Climbing The Uber-Ladder

Uber:  German for  ultimate, supreme, outstanding, amazing.

We only see Edna Moehl a couple of times each year, so when I got a phone call from her it piqued my curiousity. She said she was moving off the farm and had something she thought I should have…. antique apple picking ladder. Now normally, I  will pass when someone offers me something free or extra, or its too good to throw away because I’m tired of stuff.  But in this case, I said I would consider it.   It is a one of a kind contraption, made from an old windmill frame.  Two steel wheels and a set of handles to push it around.  It is surprisingly balanced.

I said I would take it.

The ladder is parked in the East orchard all year round, I only use it to pick the apples I can’t reach with my 8 ft step ladder.

Tuesday I  had one last Ginger Gold apple tree to pick.  There were fifteen to twenty beautiful  apples way on the top, that the Japanese beetles hadn’t found (yet.)

view from the ladder (3)

View from the base

As I got about 3/4’s the way up, a little tinge of fear started rumbling around in my gut. It’s the last couple of rungs that can get a little interesting.

Anyway, as I was picking those beautiful apples on the top of the tree, it triggered a flood of thoughts, other times in my life when I felt the fear, but kept going anyway…and the result was I got to experience something I otherwise would never have experienced, had I played it safe on the ground.

The biggest memory is getting a date with that girl in homeroom, who used to sit with all of the popular kids in the back of the room, while I sat in the front row, ready to scoot out the door, the second the class bell rang.

My values have changed since those days, but just to give you an idea what I was up against… She was cute, very cute.  Her dad was a doctor, She was an athlete.  Played varsity basketball, her freshman year. She was genuinely a nice person.  Eventually, the student body elected her homecoming queen….You get the picture.  Me on the other hand, well, I was shy.  So shy  I can count on one hand,  the number of conversations I had with girls up until that time. I loved to read, had a musical bent.  We lived on a dairy farm, so my life pretty much consisted of work, school, and more work.

There was a guy who worked for my dad, whose name was Lowell.  Nice guy, probably in his 40’s …single and shy.  I did not want to wind up like Lowell.

So the short version is, I asked that cute little girl in my home room out on a date to a movie.. she said she’d go.  Only went out on one date originally…and it took a couple of more years and dating several more girls, before I was able to shed more of the shyness..but it was a start. After I graduated high school, I happened to run into that girl who was my first date. She was working in a local pizza place.   The guy who was with me that night knew about my first date with her…and how I wished I’d handled things different, but at the time, I was just too socially, clueless. He leans over the table and whispers …“If you don’t ask her out, I will…”

And the rest is history….we celebrated our 37th anniversary this Spring.

There will be opportunities to climb the Uber-ladder sprinkled throughout our lives.



We have been on a BBC, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Larkrise to Candleford, Cranford, Bleak House, Downton Abbey kick.   Watching several of these period stories, back to back has opened my eyes to what it must be like, running in those social circles…. the attitudes, the temptations, the pressures.


Closer to home….

The other night I was curious as to where an internet business I am working with was located.   I discovered the company is part of a much larger set of companies owned by a family whose wealth is measured in  billions.   Those currently running things are my age and younger.  They attended ivy league colleges, sit on multiple boards, are well known for their philanthropy, play polo, etc. Made me realize that there is still a form of aristocracy  today, right here in America.

How well would I  handle it, if I had been born in that setting? (I hate dressing up and I am allergic to meetings, so I would not be a good fit)😉


Last week as we were replacing a driveway, the neighbor came over and told me about the history of an adjacent house.  A hundred years ago, the guy owned a large clothing store, had his fingers in four area banks,  had a reputation for being promiscuous. The house had separate stairways for the servants.

You can’t tell me that was a happy household to  live in.

Then last night I read the following:

“People were poorer and had not the comforts, amusements, or knowledge we have to-day; but they were happier.  Which seems to me to suggest that happiness depends more upon the state of mind – and body, perhaps- than upon circumstances and events.”     Larkrise To Candleford 

Twenty years ago, in my desire to get ahead (financially)  I saw a mobile home for sale.      Only $3500.

Heck, in little more than a year, it would be paid off, then we would have additional $250 a month!


Next, a cute little fixer upper came up for sale for $28,000.  Our credit was good, and now that we were land lords…why not?

Felt like I was playing real life Monopoly.

We were on the fast track to get ahead…..

But then we started to get phone calls @ 10 PM. So and so wanted to let us know  the police had been called…something about a fight, some drugs, etc.  Then  we had an alcoholic tenant stop paying rent. He moved out but left all of his things behind. It took me two months of jumping through hoops before I could legally do anything about it. He’d got behind on his electric bill after he left, so they shut the electric off to the house, which resulted in a freezer full of putrid meat and a trashed apartment we had the opportunity to  clean.




Still remember the big black flies buzzing around my head, and  the stench of rotten meat in the chest freezer  as Paul, Matt and I carried it out to the curb….Talked with the daughter as we placed  her dad’s things on the curb.

His collection of toy tractors,  clothes, furniture.  My heart went out to her. Sheriff sat across the street to keep peace while we did the eviction.


Last week while I was pouring cement with my nephew, his phone rang (He’s making payments on a rental house) Got a call from a tenant.  Water bill suddenly went to $400 a month because of a leaky something or other.

Made me thankful I no longer own  am making payments rental property…because it does come with a price.


Morning Commute

As I went through an intersection this morning on the way to work, I thought I heard something roll off the top of my tool box and hit the pavement…like a metal pipe.

I quickly checked my side mirrors to make sure all of the tool box doors were shut (they were) and continued on for  two more minutes…

Then it dawned on me.  The aluminium  handles from my siding break would make that kind of sound. (They are  a round pipe attached  by cotter key’s so they shouldn’t be popping off)

But just to be sure,  I pulled off to check.

Sure enough, the back handle was missing…. sitting in the middle of an intersection, two miles back😦

It was 7:30 AM, on a Friday morning, right in the middle of  work traffic.

I  called my co-worker to let him know what I was doing and would be a few minutes late.

When I got back to the intersection,  there it was, right in the middle of the road..a four way intersection where two major highways cross. Traffic clipping through there at  a healthy 35 mph.

“This will be interesting,” I thought to myself as I sprinted over to the first median. Looked both ways, then made a bee-line for the handle. The cars closest to me were stopped for a red light, so I  ran back  across 4 lanes of traffic.

I smiled at the guys in the front of the line, as if to say.

“Don’t run me over OK ?”😉





The rest of the day was equally intense.

We were working on a punch list for a newly sold condo for an elderly widow.

(A punch list is a list of misc. items needing to be taken care of when a house sells.)

I’d already swapped out two ceiling fans, installed a new kitchen  counter top, new sink, repainted several rooms…etc. Today’s list included two replacement windows, swap out a utility sink, hang three mirrors, install a set of vertical blinds, attach two thresh holds on a laminate floor, and hang two shelves above the computer.

I had hoped to get everything done before she moved in, but it didn’t work out that way.  The replacement windows were the biggest challenge.  I’ve put in several hundred of these over the years, so one way or the other, the window was going in. Well,  the old ones did not want to come out.  It is a brick condo, and the nailing fins were behind the brick.  I told my sister later, it was like pulling impacted teeth that had to be cut out, one chunk at a time.😉

Nasty dirty work.

I went through a dozen saw-zall blades.

It took me twenty minutes   to figure out how to get the first window frame out…all the while my customer was sitting on the bed watching me.

After the first window was finally installed, the guy in charge of the general upkeep of the grounds stopped by and told me, the windows didn’t match the rest of the windows in the complex and were not going to work.  (Keep in mind I had several thousand dollars I needed to collect  on the completion of today’s punch list.)

I had matched the interior of the windows rather than the exterior, because there was more than one shade of brown throughout the neighborhood….

In the end, it all worked out.  I got my check.  Customer thanked me for doing a great job on everything.

It’s a good thing I love what I do.

How was your day?

I want details! DM



I hesitate to write when I’m in the state of mind I am of late.  I am battling  a mixture of anger, shame and fear, springing from financial pressure which leaves me in a low grade funk.

But then I think to myself, many (not all)  of my long time readers initially stumbled across this blog  after reading a deeper/ darker entry.

So  if you’re looking for light, positive, and sanitized, you’ve come to the wrong place.🙂


My mind has been on priorities and choices I made  twenty years ago when our kids were young and still in the house.

When our kids were little, my wife and I used to argue about  the use of my time, money, work, etc.  We knew better than to attack and cut each other apart with our words. but it never felt like anything got resolved.

Nothing changed….until that one day.

I heard her.

Through tears she said:  ” I need more of you and your energy helping me  raise our  kids.”  We had three under seven and a newborn at the time…how in the heck she made it that long I will never know.  I wasn’t intentionally trying to be negligent.  I just didn’t know any better.

family photo


I have only so much energy.

You have only so much energy.

We all get to choose how to spend it. I can spend it on my job. I can spend it on myself. (blogging, hobbies, etc)  I can spend it on being a do-gooder and attempt to change the world.  I can spend it keeping other people happy. etc.   The list is long.

Energy = life.

I decided, I needed to  have more energy  life left over at the end of the day, even if that meant less income.

This is how I view all relationships:

Relationships are  like  plants.  Tend them.  Water them.  Weed them.

Or watch them die.

I have a new screen saver on the computer…

It gives me joy every time I look at it.


immediate family - Copy

“Behold, children are a gift …
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.

How blessed, (happy, fortunate, to be envied)  is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

3000 year old proverb


I am a rich man.

Even if that hasn’t  translated into more dollars in the bank.🙂


You’ve Got Mail


I started writing letters  to a couple of  our kids who live out-of-town last fall. This spring I decided to make letter writing a more intentional part of my life in general…

I want to say, within the past three months, I have received at least a dozen personal letters and notes from all over the place….so there is that possibility, you yourself may get an occasional letter.  Don’t count on it, but it does happen.😉

In spite of the fact that I now live in the age of e-mail, Facebook message, and who knows what other forms of Internet communication I am out of the loop on, there is something about  a personal letter in my mailbox that  gives me joy like nothing else.   Someone has taken the time to say….

“Thinking of you.”

“You are special.”

and occasionally “I love you! “

It is a  simple act that, continues to give (me) joy weeks and months after the fact.

 I learned on Saturday that one of our grand daughters was heading to camp for the week. She told me her mom was planning on writing her while she was there.

That took me  back in time.

I too went away for the week to camp when I was ten.  I can still remember walking daily to the candy store where personal mail would also be handed out.




I think it was finally on a Thursday, I got a letter from mom letting me know, her and dad were thinking about me. I can still remember the feeling of getting her letter forty years later.

My encouragement to you this morning, is to take some time today (or soon) to write that someone you’ve been thinking about writing.

You’ll never regret it, and the person on the other end..well, you will brighten their day.  DM

personal letters

Personal letters currently on my desk, next to my Pig pen cup.





Family Pictures


Theodore Roosevelt family 1903  

Compliments of google image

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them..” Psalm 127


Got some pictures back last night from a recent family reunion.  We have four children, all married  and starting families of their own.  It has been a couple of years since we were able to get everyone  together at the same time. Told my wife, I really wanted to make sure we got at least one picture of everyone.

I was am struck by the mixture of  emotions I feel when I look at some of those picture.

You’d never know it, but there is a lot of pain represented….

A lot.

But also joy.

I am currently reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt my wife picked up at a second hand store for a quarter.  It is one of the better books I’ve read in a while.

The only thing I knew about Theodore before reading this book was a quote he was famous for…that and he had something to do with establishing several national parks while in office.🙂

Once I got into the book, I grabbed a highlighter.  I was am struck, again and again, by the similarities between his day and our own.

Incompetent leadership on a national level.

The fickleness of public opinion.

The media and its propensity to stir up trouble, gossip and slander.

Inside deals….party bosses…corporate influence..

It’s all there.

But again and again, amidst the ebb and flow of success, and failure, Roosevelt would return to his home in the country to get his bearings. Days filled with children, (and then grand children) the chopping of  firewood, reading,   deep conversations around the dinner table, correspondence, walks  in the woods.  Married to a strong woman in her own right, who gave his life balance.  She had a way of getting through to him, when nobody else could.

Sounds a lot like my life.😉

family reunion 2016

Family reunion June of 2016





As I pulled into the parking lot of Starbucks Tuesday afternoon to pick up my favorite coffee bean, I realized I looked (and probably smelled) a little bit like a homeless man.  We’d insulated all morning, trying to beat the heat.

Being  in an attic  3 feet high, the sun  beating down on the black shingles, absolutely no air movement, will make you sweat…..profusely.

Kind of reminded me of mowing hay bales in the summer growing up on the farm….anyway,  so as I pulled into Starbucks, my first thought was, today would probably be a good day to just go through the drive through.  :-)

Well, the drive through was full and I didn’t have fifteen minutes.

I thought to myself, what the heck, nobody knows me,  the lunch crowd has probably thinned out,  and I can be in and out in two minutes….so I sucked it up and went inside.

The second I walked through the door, the negative thoughts began to well up.  There were still several people inside, not that I thought everyone was looking at me, but still…. I knew I was a sight to behold if anyone was paying attention.

I guess it was a mixture of shame and embarrassment.

This sort of thing never happens to me as an adult.  One of the last times it happened was at a wedding reception for one of my wife’s cousins at Notre Dame….years ago. Ivy league crowd and there I was Mr farm boy.   All of the males were in jackets and ties,..several were  wearing tuxedo’s and I had chosen to wear  blue jeans and I nice top. My wife had warned me..😉  and I didn’t listen.

Don’t think I didn’t feel like a complete country hick.

Well, I got to the counter, and the young lady who waited on me, was totally relaxed. Not a hint of judgmental-ism, what so ever.  I imagined what I must have looked like through her eyes…crusty old man, in an old t-shirt…dirty hat…probably not homeless if he was buying coffee beans, but pretty darn close.  Coming to get his one pleasure in life….french roast beans.

She actually radiated kindness..and I felt it.

After I left I sort of wished I had gotten her name, so I could write a quick note to that store and tell them I appreciated her attitude.  I do that sometimes.

This is not one of those major life experiences that would make national headlines…I know that. Hesitate even talking about it, because it is such a simple quiet, personal thing…but here I am still thinking about it a month later, and telling you about it, so there is something powerful in the very act of being kind.

Our world at large is starving for kindness.


I am currently on a “media fast” ie.  I am not staying up to speed on current events. Like I told someone last night, I do care intensely about what’s happening in the world at large, but when I don’t have an outlet for the angst, it leaves me in a state of constant agitation.  If I catch wind of something in the news that I think I need to know  more about, I will do a little more reading.

For me, it’s been a good fit.  DM


“Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly….”