Getting soaked is not something one usually looks forward to.
If you are the one circling a packed mall parking lot when it’s raining cats and dogs, you already know you are going to get wet. While you fantasize about shuttle trams running patrons back and forth to the front of your Magic Kingdom, you know the likelihood of such a covered ride is as remote as your parking place is going to be. You’re going to get soaked.
But in defense of soaking, it’s not always a bad thing. If you have sore bones after shoveling snow on a winters day, there’s little to compare with a bathtub filled with water as hot as you can stand. “Oh-oh-oh-ahhhhh, that’s better…”
First, let me get to the sore parts:
This week saw a draconian change in the parking rules where we live. In the confusion, our car was towed on Thursday night. $200.
Friday afternoon, I had to race home to show our landlord how to keep good accounting records. He was convinced we were way behind on our rent. It wasn’t true, but there I was in the office, armed with pages of bank records and canceled checks, showing him how to do 6th grade math in the effort to beat back the threat to our home. Now our figures match.
Yesterday morning, Rick woke up with some trace bleeding in one of his ears. With a daylong headache punctuated by a few episodes of minor dizziness, there was still some bright red at the tip of the cotton swab after dinner. Even though he can be as stubborn as I am, last night we went to the Emergency Room. Thankfully, we were in the hands of pros and now understand what was going on. He’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s going to be fine. I can breathe again.
With no down-time of any sort, I’m exhausted. But I kept reminding myself that we had kept swinging and doing what we needed to do. We stayed the course.
But alas, there were no medals for my chest or superhero blood running through my veins. When I’m done writing to you (now Sunday), guess what I’m going to do? Lucky to have one, I’m going to fill the bathtub and soak. Why?
The more Life I live, the more I believe persistence to be the critical difference in life or death. But as essential as it is, it is only one part of the larger recipe.
Yes, doing the work is important. But so is what comes after.
I wonder if perspective arrives about the moment when my tired and sore muscles meet the hot water in my tub. Is this just me rambling or is there something to persistence becoming powerful when it’s paired with perspective? Ever a disciple of the scientific method, I point to three other data sets that corroborate my observations.
Exhibit A: Summer wouldn’t be what it is in our house without having some Hellmann’s Mayonnaise at work somewhere on the table. But for all the times I’ve walked right past all the other stuff on our grocers shelves, I’d never had the thought of someone having to invent mayo.
Turns out someone did. Though it is said to have been first invented by French Duke de Richelieu’s chef back in 1756, it wasn’t until 1905 when Richard Hellmann, a recent German immigrant married into a small New York city deli. Shortly thereafter, an American culinary staple was born. Let’s stop and join NPR in their homage-to-mayonnaise program already in progress [June 30, 2013 8:00 AM]:
BONNY WOLF, BYLINE: “It almost never happened. If Richard Hellmann had not changed his mind – at the last minute – about taking the Titanic, his namesake mayonnaise would not exist. This is probably unimaginable to the millions of Americans who have grown up with Hellmann’s, who have slathered it on their sandwiches, used it in their pasta salads. The story starts in 1905, two years after Hellmann arrived in New York City from Germany. He opened a deli on Columbus Avenue where he used his wife’s recipe for mayonnaise made, as it is today, with eggs, oil and vinegar. It was so popular he started selling it in the wooden bowls used for weighing butter.
At first, Hellmann made two types. So, he put a blue ribbon around the best-quality one. Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise was trademarked in 1913, a year after the Titanic sank. By the late 1920s, Hellmann’s was making three tons of mayo an hour. Meanwhile on the West Coast, Best Foods came up with its own brand of mayonnaise. In 1932, the two companies merged and to this day it’s called Hellmann’s east of the Rockies and Best Foods west of the Rockies. Different name, same product”.
I could not find any recorded account of just how many times the Hellmanns failed before they got it right. I know Thomas Edison tried hundreds of times before his bulb lit, so I am inclined to think the Hellmans did too. Point is, like the Wizard of Menlo Park, the NY couple kept at it.
Lucky for us they did. If they’d quit just before they had perfected the process, my summers would have been forever lacking and they would have never known any different. It was their persistent passion that brought customers coming back with their empty wooden butter tubs, wanting for more. People sensed the difference. Word spread [sic] and thanks to those two maestros of mayo, everything from cole slaw to sandwiches has been better ever since.
I don’t think the Hellmanns were an isolated event. Persistence starts early. If we’re lucky, it becomes a stubborn compass point that guides us.
There once was a woman who had loved making cookies since she’d been a little girl. Her kids call her mom. Her kids’ friends call her Mrs. Fields.
Long after selling the company to private equity firms, Debbi Fields recounts the support she got at home when she first shared the vision of starting a cookie business with her first husband who immediately said, “Oh sweetie, that is such a stupid idea”.
Worth an estimated $450M, she now speaks to different concerns: “…the Mrs. Fields cookie recipe that I created has dramatically changed. It breaks my heart, and I would really like for them to go back to the basic recipe, which is seven to nine all-natural ingredients…”
Translated? People who weren’t the ones doing the soaking rarely understand the product or the process that went into getting them there.
In another instance of persistence, Marie moved out to California with her husband to see if they could do better than they had back in Minnesota. After having a son (Don) and earning neighborhood acclaim as a housewife extraordinaire in the kitchen, she was approaching 40 with dreams of her own still unrealized.
To make a long story short, she started making some of her favorite pies for neighbors. With her son soon delivering product on his bicycle, it wasn’t long before she was making 10 pies a day…then 20. Having done the work and soaked in all that it might mean, she sold her new car for $700, raised the capital and proceeded to get serious about the pie-making business. For a woman in the early 1940’s, a lot of people must have thought she was all wet. But Marie knew otherwise. And, on top of all that, she knew her other home-made foods were just as good. In 1964, she opened her first shop. The Marie Callender Pie Shop was off and running. The rest, as they say, is history. By 1986, Don sold the business to this little outfit called Ramada. Soaking it all in, Marie retired a very wealthy woman.
I drew real strength from their examples.
The essential ingredient found in all three stories was persistence.
The essential characteristic in each of their processes was the power of perspective.
They each did the work and then, remembered to do the next part. They soaked in their quest, letting their thoughts come up to them like the steam in their bath water. Perspective was not pursued. It found them when they stopped long enough to let it. It reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk back”.
More than once this week, my sense of hope seemed dimmer than most of the few stars in last nights sky. But somehow, someway, people helped me when I needed them. And most of them? Most of them have no idea of just how critical their actions were to me. That’s what I’m going to think about when I slide into the hot water a few minutes from now.
We never know when someone is going to need what we stand for. Whether we’re making mayonnaise or chicken pot pies, someone is going to have a pan with baked on life-goo they don’t think will ever get clean. It’s in those moments when we think we can’t bear one more punch or take one more step, that’s when we need to remember to soak.
So if you feel the need to soak, slide into a quiet tub (or place) and let your thoughts find you. They will. And once they have, my hunch is you’ll be amazed at the unexpected ways the mess ends up coming off. It’s not about how hard we scrub as much as it is stopping long enough to get really soaked.
The world is waiting and you’re all wet. I take comfort in that.
You and I will be fine.
Grab a towel.
Dry yourself off.
See you on the Trail.
I’m sorry, but in researching this week’s offering, I ran across this old print ad for Hellman’s Mayonnaise and had to pass it along. Were we ever really this simple?
Or are we still…just with glossier pictures? Ummmm…..
In America on September 11th, 2001
(Multiple Birth Dates – September 11, 2001)
In total, the 9/11 attacks killed 2,976 people from more than 100 nations.
Bodies found “intact”: 291
Remains found: 21,744
Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609
Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20%
Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: 422,000
PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
soaking_1: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/barometer/in-brief/2013-03/soaked-to-the-skin; Soaking: http://funandfit.org/hot-tub-warm-muscles/; Richard Hellmann montage: https://www.hellmanns.co.uk/brand/history/; Other Sources: Mayonnaise Turns 100 from Weekend Edition Sunday, June 30, 2013 8:00 AM (NPR) Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=197229890; http://www.germany.travel/en/ms/german-originality/heritage/richard-hellmann-hellmanns-mayonnaise.html; http://inventors.about.com/od/foodrelatedinventions/a/mayonnaise.htm; fields3 (pic): http://www.mrsfields.com/images/misc/ivillage/debbi.jpg; One Smart Cookie: The Founder of Mrs. Fields Shares How She Did It by Libby Kane: http://www.learnvest.com/2012/11/one-smart-cookie-the-founder-of-mrs-fields-shares-how-she-did-it/; Debbi Fields ‘worried about’ Mrs. Fields Cookies, seeking bigger role again by Jay Bobbin — June 19, 2013 2:59 PM ET http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/06/debbi-fields-worried-about-mrs-fields-cookies-seeking-bigger-role-again.html ; youngmarie (pic): http://fastfood.ocregister.com/2009/01/08/marie-callenders-founder-dies/11038/ ; Marie Callender By Johanne Harrigan: http://www.capitalistchicks.com/?q=node/566; japanese-snow-monkey: http://www.backyardcitypools.com/Swimming-Pool-Blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/japanese-snow-monkey.jpg?w=300; Old Hellmans Print Ad: http://www.timescolonist.com/polopoly_fs/1.178667.1368637216!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_563/nybz147-514-2013-180054-high-jpg.jpg; The Twin Towers as they stood by Scott Ranger: http://s185.photobucket.com/user/ScotRanger/media/NewYork-TwinTowers.jpg.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11%2C_2001_attacks; http://www.911memorial.org/sites/all/files/DocServer/PS_Guide_Adult.pdf; http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/1year/numbers.htm; twin-towers-940×705: http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/9-11-twin-towers/; Lincoln quote – Walking Slowly: http://behappy.me/poster/-i-walk-slowly—but-i-never–walk-backward-.
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