Doing Hard Things

What was I thinking ?!?!?

My friend Mary had talked me into going on this trip.  She had talked me into d-tasseling corn too.  I should have known.

Mary was out-doorsey.  I was not.  This was to be a camping, whitewater rafting, climb out of the Grand Canyon adventure.

I didn’t do adventures.  I read adventures.  I was a bona fide, certified, hardcore bookworm.

Mary was my best friend. She was silly, goofy, fun to be around and persuasive.

It was the 1970’s.  I look back on this experience as one of the most thrilling and hardest things I’ve  ever done in my life.  Whitewater rafting was thrilling.

The ascent out of the Grand Canyon was just plain hard.

Up until that trip, my one experience camping was an overnight, under the stars with Mary, in her front yard, camp out.

At this point I must insert a tidbit of personal info.  My DNA shows I am 56% Irish.  Dark Irish. Dark auburn hair,  blue eyes, fair skin with freckles Irish.  I was/am white white, pale white, pure white. As one of my classmates put it, blinding white.

I do not do well in heat.

There was a reason I stayed indoors and read.

When it came time to climb out of the Grand Canyon, Mary set a goal to be one of the first of our group to make it to the top.  She said goodby to me when I started to slow down.  As the temperature rose, I emotionally spiraled.  Looking ahead, there were miles of switchback trail ahead of me.  I hoped just to make it to the top by sundown!  Other than the occasional passerby, some on mules, I was alone.  I honestly didn’t know if and how I was going to make it.

I was athletic, playing several different sports – but this, this was different. This was grueling, testing me to my limits.  I was in a hard place.  In the end it came down to focusing on one thing… one step at a time.

I learned something that day.  Face the hard thing head on, and take one step at a time.  Then take the next step.  I saw what I was capable of.  I do possess determination,  fortitude, tenacity, and courage.

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Google Image  Grand Canyon switchbacks 


I took another journey recently … life changing.  Every bit as hard as climbing out of the Grand Canyon.

I signed up for a class called The Ultimate Journey.

I heard  many positive things about it.  One lady said she had been in counseling for years and this class helped her more than all the years of counseling combined.  Hmm

Was I afraid to face the past? Yes!

Hard Thing- step one.  sign-up for class.

Hard Thing – step two- Go to first class.

Hard Thing-  step three – Go to second class.

Next thing I know, I’m looking forward to class and I was sad when it ended.

I made friends.  I’m more peaceful. There is freedom.  I am more compassionate with myself and others.

 

I wrote this quote on our blackboard as a reminder:

“When it is all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass.

 

grand-canyon-backpacking-rim-to-rim

Google image

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This was another in a series of guest posts…this one written by my wife.  DM

The Philosopher’s Scales

I love stepping back in time.

Do you doubt me?

Do you doubt it can’t be done?

My favorite doorway into history is fragile,  thread bound, sometimes ink stained, original editions books… (before the politically correct crowd has had a chance to get their little hands on them.)

Back in 2007 I was doing  research for a local history project and wanted to immerse myself in the 1830’s….

On a lark I purchased an assortment of  original edition school textbooks from 1833 up until late 1800’s …McGuffy Readers, Ray’s Arithmetic,  etc. on e-bay.

And it worked.  I was able to re-enter the world of 1839 through the eyes of a teacher, and the scholar.  (Students were called “scholar” back then.)

Well, the  last few nights I have been pulling  the  First Class Reader compiled by B.D. Emerson  1833 off the shelf  and discovered several keepers.

Pause.

I am an educator.

Not formally trained but, an educator, never the less.

A teacher friend of ours, who  has a  degree, and who has sat in my class room on numerous occasions, once said something to me about my teaching ability  that removed all doubt in my mind of that concern. (Could I teach?)

Anyway, back to the book…I  wanted to share a portion of a poem by Jane Taylor (  link) entitled The Philosopher’s Scales… (She died in 1824.  She was a prolific writer and poet, most famous for her poem Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 🙂

I’m going to only share part of it.  Some of the words and her analogies may require a little digging on your part if you want to suck  the marrow out… DM

The Philosopher’s Scales

What were they? – you ask:

you shall presently see;

These scales were not made to weigh sugar and tea;

O no; – for such properties wondrous had they,

That qualities, feelings, and thoughts they could weigh,

 

Together with articles, small or immense,

From mountains or planets to atoms of sense;

Nought was there so bulky but there it could lay,

and nought so ethereal but there it would stay;

And nought so reluctant but in it must go: –

All which some examples more clearly will show…….

 

Next time he put in Alexander the Great.

With a garment that Dorcas had made- for a weight;

And though clad in armor from sandals to crown,

The hero rose up, and the garment went down….

 

By further experiments (no matter how)

He found that ten chariots weighed less that one plough.

A sword, with gilt trappings, rose up in the scale,

Though balanced by only a ten penny nail.

A Lord and a lady went up at full sail,

When a bee chanced to light on the opposite scale.

 

Ten doctors, ten lawyers, two courtiers, one earl,-

Ten counselor’s wigs full of powder and curl,-

All heaped in one balance, and swinging from thence,

Weighed less than some atoms of candor and sense;-

A first-water diamond, with brilliance begirt,

Than one good potato just washed from the dirt;-

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Pause

Sometimes I wrestle with whether or not my life is accounting for much….compared to, let’s say, someone in politics,  certain professions, etc.   And after immersing myself in a poem (like this one)  my heart is again re calibrated, and tracking as it should.

(Like when you take your car into your mechanic and he does a front end alignment.)

 

Question for you the reader….

Are there certain authors, poets, books, poems, quotes etc. that you love, that helps you to stay on track?   I would love to hear about them.  If you have a link, post it.   DM

 

Worker Bees…a meditation

honey-bee-flowers

Google Image

The life expectancy of a worker honeybee is 6 weeks.

Just 6 weeks!

Do you know what eventually kills her?

She dies because  her wings wear out, and she is unable to get back to her hive.

This past Thursday night  was my first bee keeping class.  I enrolled in a  6 week, 18 hour course titled First Lessons In Bee Keeping.  Class didn’t start until 6 PM.  I didn’t get home until after 9:30, which is way past my normal bedtime, so you know I’m motivated. 🙂

By the end of these six weeks, I will know whether or not I want to take the plunge and become a bee keeper.

Here are a few more bits of bee trivia….

In a healthy hive there can be, between 60,000 to 80,000 worker bees at the peak of the season.

A healthy queen honeybee may live 2 to 3 years, although due to the chemicals on plants these days, you’ll be lucky if she makes it a year.

There are 3 different types of bees in a hive:

A queen,   the worker bees and the  drones.

In a good year, you can expect to harvest 40 to 80 pounds of honey off of one hive.  Last year our instructor Bill told us, was not a good year.  He averaged  40 pounds of honey per hive. ( He has 300 hives.)  A gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds.  Bill recommended a minimum of 2 hives for starters…for reasons I am not going to get into here…but even if it was a bad year, that would potentially = 80 pounds of honey or 6 and 1/2 gallons of local honey.

Side note- this past year we have made the transition from white sugar to honey.   Not going to go off on a bunny trail right now, but the more I learn about  the white pure cane sugar many of us grew up on (and  corn fructose)  the more I am motivated to replace those  sweeteners poisons with honey.

 

” Anyone can plop a bee hive out in the back forty over the summer.  You are not a bee keeper until your bees have survived through the winter.”                Bill the bee keeper

Pause

And on a related note…

I did not get home until 2:45 AM this morning.  Went in to work at 11 PM last night to clean, then set up a banquet hall for a Ducks Unlimited meeting.

I’ve always said, if I had to, and work was slow, I would go to Hardees and flip burgers.     Well, I finally got my wish 🙂

Construction work is  slow.   I have a friend who works part time for a commercial cleaning company.  His boss told him, if I ever needed work, to give him a call.

So last night I got up close and personal with all of the toilets, sinks, and urinals in a 400 seat conference center, as well as an introduction to dry mopping, and reading a table placement diagram.

Last night the story of the Prince and the Pauper flittered through my brain…You remember that story right? A prince and a pauper trade places..and each gets to experience life in a whole new way….

Here I am a self-employed business owner, used to hiring and firing, bidding work, collecting, dealing with customers, and all that goes into being self-employed…

and last night…

I was a worker bee.

(Notice I didn’t say “just” a worker bee.)

There is nothing  degrading about cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Talk about job security.

Woke up this morning with a song in my heart.

____________________

Tell me about some of the types of jobs you’ve had over the years..(even if it was 50 years ago)….DM

 

A Letter From England…

Lou Brown contacted me two weeks ago and asked if I would consider building her a harvest table for her new home.   (She lives in England.)  I told her absolutely yes...as long as she lined up the shipping details. 🙂

Our paths first crossed in 2009 when she was on tour.  We were listed on a house concert website as possible hosts, she got in touch, ended up spending a couple of days with us. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.   I’m re-posting a portion of a  follow-up letter she wrote from her time with us. Some of the things she shared are timeless and worth repeating….

__________________________
Hi, My name is Lou Brown.

“There is something about DM’s home that warms my heart every time I think about it.  Our paths in life crossed when I came over to the mid-west to tour last Easter.  As a songwriter here in the UK I felt like having a mighty adventure and taking my music to an area of The States that not many of us Brits visit that often.  Sure loads of us go to New York for shopping or Florida for the theme parks but Iowa, nope I don’t know anyone else that’s been to Iowa except us.

Lucky me I say, for my few brief weeks I spent in Iowa were the most humbling of my life.  There is something about the mid-west which we just don’t have over here.  Yes we have history a plenty, beautiful palaces and Royal estates, our villages, towns and cities are all firmly established and it only takes a couple of hours of driving to reach France and the rest of Europe.  But Iowa has a sense of community and hospitality which I have never experienced.  I will never forget driving in the thickest fog ever in the middle of the night up a dirt road to Doug and his wife’s B and B in Iowa, the moment Aimee and I opened up the guest room door to find fresh towels, the electric blanket on, and a packet of Butterfingers on the pillow.  I have never ever been so grateful to anyone in my entire life.  I was missing home like crazy, the three of us touring together were starting to get on each others nerves and suddenly we had arrived in paradise.

In a world where the media are ramming fancy new products, brands and technology down our throats, where our young people view their future aspirations on being on Pop Idol or America’s next top model rather than hard graft and apprenticeships, and where the current economic climate brings a fear into every household across the globe that we might not be the ones to survive the recessions.  I remember that moment…and hold to it tightly to remember that life is actually about hospitality and opening our doors to others and simply having the time to be interested in someone else.  Those small things in life are priceless and outweigh any amount of money we can be given or fancy clothes we can wear….”

 

after the storm1

Our home at sunset after a rain.

Tell me about a time you’ve experienced the unexpected kindness of a stranger.

I love details.😉 DM

pss I originally posted this on my farm blog, so those of you that are long time readers may have seen it before…

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

Google image

I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

_____________________

Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM

 

Re-calibration

surise-12-30-16

View from our porch

Sunrise December 30th 2016

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Spent this past Friday and Saturday crunching numbers.

The following thoughts are a continuation of this post.

I am self-employed carpenter/ remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/ concrete pour-er/ whatever pay the bills, kind of guy.

Because have chosen to be a self-employed carpenter/remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/concrete pour-er/ whatever pays the bills kind of guy in small town Iowa, I did not know  my net income for 2016  until all of the bills were paid and all of the checks came in….

Most of you reading this are no strangers to financial pressure.

It is  part of life.

I also think it’s fair to say, most of us are uncomfortable telling someone else what our income is. It  feels like letting someone see us in our underwear, (vulnerable)

I have no qualms talking to someone about these things in private..for me it’s like, what’s the big deal..this stuff is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the first place.

I had a friend who was an accountant for two trucking companies…Both had dozens of semi’s  on the road.  Company A owned everything on paper.  Owner was making his monthly truck payments to the bank and everything worked.  Company  B owner did not believe in debt.  All of his trucks were paid for.  This was about the time diesel prices spiked. Friend told me, he would be very surprised if company A would be able to stay in business… Company B, he felt, on the other hand should be able to weather the storm.

I am a Company B kind of guy…I hate debt, (although we do have a little again)

The model I use for coming up with how much money we have to work with is by coming up with a 3 year average.  Take the net income from 2014, 15, and 16, add them all together and divide by 3.  I totaled up the numbers Sunday morning and it looks like we may need to figure out a way to chop $400 a month out of our already lean, (we’re talking lean)  lifestyle.

ie.  our food budget for the two of us is currently $225 a month…and that includes toiletries.

The next few months may require some major life choices (again).

Christmas Eve, Slivers, and PTSD

Marie came up to us after church that year and asked if we’d like to join their family for Christmas eve.  Sure we said, it beat sitting in our little rental house 1000 miles from home, missing family.

As it turned out, Marie had also invited Nancy, Karen, and Scott,  all singles, also away from home over the holidays. Marie had the gift of hospitality.  Those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories…

I remember coming into Marie’s kitchen, the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, dimly lit Christmas lights,  scented candles..

It felt like I’d just stepped into a Hallmark card movie…and we were part of the story.

Pause.

As I sat in a big stuffed chair after dinner, visiting with Sid, (Marie’s husband)  I absent-mindedly picked a callous on the tip of my pointer finger.   It had been  numb for months.

All of a sudden,  out popped an inch long wood sliver.

I thought back to early September when I had helped Joe V install a new set of pine steps.   I’d gotten a nasty sliver, and assumed I’d gotten the whole thing out.. guess not. 🙂

Pause.

The same thing happened again yesterday.  I came into the house for lunch and I noticed a  small piece of wood protruding out of the middle finger on my right hand.  Last month, I was moving some old lumber in my way on a project, and I got “stuck.”  At first, I thought I’d gotten another nasty sliver but when I got home that night and dug around, I couldn’t find anything.  (I wasn’t sure then whether I’d gotten a puncture wound or another sliver. Figured if something was in there, it would eventually work itself out.)

I know how these things work now 🙂

Pause.

Buried slivers are a great word picture for PTSD.  Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes…it could be sexual abuse. Could be trauma from combat.  Could be trauma from a surgery as a small child….  Sometimes after a traumatic event, in order for our brains to cope, a part of our heart goes numb.  It’s one of God’s coping mechanisms (I believe). The numbness initially allows me to continue to function…all the while the memory  foreign object stays buried in there somewhere, festering..and at the right time,  it will come to a head.  I don’t think you have to go looking for it.

I’ve seen this played out three times, in the lives of people close to me.   15 to 30 years after the initial trauma, weird things started to happen…unexplained panic attacks, the desire to cut, being in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, etc.

A marriage counselor told us  about the waves of terror that would overtake him when he started to deal with the abuse  he’d experienced as a child. Things didn’t come to a head until after he’d gotten married. Something would trigger the PTSD and it would incapacitate him.  One day, a friend of his stopped by unannounced, while he was in the middle of an episode. He told his wife to let his friend come up and see him…. The friend, a former marine,  had no idea that this guy was going through ptsd.  When he saw him, curled in a ball, covered with tears and snot, he crawled into the closet with him and just held him.

It was a turning point on his road to recovery.

If there is an emotional wound in your life that is giving you fits, don’t suffer in silence.  It means you are human.

Open up and let someone in.

DM