Found it in an old box of family photos….

Last winter, my sister Karen and I spent a morning going through boxes of old family photos  after we moved our parents into town.   My box of pictures and keepsakes has been sitting here next to my desk for the past month.   Decided last night to start sorting.  Came across  a couple of pieces of paper in my dad’s handwriting.  It was a story he’d recopied on the topic of  parenting.  (I’ll post that at the end).

Things were very tight the whole time our kids were growing up.   Sometime after we started home schooling, we decided to start a commercial cleaning business on the side with the older ones helping out.

I remember having conflicting feelings, a part of me thought it was brilliant,  and a teeny tiny part of me felt like a failure.  Asking our kids to help  out by empty trash cans, cleaning toilets, vacuuming, etc. so they would have  money to buy their clothes,  just seemed a little______?

Now that our youngest is 30, (and owns a commercial cleaning business of his own),  and I am  30 years removed from that season of our lives, I can see the fruit of those parenting choices in our children’s lives.   I have a completely different take on all of those memories.  All four of  our kids have turned into hard working, caring, loving adults, and it’s not because we were so brilliant and knew what we were doing.

Hardly. 

I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants

the

whole

time. 🙂

Life lesson:  Asking our kids to work/ not just dabble, but get in there and hustle, did not hurt them.  Those were their formative years, and being able to work hard as an adult now is something that sets them apart.

I ought to know.  As an employer, i t gets harder and harder to find people who know how to work.

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Here is that story I came across:

Thoughts on Work, family, sacrifice from my dad’s perspective

A young man went to seek an important position at a large printing company.  HE passed the initial interview and was going to meet the Director for the final interview.   The director saw his resume , it was excellent, and he asked, “Have you received a scholarship for school?”

The boy replied, ‘No.”

“It was your father who paid for your studies?”

“Yes” he replied.

“Where does your father work?”

“My father is a blacksmith.”

The director asked the young man to show him his hands.   The young man showed him a pair of hands soft and perfect.

“Have you ever helped your parents at their job?”

“Never.  My parents always wanted me to study and read more books’, besides he can do the job better than me. “

The director said,” I have got a request.  When you go home today, go and wash the hands of your father and then come see me tomorrow morning.”

The young man felt his chance to get the job wasn’t high.  When he returned to his house, he asked his father if he would allow him to wash his hands.  His father felt strange, happy, but with mixed feelings and showed his hands to his son.  The young man washed his hands, little by little.  It was the first time that he noticed his father’s hands were wrinkled and they had many scars.  Some bruises were so painful, that his skin shuddered when he touched them.  This was the first time that the young man recognized what it meant for this pair of hands to work every day to be able to pay for his study.  The bruises on the hands were the price that he paid for his education, his school activities, and his future.  After cleaning his father’s hands the young man stood in silence and began to tidy up and clean the workshop.  That night, father and son talked for a long time.  The next morning, the young man went to the office of the director.

The director noticed the tears in the eyes of the young man when he asked him.  “Can you tell me what you did and what you learned yesterday at your house?”

The boy replied,” I washed my fathers hands and when I finished I stayed and cleaned his workshop.  Now I know what it is to appreciate and recognize that without my parents, I would not be who I am today.  By helping my father I now realize how difficult and hard it is to do something on my own.  I have come to appreciate the importance and the value of helping the family.”

The director said, “This is what I look for in my people.  I want to hire someone who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the hardship of others to do things, and a person who does not put money as his only goal in life.  You are hired.”

A child that has been coddled, protected and usually given what he wants, develops a mentality of “I have the right.” And will always put himself first.

If we are this type of protective parent, are we really showing love or are we destroying our children?  You can give your child a big house, good food, computer classes, a big screen TV.  But when you’re washing the floor or painting a wall, please have him experience that too.

After eating, have them wash the dishes with their brothers and sisters.  It is not because you have no money to hire someone to do this, it’s because you want to love them the right way….

 

 

 

 

 

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Did not see this coming

Did not see this coming.

Once a year, our 4 children agreed a couple of years ago, as it is hard to get everybody together at the same time, it would be great just to set aside a couple of days each year where we knew everyone would be able to be back.  (2 of our 4 kids  live out-of-state).

So everyone was back in town this week to celebrate their mama’s birthday.  5:15 we had planned to get together for a cookout @ one of the daughters homes.

Walked into the garage and I was confused.  Saw my brother, my mom and dad, heck, all of my siblings were there and their spouses….I thought..ah, neat..they’d been invited to help celebrate my wife’s birthday with us….but then  a cake caught my eye.  A Princess Bride themed cake… It was a good 45  to 60 seconds before I realized this was a surprise anniversary celebration, and I was one of the guests of honor.

I have never had a real surprise party in my life…never.

Two days later I am still in shock.

If it would have been possible,   I would love to have had each of you that read this blog, to have been invited.  I mean that.

The Princess Bride is one of those goofy movie’s from the 80’s that has taken on a life of it’s own in the fabric of our family’s life.

 

Princess Bride themed cake

Group photo

 

Mom’s Birthday Gift

My mom turns 85 this month.

I wasn’t sure what to get her.

What do you get for someone who doesn’t want or need more stuff?

Decided to take her out on a date.

A coffee date.

I am scheduled to pick her up tomorrow morning at 9.

Just the two of us.

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I’m her first-born.

If you were to ask me to summarize my relationship with my mom in a word, I would say Confidant. (And it goes both ways.)

Confidant:  One to whom secret or private matters are disclosed.  A person with whom you confide things.

Mom lost her father when she was three.  Raised by a single mother.  Grew up during the Depression.  Told me once, “She never realized she was poor, because everybody was poor in those days.  Her grandmother helped to raise her while her mom worked. There was no social security in those days. Your family was your safety net. They ate pigeon pie.  Fish her grandpa would catch.  Her grandma has a big garden.  Took turns sharing the bath water with half a dozen other kids on the back porch every Friday night. ”

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Here’s where you (my blog readers)  come in… 🙂

Mom and I will have no trouble carrying on a conversation when we are together. It never is.

BUT, I wouldn’t mind taking the opportunity to ask her a question or two about something of substance.

Any suggestions?

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Early picture of my mom and three of us.

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24 hours later….

Coffee date with her eldest

As it turned out, it was the perfect outing.  We did talk family history, but it wasn’t forced.  Found out mom initially went to college to become a teacher. (I never knew that.)   Two different local businessmen offered to help her out with her tuition. (Never knew that either) 🙂

 

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.  🙂

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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. 🙂

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.” 🙂

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

How about you?

Take care. DM

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 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