Sunday, January 30, 2022

Faith Like a Child

"Dear God, surround me as I speak..."

 I've been a blogger now for over eight years. I've written many articles that have touched many lives, provided entertainment, and encouragement. What I'm about to write will hopefully be the most profound thing I'll ever write.


I went to a Baptist church when I was a kid. I was baptized when I was 11. At my baptism, I was asked to give my testimony. I regaled a time when I was three years old, my mother taught me how to get into Heaven. She said, "all you need to do is ask Jesus to come into your heart." Three years old. How could I have understood what all that meant? Faith like a child.

It wasn't until many years later that I really became a Christian. I said the prayer many times; confessed my sins many times; asked for forgiveness about a million times, but it wasn't until I was 41 that I learned to surrender, and truly have faith like a child.

I had the benefit of being born into a good Christian home. Not everybody has that chance. But like most children I learned to mute it out after a while. I saw so much good and so much bad at my church. Eventually the bad consumed the good and left me with a lot of bad and uncomfortable feelings.

I've had a hard time with churches my entire life. Youth groups were always hard because of my social anxiety and general awkwardness, but moreover, they were composed mostly of the same kids that picked on me and made fun of me at school. I was always the outcast. In the winter of 1989, my freshman year in high school, our church took a ski trip. My mother insisted I go, in fact, most of my Christmas presents that year were for skiing. I had, not even one friend on that trip. On the ride up, I sat next to the pastor who told me I was talking to him too much and asked me to stop talking. On the slopes, I was all by myself, never having skied before. There were a few seniors that were teaching us to ski.


When we moved to Oregon, there were surprisingly no bullies. We went to a different church every week, searching for the right fit. Eventually I just got so sick of it, I stopped going altogether, for multiple reasons. I've never really started going like we did when I was a kid again.

My senior year of high school, I started developing depression and PTSD from all the bullies back home in California. I started therapy and treatment. That summer after my senior year was the worst summer ever. I had so much anger in me that it prevented me from enjoying myself, enjoying my life. In 2000 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. The definition is confusing, but basically, to me, that means you are more prone to depression vs. manic episodes. Such pain. My life spun out of control; going down, down, down to the eventual bottom. I applied for social security twice, and was denied twice.


I went from job, to job, to job. I'd start, then I'd get fired, sometimes for reasons not even disclosed to me. And I lived all over the place:  with my parents until I was 23, then I got my own apartment. It was the first time I had ever lived my myself, outside of the brief time I did when I was in college.  At 24 I was on a bit of an upswing, so I upgraded my apartment, but then fell flat on my face and had to move back in with my parents. I lived with my brother for a while, before moving back in with my parents. I got another apartment for just under a year, and then moved back in with my parents again. I did not get along with my parents while living with them. There was so much animosity, we were butting heads all the time.

Then one day my counselor reached out to me and said "I think I might have found housing for you." It was a tiny one-bedroom apartment with no amenities. I turned it down at first, but then reconsidered given my options. I moved in and immediately felt free. It was my place and everything in it was mine! The apartment was subsidized by HUD and the rent at the beginning was $3.00. This was based on my income at the time which was $0.00. I was so grateful to get this place. Unfortunately, the problem with jobs persisted. I think I counted about 25-50 jobs in a ten year period.

Then came April of 2015. I was without a job, behind on my bills, and couldn't ask my parents for money, again. I said a prayer, and then I said "I just can't do this anymore. I'm done. I've got nothing left." Well, I found a job. I hated it at first but then I got really good at it and it later led to the job I have now which is the best job I've ever had. All because I surrendered. I gave it to God. And in my mind I was calculating the odds, adding up all the complications and I said to myself "God will come through." I cleared my mind and I felt like Luke Skywalker did after he fired his shot into the Death Star. Confident. I was counting on God not letting me down.


These days, superheroes are popular. It seems every blockbuster Hollywood produces came from the pages of Marvel or DC Comics. That day in April of 2015 was when I was endowed with my "superpower." No I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, fly or run faster than a locomotive. Instead, I now have this sixth sense. When faced with an ominous problem, I feel something, like a voice telling me God will take care of me, that things will work out. He sets my mind and my heart at ease. I can remember each time it happens.

My job is very stressful, taking care of peoples' mortgages during a pandemic; taking care of their homes. Recently management has been talking about adding a new metric in order to make a bonus. To date, I've never hit this metric. I started to panic when I first heard this was going to be expected of me to make my bonus. Later I was able to stop obsessing about it. Then, I felt God tell me everything will be OK as long as I don't worry. In my mind, in only a second, I analyzed the situation and realized that it would be wholly illogical for God to take away my apartment and my livelihood, given it was all from Him. And that's what this whole testimony is about:  faith like a child. "God feeds the birds every day who seem so insignificant in this world. He will take care of you. You just have to trust him," - something my brother wrote me based on Matthew 6:25. There is only one word I can think of that best describes this phenomenon:  hope.

I am in no way perfect in my life or in my faith. I panicked like an unbeliever when I heard they were considering adding this new metric (which hasn't even been officially added yet). But God comforted me, made me feel better. I wrote this article because I feel like I've never really shared my testimony outside of my baptism. I also wanted to communicate the idea that a testimony can change. It can get better, more detailed, and touch more lives. That's not to say if your testimony does not have a lot of details, it's invalid. But I believe in conviction, evidence and proof, and that's what comes with you give up your life to Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Breaking Bad

I wanted to write about the AMC TV show Breaking Bad. The show aired originally in 2007. I started binge watching it sometime in 2012 I think, on Netflix and then caught the last season as it aired on AMC. I remember, at the time, I didn't really know that much about drugs, especially methamphetamine, but nonetheless, the story drew me in. If you haven't seen it yet, the premise is that a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, choses to make meth in order to make money to pay for his lung cancer treatment, money that he would in no way ever be able to make on his salary as a high school chemistry teacher. 

The genius of the story comes in the first three episodes; the show makes the character Walter White relatable. I mean, we've all been through something traumatic in our lives. And who hasn't ever faced a problem where the solution was money?

This premise was particularly appealing to me during the period of 2005 - 2013 when I was living with my parents (except for a short stay in my own apartment for one year starting in 2007). I was fiercely struggling with bipolar disorder and always at odds with them. My life was a nightmare, and I would have done anything to get out of it all. I even tried suicide in 2009. My morals at that time were somewhat malleable. 

I've had emotional problems all my life. And as a consequence, I've struggled with employment. I've probably had 50 jobs or more since I was old enough to work, and the reasons I was fired from these jobs or quit were pretty much the same throughout. There is nothing in this world that is worse than the feeling that you are worthless. 

The appeal of Breaking Bad to me was never more attractive than when I was going through the hardest times of my life. So many times I was faced with problems that would have been easily solved with money. Like the time my 1997 Honda Accord needed a new transmission and I didn't even have a job, or the time a collections agency garnished my bank account and took everything I had right at the end of the semester when I was in art school and needed money to pay for printing of my projects, or when I just needed the peace and quiet of my own apartment, away from my nagging parents. I made a lot of bad decisions, that had a lot of negative consequences. I was suffering, and watching an anti-hero like Walter White solve his problems with a reckless abandon PhD in manipulation and gas-lighting gave me a sense of satisfaction, as I imagined everyone who watched the show experienced.


A week or so ago I decided to start re-watching the show. I've seen it before so I knew what to expect. What I didn't know was how different it made me feel. Things for me are much better now. I'm in my own apartment and I have the best job I've ever had. I pay my rent, and I get no subsidies from the government, no handouts whatsoever.

So now when I watch the series again, I get a whole different feeling. Walter White had been good husband and a good father, but his pride got the best of him. He was faced with an unsurmountable problem and instead of asking for help, or rather accepting the help he was offered, and doing the right thing, he chose the easy way out which was to make millions of dollars manufacturing a product that was not only highly illegal, but also led to the suffering of many others. His recklessness cost him his family, his friends and ultimately his own life.

As I mentioned before, Walter White was a master of manipulation and gas-lighting, and it all started with lies. From the first episode, he lied to his wife and son. This disgusts me. I can't even imagine the idea of lying to my wife, the woman I love and chose to be with until I die. I can't fathom a father lying to his son because my father never lied to me. But the rabbit hole just keeps going further and further down a dark path. For some, I think Breaking Bad is a  curiosity, for others maybe fantasy fulfillment.

I think what changed for me was basically everything. And I think it all started with moving into my own apartment in 2013. At that time, it was subsidized by HUD. I was getting EBT benefits as well. I kept praying for jobs, endlessly sending out resumes. When I moved into my apartment I had nothing but a TV, a desk, a bed and some second-hand furniture. The next two years were the most crucial. I had a lot of the same problems, but having my own place was the catalyst, it was freedom. When I started my current job was when I really started to learn, or rather relearn, what it meant to be responsible; to be valued. And I realized just how bad it is to lie, manipulate and gas-light. 

I see Breaking Bad in a completely different light now. It no longer has the same appeal to my basic impulses like it did when I was suffering. I changed. I took the moral high ground and have been able to keep that path. The easy way out holds no sway over me anymore. I no longer get a subsidy for my apartment, nor EBT funds. I no longer have to worry about choosing to pay for my electricity or my rent. I can't tell you how good it feels, and I did it all without committing any crimes.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Gary Sanford Hirsch

In Loving Memory


Gary Sanford Hirsch, my father, passed away on July 24th 2021 at 5:00 am. He is survived by his two sons, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.

My father was born in Los Angeles, California, on Friday January 12th, 1945 to Sanford and Marion Hirsch. He was their first child. Born at the end of the worst war the world had ever seen, when our country was experiencing a cultural rebirth. He would live to see the dawning of the modern age. My aunt Lynn followed up three years later.

In the 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam war, my father headed the call of his country and joined the military. He scored high on his exams and entered the Navy. He could have joined the Army or the Marines or even the Air Force, but felt his talents and skills would be put to better use away from the abject chaos that was the Vietnamese battlefield, run by non-combatant politicians rather than actual military brass. He was a communications yeoman and worked with a machine called a teletype. I never fully understood what exactly that was, but the way he described it, it sounded like a fax machine. Can't imagine paying someone to man a fax machine, but such were the days before every six year old could operate one.

My father went to CSUN and graduated with a degree in Psychology. He continued his education at the graduate level, at UCLA, and earned a certificate in Human Resources.

In 1970, he met and married my mother Kathleen Anne Sullivan; an ironic story. My father was always an assertive but not aggressive man. He was never afraid to step up, raise his hand, or talk to people, and yet it was my mother who asked him out on their first date. But in her defense, she was a very assertive person as well. They both encouraged that in my brother and me. 

He will be interred at Willamette National Cemetary, with my mother Kathleen Hirsch. Services to be held on August 12, 2021 with full military honor.


I was born in 1974, and my brother in 1976. My earliest memory of my father was when I was about three years old. Dad wanted me to hold his hand when we went places, but I was so tiny and his hands were so big that I could only grasp his index and middle fingers. Before He passed, one last time, I grasped his fingers as I did as a child, and said goodbye as a symbolic gesture. 

When I was a kid, I asked my father what he wanted to be growing up, what line of work he wanted to go into. He always said the same thing:  Police Officer. I always thought it was so brave and noble that he would not only want to serve his country, but also his community. I asked him why he didn't go into law enforcement, he said he didn't think he had the confidence. Later in life he learned about police reserve programs, and in 1987 he was able to realize his dream of being accepted to the Los Angeles Police Academy. I always thought the LAPD reserve program was a little lackluster. Reserves were limited to what they could do. But when we moved to Oregon, Dad got into the Hillsboro Police Reserve program where he was given the same responsibilities as regular officers. He would work a 40 hour work week at his regular job and then put eight hours in on Friday and Saturday nights. He was one of the best officers, reserve or otherwise. Dad was a born leader. He naturally sought out, and was sought after for leadership roles. At one time he was the head of the Hillsboro reserve program. He was so well respected that when he left, the department gave him a ceremonial badge and certificate of appreciation for his years of service.

My father was the single greatest role model in my life. I would have joined the Navy in his honor had I not had a childhood full of illness. In 1992, when I was in high school, I was given the task of completing a career exploration program. I chose to join the Police Explorer program in Lake Oswego and later I transferred to Hillsboro. Dad was never so proud of me in my life. It was so great for him to see me in uniform with a badge just like him. Sometimes I would go out on ride-alongs with him on Friday or Saturday night when it was really busy and we'd dial up our adrenaline to 11! I was 18 years old, still a kid, but I made sure to conduct myself in a safe and professional manner so as not to besmirch my father's reputation.

My father raised my brother and I in a Christian home. He constantly reminded us that Christ is the head of the house. Like most Christians he had Bible verses that he was really fond of, but none resonated more in my brother and I than Exodus 20:12 - Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Even when I disagreed with him, even when I had an argument, even at the worst of times, I NEVER dishonored my father.

We moved to Oregon in 1989. My parents were planning on starting a franchise, but at the last minute, something akin to a bait-and-switch happened and the deal fell through. My father still moved us. The first few years were very hard for him. The job market was brutal and many Oregonians were very unkind to people from out of state, especially from California. When things got tough, he stuck it out with the family. He didn't leave my mother. He did the best he could to make lemonade out of the lemons he was given. Later, in desperation, he moved us back to California. I hated this. I was bullied a lot when we lived there before and never wanted to step foot in that state again. I remember the night before we were to move, I couldn't sleep. I had been up all night. Dad came into my room and unexpectedly offered to call it all off. I said no. I don't know why I said no, but he was seriously going to tell the movers to leave.

That day fell heavy on his heart, and for years he was afraid I'd never forgive him. We were only there for about seven weeks when my dad realized what a mistake that was and so we moved back to Oregon. I'm pretty sure he realized right away that it was a mistake, but ever the trooper, he did his best to try to make it work. This was when I learned forgiveness. Although I had told him many times before he passed, I told my dad again, in his last lucid days, that I never held it against him, I held no grudge and had only love and respect for him.

Everything was better when Dad was involved. When we were kids, my father coached our softball team - we finished first place. When I was in Boy Scouts, Dad came on the camping trips with us. He absolutely hated camping. Sleeping in a tent, in the dirt, and having to relieve himself in the bush never appealed to him. Turns out, I hated it too, and thus the Boy Scouts were not for me, but Dad did things for us he wouldn't normally do on his own because he wanted us to have a childhood that was happy and fun. He wanted us to experience new things, even if he knew we'd hate it. And he was always so generous. He always let me have the last piece of pizza and would give us the food out of his mouth if it came to that. His family was the most important thing in his life.

I can't think of anything bad I would ever say about my father, not only out of respect, but because I honestly cannot think of anything. The good overwhelms the bad. I know our family certainly had it's fair share of difficult times, but thinking of him, I am overwhelmed with good memories of Christmas, birthdays, holidays, family vacations, etc. So much love.

My mom passed away in December 2020. I'd like to think that my parents are celebrating their 51st anniversary in Heaven, dancing, singing, and drinking Champagne. I've never seen a love so strong.

Rest in peace Dad. Until we meet again in Heaven. Crockett is with me and we're doing fine. He's my new best friend.