It’s gotten easier

Here begins the story of a former rule follower.

When my wife and I decided to get married (42 years ago now) one of the spin off issues, right out of the gate was our different spiritual backgrounds. Won’t bore you with all the details, only to say, I decided to defer to her in that department, because she was worth it.

On a practical level, I was just going through the motions.

I hadn’t really given it (the spiritual component of my life) too much thought.

Period.

Until I started to.

I started asking “why?” questions.

The more I read, the more questions. I was like a coon dog on a scent.

I finally had a list of 8 to 10 questions that I needed answers to.

I made an appointment to meet with the guy who was our pastor at the time. Took my questions, along with a few handouts I’d come across along the way. He was a sharp, younger man as I recall, he really listened. By the end of our meeting, I was convinced it was time to move on. The official answers I was given that day just did not add up nor satisfy my intellectual curiosity.

The good thing was, during all of those months and weeks leading up to that meeting, I had been processing out loud. Asking my wife what about this? What about that? So by accident, she too had begun to question some of the fundamental things she had been taught from her youth.

We decided it was time to make some tough choices that we knew might not set well with some of her extended family. But staying where we was not an option.

The fear of what other people think is a snare….it’s called “The fear of man” It is a tough place to live.

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10 years later, I found myself in familiar waters.

(This would have been in the early 1990’s.)

Wife was concerned, even back then, on some of the trends happening in education.

She had heard a program on the radio about home schooling, an interview with Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

My first thought was, no way, no how. That’s just plain crazy talk.

Thing about marriage and parenting is, it’s a joint effort. and over the next while, she continued to read and get more information. She didn’t nag, didn’t talk too much about it, but my lack of support and encouragement, didn’t stop her from doing her own research. It finally came to a head (that whole issue of possibly home schooling our kids) With tears in her eyes, she shared her heart with me. At the end our meeting, we agreed we were not going to just jump because this was not some simple thing. We didn’t know anyone else locally at the time who was doing it. We agreed we would take the next year to learn about it, and then decide.

Looking back, that was one of the best decisions we made while the kids were in the home. Ended up doing it for 9 years. Involved the kids in the decision making process as they got older. I could write a blog post on that season of our life.

Actually I have… here.

Emotionally, those same people pleasing fears were in the air. They were in my head. Especially in the early 1990’s, there were a lot of people who thought we were nuts. We’d stepped off the deep end. We probably thought the earth was flat.

Didn’t matter.

The rule follower in me had already tasted the freedom of making decisions not based on what other people might think, but on what make sense to me intellectually after weighing the information. There are relatives to this day, who probably think we were nuts.

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Got time for one more?

COVID-19 and the plethora of spin off issues and questions.

I like that word plethora. Like how it rolls off my tongue.

I have to be honest.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I have been intellectually lazy on this one.

Hasn’t meant I haven’t been dealing with stuff, just like the rest of you, because I have. It’s just I’ve not been motivated to learn. So I’ve been quiet.

The vitriol once you step foot in the public square, feels like someone has a wood chipper outside my door. Last thing I want to do is get anywhere close to that sucker.

Then I read something in one of the McGuffey readers I bought for fun last winter… It was an essay on the value of Time and Knowledge

“The…value of mental cultivation is another weighty motive for giving attention to reading. What is it that mainly distinguishes a man from a brute? Knowledge…

Knowledge is power. It is the philosopher’s stone, the true alchemy that turns everything it touches into gold…and opens to us the treasures of the universe…”

Knowledge.

Knowledge is power.

So I have started to peck away at the mass of information on the current virus, the history of viruses, prevention, treatment options, vaccinations, and get a working knowledge of it for myself. My baby sister is an RN, works in a local hospital. She has been a good starting place, and continues to let me ask her hard questions.

This feels familiar. Digging in. Reading, Thinking. Asking hard questions.

I will say this,

Once you step away from the wood chipper, there are some things that just do not add up.

Fruit

I wrote a mini series earlier this year on our time living in New Jersey.

Left off thinking I might come back to it, but then I wonder, who is really reading this stuff.

I do appreciate all of you that take the time to read and interact. It’s one of the highlights of my day.

But then this morning I was thinking about my most recent interaction with the lady whose roof I wrote about in my last post...Michelle, made a comment about me being direct, and I thought, you know, that is one of the fruits of our time living @ Gilgal.

The importance of addressing issues head on.

Bible calls it “speaking the truth in love.” Not going to go and quote verses for you on it. You’ll have to trust me on this one…but they are there. It’s a part of the Christian life .

There are two parts to that life skill…

Speaking the truth.

Doing it with love.

If either part is missing, you have a problem.

When I say things that may have truth in them, but don’t do it out of love, it’s like someone trying to prune me with butter knife. I’ve had that happen. I don’t like it.

The other extreme, is thinking we love someone, but we’re not honest, that too is a perversion.

Give you an example.

When we moved back to Iowa, I was not the same person I was when I’d left. When we left. I would say I was pretty passive. A doormat. Not only hated conflict but didn’t go there. I would keep quiet if someone tried to manipulate and or intimidate me. Had that type of relationship with one of my uncles. He didn’t know what to do with me when I no longer took it. It’s taken about 25 years, but I think he finally gets it. ūüôā

There was also a re-calibration of my relationship with my dad, whom I genuinely respect and love. I’d put up with a level of sarcasm for 40 years, until that one morning (after we returned to Iowa). I’ve mentioned it before.

He called 6:30 one morning to touch bases about a job. In the context of our conversation, he sarcastically said “Don’t you listen to the radio?” (Had to do with me not knowing the weather forecast for the day)

Probably had something to do with me just waking up, but out of my mouth came the words, “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.”

Dead silence on the phone.

Took both of us by surprise.

I didn’t say it, disrespectfully, but I didn’t pussy foot around either.

I just said it.

It was a watershed point in our relationship. Happened 25 years ago. He has never used that sarcastic tone of voice with me since. Couple of times, it was close, and I found myself push back.

Told my mom about that conversation later that week, and do you know what she said?….

“I’ve been waiting for you to do that.”

So there you go. One of the biggest life lessons I came away from that season of my life living in New Jersey was how to cultivate, authentic, deep, honest, relationships with other imperfect people. And less you think, it only happens in the context of your family..

Nope.

Works just as powerfully on the job, with your kids, with the guys in the lumberyard, and even in the blog-o-sphere, it can happen.

Do I do it perfectly.

Nope.

But the quality of my relationships as a whole are on a whole different level than they used to be.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! DM

Why (Second in a mini series)

The Winter of 1984, construction slowed down as it often would, so I enrolled in a correspondence class¬† on¬† marriage and family¬† counseling through CCEF.¬† (This was way before on line classes. ūüôā )

We were renting a house just behind the County Care Facility at the time.  (see picture below).

The County Home as it was called locally, housed the young, the old,  the physically and mentally disabled, those struggling with alcohol addiction, etc.  It was a safety net for people who might otherwise have no where else to turn.

Our two girls, both toddlers at the time, would go with their mom over to the kitchen window of the care facility  and visit  the cooks.   The kitchen was in the basement, and Sandy, or  Lori, (the cooks)  would hand them a cookie through the window.

County home

We lived in that little house 3 and 1/2 years. Got to know many of the residents on a first name basis.¬† Hap Steiner, Don Kibermeyer, Freddie, Melvin,¬† Jerry…and Dan.

Dan was just a couple of years older than myself.¬† At the time I had no idea why someone like him would be living at the County home.¬†¬†¬† He wasn’t retarded, nor physically disabled.

Dan and I got together every Monday night after I got home from work for two years.  He and I would sit at our kitchen table while I mostly listened to him.  I secretly had this hunch that if we talked through some of his life issues long enough, he could be set free from whatever in the world it was that had him living here in this care facility, and then he could go on to enjoy a normal life.

That day never came.

I do know Dan consumed  an awful lot of my Nestles Quick chocolate milk as we sat at the table.

Then there was a second person in our life at the time who was also a mystery. Her name was Jodi.¬† She was in her late 20’s.¬† Walked with a slight limp, slightly overweight.¬† I think maybe she had a mild case of Cerebral Palsy¬† She lived just a couple of miles from our place with her mother.¬† She too struggled with an assortment of mental and physical issues and at certain times would lapse into this sing-songy voice when talking.¬†¬† Her struggles (it seemed to me) were more in the realm of negative thought patterns.¬†¬† I had a hunch maybe she’d been bullied as a young girl.¬†¬†¬† Jodi would stop by randomly for a visit, and sometimes we’d go to her moms.

There is one more piece of this story I need to tell you, otherwise I’m going to keep tippy-toeing around it, and it will drive me bonkers.

I am not a religious person.

Never was.

If that is your thing and it helps you navigate life, more power to you. No disrespect intended when I say that.

But I was experiencing a spiritual stirring in my life that wasn’t always in play.

Shortly before we were to be married, we were required to attend a pre-marriage workshop through the local church my wife attended.  Workshops on everything from communication skills, insurance,  money management, etc.

There was one guy that got my attention that afternoon.¬† He did not look like a “church guy”¬† He looked more like a college football coach or a construction worker.¬†¬†¬† He looked at this auditorium full of young couples in love and said he was going to give it to us straight.

He said,¬†¬† “If you want your marriage to have a chance in this day and age, when one out of two end in divorce, then Jesus Christ, needs to be in the center of your relationship, the cement in your marriage.”

I had not idea what that meant practically speaking but as someone who was pouring a lot of cement at the time, that word picture really resonated with me . It left me wanting to know more.  The best way I can put it, is a  year and 1/2 later,  the lights came on spiritually.

The more I grew spiritually, the more I wanted to know…

What would it take to help someone like a Jodi or Dan, both of whom seemed obviously stuck?

I finished my first class through the mail and wanted more.

To be continued….

 

You can, but you don’t have to

Thirty years ago I attended a weekend workshop offered through our local community college on assertive communication.

I’ve mentioned this before.

Cost of the weekend was $40.

Best $40 I have ever spent…..

Ever.

I was reminded of that course again this afternoon.

Yesterday, I stopped at 5 different locations assessing storm damage after last Monday’s Derecho.

I had mixed feelings about bidding on one of the projects.  Some of this stuff is intuition.

I’d originally gotten a call from a woman last week, who sounded nice enough.¬† After a couple of questions, she asked if I would mind speaking with her husband.¬† ¬†Not a problem.¬† When hubby got on the phone, there was a completely different vibe.¬† (I think she’d called me without¬† talking to him about it first.)¬† Anyway, he was a little dismissive and non committal about whether or not he wanted me to stop and look at their job.¬† ¬†( I am already into November with scheduling, so¬† I felt like I was more doing him a favor than me needing work).

Last Sunday night he called back,¬† different tone.¬† Little more humble.¬† ¬†Set up a time for me to stop on Tuesday.¬† Monday, we had that storm¬† so I didn’t get to their place until yesterday (Saturday).

After looked at the project, I decided I really didn’t want to¬† pursue it any further.

I sent him a text this afternoon, letting him know I stopped, but after looking at the project have decided to pass on the work.¬† That is all I’m going to tell him.¬† ¬†And that’s where some of the material we covered from the assertiveness class came back.

Assertiveness Bill of Rights

I have the right to change my mind.

I do not have to explain why I chose to do what I do.

I can¬† tell you why I’ve decided to do something a certain, way if I want to,¬† BUT I DO NOT HAVE TO.

The husband wrote back, asking why I was going to pass?

That’s is far as that conversation is going to go.

I am not going to unpack my decision with him.

Nothing to be gained.

Would love to hear your thoughts.¬† ¬†ūüôā

I can’t lay my hands on the original list we covered but¬† here are a few variations of it I grabbed off Google image…

 

 

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 ūüėČ

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.” ūüôā

I love the confidence that has come with getting older.

DM

Pompous Experts

I keep a writing journal.

It is not for public consumption.¬† It is an unedited mix.¬† Sometime diary, catch all for articles that capture my attention,¬† blog posts,¬† personal correspondence, recipe’s, etc.¬† (It is several hundred thousand words long at this point.)

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I’m currently reading through Louisa May Alcott’s personal journal.¬† It’s one of the ways I unwind at the end of the day. I usually only read a couple of pages at a time, but for some mysterious reason, her journals have a way of grounding me…

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Anyway, in reading through my writing journal yesterday, this entry caught my eye, and I decided to share a portion of it.

5/11/2013

Pompous writing experts

…I am liking keeping a writing journal.

It taps into a different ‚Äúvoice‚ÄĚ than¬† when I write blog posts.¬† There is definitely this creative pulse I feel inside that wants to escape.¬† I would love to hone my writing skills and yet @ the same time am not interested in getting feedback from people like S. H. or especially¬† M. K. who ripped a rough draft of my first book I shared with him several years ago.¬†¬†

Those two well meaning ‚Äúwriters‚ÄĚ were brutal and deeply wounded my spirit, causing me to second guess anything I would write….

Now I get it…writing well is definitely a craft and like teaching,  there are some fundamental principles a person wants to master to be  effective..  The trick is who is giving the feedback and in what spirit.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I want to learn how to write¬† clean, crisp, honest, work.¬† I really do, and I know I have the humility to learn‚ĶI‚Äôve proved it in other areas of my life.¬† Just give me a teacher filled with Grace ‚Äď like Brenda Uhland.¬† I would LOVE to have sat under her mentoring.¬† In the mean time‚ĶI will continue to¬† learn.¬† No more pompous writing experts for me.¬†

None.

Nada. 

I would rather go to my grave with just this journal I‚Äôve written for my own personal pleasure than listen to fools tell me what I‚Äôve done wrong….

¬† ¬† At this stage of my life, I have no interest in telling someone else how to live their lives- whether how they raise their kids, grow a garden, tend honey bees,¬† or whatever-¬† I aspire to live quietly, to work with my hands, be dependent on no one…. Period.

Ruth Stout is my role model for mentoring others… She had it (deep mulch gardening) figured out.¬† ¬†She did not want to be put on some pedestal.¬† She just did her own thing and then reported the results, and let people make their own conclusions.

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One more thought.¬† While this entry is mostly about being mentored in writing, it can really apply to any area of life.¬† I’ve seen it played out with gardening, raising honey bees, guns, carpentry, small engine repair, computers, parenting, marriage relationships, money management, fermentation,¬† etc. etc.

Good mentors are hard to find.

If you have one, I’d encourage you to¬† let them know how much you appreciate them.

Just a thought.

Take care.

DM

 

Growing up with big ears

Yesterday son John and I worked together hanging drywall.¬† He said he liked the picture I’d put on Facebook¬† the night before….(my grandpa’s baby picture).

I said to John,¬† I just wish someone would have told me when I was growing up, big¬† ears ran in the family.¬† ¬†ūüôā

Growing up I hated my ears.  I was ashamed of them. Kids called me monkey.  I swore that I would have plastic surgery when I grew up.  Funny thing is, when I could finally gets my hands on the $3000  I needed for plastic surgery, I had to stop and think about it.  They no longer bothered me.  My ears are just a part of what makes me, me.  -)

I’ve been working on family history this winter as I’ve mentioned recently and one of my dad’s baby pictures caught my eye.

I posted this series of photos on Facebook for my peep earlier this week:

Grandpa

Dad

Me

Son John

John’s son

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Growing up, my self esteem sucked.¬† No other way to put it.¬† I had a terrible case of low self worth.¬† I didn’t realize just how bad it was until I became an adult.

I hated my ears, I hated my name.  I hated the fact that I was small for my age growing up, not good at sports like my little brother.  I was different than him. I had a musical bent.  A sensitive heart. And I was clueless when it came to girls.

Low self esteem casts a long shadow.

It affects all your relationships.

Low self worth is  a festering wound in the soul.

I no longer battle with the self esteem issues I had growing up.

Restoring self worth in others is one of my passions.

A part of me would love to start a support group for kids who think they have big ears.

Question for you…What would you tell that little boy who came to you and said, the kids in school are making fun of his big ears, calling him “monkey, monkey, monkey,”¬† and picking on him because he is so small?

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Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. DM

 

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