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There’s a lot of humans out there. We encounter them throughout our whole life. Isn’t it crazy to consider all the different roads? At the conclusion of certain movies, for example: Sandlot, Stand by Me, Band of Brothers, etc., the narrator gives a synopsis of what happened to each character during the rest of their lives. “Squints grew up and married Wendy Peffercorn, they have nine kids!” You ever do that with your own human encounters? I think back to what became of my kindergarten friends, Elementary, Highschool, College. Leticia married Frank. Lance went to jail, Tina had a kid senior year, Alex piloted the last flight out of Pakistan, Dylan (who I sat next to in art class) became the product designer to some of my favorite movies. Chris died. Paul died. Nick died. And it goes on. The humans next to you are in stages of their stories. This year may be the year before ________. Or the beginning of ________. We don’t know. We (I) often tend toward the negative, but joy plays on the same field. I pulled my son out of bed when he was five to play poker for popcorn with me and my dad late at night, he still remembers that. At the time, I didn’t know it would be so special.

Some of you will have the best vacation of your life this year. Some of you are pregnant with “______” and she will be the joy of your next 50 years. You will buy your first home, be poor, build memories, take the picture that will become your favorite. It’s all happening right now. It’s easy to miss. 

Our two honored guests for this year’s StachetoberFest: The Valenta Family and Brett Byler and Family.

They have rejected the money…they don’t need it. In both cases they are surrounded and fiercely loved by many good humans. They’ve both exceeded the generosity of more than three StachetoberFest’$ each- just in their family, friends, and work circles. Pretty amazing. Whatever proceeds we raise will go to the need or needs that arise in the next 372 days. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I am confident there will be need.

Andy Valenta died on April 25th, 2021, at the age of 33. He is survived by Caylie, his bride, Lily (4), and Grace (2). Once he was officially diagnosed with stage four Metastatic Melanoma, he passed three months later. His story has ended, his legacy is still playing out. Andy was a firemen’s fireman. He was a master of his craft and expected no less in the probies he trained. Andy was the life of the party, a prankster, a ball buster, over the top. I mentioned his legacy, here’s a coupla memoirs: He once consumed an entire Costco jar of jalapenos on a food challenge (liquid and all). He spent the shift on the pooper, dried up like a raisin.

There is a locker at Vista’s station six with over 500 pepperoni size grease stains on the melamine. Someone put some pepperonis in Andy’s turnout pockets as a joke, he found them a week later, retaliated, creating a pepperoni masterpiece. They cleaned it up, but the grease never came out-legendary!

Looking back, Andy and Caylie lived life like Andy’s would be short. It wasn’t intentional but it was providential. They have a family quote, “it’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.” They lived this way! They hiked the Patagonias, traveled the world, built a life to be proud of. Caylie shared a moment between the two of them before they had their first child (right before-8 months pregnant). She said, “Over dinner, we had a heart to heart. Andy with tears in his eyes, told me he was proud of our life. He was happy with the life we’d built. He was content.”

Andy was magnanimous. He packed 80 years into 33. He’s lived his last and favorite moments with Caylie, Lily, and Grace. These memories are worth knowing, worth celebrating.

Brett Byler is 32 years old. He is married to Mariah and has 3 little sweethearts: Brynlee (7), Barrett (5), and Bellamy (2). Some of you folks may be familiar with the hysterically legendary Escondido police officer with the same name (Robert Bellamy). I asked Brett about it, “Bellamy? Like Esco PD, Robert Bellamy?” “Yeah,” he responded, “my wife liked the name and I wanted to be able to say that I only know 2 little girls with the name Bellamy.” hysterical.

Brett served in the Marine reserves for six years, San Diego PD for four years, and then joined Escondido PD to work with his brother Brandon.  He wanted to serve, like his dad, like his brother, and like many of us. In February 2020, they found a tumor in Brett’s brain, Unmethelated Glioblastoma Miltiforme, not survivable. They gave him till February ’21, but he’s still fighting. Brett is an inspiration. He is in a wheelchair, but his attitude is Paramount. “I’m really lucky. The tumor is only affecting my body, not my mental state, emotions, or communications. I don’t have much use of my left side but my right-side works. I have written my daughters all their birthday cards, letters for their weddings…but no goodbye letters, those will come…but I’m not quite ready for that yet.”

Brett is where we try to be at our best. You see, as humans, we take for granted the assumed. We assume we will wake up tomorrow. We assume we’ll be married in 10 years. We assume we will see our kids marry and have their own kids. We assume we’ll grow old. We assume we’ll retire at age __, settle in ______, and travel to _______. Because they’re assumed, we may not even appreciate them as they are happening. It’s a shame. There is no gratefulness in assumptions, just expected outcomes. We skip right over the thanks and move to being entitled. What if we weren’t entitled to the assumed? Brett knows this. He is living perpetually in the now. “Be present to your kids,” Brett advised. “Write them letters, they are a gift, you have no idea how long it’ll be yours to enjoy.” Brett is not done with his story, yet. He may be soon, but not yet.

Just before talking to Brett, I was on the phone with my wife complaining about…everything really. After my Byler conversation, I felt foolish. I’m entitled to my way, my timing. If I’m honest, I expect the world to bend in order to provide for me in the way I want. Within that perspective I’m missing it. I’m missing the gold. I’m not all bad, and neither are you. But I feel we’ve become lazy in our attitudes, our perspectives, our choices in both of those. I wanna change it. 

How do we do that? We stop complaining. I know, God forbid! I’m not suggesting we be naïve or pretend the crap we’re swimming in doesn’t stink. But I am suggesting we change our focus. All of us are alive, most of us have use of our entire body, most of us are surrounded by people we love. We need to tip the scales between our complaining and our gratitude. We acknowledge the 10% of stink and we celebrate the 90% of the goodness we are living. Doesn’t sound so bad. But it takes practice. We all suck at the things we don’t practice. It’s contagious really. Little eyes are watching, they’re taking notes, they’re deciding who to become.  

Folks, join me on October 4th to honor these two servants. They are an inspiration! God bless you all and we’ll see you soon.



Ps. Logistics: This is a family event and there will be face painting for kids.

Pint glasses to first 500 tickets.

Today is the final day to purchase the buffet meal. We will stock a reserve amount, when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Apparel: I want to apologize for the apparel this year. For many reasons, we got a late start. We are busting our butts to ship out all current orders and for those in attendance, we will give the option to pick up at the event. If you’ve already paid shipping, you will be contacted, refunded (for shipping) and you can claim your goods at the Fest. We will also try and have a reserve of goods for purchase the night of (but if you want a guaranteed item order online now Products – StachetoberFest). That being said, we REALLY need a bored, organized, large hearted individual(s) who would be willing to take over the ordering and delivery of apparel in the future (huge endeavor). If this fits your generous self, send us an email subject line: “T-Shirt Savior.”

If you have a high school girl’s tolerance for Stone beer or have little self-control, get an UBER, LIFT, Etc.

No dirt bags allowed. If you are a D-bag, I apologize, there are many other events better suited for you.

Bring extra cash so we can take it from you when your will is weakened.

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