They give marriage-improvement seminars around the country, although neither is a professional counselor. They offer parenting tips, although between them they have only a 26-year-old son from a previous marriage. They weigh in on family finances, although they concede they were just an untrained average couple when it came to their own money matters. They suggest how to get along with cranky office mates, although they both work out of their home.
So, you might ask, why should anyone hire Bob and Yvonne Turnbull from Mission Viejo to tell them anything?
Perhaps that was their own publicists' thinking behind the fax on the Turnbulls, trying to drum up newspaper interest about them. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining faxes I've ever seen about a couple that is much, much more interesting than I. A few verbatim excerpts about Bob:
* Had roles in 41 TV shows and nine motion pictures.
* Played center field on the Jerry Lewis Clowns' softball team.
* Double-dated with Elvis Presley.
* Named Man of the Year by the Waikiki Junior Chamber of Commerce.
* As chaplain of the Honolulu Police Department, talked a man out of jumping off a building, Maced a drug-crazed robbery suspect and forcibly subdued a pimp who was beating a hooker.
* On his initial flight to Honolulu, prevented a passenger from committing suicide while she was attempting to yank open a rear door.
* While jogging with his wife in the green fields of southern Lebanon, had Palestinian terrorists fire a 30-caliber machine gun at them as warning shots.
* Started a riot in the Arab Quarter of East Jerusalem as he came to the aid of two tourists.
* Baptized his own mother in the Jordan River.
* Had his life mercifully spared when, as a young boy, he was rushed to the hospital with acute appendicitis--and as the operation started, the appendix burst. And was a passenger in a car accident where the driver was killed.
As for Yvonne:
* Was on-air nutritionist for 2 1/2 years on the "700 Club" TV show.
* Had the most unusual experience, for a woman, when she sat in an armored helmet and vest in the driver's seat of an Israeli army tank on a forward tank position in the Golan Heights.
* Played tennis with Clint Eastwood, Merv Griffin and Rod Laver.
* Has also had her life mercifully spared. Twice. Once in a motorcycle accident where she suffered massive internal injuries (losing three-quarters of her blood, internally). Second time while on her way home from college. Driving through the mountains separating eastern and western Washington, at a rest stop when, on her boyfriend's whim, she was taken out of the front car and put into the second car. Just 10 minutes after the trip resumed, the front car tried to pass on a curve and was hit head-on by a big rig, killing all four passengers instantly.
I knew I had to meet the Turnbulls. They agreed to see me on short notice this week and even sounded a bit sheepish about their publicists' efforts in their behalf. All the entries are true, Bob says, with the idea being to show potential audiences that this isn't just another average couple on the self-help circuit. Sure enough, he says, sometimes 25% of the audience will have been lured by the press release.
The Turnbulls are disarmingly unpretentious about their backgrounds. Selling themselves as no more than average people who had a rocky marriage--but who committed themselves to making it better--they say they're simply giving others a message of hope.
"We did not have a good marriage for many years," Yvonne says. "We struggled like a lot of people do. We didn't know how to put it together."
But with each too stubborn to bail out of the marriage that now approaches 20 years and falling back on their faith to make a go of things, the Turnbulls began reading and practicing marital-help ideas. Slowly, their marriage improved and they began telling troubled friends how they did it. Friends listened, and the word spread. The Turnbulls' current full-time devotion to seminars literally grew from conversations with friends in their living rooms, they say.
Their seminars, which they say put them on the road about 40 weekends a year, center around people solidifying a relationship with God in addition to working on their physical and emotional components. It's part of what Bob calls being a "total" person.
They claim to have no magic bullets. "We get up there and say we're not Susie and Sam Slick that have a perfect marriage," Bob says. "Imperfect people will never have a perfect marriage. Don't try. Try to have a growing, learning, loving marriage, but don't try the perfection shot."
The couple (who Yvonne says are "in our 40s and 50s") credits their spiritual rededication and self-education with saving their marriage. It isn't lost on them that they could have been a divorce statistic. "We would have been like so many couples we've counseled and talked to," Yvonne says.
For the foreseeable future, they plan to keep their show on the road. "We feel we need to communicate doubly, to the mind and the heart," Bob says. "If you try to intellectualize it only, then the heartbeat's missing. If you play on emotions only, without something reasonable and nuts-and-bolts to go with it, then it's real high the next day but then bottoms out like the summer surf in Hawaii."
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821 or by writing to him at the Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail to email@example.com