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 😉

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.” 🙂

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 “voice” 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 “writers” 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…I’ve proved it in other areas of my life.  Just give me a teacher filled with Grace – like Brenda Uhland.  I would LOVE to have sat under her mentoring.  In the mean time…I 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’ve written for my own personal pleasure than listen to fools tell me what I’ve 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

 

Saw it at the auto parts store

I was running late.

Had just a couple of minutes before I had to head back to class, figured I had just enough time to get the part.

Walked in the door of our local auto parts store. Two guys behind the counter and  three people in line.

I felt a tight knot in my stomach.

I had tried to squeeze too many things in.  Had not yet learned the importance of building margin into my schedule.

Then I saw it…. a sign on the wall, about the size of a piece of typing paper.

It put everything into perspective.

I left the store without the part that day.

I first encountered that sign 45 years ago, and to this day I still refer to it in my personal dealings with people…..

 

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part

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Agreed to help another carpenter with a large project this past fall. The project meant a couple of months of steady work/ great pay… At the last minute, the financing fell through.  I had scheduled my fall work around that job, and suddenly found myself scrambling to stay busy….

It happens.

Same project was rescheduled to start this Spring.  I was told, it would be ready for us, late May/ early June…  then got bumped back to first week of July…then 3 weeks ago, we got an e-mail that they wouldn’t be ready for us until early August.

Right about that time, Paul approached me about finishing off their basement, and since I wasn’t going to be needed until early August, it fit perfectly into my schedule.  Lined up an electrician,  a plumber and a drywall finisher.

Start date July 1st.

Got a phone call on Monday…the large project will be ready mid July. (Not early August).

It took me a little bit to sort this one through.  Keeping my word is important to me, and I had given my word to the other carpenter that he could count on me with the large project.

Then I remembered that sign from the auto parts store.

Bet you’ll never guess where I’ll be working mid July. 🙂

Well, I have time to spray the orchard this morning.  No wind. Perfect conditions.  Currently shaping up to be the best apple crop we’ve ever had….

Take care. DM

Who are you? Who am I? That all depends

Wednesday was a big day.  We are currently framing a 2000 sq foot addition and three stall garage.  I came home physically and mentally exhausted.   Wife is out of town for a couple of days, so about 6:30 in the evening, I decided to run to town to fill up with gas and grab something to drink.  (A quart of chocolate milk.) 😉   I hadn’t  gotten cleaned up, so I looked a little rough around the edges.

I have been buying  gas at this same  store for several years.  I am on a first name basis with several of the ladies I see in the mornings.   Since it was 6:30 in the evening, a couple of guys I’ve only seen once or twice were manning the registers.  As I walked up to the counter I said “How’s it going?” and even though I made eye contact with both of them, neither of them said a thing.

They just stared at me.

I put my check on the counter, asked what I owed them.

I was already just a little put off by their demeanor,  normally wouldn’t have given it another thought, but the guy who “seemed to be” in charge,  had an air of arrogance and condensation about him.    He bent over, put his elbow on the counter, looked at my check, looked at me and said, “Who are you?”  with what I perceived  as a low grade sarcastic  tone in his voice.  (My name is on the check.)

Several thoughts  went through my mind at this point…

What are you talking about???? I’ve been buying gas here for four years.  Your people skills suck.  I am tired and not in the mood for some condescending, dweeb giving me crap after a long day at work.   I’ve  spent more time in this store than you have and frankly, you should be more professional.  Wonder if the manager who hired you knows what kind of jerk you are when she’s not in the store.

None of that came out.

Instead, I snapped “Who are you?”  

(That is so not me.)

It was at this point he face flushed,  step back, shook his head and realized I wasn’t in the mood.

I pulled out my wallet and showed him my ID.

When one of my younger cousins gets a little upset,  his sentences become short.  He bites his words off.

I could feel myself starting to sound like my cuz.

I continued,  You know, the girls in the morning,  are not nearly this testy to deal with.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said.

He mumbled something about me being the second person today who had said something similar.

Hummm….. ya think…

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I know it can be hard and draining to work with the public.

I do it myself on a daily basis.

In all fairness to him, he was only doing his job. (verifying me)

I’m seriously wondering if some of his attitude toward me was because of how I looked.

What I didn’t care for was how he initially attempted to intimidate me, because that is definitely what I was picking up.

A sense of humor can go along ways when dealing with people.

The tough guy stuff,  not so much.

Wife has a little ditty on our kitchen cupboard blackboard currently, that says,

Be careful what you tolerate. 

You are teaching people how to treat you.

He asked me a question, I ask myself on occasion…Just who am I?  Who is this person I occasionally see in the mirror? Am I the same person I was 25 years ago? (and the answer to that would be a resounding no)   The question is a great question.  The rub is in who’s asking, and why?

Have any good interactions with someone lately?  What made it memorable?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  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

Parenting Cliff Notes

Parenting.

Just about the time you finally have some sense of how to do it, you’re done.

My thoughts turned toward the art of parenting again last night as I was on the phone with my wife. She is helping out our daughter who has a new baby.  As we were talking, I could hear the other grandchild in the back ground throwing a temper tantrum.  Since she isn’t my child, it isn’t my place to tell them how to parent,  and yet…

“What makes you think I have anything credible to say?”  You ask.

Now that is a great question! 😉

Especially since I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time.   Those last years  I was in  survival mode.

And yet,  I have  watched our four kids enter adulthood, start families of their own.  They love to come home to their mama and papa and, they get along with each other.  That’s the end game.  Work yourself out of a job.

I refuse to take credit for how our children turned out,  which in itself is instructive.

Children are remarkably resilient.

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I have been reading gardening comment threads on the Internet the past month.  Spring is in the air.  I was reminded again, just how many and varied are the approaches to gardening, and just how full of themselves are some of the “experts.”  It is such a turnoff listening to someone tell a Newby how to “do it correctly.” (Especially when I come from a completely different school of thought.)

So that is the last thing on my mind when I talk about parenting.  I do NOT have it “all figured out.”

The whole parenting experience (for me)  came to a head when our oldest two hit their teen years.

One of the girls (age 14) decided to run away.  If I remember correctly, she told us  she was thinking about running away because we were too strict.  She wanted to spend more time with another girl whose family  wasn’t like ours.   I told her to think twice, because if, on the outside chance DHS  (State agency that works with families) got involved, you never know..they could even removed her younger brother and sister  from the home.

Well,  those words fell on deaf ears, and the next thing I knew, she did  runaway.  She was still in town, but thumbing her nose at us as a family.  She was going to do just what she wanted to do, and that was that.

Well, this was all new, uncharted territory for me. I’d never run away myself although I had thought about leaving home when I was 16.  I’d read the book My Side of the Mountain, and magazine articles by  Euell Gibbons.   I remember  having a craving to eat cat tail root, catch crawdads, find a big old tree and live in the trunk.  I had a hunting knife and a hatchet, a sleeping bag, and a pup tent (in case I couldn’t find a big enough tree.)  I’d been in cub scouts when I was younger, so I was pretty sure I had what it took to survive….but that was about as far as it got.

We gave her two days, then decided it was time to reel her in.  It was Summer.  Baseball season.  My sources told me she was at a little league game down by the fairgrounds.

I called our pastor at the time and asked him if he wouldn’t mind riding along with me to pick her up.

I went to the game.  Saw her sitting on the end of the bleachers.  She glared at me when she saw me. I  told her it was time to go and to get in the van.  She could see I meant business.   We headed to our pastor’s house  and sat down at the kitchen table.  I told her she had two choices.  Boarding school or two weeks at my cousins who lived several hours away.  He  was married, had a  young family.   He had a reputation for being VERY strict  and the last place our kids would have chosen to spend the summer….

I told her (with tears) that I would not sit by and watch her or anyone destroy our family.  I reminded her again about the very real possibility of DHS coming in and pulling her younger brother and sister out of the house, and that hadn’t mattered to her.

It was a watershed moment in our relationship.

She decided to go to my cousins, for two weeks.

When she came back, there was a  change in our relationship, (for the better.)

You’ve heard about strong-willed children?  Yep, she is one and I love her to pieces.  The stories she brings to our lives now, well, I could write a book.

The challenge is to break that defiant, in your face, bad attitude without, breaking their spirit.

If you’ve bought into that siren song of being your child’s friend first and everything will all work out, then I wish you the best…I will have to admit, I bought into some of that, which in hindsight was a big part of the confusion.  When they start telling YOU how it’s going to be, maybe you will think back to this post and drop me a note and we can talk.

I’ve taught  Jr high, high school and college classes, as well as managed a construction crew, all of which has helped me tremendously on the road  to be a wiser parent…it’s funny, many of the same principles apply.

Without respect (and it goes both ways) it’s only a matter of time before things  get crazy (Home, school and work.)

There is absolutely a place  to have  “fear of consequences” in the back of a person’s mind, then being willing to deliver on them when you are tested.

When love, respect, clear expectations, and real consequences are in place, then you are at a good place.

 

 

The Man from the lobby

I had an hour to kill.

Decided to sit in the hotel lobby and people watch.  I was in town to give another presentation of a book I had gotten published the year before.

Then I saw him.   A man who had attended a previous presentation I had given 6 months before.  Felt a low-grade panic settle in my gut.  All I knew about the man was he too was an author.  Pretty sure he was a college professor.  My biggest concern was a good portion of my presentation would be similar to the one he had heard 6 months before.

Dang.

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I’m one of those people who when faced with a fear, 9 times out of 10 I will got after it head on, rather than stew.   I decided to head to the conference room early and re-introduce myself to the man from the  lobby.

He wasn’t hard to find.  He was sitting close to the front, right behind my table.  I walked up to him, and said I remembered him from before.  He instantly lit up. I put one knee down on the carpet, next to the table, and confessed to him, much of what he would hear  this afternoon was probably going to sound familiar.  I’ll never forget what he told me.

” You need to make sure you tell the story you told before, the one about the feedback you’d received on your rough draft. Bill So and So and I talked about that after your presentation.  That was so powerful.”

I looked him in the eyes, and thanked him profusely…for you see, the last time I had given my presentation, I had vented to the assembled.  I had gotten off my notes and shared some behind the scene angst on the writing of my book.  I questioned the wisdom of doing that at the time.  Come to find out, this seasoned author, this man from the lobby,  had been touched by that story, as much, if not more, than by my book.

We never know, do we.

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If you’re a long time reader, you may remember.  I’d written the introduction and first chapter to a book.  Shared it with someone I used to get together with on a regular basis, who had had several things published and seems to know what he was talking about when giving feedback.  Well, his feedback, while well meaning, was brutal.  I ended up second guessing myself to the point, the book project was shelved from 2008 until 2015…

7 years.

Then after 7 years, I still had this book rumbling around in my head.  The internal pressure began to build.  Those of you that have to write know what I’m talking about.

I had to get it out.

Even if it didn’t  measure up.

So in 2015 I wrote  the rough draft.

Then in 2016 I got it published.

 

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Here is an excerpt from my favorite writing mentor Brenda Ueland from her book If You Want To Write:

“How does the creative impulse die in us?  The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: “Trite, rewrite, helped to kill it.  Critics kill it, your family.  Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands. Older brothers sneer at younger brothers and kill it.  There is that American pastime known as “Kidding” – with the result that everyone is ashamed and hangdog about showing the slightest enthusiasm or passion or sincere feeling about anything….

You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls, when they see you have written something, become at once long-nosed and finicking and go through it gingerly sniffing out the flaws. AHA! a misspelled word! as though Shakespeare could spell! As though spelling, grammar and what you learn in a book about rhetoric has anything to do with freedom and imagination….

And so no wonder you don’t write and put it off month after month, decade after decade.  For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious.  The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more.  Tell me all you can.  I want to understand more about everything you feel and know….Let more come out….

Yes, I hate orthodox criticism.  I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them when they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.

I hate it not so much for my own account, for I have learned at last not to let it balk me.  But I hate it because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages that it snuffs out every year.  It is a murderer of talent.  And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first to get killed off.  It is the brutal egotist that survive…

…. and so now you will begin to work on your writing.  Remember these things. …Work with all your intelligence and love.  Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you.   Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters…”

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Well, time to get to work.  🙂 Later! DM