Capture this while it is fresh

I’ll try to keep this short.  It has to do with unresolved emotional pain from my youth.

Wife had her class reunion a few weeks ago.  (Mine was last year, I didn’t go.)

A friend of ours (Marilyn) just attended her 50th high school class reunion on the west coast.  She was really looking forward to it….

So I’ve been thinking about it again… (the why I have absolutely no desire to go, in fact, just the opposite.

I  am not alone.

Growing up, I had a nasty case of low self-esteem.   Crippling shyness.  I’ve written about it here before..won’t unpack all of the why’s again, except for a few details.

As a young man, I did not hit puberty until my senior year of high school.  That is huge if you’re a guy, and one of the primary measurements of society is the physical….

So there I was this small, physically undeveloped  book loving twerp, with a musical bent, who loathed his body.  My ears were too big (I thought at the time) and I hated my name. Mandatory showers in gym were hell.

Fear,  fear of being shoved out of the locker room into the gym with my pants down… self loathing, low self worth….

And I wonder why I don’t have good feelings about those years?  Yea, right….

Looking back,  If I had matured earlier and felt cool and accepted, there is no doubt in my mind I would have been sucked into a lot of things I would now regret…so the very things I hated at the time, were a blessing in disguise.

 

Well, yesterday I had a lot of windshield time on my hands, and I was praying, asking God to touch  those 40 yr old wounds, if he would….

and out of nowhere, the thought came to my head….Remember the story of the ugly duckling….

(You remember that story don’t you?)  Baby swan  gets dropped in with a flock of baby ducks…he doesn’t fit in.  He is clumsily, body  out of proportion compared to his peers…they made fun of him.

Sort of like me back in the day.

You are a swan. 

 

A black swan. 

(These were random thoughts coming to my mind.)

So I have been thinking about that story ever since.

So, way down in the depths of my heart, in those pockets and recesses even I don’t have access to, a little more  of the pain has been released.

Don’t doubt me.

Black swan photo, compliments of google

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I am convinced 95% of us have unresolved emotional pain….and if you’re anything like me, it just stays buried, lodged in there, until some catalyst comes along to bring it to my consciousness…and then I have a choice…stuff it back down/ block it out/ or bring the nasty, pussy, infected crap, into the light.  Put it on the operating table.  Flush  out the wound, pull out the embedded sliver. Write about it.  Tell someone….Do whatever it takes so that it no longer  has as much power over me

That is just me.

That is just how I roll.

Later! DM

 

 

 

 

Why does it have to be good or bad?

   

Yesterday I was out in the orchard and noticed something not quite right.   On closer inspection, I realized the hailstorm we got a couple of nights ago had really done a number on the young fruit.  It is still too early to tell for sure, but it looks like we may have a crop of all seconds.  This morning I was out in the garden setting up cages around the tomato plants, still musing on the apple crop damage, the following story came to mind….I had come across it several years ago and posted it on the blog at that time.   To this day, that story  helps me process life  when something comes along (like a hail storm.)  DM

_____________________________________

Once there was a farmer who  had one son and one horse.  One day his horse ran away.    When his neighbors heard about it, they came to comfort him.  “Such bad luck- we’re sorry your only horse ran away.” they said.

Who is to say whether it’s good or bad, replied the farmer.  All I can say for sure is, my horse has run away.  Time will tell whether this is good or bad.”   His neighbors just shook their heads and walk away.

A week later, his horse returned home-  along with 20 wild horses!!!

    His neighbors, upon hearing the news, came to congratulate him.  “What good luck you have.  Not only did your horse return, but he brought with him 20 more.  Such a lucky man you are!”

      “Who is to say whether it’s good or bad-  All I know is my horse has come home along with 20 wild horses-  and leave it at that.”  Again, his neighbors shook their heads and  scoffed –  “Of course it’s good luck you old fool!  Twenty new horses is obviously good luck!”

     The next week the  farmer’s son was out riding in the pen with the new horses, fell off and broke his leg.  Upon hearing the news, the neighbors came over to comfort the farmer.  “You were right- Those wild horses were not a sign of good fortune- now your son has broken his leg- and right before the harvest.  Such bad luck!”

      Again the farmer replied “Why do you constantly want to label something as good or bad.  Why can’t you just say, “My son has broken his leg while riding a horse and leave it at that.  Who is to say whether it is good or bad?”

       Upon hearing this, the neighbors were indignant ” Listen old man, to have your son break his leg at this time is unfortunate and a sign of bad luck.  You are such a fool to think otherwise.”

       The following week, an army came to town and drafted all the eligible young men, and sent them off to war in a far away place.  They did not take the farmer’s son on account of his broken leg.  Afterwards, the people were heartbroken and came to the farmer in tears-  You were right-  our sons are gone, we’ll probably never see them again- such bad luck our town has experienced!.

The old farmer (again) said- “Why do you continue to insist an event is good or bad?  We do not know the end from the beginning. Why can’t you just say, Our sons have been drafted, and only time will tell if it is good or not.

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I’m a dad to 4 great kids (and adopted dad  to another young woman)  The youngest is 28 and the oldest is 37 (today).  I’ve watched again and again  as God has used painful consequences to teach life lessons to my children.  I try not to get too worked up when I hear  some of the heartache that comes into their lives.

A night in jail is not necessarily a bad experience…..

I always told them- If you get busted, I’m not going to come and bail you out.”  “I never want to go back to that place as long as I live!!!”  they tell us later.    It took a while, but we as a family have laughed as this child has recounted the details of their experience in that night.

 

Tell me about some of the hard things in your life that have eventually resulted in good.  As always, thanks for reading along! DM

The Disease of Being Busy

Yesterday morning my son and I tried something new.

We’ve been wanting to spend a little more time together connecting in an unhurried fashion… Now that he too is a husband and young father, trying to make his way through this jungle called life, I appreciate having a relationship with him where he is comfortable and free to talk about whatever is pressing in on him….Early Saturday mornings work best for both of our schedules…I put on a pot of coffee (Starbucks/ french roast/ whole bean) and in the quietness of my wood shop we talked….everything from the deeply personal to vehicle needs and work. It did my heart good as a dad, and I sensed it left him just as encouraged.

I’m hopeful we will do this again..

Came across the following article just the other day, on the topic of business.  The first several years after we were married, even after the kids started coming along, as a firstborn, workaholic myself, spending some unhurried time just talking would not have fit into my schedule.  I’ve written about that season of my life before…I’ve been on both sides of the equation,  I know what it’s like to be running on empty, and I know what it’s like (now) to be able to have margin.

Trust me, margin in life is worth fighting for…..DM

_________________________________

The Disease of Being Busy

by Omid Safi (@ostadjaan), Columnist

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

  1. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

From this link:

https://onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

Google image

I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

_____________________

Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM

 

Fermentation

Two weeks ago , I spoke at our library on  the publication of my latest book on local history.  At one point during the question and answer period, Terri asked me if I had any new projects in the works.

Her question took me off guard, but since I sensed she really wanted to know I told her this:

“Well, actually I do. There are two.  One requires a good chunk of money so until that piece of the puzzle comes together ….

My first project in the wings is this….I would like to retrace (on foot) the Scottish pioneer settlers that came to our area late 1830…they started in the Red River Area of Manitoba Canada..worked their way down through Minnesota and into eastern Iowa.   All told, a 1300 mile trek on foot.  Realistically, I would need two and 1/2 to three months to pull that off. and because I would not be working,  enough money to off set the lost income…so until that piece of the puzzle comes together…..

 I have discovered another area of life, that combines several things.  I have been intrigued for years about various processes (making cheese, fermenting wine, starting sour dough starter from scratch with wild yeast… etc)  I realized a few weeks ago, they all fall under a general category of fermentation….so my latest quest is to become a “Fermentation Master”   (whether it’s sour dough, wine, sauerkraut, or cheese, curing meat, food preservation, etc.  I want to understand the theory behind these life skills…”

(Fermentation master is a term I DM have coined for myself…like acquiring a masters degree in college). 🙂

Pause

If you were to stop by our home currently, you would discover I have 2 things currently fermenting.   A two quart jar of peach mead, (from local raw honey and some peaches off one of our trees)  and 2 jars of red sauerkraut.  I’ve been nibbling out of one jar of  sauerkraut the past few weeks just to have a handle on the taste…I’ve noticed my incessant food cravings have tapered back between 50% to 75%…(which I have battled for years.   I’ve also dropped 8 pounds).  In some of the literature I’ve read about lactic acid fermentation  (which is what is going on when making sauerkraut)..it mentioned the link between food cravings,  obesity, healthy gut bacteria, the brain/ probiotic links etc.

So last night, I messaged a friend who also happens to be a family doctor that specializes in nutritional and lifestyle choices  (who is much more up to speed on the medical angle of these things) and asked her if there could be a connection…here is what she said:

“It makes perfect sense, Doug! What happens is that by eating the sauerkraut you have been changing the microbiome of your GI tract. You may have had an imbalance of yeast, which ALWAYS causes you to crave carbs and sugar.”

Pause.

Anyway,  here is a link to a great blog with  information about fermentation and some recipe’s you can try yourself at home that I stumbled across recently:

http://modernhippiehousewife.com/fermented-food/

And here is a link to a user friendly, in depth book on fermentation by Fermentation Master  Sandor Katz.  I  got my hard cover copy two weeks ago.   It is  so readable and full of practical wisdom.

It should be on every person’s book shelf.

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Fermentation-Depth-Exploration-Essential/dp/160358286X

And finally, here’s a link to Sandor Katz  on Youtube talking about how to make your own sauerkraut and the health benefits.  Check it out!

So that’s some of what’s been on my mind the past month.   DM

 

EverClear

everclear

 

Back when I was eighteen, I used to bum a menthol cigarette off Mike Cooper at break. It  started when he teased me and offered me one, knowing I didn’t smoke.  Not wanting to look like a sissy I  smoked it.
This  went on for ten days.  I can still remember the day,  I went from doing it to fit in, to actually thinking about it, and looking forward to having a smoke at break.

Right then I knew something had shifted in my mind….I was on the precipice of taking up smoking as a habit…did I really want to do that????

Naaa….better quit while I was ahead…sissy or not, in the eyes of my construction co-workers, I decided to back away from the ledge.  No  more cigarettes…that’s not to say, I didn’t try a few other things, but those are conversations for another day.

Pause-  (I hope those of you that smoke don’t think I’m judgmental, because that is not where I am coming from.)

I’ve never regretted that decision to stop before I really got started…especially after watching my grandpa Conley, laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to oxygen struggling to breath. He whispered, it felt like someone had a pillow over his face….all because of a lifetime of smoking.

Anyway, a new interest,  has gradually been  creeping into my life the past few weeks.  It started  when I got a call for a gallon of freshly pressed apple cider.    Merle, who is a foreman at a business I occasionally do carpentry work for, wanted to find some fresh apple cider for his wife.   She was making “apple pie” for a labor day get together.  Legally, I can’t sell fresh cider, but I can give it away..so I  pressed a bushel of ginger-golds  for Merle,  and quipped, “I wanted a sample of this “apple pie” when it is ready.”

.  The following Monday, Merle called and said, he wanted to return my plastic jug, and send home a quart of apple pie..

Oh my.

It was the sweetest, most tasty drink I have sipped on, since I don’t know when….

His wife also sent home the recipe.  Fresh apple cider, cinnamon sticks, a little sugar…and…190 proof alcohol.

Moon shine…Ever clear…and one of the things about this concoction is you can not taste the alcohol.

I had one small glass of it, the night I brought it home ….

and been thinking about it ever since….

In my worldview, having an occasional drink of alcohol in and of itself is not wrong. The issues lie more in the areas of self control, moderation, financial,  addiction, and the butt load of spin off issues that come with it.  Alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, and my wife’s as well.  I have experienced first hand (some of) the long term heartache that comes with alcoholic addictions.

Do I really want to go further down that road?

At some point,  and I’m not sure where that point is,  our physical body, and the alcohol start calling the shots, and and as a friend of mine who struggled with  this addiction told me, “It’s like there is a monkey on your back, and when he pulls the chain, you feed him.”

So, right before logging on this morning , I dumped the rest of the apple pie down the sink.

Side note- I’ve written before about my grandpa sharing with me the family recipe for making moonshine.  It is a piece of family history I found intriguing.  There is a little part of me that feels some sort of connection with the past, (by entertaining the idea of cooking up a batch or two of my own apple pie)…  but then I think, you know, that same grandpa that shared that recipe with me, also had his battles  with the bottle…

and that is a part of my family history, I would just as soon not repeat….ever.

 

But I’ve Been To…..

“We we were in San Paulo last Summer with our two sons on a family vacation.   We wanted to expose them to the cultural institutions and a rich architectural traditions.  It was amazing!  Have you ever been there?” said Fred.

(I was at one of those boring high school graduation receptions, trying to mingle with crowd of complete strangers.)

“Nope.” I said.

I could tell Fred wanted to tell me more so I asked some open-ended questions and listened politely.

“The summer before that we took the boys to Saint Petersburg Russia.  It is a port city on the Baltic Sea….have you ever been to Russia?”

“No. I replied, but I did spend two weeks in Ibiza when I was sixteen…” (My comment fell on deaf ears.)

Five minutes later, Fred moved on to another guest at the party.  I could tell he was  talking about one of his favorite subjects…

Himself.

Himself and his travels to far away places.

Pause.

I remember being at a family reunion several years ago,  the same dynamic was taking place. Some of the cousins were trying to one up each other by talking about certain far away places they’d been to and discussing obscure facts that you would only know if you had been there too.

At the time it left me feeling inferior and inadequate.

I have a forty-year class reunion coming up next month.  I’m not going.  I am pretty sure I’ve written about it here on the blog not too long ago  (but I could be wrong). 😉

I grew up in small town USA.  My high school class numbered around 150.  I spent 13 formative years of my life  (counting kindergarten) with many of these people.  I was small and shy the whole time, except for the last 6 months of my senior year.  I was one of the last ones picked whenever we would choose sides in PE class, because I was so small.

I take full responsibility for the fact there are just a couple of classmates  with whom I still keep in touch.

In the past, I have gutted it out, and attended all the five and ten-year  reunions.  As many of you, I have grown and matured in my people skills, and while no one would ever consider me the life of the party, I do know how to engage in small talk with perfect strangers if I need to.

I can actually be kind of funny sometimes.

Few weeks ago, as I was again mulling over this upcoming class reunion,I decided to reprogram my  dark thoughts with something new. Identify some things to be thankful for, from  my years in school.  Here’s what I came up with:

I met my wife there.  If I never went, I most likely would have never gotten that first date .

I learned to read.

I learned to write.

What really excites me when I compare the person who graduated high school forty years ago and the person I am today is what has happened on the inside. The feelings of inferiority and inadequacy are 80% 90% less than they used to be.

I have navigated the treacherous waters of life, parenting 4 young people into adulthood. They all  stay in touch and  love to come home.  I have stayed married to the same woman for thirty-eight years, and we still like each other….a  lot.

Well, I need to run.  My siblings and I are taking my dad out for breakfast this morning for his 84th birthday.   I am a rich man…even if I have never been to  San Paulo.