Month: August 2015

Big Pete: A tribute to a patriarch, a friend, and a blessing to us all

I lost a dear friend this past week after his long battle with the evil C-word. He was my best friend’s father, but he may as well have been my friend. That’s the kind of man he was; a friend to almost everybody he came across.

Our dearly departed friend was known by all as Pops — in fact, he had a nice arrangement of flowers, spelling out his nickname at his wake and funeral. But to me, he’ll always be remembered as Big Pete. You see, my best friend and his father were both named Peter, a fitting name for two strong individuals and the name that Jesus would give to his disciple, Simon, for it meant “rock”, on whom Jesus would build his church.

Pete’s family lived down the street from my family for most of our youth. Every time I called their house to speak to my friend, the answer on the other end of the line would invariably be, “Big Pete or Little Pete?” — you’d think I would have learned to just ask for Little Pete right off the bat, but I guess I was too young and naive to figure that out. I would refer to the elder as Big Pete, and in time, some point after I grew from a boy into a man, he would always address me as “Mr. Glab.” It was a level of respect from a man 30 years my senior that was unneeded and unwarranted, but extremely gratifying nonetheless.

As the years went by, and as Little Pete and I grew closer and hung out on a regular basis, I grew to know and love the kind of man that Big Pete was and what he stood for. I got to witness firsthand what kind of husband and father he was, how great a friend he would become, and that he truly was a gift from God.

I think what stood out most to me about Big Pete was the kind of impact he had on the lives of others. That fact alone speaks volumes about the quality of life lived. To me, I believe the measure of success in a man is not what he accomplishes for himself but what he does for the success of others. And as I sat back and surveyed the sea of mourners paying their last respects, I saw a crowd of people positively affected, encouraged, and even somewhat transformed by Big Pete.

How does one accomplish so much in his time on earth? I propose that he did it through three simple factors: attitude, hard work, and love. Throughout all the years that I had the privilege of knowing Big Pete, I don’t recall a single time when he wasn’t happy. The man oozed with positive thoughts and feelings and if he wasn’t having a good day, he sure did a good job of masking it to others. That kind of positive personality rubbed off on other people and they couldn’t help flocking to him.

I recall several moments in time when Big Pete would captivate the room, but one sticks out more than others. I play on a softball team with Little Pete and a handful of our friends — a team that Big Pete generously sponsored with his personal HVAC business. The mood on the field can get quite intense given the competitive fire many on our team have. But one night Big Pete strolled down the sidewalk toward the softball field to come watch us play, and as soon as he got to the bleachers just behind the dugout, it was like the President had just walked into his own private suite. The guys on the team ignored what was happening on the field and turned around to shake his hand. He had a smile on his face and exchanged pleasantries with almost every player in the dugout. It didn’t matter what the score was — we were probably down 13 runs at the time — because the level of respect we each had for the man was far superior to the competitive fire in our bellies.

Aside from his attitude, his level of hard work shined through next. The man was always on the go, ready in an instant to fix something that was broken. At his wake, one of the speakers made a nice reference to Big Pete as a “first responder,” comparing his ability to get where he was needed in such quick time to police, firefighters and ambulances. Big Pete had a strong work ethic and he recognized the need to serve and support his family and friends, of course, but also churches, schools, and local businesses.

Finally, love was the third ingredient that made Big Pete such a success in his life. Whatever he did, it came from the heart. He had his priorities straight and I admire the man for it. First and foremost, he had strong faith and a love for God, which not only steered his life in the right direction but also gave him strength in his final days. Secondly, he loved his wife of 40 years more than anything or anyone on earth. I cannot stress enough how important the spousal relationship is. Two lives working together as one, let no man separate. I’ve been married for about three months now and I pray that I live up to my duties as a loving husband and provider for that length of time. Third, Big Pete loved his two sons, their wives and little daughters with all his heart. His sons have grown into great men in part because of the lessons he and his wife passed on to them. And although his time with his granddaughters was brief, he loved them dearly and they’ll learn what kind of man he was as they grow older and hear stories. Big Pete’s love obviously spread to his extended family, his church family, and the legions of friends he developed over the years.

Although my heart is heavy, I’m extremely grateful to have known Big Pete. His wake and funeral were sad, but they truly were a celebration of his life as well. He was inspirational and had a profound impact on all the lives he touched.

You don’t even have to have known Big Pete to learn a lesson from him. I encourage you to heed the following advice. If you want to live well and be a success in life, follow Big Pete’s example: always keep the right attitude, work as hard as you possibly can, love with all your heart, and make sure your priorities are in the right order.

Here’s to you, Big Pete! Thank you for all you’ve given to the world. Gone for now, certainly missed, but never forgotten.

GOP Debate: Republican presidential candidates introduce themselves

Ask me to name a member of Congress that I actually like and you’ll have time to go get a cup of coffee — in Colombia, no less — before I could give you an answer. I guess you could lump me in with the three-fourths of the country that disapprove of the job that Congress is doing in the District.

Yet, as much as I feel spurned, ignored, and somewhat played like a fiddle by our elected leaders in Washington, I’m still fascinated with our democratic process and I’m enthralled by election season every four years.

Thursday night featured the first of what will seem like a marathon of presidential debates as the leaders in the Republican field of candidates met on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, to present themselves to the country.

In an effort to be transparent and honest with you, I’m not the world’s leading political analyst. In fact, if political pundits were a pack of marathoners, I’d be smushed somewhere near the back, way behind the Kenyans.

However, I try to stay educated and informed on the topics, platforms and positions of the candidates running. I’d recommend you read articles from fact checkers for accuracy and truth behind what is proclaimed in these debates.

With that said, here are my opinions and assessments of each of the candidates and where they stand after Thursday night’s debate.

Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor

Politicians are naturally in the public eye because they’re supposed to be relatable to their constituents. What bothers me is when they seep into popular culture for non-business reasons. I really didn’t need to see Christie hugging Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during an exciting moment of a football game last year. What does this have to do with his policies? Well, nothing, really. Just an observation. Christie spent a lot of time last night referencing his role in going after terrorists in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. While I am sympathetic to all those affected by the tragedy, and while I will live by the motto “Never Forget” for the rest of my life, I’m not interested in a one-trick pony. He touched on how he brought New Jersey from a being in a state of despair into much better conditions, and I’d like to hear more on how he can translate that success to America’s economic troubles.

Marco Rubio, Florida Senator

Rubio was one of my favorite candidates of the evening from a presentational standpoint. He was polite, direct, articulate, well-spoken and seemed genuinely compassionate toward the American people. I don’t know enough about his policies, though, and would like to hear more about his record and how he intends to fix our nation’s problems. He’s an up-and-comer of the Republican party, who was even chosen to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013, but is he still too raw at age 44?

Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon

Every election cycle there is a “flavor of the month” candidate who captures the attention of the nation and may even lead in some polls based on his success in debates and making headlines. Last election cycle it was Herman Cain, a former pizza company CEO, whose use of the “9-9-9” slogan resonated with the general public. He led the polls for a short while before ultimately fizzling out because he wasn’t prepared for office. I suspect this year’s version is Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and political pundit, who is very intelligent — obviously! — and clearly has well-thought-out plans. But he was also asked an introductory question by the debate moderators, prefaced by his relatively minuscule familiarity with foreign policy and American political history. He has the capacity to learn, but do we have the patience for growing pains in such an important office?

Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor

Living just across the border in Illinois, I’ve become more familiar with the governor of Wisconsin in recent years. He seems to have a loyal, passionate fan base, at least within his state. He’s the son of a Baptist minister, so his positions are rooted in faith. He doesn’t quite come off as presidential, but that’s only an appearance and that can change with time. I think he had strong opinions on issues that Christians would be concerned with and I hope his answers weren’t standard lines from a stump speech, but instead strong convictions on his policies.

Donald Trump, real estate magnate

Clearly the highlight of the evening, the brash business owner was positioned center stage and was the focal point for much of the evening. I have severe reservations about Trump as a presidential candidate. For starters, I don’t trust his character or integrity. He’s brash and often abrasive, and has insulted many throughout his life in the public spotlight. He’s got no experience in government — which some say might be a positive, but I won’t concede that. Experience is not the problem in Washington; it’s policies and procedures that matter. Nowhere in his rambling drivel last night did it sound like he was a man who cared deeply about the people of this country. Instead, he sounded like an angry businessman who was upset the government was taking too much of his money. I will say that his best response of the evening was that he thinks this country is worried too much about political correctness.

Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor

I don’t have quite the same concerns that many in America have about “dynastic politics,” as one moderator phrased it last night. For instance, my refusal to accept Hillary Clinton as president has little to with her husband already serving that role and more to do with her insane political positions. I understand that much of America might still be suffering from “Bush fatigue” but I won’t hold that against Jeb. My observation of the younger Bush brother last night was that he didn’t quite seem presidential. Maybe it was opening night jitters, but he didn’t seem to have the same conviction and resolve that his older brother had. From my understanding, he seemed to have a relatively successful run as Florida Governor and helped lead the state into the top five in job growth. It never hurts to have two family members lending presidential ideas and support, which is one reason why I’m encouraged and intrigued by Jeb. But let’s see how he carves out a name for himself during this process.

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor

Huckabee was one of my favorite candidates during the 2008 election season but I’m a little less interested in him this time around. He served as a pastor early in his life and I love his devout faith. Much — if not all — of his platform is influenced by his faith, which I think is the best way to lead, even if it makes some of his ideas sound radical by the secular nation. What I also like about him is his courage and conviction and his directness in the way he communicates his stance on tough subjects.

Ted Cruz, Texas Senator

I had known very little about Ted Cruz prior to last night’s debate, but his performance definitely won me over. He’s probably near the top of my candidate preference list at this point, but that could vary in the months ahead. I was confused how a man born in Canada could run for president, but apparently he’s okay to do so. I would imagine that if he somehow “made the cut” after this large list of candidates has dwindled down, that the controversy over his birth place would pick up, but let’s first see if he gets that far. As Senator in Texas, Cruz obviously has strong opinions on immigration and trying to keep out the illegals, which would definitely help the job sector.

Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator

I was extremely turned off by Rand Paul before the debate and all the more put off afterward. The son of perennial third-party presidential candidate Ron Paul, Rand has made a name for himself the past several years as an outspoke critic — of just about everything. I like a candidate to have convictions and stand by what he believes, but I also can’t stand one that is overly confrontational. Paul got into it with Chris Christie last night, among other candidates on the stage, and his annoying southern drawl only further damaged his likeability. (Don’t take that to mean I don’t like southern accents; I actually think they’re by and large charming). Paul seems to me like too much of the establishment politician and I want to find a candidate with a different voice who is less interested in fighting across the aisle and more interested in helping his constituents.

John Kasich, Ohio Governor

Ironically, Kasich had a “home court advantage” last night because the debate took place in Cleveland — one of the cities he currently governs — and yet he was my least favorite candidate next to Paul. His constituents may have cheered his responses but I found nothing he said to be noteworthy. He seems too wishy-washy on many of his policies and I don’t find anything in him personally endearing that would captivate my attention and devotion. He’ll have to do a better job communicating where he stands on the issues and tell me why he can help the country focus less on social issues and more on fixing the economy.

Peter Jennings died 10 years ago today

There are certain moments in time, whether single acts or a series of familiar events, that help illustrate the story of our lives. Maybe it’s a national pastime like going to baseball games as a kid and watching your heroes play. Perhaps it’s a family vacation or nightly conversations at the dinner table. It could be watching any number of television sitcoms throughout their duration, reading a good book that had a profound impact on your life, or taking part in any number of time-sensitive fashion and music trends.

For me, I’ve experienced all of the above. But one more moment in time that I’d like to pay tribute to was that of Peter Jennings’ tenure at ABC News. Jennings died ten years ago today after losing his battle with lung cancer.

Jennings spent four decades with ABC and was a staple of not only the network but of the entire industry as well. Jennings’ sooth tones and demeanor are forever synonymous with television news for that period of my life, right up until the time his voice became raspy and gravelly and his health waned. His steady, on-air presence defined his poise and confidence in front of the camera, and was perhaps best exemplified by his live coverage of the terrible events of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Everybody of reasonable age remembers where they were when the planes hit the towers and the Pentagon. Me, I was a college sophomore, sitting at first in my dorm room and then later in my journalism class, eyes glued to the TV all day. What better real-life example of broadcast journalism for a communications major than witnessing live coverage of an ongoing national tragedy, narrated by one of our nation’s greatest anchors?

I was saddened by his passing a decade ago and cannot believe how fast time flies.

Religious freedom is not freedom to persecute religion

I read an article in the Washington Post about a growing trend in Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina, among other places, where bumper stickers featuring the motto, “In God We Trust,” are being placed on vehicles driven by police officers and firefighters.

This phrase, of course, was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956 and can be found on our currency.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that these stickers have found their way on to such highly visible vehicles has led to an outcry from those who don’t believe in God and want nothing to do with religion.

“I’m not hiding from the fact that it’s religious,” Bay County, Florida, Sheriff Frank McKeithen told The Post. “Morals and ethics — that’s kind of what law enforcement’s supposed to be about.”

Given what has happened in many cities across the country in recent weeks and months regarding suspected police brutality, McKeithen said there are negative vibes surrounding police officers and he wanted to paint his men in a different, more positive light.

“We want to be proud and we want people to be proud of us, and we know we’re better than how people portray us,” McKeithen said.

As a Christian man, I couldn’t be more happy with the gesture. It seems like religion — especially Christianity — is on the decline in this country and Christians are being persecuted for practicing their beliefs.

We have a growing problem in this country, and it begins with everybody being so offended by what others think, feel, and do. And rather than practice tolerance, people feel it’s worth their time and effort to fight everyone and everything until they get their way.

I’ve always said that freedom is a slippery slope. We deserve — and have — basic freedoms, but the hunger and thirst for more freedom is never quite satisfied, as people will fight for every single right they can, down to a single, minute detail.

And when one person fights for an intricate right for himself, it sometimes takes away a right from someone else.

Allow me to clarify.

The biggest “conflicting rights” issue is abortion, of course, where some women want the right to abort a pregnancy, thus denying the right for that baby to have life. But abortion is a much bigger topic for a different day.

In the case of religion, nonbelievers don’t want the word “God” anywhere — at least anywhere that they might see or hear it. Thus, if it were to be removed from our national vocabulary, we are then persecuting those who do believe in God, and preventing them the right to preach their faith.

Another example that has bothered me for years is the separation of church and state in public schools. In an ever-growing attempt at keeping faith out of schools and doing the politically correct thing to please as many people as possible, schools have been removing words that might offend nonbelievers. One such case is the removal of the phrase “Good Friday.” Many school children all over the country have no classes on the Friday before Easter, but a lot of these schools refer to the day as, “a day of nonattendance,” so as not to offend the non-Christians.

Educate me, please. What is so offensive to a person of a different religion about receiving a day off school or work for some other faith’s holiday? When I was in school, I enjoyed every single day off I could get. Heck, growing up in Illinois, we got Casimir Pulaski Day off on the first Monday of every March — and I didn’t even have the slightest clue who that guy was. Would I have cared if the school gave us days off for Yom Kippur or Ramadan? Heck no! And I sincerely doubt that many — if any — schoolchildren these days would be “offended” if they got a day off from school for a Christian holiday. I guarantee that’s coming straight from the parents who are doing whatever they can to keep their children from being exposed to a religion that preaches love and fellowship — how awful that must be to impressionable children!

Why are we not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” in December? Why do we have to refer to Christmas trees as “Holiday trees?” Why do we have to say something like “Gesundheit” to someone who just sneezed instead of “God bless you?”

The level of offense and sensitivity that the secular public takes to these gestures — all of which are delivered with goodwill, mind you — is just baffling and, frankly, quite troubling.

What nonbelievers or atheists do not understand is that the freedoms granted to them by our founding fathers do not allow them to persecute and prevent believers from practicing their faith. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The First Amendment gives us the right to practice our religion free from persecution.

So, while atheists have every right not to practice a religion, doing something to hinder others from practicing their faith is not okay.

You cannot set a double standard. You cannot fight for one freedom if it takes away freedom for someone else — well, you can. But then you’re just selfish and inconsiderate.

If you don’t want to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, don’t. But don’t get in the way of others who choose to.

If you don’t want to put an “In God We Trust” bumper sticker on your car, nobody is forcing you. But don’t put up a fuss if someone else puts one on his car.

If you don’t want to say “God bless you” when someone else sneezes, fine. But don’t get offended when someone else wishes you well and says it to you.

The list of modern day persecution goes on and on, but the bottom line is this: Nobody is forcing you to declare your allegiance to God if you don’t want to … so don’t try to prevent others who do want to.

Does anybody have time for string cheese anymore?

While sitting at my desk today, I pulled out a piece of string cheese from my lunch bag and proceeded to take about two and a half bites of it before it disappeared into my mouth. Twenty-three chews later, it was gone. 

It got me thinking … in today’s society, where everything happens so fast and we’re always on the lookout for ways to speed up production in our lives, does anybody actually have time to peel strips off their sticks of cheese anymore? Can we just agree to call them cheese sticks from now on?

I would imagine between busy schedules and laziness, they might want to consider coming out with pre-stringed cheese. It certainly would save a lot of time. 

Spending time in historic Woodstock Square, site of ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, worth repeating

Woodstock Square, site of the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day

I’ve become quite fond of Woodstock, Illinois. I grew up in nearby McHenry and have always lived a hop, skip and a jump away. Our high school used to play sports against Woodstock, so they were always the rival in my eyes. But as life goes on, perspectives change and I’ve adapted a new one on Woodstock.

I met my wife Rachel while she was living in Woodstock, which perhaps is the biggest reason I now have an affinity for it. Throughout our courtship, I spent many days in and around the town, getting dinner, shopping, or walking through the old neighborhoods.

Woodstock Square, site of the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog DayBut perhaps the most charming aspect of Woodstock is the town’s Square, which is famous for its role in the 1993 Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day. Woodstock was known as the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the movie.

Almost every time I set foot in the historic Woodstock Square, I can’t help but get the hankering to watch Groundhog Day. Everywhere you look around the Square, you can’t help but remember a particular scene from the movie. I’ve even walked past the bed and breakfast house that Murray’s character stayed at.

This Saturday, I was at the Woodstock farmers market, here in the Square, enjoying my wife and her friend playing music to entertain the crowd. It was a warm summer day with a slight breeze and I was surrounded by good company.

Needless to say, it was just one more reason to like the town and spend my time in it.