Red Cloud

Tuesday morning we headed west.

Hit the road for Red Cloud Nebraska.

A month ago, we were kicking around the idea of taking a road trip to see my wife’s Uncle L.   He is the last living connection my wife has with the small town of Red Cloud Nebraska.  When we were first married we would stop there every couple of years to visit aunt and uncle L.  When her grandpa was still alive we would see him too.

L. is 94.   All of his siblings are gone.   His wife passed away in 2011. His son lives out-of-state. L is  hard of hearing and has been for years. Talking on the phone is out of the question.   I haven’t seen him in  years, but always enjoyed bantering with him to the degree we could.  He had his own plumbing and heating business for years, so our conversations tended toward construction.

When you have a relative who is 94, you know it’s just a matter of time until you get “the phone call” so I really encouraged my wife that we should take the trip now.

We decided not to let him know we were coming until the day before, just in case something fell through.   Tuesday afternoon, wife called  the  facility where L lives, and  talked with Melissa.   She was excited  and  promised to give uncle L a note, to let him know we were coming the next morning at 10.

He never got the note.

L’s neighbor, Lavae (who lives two doors down ) got a message to expect a Mr and Mrs DM  about 10 AM. ) Lavue didn’t know who that was, figured maybe someone working on genealogy so he placed an order with the kitchen for some extra ice tea to serve his guests.  He waited two hours but they never came. 

We found this out while we were sitting in the large dining room table over lunch with a dozen other 80 and 90 year olds…


After we finished eating,  we checked uncle L out and  headed to his house to check on things. He moved into this facility this past December, so everything is just as he left it.

Just as I remembered it too…

The several dozen trophies in the trophy case he’d won racing go carts in his younger days. The cart still hangs from the ceiling in his garage.

The  Indian figurine in the hutch, the calendar still turned to  2015. The picture of his baby sister sitting at a desk when she was two, who has long since passed away herself.  A Christmas card on his desk from the nurses at the VA.

He has one of those walkers that has a fold down seat on it, so for a while we sat quietly in his living room, him on his walker seat, wife and I on opposite sides of the room in  stuff chairs.

You could hear a mourning dove just outside the window, singing that quiet mournful song they make. That bird’s song matched the emotions that were sloshing around in my head.  L said it felt good to just be in the house for a little bit.

We walked out into his garage.    We talked about a tool he wants to give his grandson when he’s gone.

I imagine, after living 94 years, to  get to the place where you are no longer able to live on your own, and have to leave 99% of your earthly possessions behind, it would feel good, even for a half hour,  to smell the familiar smells,  touch the old tools, look at old photos, and just sit.

I’m glad we went.



As someone who has battled  self control ,  the following quote by John Maxwell really speaks to me this morning. DM


“Integrity is not determined by circumstances.

Two people can grow up in the same environment, even in the same household, and one will have integrity, and the other won’t.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your choices. Your circumstances are as responsible for your character as a mirror is for your looks. What you see only reflects what you are.”

John Maxwell

Spiders Among Us

The following thoughts are darker than what I typically write about, but there has to be a place to talk about this stuff, so there you go..


On my night stand right now, I am reading the book by John Maxwell called The Winning Attitude. I like to start (and sometimes finish) my day, thinking wholesome thoughts.  What I fill my mind with does have a way of trickling down to how I feel…

“Garbage in garbage out”, I’ve been told they say in computer programming circles,  so I’m very mindful of that when I tell you the following….

Earlier this week, I read a story in our local paper  about Tony and Lynn.*   They own a local farmstead and are in the process of opening a small petting zoo.

That news really bothered me.

Few years ago, we had a guest stay with us for several weeks.  One evening she came home to tell me about an encounter she’d had, at a local upscale eatery. She’d met the nicest couple, Tony and Lynn.*  During the course of their conversation, Tony found out our guest was looking for short term work…Tony suggested talking with Lynn, who was an artist.  Lynn was always looking for people  to pose.  The gig paid $40 an hour. My guest was seriously thinking about taking them up on the opportunity.

What I knew, (and my guest didn’t know) was Tony and Lynn, were actively part of a lifestyle that promotes adultery, (they are swingers) and while I didn’t want to tell my guest how to live her life,  neither did I want  her naive as to who (and what) she was dealing with.

A human Spider….a predator.

spider - Copy

Google Image   Picture of *Tony  (not his real name)

Back in my teens I had an encounter with a predator “Tony like” in nature. Fortunately,  I sensed something was amiss and was able to leave before things got too weird, these many years later, the memory still gives me the creeps.

Used to have a lot of interaction with another blogger on the East Coast. She was a Christian, single mom, raising three young sons by herself.  At some point, she shared with me, something had happened to one of the boys  at the local skating rink that wasn’t good…something sexual in nature, with one of the workers..this was around the same time, something had happened to someone close to us.

Nobody gets a free pass this side of eternity.


“Be wise….yet innocent as a dove…”





Simple Things

Last night we watched the final two episodes of Pioneer Quest, a documentary filmed back in 2000. Two couples stepped back in time to 1870 to carve out a life on the Canadian plains  just north of  Argyle, Manitoba.  I’m not ashamed to tell you, I shed a couple of  tears myself last night as they said good-by…good by to neighbors, the family milk cow, then returned to the twenty-first century.

My guess is, you may be familiar with the series, considering how long ago it was originally released. That’s one of the joys of not having a TV….we have literally missed out on 95% of what’s played on TV since our TV broke back  in  1983.

Several things struck me as we’ve watched that nine part mini series.

Both couples, after their year was up, purposed to not get sucked back into the rat race. Their relationships with their mates had become much more of a priority, after their year together.

I already tend to be thankful for the simple things in life…but watching that series made me even more thankful!

Thankful for hot running water…. I can fill up our bath tub in less than five minutes and soak to my hearts content. I am thankful for an indoor toilet, soft toilet paper,  a stove that provides instant heat at the turn of a dial…a refrigerator (and freezer) both full of food.  A furnace that keeps me warm with the flip of a switch…a roof that keeps me dry when it rains….on and on….

I stepped out of the rat race  in the late 1980’s and for the most part have continued to keep my distance. (not get sucked back in.)

I’ve written on that topic before  here,   here, , here and here so I won’t repeat myself.

After watching Pioneer Quest, I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

I am not stuck in the rat race, relationships are a priority in my life, AND, I get to enjoy the plethora of modern conveniences that many people tend to take for granted in our 21st century.

east before going under

View on the way to town.

Whoever said, Iowa is all flat, and full of bean fields has never been to my part of the state.

view throught the walking trail #2

Sunrise in our wind break.

What simple things are you thankful for?



I was reminded of a conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear  today.  The conversation took place over forty years ago… One of those family gatherings, the ladies  were in the kitchen doing meal prep, men and children told to stay out-of-the-way…

I was in the next room and heard my name mentioned, so I slid over to the doorway to listen…

“Don’t you think Steve is just a little bit smarter than Doug?” grandma said to my mom.

“Now mom, they both get A’s and B’s, so I would say they are about the same! ”

“I don’t know, I still think Steve is just a little smarter!” grandma snipped back.

My brother Steve favors my moms side of the family. His  features and hair remind me of  Grandma’s first husband. (grandpa died when my mom was a little girl, so  I get why grandma might have been just a little more partial to him.)  Fortunately for me, I have a good relationship with my mom, and after everyone left that day, I told mom I’d heard the conversation from the other room, we talked about it and mom assured me, she was not one to play favorites.

After that, however, whenever I was with that grandma, to the day she died,  I knew she had her favorite, and it wasn’t me. 🙂

We went to hear some live music last night. Talented couple of musicians but by the end of the night, I had had enough. It was all original music, a lot of it written during darker periods of the lead musicians life.  He would give the backdrop to the song and after a while I would think to myself…“Not another dark one.”

Told my wife on the way home, “That guy is an angry man.”

Even though he’d written those songs (I am assuming) to help release the pain, it didn’t seem to  be working.  You could almost feel him trying to suck every little bit of empathy out of us as listeners…

I felt sorry for him.

I thought about those of us that are bloggers today.   Some of us, coming out of really painful situations write in an attempt to release the angst.  There is something healing that can happen when we share our hearts and  a random stranger comes along and  enters our pain.

That can be a good thing.

Once in a while I will stumble across a blog that is full of negativity.  I don’t stick around.

Where am I going  with this?

I’ve been able to process grandma’s crap and can even joke about it now.  On the other hand, there is another area of my life I am stuck in, and have been for years…I have another class reunion coming up and I am loath to go. I grew up in small town USA and every five years, I wrestle with whether or not I should go to my class reunion.  Most years I end up going, because I think to myself, I am a bigger man than that.  I do not want to turn into a small negative person the older I get.

I hesitate to write about it here, because I don’t want to be the negative musician I went to hear last night.

I know the issue is forgiveness.   Handful of encounters that continue to play on the loop in my head.  No one knows about them but me.  I don’t even want to tell you about them.I know the answer..I need to forgive…not for their sakes but for mine.

Any suggestions on effectively bringing closure to old hurts?

What do you do?  I am especially interested in hearing about old wounds from your days in school….



Another Kathy Story…


Kathy was going through the checkout line  at the local grocery store last week.  Jerry (a young man with downs syndrome) works there part-part time, and  helped her with her groceries.  Kathy slipped him a couple of dollars for a tip and told him to keep it quiet.  😉 He kissed her hand, winked and said “Thank you mam!”

The next part of this story involves their local fire department.

Kathy’s husband, and father in law are both on their local volunteer fire department. After Kasen was born with downs syndrome, the guys from the department took a special liking in him.

I guess a few months ago, one of the fireman had stopped by the grocery store.  Jerry spotted his blue fireman’s t-shirt and  wished  out loud he had one.

Well, yesterday was the big day…  both Kasen and Jerry were  presented with their very own dark blue fireman’s t-shirts.

Jerry  even got to suit up.

Here’s a couple of action shots from the day:

kasen and Jerry

Jerry and Kasen

fireman2 - Copy

There is a magical happiness that many of those with downs syndrome seem to possess.  Couldn’t help but think of a movie we watched last year when I heard about Jerry….

Have you seen Where Hope Grows?  It is powerful. DM

The Toad

Wednesday afternoon, we were just wrapping up on my job-site after pouring eighty feet of sidewalk and driveway.  I was tired and ready to call it a day.

The neighbor across the street came over and asked me if I could push a piece of his old sidewalk back about twenty feet before we hauled our equipment away.

“Sure thing” I said.

I was able to pick of the concrete by one end, instead of pushing it.   Movement caught my eye just as I was ready to set it into position.

A toad was  trying to hide under the moving concrete slab.

I stopped, opened the door of my cab, and pointed at the toad…

“Would you move him out of the way for me?” I said with a smirk.

The neighbor smiled, grabbed mister toad by the legs and gave him a throw.

That’s how we  I roll out in the here in the heartlands of Merica.


Google photo

On The Way Home From Work Tonight…

“Can I tell you about something that happened to Kathy tonight when she was heading home from work?  (My wife said to me a couple of minutes ago.)

(Kathy is our second oldest.)

“Kathy  was following behind a car whose tire started coming apart on her way home from work tonight.  She (Kathy) saw it was a young girl so she  pulled over to see if she could help…It was a college student from South Korea who was heading to Dubuque,  for a music rehearsal.    The student didn’t have any family in the United States, and didn’t know who to call about the car.  Kathy told her she would stay with her, until she got her car back on the road.

Kathy called WYZ towing, talked with Steve, who came right out.  Kathy asked Steve how much it was going to cost because she wanted to pay for it. When Steve heard she was going to pay, he cut the bill in half.  Thirty minutes later, the student was back on the road.  There were  even a few tears shed.  The  student was beside herself, could not understand why this complete stranger wanted to pay for the roadside assistance.”

Now that story just warms my heart tonight!

This is not the first random act of kindness I’ve heard Kathy doing.   She does this sort of thing on a regular basis.

Have you ever been touched with the random kindness of a stranger?  If so, could you tell me about it?