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Masterpiece Days

Masterpiece Days

Hello and good day!

Some days are masterpieces. They are masterpieces in the same way that a great song or a great painting is a masterpiece. I think that the defining characteristic of a masterpiece day is how it manages to catch your essence as a person.

When I was a kid, our family was friends with a world-renowned Russian painter. Somewhere along the line in our relationship with him, he offered to paint portraits of our family. I remember sitting in the dining room of his big, elegant house while he painted me I was young, maybe nine, and he kept reminding me to sit still.

He painted my father and mother as well, and the portraits were stunning. It wasn't just that the paintings looked like us. They were us. The way we were sitting. The expressions on our faces. The posture of our backs. The tilt of our heads. The gleam in our eyes.

Somehow this genius artist was able to see straight into our hearts and paint us as we should be. That is the key, I think. He perceived how we should look, and he painted us that way.

That doesn't mean he made us look as good as possible. He made us look as true as possible.

When you hear a great song, the lyrics usually ride the melody in such a way that what needs to be said, is said perfectly. The lyrics express exactly what the songwriter is trying to convey and when you hear the words, they stop you in your tracks with their truth. Some songs are so perfect that you almost have to stop what you are doing so that you can listen carefully.

A sad song rips you apart. A happy song lights you up. A love song fills you with longing. Great art is captivating because it reveals truth.

This is true of a masterpiece day as well. You look back on yourself at the end of a day and you realize that you were as true a version of yourself as you can possibly be.

I had a day like that yesterday. I opened our chocolate shop in the morning. My older brother Brian and I always work an owners' shift together on Saturday mornings.

Sometimes during the week, we are so caught up with our separate work responsibilities and family lives, that we don't see much of each other. Brian is one of the people I love and respect most in the world. He has been my hero since I was a little kid, and his hero status has grown over the years because of what he has accomplished running our cacao buying and processing operation in Peru.

When Brian and I are together, it is always a love and laugh fest. So many wonderful customers came into the shop yesterday.

I am a natural born pie and coffee man!

My grandfather owned a chain of diners in Indiana, and I have food and hospitality in my genes. I love serving food to people. When customers come in and they are happy and I can serve them, I find it more satisfying than just about anything else. I am extremely thankful to all of our customers for giving me the opportunity to serve them.

If I were a better artist, I could express more clearly how much it means to me. I also love beautiful personal stories, and I got to hear one that I really liked yesterday. A tall, strapping man came in. He had thin grey hair and a bushy grey mustache. He was wearing a grey and black flannel button up, draped over his broad muscular shoulders.

I know him, so I reached out to shake his hand. He has rugged workman's hands. I could feel the rough skin and callouses and swollen finger joints of his hand. Fine chocolate is usually considered to be a fancy, luxury food, so when I get a retired construction guy coming in to buy his favorites, I love it.

It lets me know that we are walking the perfect line. The quality is good enough for chocolate snobs, but our pricing and branding is accessible to everybody.

This fellow took a fresh peanut butter ganache truffle that we had just made the night before, a bag of hot chocolate mix, and a jalapeno bar. He mentioned that his wife was out of town and that's why he was taking the jalapeno bar. She doesn't like spicy, but since he was alone, he could indulge.

Somebody in the shop overheard that and made a borderline snide comment about how he must be happy to have a night alone without his wife. The comment was innocent and made in jest, but this customer didn't find it funny.

He looked straight at the joker, dead serious. "I don't sleep well without my wife," he said in a slow deep voice. "In the night, when it is cold, she snuggles up against me because she says my big body is warm. I can feel her against my back, and it comforts me, and I drift off to sleep right away. But when she is gone, I toss and turn, and I can't fall asleep. I don't feel her back there hugging on me. A jalapeno bar is good, but I'd rather have my wife."

He paid, gathered his products, shook my hand, thanked me, and walked out, a big, broad man, heading home to eat chocolate with jalapenos by himself, as a consolation.

My wife and oldest son came to work the late afternoon shift. If you ever come to our shop, my wife is the beautiful woman with glasses and the big smile, who laughs easily and whose mouth opens and whose entire body heaves when she is laughing. It is a very charming laugh and a big part of what made me fall in love with her in the first place.

After work, Brian and I took my two younger sons to play with their cousin, my brother's son. They ran around and played and sweated for a couple of hours and then we took the boys out for pizza. We walked from the playground to a locally owned pizza place.

It was a grey and chilly day. The air was filled with cold mist and here in our little town we are surrounded by mountains that are densely covered by tall, dark green pines. We walked through the cold air down the sidewalk of our little town, the wind on our faces, the trees on the hills all around, and our kids running out in front of us.

The pizza place has a big outdoor area behind the restaurant. It was full back there with neighborhood customers bundled up in sweaters and coats. A bunch of baseball kids were playing catch in the eating area. I could hear the sound of gravel on the ground scraping underneath cleats and the rhythm of the baseballs smacking into gloves over and over again and the chatter of happy people.

It warmed my heart to see our neighbors doing robust business with an independently owned place. After eating, we walked and watched our kids.

Nothing else.

It was good that it was cold, because a masterpiece day in the pacific northwest should be cold. That is the essence of the area, and the pines look stately and more dignified against a grey backdrop. That is my opinion anyway.

The kids ran freely and yelled over the top of damp, dewy grass. Brian and I carried the sweaters when the kids got hot and shed their clothing.

At closing time, when dusk was settling in and the trees on the mountains could barely be seen, and the sky was turning dark grey and light pink, we said goodbye to Brian and met with my wife and oldest son as they finished closing the shop.

At home, we put the kids to bed, and I didn't fall asleep on the couch watching a movie with my wife like I usually do.

I didn't want the day to end. Masterpieces aren't common.

I wish you a masterpiece of a day today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!