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.

hikersonbrightangeltrail

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

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.

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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….

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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…

Ordering Your Private World

“Throughout the film he contrasts the frantic pace of modern life with a thoughtful interior life….”

French film director Eugene Green in a recent interview

Those words…“the frantic pace of modern life with the thoughtful interior life” jumped off the page to me last night as I was winding down.

I forget  what it feels like to live  life at a  “frantic pace.”

My life has not felt that way ever since I began to intentionally weave “margin” into my life.  I am loath to get myself suckered into the rat race again.

It did  happen briefly last fall.   I had two major construction projects needing to start at the same time, due to weather and customer delays, but that is no longer the norm.

Don’t get me wrong…I have not “arrived” in terms of anything…BUT, I am convinced the frantic/ manic pace of life will suck the life out of me unless I am very careful.

I am a first-born type A personality.  I grew up on a dairy farm which compounded my need to stay busy, so I know what I’m talking about.

There are two young families that I know, (sort of) where the financial and job pressures are sucking the life out of their marriages. (Like  fire sucking the oxygen out of a room)  There is the illusion they have made it.  Super nice homes.  Nice cars.  Both spouses making multiple times more per year than I.

We could live off the income of any one of those four people and  have money set aside.

If that is the lifestyle both of you  love and enjoy…then there is not a problem.

Just different priorities.

If however, one of the people in either one of those situations feels trapped….then it is (a problem.)

How sad to live your life, day in, day out, commuting to a full-time job you hate,  never feeling like there is enough money, not enough hours in the day.  Being married to someone, who (initially) you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, but now..not so much.

That is what I am talking about.

I’m a visual person, so it helped me to have something I could look at to get my bearings.

In my mind’s eye, I felt like I was the captain of a large ocean-going vessel, headed the wrong way….  So  I literally, drew a diagram with a large ship on a piece of white poster board/ taped it to the wall in front of my desk, with different positions on the chart showing the boat changing directions.

I needed to turn my ship around and set a new course….Well, you can’t turn a ship that size around on a dime…but once you move the rudder hard  you do change directions.

Moving the rudder meant setting some new financial, time management, and relational goals and then acting on them.

Just drawing that chart gave me hope.  I knew where we were headed,  even if the circumstances had not changed in the short-term.

There was a new sense of hope and purpose in our home, in our relationship, in my heart.

It all starts in the mind.

There were a couple of books that also helped me re-plot my course. One of them was called “Ordering Your Private World.”

I’ve written on this topic  before…As I find the older posts in  my archives, I will put the link to them here..

Here’s one of those earlier posts.

Assertiveness Bill Of Rights

I have the right to change my mind

(From The Assertiveness Bill Of Rights)

(Not sure that is the exact same list we worked off of, but you’ll get the idea if you read through it)

I took a weekend workshop several years ago through our local community college on the topic of assertiveness, and assertive communication.

It was a watershed experience in my life.

Best $45 I have ever invested in personal growth and development.

I would highly recommend it!

I know I’ve written about it before, just not sure if I was here….

It gives me the freedom to tell you, I have changed my mind.

I have decided to continue posting  here.

I miss the interaction….  DM

The Nines Have It

“I can’t read your writing…. What is this?” (said in a sarcastic tone)

 Me :  “A nine.”….

Hummm… I had no idea that is a nine…

Here is how you write a nine…”  

 

“How much per hour do you need?”

(I told him and he rolled his eyes….)

Excerpt of a job interview I went through  Wednesday morning.

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“Rebuke a fool and he will hate you…rebuke a wise man and he will be wiser still.”

Proverbs

The jury is still out on whether or not I am a fool.  My nines look a lot different since Wednesday.  The first several  times I thought of Pat (he’s the guy I interviewed with)  a few  choice words begin to tumble out of my mouth.

A few days removed from that encounter, and my anger has been replaced with a quietness.  He did me a favor.

Compared to some of the mean spirited bosses and supervisors some of you have to put up with , that exchange ranks right down near the bottom…

I have been on both sides of the authority equation.  I work really hard to be respectful, even when I have to correct someone , so when I hear stories of supervisors abusing their position, my first reaction is to get angry.

Do you have any tips for someone who is working in a hostile setting and for various reasons, has to try and suck it up, rather than leave?

(If you have time,  would also be interested in any abusive situations you have had to endure..if you’ve written about it on your blog, feel free to leave a link) DM

 

 

 

 

Climbing The Uber-Ladder

Uber:  German for  ultimate, supreme, outstanding, amazing.

We only see Edna Moehl a couple of times each year, so when I got a phone call from her it piqued my curiousity. She said she was moving off the farm and had something she thought I should have…. antique apple picking ladder. Now normally, I  will pass when someone offers me something free or extra, or its too good to throw away because I’m tired of stuff.  But in this case, I said I would consider it.   It is a one of a kind contraption, made from an old windmill frame.  Two steel wheels and a set of handles to push it around.  It is surprisingly balanced.

I said I would take it.

The ladder is parked in the East orchard all year round, I only use it to pick the apples I can’t reach with my 8 ft step ladder.

Tuesday I  had one last Ginger Gold apple tree to pick.  There were fifteen to twenty beautiful  apples way on the top, that the Japanese beetles hadn’t found (yet.)

view from the ladder (3)

View from the base

As I got about 3/4’s the way up, a little tinge of fear started rumbling around in my gut. It’s the last couple of rungs that can get a little interesting.

Anyway, as I was picking those beautiful apples on the top of the tree, it triggered a flood of thoughts, other times in my life when I felt the fear, but kept going anyway…and the result was I got to experience something I otherwise would never have experienced, had I played it safe on the ground.

The biggest memory is getting a date with that girl in homeroom, who used to sit with all of the popular kids in the back of the room, while I sat in the front row, ready to scoot out the door, the second the class bell rang.

My values have changed since those days, but just to give you an idea what I was up against… She was cute, very cute.  Her dad was a doctor, She was an athlete.  Played varsity basketball, her freshman year. She was genuinely a nice person.  Eventually, the student body elected her homecoming queen….You get the picture.  Me on the other hand, well, I was shy.  So shy  I can count on one hand,  the number of conversations I had with girls up until that time. I loved to read, had a musical bent.  We lived on a dairy farm, so my life pretty much consisted of work, school, and more work.

There was a guy who worked for my dad, whose name was Lowell.  Nice guy, probably in his 40’s …single and shy.  I did not want to wind up like Lowell.

So the short version is, I asked that cute little girl in my home room out on a date to a movie.. she said she’d go.  Only went out on one date originally…and it took a couple of more years and dating several more girls, before I was able to shed more of the shyness..but it was a start. After I graduated high school, I happened to run into that girl who was my first date. She was working in a local pizza place.   The guy who was with me that night knew about my first date with her…and how I wished I’d handled things different, but at the time, I was just too socially, clueless. He leans over the table and whispers …“If you don’t ask her out, I will…”

And the rest is history….we celebrated our 37th anniversary this Spring.

There will be opportunities to climb the Uber-ladder sprinkled throughout our lives.