Ode to the blue collar man (ie. my father)

Ode: An ode is a kind of poem, usually praising something. … An ode is a form of lyric poetry — expressing emotion — and it’s usually addressed to someone or something, or it represents the poet’s musings on that person or thing.

(Long time readers may remember a version of this post from 2016.  It showed up on my “blog stats” this morning and I thought it was worth reposting. DM)

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My dad graduated high school in the early  50’s.

A local attorney  (Remley) who at one point owned the farm my dad  lived on,  offered to pick up the tab on his college tuition “because  he had a knack for math.” My grandparents were not rich.  They’d raised a family through the great depression, then after WW 2,  shipped, case after case of canned food and clothing to grandma’s relatives  back in the old country (German).. .so grandpa and grandma never really got ahead financially. Dad opted not to go to college, instead went into the service, then went to work at a packing house. After that, he started  driving a cement truck for a local cement company.   At some point, he was asked to come into the office and help behind the counter in the lumber yard portion of the business, eventually rising through the ranks to manage both the lumberyard and the concrete plant.

(Remember what I told you about math.) 🙂

In the early 1970’s dad went into business with his brother as a general contractors. They built up a multi-million dollar construction company, employed one  hundred eighty men over the course of a 30 year span, one of which was me.

This is an ode to the  blue collar man that shaped my life..

 

Ode To The Blue Collar Man

He

had

 the

hands

of a

farmer.

The heart of

a musician,

the mind of

an engineer.

But somehow..

between raising a family,

paying the bills and farming the land,

his steel guitar  got misplaced in the mix.

Life is a pendulum.Sometimes we learn

by example, and sometimes we choose

a different path.

Me…A life coach?

Took my dad to the dentist this morning.  Dad is 87.  On the way home dad  mentioned G. W., a former employee of his who he’d taken to a rehab center, back in the day.

Dad said the day he took GW in, the guy at the front desk said:

        “Look at the door…There are no locks on that door.  You can leave the same way you came in.  On top of that,  if you’re not interested in dealing with your problem, you  might as well leave right now, and not waste any more of anyone’s time.  Real change has to start between your ears .”

The guy checking GW in, was himself an former alcoholic and knew what  was what.

That conversation made me think about some thoughts I’ve had rumbling around in my head the past month as we’ve begun a new decade.

This past year, I had two different people suggest to me  I would make a great “life coach.”

To be honest, after the second conversation, I did do a little looking into that idea, because it did stir something inside of me.

After doing some reading,  I decided I am not interested in jumping through all of the hoops  that would get me certified.   I love my current job too much to give that up completely, not saying I wouldn’t be open to doing a little coaching on the side.

Heck,  in an informal sort of way, I have been doing “life coaching” for  years anyway.

Just for fun, I decided to identify  areas of my  life  I have had to work on, and would feel comfortable working with someone else with…

Dealing with a low self esteem.

Dealing with crippling  shyness.

Dealing with poor boundaries.

Living a balanced life and living with margin.

Marriage and relationship issues.

And finally, I  have presented several workshops on  identifying and pursuing your life passions and interests…

Wife has told me multiple times she could see me being a motivational speaker.

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I’ll close with this thought:

One of the secrets to a  (my)  happy life is coffee.   That’s right, coffee.   It’s from the vegetable family, it’s full of antioxidants,  and doesn’t leave  you with a hangover the next day.

 

If someone were to approach you and ask you to deal with  certain life situations..which areas of life would you feel  comfortable giving input?

This time it was different.

Caught up with someone last night we hadn’t visited with for  5 years.    Over the years whenever we’ve talked,  I would come away from those conversations feeling like I’d been interrogated.   (And judged.)

Last night was no exception,

Since it had been five years, there was a lot we caught up on….

Another grand child on the way, my good health compared to my peers in  construction, honey bees, wife’s involvement with hospice work, personal debt,  the normal every day stuff you might expect…

At some point, the topic of conversation came around to retirement,  She’s looking forward to retiring this Spring.  Where was I at with all that?  The pro’s and con’s of drawing social security early?

And that is when that sense of having to justify myself, rather than just catching up for catching up’s sake kicked in….I could hear that familiar slightly judgmental tone in her voice.

But this time it was different.

I laughed.

We were talking about me wanting to take an active roll in how we handle these choices, rather than turn it over to an expert.  Our accountant has been a lot of help, because that stuff is always changing..but other than that, I am very interested in personal finance.

Side note… I think with a little more education, I would make a great financial planner. JMHO 😉

I said ,”Listen,  It is not rocket science.   Years ago, I picked up a book called Sound Mind Investing, that  is what’s next after getting out of debt.  It was  highly recommended by Larry Burkett (Pre- Dave Ramsey/ Mary Hunt/ get out of debt guru’s) )…  At the time, Larry, said a person needs to be thinking about goals after getting out of debt, or there is a good chance you’ll go right back where you started if you don’t….

(So the Sound Mind Investing book, has been sitting on the shelf for at least 10 years, as we’ve moved in the direction of getting debt free, and in the last several months I have been rereading it again.  (I ordered the updated copy  which I would highly recommend if you’re at all curious about this topic)

I then rattled off a handful of other things that gave me confidence I have some sense of what we’re doing….

I have been talking with our tax guy.

The fact that my construction business is a Sub chapter S, gives us way more options.

The fact we home schooled the kids for 9 years, gives me  confidence  I have the ability to learn something new, and do it well.

I  talked to her about our risk tolerance when it comes to money management (neither one of us are risk takers), so we’re not doing this blindly.

And finally, I said, “Well, check back in 10 years and ask me how it went.” 🙂

I love the confidence that has come with getting older.

DM

Still feeling the magic 43 years later…

Action photo from work this week.

“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”   My father

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Most days I love what I do.      I would be lying if I told you every day is like that…it’s not.  Once in a while I do have a  job that will suck the life out of me, but it’s usually not the work itself but some people related issue.

I can still remember standing in the doorway at my grandma’s house  back in 1976… the day I told her I had chosen not to go to college, but instead work full time for my dad. (He owned a construction company with my uncle Johnny.)

“Oh Douggie ” she said..sadness on her face, sadness in her voice…   I knew she only wanted what was best.  Thing was, already at age 18 I knew I loved construction.  Absolutely loved it.

That was 43 years ago and I still feel the magic.

Most many days I come home physically exhausted, which makes me sleep like a baby.

Hard to put a dollar amount on that.

Well, better call this good enough.

Wife is probably wondering where I am with her morning  cup of coffee.

Take care. DM

 

 

 

 

Love your neighbor as yourself

Here’s three short stories from my life this past week…

On the gardening front…

I texted my  neighbor Mark on Friday : “Next time you are hauling manure, would you mind dropping off one or two bucket loads? … whatever $25 would buy.”

(I’m planning ahead for next seasons garden and fall is the perfect time to apply manure.)

He wrote back, “OK  Yea, how about $0?”

I am still savoring Mark’s generosity.

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On the honeybee front…

My bee mentor has been managing bees for about 40 years.  His name is Curt.  When I checked on our two hives earlier in the week, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  It looked like  capped brood (that’s up and coming new honey bees) above the queen excluder and a dark uncapped substance lower in the bowels of the hive.  I was concerned I may have some nasty  disease getting a foothold in the hive.  The excluder is a screen that (in theory) prevents the queen from  going where you don’t want her to go.  Normally, queens are slightly bigger than her smaller worker bees and she can’t squeeze through, although once in a while, it happens.  There is just so much I can learn via the internet or a phone call.  What I really needed was someone who knew what they were looking at to make a house call.  Texted Curt, Next day we set up a time for him to stop.  He manages a 120 hives of his own, and I didn’t feel right about having him stop without compensating him something, so I addressed it right up front.   All he asked for was a few yellow apples when I start picking.

I was SO appreciative of his generosity of time.  I’ve mentioned it before but Curt is the perfect mentor.  He doesn’t come across like a know it all. He asks great questions and doesn’t feel like he’s in a rush when he’s here.

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And finally on the construction job front.

I’ve been  framing walls on a commercial project the past month.  Couple of weeks ago, the electricians were “trying” to pull their main wires through some buried conduit.  There were two of them (Brian and Joe), and  Joe was having a heck of a time.  Joe didn’t ask, but  I stopped what I was doing and grabbed onto the pulley rope with him.  Couple of big tugs later and the first wire was through.   He really  appreciated it. He told me that final joint at the end is always a bugger.  He had one more wire to pull, and It turned out to be even tougher. The two of us, side by, side, both covered with sweat, pulling with everything we had.  I’m not an electrician, and it wasn’t my responsibility but  he needed a hand.  I didn’t do it for any other reason than that is how I was raised.

Met Fred (the owner) of the electrical company later in the week.  Introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed working with his guys.  (There have been other random interactions throughout the week. besides me helping pull wire.)  On Thursday I asked Brian if need be, could I borrow one of their scissor lifts to install a handful of hangers?  (Ours was going back to the rental store the first of next week.) Absolutely he said.  He showed me where they hide the key in case their crew were not around.

On Friday Brian told me they had their weekly shop meeting  and was told not to hide the key on the lift.  Fred the owner told Brian to “give Doug the combination to the job trailer, s where I could find  the key for the lift.”

I was humbled by their trust.

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I had a great encounter @ the Lowes customer service desk this week as well.  This post is getting long enough, so I’ll save that story for another time.  How about you?  Any good encounters lately that left you encouraged?  I would love to hear about it, and I love details 🙂 DM

 

One of many (thoughts)

I mentioned an hour ago, my mind is a tangled up mass of  thoughts.  There’s a song in my heart so the tangled up knot is not stress related. (For which I’m thankful) 🙂

Thirty minutes later, I was out in the orchard picking up branches.  My mind went to a comment I’d left on a Dave Ramsey facebook group this morning.  (Dave Ramsey in case you’ve never heard of him is a money management, get out of debt author and speaker)

Someone on the group asked the question:

 Where would you love to retire?

Why?

Out of the 82 people who answered, only one person mentioned they loved where they currently lived, wouldn’t mind being able to go somewhere warm in the winter, but 81 of them  said something other than where they were.

While I rarely leave comments on an open forum (except with those of you I know via blogging, I decided to say something….

“Two thoughts.

Love what I’m doing, (I’m a carpenter) as my dad was fond of saying “retirement” is not a word in my vocabulary, so plan do keep doing some variation of that as long as I’m physically able.

Secondly. Love where we live. Plan to stay right where I’m at, as long as I have any say in the matter.

Years ago, when my life was spinning out of control with too many commitments,  small children, work, financial stress..you know, the normal every day, stuff all of us deal with, I remember wishing things were different.  I remember saying to someone, “Peace and contentment are entirely under rated.” 

What I wouldn’t give for a more peace filled life.

Here’s a picture I’ve shared before from that season in my life… I taped it to the wall to remind me business does not automatically equal progress:

When I read later about  Henry David Thoreau  tromping off to the woods to live on Walden’s pond, I remember thinking to myself,  why did he only stay there the better part of two years?  Why not stay there long term?  I made up my mind at that point, to do just that…create my own version of Walden.  I hate water, so I didn’t need a pond 🙂  (I can’t swim, don’t have the patience to fish, plus with standing water you have to deal with mosquitoes).

And so, since  1995 I have been slowly moving in the direction of a life that I don’t need to take a vacation from. Here’s what it looked like in 1995:

…an old run down acreage with a set of 100-year-old farm buildings. Curb appeal it did not have. The house and out buildings hadn’t been painted in 50 years. Nothing appealing except that it was 4 miles from town, and the foundation on the house was still solid.

I  have been  slowly  carving out my own version of Walden here ever since….Laying hens, apple trees, honey bees, lots of flowers,  garden beds, a dog, no TV, lots of books to read.

My vision of Walden  would probably looks different from yours.

But I would suspect it would be built on the same foundation stone.

The stone of living life intentionally.

Talk to me about living life intentionally. What does that mean to you?

It is never to late to start.

Take care. DM

 

What she said/ what I said

When I got to the job site on Wednesday,  Sherry and her husband were sitting on their back deck.

“You are a slave driver!” she said.  “I was up until midnight,  so I could have those boards you needed ready. “ (I am paneling her 4 seasons room with car-siding.)

“Waaaaaaaa.” 

Did I just say that, I thought to myself?  . 🙂

She laughed.

I laughed.

It was all good…

Been working off and on for this couple the past couple of months.  A lot of health issues going on.

A lot of heartache.

I’ve had great talks with both of them.

Deep stuff/ fun stuff.

Wife and I share a love for the Little House on the Prairie series, so we’ve even had conversations about that.

Took it to the next level that morning.

Don’t remember if Dale Carnegie mentioned teasing in his book on people skills.      😉

Felt like I was in slightly uncharted waters.

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There’s definitely a balancing act when it comes  to coming along side someone who is going through suffering.

My job is not to “fix” or take away their pain with some words of wisdom.

I see it more as willing to listen…really listen and be present if they trust me enough to open up about what is really going on inside…

Had a friend recently take a risk and share with a group of us, about some grief they are still dealing with 15 years after the fact.  First thing they said was, “Now I don’t want anyone to try and fix me….just listen.”

Well, someone in the group didn’t get the memo, and lapsed into the “fix it” mode…right there on the spot.

I was SO uncomfortable.

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Have you ever experienced some heavy duty heartache and had someone(s) in your life do a great job of helping you regain your bearings?  How did they do it? What did they do?  What didn’t they do?….or, if you want to,  Have you ever experienced the  opposite?

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I had a good week.  Great week actually.  Received (3) unexpected tips from 3 different customers….plus a huge lead on two potential  projects for next year.  One of my customers from last year, was  bragging about me to this potential client…she even repeated  to me some of what she said about me.

That was neat.

Met with them in person yesterday morning.  Had a great rollicking conversation.  At one point, the husband looked a little uptight, (His arms were crossed, and there was this look on his face).  🙂

I asked, “What are you thinking about right now?”

“I feel like curling up in the fetal position.” 🙂

I laughed,

He laughed.

I think this would be a fun project.  (it’s a mother/ daughter addition to their house plus a new garage).

I will keep you posted.

Well, time to get moving.   DM

 

 

 

Historical perspective on money and personal debt

Hey John, ( and anybody else who cares to listen) 🙂

This picture caught my eye the other day and I wanted you to  see it.

I wanted to plant a financial seed in your minds eye if I may. 🙂

It is the home of Dr Lebron Lackey, still standing after a 250 mph hurricane.  Notice his neighbors…

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When I was studying early Iowa history one of the things that struck me, (and we never covered in school), was the number of other recessions and depressions that had taken place.

All I had ever learned about was The Great Depression of 1929.  

We never talked about the Panic of 1837, that lasted until 1843 – (6 years).

“The Panic of 1837 was one of the longest and deepest depressions of the 19th century. It was a period of pronounced deflation and massive default on debt.”

Then came the the Panic of 1857  that  didn’t really turn around until after  the Civil War – (7 years).

“…the years immediately preceding the Panic of 1857 were prosperous, many banks, merchants, and farmers had seized the opportunity to take risks with their investments and as soon as market prices began to fall, they quickly began to experience….. financial panic”.

Or The panic of 1873 that lasted until 1879   (6 years).

Since you didn’t bring this topic up, I am kind of reluctant to get too preachy,  but knowing what I know,  it would be just wrong of me to not say something.

Back in  January of 2014, I was  at my wit’s end (financially).  To use a word picture at the time,  I felt like I was flying a 747 and we were about 10 to 15 feet above the ocean.

Yes we were still in the air, and yes we were still moving, but the waves were lapping at the wings, and I was tired.   Being self employed, my income can vary a lot from year to year…as much as a 1/3.   I  sat down, crunched some numbers and realized we had been spending $700 a month more than I was making for a couple of years.  Our budget was based on the incomes of better years. Those extra expenses were going  fun things like heating bills, medical bills and medical insurance.

We’ve never been big on going out to eat, yada, yada….

So there you go, and it was right in the midst of that craziness that I came across the book by Mary Hunt called  Debt Proof Living.

Within a month of reading it, I had hope.  Finally had some practical ideas on how to get some distance between myself and the water.

Our income hasn’t change all that much, but (knock on wood) we’ve been able to pay off all of the credit card debt, our car loan, a line of credit loan, and the loan to build that little extension on my shop.  Over $30,000 worth of debt, on the same income…we switched medical health insurance coverage that saved us $400 a month, and replaced the 20 year old furnace/ shut off the heat to the 2nd floor of our home and whacked another $300 a month off expenses.

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So when I see that picture of the house still standing when the neighbors have all been blown away, I see someone making different financial decisions than the rest of the culture.

Pop culture says, debt is just a normal part of life.

I say we are living in a fools paradise.

Historically, things go in cycles.

We are way past due for another financial $@#% storm.

Get out of debt and stay out of debt.

It is possible to raise a family on one blue collar income.

You can take that to the bank.