Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.¬† ūüôā

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Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. ūüôā

I would say:¬†¬†“Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.”¬†

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax¬†instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.¬† That was deep.¬† I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,¬† with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)¬† I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve¬† been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.

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A friend of ours  recently updated us about  her son. Son  lives on the east coast.   Both he and his wife have great paying stress filled jobs.  Just had a new baby, (that makes 3)  Son recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree, (while still working full-time.)   Made me stressed just hearing about their lives..  I know her son just a little.  Good guy.  I like him.

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Dad is 86.¬† Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.¬† Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.¬† We never saw him except on weekends.¬†Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.¬† I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in¬† dad’s priorities after that.¬† He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.

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It’s all about balance.¬† Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”¬† and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.”¬†

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

 

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.¬† I appreciate each and every one of you!¬† If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” ūüôā

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM

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Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.¬† The temperature¬† yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and¬† exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.¬† ¬†I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.¬† The learning curve is crazy steep.¬† I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.¬† Fortunately for me,¬† there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current¬† project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy¬† fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”¬† I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.¬† We¬†took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.¬† Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.¬† She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.¬† He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.¬† Great union benefits.¬† ¬† I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.¬† ¬†That is not the first time this has happened.¬† Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.¬† Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. ūüôā

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has¬† changed.¬† Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves¬† and our plane.¬† Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that ūüôā

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.¬† If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.¬† ¬†If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

Reflections

I (DM) got a phone call two weeks ago from our local nursing home.¬† Halley (director of activities) wanted to know if they could stop by in a bus, then I could tell them a little bit about our setup.¬† It wasn’t going to work with my schedule, but I did offer to come to town to the nursing home and do a little program.

That was yesterday morning.

It was a hoot.  I made up a version of Jeopardy.

Guys against the girls or as  we put it. drones against the worker bees.

Some of categories included: Apple Trees, The Birds and the bees, Enemies of the Orchard, and Johnny Appleseed.¬† Rather than me just talk, it was an interactive presentation.¬† Even with my helping¬† (just a little) the drones lost.¬† I started out asking if any of them could remember the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940?¬† (Several could)¬† Reason I asked that was because before that storm, Iowa¬† was number 2 in the nation in terms of the apple producing states, second only to Michigan.¬† The blizzard and ice storm¬† decimated the apple trees and since farmers could not afford to wait 5 to¬† 7 years for a paycheck, the orchards were plowed under and turned into corn fields.¬† How sad. ūüė¶

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The following ditty I found on line, was in the back of my mind as I looked out over the men and women sitting before me:

“What do you see nurse?
What do you see, nurse… what do you see?
Are you thinking – when you look at me:
“A crabbed old woman, not very wise;
Uncertain of habit with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice ‘I do wish you’d try.'”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe;
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse. You’re not looking at
me!
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still.
As I move at your bidding, eat at your will:
– I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another;
– A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon a love she’ll meet;
– A bride at twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep;
– At twenty-five now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
– A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast.
Bound together with ties that should last.
– At forty, my young sons have grown up and gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn;
– At fifty once more babies play ’round my knee
Again we know children, my loved ones and me…
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years
and the love that I’ve known.
I’m an old woman now, and nature is cruel.
‘Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart.
There is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now again my bittered heart swells;
I remember the joys, I remember the pain
and I’m loving and living life over again;
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last;

So open your eyes, nurse, open and see…
not a crabbed old woman.
Look closer… see me!”

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Pictures compliments of Google images:

Q and A with Dr Philly

Attended a wedding reception last night.  Sat next to Don and Philly.

Haven’t talked to them in years.

Lots of laughter coming from our table @ the reception I was told.

Told them I’d been¬† talking¬† about them just the week before! ūüôā

“No wonder my ears were burning.” Philly said.

“It had to do with parenting¬†I said.¬† I remember one of them making the comment, years ago, that one of their goals as parents was, if one of their kids was acting up at a basketball game, all they had to do¬† was to look across the gym and their child would straighten up.”¬†¬†

Don gave me a knowing smile.

(None of this, “I’m going to count to three stuff or else.”)

Then I reminded them¬†about another conversation that we’d had with them during that same season of our lives.

(A conversation to this day ranks as one of the all time most helpful, most impacting, conversations of my life.)

The conversation had to do with sex.

Philly was an RN, same age as my mom.¬† We as a couple were dealing with¬† the normal tension and stress many couples experience in the area¬† of sexuality. Don and Philly were attending the same church we were at the time, and even though they’d been married 40 years, there was definitely a “spark” in their relationship. They were doing something right.¬† I really wanted to pick their brain.¬† When I need input in my life, I would much rather talk with someone with practical experience than one who is just book smart.¬† ¬†Out of desperation really,¬† we reached out to them as a couple to see if we could talk to them about the area of sexuality.¬† ¬†Don suggested we talk to Philly, because of her background and personality,¬† she was more than happy to do so.

We ended  up driving around town  while we talked.

Think Private conversation with Dr Phil ūüėČ

Where no question was a dumb question.

What about ___________?

What about ____________?

On and on.

Conversation went on for a good hour.

Laugh….boy did we laugh. ūüôā

You can cover a lot of ground in an hour if you have to.

Came away from our time together both of us feeling heard.

We were able to untangle some knots in our relationship, that frankly, I’m not sure we would have ever been able to untangle on our own.

Don and Philly¬†are in the mid 80’s now.¬† There is still a spark in their relationship.

Don and Philly, thank you for being willing to open your lives to a young struggling couple.

DM

 

 

 

The Persuader

A couple of Sundays ago a tour group from¬† Northern Germany was in our area.¬† The expressed purpose of the tour was to connect with long lost cousins who had immigrated to our area from about 1880 into the early 1920’s. My great grandfather and my grandmother, both on my dad’s side had done that very thing,¬† ( immigrated from Ostfriesland) so I asked¬† dad if he was interested¬† in attending a meet and greet¬† that Sunday.

Picture of my grandma on the deck of the Dresden  immigrating to America in 1929.  (She is 2nd from the right)

As we walked up to the pavilion, half a dozen older ladies that I didn’t know and a guy I did were sitting on a rock wall.¬† The German tour group hadn’t arrived yet so we stopped to talk.¬† Turned out the ladies were all 1st cousins to each other. The Barker clan.

I mentioned I’d worked with a John Barker back when I was 16. He was framing a house for my dad.¬† Turned out John was their uncle, one of ten brothers.

(Can you imagine???? One of ten???!!!!)

The wheels in my head began to spin.

I wasn’t sure how much to say about old John B.

These were all ladies, and John was long gone.

I remembered his thick German accent, his bib overalls, his big belly…He had a short temper and an infatuation with a word that started with “f”.¬† ¬†He lived on an acreage on the edge of town.¬† I graduated with his daughter Kristi.

His wife had the sweetest disposition.

It was always a mystery to me why in the world she’d married him.

I ended up telling them the following two snippets of information:

First one had to do with the¬†¬†German word for sledge hammer that John had taught me. He called it the¬†¬†“uben-schlogger”.¬†

Right away, one of the ladies (Barbara)¬† got excited, grabbed her German/ English¬† dictionary and tried to look up “Uben-schlogger.”¬† I knelt down beside her.¬† We found something close, but¬† weren’t quite sure.

Another snippet  I told them was about time John was roofing a big barn.

His helper was nervous.¬† Didn’t know if he could do it.¬† John, in his thick accent barked:

“Get up on the roof!¬† I command you!”¬†

You would have thought I was a rock star.¬† Everybody sitting on that rock wall was soaking up every morsel of those details of good old uncle John.¬† One of them (Denise)¬† was writing everything down in a spiral notepad.¬† She “couldn’t wait” to get back home to Texas¬† and share these stories with her sisters.

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The next Monday @ work, I was telling Jason about my encounter with John’s nieces.¬† He looked at me and said,¬† “John was not the one who told you about the Uben – schlogger…and besides, it’s not pronounced Uben -schlogger…it’s Uben schweiger” (the persuader).¬† We learned it from Thomas.” (Another young German¬†who worked with Jason¬†and I back in the early 1990’s)

I told him I liked my word better. ūüôā

We had a good laugh.

There I was, a lover of local history,  blending stories.  Something funny and not quite right about all of it at the same time.

In the end, I was able to track down Denise on Facebook.¬† Sent her a message, told her the story. Just in the nick of time she said. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to her sisters yet.

Early picture of me showing off with an uben schweiger:

The goal is to touch your nose with the sledge while keeping your forearm straight.

 

Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron¬† comes to the front door and starts scratching.¬† He wants two things.¬† First, a snuggle.¬† He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.¬† ¬† I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.¬† ¬†He was a half-grown kitten at the time.¬† If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.¬† ūüôā

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.¬† Dad is 86.¬† Until a week ago, he was still driving.¬† Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.¬† Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.¬† Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.¬† ¬†Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)¬† Quite a bad break.¬† Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a¬† nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.¬† Surgery went better than expected.¬† He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.¬† My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.¬† Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.¬† They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

¬† ¬† Work.¬†I am in the middle of a large remodel.¬† It has been a mixed bag.¬† House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.¬† Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.¬† It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished¬† enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.¬† Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.¬† I saw some yellow fungus¬† starting to grow on the side of house Monday.¬† ¬†One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)¬† That ticked me off.¬† His phone has been surgically¬† attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.¬† ¬†He didn’t answer.¬† That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?¬† Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)¬† Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,¬† 4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.¬† We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in¬† front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.¬† Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.¬† Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,¬† I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.¬† I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.¬† He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”¬† ¬†

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

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Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

Honest Work

When my husband Matt was about ten years old, his grandfather started taking him to the family cherry orchards on Saturday afternoons.¬† Matt would work alongside the farm hands, whistling as he went, to let his grandfather know he wasn’t eating any of the cherries intended for the bushel. a full day’s work netted Matt 50 cents.¬† If his grandfather bought him a hot dog and soda, they called it even.

As a teenager,¬† his dad would call up from the breakfast table, “Two minutes!”¬† Matt knew better than to challenge – he was dressed, fed and out raking leaves or tilling soil before the sun had risen over the ridge.

I was horrified by these stories during our first years together.¬† I mourned for his lost childhood, thinking gratefully of my¬† Saturday mornings in front of the cartoons, slurping cereal.¬† After we were married, though, I noticed quickly he’d be done with his chores while I was still cursing over the dishes.¬† His focus was intense but cheerful.¬† He got the job done well and quickly because he put himself completely into the task – because he’d learned to enjoy honest work.

No matter if he’s cleaning the gutters or finishing a report, Matt embraces each project as an opportunity for expression.¬† His lovingly stirred spaghetti sauce says, “I feed and nourish our family.”¬† His well- weeded garden says, “I savor my connection to the earth.”¬† Through example after example, he demonstrates the key to happiness in whatever we do.¬† Matt’s lesson: All work – on the field, in the factory, or on the computer – can be honest and fulfilling, if we approach it from a place of devotion.

As Matt has shown me, honest work is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose.¬† ¬†Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too we are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick – or compost pile or database or cherry pie – at a time.

By Mariska Van Aalst from the book 50 Things that really matter

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My wife read this to me  this week, said it reminded her of me.

I’m sure our kids have stories to tell.

 

Daughter  pouring concrete with the Papa.

 

Never too young to start. (Grandson and I at his first pour)

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I was thinking about this essay on work again this morning.¬† We had an early Saturday morning cement pour¬†at my daughters house.¬† It was a small pour, as far as pours go…just 12 yards of concrete. (See photo @ beginning of this post.)

12 yards = 2 truck loads

Lots of friends and family showed up to get-er-done as they say. Cement truck got there at 7:15 and I was back on the road heading home by 8:30.¬† ¬† ¬†I love that my 60-year-old body¬† enables me to still do this sort of thing.¬† ¬† I did break a sweat, but the rush of endorphins kicked in 3 minutes after I started moving concrete.¬† I know there will come a day, if I live long enough, that I will leave the concrete work to younger men..but until then…

I’ll round this out with a couple of crew pictures…one taken when I was 19 and the second, this past week.

I love my job.

That’s me holding a can of Old Milwaukee back in the day

Crew photo from earlier this week, just after we finished hand setting (20)  30 ft long by 8 ft high garage trusses.

Later! DM