Sugar trivia and my mom’s fudge recipe

I was sitting in my Doctor’s waiting room two weeks ago, thumbing through an old Readers Digest when the following title caught my eye:

How to Crack Your Sugar Addiction.

( click that link, and it will take you to the article I read)
      “Imagine making a nearly life-size sculpture of yourself out of sugar cubes and consuming it over the next 365 days.  That is essentially what many of us are doing.  The typical American eats

an average of 128 pounds of added sugars each year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  And it affects our bodies on every level…”

I love chocolate milk and for almost 40 years have consumed (3) 20 oz glasses of it a day. (or more)

This past week I started paying attention to the number of grams of sugar in the things I consume.

4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp = 1 sugar cube.

1) 20 oz. cup of chocolate milk contains  30 grams of sugar

30 grams X 3 20z glasses of chocolate milk ) = 90 grams of sugar consumed in a day.

90 grams divided by 4 = 22.5 tsps (or 22.5 sugar cubes a day)

22.5 sugar cubes a day!

chocolate milk

And that is just the sugar in the chocolate milk, doesn’t even touch the sugar in all of it’s various forms in the rest of the food I have been eating.

This morning I decided to estimate the amount of  sugar I have consumed to date (from youth till now.)

Are you  ready?

6203 pounds

3 tons

3 tons of sugar.

By the grace of God I have not developed type 2 diabetes (yet), but it runs in the family.

My grandma had it.

My dad has it.

I feel like I need to write a letter of apology to my pancreas.

20 years ago, I remember one of the mothers in the church we were attending was known for being  a sugar Nazi.  At the time I  thought she was one of those over the top/ crazy/ over protective  parents.

Turns out  I was wrong and she was 20 years ahead of her time.

I’m not planning to go all Nazi on this sugar issue, but I am in the process of making some long term health choices.

My mom makes a killer home made fudge recipe that I will continue to eat, if she offers it to me 🙂

Chocolate milk is no longer on the menu.

One of the (bigger) food related issues for me has been uncontrollable food cravings and binge eating.  From what I’m reading, some of that may go away, once the sugar addiction has been broken.

Several of you that are regular readers with medical backgrounds would probably know more about this than me, but too much sugar may play into some cancer cell growth.

It’s taken way too long but I am finally interested in eating more healthy.

The first 40 years of my life, I was able to eat whatever I wanted, when ever I wanted  and not gain a pound.

Those days are gone.

It may sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I thought this would be a good time to post my mom’s fudge recipe:







At the end of the day, it’s all about moderation, personal choice and living with the consequences.   DM

Buddy Check

fox hole

Digging in


I texted my friend Dan yesterday to check on him.

I was waiting in the car while my wife  was doing some shopping and I had a few minutes.  I hadn’t talked to him in a few weeks.  Last time I did,  there was a lot going on.  He’d recently found out his wife is expecting #3, and  they are living in a 1 room condo.   They were wanting to find another place with more room before their current lease came up for renewal.   Work had slowed way down for him.   He is self-employed  and I don’t think they have much in savings.   On top of all of that,  current things in the news. like ISIS and their  atrocities was weighing heavy on his mind.

Dan text-ed me right back, said he had a Dr’s appointment set up for this Friday.  He has something  going on medically I’m not sure about, but I think it could affect his work situation long-term.

Talk about being under fire.

After a couple of texts back and forth we agreed to get together later this week, to catch up…..


I remember years ago, someone talking about the importance of doing “buddy checks.”  The word picture he gave was like a soldier peering into the fox holes of his fellow soldiers during a lull in the fighting.

As much as some of us would like to think otherwise,  I believe we are designed  to need other people in our lives. ( I’m not talking about in some sick co-dependent way.)

I have gotten to the point where I’ll take it a step further.  If I am struggling, I won’t wait for someone to check on me….

I will do one of several things,  depending on what’s happening (text, pick up the phone or make an appointment to get together in person)

I am blessed  by a network of interpersonal relationships that I have intentionally cultivated since the mid 1990’s.  It hasn’t always been that way.

In 1995,  I walked away from a close knit  church group that I was very involved with.  90% of my closest relationships were in that group.

Talk about a stressful time.  At the very time I needed someone to help me process life, I found myself walking away from the very people in the past I would have turned to.

Swore I would never ever find myself in that sort of situation again.

Sitting here 20 years removed from that experience,  it was one of the more important turning points in my life.

Out of it, came 2 books, I became a blogger,  I developed several new friendships I would have otherwise never had, and I learned the importance of not putting all of my relationship eggs in one basket.

It also showed me  I am a man of principle above my people pleasing tendencies.

Secretly in  my heart of hearts, I used to think maybe I was putting too much stock on what other people thought of me.  I would make decisions based on what other people said over my personal preference.

My metal was tested and I passed.

I am not a people pleaser  at the end of the day. 🙂



We have a quote on our  kitchen cabinet by Anne Lamott:


anne lamotte quote

I really do believe that.

Currently I am on my game and have been for several months.

Next week, who knows.  I’m scheduled for another biopsy.

So, not sure where these words find you this fine morning.    You may be like Dan who needs a some encouragement and perspective…., I’d encourage you to make the choice to be vulnerable. Reach out to someone you trust and talk about it.

Maybe you’re on your game this morning…Is there anyone in your life you know who could use a check in? 🙂

Well, time to have a cup of coffee w/ my wife.  Yesterday I was @ the Dr’s office,  filling out one of those pages where you list any medicines you are currently on.

I put down just one thing…


Did you know coffee beans are full of antioxidants?

They are!

Stay in touch. DM




The Coyote’s Last night

The coyote’s were close last night.  Just after dark, I could hear several of them hunting in a pack, just to the South of our home.

I can still remember the first time we heard coyote’s  after we moved to the country.  Wife and I both thought something terrible was happening to a girl on our neighbor’s farm.  Never in my life had I heard such a haunting, varied, disturbing  sound.


coyote howling

Have you ever heard the howl of a coyote?


A musing on Brokenness, addictions, and Joy.

 Liza Minnelli

Catherine Zeta-Jones

Demi Moore

Charlie Sheen

Sheila Walsh



What do all of these people have in common?

They all came to a place of brokenness.

A place where they put their hands in the air and said,

“The gig’s up.”

“I need help.”

Someone challenged me recently, to consider going a little deeper when I write.

My hesitancy in going deeper is two-fold.  Protect the confidentiality of others that intersect with my life and secondly, there are still parts of me that are tender.

I am on the mend.

I’ve dealt with 2 major issues head on since the Fall of 2013 and would have no trouble talking about it with any of you one on one.  Where once lived shame, there is now soundness in my soul.

To give you a word picture…

Christmas eve 1985. We’d just moved to New Jersey that August.   I was picking at a little spot on the tip of my  finger as I waited for the Christmas eve turkey to come out of the oven.

Suddenly, out  popped  an inch long splinter.  It  had been buried ever since the day I had helped  Joe V. install a  set of new pine steps in a condo that previous September.    I had pulled a large splinter out of my finger at the time, not realizing a much larger piece was still buried.




Emotional pain can be like that.

Honestly,  I don’t think we even  know some of the times when we are still carrying around buried emotional splinters.

I will give you one example.

For years I have not been able to cry.  I could even trace it back to a specific incident.  I was  16 years old.  My 15-year-old brother and I got into a good-natured wrestling match in our front yard.  Mom and dad were sitting on the porch.  All of a sudden the wrestling match turned into a knock down drag out fist fight, with my younger brother,  kicking my butt.

Right in front of mom and dad.

I wept.

Tears of shame and humiliation.

16 years old, crying like a baby in front of  my parents.


I swore I would never, ever find myself in that sort of situation ever again.  What I didn’t realize however, was I had somehow flipped a switch in the recesses of my soul.  I completely lost the ability to cry, and I did not have a clue as to how to flip it back on later as an adult.

Flash forward 35 years…

The Fall of 2012 I found myself at a men’s conference, dealing with various addictive behaviors.  In that safe setting we were encouraged to call to mind any old hurts we might be still carrying around, because addictive behaviors are often times linked to emotional pain.  The rest of the weekend was spent learning how to identify buried  hurts, bring them into the open/ into the light,  process them, talk about them, etc.

I wept.

Yea me 🙂

One of the most powerful tools I came away from that weekend was a little  ditty that goes like this:

“I am not defined by the darkness…”

In other words, yea, there may be some dark things in my past I wished that were not there, but you know what, going forward, I choose not allow them to define who I am.

Those words continue to bear fruit 3 years later.  I am not and do not carry around the shame  of several life experiences.

Most of us are  carrying around at least one or two ( dozen? ;-)) deep dark things nobody knows about except us…and unless (and until) something forces us to deal with them head on, we will continue to pack them around like a donkey under a load of rocks.

Let’s face it,  dealing with emotional pain takes work. It takes courage.  Something has to be motivating me to change…a crisis… unexplained emotional upheaval..something…

I don’t think you have to relive every painful thing to get freedom, but I do think you need to at least bring the pain into the open.

Let the puss out, drain the wound. and give your heart time to heal.   There very well may be a scar…and even that is not a bad thing.  You may find yourself w/ a deeper sensitivity and compassion for others in the same boat.. You will definitely have a wisdom and insight not acquired from a book.


I’m convinced that most of the depression and emotional pain people fight is directly related to carrying around unresolved wounds that can be healed, if only they knew how.  DM



Vulnerability and Trust

I’m just not sure what to do…should I reside my house or paint it?”


“If you were my mom, here’s what I would tell you to do…


Sure I could use the work, but you are not even sure how much longer you are going to live here, and since as you said, money is an issue, then spending  $750 vs. $5000 would get you by for another few years…and if at that point, you want to side, we can talk again.”

Conversation between myself and 85 yr old widow named Helen.



Last week I met with another elderly widow I’ll call Delores.    She’d asked me to bid on some storm damage last Fall.  My estimate to do everything came to $2,500.  When I talked to her last week about starting the job, she had a concerned look on her face.   Some other repairs that I had nothing to do with ran over by several thousand dollars, and she had to come up with the difference out of her pocket.   She is on a fixed income, has major health issues and the last thing I wanted to do was give her additional financial stress.

After looking @ what really needed fixing vs. what was cosmetic, I was able to do my portion of the job for $750.  She was fully ready to pay me the whole $2500 but I can’t for the life of me fathom how someone would take advantage of a vulnerable person like that.


Vocationally, I followed in my father’s footsteps.  He was a building contractor during all of my formative years…He just retired a few years ago, at age 78.

Quick story about my dad…

Back in the late 1970’s a local bank approached  dad about general contracting  a new bank building.  In today’s dollars it would easily be a several million dollar job.

The job was done on a handshake. (My dad and the bank president.)


In addition to being a  general contractor/builder,  I also dabble in making custom-built kitchen tables out of reclaimed wood.

I met with Carol on Tuesday to discuss building her a kitchen table and two benches… She’d seen one of my earlier projects on my Facebook business page and wanted the exact same thing….

harvest table for sale

48 by 80 table and bench I built last Fall

Carol called before heading my way and asked about a deposit.  I told her,  I normally don’t take a deposit.’s a trust thing.

“Good for you,” she said.

Side note-  Last Spring I was asked to build 15 tables including a 12 ft  table for a new business.  In their case, I did ask for a deposit because of the amount of money I had tied up in materials but that was the exception.

I live in a pocket of humanity where trust is still alive and well.

We had a visitor last month who is from a larger metropolitan area.  He simply could not wrap his mind around the simple fact I trusted my auto mechanic to stand behind some work he’d done for me without a written warranty.

Anyway, I started this post with the intention of letting  my regular readers know that if ever you have a construction question and would like a neutral 3rd party, I would love to be a sounding board if I can help.  If I don’t know the answer, I will tell you.  It won’t cost you a cent.  That’s how we roll in Middle earth.  DM


Got any  stories about trust?

Want to order a new kitchen table ? 😉

(I build to  specs, finished, unfinished, etc.)

Here are a few other finished projects:



barn board head board December 2014




small tool box




When we just need to get away….

I could see several things in her eyes…



tinge of anger….

She said she just wished she could escape….


Tired of dealing with people.

It was late yesterday afternoon.

I stopped by unannounced to talk about  hiring one of her boys.

She asked me to come in.

Apologized for how she looked.   Said she just finished cleaning the cat’s litter box and didn’t like to wear good clothes doing that nasty job.

We talked briefly about my work situation, how I’d come to hear that one of her sons might be looking for work. Then the conversation just sort of meandered to talking about the needed repairs on her house, cuts in government funding that were directly affecting her work situation,  the pushy contractor who’d stopped last year to get her to hire him to shingle her house with his crew of Mexicans.  What bothered her was the way he talked about the crew…

When I got back to the car, where my wife was patiently waiting, I told her the stop had been a success.  Mother was going to give her son my phone #, let him know I’d stopped.

We will see.


I woke up this morning still thinking about the weariness I saw in her eyes.

That sense of wanting to just get out of town…to flee/ to escape to a quiet place…I’ve been there myself. More so during those years when the kids were little.   Trying to balance job pressures, marriage pressures, money pressures/ sick kids…Some of you know what I’m talking about..

I’m sure she didn’t realize it but she was quoting scripture almost verbatim:

    ” ….I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. “Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.”  Psalm 55:6,7

Words  written 3000 years ago by man  under intense pressure.

After we left her house, we stopped one of our state parks.

We saw just one van, other than that, we had the park completely to ourselves.  Some large bird, either an owl or a hawk, flew in low/ through the trees as we drove in.  We  walked through an empty camp ground down to the lake.  The ice was starting to melt.  A pair of Canadian geese weren’t sure what do think of us.  After doing a lot of honking they eventually took off.   They circled around  to the North and landed a couple of hundred yards away.  I’d never seen geese land on ice before 🙂

We walked across an old iron free span bridge built in 1878.  I looked at the 3/4 inch thick metal plating the bridge was built out of.   Moss covered  metal.  I wondered out loud if the nuts that held the struts together had ever been turned since 1878…

That’s how my mind works sometimes…


As I sit here this morning thinking about running to the locker,   I am surrounded by quietness.

It is not going to be that way much longer.   The frost is almost out of the ground..  I have a butt load of work ahead of me this year.  8 house roofs, some concrete flat work, a large addition,  and I just found out last week, my brother-in-law is still wanting me to help him build a new house.  I told him it would be late Fall before I was available.

The challenge will be to not let the details and pressures of the jobs, choke out the peace and quiet that I have  intentionally structured into my life.

 It’s not always simple but it is possible.

How do you like to unwind?




Ricardo Spadaro


On the way to work this morning I saw a scruffy old man trying to hitch a ride North.  An hour later, he was still there.   At 11:45 the guy had walked 2 miles back into town, carrying a large back pack, and guitar.  As I drove to the lumber yard, I noticed him sitting on the  steps of the Lutheran church, head in his hands.

A very small voice in my head suggested, maybe, just maybe,  I should offer to buy him lunch…hummm.

I wasn’t sure if that was “God’s still small voice”, or an over sensitive conscious.

A verse did come to mind….

” Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2

As I drove back to the job site, I thought to myself, what the heck, if he looks harmless, I’m up for a little adventure, it’s lunch time and my wife won’t be home today anyway.

He had vanished.

I thought,  he couldn’t have gone far, not with that large  pack. Sure enough, a block away, I saw him walking up to the door of the Catholic Rectory.  I pulled up along side him, rolled down my window and said, “How’ s it going?”

  (As I sized him up, he didn’t look like a homeless man off his med’s. I spotted a sign on his back pack, something about  Jesus, ….he was a slight man,  in his 60’s, probably one of those “Jesus people” from the 60’s I decided)

“Can I buy you a lunch @ Hardee’s?   I offered.

 I found myself talking to Ricardo Spadaro, on his way to the West Coast.

I need to stop for a second and say a few things.

First, I am not in the habit of picking up hitch hikers anymore…just too many crazies out there.

Secondly,  I am not in the “habit” of hearing God speak to me  at least in the way, my more charismatic brethren are…

Thirdly,  I am not  your touchy feely type.  I like my space, I do give hugs on  occasion, but I think it has something to do with  my German roots

Back to Hardees…as we got to the restaurant, I slipped Ricardo, a $20 and said, “Keep the change, this is my investment in your trip”. 🙂  (At this point, he gives me a big hug)

Oh oh, I thought to myself…I hope nobody  saw that 🙂

Ricardo, said he hadn’t eaten for two days,  he was out of smokes, and couldn’t thank me enough.  I decided @ that point, I would run him up to Hwy 20.  I would have to take an extra 1/2 hr for lunch, but I was having fun.

We took off,  food in the bag,  made another stop  so Ricardo could get a cup of coffee.  As we drove out-of-town, he pointed to the soybean field where he’s spent the night under the stars.

I heard someone hit a deer last night”.

I asked him where he was headed.  He  said he was heading West for the Winter.  Somewhere warmer.

As we got to his drop spot, he told me he wanted to give me a copy of some of his poetry. …


3/14/15 update.  I posted this in 2007.  I was thinking about Ricardo this morning as I headed into town,  past the spot where he’d slept the night and  heard the deer get killed.   Since that blog is no longer active I thought I should bring it back on-line here. On the other blog several people had reported interacting with him and updating his whereabouts. DM


The Old German Who Lives in my head

“Those old Germans were all about the money. 

I remember working for a neighbor all summer.  Long days, milking by hand. Field work with horses.  Finally, one day while the old man  was in town, I decided I’d had enough.  Went to the house and told his wife I was quitting.  She looked at me with kind eyes and told me she didn’t know how I’d put up with it that long….

Couple of weeks later, I came back with my dad to collect my summer wages.  The old farmer gave the money to my dad and I never saw a cent….”  from a recent conversation I had at a family get-to-gether talking w/ Lewis


This morning for breakfast, as I spread the home made wild black raspberry, strawberry and apple jelly I made myself  over the three pancakes, I was feeling blessed and centered.

One second later, a negative gruff voice was  telling me “Yea but, you should have been out  earning money , instead of messing around in the kitchen like an old woman making jelly.”

I stopped and thought about that for a minute.

Michelle challenged me last week to pay attention to some of the self talk in my head so I tried.

I asked myself, …

At the end of my life, am I going to measure the  success of how I lived my life based upon the number of dollars in my bank account?

Can I be really really honest with you? 😉

Right now, there is a real part of me that thinks I will…

especially when I am tempted to compare myself to my siblings.

I am the first-born.   I have 2 siblings in particular who both seem to have an  innate ability to make money.  I’m not saying they are greedy.  I don’t sense that.  I do know both are into rental properties, managing multiple businesses.etc and seemingly doing quite well.

I on the other hand,  have a really detached attitude about the stuff. (money)  I want to have the options that financial soundness can bring, but at the same time, I also consider the issue of stress when making financial decisions.

I am not a big risk taker when it comes to borrowing money, etc.

There is something all of us have called our stress quotient.

I took a test to measure it at one point and scored really low on the stress quotient.

Low meaning, I should not be building high risk spec houses or investing any money in high risk investments.  My personality is more suited to playing it safe.

The more I pay attention to the amount of self-imposed stress in my life the better I feel.

Here’s a picture of the old duffer who lives in my head:

old german

The old cuss that lives in my head

How about you?  Do you have anybody living in your head that reminds you of this mean old German that lives in my head?

If you do, what sort of things does he (or she) like to nag you about?

What do you tell yourself when you hear the nagging?

Any suggestions for getting rid of him or do I just have to live with him and make the best of it?

Turned Turtle

“I can still see that man …had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. Then the Doctor hollered. “Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” They poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering…. It took all day and all night… It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things….”

My grandpa remembering a train wreck just south of his farm near Langworthy Iowa  January 1929


I (DM) have been working on a local history book this Winter.  Decided to see if I could find any more information about that train wreck in the archives of our local paper.

I hit pay dirt within 20 minutes after I narrowed down the year and the month.

It read:

“The accident resulted when the train consisting of a double-header engine, mail car, and coach van ran into a heavy snow drift.  the train left Cedar Rapids at 8 o’clock Friday morning and was stalled at various times until it steamed out of Anamosa at noon.  the derailment occurred when the front engine jumped the track when hitting an unusually heavy drift.  Both engines were thrown to the left side of the track.  Engine number one ran up the side of the bank and then turned turtle.  when it stopped, the steam was still on and the wheels turning….

Roscoe Stevens of Marion was penned under a wrecked locomotive for more than three hours and suffered the compound fracture of one of his legs.  Both legs were badly burned by hot steam .  Mr Stevens suffered seriously from shock and exposure in addition to his other injuries.  It was necessary to use a large jack to raise the locomotive sufficiently to get him out….”


While looking @  weather data for the state in  January of 29 they experienced record snow fall amounts, (over 34 inches)  combined with temperatures averaging -3,  which created snow drifts as high as 10 feet,  hard as a rock…hard enough to stop a train.

That phrase “turned turtle” stuck with me this week.

I spotted 3 flies in a window sill yesterday morning, all of whom were  coming out of hibernation…all three had turned turtle.

They were thrashing around  on their back, going nowhere.


I like that phrase….turn turtle.

To Turn Turtle:  To find one’s self upside down, on your back.


Not dead (yet) but unless something changes, your long term outlook is pretty bleak.

You need intervention. 

You have turned turtle.

Sometimes I turn turtle.

Every few years something enters my life that totally bamboozles me.

To turn turtle is to be human.  But because we are proud folk, we thrash around mostly in secret, hoping no one will notice.  I am tempted to think, my set of circumstances is so unique,  such a convoluted knot of a mess, things are just unfixable.

And Iwould be wrong.

I may not know the right person with the answers (yet) but they are out there.


They may not live in my town.   May not even live in my state, but somebody, somewhere has a jack big enough to get my engine back on the track.

That jack can be something as simple as a book. Sometimes it’s been another couple we knew who was just a little further down the trail than us.  Multiple times it has involved calling to make an appointment with a counselor. It has even involve talking to someone 1/2 way around the country  until I had a breakthrough.

First step is to ask for help.

train wreck

1929 train wreck Grandpa told me about