I Am No Polly Anna

I have not been my normal jovial self for months.

How does a person maintain their inner joy when the circumstances of their life begin to really crowd in?

I’m not sure I am the person to answer that, because in spite of me diligently guarding my mind, pursuing  positive thinking and clinging onto my faith as best I know how, I have become a grumpy person to live with (and work for.)

Much  of what has been coming out of my mouth has sounded a lot like venting.

I was up at 2 AM this morning, fired off an e-mail to a co-worker, that either he agrees to helping me finish the current project we are on, 5 days a week or I tell the homeowner they need to find another crew to help them finish siding their project.

It felt good to finally get to that point.

Felt like I  lanced a boil or pulled a tooth that has been throbbing for weeks.

Yesterday,  I was again without any help, ended up stocking a roof by myself (that is when you put the shingles up on a roof and disperse them, getting them ready for the roofer.)  20 square of shingles, over 4800 pounds of shingles.

A woman I know, quite well , would spend hours, editing and tweaking any pictures or words she would post on-line,  the image she presented to the world was one of polish.  I happened to have a ringside seat behind the scenes and while I get why she did what she did, the simple truth was, the image she attempted to portray was not real.   The person I saw was full of irregularities (just like me)

When she was at some of her low points, there was a beauty and vulnerability that was endearing…but when she was on her game (as she defined it)  she tended to be arrogant, and  extremely self-centered.

Anyway,  I think I may have turned the corner in the middle of the night with the anger, angst and stress that have been slowly building…at least for now.

I have no interest in living a Polly Anna life.

Neither do I want to be a dark nay-sayer, always thinking and seeing the worst.

While I have been pretty successful at keeping the dark, negativity out of my life when it comes to current events, (I simply limit the amount of media exposure I take in)

I am still learning how to keep my inner bearings when work and life pressures choke out the joy.

Here’s a link to  an interesting read if you have the time on this topic. DM

The Box Of Slides

Got home this afternoon from a whirlwind trip to meet our new grand-daughter.  After getting a bite to eat, checking e-mails, the weather forecast, etc.  I was still too wound up from 5 hours in the car, so I went out into our overflow storage room to plan…

On the trip, I had some free time so I started making a list of things I want to do, once I get caught up on work.   One of the things on the list is get the storage room organized…but I’m going to need a plan because there is just so much random stuff out there..(which was why I headed out there this afternoon)

Anyway, my eyes spotted a box my aunt Rosie had sent home with me a year or three ago…35 mm slides from great-aunt Annie who had died several years ago.  She was from Germany and my Rosie said there were slides in the box dating back to World War One.

Rosie gave me the box because she knows I love history.

A part of me wanted to just pitch the whole box because I really don’t have the time to look through 500 teeny tiny 35 mm slides of people I don’t know,  not to mention the writing is in German. ….but what the heck, I dragged the box into the house, and pulled out an envelope with some loose slides.  (Most of them are in plastic trays but a handful had been stuffed into an envelope.

First slide I held to the light I hit pay dirt.

It was a picture of me when I was about 3 years old. Aunt Annie had visited the US back in 1961 or 62.

I still remember that visit.

Grandpa and Grandma were still living on the farm. I remember getting lifted up into a wooden wagon, and hanging on as Grandpa picked ear corn…I can still remember the ears of corn shooting out of the picker, banging onto the wood floor.

There was a picture of the family dog Feedie sitting on the front seat of an old pick up.

A picture of my brother Steve and I dressed in  Lederhosen.

Some pictures of my grandpa unloading square bales of hay onto an elevator…

I have never seen any of these images before.  I shot a message to a friend who is big into photography tonight, asking what would be the best way to get some of them developed.

I’m thinking there may be a couple of them that would make awesome Christmas gifts..

We’ll see.

Here’s a couple of pictures from Aunt Annie’s visit I have seen before…

me in my lederhosen and the puppy

Me  and Feedie on the front porch of my grandparents farm

Brothers (1)

Me age 3

To be continued….


Update 10/30/2015

The Vupoint digital slide converter came today. (It scans and converts old 35 mm slides to a digital format)  Just getting started on it…here is one of slides from the box…a picture of myself and my brother Steve with Great Aunt Annie, about 1961.  Check out that bow tie 🙂 DM

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Of Grit and Bones… 10/23/2015

Dear Lisa,  Thought I would shoot you another quick update from my week…

A lot of big stuff happened via phone calls this week…

My cell phone rang while I was in the tub Tuesday night.  When I got out, I had a voice mail from the nurse at the Urologist.  She was following up on a PSA blood test and asked me to call her right back.  She’d  tried two times and even though it was only a couple of minutes later, the office was closed by the time I tried.

You’d be proud of me.  I didn’t let the  “not knowing  what the nurse wanted to tell me” rob me of a good nights sleep.  I was pretty sure the numbers were still elevated, but since I had just had a biopsy in April and things came back fine, I hoped it was a routine call.

8:30 the next morning I reached Jen, the nurse.  After she verified who I was, she let me know my numbers while still elevated were stable,and they would see me next Spring for my annual check up.

Ah, the simple joys of life… (reasonably good health.)

Wednesday night we got a phone call from our friend Leslie. She was calling to let us know, our friend Helen had passed away quietly in her sleep the night before.  Helen was a remarkable woman, lived to be 92, and the last several years have been filled with suffering.  She lost her sister, husband and grandson all within a few months span.  Broke her hip (I think) (and maybe one of her arms)..but due to the fragile nature of her bones, her age, and what her body had done the last time she had surgery, they decided the best thing to do was just put her in some kind of brace.

Thursday morning, I was 30 feet in the air, framing a roof.  Phone rang, it was daughter #3.  I answered because she was only a couple of days from her due date.  She was calling from the hospital to let me know, she’d just given birth to a beautiful baby girl….it was her first baby.

That same  morning,  a large formation of wild geese flew over us, headed South.   They were several thousand feet up.

What a breath taking sight.

My whole crew stopped for a minute just to take it in. ( One of the simple perks of working outside.)

Well, need to wrap this up. We have Helen’s funeral in the morning, then we are taking a mini road trip to meet the latest addition to our family. Alcina Kyra  6 pounds 9 oz.  18 inches long.

Stay in touch.DM

Here’s a poem titled Wild Geese by Mary Oliver I wanted to include:

Here are a couple of pictures from the week:

brady addition 2015 (3)

Two story addition I am currently working on. The peak on this side is close to 30 feet up. (and I hate heights) 🙂

large formation of geese

  (I did not have my camera on me, so I found this picture on line that is similar.)


John Muir (Sierra Club) longed to stay in touch with his sister Mary after he moved away from home. At one point he wrote her and said:

” Mary, you should put some grit and bone  in your letters… these small matters which occur in the neighborhood and which you do not think worthy of note are still of interest to us when so far from home”…..Affectionately JOHN

So anyway, this series of  letters  I’ve titled Of Grit and Bone are my baby step attempts to do just that.  DM

A Lobster Walks Into a Party….

Daughter # 2 gave me a subscription to Reader’s Digest for Fathers Day earlier this Summer.   As I was unwinding tonight, the following story made me laugh, so I read it to Mrs DM before hitting the sack.

Thought I would share it with you.

Quick side note….I am working on two challenging building projects currently at the same time, plus just getting to the end of a bumper apple harvest..I am mentally exhausted when I get home so I wanted to  apologize for not being as quick to acknowledge comments, interact with those of you that blog, as I normally do…things should be a lot better in another month.


Twenty years ago, I was at a party, talking to a guy whose name I have long since forgotten.  Sometimes I think this man came into my life for the sole purpose of telling me this story, which has delitghted and inspired me ever since.

The story he told me was about his younger brother, who was trying to be an artist ; it was an anecdote about how brave, creative, and trusting his brother was.  For the purpose of this story, let’s call the little brother Little Brother.

Little Brother, an aspiring painter, went to France to surround himself with beauty and inspiration.  He lived on the cheap, painted every day, visited museums, traveled to picturesque locations, bravely spoke to everyone he met, and showed his work to anyone who would look at it.  One afternoon, he struck up a conversation at a cafe with a group of charming young people, who turned out to be some species of fancy aristocrat.  They took a liking to Little Brother and invited him to a party that weekend in a castle in the Loire Valley.   They said this was going to be the party of the year.  It would be attended by rich and famous and by several crowned heads of Europe.  Best of all, it was a masquerade ball, where nobody skimped on the costumes.  Dress up, they said, and join us!

Excited, Little Brother worked all week on a costume that he was certain would be a showstopper.  He held back on neither the details nor the audacity of this creation.  Then he rented a car and drove three hours to the castle.  He changed into his costume in the car and ascended the castle steps.  Little Brother entered the ballroom, head held high.

Upon which he immediately realized his mistake.

This was indeed a costume party- his new friends had not misled him there – but he had missed one detail in translation:  This was a themed costume party.  The theme was “a medieval court.”  and Little Brother was dressed as a lobster.

All around him, the wealthy and beautiful were attired in elaborate period gowns, draped in heirloom jewels, sparkling as they waltzed to an orchestra.  Little Brother, on the other hand, was wearing a red leotard, red tights, red ballet slippers, and giant red foam claws.  Also, his face was painted red.  This is where I must tell you that Little Brother was over six feet tall and quite skinny – but with the waving antennae on his head, he appeared even taller.  He was also the only American in the room.

He stood at the top of the steps for one long, ghastly moment.  Running away in shame seemed like the most dignified response.  But he didn’t run.  Somehow, he found his resolve.  He’d come this far, after all He’d worked tremendously hard to make this costume, and he was proud of it.  He took a deep breath and walked onto the dance floor.

He reported later that it was only his experience as an aspiring artist that gave him the courage and license to be so vulnerable and absurb.  Something in his life had already taught him to just put it out there, whatever “it” was.  That costume was what he had made, after all.  It was the best he had.  It was all he had.  So he decided to trust in himself, to trust his costume, to trust in the circumstances.

As he moved into the crowd, a silence fell.  The dancing stopped.  The orchestra stuttered to a stop.  The other guests gathered around Little Brother.  Finally someone asked him what on earth he was.

Little Brother bowed deeply and announced, “I am the court lobster.”

Then: laughter.

Not ridicule – just joy.  They loved him.  They loved his sweetness, his weirdness, his giant red claws, his skinny legs in his bright tights. H was the trickster among them, and he made the party.   Little Brother even ended up dancing with the queen of Belgium.

This is how you must do it, people.

I have never created anything in my life that did not make me feel, at some point or another, like I was the guy who just walked into a fancy ball wearing a homemade lobster costume.  But you must stubbornly walk into that room, and you must hold your head high.  Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it.  You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time you were given.  You were invited, you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.

They might throw you you – then again, they might not.  They ballroom is often more welcoming and supportive than you could ever imagine.  You might end up dancing with royalty.

Or you might just end up having to dance alone in the corner with your big, ungainly red foam claws waving in the empty air.

That’s fine too.  Sometimes it’s like that.  What you absolutely must not do is walk out.  Otherwise you will miss the party, and that would be a pity because – please believe me – we did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.

By Elizabeth Gilbert from the Book Big Magic

Of Grit and Bone 10/12/2015

I mentioned last week I am currently reading a book on the life of John Muir (see previous blog post)  There was a letter he’d written his sister Mary who still lived at home in the book.  He longed for more specific  news  on the home front and sent her a sample of the kind of letter he wanted her to write..

Mary, you should put some grit and bone of that kind in your letters. Here is an example:

     Dear John,    We are pretty well, but are fast growing weary of the many changes which now seem to be of daily occurrence.  We now live in a room made in the upper part of the barn next the orchard.

     We reach it by an outside stair.  It is hard carrying up the wood and water.  Once I slipt and fell with an armful of burr oak firewood and sprained my weeping sinew.  The cattle  live in the house now – the cows in the cellar, the horses on the first floor, and the sheep upstairs.  Nan will not go past the cellar door, but we do the best we can.

      The apple trees are dug up and planted upon the cold rocky summit of the observatory where I am sure they will not grow well.  The cattle do not stand the severe weather well this winter.  They stand drawn together like a dog licking a pot.

     Aunt Sally is married, and Lowdy Grahm has whooping cough.  Write soon or sooner.  From your sis Mary.

I scribble that nonsense only to show you that these small matters which occur in the neighborhood and which you do not think worthy of note are still of interest to us when so far from home”…..Affectionately JOHN

We had guests this summer from the East Coast.  One of my regular blog  readers stopped by with her two daughters on their way home from a family reunion to spend an afternoon with the Mrs and I.  The following is a follow up note I wrote this morning to her based on some suggestions from John Muir on how to write a letter. 😉

Iowa   823 feet above sea level,

October 11, 2015

Dear Lisa

It’s still dark outside as I write…. Been thinking I wanted to jot you a note to stay in touch.

Yesterday was a big day.

Normally I save Saturday’s to play catch up around the farm, but I needed to work on my brother-in-law’s new house. There is still another week of framing to do  before it is ready to shingle.

Before going to work,I  set up the self-serve apple wagon along the highway. That normally takes about 15 to 20 minutes by the time I get all of the signs posted.  After that, I made a mad dash to the farmers market to drop off two  baskets of apples.  Another vendor  graciously offered at the beginning of the season to sell my apples so I didn’t have to set up..   While I love the interaction with the public on a Saturday morning, I have too many other things going this season to carve 3 hours out of a Saturday morning. When I went back at 11 to pick up my apple baskets, only $7.00 worth of fruit had sold.  Judy (another vendor) said she would buy any remaining Suncrisp I had left.

” They make awesome apple pies! she said.

Since there was almost a full bag left, I traded her two bags of peanut butter cookies for 10 pounds of fruit.

I wonder sometimes how many of the older vendors are on fixed incomes.  It has to be hard to bake all of those cookies, breads, and other goodies and have to take them home when  they don’t sell.

There was a light mist in the timber and the low-lying areas as the sun was coming up.  The neighbor’s black Angus spotted me when I stopped to take a picture.

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When I got to the job site, a mist was coming off the bog…


Mist on the ground

We framed all day,25 feet in the air. Worked until almost 7 o’clock. We do have a lift with a 12 foot cage to work at that height You would NOT catch me up there if I didn’t have that under me. 🙂

My brother-in-law invited me to stay for supper after we finished.  Took a couple more photos on the way home…here is one of my favorites:



Well, hope this note finds you well. Write soon!  Your friend DM


Have you ever lived far from home?  Remember the feeling of getting a personal letter?  Tell me about  a time you heard from someone that really encouraged you.  Why did it?

The Writings Of John Muir

I came across a quote by John Muir earlier this Summer and was struck by the force, word pictures, and the originality of it    Got me to thinking, I wonder if the other things he’d written would have the same zing.  So last week I finally received a book I’d bought on a hunch.

It is called : John Muir His Life and Letters and Other Writings

907 pages of pure escape.

Before discovering that quote (which I will include at the end of this post) the only things I could tell you about the guy was he had something to do with helping to establish some of the National parks with Theodore Roosevelt, had a woods named after him in California, and according to an anecdotal story, climbed a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm “Just to experience it first hand.”

I asked two of the guys I was working with last week if either one of them had heard of John Muir? Neither one of them had, although the guy with the college degree did say, he “thought he’d heard his name before but couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

Give me a book with personal letters and journal entries any day over formal biographies.  They give an intimate glimpse into a person’s life that can’t be done any other way.

I’ve discovered Muir and I share several things in common….(interests and personality traits)  As I’ve shared some of my discoveries  with my wife, repeatedly she’s commented, “Boy, he sounds a lot like you!”  (Even to our shared interest in saving, pressing and drying of wild flowers.)

So there you have it.

I’m all about balance and pacing myself, emotionally, spiritually, etc.

Thought I would give you a little peek into a book that is allowing me  to pull that off currently.


Here are some excerpts from John Muir.

You may recognize the first one.  Think I included it in a blog post earlier this summer.

“The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty. ….  the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and furrowed bole; not one is forgotten; the Mountain Pine towering with outstretched arms on the rugged buttresses of the icy peaks, the lowliest and most retiring tenant of the dells; they seek and find them all, caressing them tenderly, bending them in lusty exercise, stimulating their growth, plucking off a leaf or limb as required, or removing an entire tree or grove, now whispering and cooing through the branches like a sleepy child, now roaring like the ocean; the winds blessing the forests, the forests the winds, with ineffable beauty and harmony as the sure result…

….. pines six feet in diameter bending like grasses before a mountain gale…..” 


“Keep close to nature’s heart….and break clear away once in a while,

 and climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods.

Wash your spirit clean.”


john muir quote

How about you?  Did you ever hear about John Muir while you were in school?

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard about him, I would encourage you to look him up on line, then come back here and tell me something you discovered.   DM