What Mary Said

Every three years, my wife’s  extended family gather in central Nebraska for a family reunion.  It  starts on a Friday night and ends Sunday after breakfast.

Saturday night is the talent show.

Singing, piano songs, tap dance, guitar.  One of the uncles brought some pottery pieces last time and talked about that. It’s open to everyone.  You just never know what to expect.

We’re about a month out from the next reunion…

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I was sitting in the lounge area three years ago, waiting for my wife at the end of the weekend.  One of her cousins with two little ones sat down on the couch opposite me.   The older girl  had performed in the talent show the night before. Her name was Mary.

I told her she’d done an awesome job in the talent show the night before.

Takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of seventy people, you barely know and sing a solo.

Mary singing in the talent show - Copy

Mary singing  in the talent show.

“Thanks.” she said.  “What’s your talent?”

Took me totally off guard.

She looked at me with the most intense, matter of fact expression.

 “Did you perform  in the talent show?” 

“No.”

“Why not?”

I mumbled something lame about being good in the audience.

Her question caught me off guard.  I remember mumbling something about promising to do something next time.

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I have thought about Mary and her questions for three years.

What’s your talent?

And why not?

The talent show is not about being better than the next person, or winning a prize.  It is about sharing a piece of my life  for the encouragement and enjoyment of the rest.

I am not a great singer.  I dabble in music.  Yes I was in choir, until the teacher asked me to be apart of a guy/ girl singing group where I would have to dance and sing.  I didn’t think so.   Yes I had 5 years of piano lessons and 2 years of organ lessons.  Yes I played the trumpet in jazz band.  Yes I know some basic chords on the acoustic guitar and can read music.  But sharing any of that in a family talent show?  None of that really lights a fire in me now.  So for the past three years I have been wracking my brain about what talent or story or hobby to bring with me to the next talent show, because I gave my word to Mary you know.

Yesterday morning it clicked.

I know what I am going to do. 🙂

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What about you? What would you say to Mary? What part of your life could you share with the rest of us  and sitting on the sidelines was not an option?  Because, here’s the deal.  I believe, in the big scheme of things,  each and everyone of us is a walking, talking repository of life stories, life skills, life lessons, meant not just for ourselves to hoard, and keep stashed away, but to share as well.

Where does the fire burn?  Do you love to garden?  What are some of the favorite things you grow and why? What are some gardening tricks you’ve learned over the years?  Art, do you love to paint, draw, work with your hands? Give me details!   Have you been given abilities to fix things with your hands?  Tell me a story about something that had you stumped, then figured out how to fix.   Are you good with children, older people, the sick?  Tell me a funny story about that.  Do you love the outdoors?  Why? What is it about the outdoors that brings you joy?  Do you live in a big city?  Tell me a story about life in the big city that will make me laugh…or surprise me because of the kindness of a stranger.

You’re up next. 🙂   DM

 

Here’s a link to a blog post about this same encounter written three years ago, right after it happened. To be totally honest, I’d forgotten I’d written it.  It showed up on my screen this morning after I posted the new one.  Maybe my clutch is starting to slip.  

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Permission

Just west of our place, a neighbor has been building a new home.  I’ve been watching the progress since the cement was poured last Fall.  The curious thing is, there has been no activity for the past three months, Still doesn’t have any siding, nor roof over the front porch.  I heard this morning that the neighbor had fired the carpenter.  I’m not sure I believe it, because I have worked alongside this particular carpentry crew  multiple times, and they are first rate.

Pause.

I have a confession to make.

The thought (even if it turns out not to be true) that he was let go, gave me this strange happy peaceful feeling.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inside of me that wishes ill of this other tradesman.  I think it has to do with me feeling I’m not alone when it comes to work related drama.

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Yesterday I was installing a storm door for a repeat customer. Her name is Lisa.  While I was in the middle of hanging the door, Lisa came back to the house, muttering something about, “I’d lose my head  if it wasn’t attached to me…”

I said, “What happened? ”

“Oh, I went outside with a rag in my hand to dust off the kids swimming pool, and now I can’t find it. I’ve looked everywhere.  Must have set it down someplace.”

 

“Well, yesterday, I proceeded to tell her,  I misplaced a bank deposit in my truck, three checks, and a $100 worth of cash.  I had it in my hands, while I was filling out the deposit slip, set it down somewhere, (in the truck) and it took me five minutes (literally) to figure out where I put it.”

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I’d much rather hang around people who are willing to admit they don’t always have it together once in a while.

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I was about 16 at the time.  It was crunch time trying to get the oats in.  Dad had just brought home the large spoked wheels for his oats seeder from the machine shop.  (New bearings installed.)   Seeder was parked on the edge of the field while I disked.  On one of my first passes, I got too close to the oats seeder, and caught the spokes with the outside blade of my disk.  Turned the oat seeder wheel into a metal pretzel.  To his credit, my dad never said a word.

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Late 1980’s we were living in Northern New Jersey.  One of the families in our local church offered to let us borrow their Suburban when we decided to take a trip back to Iowa.  So there I was driving this expensive  borrowed vehicle as I pulled into a parking ramp in downtown Cedar Rapids. The gate went up, half way through the entrance, wife had a question.  I stopped.  The gate began to come  down.  I panicked/ hit the gas.   Gate goes flying in a half a dozen different direction.  Then a very large security guy stepped out from the guard shack….(things go blank after that)

Have I ever told you about the Amish butterflies we found in our pantry ?  I need to tell you if I haven’t already.

People that try to make out like they are  “perfect” all the time, can be really hard to live around.

Don’t be like that.

My point in all of this…  in case you need a reminder, or some encouragement, or a kick in the pants…

To be human is to be imperfect.

 

Amish Butterfy/  Google Image

Bikers

I got to get this out…

Yesterday afternoon, I ran to town to meet  someone who was going to buy four pieces of cast iron cookware we had listed. When I got to the end of our gravel road,  a dozen crotch rockets flew past, like  a swarm of angry bees.  Another half a dozen  bikers passed me once I got on the road.  They had to be going 80 to 100 MPH, (or more)

My first thought was, I hope those guys know there is a 70 MPH corner coming up two miles ahead.   

One of the bikes had a girl riding passenger.

A dozen other thoughts flashed through my mind.

 

My dad talks about the human brain not  maturing until  the age of 25.  Watching 18 bikes weaving in and out of heavy 2 lane traffic going 20 (to 50?) miles above the speed limit might be an example of that.

As I approached the corner a minute later,  I could see something was amiss.  A car in the North bound lane had pulled over and was flashing their lights in my direction.  (translation = SLOW DOWN)

Several bikes had pulled over, people walking on the shoulder.

Debris in the ditch.

Traffic was moving fast and thick, did not seem wise for me to stop, so I continued on to my appointment.

30 minutes later  on my return trip, there were still 2 ambulances, and multiple law enforcement vehicles on the scene.

There was nothing on our 10 PM local news channel  last night about the accident or again this morning,  so I think someone got very, very lucky.

DM

 

 

Munchkins

6:25 AM

Full day ahead.

(Moving branches, spraying for apple cedar rust, meeting with two potential customers, table building, and who knows what else…

I just stumbled across this  short clip (again) and it set a good tone for the  day.

Especially his story about the munchkins and their little flippers.

You’ll have to excuse me.

Still need to make my bed. 😉 DM

Speak Life

Quick story from this morning….

Number one son and I were in Muscatine the last couple of days doing repairs on a turn of the century house.  Place had been converted into a group home and was in need of some TLC.   First thing that struck me when we got to the job was the  neighborhood.  Lots of large older homes, that in their day would have been something to see.  Second thing that struck me was the couple next door. The two of them, ( I’m guessing, mid 70’s) were hard at it.  She had a dew-rag on her head, and he had one of those floppy safari hats.   Their house sat back further from the street than the rest of the houses on the block and it  (the house) looked like it could be on the cover of a magazine.  A part of me wanted to tell them how nice their place looked, but I didn’t want to come across as some nut-case, so I kept my thoughts to myself.

This morning on the way back to Muscatine, the guy on the radio was talking about the power of our words.  Our words have the power to  build up, and tear down, and to look for opportunities to encourage.

So, that little thought was rolling around in my head  as I was finishing up.  I spotted the neighbor lady bringing a garbage can out to the street, so I thought, what the heck. I told her good morning.   Then I told her  how much I had admired the way they kept their place up.  She in turn complimented me on how nice the newly painted front and back porch looked on the house we were working on.  We  talked for 30 seconds, but that’s all it took.

That little ditty they taught you when you were a kid about “sticks and stones can break your bones, but word can never harm you.”

That’s a bunch of BS.  (BS stands for Bad Stuff in German.)

I have a  friend who will occasionally say to me “Speak life.” 

I like it.

I think it’s a spin off from the phrase “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

Do I do this perfectly?  Nada.

Especially at home.

Well, I better call it a day. Later! DM

 

 

She Warned Me This Would Happen

The following was written by my friend and former co-worker Chris.  This week the two of us spent three days building a fence at his house. It was good.  I asked him if he would have any interest making a guest appearance on the blog…. maybe write about our time building fence together, etc.   I know he stops by here sometimes, because he will occasionally shoot me a text on something I have written.

Please give a warm welcome to Chris…. 😉 DM

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She warned me this would happen…

With the arrival of our first, the past year and a half have been a blur and a blast. What was a wriggling, cooing mass of cuteness only a blink ago, has since grown in to an adventurous, yet shy, beautiful toddler.

This addition to our family sparked a seemingly endless chain of spiraling adjustments, to almost all reaches of our lives. With the new plateau of mobility and curiosity came a sudden realization that dangers we could once keep at bay were suddenly within reach to Felix.

Rather than test the limits of his name (Felix; fortunate, lucky, blessed), we decided to erect a fence around our backyard. As much for his safety as our enjoyment, this decision cued DM’s arrival on the scene.

We have history, this carpenter and me. At a time in my life when I was landing kitchen jobs and had been constantly on the move, my significant and I made the decision to move back to my hometown. Life for us had been an adventure for quite some time. With a youthful desire to not limit ourselves in any way, we had been burning the candle hot at both ends. Looking back, I know we learned and grew a lot through those experiences, but we both were in need of a drastic change.

He said he was looking for someone with no experience, and that was what he got. Those first few weeks were an eye opener for me- my emaciated frame had never known such pain! Parts of my body I had not known existed suddenly were screaming at me.

At the same time, I found myself suddenly having conversations with a man who had crossed life’s seas and knew all the knots. I remarked to my wife (girlfriend at the time) that going to work was like going to therapy. Quick with encouragement and laughter, in the middle of a trench or on top of a roof, I found myself wanting to rise to his level of Zen.

I learned a lot over those two years; to not shy away from pain, to reflect and introspect daily, the importance of taking a break, how to set healthy boundaries, time management, the list goes on. Unashamed to share personal trials and challenges, his level of honesty with himself and with me was something not yet known in my life. It was just what I needed. Without realizing it I was making the transition out of childhood at a point in my life that I can reflect on now as ‘just in time.’

Snap forward to the present. It had been quite a while since I had seen DM, and I was looking forward to our time together building a fence for Felix in the backyard. My wife jokingly warned me the day before we were set to get started, “You’re going to want to quit your job and start working with him again after this I bet!”

My frame is not so emaciated at this point in my life, but the pain was the same as on that first job site. I made the remark something to the effect that physical work is so much more rewarding than mental anguish. As my muscles were ripped apart yet again (from neglect, admittedly), I was reminded of the journey I had taken under DM’s wing all those years ago.

She was right.

 

Fence building week

Funeral Day

I should be in bed.

Can’t sleep.

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Went to a funeral visitation today.

Buried one of our pet cats yesterday.    Two tangible reminders in one week  to the  fragility of life.

I will miss her. (The cat)

She was feral.

We called her “Miss Kitty”.

Pretty sure she was abused before  she showed up at our door.  Never, really trusted us.
But she did have a special relationship with Libby. The two of them would snuggle together in the winter.

 

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Funerals, funeral visitations, receiving lines, that whole flurry of activity that comes with a death.   Mom and I were talking about all that stuff again recently.  She agreed with me when I said the less you say the better.  Hugs, warm handshakes, look the family in the eye…but no empty cliches!

That approach has served me well the last several times.

The month my father-in-law died, my favorite grandma also died, then a few weeks later, a third person.  We were emotionally numb.  I can still remember our friends Leslie and Mel, Chris and Kelly,  sitting in the foyer of the funeral home just hanging around.  They knew this was our 3rd trip to the funeral home in a month.  Just their presence there was enough.

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Few years ago, when we were more  involved hosting concerts, Beth Wood a singer/ songwriter stayed with us one weekend.  She had just released her album  Beachcombers Daughter.   One of my favorite songs on that album was called Funeral Day.

It goes  like this:

We were laughing, it was funeral day
I guess it might seem strange that we’d behave that way
It was just our bodies craving levity,
My grief a heavy blanket weighing down on me
So we laughed until the sun went down
Trading stories, passing the bottle around
Recalling all the good times we had
It didn’t seem so sad

It all started at the parlor doors
Cousin Henry’s kid tripped on an extension chord
We busted out, what else could we do?
Hell, I knew that you were up there crackin’ up, too
So we laughed until the preacher came in
Then we settled down and we listened to him
Staring at your photograph

It didn’t seem so sad

Well we got some dirty looks from the old blue-hair crowd
But with all due respect, I think we did you proud
By laughing out loud

…it’s just a simple story, we’re here and then we’re gone

So I laugh remembering that day
How we carried on and how it washed our tears away
I’m smiling and I’m looking back
It doesn’t seem so sad.

Sending this one out to all of you that are missing someone.

Whether it’s been just a few weeks or 20 years.

DM