Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pearl 4: Eat a Potato Chip

Thanks for all of the "Comments" on my new blog and for your support.  No one told me to take them off the list so I will assume you have interest.  While I try to figure out how to permanently post my "Pearls" and "1966-Year of Total Content" pieces, I thought I would begin to share a few with you so you get the idea.  Here is a typical "Pearl" letter to my grandchildren.  I hope you like it enough to sign up for my blog (Circle of Friends or Followers) so you will be notified when a new post is available.  Enjoy and comment if you wish.

Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,

Good morning, my sweethearts.  I woke up thinking about you this morning and hoping you are having a fun time with your Grandma Vicki back and getting to meet your Aunt Ruthie.  Ruthie is the second oldest of the four children from your Great Grandfather Dan and Great Grandmother Ruby and, of course, she is Grandma Vicki’s sister.  Her actual name is Ruth Evelyn but, early on, family and friends called her “Ruth E.” or Ruthie.  Kind of sweet, isn’t it?  One of those things from your childhood which just carries on the rest of your life and will always stay with you.  You will have lots of those, I am sure.

When I was not too much older than you, our kindergarten class from Henley Elementary in Darien, CT went on a field trip up to Norwalk, the adjacent town, and toured the local potato chip factory.  It was the most amazing trip.  The factory was nearly new and had all of this huge, stainless steel equipment.  There were large tubs where potatoes were washed and scrubbed and mammoth drums which tumbled the potatoes against a rough interior which removed the skins.  The potatoes proceeded down a conveyor belt and dumped into multi-head slicers which fed by gravity into giant colanders beneath to catch the paper thin slices. There was a final washing and drying stage before the potato slices were fed into huge vats of boiling oil for cooking.  It didn’t take long. 

Then people with full-length white smocks and rubber gloves used large, long-handled strainers to lift the cooked chips out of the cooking oil and place them on a long conveyor where they were sorted, by hand, before they went under a bar which dusted a fine salt onto the still warm chips.  The smell of freshly cooked potato chips and their pungent oil filled the air and made our mouth's water.  The chips then went into a bagging machine and down another conveyor to a packing station.

The chips that were sorted out were only those which had remained in the cooking oil too long and were a medium to dark brown.  “Overcooks”, they called them.  They were thrown on narrow conveyor belts running near the edge of the large conveyor that carried the “perfect”, crisp, light yellow chips, and sent down a chute into a large, open holding bin waiting to be discarded.  When we passed that bin with those thousands of “burnt” chips, we were allowed to eat as many of them as we wanted.  I remember to this day the taste of those warm, crisp chips with their dark, robust flavor and extra crunchiness and being able to have an unlimited helping.  It was like being in potato chip heaven.

Years later some snack food marketing guru came up with the brilliant idea of bagging those “unwanted” chips and selling them at a premium.  Of course, had they asked anyone of those six-year olds on the field trip that day, we could have told them they were missing a new product opportunity and “Kettle Style” would have been launched forty years earlier.   This story leads me to my Fourth Pearl.

Fourth Pearl:  Eat a Potato Chip

O.K., so your Mom won’t get after me, I will caution you that potato chips do not exactly fall into the health food category nor will you find them on the food group pyramid.  But every once in a while, it is alright to indulge.  My point isn’t about potato chips.  It is about doing something for yourself every once in a while that just feels good, that puts a smile on your face or brings contentment, something good for your soul.

Make sure that at some point in your life you stand at the edge of an ocean and put a large seashell to your ear and hear the waves crashing inside.  Climb a tree and look down on the world from a different perspective.  Walk in a Texas meadow in the spring surrounded by the bluebonnets and Indian paint brush and smell the sweetness of wildflowers that cover the countryside like a multi-colored blanket.  Float in your life jacket on a hot summer’s day in a clear lake and debate with your family the politics of the day, religion or the meaning of life.  Fall on your face in a newly mowed lawn and smell the fresh cut grass.  Doze off under a spreading live oak tree and dream of all the mountains you will climb one day.  Make an angel in the snow…no, make ten angels, until even through your snow suit, it’s so cold you can’t feel your butt.  Look up on a cloudless night and marvel at the planets and the stars and let your mind be stretched by the vastness and the awesome power of the Universe and behold God’s perfect creation.  And most important, hold the hand of your best friend and look into their eyes and, silently, know you will forever be in love.  And, occasionally, eat a potato chip.  The dark ones are the best.

God bless you both, my darlings.
Grandpa Jud

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pearl 3: Listen to Those Commands

Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,

Good afternoon, my dears.  Well, never fear.  Your Grandma Vicki is coming back tomorrow so your “Aunt” Jennifer can go home and get what I suspect is some much needed rest.  Grandma Vicki can’t wait to see you two and I am kind of anxious myself but, then, I will arrive on Saturday.

I got the photograph of you two in your cute “Be Mine” Valentine outfits and you did take my breath away.  Your parents need to get you into modeling as soon as their energy allows.  You are just too gorgeous (uh, handsome, sorry Gehrig). 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday so if you see some folks walking around with dirty foreheads, they weren’t cleaning their fireplaces, they had those ashes put there on purpose.  Why, you ask?  Well, because this is the start of Lent; a season of contemplative celebration that lasts 40 days and 40 nights and ends on Maunday Thursday before Easter Sunday.  The ashes, made in the form of the Cross on believer’s foreheads, are a reminder that “from ashes we came and from ashes we shall return”, in other words, we were created by God and to God we will eventually return.  At least, that is our hope.  Lots of people take the time during Lent to try and live their lives more like Jesus did….showing more mercy and forgiveness to others and focusing our attention on God, our Father.  Some people give up things during Lent.  Things they like.  Like chocolate or desserts.  Or meat.  Or wine.  Or Jack Daniels.  Some people fast or try to lose weight during Lent. Others add things rather than giving things up.  Like giving of their time, talents and possessions to their favorite charity in special ways during Lent. They do this so when they think about those things, their sacrifice will remind them of their commitment and the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross.  It helps keep their mind on spiritual things.  That’s a good thing.  Which brings me to my next "Pearl":

Third Pearl:  Listen to Those Commands

O.K., I thought you would ask.  Maunday is a corruption of the Latin word Mandatum, or a command. The day is so called, because as on that day our Savior washed his disciples' feet, to teach them the great duty of being humble. And, therefore, he commands them to do as he had done, to imitate their Master in all humility.

The cool thing is after all that time, there is a really great celebration called Easter, where we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Yup, He is alive and lives with us.  More about that in another letter, later.

I miss you and love you very much, sweethearts.  Give you Mom and Dad a big hug for me and a big kiss to your Grandma Vicki when she arrives.

Grandpa Jud

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pearl 2: Celebrate Life

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,

Good Morning, my sweet darlings.  I hope this letter finds you warm, happy, healthy and loved.  I can guarantee the latter.  Your grandmother Vicki got home last Saturday and I have missed her.  She misses you two already.  In fact, the moment she left your apartment, she began missing you.  You both have been such a joy to her, everything she ever hoped for in grandchildren.  You have been a joy to me as well and I feel exactly the same as she does.  Very blessed.

It is hard to believe you have been with us for only three weeks.  You are growing and changing so quickly, each of you developing your own distinct personalities.  Even though you are different and will become more distinct as you grow older, I hope you will always be good friends.  In fact, work hard at that.  Protect and love each other. As you grow older it will become increasingly important and a source of joy and contentment for you.

How is your “Aunt” Jennifer?  She is a really nice lady, isn’t she?  She has lots of experience taking care of young folks like you so I am sure you are in good hands while your Grandma Vicki is away.  But never fear Grandma Vicki will be back shortly for a long stay so, hopefully, your Mom can get some much needed sleep.  You guys are wearing her out, you know, but that is to be expected, I guess.  Moms always seem to dip down deep into that well of endurance during these times and your Mom is no exception.  When she is passionate about something, there is no stopping her.  You will observe this more over time than you do right now.  You will find her an excellent role model.

I understand Dad is working really long hours.  He recently got a nice promotion and recognition for his hard work and contribution to this company, HSBC.  You should be very proud of him.  Your Mom is and so are Grandma Vicki and I.  I knew he would bear down even harder now but remind him not to miss these precious first months with you guys.  They will go by so quickly and can never be relived.  Yup, that’s the way it is in this world, we only go around once, which brings me to my next “Pearl

Second Pearl:  Celebrate Life

Take every opportunity to celebrate life.  That way joy and happiness will be your constant companions.  Make a big deal out of celebrating birthdays, yours and others; they are yearly reminders of how precious the gift of life is.  Go all out to celebrate Christmas and Easter, the two most important remembrances of our faith and excellent opportunities to give to others as we have been given to.  Celebrate the birth of our nation of freedom on Independence Day, the sacrifice of those who have fought and died to preserve that freedom on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  Celebrate each New Year, each new birth, even each death because all honor life.  Celebrate Valentines Day to remind someone you love or care for that they are an important part of your life.  And when the time comes, celebrate Anniversaries to honor the commitment and renew the vow of love you have for that partner you have selected for lifetime.

Everyone celebrates life in their own way, some more than others, but the happiest people I know celebrate life as much as possible and as often as possible.  You will develop your own traditions for holidays, but don’t wait for a holiday.  Celebrate life everyday.  Like Joe E. Lewis (a famous comedian from the 40’s) once said, “You only live once….but if you work it right, once is enough”.

All my love, sweethearts.                                  
Grandpa Jud             

Monday, February 5, 2007

Pearl 1: I Am Third

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,

Good afternoon, sweethearts.  I am sitting here in my office at about 5:00 PM and finishing up a busy day which included going into Mineral Wells to get a haircut, drop off laundry (you get a discount for having your shirts pressed if you drop them off on Monday, don’t ask me why), wash my filthy Tahoe and mail you two some pictures I took from your first week on the planet.  I sent them Express Mail so you should get them tomorrow.  I hope you like them.

I miss you two so much.  I can’t wait to get back up to see you on the 24th of February.  Have you missed me holding, rocking, and singing to you?  O.K., then how about just the holding and rocking?  Hopefully your Grandma Vicki is getting all that done for the both of us (except for the singing).  How is your Mama doing?  You know she doesn’t get as much sleep as you do, so please keep being as happy and content as you were when I left and that will help her out for sure.  She loves you very much, like Grandma and I do, and you couldn’t be any more perfect in her eyes or ours.

You may have noticed your Dad acting kind of weird from time-to-time, but don’t freak out.  He is just thinking of the awesome responsibility he has to provide for you guys and make certain you have everything you need in life.  In fact, both your parents are going to do everything in their power to give you all the love, protection, comfort and advantage they possibly can.  That’s their job.  For that, you should feel very fortunate.  And your grandparents (Ron, Kathy, Vicki and me) are going to spoil you really good.  That’s our job and we take it seriously.  Trust me.

As a part of that process, I am going to, occasionally, write you little letters.  In each letter I am going to try to impart some wisdom, a "Pearl", if you will,  to contemplate from someone who has been on the planet now 3,189 weeks longer than you guys.  Oh, I know you won’t have much interest until you grow a little older.  And, of course, there is the possibility that some of what I share might never interest you.  But I am going to try to make it relevant.  Maybe we can even debate some of these “Pearls” in the future.  (Sorry, that is what we do on your Mom’s side of the family).

So, let’s get to it.  

First Pearl:  “I am third” 

This phrase relates to how I would recommend you always try to live your lives.  In our culture being third is not something most people strive for.  Being first gets the prize.  Being first, wins.  The Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears last night in Super Bowl XLI, the championship of professional football.  The Colts are No. 1.  Being second is O.K.  The Bears are the second best team in football this year.  But no one remembers who was third.  So why, “I am third”?  Because in life GOD needs to be No. 1.  Try to always put Him first in your thoughts, in your actions and in your service to Him.  Try to put other people (your family, your friends, your country) second.  By putting yourself third, all of the other things in life will work out well for you.  Is it easy?  No.  Can anyone do it all the time?  Probably not.  I know I have not always been successful at keeping myself third.  Just work at it and give it a good try.  You won’t be sorry for it.

Love you bunches and bunches,       
Grandpa Jud