore him. Two minutes later, when a machine became available in the row in front of me, I bolted for it!

6) Trash Belongs in the TRASH CAN!
I'm not sure what is so difficult about this concept, but for whatever reason, it's a HUGE problem at my gym!!! Whenever I go to use the urinal in the men's restroom, invariably there are several pieces of gum sitting at the bottom of it! Yes, that's EXTREMELY gross! I really don't understand why you spit your gum there. It's just as easy to spit it into the trash can!

7) Wear GYM Appropriate Clothing

I've been going to my local 24 Hour Fitness center for about 2 1/2 years now, and there's this one woman who every day I see her is wearing a striped, blue and white collared shirt! Yes, she wears this SAME collared shirt every time I see her at the gym! I've also seen plenty of people work out in their blue jeans or other non gym appropriate clothing. Get a couple of pairs of sweats and t-shirts at the very least!

8) Watch Your Mouth

Light grunting is perfectly ok, swearing is not. You're in mixed company and have no idea what may offend someone. Using obscenities or God's name in vain in the gym is NEVER ok. Once again, practice common courtesy!

9) Re-rack Your Weights
Have you ever gone to use a piece of equipment only to see 200 pounds of weight left on it from the last person who used it? This very thing just happened to me last week. Nothing like having to spend an extra minute+ removing two 45's and two 10's to get the lateral arm extension down to the 90 pounds that I wanted on it. Once again, it's a courtesy thing.

10) NEVER Use TWO Machines at Once
You would be surprised how often I actually see this one at my gym. Typically, it's the men that do this. They will be on one piece of equipment, jump to another piece of equipment while leaving their towel or water there, and then come back to the original piece of equipment. Yes, they're effectively using two machines at the same time! If you're doing this type of workout, you really don't belong at a public gym.

The gym is meant to be a place where you have a positive experience both mentally and physically. Practicing the above 10 rules will assure that it's like this for you and the other faithful gym patrons!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's been ONE WEEK...

... since you looked at me... No, I'm going to sing the rest of that song by the Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies... But it's a very appropriate song title for what I have to say. One week ago today, my Pastor of nearly 12 years, Francis Chan, announced he was going to be leaving my church, Cornerstone Community in Simi Valley. Francis planted Cornerstone 16 years ago. About 20 seconds into his message last Sunday, I knew what he was leading to... and sure enough, about three minutes later, he made the announcement. Seeing how Pastor Chan has seemed so distracted most of the past year, the announcement really didn't come as a huge surprise to me. I talked to him, his lovely wife Lisa, and my good friend Jay after the service. The impact they and so many others from Cornerstone have had on my life has been overwhelming.

So what do I do next? Francis said he's feeling led to plant a church in L.A., though he's not 100% sure that's where the Lord is leading him yet. If he goes there, I may very well follow, even if that means doubling my current 30 minute commute to an hour. I may stay at Cornerstone as I have a lot of friends there who I know I can go to anytime when I need to talk about something important or need prayer. Or I may go elsewhere. I really don't know right now, though I am leaning toward following Francis and family to L.A. if that's where they end up. All I know are two things: 1) I will support Francis, Lisa and their family in whatever they do & 2) I will continue to pray about the future and where God wants me to be for church...

God bless you this Sunday and always!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Name Is Inigo Montoya...

... You Killed My Father... Prepare To Die! If you're a movie fan AT ALL, then you know this line is from the 1987 movie "The Princess Bride." It's one of those films that you can watch over and over again. The humor in it is so memorable that many lines and quotes come right off the top of people's heads. "Inconceivable"... "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I found those two sitting on my facebook page this morning after posting the famous "My Name is Inigo Montoya Prepare to Die" as my status. Yes, I watched it for the umpteenth time with a couple of good friends last night. It's good old fashioned, CLEAN humor. A movie you can watch with anyone - family, friends, children - and know that no one is going to be offended.

Very recently, I saw a movie with a friend called "Date Night" which looked like it was going to be fun and humorous (like "The Princess Bride") from the previews. However, the movie turned out to be a very poorly-written film full of sexual refences, innuendos and lots of vulgar language. While there were a few bright spots, inevitably they were all but ruined within about 30 seconds by the use of said references, innuendos and language. I really wanted my $9 back from Muvico! More than once, I was so offended that I felt like walking out of the theater. Thankfully, the film was only an hour and 28 minutes long. In summary, "Date Night" looked to me like a paper you threw together at the very last minute for a school project while you were drinking with some crude friends.

The moral of the story is when in doubt go with good old fashioned clean humor. It's a lot more fun, creative and memorable than the trite and hackneyed innuendos, language and references. MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA... YOU KILLED MY FATHER... PREPARE TO DIE!!! :)


Friday, April 23, 2010

Thank GOD it's Friday!

I haven't even had my requisite first cup of coffee yet, but my brain is already going a mile a minute... when we say "Thank God it's Friday" do we really mean what we say? I'd be willing to think that most of us don't. Like so many other common expressions today, it has very much lost its meaning. Do you actually thank God about it being Friday after HE has gotten you through your stressful week? If not, you may want to find another favorite expression or you can do what I like to do - say a short little prayer actually thanking God for the day! Happy Friday, ALL!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Gotta Have FAITH!

No, I'm not talking about the George Michael song from many many years ago, but rather I'm talking about our personal faith. In this world, most of us are slaves to something. We're slaves to money, possessions, jobs, addictions, and so many other things. This brings me to a question: why do we let things control us? I'm going to hazard a guess and say maybe we're focused on the wrong things. Can money bring you happiness? No. Can things make you happy? I don't think so.

Nearly two months ago, I was released from my employer of over 18 years. I made a very good salary, received good medical benefits and had many good friends there. Heck, they were even paying for my continuing education at Cal Lutheran University. On the surface there was a lot to like. You would think that given all of that, losing my job might have really gotten me down. On the contrary, it's probably been the best thing that EVER happened to me!

Why do I say this? Well, the place I used to work had a very NEGATIVE work environment. Negative reinforcement was preached and practiced and it absolutely killed the morale there. Being a very positive person, this kind of environment and I were just not a good match. By the end of the often nine+ hour workday, I was physically and mentally exhausted. The 25-30 minute drive there and a 30-35 minute drive back home were also draining as we have people in this state who believe the right lane is a passing lane and it's their right to do 80+ MPH in it! And while going to the gym and doing an hour on the elliptical, the weight machines or in a mat pilates class helped me deal with that stress, it didn't resolve the inherent issues. Effectively, I was a SLAVE to my job!!!

As last year progressed, I could see myself falling downward in a spiral. I focused less on God and stressed more and more on things. Then, my self-confidence started to wane. If you know me at all, you do know that I'm usually very confident in my abilities... By September, I was an absolute basket case! I was trying to juggle school, the gym, and a 45 hour a week super stressful job while trying to spend time with family and friends. Can you say EPIC FAIL?? So what happened as a result? Friendships suffered, I missed commitments, I asked for extensions or changes on school projects, and I was feeling less and less like my normal positive-minded self. My sleep pattern had become ridiculous, varying between two and 11 hours of sleep depending on how I was feeling. There were even three "all-nighters" where I got NO SLEEP at all! Yes, the list was VERY long and it was just all bad! Sadly, I also almost stopped going to my church... I was still so drained from my Monday-Friday on Sunday mornings, that I often just wanted to hit the snooze button 20 times!

Toward the end of last year, I started to realize that I needed to do something different. Although I was somehow maintaining a 3.2 GPA and getting to the gym six times a week, there wasn't much else positive to say about how I was living. I was praying a little, but not nearly enough. I feel into some VERY bad habits. To make a long story short, I decided to go to my church the Sunday before Christmas after missing three straight weeks... the normal 11am service. So as I drive past Angela St. on Winifred, I notice there just weren't very many cars on the road... Strange, I thought. As I got closer to the parking lot, I could tell something was up as it was nearly empty! As me and about five other cars drive by the church, we see these little signs saying "ALL CHURCH SERVICE AT ROYAL HIGH SCHOOL at 10am." I was crushed! I REALLY needed to have my pastor speak to me. I REALLY needed to get some wisdom and encouragement from my friends there. Instead, all I got was nearly an hour of a wasted 50 mile roundtrip to the east end of Simi Valley from the west end of Thousand Oaks. Sadly, I was THAT out of the loop with my church and church body! As my cousin Scott would say "NO BUENO!" All I could think to myself was "this can't happen again... I REALLY need to get my focus back on HIM!"

So the next Sunday, the last one of last year, I finally made it back to my church. My pastor was there. A couple of valued friends were there. And I felt a peace. A comfort. A reassurance. A feeling that God was going to answer some things I had been praying about a lot. And HE did... the next night, He restored a valued friendship which had been torn apart mostly thanks to what I was dealing with at work... I started reconnecting with long, lost friends (mostly on facebook). As 2010 arrived, I just felt like there were going to be a lot of good changes happening in my life...

Fast forward to today. Not to boast or anything, but we're near the end of April, and I have managed to make it to my church EVERY Sunday this year! As I get further and further away from the thing that brought me so much stress, I've been getting closer and closer to God and also my friends. I'm also sleeping better than I have in a VERY long time. My family and friends all have remarked about me being so full of joy all of the time these days. And I really can't help it, because I'm truly happy and enjoying life. I see a friend in need posting a message on facebook and I can pray for them almost instantly. I can text or call my friends almost anytime to check on them... Heck, I can even drive over to visit some of them now too! Last week, I shared about the Lord to several different friends. I've even been listening to the sermons of other pastors online... As I told a good friend this weekend, I feel like God is finally working through me again to make a difference in this crazy world we live in... and that's a feeling not money, a job or anything else can buy!!! Thank you, Lord!!!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The numbers say Phil needs Tiger...

It's been quite a while since I posted a blog here, so thanks to all of you who have missed my blogging and/or left comments. After watching Phil Mickelson win his third Masters title this past Sunday, (and a BIG congratulations go out to you, Phil!) I felt inspired to blog again.

As those who follow the game closely know, "Lefty's" play had been very lackluster ever since winning the TOUR Championship last September. His finishes over that time: 19,45,8,24,14,30 and 35. Certainly not the type of play you would expect to preceed a major title. All of this got me to thinking about the last time Phil's play was lackluster - the latter part of the 2008 season into early 2009. Not coincidentally (in my opinion), the missing ingredient or common denominator was a certain man named Woods. Check out some numbers I just threw together on Phil on his PGA Tour play since the beginning of the 2008 season. By my count, "Lefty" has played 45 competitive PGA Tour events over that time. In 27 of those tournaments, Tiger was also in the field.

With Tiger in the field (27 tournaments):
Wins: 5 (18.5%)
Top 5's: 10 (37.0%)
Top 10's: 12 (44.4%)
Top 30's: 21 (77.8%)
Median: 14.5

Without Tiger in the field (18 tournaments):
Wins: 1 (5.6%) - note, win was the week prior to Tiger's last return
Top 5's: 3 (16.7%)
Top 10's: 5 (27.8%)
Top 30's: 12 (66.7%)
Median: 19.0

Pretty striking, isn't it? Phil was 3 1/3 times more likely to win with Tiger in the field than not! He was also 2 2/3 times more likely top have a top five finish with Tiger in the field. Given his often "go for broke" style of play, it's not too surprising that when he's out of contention, the "Tiger effect" isn't nearly as pronounced for Phil as shown by the median finishes of 14.5 with Tiger in the field vs. 19.0 without the world's #1 player amongst the competitors.

The bottom line based on the numbers of the past two plus years is that Tiger seems to inspire Phil's play. When Phil is near the top of the leaderboard, he's a MUCH better and more focused player and much more likely to place in the top 5 and/or win!