Happy December!
May the joy and life of all that the Holidays hold be yours!




            Lots and lots of smoke and one-half of a block. . . For those who may be wondering, that’s where the mandatory evacuation line is from our offices. One-half block. The Creek Fire near us in Sylmar has touched a number of our family, friends and clients. Evacuations, smoke and fire reminds us that life is so very transient and short as well as causing us to remember to be prepared.
          In the motion picture Leap Year, there is a conversation between the two main characters—Declan and Anna. Declan asks Anna the pivotal question of the movie (and for our lives), “If your house were burning and you only had 60 seconds to get out, what would you take with you?”

            What would you take? What is most important to you? As we prepared for what seemed inevitable at our offices, we made sure that ALL of our client files—physical and digital—were secured (as well as a few personal mementoes) and made ready if the evacuation notice came. Fortunately, we have been spared. Yet I go back to the two questions:  What would you take? What is most important to you? Our answer is simply. . .our families and YOU. That is what is most important to us.

             Our offices had the distinct privilege of contacting several client families in some of the fire-threatened areas around Southern California. What we heard back from many of them was nothing short of both humbling and astounding. Things like "We're all safe! Thank you for caring for us!!!" Or "We are so grateful for your concern!" Then there was the family who said, "It's so nice to know that you care! Since when does a lawyer's office call to find out what we need in times like this?" The last one that was shared with us where the person simply said, "You're all so nice." We didn't call to elicit these responses, these are genuine responses because to us YOU really are the most important part of why we do what we do.

             This Holiday season is a time to gather together with our family and friends, to mend broken relationships, to renew old acquaintances, to celebrate our past, enjoy our present and look forward to the future. With that thought in mind, I wanted to share with you three gifts in the form of the articles that follow here. It is my desire to celebrate you as I personally wish you. . . 

                                                                                                                                                  A Very Merry Christmas!


Gift One: ‘Tis the Season…What’s Your Story?

           The Holidays are upon us!! There is much to be thankful for and to anticipate with Christmas and the New Year just around the corner. The displays in Wal-Mart and Costco were up in September and almost seem to constantly scream at us that if we aren’t careful, we are going to miss it all. . .the Thanks. . .the Giving. . .the Joy. . . the Celebrating.
            This time of year seems to spawn a desire and an ability for each of us to look beyond ourselves and give to family, friends, loved ones, neighbors and the less fortunate. I could revel you in story after story of giving because we all know that the Spirit of the Season is about giving—whether giving thanks or gifts! Interestingly enough this is the time when most non-profits, like retail stores, meet their budgets for the year, and I would like to personally invite you to give too! (If you’d like to know how charities spend the money they receive from your tax-deductible giving, you can Google/search for "Charity Navigator", which provides free information on hundreds of charities. You can even find out if the charity is registered with the IRS at www.irs.gov/app/pub-78.)
            However, instead of the usual gifts this year, I want to encourage you to give a gift of your Legacy. . .for instance, tell a Story to your kids or grandchildren that they might not know about you or your family. Write it out long-hand, share it with them and then place it with your Estate Planning documents. I could tell story after story about my family because, not only have I heard them many times, but I have taken time to write them down because they have become a part of my life and heritage. Stories of my ancestors or of my children and grandchildren are important because they are defining moments in my personal, family history and many are now written down. (We also have the MY LEGACY booklet still available. See Bonus Gift Two below for more details.)
            Perhaps though, maybe you have a family heirloom that has a story and if it’s not written down, that story will be lost forever. I have a banjo from my Grandfather Field that will eventually go to my oldest son. The story is that he used to sit by the radio singing and playing along to the Grand Ole’ Opry. Imagine the amazing music that banjo played. Then there’s the a jagged leather shoulder strap made out of deer hide because my grandfather was a lifelong hunter. There is also the epic tale of the famous Weatherby 270 (that’s a rifle for those of you who thought it might be a new tax code)—my wife claims it’s hers because it’s so pretty—it was the first rifle my oldest son Michael used to harvest a wild boar on our friend’s ranch in Central California. That was an amazing adventure and every time I pick that rifle up I’m reminded of it. Because I took time to write down this great story, my other children and some day my grandchildren will read that story of how their ancestor—the Great Hunter, Michael Field—used this very rifle to take down a wild boar. Then there’s the incredible account of how my Grandmother Miller’s Red Candy Dish was smuggled out of my family’s ancestral home in Virginia and delivered safely to me. I think that you begin to get the idea.

             Besides, this is the Season for Stories. And the best tale ever told is the Christmas Story about a Baby in a manger, of angels and shepherds, with Wisemen and presents. You can tell that story OR if you need help starting your own, try this–“Once upon a time…”

                                                                                                                                                       Merry Christmas!



Gift Two: A Season of Light and Miracles

      We all know that this is a season of lights. They are everywhere--from candles in windows to lights on trees and houses to celebrate Hannukah and Christmas. Yet it’s also a time where miracles seem to abound. We hope that you enjoy these stories:
      The Gift of SightSingle mom Cassy Rivera had never seen her youngest daughter; she went totally blind just before her birth in 2008. While she hoped to undergo potentially vision-restoring surgery before Christmas 2010, Medicaid would only cover half of the steep fee. Then Dr. Michael Samson offered to operate on her left eye with his hospital footing the rest of the bill. Days before the holiday, her bandages were removed and she saw her toddler for the very first time.
      Holy NightTracy Hermanstorfer was in labor on Christmas Eve 2009 when she suddenly suffered cardiac arrest. When attempts to revive her failed, doctors told her husband Mike they would perform a C-section to try and save the baby. When his son emerged blue and limp, Mike realized he’d lost two family members in mere minutes. Then, something inexplicable happened: the doctors got the baby breathing and moments later, Tracy’s heartbeat returned. Both mom and baby made a full recovery. The couple credit Divine intervention for their Christmas miracle.
      Random Act of KindnessA single benefactor got the city of Albany in the holiday spirit last year by handing out $100 bills to the less fortunate. Accompanied by local law enforcement, the unnamed patron visited shelters, missions and Goodwill stores, asking recipients to pay the deed forward by helping others if they were ever in the position to do so. The same philanthropist later stopped by Staten Island to give out holiday cash to hurricane Sandy victims.
      You are a light that someone else needs to see and quite probably the miracle that someone else is looking for. How are you a light for others? Someone needs your smile, your hug, or even an “I love you” from you. The light of your actions shines beyond the depths of their darkness. You are also the miracle that somebody needs. How? Maybe you have an extra dollar or two that could help someone eat a hot meal. What about an extra blanket that you have in a closet which you could give to a homeless shelter? Then there are the tax deductible gifts to organizations that lend a helping hand year round or even a favorite charity. YOU are a light and a miracle waiting to happen for somebody else! Be their light and their miracle. . .no matter how insignificant you may feel.

                                                                                                                                                       Merry Christmas!



Gift Three: Traditions! Preparing for the Holidays 

     If you’ve ever seen the theatrical production or the film, “Fiddler On The Roof”, you may remember the song that the cast sings about traditions. The holidays often times build lasting memories and bring old ones to life through the traditions that we have set up throughout the years. In fact, when we rely on and utilize those lasting traditions, we will often find that we can be "better prepared" for the holidays!
     There is a story of a newlywed couple that was sitting down to one of the wife’s first homemade holiday dinners. The groom noticed that the ends of the ham had been cut off and asked his wife why she did that.
     “Well,” the bride replied, “my mom always did it and I guess its just become a tradition in our house. That’s how we cook hams.”
     Later that evening, curiously, the wife called her mother and asked the same question, “Why do we cut off the ends of the ham before we cook it?”
     The mother, on the other end of the phone said, “That’s what my mom always did. It was just our tradition. Let’s ask her when we see her on Sunday.”
     Sunday came and they all sat down to dinner. The newlywed granddaughter asked, “Grandma, why do we have the tradition of cutting the ends off of the ham before cooking it?”
     Grandma and Grandpa both started to laugh. “Why darling,” Grandma chortled, “that’s because when your Grandfather and I were first married, the only baking pan that I had to fit in our small apartment oven was so tiny, that I had to cut the ends off in order to fit the ham into the oven! I guess I just continued it after we got a house with a larger oven because it was my habit.”
     Start a new tradition in your family this Holiday Season or build on one that has begun to be established within the past couple of years. Maybe you can go see a production of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker ballet. Maybe your tradition will be baking goodies to share with your neighbors and loved ones. Perhaps you can go caroling and singing. Maybe your tradition is sitting down to read a Christmas or Hanukkah story. Perhaps you can begin a tradition of giving to a local homeless shelter or to a cause that brings animals and clean water to villages in third-world countries. Whatever your tradition is or becomes, make it your own and make it fun and lasting.

                                                                                                                                                        Merry Christmas!


Bonus Gifts


Bonus Gift One: We saw this anonymous quote and wanted to pass it along to for your children, grandchildren and families: Ask your children, grandchildren, etc. two questions this Holiday Season: First: "What do you want to give to others for Christmas/Hanukkah?" Second: "What do you want for Christmas/Hanukkah?" The first question fosters generosity of heart and an outward focus. The second question can breed selfishness if not tempered by the first.

Bonus Gift Two: If you haven’t yet asked for and received your copy of the MY LEGACY booklet, please send us an email at [email protected] or click here to go to our website and request a copy there.


Thursday, December 7—Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. . .may we never forget.
Sunday, December 10—International Human Rights Day. . .remembering the dignity of all human beings!
Tuesday, December 12 @ Sundown—Hannukah begins. . .recalling the miracle of lights!
Thursday, December 21—the First Day of Winter. . .also the shortest day of the year for us.
Sunday, December 24—Christmas Eve. . .a time to gather and remember family!
Monday, December 25—Christmas Day! A day to celebrate with family and friends!
Sunday, December 31—New Year’s Eve! A time to reflect and prepare to ring in the New Year!
Monday, January 1—New Year’s Day! The BEST parade ever, all the Collegiate Bowl games you can stand, and a time to resolve yourself to be the best you.