Reading Out Loud

Woke up this morning still laughing about a couple of Robert Fulghum stories I read out loud to Mrs DM before calling it a day last night.

We do that sometimes.

Read to each other.

My go-to author of short stories is Robert Fulghum.  Many of the stories are only a couple of pages long.  He’s got a wicked sense of humor. I highly recommend  just about anything he’s published.

Last night I picked up his book What On Earth Have I Done?

Mind if I share one of the stories with you?  It’s called Sunday Morning….


Sunday. Sunday morning.  Some in church. Some in bed.  Some in limbo.  Some in slow motion to nowhere in particular.  And one alone looking for a small slice of the pie of delight:

Around 8:30, cool and foggy- shifting toward warm and sunny.

Walking along a quiet street, I hear a melodious voice sing out:

“Sweetie Pie; oh, Sweetie Pie, where are you, Sweetie Pie?”

I stop and listen.  “Who? Me?”

The voice came from a porch of a house across the street.

Trees and bushes hide the front of the house.

All I can see are the bare legs of a woman who is calling.

Nice legs.

“Sweetie Pie, oh, Sweetie pie.  Where are you, Sweetie Pie?”

So, what the hell,….what harm?

“I’m over here, darling,”  I answer in my best bedroom voice.

She can’t see me either.

I’m hidden by the trees and bushes on my side of the street.

But she’s hip and sings out:

   “I hope you’ve taken your dump, she says, “Come eat your nibbles,”

Aha!  A game is afoot.


“The dump is done. Can I have a latte with my nibbles?”

She doesn’t back down.

“And would you like a tummy rub with that?”

She laughs.

I laugh back.

And now her shaggy little black dog has finished his dump and comes woofing across the lawn and charges up the steps.

“Come to momma,” she says, “I didn’t know you liked coffee.”

I wander down the street, and the lovely voice calls after me.

“Have a nice day, Sweetie Pie.”

I see her now.  An old lady in her nightgown waving from her porch.

Nice legs.

Nice, nimble mind, too.  She’s a player.

I walk on with the dog of my imagination running unleashed through the bushes of my brain, looking for a place to unload.

Too bad her dog came back.

I could have used a tummy rub.

Photo by Google


Do you have a favorite author(s)?  Tell me who (and why).  Any books you’d highly recommend?

Call me old school.  I still love the feel of a good hard cover book in my hand.  Normally buy them for pennies on the dollar through Amazon books (used hardcovers).

Later!  DM


The Man from the lobby

I had an hour to kill.

Decided to sit in the hotel lobby and people watch.  I was in town to give another presentation of a book I had gotten published the year before.

Then I saw him.   A man who had attended a previous presentation I had given 6 months before.  Felt a low-grade panic settle in my gut.  All I knew about the man was he too was an author.  Pretty sure he was a college professor.  My biggest concern was a good portion of my presentation would be similar to the one he had heard 6 months before.



I’m one of those people who when faced with a fear, 9 times out of 10 I will got after it head on, rather than stew.   I decided to head to the conference room early and re-introduce myself to the man from the  lobby.

He wasn’t hard to find.  He was sitting close to the front, right behind my table.  I walked up to him, and said I remembered him from before.  He instantly lit up. I put one knee down on the carpet, next to the table, and confessed to him, much of what he would hear  this afternoon was probably going to sound familiar.  I’ll never forget what he told me.

” You need to make sure you tell the story you told before, the one about the feedback you’d received on your rough draft. Bill So and So and I talked about that after your presentation.  That was so powerful.”

I looked him in the eyes, and thanked him profusely…for you see, the last time I had given my presentation, I had vented to the assembled.  I had gotten off my notes and shared some behind the scene angst on the writing of my book.  I questioned the wisdom of doing that at the time.  Come to find out, this seasoned author, this man from the lobby,  had been touched by that story, as much, if not more, than by my book.

We never know, do we.


If you’re a long time reader, you may remember.  I’d written the introduction and first chapter to a book.  Shared it with someone I used to get together with on a regular basis, who had had several things published and seems to know what he was talking about when giving feedback.  Well, his feedback, while well meaning, was brutal.  I ended up second guessing myself to the point, the book project was shelved from 2008 until 2015…

7 years.

Then after 7 years, I still had this book rumbling around in my head.  The internal pressure began to build.  Those of you that have to write know what I’m talking about.

I had to get it out.

Even if it didn’t  measure up.

So in 2015 I wrote  the rough draft.

Then in 2016 I got it published.



Here is an excerpt from my favorite writing mentor Brenda Ueland from her book If You Want To Write:

“How does the creative impulse die in us?  The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: “Trite, rewrite, helped to kill it.  Critics kill it, your family.  Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands. Older brothers sneer at younger brothers and kill it.  There is that American pastime known as “Kidding” – with the result that everyone is ashamed and hangdog about showing the slightest enthusiasm or passion or sincere feeling about anything….

You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls, when they see you have written something, become at once long-nosed and finicking and go through it gingerly sniffing out the flaws. AHA! a misspelled word! as though Shakespeare could spell! As though spelling, grammar and what you learn in a book about rhetoric has anything to do with freedom and imagination….

And so no wonder you don’t write and put it off month after month, decade after decade.  For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious.  The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more.  Tell me all you can.  I want to understand more about everything you feel and know….Let more come out….

Yes, I hate orthodox criticism.  I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them when they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.

I hate it not so much for my own account, for I have learned at last not to let it balk me.  But I hate it because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages that it snuffs out every year.  It is a murderer of talent.  And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first to get killed off.  It is the brutal egotist that survive…

…. and so now you will begin to work on your writing.  Remember these things. …Work with all your intelligence and love.  Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you.   Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters…”

Well, time to get to work.  🙂 Later! DM



My dear friend Chris (who occasionally reads this blog…Hi Chris!) gave me the ultimate compliment yesterday…he noticed “zen like” qualities in my life.  I looked up the word Zen  just to see what he might  be seeing….

Webster defines  zen as a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.  

A short story of  my Zen like reaction to having been recently hacked….


Wife received a call three weeks ago from our credit card company.  Someone had  switched our mailing address to Florida, was that us? The representative on the phone said,  I (DM)  needed to get back to them. (I was taking @ nap at the time).  The number they left did not correspond to the number on the back of our credit card, so I called the one on our credit card instead…it is really hard to know who to trust anymore… Was the call, a scam itself? 

When I finally got through to customer service,  I could not answer enough of the security questions to their satisfaction..(questions like, when I did I open the card?  What were the last several transactions and amounts, etc?)

I don’t carry that sort of stuff around in my short-term memory..heck, I have trouble remembering our kids birthdays sometimes… 🙂

Ron the older man on the other end of the customer service line with a gravelly voice, apologized but said, I would need to physically go into our local bank.

Went the next morning…

Discovered that not only had someone successfully changed our address, they had also apparently gained access to our on-line banking with full access to a lot of stuff.

At one point, there were three bankers in the room, trying to figure out some of them looked at me and said, “How many bankers does it take to fix this?  (I like her attitude)

Three hours later, I left the bank…Their security division put a freeze (then closure) on all of our banking connected with them.  We were encouraged to start over with new accounts, new card, yada, yada…

So that was still in the process of getting straightened out yesterday when I went out to get the mail…


In the mail, we received a bank/ credit card statement… as I looked it over, I noticed  there was a $25 rush fee, and the last four digits of a new number at the top of the page..

I picked up the phone, called customer service, again,  explained why I was calling…and then a light bulb went on.

A new card had been issued the same day I was @ the bank, and they had put a rush on it…SENDING IT TO THE ADDRESS IN FLORIDA  of the hacker…PLUS dinging me $25 for  the privilege of doing so.

“They sent the “F”ing  new credit card to the address of the hackers.” 

It came out of my mouth before I could stop it.

I have to be honest.  It felt good.  I used to cuss like a sailor…that dirty habit, has all but become dormant…but not completely.

There is a time to get angry in a zen sort of way.

That’s my story young grasshopper.


Any of you old enough to remember David Carradine and  the TV series Kung Fu?




The Talk

The past couple of months # 1 son and I have been doing remodel  projects together, projects that he had acquired.

This past year  when #1 son came back to work part time, I was the one who has lined up the work, and he was the helper.)

I caught myself a couple of times  the past month, possibly overstepping my role.  It happened again yesterday, so I decided to breach the subject this morning.  The last thing I want to do is cause him additional work pressure.

It is one of my few pet peeves…
Working with a “know it all.”

I have traditionally hired people with little or no construction experience, intentionally.  I would rather train someone to do it my way than constantly debate how to approach a given task.  It makes for a long day.


The process of mentoring is not an exact science.   It is a lot like parenting.

You haven’t ask, but I will give you the short version of my approach to parenting:

The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job.

Then, at some point,  (changing word pictures),   just like the eagle, there comes a time to “stirs the nest”  ie.  Kick  young eagle out of  nest  where it’s flap or die… 🙂


It is important to know when to speak up and when to let the school of life kick in. I’ve always been a big advocate of letting natural consequences play themselves out.  Told my young eagles early on, with a smile on my face, that if, in the event they found themselves behind bars, not to call looking for bail money.

Some of the most powerful life lessons  are the ones not learned out of a book…but I digress.


Now that #1 son has begun to bid and line up work, I would rather err on the side of him asking me for my input rather than just assume he is looking for “suggestions” from his all-wise father.

The conversation this morning, went refreshingly well.  Son assured me, I had not (yet) overstepped my bounds.  He had not (yet) felt frustrated with me sticking my nose where he didn’t want it.  On the contrary,  he said, and I’m quoting now,  “It is good to have several pair of eyes looking at certain situations…one person may see something another person is missing.  It happens all the time in masonry work.” 


Here are some  action work photos from the past:

Learning to do flat work.

Teaching how to use a hand saw 20 years ago.

Flying solo, cutting tile with a wet saw and diamond blade.


Later! DM


Why I Write

Got a call this morning from a friend.  Their family was in the middle of one of those situations where you are grasping for straws.

Just so happened, I’d walked through something very similar 10 years ago.

We talked for 5 minutes,  I mostly listened…

When it seemed appropriate, I shared just enough of my story to let her know I  got it….I put into words some of the confusion she was feeling.  By the end of our conversation, I heard  just a glimmer of hope in her voice.

I called her tonight just to check on her.   Still not out of the woods, but at a better place than this morning.


Dawned on me tonight, that is the main reason I keep this blog.

CS Lewis wrote: ...”I read to know I am not alone.” 

Well, I write to let you know you are not alone.

Real life is full of ups and downs, highlights and low lights….if I am to believe social media,  then many people’s lives are one big success story….and we both know that is not true. Life is a mixed bag.   Currently things in my life are on an even keel…and I like it that way.  If a person dropped into my life for the first time right now, they’d never guess some of the stuff I’ve wrestled with and won.

Friend of mine joined a grief support group a few years ago after loosing one of her children.  One of the older women in the group had buried a husband and two children.   When she spoke, (the older woman) she spoke with insight forged on the anvil of life.  She said she had credentials.  She wasn’t just spouting theory.

That pretty much sums up where I am coming from.

If you dig a little deeper on this blog, there is some darker stuff as well, and I’ve put it there intentionally.

Yes, I’ve been known to write about refinishing  a claw foot tub,  tending an apple orchard, or dealing with a testy neighbor…. At the end of the day, my main intention is to share my ordinary life with anyone who cares to follow along.  I work real hard at not spouting trite platitudes…

I hate them.

Two days ago, a friend shared with me in confidence  something he had been thinking.  I told him, I’d had similar things go through my head before..

“No way!   Really?”

Oh yea. 🙂


That is the long and short of it.

Gonna leave you with a song…make sure you turn up the volume. 😉




“To life, l’chai-im! 
L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! 
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, 
Next day a stomach ache, 
Drink L’chai-im, to life!

From the movie Fiddler On The Roof


I saw two pictures yesterday that  made me think. First one was a young woman in a glittery golden dress at a wedding.  The second picture was the same young woman three days later in a dark sweatshirt, holding her sick baby.

Life. L’chai-im

Life is a mixed bag.  Good stuff/ blah stuff / sometimes  soul crushing stuff/ all rolled into one big happy meal.


I turned 60 on Tuesday.

It was not a good day.

Had nothing to do with me turning 60.   ( I still love being this age for all of the reasons I mentioned  a week ago. (see here)

Nope, what tripped me up was my plumber not coming to hook up the claw foot tub I have been refinishing  for my birthday.   He knew it was my birthday/ I’d touched bases with him just two days before to confirm Tuesday would work. No exaggeration, I have been patiently waiting, literally for weeks, figured this would be the perfect way to celebrate my special day.

I had visions of me having a celebratory soak in the tub…maybe a glass of wine…

It never happen.

He told me he was buried in service calls and would touch bases at noon.  That never happened either. (He never called.)

By mid morning on my special day, my good attitude was in  trouble and by 1 PM I was stuck.

Stuck in a mopey  low grade funk  that 24 hours later morphed into anger.

Tripped up by an expectation.

I should know better….But it was my 60th…how many 60th birthdays do we get?  Am I not entitled to having just a few expectations?  🙂

I reminded myself, I had a fully functioning bathroom on the 2nd floor…and there are millions of people all around the world right now that would love to have indoor plumbing with hot running water/ and I am sulking just because I am not important enough for my regular plumber to make me a priority on my 60th birthday for cryingoutloud….

It took me the better part of two days to regain my equilibrium.

Two days!!!  I  give myself a D- on that one.  Something that should have taken mere seconds, taking 2 days…wow.

I was “probably” not the easiest person to live with….

I posted a picture of the tub last night on Facebook after I finally shook off my funk:

Claw foot tub almost ready.

My plumber buddy saw the picture, apologized for dropping the ball on Tuesday and asked about my rubber ducky?

I told him “No worries.”He was still my favorite plumber but I didn’t have a rubber ducky.”

Last night I was pricing  large rubber ducks on Amazon .  

Yea, I’m easily entertained.


And then, in the mail yesterday, I got a letter and $25 cash from an Amish farmer.  He profusely apologized for his tardiness in paying me and his rubber check.  He asked me to forgive him. 

I already had.


We are going to a benefit lunch today for a 54 year old woman I know who works behind the meat counter at our grocery store.  I used to work with her at my sisters restaurant.  I’ve always liked her.  Down to earth/ no airs about her.  Three months ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and bone cancer.

Don’ think I haven’t been smok’n that one in my pipe…


Time for coffee….






Quoting Harry Potter

The other day I was reading through a comment thread on a garden forum.  Out of the blue, someone quoted a verse from the Bible to back up what they were saying. (It felt out of context/ and  just a wee bit off putting)  Next person weighed in and said to them, “You might as well  quote a line out of Harry Potter…it has the same effect….”  

Yea, I thought to myself, this is the world in which we live….and if a person decides to get into a discussion on the Internet,  (which I never do, except here in the blog-o-sphere among those of you I know)   you need to choose your words wisely.

Unless I live in a bubble,  and only talk with those in my bubble, I am constantly interacting with people from  wide and diverse viewpoints on every issue under the sun….. They are called “World views.”  Everybody has one…from the homeless guy living under a bridge in Portland, to the Queen of England.  From the ISIS fighter in Syria to the organic farmer just down the road from me.  Each of us looks at life through the lens of our world view.  It helps me make sense of what I see, how I interact with others, how I live my life.

I have always found that fascinating….

(This is stirring  up a whole bunch of random bunny trails in my head right now/  but I need to stay focused, because I really do have something  I am leading up to…)

It has to do with the Amish farmer I have written about twice before… here and then here.

Thursday of last week I got a check in the mail from the Amish Farmer.  Two months late/ but a check never the less.  There was a $5 tip and a note attached, hoping he could come back for more apples in the fall….(I thought to myself..we shall see.)   Anyway,  instead of doing what I normally do and cash the check at my bank, something told me to stop by his bank…just in case.

Well, I happened to know the lady in the drive-up window, so I asked her  to verify that he did in fact have enough money to cash the check…

30 seconds later…….


He had sent me a rubber check.

I was told by someone who knew, this Amish man typically got paid on Fridays, so to give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried again on Saturday.


Still no good.

I decided yesterday to return the check with a letter.  Wanted to share that letter here in its entirety, along with some background into why I said what I said.  I reference the Bible in my letter. In his worldview and in mine, the Bible is a reference point.  A source of common authority ( In theory at least.)  To his ears  I am not just quoting Harry Potter.  😉



Dear ***,

Enclosed is your check for $25 that the bank would not cash.  I tried twice, and both times I was told there was insufficient funds.   Life is too short to deal with this, so I am returning the check to you.

I need to tell you a story.

A few years ago now, I heard about an Amish family moving into the area, with possibly more families to follow.  I thought to myself, neat.   I would love to meet them. My background is German.  My dad still speaks low German.  I grew up on a small dairy farm, plus I am a Christian, been a Christian since I was 22 years old.

So even though I am not Amish, I felt there were many things I share in common with an Amish person.  This past June we had a bad hail storm. Really did a number on our apple crop.  I decided to turn a heartache into a blessing.  Instead of marketing damaged apples,  we decided to share them with others, (that whole “do unto others what you would have done unto you” thing.)    Your family just happened to be the first family that approached me, after we had made that decision.  Make no mistake, I could have advertised #2 apples on Craigslist, or our orchard page on Facebook but I chose not to.

So I was excited when you  approached me about getting some free apples.   I was a little taken back by your comment, that you were not going to share my phone # with your Amish friends until you had gotten all of the apples that you wanted.

First impressions are so important.

The second thing that seemed a little “off “ was as we walked to my  apple wood stash (You’d asked if we might have any apple wood for smoking?)   It felt like you were trying to get as much apple wood as you could for the least amount of money…I sensed you thought you were dealing with a naive, simpleton…

Trust me I am not.  It did irk me just a little, after giving you hundreds of dollars worth of free apples, that  you were still trying to dicker with me. 

We talked about $20 for 1/3 of the pile of wood..and you would leave the money on the mantle of my shop in case I wasn’t around…simple as that.  (Couple of years before, I was selling my apple wood to a sports bar in *** for $1 a pound..  I made over $1000 that year, when my work was slow, and I needed $ to pay my bills)  So that apple wood pile for me was money in the bank…My contact @ the bar no longer worked there, and I wasn’t sure the new owners would remember me and buy the wood..which was why I thought, what the heck, if this Amish farmer needs a little apple wood, why not….

Skipping ahead to early  December, you called to say you were coming the next day to pick up the apple wood.  I happened to be in the house doing book work the day you stopped, so when I went out to the shop later that day to get my $20 I was honestly taken back, you had not left the money, nor a note, nor called me to let me know  you hadn’t left the $20, which is why I called you and asked about the $. 

You said  “$20 may not seem like a lot of money to me, but it was to you.  Things were a little tight right then, but you assured me the next time you went to town, you would stop by and pay.  

 I said, I felt the same way…$20 is a lot of money.  I asked you how long that might be…a  couple weeks?  You assured me, it would be two weeks or before.  Well,  a month went by and no $20.    I was starting to get agitated with you

It really has nothing to do with the money. 

Heck, I gave you several hundred dollars of apples, (not to mention the apple wood) if it were about the money,  I would have charged you for the apples way back when you first stopped.  I was upset by your lack of integrity.    I thought to myself, this Amish man I am dealing with is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.  I can’t believe they (the Amish) are all this sneaky and selfish.

Rather than continue to stew on it, I sent you an invoice a month after you got the wood.

We went to a program at our local library early  January about the Amish lifestyle.  I was tempted to tell my story about your dealings with me, but decided not to..

it would not have been right.  I did learn however about how your churches are there are deacons and bishops that oversee 25 to 30 families in an area. I decided to attempt to find out the name of the bishop or deacon in your area and bring my situation before  him.

In Matthew 18:15-17 it says:

“If your brother wrongs you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church….” (the goal here is reconciliation/ conflict resolution)

So, ***, I tried talking to you one on one..followed up with an invoice in the mail.…then took it to the next level, and brought it before your deacon.   I talked with *** your deacon  a couple of weeks ago.  He assured me he would be talking to you)…

So here I sit with a worthless check,  and I’m thinking to myself… boy would I  love to come to one of your church meetings,  stand before the assembly, and tell my story about  brother ***  who is leaving a not so good impression with some of the people in the area.  As an Amish man and even more importantly as a professing Christian.

I turn 60 years old this coming week.  I have learned to pick my battles.  Life is too short.    I suspect this is not the first time you have done this sort of thing, and will probably not be the last, unless God turns the lights on.

Please do not call or stop next Fall to ask about free apples.




So we shall see.

My whole point in sharing this sliver of my life with those of you that care to read along, is this…There is more to loving my neighbor as myself than just warm fuzzies.  There is a place for confrontation.  Feels an awful lot like parenting older kids if you ask me.  🙂

Later! DM