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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Aspirations

Got a call this morning from a guy named Dave.¬† ¬†Dave sells post and beam construction houses and is looking for a local crew to sub out part of a project.¬† Before coming to Iowa, he was in the military jumping out of air planes.¬† After that he worked¬† for a spell building million dollar log homes in Colorado.¬† Spent some time living off the grid out west.¬† Finally settled down and started a family.¬† Now he’s in Iowa.¬† His body is shot.¬† Got my name from the guy I’d gotten honey bees from last year.

I was telling my crew about the conversation at break.

Jason made the comment he’d love to start general contracting¬† larger projects.

I told him my aspiration, is to learn the art of consistently growing large onions. (I still haven’t figured it out.)

Learn how to consistently grow large onions and get a few laying hens. (again) ūüėČ

Ones that lay large brown eggs.

Nothing like stepping outside in the morning before heading to work, heading over to the chicken house for breakfast.¬† ¬†Eggs¬†that are still warm.¬† Chop up a large onion,¬† saute in butter.¬† Maybe¬† cook up a little bacon or ham,¬† Couple of eggs over easy....and coffee….dark roast.

Now that is a thing of beauty. ūüôā

.

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Fell into my life calling quite by accident. Been doing it for 40 plus years.¬† Intended to go to college after a working for a year for my dad.¬† At the end of that first year, I realized I loved construction. I loved what I was doing, and if I stayed with it long enough, it held out the possibility of making a decent income.¬† I love working with my hands.¬† Love using applied math to calculate roof pitches, stairs stringers,¬† estimates, etc.¬† ¬†I stick framed a¬† high-end¬† house roof¬† back in the 1990’s that had 27 hips and valley’s.¬† Two story, 12/ 12 pitch.¬† Yep.¬† Been there done that.¬† General contracted enough houses (5) to get that out of my system too.¬† I can give you several reasons why I would never/ ever general contract a house again. Sub out parts of it, absolutely. General the whole thing.¬† Nada.

I’m all about stress management.

Love it when the phone doesn’t ring.

 

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Came across the following  30 years ago and it continues to inform my choices:

“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil…for the Lord gives to his beloved sleep (or gives to his beloved in his sleep”)

(A Jewish scripture.  Psalm 127:2)

I’ve written on this topic multiple times. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

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If you were having coffee with me today,  how would you  answer that question on goals and aspirations (currently)?

I’m genuinely interested. 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. ūüôā

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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. ūüėČ

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?¬† ūüôā

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