Funeral Day

I should be in bed.

Can’t sleep.

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Went to a funeral visitation today.

Buried one of our pet cats yesterday.    Two tangible reminders in one week  to the  fragility of life.

I will miss her. (The cat)

She was feral.

We called her “Miss Kitty”.

Pretty sure she was abused before  she showed up at our door.  Never, really trusted us.
But she did have a special relationship with Libby. The two of them would snuggle together in the winter.

 

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Funerals, funeral visitations, receiving lines, that whole flurry of activity that comes with a death.   Mom and I were talking about all that stuff again recently.  She agreed with me when I said the less you say the better.  Hugs, warm handshakes, look the family in the eye…but no empty cliches!

That approach has served me well the last several times.

The month my father-in-law died, my favorite grandma also died, then a few weeks later, a third person.  We were emotionally numb.  I can still remember our friends Leslie and Mel, Chris and Kelly,  sitting in the foyer of the funeral home just hanging around.  They knew this was our 3rd trip to the funeral home in a month.  Just their presence there was enough.

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Few years ago, when we were more  involved hosting concerts, Beth Wood a singer/ songwriter stayed with us one weekend.  She had just released her album  Beachcombers Daughter.   One of my favorite songs on that album was called Funeral Day.

It goes  like this:

We were laughing, it was funeral day
I guess it might seem strange that we’d behave that way
It was just our bodies craving levity,
My grief a heavy blanket weighing down on me
So we laughed until the sun went down
Trading stories, passing the bottle around
Recalling all the good times we had
It didn’t seem so sad

It all started at the parlor doors
Cousin Henry’s kid tripped on an extension chord
We busted out, what else could we do?
Hell, I knew that you were up there crackin’ up, too
So we laughed until the preacher came in
Then we settled down and we listened to him
Staring at your photograph

It didn’t seem so sad

Well we got some dirty looks from the old blue-hair crowd
But with all due respect, I think we did you proud
By laughing out loud

…it’s just a simple story, we’re here and then we’re gone

So I laugh remembering that day
How we carried on and how it washed our tears away
I’m smiling and I’m looking back
It doesn’t seem so sad.

Sending this one out to all of you that are missing someone.

Whether it’s been just a few weeks or 20 years.

DM

 

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Parenting Cliff Notes

Parenting.

Just about the time you finally have some sense of how to do it, you’re done.

My thoughts turned toward the art of parenting again last night as I was on the phone with my wife. She is helping out our daughter who has a new baby.  As we were talking, I could hear the other grandchild in the back ground throwing a temper tantrum.  Since she isn’t my child, it isn’t my place to tell them how to parent,  and yet…

“What makes you think I have anything credible to say?”  You ask.

Now that is a great question! 😉

Especially since I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time.   Those last years  I was in  survival mode.

And yet,  I have  watched our four kids enter adulthood, start families of their own.  They love to come home to their mama and papa and, they get along with each other.  That’s the end game.  Work yourself out of a job.

I refuse to take credit for how our children turned out,  which in itself is instructive.

Children are remarkably resilient.

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I have been reading gardening comment threads on the Internet the past month.  Spring is in the air.  I was reminded again, just how many and varied are the approaches to gardening, and just how full of themselves are some of the “experts.”  It is such a turnoff listening to someone tell a Newby how to “do it correctly.” (Especially when I come from a completely different school of thought.)

So that is the last thing on my mind when I talk about parenting.  I do NOT have it “all figured out.”

The whole parenting experience (for me)  came to a head when our oldest two hit their teen years.

One of the girls (age 14) decided to run away.  If I remember correctly, she told us  she was thinking about running away because we were too strict.  She wanted to spend more time with another girl whose family  wasn’t like ours.   I told her to think twice, because if, on the outside chance DHS  (State agency that works with families) got involved, you never know..they could even removed her younger brother and sister  from the home.

Well,  those words fell on deaf ears, and the next thing I knew, she did  runaway.  She was still in town, but thumbing her nose at us as a family.  She was going to do just what she wanted to do, and that was that.

Well, this was all new, uncharted territory for me. I’d never run away myself although I had thought about leaving home when I was 16.  I’d read the book My Side of the Mountain, and magazine articles by  Euell Gibbons.   I remember  having a craving to eat cat tail root, catch crawdads, find a big old tree and live in the trunk.  I had a hunting knife and a hatchet, a sleeping bag, and a pup tent (in case I couldn’t find a big enough tree.)  I’d been in cub scouts when I was younger, so I was pretty sure I had what it took to survive….but that was about as far as it got.

We gave her two days, then decided it was time to reel her in.  It was Summer.  Baseball season.  My sources told me she was at a little league game down by the fairgrounds.

I called our pastor at the time and asked him if he wouldn’t mind riding along with me to pick her up.

I went to the game.  Saw her sitting on the end of the bleachers.  She glared at me when she saw me. I  told her it was time to go and to get in the van.  She could see I meant business.   We headed to our pastor’s house  and sat down at the kitchen table.  I told her she had two choices.  Boarding school or two weeks at my cousins who lived several hours away.  He  was married, had a  young family.   He had a reputation for being VERY strict  and the last place our kids would have chosen to spend the summer….

I told her (with tears) that I would not sit by and watch her or anyone destroy our family.  I reminded her again about the very real possibility of DHS coming in and pulling her younger brother and sister out of the house, and that hadn’t mattered to her.

It was a watershed moment in our relationship.

She decided to go to my cousins, for two weeks.

When she came back, there was a  change in our relationship, (for the better.)

You’ve heard about strong-willed children?  Yep, she is one and I love her to pieces.  The stories she brings to our lives now, well, I could write a book.

The challenge is to break that defiant, in your face, bad attitude without, breaking their spirit.

If you’ve bought into that siren song of being your child’s friend first and everything will all work out, then I wish you the best…I will have to admit, I bought into some of that, which in hindsight was a big part of the confusion.  When they start telling YOU how it’s going to be, maybe you will think back to this post and drop me a note and we can talk.

I’ve taught  Jr high, high school and college classes, as well as managed a construction crew, all of which has helped me tremendously on the road  to be a wiser parent…it’s funny, many of the same principles apply.

Without respect (and it goes both ways) it’s only a matter of time before things  get crazy (Home, school and work.)

There is absolutely a place  to have  “fear of consequences” in the back of a person’s mind, then being willing to deliver on them when you are tested.

When love, respect, clear expectations, and real consequences are in place, then you are at a good place.

 

 

The Man from the lobby

I had an hour to kill.

Decided to sit in the hotel lobby and people watch.  I was in town to give another presentation of a book I had gotten published the year before.

Then I saw him.   A man who had attended a previous presentation I had given 6 months before.  Felt a low-grade panic settle in my gut.  All I knew about the man was he too was an author.  Pretty sure he was a college professor.  My biggest concern was a good portion of my presentation would be similar to the one he had heard 6 months before.

Dang.

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I’m one of those people who when faced with a fear, 9 times out of 10 I will got after it head on, rather than stew.   I decided to head to the conference room early and re-introduce myself to the man from the  lobby.

He wasn’t hard to find.  He was sitting close to the front, right behind my table.  I walked up to him, and said I remembered him from before.  He instantly lit up. I put one knee down on the carpet, next to the table, and confessed to him, much of what he would hear  this afternoon was probably going to sound familiar.  I’ll never forget what he told me.

” You need to make sure you tell the story you told before, the one about the feedback you’d received on your rough draft. Bill So and So and I talked about that after your presentation.  That was so powerful.”

I looked him in the eyes, and thanked him profusely…for you see, the last time I had given my presentation, I had vented to the assembled.  I had gotten off my notes and shared some behind the scene angst on the writing of my book.  I questioned the wisdom of doing that at the time.  Come to find out, this seasoned author, this man from the lobby,  had been touched by that story, as much, if not more, than by my book.

We never know, do we.

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If you’re a long time reader, you may remember.  I’d written the introduction and first chapter to a book.  Shared it with someone I used to get together with on a regular basis, who had had several things published and seems to know what he was talking about when giving feedback.  Well, his feedback, while well meaning, was brutal.  I ended up second guessing myself to the point, the book project was shelved from 2008 until 2015…

7 years.

Then after 7 years, I still had this book rumbling around in my head.  The internal pressure began to build.  Those of you that have to write know what I’m talking about.

I had to get it out.

Even if it didn’t  measure up.

So in 2015 I wrote  the rough draft.

Then in 2016 I got it published.

 

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Here is an excerpt from my favorite writing mentor Brenda Ueland from her book If You Want To Write:

“How does the creative impulse die in us?  The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: “Trite, rewrite, helped to kill it.  Critics kill it, your family.  Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands. Older brothers sneer at younger brothers and kill it.  There is that American pastime known as “Kidding” – with the result that everyone is ashamed and hangdog about showing the slightest enthusiasm or passion or sincere feeling about anything….

You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls, when they see you have written something, become at once long-nosed and finicking and go through it gingerly sniffing out the flaws. AHA! a misspelled word! as though Shakespeare could spell! As though spelling, grammar and what you learn in a book about rhetoric has anything to do with freedom and imagination….

And so no wonder you don’t write and put it off month after month, decade after decade.  For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious.  The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more.  Tell me all you can.  I want to understand more about everything you feel and know….Let more come out….

Yes, I hate orthodox criticism.  I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them when they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.

I hate it not so much for my own account, for I have learned at last not to let it balk me.  But I hate it because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages that it snuffs out every year.  It is a murderer of talent.  And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first to get killed off.  It is the brutal egotist that survive…

…. and so now you will begin to work on your writing.  Remember these things. …Work with all your intelligence and love.  Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you.   Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters…”

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Well, time to get to work.  🙂 Later! DM

 

Hacked

My dear friend Chris (who occasionally reads this blog…Hi Chris!) gave me the ultimate compliment yesterday…he noticed “zen like” qualities in my life.  I looked up the word Zen  just to see what he might  be seeing….

Webster defines  zen as a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.  

A short story of  my Zen like reaction to having been recently hacked….

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Wife received a call three weeks ago from our credit card company.  Someone had  switched our mailing address to Florida, was that us? The representative on the phone said,  I (DM)  needed to get back to them. (I was taking @ nap at the time).  The number they left did not correspond to the number on the back of our credit card, so I called the one on our credit card instead…it is really hard to know who to trust anymore… Was the call, a scam itself? 

When I finally got through to customer service,  I could not answer enough of the security questions to their satisfaction..(questions like, when I did I open the card?  What were the last several transactions and amounts, etc?)

I don’t carry that sort of stuff around in my short-term memory..heck, I have trouble remembering our kids birthdays sometimes… 🙂

Ron the older man on the other end of the customer service line with a gravelly voice, apologized but said, I would need to physically go into our local bank.

Went the next morning…

Discovered that not only had someone successfully changed our address, they had also apparently gained access to our on-line banking with full access to a lot of stuff.

At one point, there were three bankers in the room, trying to figure out some detail..one of them looked at me and said, “How many bankers does it take to fix this?  (I like her attitude)

Three hours later, I left the bank…Their security division put a freeze (then closure) on all of our banking connected with them.  We were encouraged to start over with new accounts, new card, yada, yada…

So that was still in the process of getting straightened out yesterday when I went out to get the mail…

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In the mail, we received a bank/ credit card statement… as I looked it over, I noticed  there was a $25 rush fee, and the last four digits of a new number at the top of the page..

I picked up the phone, called customer service, again,  explained why I was calling…and then a light bulb went on.

A new card had been issued the same day I was @ the bank, and they had put a rush on it…SENDING IT TO THE ADDRESS IN FLORIDA  of the hacker…PLUS dinging me $25 for  the privilege of doing so.

“They sent the “F”ing  new credit card to the address of the hackers.” 

It came out of my mouth before I could stop it.

I have to be honest.  It felt good.  I used to cuss like a sailor…that dirty habit, has all but become dormant…but not completely.

There is a time to get angry in a zen sort of way.

That’s my story young grasshopper.

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Any of you old enough to remember David Carradine and  the TV series Kung Fu?

 

 

 

The Talk

The past couple of months # 1 son and I have been doing remodel  projects together, projects that he had acquired.

This past year  when #1 son came back to work part time, I was the one who has lined up the work, and he was the helper.)

I caught myself a couple of times  the past month, possibly overstepping my role.  It happened again yesterday, so I decided to breach the subject this morning.  The last thing I want to do is cause him additional work pressure.

It is one of my few pet peeves…
Working with a “know it all.”

I have traditionally hired people with little or no construction experience, intentionally.  I would rather train someone to do it my way than constantly debate how to approach a given task.  It makes for a long day.

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The process of mentoring is not an exact science.   It is a lot like parenting.

You haven’t ask, but I will give you the short version of my approach to parenting:

The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job.

Then, at some point,  (changing word pictures),   just like the eagle, there comes a time to “stirs the nest”  ie.  Kick  young eagle out of  nest  where it’s flap or die… 🙂

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It is important to know when to speak up and when to let the school of life kick in. I’ve always been a big advocate of letting natural consequences play themselves out.  Told my young eagles early on, with a smile on my face, that if, in the event they found themselves behind bars, not to call looking for bail money.

Some of the most powerful life lessons  are the ones not learned out of a book…but I digress.

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Now that #1 son has begun to bid and line up work, I would rather err on the side of him asking me for my input rather than just assume he is looking for “suggestions” from his all-wise father.

The conversation this morning, went refreshingly well.  Son assured me, I had not (yet) overstepped my bounds.  He had not (yet) felt frustrated with me sticking my nose where he didn’t want it.  On the contrary,  he said, and I’m quoting now,  “It is good to have several pair of eyes looking at certain situations…one person may see something another person is missing.  It happens all the time in masonry work.” 

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Here are some  action work photos from the past:

Learning to do flat work.

Teaching how to use a hand saw 20 years ago.

Flying solo, cutting tile with a wet saw and diamond blade.

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Later! DM

 

Why I Write

Got a call this morning from a friend.  Their family was in the middle of one of those situations where you are grasping for straws.

Just so happened, I’d walked through something very similar 10 years ago.

We talked for 5 minutes,  I mostly listened…

When it seemed appropriate, I shared just enough of my story to let her know I  got it….I put into words some of the confusion she was feeling.  By the end of our conversation, I heard  just a glimmer of hope in her voice.

I called her tonight just to check on her.   Still not out of the woods, but at a better place than this morning.

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Dawned on me tonight, that is the main reason I keep this blog.

CS Lewis wrote: ...”I read to know I am not alone.” 

Well, I write to let you know you are not alone.

Real life is full of ups and downs, highlights and low lights….if I am to believe social media,  then many people’s lives are one big success story….and we both know that is not true. Life is a mixed bag.   Currently things in my life are on an even keel…and I like it that way.  If a person dropped into my life for the first time right now, they’d never guess some of the stuff I’ve wrestled with and won.

Friend of mine joined a grief support group a few years ago after loosing one of her children.  One of the older women in the group had buried a husband and two children.   When she spoke, (the older woman) she spoke with insight forged on the anvil of life.  She said she had credentials.  She wasn’t just spouting theory.

That pretty much sums up where I am coming from.

If you dig a little deeper on this blog, there is some darker stuff as well, and I’ve put it there intentionally.

Yes, I’ve been known to write about refinishing  a claw foot tub,  tending an apple orchard, or dealing with a testy neighbor…. At the end of the day, my main intention is to share my ordinary life with anyone who cares to follow along.  I work real hard at not spouting trite platitudes…

I hate them.

Two days ago, a friend shared with me in confidence  something he had been thinking.  I told him, I’d had similar things go through my head before..

“No way!   Really?”

Oh yea. 🙂

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That is the long and short of it.

Gonna leave you with a song…make sure you turn up the volume. 😉

DM

 

L’chai-im

“To life, l’chai-im! 
L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! 
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, 
Next day a stomach ache, 
Drink L’chai-im, to life!

From the movie Fiddler On The Roof

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I saw two pictures yesterday that  made me think. First one was a young woman in a glittery golden dress at a wedding.  The second picture was the same young woman three days later in a dark sweatshirt, holding her sick baby.

Life. L’chai-im

Life is a mixed bag.  Good stuff/ blah stuff / sometimes  soul crushing stuff/ all rolled into one big happy meal.

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I turned 60 on Tuesday.

It was not a good day.

Had nothing to do with me turning 60.   ( I still love being this age for all of the reasons I mentioned  a week ago. (see here)

Nope, what tripped me up was my plumber not coming to hook up the claw foot tub I have been refinishing  for my birthday.   He knew it was my birthday/ I’d touched bases with him just two days before to confirm Tuesday would work. No exaggeration, I have been patiently waiting, literally for weeks, figured this would be the perfect way to celebrate my special day.

I had visions of me having a celebratory soak in the tub…maybe a glass of wine…

It never happen.

He told me he was buried in service calls and would touch bases at noon.  That never happened either. (He never called.)

By mid morning on my special day, my good attitude was in  trouble and by 1 PM I was stuck.

Stuck in a mopey  low grade funk  that 24 hours later morphed into anger.

Tripped up by an expectation.

I should know better….But it was my 60th…how many 60th birthdays do we get?  Am I not entitled to having just a few expectations?  🙂

I reminded myself, I had a fully functioning bathroom on the 2nd floor…and there are millions of people all around the world right now that would love to have indoor plumbing with hot running water/ and I am sulking just because I am not important enough for my regular plumber to make me a priority on my 60th birthday for cryingoutloud….

It took me the better part of two days to regain my equilibrium.

Two days!!!  I  give myself a D- on that one.  Something that should have taken mere seconds, taking 2 days…wow.

I was “probably” not the easiest person to live with….

I posted a picture of the tub last night on Facebook after I finally shook off my funk:

Claw foot tub almost ready.

My plumber buddy saw the picture, apologized for dropping the ball on Tuesday and asked about my rubber ducky?

I told him “No worries.”He was still my favorite plumber but I didn’t have a rubber ducky.”

Last night I was pricing  large rubber ducks on Amazon .  

Yea, I’m easily entertained.

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And then, in the mail yesterday, I got a letter and $25 cash from an Amish farmer.  He profusely apologized for his tardiness in paying me and his rubber check.  He asked me to forgive him. 

I already had.

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We are going to a benefit lunch today for a 54 year old woman I know who works behind the meat counter at our grocery store.  I used to work with her at my sisters restaurant.  I’ve always liked her.  Down to earth/ no airs about her.  Three months ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and bone cancer.

Don’ think I haven’t been smok’n that one in my pipe…

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Time for coffee….

DM