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….”

Until We Had One

I mentioned in my last post, I started replacing the siding on a home that I’ve worked at before.  The family has the gift of hospitality with a capital H. When lunch time rolls around, it is expected I join them.   Well today, the youngest girl informed me, she wanted to sit next to me because (and I’m quoting) “I wanted to sit by you, because I like you!”   (Her name is Corine, she’s two years old.)  As we sat there waiting for everyone to get a seat, she told me, she couldn’t wait to get back outside and play with her bubble toys.

For a two year old, I was struck by her vocabulary.     I asked  two of the older siblings later in the day who were helping me side, who she was most like compared to their other brothers and sisters.  They weren’t quite sure, said Corine could get “sassy” sometimes.

As a dad myself of four, I thought I spotted a strong willed temperament the first two minutes of meeting Corine, and their comments about their baby sister Corine, all but confirmed it for me. 🙂

Hang on mom and dad.  You may be in for a ride.  The next sixteen (to twenty) years might test your metal…..

I’d never heard of a “strong willed child” until we had one.

Well, it’s 1:44 AM where I am.  Mostly wanted to write about my new lunch buddy Corine.

She is a sweetie!

Any of you out there in parenting land have any strong willed children within your ranks currently or in the past?  Any tips you’d care to share for the tired mom or dad that might stumble across this muse at a later date? DM


The house is still quiet.

This morning we are starting a new project, residing a house with hail damage. Insurance company could not find matching siding, so what should have been a 3 day job has suddenly turned into two  weeks.  I’ve worked for this family several times in the past, they have 8 kids ranging age from just a couple of years up to 20.  It is understood when we work there, they feed us lunch.

Here’s a portion of something I wrote last time I worked on this farm:


“You can sit by me if you like,” Jarret said to me at lunch today.

“Do you know why I asked you to sit by me?”, he asked.

“No, Why do you ask me to sit by you?” I replied.

“Because I like you! “he said with a shy smile.

Jarret is 4 years old.

He has been asking me to sit by him now for the past three weeks.

Our crew is building a shop at their farm.

They feed us lunch every day.

When I sit down at their  14 ft farm table  I think,...this is what it must have felt like to be a part of a large threshing crew..

dinner-for-threshers-unframed-center - Copy

Grant Wood’s Dinner For Threshers


Today lasagna  was on the menu.

Yesterday I thought  Jarret’s mom had asked if I wanted a piece of “cheese cake” for desert?
“Yummy I said..I love cheese cake…!

“No” she replied, I said  “sheet cake”

Whoops 😉

Well, today, guess what we had for desert?

Cheese cake topped with a blueberry filling.

I had to pry the guys away from the table today….

They did not want to go back to work.

John said it was the best tasting lasagna he’d ever had.


I work with a great bunch of guys.

The morale on this crew is second to none.

Nothing worse than working around someone with a bad attitude.

At this point in my life, when I’m looking to hire someone, the numero uno thing I am looking for is  ATTITUDE.

I don’t care if you don’t know how to properly hold a hammer or read a tape measure.

I can teach you those things.

What I really detest is a whiner, someone with a dark cloud following them around.


Jarret’s comments were still rolling around in my head when I got home from work tonight. (Heck, they are still rolling around in my head 3 years later) 😉

There is just something serendipitous about a 4-year-old   requesting that I be his lunch buddy 3 weeks in a row.

I will miss Jarret when the job is done…

Heck, I will miss the whole family…

Here is a picture of the shop we’ve been working on:


End view of shop


The word hospitality literally means “a lover of strangers.”

More caught than taught I would think.

I am excited to be on the receiving end of some good old fashioned hospitality the next few weeks.

I’ll let you know what we have for lunch as the job progresses.


Have you ever heard of  the term “threshing crew” and any idea what that would have looked like? What’s the closest thing to a threshing crew you have ever been a part of?






Decidedly No Longer A Hamster


I could see by the glazed look in Jordan’s eyes this past Wednesday, he was under pressure…The pressure  of trying to juggle all of the variables that come with coordinating a large remodel.

He looked at me mid sentence and laughed…”You really don’t care do you? “

I grinned, told him, “My mind was on  zeroing in a new scope I bought for my gun and picking the green beans in my raised garden bed….”

We never know what  pressures go with a particular line of work until we find ourselves in the middle of them.  And at that point, it is often too late to do much about them, at least short-term.

One of my sisters is an RN.  She used to work  on the intensive care floor of a regional hospital…commute 45 minutes each way, and often time found herself pulling a shift she would rather not pull, but because of staffing,  and the fact she had a house payment to make, she was stuck.  Stress. Eventually, a new job opened up at a hospital closer to home with 9 to 5 hours, no overtime/ no weekends, dealing with people in rehab.

Have another friend  who used to fly for a mid-sized private charter company.  The guy who managed things was….dare I say it?…an “Ass”   Absolutely no  concern for how his decisions  affected the families of the people who worked there…17 days away from home at a time was the norm.  Everything was all about the almighty dollar.   On top of everything else he was a bully. Verbally abusive.  My friend gutted it out for several years before finding another flying job….and again, house payments, and other financial pressures were in the mix.

In my line of work (construction)  work pressures can bury you.   Scheduling, dealing with suppliers, cash flow, weather, conflict,  help that doesn’t show, inspections, etc.   And if you multiply that by more than one job at a time, it can be quite a ride.

My dad ran a construction company for years.  At one point, they had twenty five guys on the payroll.  Looking back, dad said  they didn’t make that much more money than when they had a crew of nine or ten, just a  lot more headaches.  (Don’t think I didn’t tuck that little tidbit of information into my grey-matter.)

In the mid 1980’s my workaholics  / people pleasing, unable to say “no” to anyone but my wife behavior came to a head.   I was over committed/ burning the candle at both ends, with four little ones in tow.  To this day, I just shake my head when I think about what I was doing…

Put this picture on the wall in front of my desk as a reminder:


bucket list- hamster wheel picture

Business does not equal progress…I can be spinning that wheel like a crazy man, and going nowhere.

Words are powerful.

Came across the following the same time…

If you make it to the top of the company ladder and lose your family in the process…you are a fool.”

Felt like someone took a two by four and rapped me across my nose.

Here are some new words I introduced into my vocabulary during that watershed season in my life..




Here is a workaholic survey.

Check it out.

It really is possible to retool your life.

I know.

I am a first-born, former workaholic and I just scored 36.

Question… What are some of the unexpected pressures that are part of your life you never anticipated ? Could be work, family, or other.  DM