Gold and silver have I none….

Helped a friend move this past Saturday.     I was outside guarding the trailer when I met Steve.  Steve was having a smoke, soaking up the sunshine on a cold January morning .  Steve has two part, part time jobs.  He takes care of the garbage dumpsters in the building, and  rips up the old carpet when someone moves out.  He told me the little extra money  he makes doesn’t affect his disability check.  As we were sitting there,  a lady with  spiked black hair, walking a dog  named Violet,  stopped to chat.

Normally I don’t care for little dogs. Most of them have an attitude. Violent did not.  She came right up and licked my fingers.

The apartment my friend was moving out of is designated housing for people with  disabilities….physical, emotional, etc.

I felt an instant connection with everyone I interacted with.


Christmas week 2013  we took a trip to New York City. (I wrote about this trip  on my farm blog)  During one excursion uptown we walked through  Green Square park.  I got to talking with Larry, who spends a lot of time in the park, feeding the squirrels.  We talked about his friend Paul across the way, who was literally covered with pigeons:

pigeon man washington sq park

Paul the Pigeon guy

I felt an instant connection with Larry.

It was one of the highlights of my trip.


Larry the pigeon guy

Larry the squirrel guy who happens to be feeding a pigeon in this picture.

I read an analogy years ago about the values we place on beauty, physical strength and intelligence as a culture:

     “From the moment they enter the world, children are subjected to a value system that reserves respect and esteem for only a select few. Those who fail to measure up to society’s standards—primarily in the areas of beauty and intelligence—must learn to cope with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.”

Translation:  If you have been born beautiful it is like you have been  given the golden coin of  self worth at birth. Intelligence and athletic ability = a silver coin of worth.   (You are not quite as valuable as a beautiful person, but close…)

I (DM) might add, if you are well connected or have a lot of money, even though you may not be physically attractive or athletic you also get a pass into the club of popular important people.

Now pity the poor fool who has none of those things going for him.

You are left to  fend for yourself.

As I entered my 20’s, I realized I was living under a cloud of low self esteem for some of these very reasons.   I asked a good  friend (who also happened to have a degree in mental health) if she had any tips on addressing the issues?

She did.

It wasn’t an instant fix but gradually, over time,  I was able to change, to heal, to literally reprogram the hard drive of my thought life, to the point where 80 to 90% of the crap has been  deleted, rooted out and replaced.   In it’s place is peace, a clear head and mirth.

The connection I felt with Steve, the short haired lady and her dog, and Larry the squirrel guy I think is in part because none of us had anything to prove to each other, there was no need to impress.

We all knew we were broken or didn’t measure up in some way,  it didn’t matter.

These days, my heart goes out to the person who has bought into this  phony value system and doesn’t know where to turn when they loose their golden coin.

There is a better way.

Peace and Quiet

Cell phone rang while I was making supper last night.  Didn’t have the number in my phone  so I didn’t answer. 😉

(Standard policy)

30 seconds later,  truck pulled into the driveway I didn’t recognize.

Turned out to be some guy named Al whom my son has been working for.  Al purchased a barn beam mantle from me last week, to be picked up at a later date.

30 seconds after Al stepped out of his truck he said,“Boy is it quiet around here.  I like it!”

He is not the first person who has said that to me.

Some people like the peace and quiet.  Drives other people batty.

I have a theory  about peace and quiet.  It’s just a theory mind you.

When a person’s inner world is full of pain (Inner world defined as  thought life, emotional well-being, past life experiences,, purpose in life, existential stuff), then quiet is the last thing they crave.  They crave noise and business to keep themselves distracted, so as not to be alone with themselves.

When the inner world starts to become healthy, you start to crave quiet.  Sort of like going from  diet coke to clean water.  At first, the water feels boring, and lacking, until your taste bugs get retrained. Gradually,  the water  (which is much more healthy for you) feels “right” and the sweetness of the coke becomes obnoxious.


At this point, I like both. (Quiet and background music)

I’m currently reading “ Windows of the Soul , highlighting sentences as I go.  Do you ever do that?

Here’s a couple of highlighted portions from this week:

“The problem  is not entirely in finding room the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as that is.  The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh  Gift from the Sea


“In the past I would have more or less identified with Mary. (Of Mary and Martha fame Luke 10:38-42)  But over the years, as I have had the opportunity to look deeper into my life, the more I see of Martha.  The truth, I think, is that there is something of both sisters in all of us.  And that is why so many of us so much of the time find ourselves in the middle of an inner tug-of-war, pulled by our duties and another by our devotion.

  …  The issue wasn’t her preparations ; it was her distractions.  It wasn’t the many things; it was that the many things didn’t revolve around the one thing that was needed.

      There was not quiet center that Martha was working from, no solitude of the heart, no still axis around which her activities revolved.  That’s why the wheels fell off her attitude.  And that’s why with some regularity, they fall off of mine.”


No quiet center she was working from….


No still axis….

That was me, many moons ago.

Someone compared me to a gushing fire hose.  Lots and lots of energy and activity spraying all over the place…with very little to show for it.

I can spot people like my former self pretty quickly. They really can’t help themselves.  Well they can, but until they get burnt out or to the end of themselves, someone telling them to  slow down, simply do not register.

Here’s a picture I had hanging in front of my desk during that season of my life when I was trying to switch gears and slow down:
running on the hampster wheel


Well, time for  morning coffee.

Any thoughts about cultivating peace and quiet in the nooks and crannies of our souls?


Thoughts while building a pine casket

June 14, 2007, Ruth Grahm, wife  of Evangelist Billy Grahm  passed on into eternity.  She was 87.

Here is a portion of  a newspaper account: 

Shortly before he died, convicted murderer Richard Liggett was asked to make two of the simple plywood coffins he meticulously crafted for fellow prisoners. Except the caskets would be for Billy and Ruth Graham.

 Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary said: “He (Richard Liggett) told me, of everything that ever happened in his life, the most profound thing was to build this coffin for Billy Graham and his family.”

That story caught my attention for several reasons.

#1 It was a simple pine casket.

#2 A prison is not the first place I would go shopping for a casket. 😉

#3  They were definitely making a statement and I like things like that.

It wasn’t too long before I ran the idea by my wife.  (She is such a patient woman) What would she think about  me building a pine casket for myself????

I’d read  you can actually use it as a book-case until the time comes when you  need it. 🙂

It wasn’t as much about saving money (though it would)  as just the experience.  I love building things out of wood.  I love history. (In my mind, I was thinking of building one of those tapered boxes from 150 years ago).

I had read stories about people going on a weekend retreat to build their own casket.  I have to say, that has always struck me as a little weird.

Switching gears slightly…

I remember mom telling me they were having a hard time convincing  grandma,  who was 90 something at the time to  write her will.  She was superstitious, and somehow by writing a will, it would hasten her passing.  At the time  if she didn’t have a will  then a judge would settle the estate, and the family did not want that if all possible.


This past December we sat down with our lawyer and updated our wills.   It had been 10 years, and things have changed.

Secondly we filled out  something called The Five Wishes.   It has to do with health care and end of life related decisions.  It is a living will on steroids, simple to understand, upbeat, positive and thorough. Got it from a friend whose daughter works in hospice.  Check it out.

Finally, I got on-line and started looking for do it yourself casket designs.  I’m currently in the workshop building harvest tables again and decided I would take a stab at building a casket….my casket.

I started last week.

It has actually been quite interesting.

First let me say, I am not suicidal or depressed even though we are right smack dab in the middle of winter.  The new full spectrum LED lighting I installed in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago really works.

(I call them my  “happy lights”)

I am in great health.  If I live to be as old as 3 of my grandparents, I have another 40 years in the saddle.

I have come full circle in my mind from, I’m not 100% settled on this whole “build your own casket gig” to now feeling the creative juices kicking in.   I am thankful I have the time, ability, inclination and shop to do this project.

I am thankful  I am not plagued by the fears my grandmother must have labored under. I have a quiet sense of anticipation that is rooted in the Christian scriptures.

PS. I am taking orders btw 😉  (Prices starting at under $1000 plus shipping)

Plan to post pictures once it is finished. DM

Pine caskets for sale

Grandpa and the Overton Window



I (DM) became a grandpa twice more in 2014.


How can I, a young man of 27  be a grandpa four times over???

Wife was asked to babysit with one of the grandsons Saturday night so I tagged along.

Sitting on the couch with this grand baby on my lap filled me with a quiet joy. As long as I don’t have to change any dirty diapers I am good to go.

The TV was on, when the words of a song caught my ear:

” Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazy…”

(See the end of the post if you want to listen to the song.)

My grandpa used to talk to us about the “good old days.”

He’d say things like:

“Ha – the  good old days….You can have them!”

He was referring to living through  two World Wars,  the Great Depression, delivering babies at home on the kitchen table,  no indoor plumbing until  the 1940’s, and so on.

On those levels,  I would have to agree.

But as I sat there snuggling  my grandson  my mind  kept thinking about the words, “Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazy…”
and a  conversation I remember reading between  my favorite writer, Andree Seu Peterson and Congressman Frank Wolf.

Wolf  asked Peterson if she’d ever heard of  the “Overton Window”?


He  held out his hands and framed them into a window.

I’m paraphrasing the conversation as I remember it:

   “Imagine, a yardstick.  On either end are the extremes of  any political issue. Between the ends lie all gradations of thought from one extreme to the other. The essence of the Overton window is that only a portion of the spectrum is within the realm of the politically possible at any time…”

What once was considered unthinkable, goes through several steps until it becomes policy:








The Overton Window is a great analogy to me of what is happening in my culture, not just in the political sphere, but pop culture as a whole.  The lines between right and wrong , truth and lies feel blurred.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” 

Paul Joseph Goebbel   ( Minister of Propaganda for Adolph Hitler during WW II)

Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this.

Do we have “ministers of propaganda” today? (even if they don’t officially go by that title)  The more specific the better.

Any examples come to mind of “lies repeated often enough that they have become truth” in your life time?

What sources of information do you trust to help you  stay informed?

What are some of the things you do in your life to  keep your bearings?

Tell me about your grandpa.

Here’s a picture of my grandpa the day he helped me butcher 100 chickens

opa 1982

If I were a betting man, I think I am going to look a lot like this picture in another 30 years.  DM