Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pearl 39: If You Want to Be Understood, Make Your Message Clear

Dearest Eliana, Gehrig and Ruby,

Good afternoon, my sweet ones.  I was just sitting here thinking about the last time Granny and I visited New Jersey and we went up to New York City to see the 9/11 Memorial.  Who knew you needed advanced, online reservations to get in.  Oh well, next time I guess.

We spent most of our time sitting in that little downtown park watching all the protestors pitch their signs and rail at the wind.  There were many there that day, along with what seemed like a whole battalion of police officers, with as many causes being championed as there were cops.  The biggest contingent, however, were the people associated with “Occupy Wall Street” and we just happened to be there in September at the beginning of that movement.  Over the past two month, it has spread across the country with more and more people joining the protest.

My only problem is I really have no idea what they want.  It was unclear to me as we sat at the fringe of their protest in Zuccotti Park and it is equally unclear to me now, even though their following has made the national news and they have expanded their platform into many communities nationwide.

Now you have to remember, Granny and I are no strangers to protest movements.  Back in the day we supported our share of causes.  We grew up and cut our teeth listening to Mark Rudd, John Jacobs and the Students for a Democratic Society, the SDS, protest the Vietnam War on campuses all over the U.S.  We gave a sympathetic ear to Delores Huerta and the United Farm Workers protesting for better working conditions for migrant workers.  We even gave up eating grapes for a while because Cesar Chavez told us to. 

We watched on TV as protestors followed the non-violent, charismatic Martin Luther King, Jr. and more violent Huey Newton and Bobby Seale leading the more radical Black Panthers to seek an end to segregation and equal rights for all Americans, regardless of race, color or creed.  Seems there was something in our Constitution and Bill of Rights about all that but, somehow, we as a nation were not quite onboard yet in the 1960’s.

In each of these protests, the message of the protestors was clear, concise and easy to understand.  The shouted chants at their rallies which put fine points on their mission….”What Do We Want?”  “PEACE!”  “When Do We Want It?”  “NOW!”.  Which kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Ninth Pearl:  “If You Want To Be Understood, Make Your Message Clear”

What is the objective of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement?  At this point, if they even had a chant it would be something like:  “What Do We Want?”  “WE DON’T KNOW!”  “When do we want it?”  “NOW!”   I have discerned from some interviews with members of this movement (there are no leaders) that, whatever their plight, the establishment is to blame.  The “establishment” being every group from “fat-cat Wall Street moguls” to “greedy bankers” to a “do nothing Congress”, oh, and, of course, George W. Bush, who seems to be responsible for every bad thing that has happened in the last 100 years or so.  But, I digress.

If you drill down it almost seems like their slogan should be “Occupy Wall Street – Everything for Everybody” as that is the only message coming through.  It seems these people believe they are entitled to everything; a good paying job, a house, a car, healthcare, freedom, peace, protection, and prosperity.  Gosh, you say, doesn’t everyone want these things?  Yes, I suppose they do.  And we live in one of the few countries in the world where all of these things are available and attainable. Our democratic and capitalistic structure as a nation has established a system for success   However, what these protestors don’t quite get is there is a price to pay.  You have to work for them!  You can demand what you like, but you should not expect anything beyond basic human needs, which any caring nation is willing to provide, without significant effort of your own.  No one, with the possible exception of NFL players and some other sports professionals, should feel entitled to a share of the profits without putting any capital at risk. Nothing is truly free.

Unlike many of the protest movements of the past, “Occupy Wall Street” will fade into oblivion without ever accomplishing anything, in my opinion, because there are no clearly defined objectives for the movement and no clear message to attract and encourage supporters. It is a goalless and aimless distraction to the real problems that need addressing in our country today and my prediction is it will fail.

So, little ones, in the future if you decide to promote or even initiate a movement to accomplish meaningful change and need supporters to follow you, make certain your goals are set and your message is clear.  Let that “Occupy Your Mind”.

I love you, bunches and bunches.

Grandpa Jud

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pearl 38: You Have to Give Up Control to Get Control

Dearest Ruby B., Eliana and Gehrig,

Good afternoon, sweethearts.   O.K., first question you have is probably why is Grandpa Jud writing all of us together.  Well, it occurred to me that I wanted each of my messages to be heard by all three of you, not just two or one.  So from now on my "Pearls" will be for all three of my sweet grandchildren together.

I got a call from a dear friend this morning.  I have known Tom Solon and his family for over forty years.  Tom selected me to be his mobile home specialist when I was a rookie salesman in the Portland Branch of Owens-Corning Fiberglas in 1970.  Tom was the general manager of the Manufactured Housing Division at the time and over time I worked for him in other divisions.  He became a close friend and mentor.  It is my hope that each of you, at some point, has a Tom Solon to be a positive influence in your lives.

Tom told me about the passing of his brother who was eight years his junior.  His assessment was their relationship was not all that close over the years but, in the end, they had reconnected and spoke almost every day.  Tom used the word "guilt" in talking about his sibling and their past.

Tom asked about the recent wildfires which threatened our lives and our property here at Possum Kingdom Lake.  By the time you read this those fires will not only be ancient history but the devastating effects will, most likely, not even be evident.  Just so you know, however, the wildfires of 2011 consumed over 125,000 acres of beautiful north Texas hill country, burned to the ground 167 homes and 128 outbuildings, took one life and left huge parcels of scorched and blackened landscape in their wake.

Granny and I were forced to evacuate for five days but, thank God, our home, as well as  all of the homes in The Cliffs, were spared.  Other areas all around us were not that fortunate.  We felt helpless at the time, totally out of control.

Tom mentioned how it seemed like lately there has been so many violent acts of nature, like our wildfires.  More than usual. We discussed the stronger than normal Atlantic hurricane season last year and the devastating tornados and flooding that have plagued the entire country all spring.  We didn't even get to the deadly tsunami and earthquakes which struck Japan in March and the recent volcano in Iceland, but Tom's observation was quite accurate.

Toward the end of my conversation with Tom he made a comment with which I could readily identify.  He said the older he got, the more he realized just how little control we have on the overall scheme of things.  He said that as he sat there in his recliner he had enough to be concerned about with his own family and their well being let alone the multitude of natural disasters of late.  He used the word "worry" in discussing those challenges which are closer to home.  This kind of brings me to my next "Pearl":

Thirty-Eighth Pearl:  "You Have To Give Up Control to Get Control"

Most people like to think they are in control.  In control of their possessions, in control of their finances, in control of their relationships, in control of their short, in control of their lives.  Whether we are directly faced with it or just watch it unfold on the evening news on TV, the awesome power of nature reminds us we have no control in those situations.  When we see the national debt ($ 14 trillion at this point) spiraling upward at alarming rates, we realize we have little or no control.  And it is little comfort we still have the right to vote as our single vote must be combined with millions of other like-minded American's votes to effectively shift the political course.  Not much control there. When violence and corruption seem an ever growing part of our societal makeup, as individuals we feel helpless and out of control.  We can change to a more healthy diet, exercise more, and do all the things the doctors d jour tell us to do, but even then, we do not even have control over how and when we will die.

So, you say, Grandpa Jud, what are we to do?  Well, there is hope, young ones.  When we face seemingly insurmountable challenges and feel weak with no control, God is there to take up the task.  We need not worry and shouldn't.  When we turn our worries over to God, He is our strength and will answer our petitions if we pray with faith.  How do I know this, because of personal experience AND Scripture tells me so.
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.  2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 34
But what about our guilt, Grandpa Jud?  Guilt is just a tool the devil uses to convict us of our sins.  Basically, Satan is whispering in our ear, "Hey, you really messed up this time and there is no way God is going to forgive you for this one."  Well, you know what?  Satan is a liar.  God will forgive us anything if we come to him for forgiveness with a sincere and repentant heart.  The Bible says, "He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west".  It says, God "drops them in the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more".  Is that because God has a bad memory? NO, of course not.  It is because he loves us and his promise is:
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 9

So little ones, do not be concerned about your lack of control, or worry about your problems or feel guilty about what you have done.  Turn it all over to God.  You have a champion in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and gain control when you give it up.

I love you, bunches and bunches,           

Grandpa Jud

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pearl 37: We are Joined For a Moment in Life, but Our Spirits Are United for Eternity in Death

Dear Ruby Brenlyn,

Good afternoon, sweetheart.  Your mom and dad have been sending such cute pictures of you, but it is not the same as being with you in person.  I miss hearing your chatty talk and laughter that comes from down deep inside.  I miss seeing your beautiful smile and those sparkling eyes. 

Your Grandpa Jud is recovering from his second hip replacement surgery so it will be a few months before I can get down there to see you, but I know that we will be together again soon and many more times as you grow up into a marvelous adult.  There will come a time, someday, hopefully in the very far future, when I will no longer be with you.  On that day I will leave you and all of our loved ones behind and go to be with God.  I know that parting like that sounds very sad, but let’s talk about it.

In the past year or so, Granny and I have had a stark reminder about the certainty of death.  It started when a friend of mine from high school, Tommy Dodd, who was the best man at our wedding, passed away at age 63.  Then it seemed like the flood gates opened.  Dick Liden, one of my dearest friends, had a heart attack and died at age 65.  Three of Granny’s aunts, Rosemary, Joanne and Vicki, passed away, amazingly within just a one month period.  A good friend and neighbor, Mike Hogan, accidentally drowned down at the marina.  Mark Chambers, the partner of a life-long friend, succumbed to a protracted battle with cancer.  Finally, my God-son, Ryan Gosa, died tragically at the tender age of 23.

All of these deaths were difficult to take and we still grieve the loss of these people who shared important parts of our lives.  We miss them all very much.  It got your mom and me talking about life and death and friendship and what happens now.  Your mom had previously experienced the pain of separation with a friend and then a relative and this string of new losses was bothering her considerably as it would any caring person.  She wanted to know if I thought when people die if that was a final separation….if they were gone and we would never see them again.  What I told her kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Seventh Pearl:  “We Are Joined For But A Moment in Life, but Our Spirits Are United For Eternity in Death”

All religions deal on some level or another with death.  Most religions also deal with what happens after death and ponder the question, “Is there an afterlife?”  The whole concept of an afterlife is predicated on the existence of one’s self apart from our bodies….a spirit which is separate and eternal.  People who embrace the Hindu or Buddhist religions believe the spirit of a person passes on from one body to the next in a re-birthing process known as reincarnation.  However, the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which account for just over 54 % of the world’s population and 68 % of all people who are adherents of any religion, believe there is only one life.  They believe the spirit is eternal but there is only one body and one opportunity to live on planet Earth.

So what happens to the spirit after you die?  As Christians, we believe that our salvation, through our faith in Jesus Christ, unites our spirit with God for all eternity.  When we die, we go “home” to God and that home is identified as Heaven.  Whether Heaven is an actual place or not I will leave to the Biblical scholars to debate.  For me it is a much simpler concept.  Heaven is our eternal spirit in eternal union with God.  The alternative is our eternal spirit in eternal separation from God.  And God forbid the alternative.
Your mom then asked the next big question, “What about those people we love on Earth….will we see them in Heaven?”  I believe we will.  We will not be in our human bodies so we will not see them as they appear to us on earth, but I believe we will know their spirits and we will be joined with them in spirit as we will be joined with God. 
Our focus will be different.  We will be focused on God and that beatific vision will overcome us and comfort us and provide that environment which will be devoid of the pain and suffering we experience here on Earth.  The pain and suffering will be replaced with an environment of perfect love. I believe our relationship with our loved ones will continue in Heaven, on a more perfect level and with more intensity than we possibly can imagine with God at the center.

So, my darling Ruby, I may have to leave you for a while, but we will be joined again along with all of our loved ones…forever.  In the meantime, I can’t wait for you, your mom and dad and the rest of the family to gather at “Camp PK” this summer.  It will definitely lift my spirit and fill me with joy.

I love you, bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pearl 36: Depression is a Disease, Not Just a State of Mind

Dear Eliana and Gehrig,

Well, it is Saturday, February 26th and we are still in Cabo San Lucas and basking in the memory of your visit to see us in Mexico.  I don’t know too many four year olds who are such accomplished world travelers as you two.  We had so much fun and miss you terribly.
Since you left we had a very sad event occur.  “Uncle” Jake and “Aunt” Pat lost their son, Ryan, to a drug overdose and we took three days to fly from Cabo to Florida to attend his funeral service.  Ryan was my godson and was only 27 years old.  It is a real tragedy and we grieve his loss.

Ryan suffered from severe clinical depression since he was 13 years old.  In his early years he was a happy, seemingly well adjusted young boy and a joy to be around.  He had a tremendous sense of humor, was extremely intelligent, made top grades in school and was a stellar athlete; competing in soccer and downhill ski racing, where he won multiple team and individual trophies. One grade school teacher once told Pat that her son reminded her of what Jesus must have been like as a boy.  What higher compliment could one pay to a young man?  He was very popular in school and had many close friends.
Then, as he reached puberty, things changed.  As Ryan’s hormones kicked in, so did a dark force that fell over him?  Ryan withdrew from those things he loved….his sports, his friends, his parents and brother and sister.  He changed his clothes to all black and his continence went dark as well.  He had fits of severe depression and would lash out at anyone who challenged him or tried to help. 

Ryan started struggling in school, but not from lack of intelligence just a lack of desire.  He read extensively; philosophy, existential tomes, every intellectual thing he could find, some dark and brooding subjects and his writings reflected that.  There were times when he could be bright and gay and enjoy being with his family, but there was always the depression that came back to consume him. Relationships were difficult.

Ryan went to Burke Mountain Academy, a highly respected prep school in the northeast, and, if not for that, probably would have dropped out of high school.  His parents, sensing his special needs, wanted to provide every advantage.  They spared no expense to send him to Sarah Lawrence University in NYC, an exclusive college for only the brightest and best students.  Ryan continued his writing and tried to press on through life, but he was not happy.  Then there were the drugs.

At first, it was just marijuana as far as I know.  Having had some experience with it I knew that Ryan came stoned to his brother’s wedding.  It seemed to take the edge off, I guess.  But, apparently later, abuse of cocaine and alcohol came into the picture.  Granny and I did not see much of Ryan between college and today, just an occasional function which he attended, like Jessica’s wedding.  Jake and Pat kind of kept us up to speed on Ryan’s situation, his relationship with Andie, his girlfriend, where he was living, but we really knew very little else.  We knew, in the months before Ryan’s death, he had agreed to drug and alcohol treatment and had committed himself to intense therapy in an attempt to deal with his demons.  But we knew even less about the condition which was controlling and had controlled his life for so many years….depression.  This kind of brings me to my next Pearl:

Thirty-Sixth Pearl:  "Depression Is a Disease,  Not Just a State Of Mind"   

I have rarely, if ever, been depressed.  Those times when I have been a little down because of circumstances, mostly beyond my control, the feeling has only lasted an hour or two and never lasted past a good night’s sleep.  Feelings of dread or feelings of hopelessness are unknown to me.  I have never been in a dark place in my mind.  

Recently, when asked by one of Ryan’s therapists if he was happy, Ryan told him that he could not even remember what happiness was and he was struggling to get back to that place in his youth when he was happy.  This is so foreign to me it is very difficult to imagine how anyone could be so down for so long to not remember what happiness is.  But people like me who have never suffered depression just don’t get it.

I spoke with several people who attended Ryan’s funeral.  One of them told me of his own bouts with depression and how he was controlling it with therapy and medication.  He explained to me that depression is a disease.  I had never thought of it that way before.  I had always associated it with mental illness or just a negative state of mind.  It is not just a state of mind.  People with depression are sick and, like any incurable disease, only the symptoms can be treated. In Ryan’s case, the treatment came too late to help.  And only our faith in God’s benevolent grace and compassion assure us that Ryan in finally now in a happier place.

My heart aches for Jake and Pat, Jake, Jr., Jessica and their families at the loss of their precious Ryan. Depression does not just affect the depressed person.  It affects everyone around them too.  My heart also aches now for all those people who suffer with depression and battle daily to find the staircase up out of the dark places in their minds and into the light.  My hope and fervent prayer is that you and no one you know ever has to deal with the kind of depression Ryan lived with for most of his adult life.  Ryan’s passing has motivated me to not only learn more but to do more about the ravages of depression in our society because inaction is a disease and compassion is imperative, not just a state of mind.

I love you both, bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pearl 35: God Didn't Bring Us This Far to Fail

Dearest Ruby B.,

Good morning, sweetheart.  Granny and I are still down in Cabo San Lucas and will be for another three weeks.  We were expecting your Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Kenneth to join us here yesterday but their flight got cancelled and they had to delay their arrival until today.  They were disappointed but, then, life is full of disappointments.  It is how we deal with them which is important.

In 1985 I left Owens-Corning in Toledo, Ohio after 16 years with that company and took a position as General Sales Manager with GAF Corporation, working for our dear, and now departed, friend, Dick Liden. It was a great job, but the best part was Granny, your mom, Aunt Brandi and I got to move back to Texas, where we always wanted to live.  We built a nice custom home with a pool (your mom blackmailed me into putting in a water slide but that is another story) in Duncanville, Texas, just south of Dallas.  It was the nicest home we had ever owned and even though it was a bit of a financial stretch, we were very confident and comfortable.

We enrolled your mom and aunt in school and they started to make new friends almost from the start.  The warmer weather and southern hospitality fit us perfectly. After a short time we were settled in and livin’ large in Texas.  Then, 13 months later, two days before Thanksgiving, I was fired. 

The circumstances surrounding this event could fill volumes.  Suffice it to say, the disappointment of being without a job after having just moved my family half way across the country, to a new home with a big mortgage, a new neighborhood, new schools, new friends and, well, a brand new life…well, it was quite devastating emotionally and, potentially, financially.

As I drove home from my office that day at 3:00 PM instead of my normal quitting time of around 6:00 PM, I struggled with what I was going to tell my family.  I had never been terminated before from an adult job and the emotional impact is great.  I worried about my family’s reaction; how we would pay the bills, keep the mortgage, would we have to move back north, how we would survive this.  Then I prayed and asked for guidance which, by the way, always works, and the answer which came back into my head kind of brings me to my next “Pearl”:

Thirty-Fifth Pearl:  "God Didn’t Bring Us This Far To Fail"

When that fact came to mind, a wave of calm came over my body.  It was a peace which I have known before but only after I was willing to turn everything over to God and allow him to take control.  The words that I would need to speak to Granny, your mom and Aunt Brandi started to come to me and I knew we would be alright and they would understand. 
Long story short, they understood, were supportive and it pulled our family closer together than ever.  I started a marketing consulting company, BJS III Marketing, which still operates to this day.  A year later I founded ADvent Supply, Inc., a sample manufacturing company, and with the whole family's help and support, grew that small company to a larger company over the next sixteen years….and now we are livin’ even larger in Texas.

Your daddy just lost his job.  He was not fired.  His company went bankrupt and he got caught in the crossfire.  I am sure he is handling this normally emotionally challenging event very well, but, still, the trauma of being unemployed is very difficult.  I am sure he and your mom are experiencing the same feelings of concern that I felt over 25 years ago.  They are worried about how they will find work, support the family, keep the home….all of the emotions which can weigh you down and depress you.  But, I am here to tell you and firmly believe, relief from that depression is just a prayer away.  I am praying it for them right now and I know if they will ask God for that guidance which only He can provide, they will come to the same conclusion I did….God didn’t bring them this far to fail.  He has a plan. He will provide.  And, He will allow the Cho family to succeed.  You can count on it.

I love you, sweet Ruby, with all my heart…..and, I love your parents, bunches and bunches.

Grandpa Jud

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pearl 34: Be Frugal with Yourself and Extravagant with Everyone Else

Dearest Ruby B.,

Good afternoon, sweetie.  Granny and Grandpa Jud are at our time-share villa in Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico.   We had hoped you and your parents would be joining us this year, but because of the current doubtful and frustrating economy and the fact that you need to learn to sleep through the night, we will have to wait until next year to have you join us in Cabo. 

We will be here for the next seven weeks and it is a fabulous place with mid-winter weather in the 80’s during the day and lots of sunshine.  We purchased fractional ownership of this Mexican villa in 2006 and have enjoyed it most winters since then.   It was an extravagant purchase for us.  We do not normally spend this kind of money on ourselves; however, we justified it by thinking of all the friends and family members we could invite down for visits to share this marvelous and unique experience with us.  Over the years, we have done just that.

Truth be known, with the exception of a couple of expensive cruises since we sold our business and retired, this is one of the few non-frugal expenditures we have undertaken in the last seven years.  No, actually, it is  one of the few we have undertaken in our lives. 
I think your mom and your Aunt Brandi would tell you, there was never anything they ever wanted for in their lives that your Granny and I did not provide for them as they grew up.  With the exception of Barbie Dolls (ask your mom) and the year we searched but could not find one last Cabbage Patch doll on the market at Christmas time, I do not believe they can identify one thing we withheld or did not provide for them in their formative years.  I believe we provided for their every need and most of their wants.  It was our privilege to do so…we wanted to do so. But still we taught and promoted frugality.  Which kind of brings me to my next pearl.

Thirty-Fourth Pearl:  "Be Frugal With Yourself and Extravagant With Everyone Else"

When your mom was a young girl, your Granny taught her how to use discount coupons at the grocery store.  She taught her how to clip them out of the magazines, newspapers and flyers.  She taught her how to put them into a coupon box or folder and take it to the store.  She taught her how to look for the bargain products and sort through the box to find the $ .25 and the $ .50 and even the extremely rare $ 1.00 coupons to get discounts.  The double and triple coupon days were like special holidays for your mom and Granny to go shopping. 

Your mom and Granny would go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores in downtown Toledo to find bargain clothes on the shelves and on the hangers that were inexpensive sartorial treasures.

Your Granny taught your mom and Aunt Brandi the value of a dollar and how being frugal with your money was not only a virtue but a blessing.  Both of them learned their lessons well.  As they became adults, they took those lessons to heart and shunned the trappings of their generation, Generation X, which prized wealth, possessions and instant gratification beyond all else..  Even when your mom lived in the capital of Generation X in Southern California and was a part of the Hollywood scene, she still shopped at second hand stores, looking for the next great bargain.  She never looked better.

Your mom cares for you more than you will ever know.  She and your dad will spare no expense to see that you have everything you need to succeed in life.  They will be extravagant with you and with their friends, as they always have, to make certain each has what they need and most of what they want, while being frugal with themselves.  You would be wise to learn that lesson well.
I love you, sweet Ruby,

Grandpa Jud