Overlooking Main Street and other short stories

I’d heard my urologist was a fellow bee keeper, and that he’d lost all of his bees this past winter, so when I went to see him yesterday for my annual visit,  that’s the first thing I asked him about.

“I heard you lost  your bees?”

“Yep.”

He said this was his 4th season as a bee keeper.

He told me he bottled 185 honey bear last year.

He asked me how mine did?

“They came through great!” I told him.

I struggled to find the words….I’d never seen anything like it, this thick mass of bees, just milling around in the middle of February. (On a rare 50 degree day in February, I  had opened the hive to slip in some extra winter pollen patties.)    I told him, on a hunch, I’d  put a couple of extra inches of Styrofoam on 3 sides of the hive when it got really cold, and since it was their first season, I decided not to take any honey.  I suggest to him that doing those two things, plus the mite control in the fall  all contributed to their surviving.  Who knows.   It sounded good. 😉

Then we moved onto the reason for my visit.

My psa number had dropped again for the 4th time in a row. (Happy dance.)  The psa  number is a reference point urologists use as an indicator for possible prostate cancer.  It is not an exact science.  You can have a low psa number and still  have cancer, or as in my case, a high number and no cancer present.   Mine was off the chart 2 winters ago (26) which resulted in a biopsy where they  put me under.  (They took 40 some core samples.)    Six months later my psa dropped to 17, then 11.5 and yesterday 10.

As I was leaving his office my doctor came around the corner with a honey bear. He said he had just two left…

Made me feel special. 🙂

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Since I still had  a good hour before I was supposed to be on the job, (we’re repairing a deck,)  I called my sister  just to see how her weekend went with my parents?   Sister mentioned she was down at her store, and since I was in the area, wondered if I had time for a cup of coffee….?

When I got to the store, there was nobody there except her, so we sat in her front window over looking main street.  Just my sister and I.   First, we caught up on her weekend, then  we started talking about childhood memories growing up…..the good and the not so good.  We also talked about various “what if” scenarios, as my parents age.  Not saying this is how things will ultimately shake out, but how much better to have these conversations, before.   Ended up having  a 40 minute therapy session, right there in the front store window over looking main street.

It was awesome.

I texted her last night  to tell her again, how much I enjoyed our visit.  She texted me back,  said she felt the same way.

One of my life goals is to age gracefully.

I’ve known both types , so I know what it looks like.

Absolutely, there needs to be a place where I can process the loss of my youth, and it will probably be right here on a personal blog post, just so you know.  🙂

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Got time for one last story?

Last Tuesday I was invited to take one of my chickens to school.  Grandson was studying farm animals, and his mom asked if I would be willing to come to school with a chicken?

“Absolutely” I said.

As I thought about what sort of things Kindergarten kids would get a kick out of, I decided  to tell a couple of stories, then let them pet the chicken.

I told them about how my last batch of chickens and their love for cat food…Told them how when I let them out in the morning to free range, the first thing they did, was run around the back of our house, into the entry and clean out the cat food bowl.

First thing/ every morning.

 

Then, at some point they discovered our neighbor, an 1/8 of a mile west of us, also had cat food in a bowl, so that’s where they would head next.  (It wasn’t long after that, that I sent them packing.)

So as I was wrapping up my visit, I asked the kids that age old question, “So, why do you think,  the chicken cross the road?” 

One little girl said,  “Because they were going to the neighbors to eat cat food.”

Now you know.

Henny Penny and I visiting school

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Well, I better to get to work.  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.

 

 

Biopsy Results Are In

Just got off the phone with my urologist.    In the 7 years I’ve been seeing him, I have never talked to him on the phone personally.  It has always been his nurse or one of the girls in scheduling…so when I heard his voice, I knew something was up.

After thirty seconds of small talk, he told me, the biopsy results were back….

No sign of cancer.

What

A

Relief.

Wanted those of you who are a part of my life via this blog to know.  DM

 

Circling

Wednesday I got a letter in the mail from the Hospital where I am (was) scheduled to do a saturation biopsy of my prostrate.  Hospital wanted to give me the heads up it would be just over $12,000 for their cut/ I could get a 20% discount if I paid it up front…bringing it down to under $10,000.  This does not count the Urologist’s fee nor the anesthesiologist.

Just as soon as I opened the letter, I called the phone number. I have interacted with  (4) different people in the past two weeks on the phone, all connected to the medical billing/financial aid, etc. In every case, they have went above and beyond what I would have expected.

Like many of you we have a high deductible ($10,000) and are currently on a monthly payment plan for (3) other medical related thing-a-ma-bobs…. and there is no more wiggle room in the DM discretionary fund for another payment plan for a medical bill.

Nada.

It suggested I could put the bill on a credit card.

Not going to happen…

or take out a loan.

Not going to happen.

 

A saturation biopsy is where the urologist takes between 20 and 50 core samples of the prostate checking for cancer. The only 100% sure way to detect cancer of the prostrate is a saturation biopsy. (I’ve already had an MRI and 2 in-house biopsies, all coming back clear…and yet now my PSA number doubled in the past 6 months…something is afoot.)

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve had something like this done in the urologist’s office twice already,  first with 8 samples and the second with 12.  Not fun but I’m sure not as painful as delivering a baby with forceps.

When it comes to prostate cancer, it’s all about early detection.  Once it breaks out of the prostate gland, you better have your affairs in order.

I woke up Friday morning and realized I just could not go through with the test, not knowing where we stand in terms of financial assistance with the hospital.  (I submitted the necessary paperwork as soon as I found out I needed this procedure, but it normally takes 45 days to a decision.)

So I called Stacy,  one of the nice people I’d already met in the hospital financial aid department.

She heard my story, got on the phone with their main office and asked because of the sensitive timing nature  of this, if my application could be sped up.  Bless her heart.

Yep.  So now I wait to hear whether or not I qualify for a break.  If not, I have just one other option to explore…see if the Urologist has any pain killing tricks in his bag, that would enable me to do a saturation biopsy in his office…

His cut in this whole thing was $910.00

A thousand dollars/ maybe $2000 I can handle..but more than that…not happening.

I was on-line late last night doing some reading/ research….sounds like it “might” be possible.

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Writing this out, I’m not sure who in  my blog audience is interested in these types of posts?

I hate to bore you with medical stuff..but I got to get this stuff out and on paper….Do you think  I should start another blog or sit tight and wait to see what happens in the next few weeks?

I’ll close with a couple of pictures I took yesterday of some milkweed going to seed….

 

It Was the chicken taking a dust bath that did it…

Thanksgiving morning 2017.

Granddaughter asleep by my side.

She is two. She and I  were looking at pictures on my phone to keep her occupied, while her parents and my wife tried to get some much-needed sleep.

It was the chicken taking a dust bath that did the trick.

We watched it five time.  It was a forty-second video,  and out she went.

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This past Monday, in the middle of the night, I woke up with vertigo. It was nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was not the flu.  Mid morning I lost my cookies. (sorry)  No way was I going to be able to work on a roof, so I stayed home.

My first thought was cancer.  Dam stuff had went to my brain.  I have not been diagnosed with cancer…won’t have the biopsy for two more weeks.  We’ve already talked at length about living wills, what to do if we ever find ourselves in various situations. We’ve had those conversations multiple times over the years, while we were both healthy and not under the gun…so all of that gives a quiet back drop to my Thanksgiving 2017.

So,  sitting here this Thanksgiving morning, feeling very thankful and blessed.  The vertigo has subsided.  All of our children are back for Thanksgiving. Two more grand babies on the way, one is a girl, the other, it is still too early to tell.

I am cautiously optimistic that three weeks from now life will go back to normal…but until then, I find myself enjoying the small simple gifts.

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Have you ever seen a chicken taking a dust bath?

If you haven’t, check this out:

Tell me three things you have to be currently thankful for.  I want details. 😉 DM

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Update 12 hours later….here is a picture of me and my 6 grandchildren.  Took this @ lunch today.  It was a trick to keep them all corralled for very long.  Lots of wiggle.

How To: Wild Child

Yesterday I made my third batch of “Wild Child.”

What in the heck is “Wild Child”?

When I am in the lab kitchen and make something new, if it turns out, it gets named….in this case,  I named my latest creation “Wild Child” the moment I tasted it.

The multiple flavors and textures  exploded in my mouth,it was visually beautiful to behold and it was good for me…with all of that going for it, it had to have a name that popped.

I continue to work my way, slowly  into the world of fermentation. As per Sando Katz’s suggestion to experiment with texture as well as with various fruit and vegetable combinations, I upped the ante and tripled the amount of peanuts  sweet peppers, and apples yesterday.

Wild Child is 1000% more tasty than its cousin sauerkraut.

This  lacto-fermenting colorful mixture will soon be “brimming with healthy probiotics.”

Wild child 1

Raw ingredients of Wild Child

Don’t have the time to unpack  the health benefits attributed to eating fresh unpasteurized foods this morning vs the pasteurized crap   foods , but they are in two different leagues.  Here’s a link if you’re curious. That article talks about Sauerkraut, but it applies to all fermented foods.

I’ve chosen to use air locks when I’m making small batches of fermented  foods.  You don’t have to, as long as you keep whatever you are fermenting weighed down below the brine.  I just think those little gizmo’s look neat, plus when the fermentation process starts to kick in,  (after a day or two) I like watching it bubble.

Yea, I know, I’m easily entertained. 😉

 

wild child ready to ferment

Ingredients ready to rock

in air locked jars

 

Wild Child

(1) head of cabbage

(1 or 2)  colorful peppers

(1) small can of nuts  (I used salted Spanish peanuts this time)

(3) large apples

(1) cup of raisins

(1) t cumin    (Mrs DM doesn’t care for that spice so I made her a separate batch and skipped this.  I prefer it, because it adds another layer of flavor, and is supposed to be good for you 😉

(2) T pickling salt or slightly less.

Directions:  cut everything up in small pieces, then sprinkle the pickling salt over it.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until everything gets limp and juicy…If you’ve never “kneaded” raw vegetables before with a dash of pickling salt, you’re in for a surprise.

At this point, I packed the above ingredients into a 2 qt jar.  Keep packing it in until you absolutely can’t get any more in, and everything is submerged in liquid…I will add just a little water if needed.  put the cap with the air lock on  (or put it in crock that you can cover lightly..

  Do not just put it in a jar with a lid, or it will explode.

That quantity of fruits, vegetables and nuts yielded about 3 quarts. I filled my jars and ate the rest  fresh.

Time to run.  DM

 

 

Sometimes, Good Things Can Happen When Cancer Comes To Call

Phone rang this morning.

It was my dad.  He was calling to let me know he’d talked with a couple of men this morning at a men’s breakfast who both expressed an interest in ordering my latest book. He sounded excited.

Pause.

Growing up, we were not a family that expressed affection outwardly toward one another. Not until my mom was diagnosed with cancer in her mid 40’s that decades old patterns began to change…ever so slowly.

I was already out of the house, married and starting a family, so we were all pretty set in our ways.  Intellectually I knew they loved me by that point, but to this day, it still feels just a little weird to voice it…but we’re working on it.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my wife’s family was (and still is) a bunch of huggers.

Both of her parents passed away in their early 60’s…way to young. More than once my wife  will  voice, she wished her mom (or dad) was still alive to share in one of our kids’ weddings, or  birth of a new grand child, etc.

No matter how old I am, there is still a part of me that is a little boy, who wants to make his parents proud.

Heck, when I was 48 and got injured on the job, heading to the hospital in an ambulance, I wanted my mommy….it was  a really random feeling, that came out of nowhere, and it was strong.

I am thankful for the level of intimacy I do enjoy with my parents.

Pretty sure things would not have changed, had cancer not paid a visit.

It is never to late to start trying.

Much

“Your biopsy results are back.  Could you please call our office and ask for Lynn.”

By the time I got the message, my Gastroenterologist’s office was closed for the day.

It had already been over two months since I started having hoarseness of voice and a swallowing episode , so what was another 24 hours, I thought to myself.

That was a week ago Wednesday.

Everything came back fine.

I did question the test results when nurse Lynn told me the doctor  found one nodule in the small intestine which he removed.

Pause.

I said to Lynn..wait a minute..I only had the scope inserted down my throat. Are you sure you have the correct results?  I repeated myself three times.  Apparently the  doctor inserted his scope all the way through my stomach and beyond.

Who’d a thunk?

While I never got to a state of panic the past two months, I did have a low-grade concern that my love of strong coffee had finally caught up with me, and the acid re-flux had morphed into the beginning stages of the C word.

Nope.

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Week ago Tuesday our two-year old grandson with downs syndrome was checked into the local hospital, then transferred to the University hospital with pneumonia and the dreaded RSV virus.

Those first 48 hours were scary.

He is home now and according to his mom (my daughter) 95% better.

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Friend and fellow blogger Kristina will be with us, two more days, then heads back home on Saturday. While she has been here, we celebrated her birthday with her.   I think this may be her 5th trip to Iowa since she first coming in 2008 with her son. Her second trip , she brought hubby.  The last several she’s come alone, once she verified we were not ax murders.

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Tuesday night, we invited Chris and Lindsay over to celebrate Kristina’s birthday with us. Chris used to work with me.    Wife told the  story about  a stray dog that showed up on our property several years ago.

It was the oddest looking dog either one of us had ever seen.  We already had Oscar the beagle so the stray could not stay. Short stumpy legs,  and sad looking eyes. I know it was some kind of  basset hound mix.   Wife mentioned I’d put an ad in the local paper which basically said, if no one stepped forward,  the dog was going to the vet and  put down. (In reality I would not have done it, but drastic situations call for drastic measures.)

The bottle of home made wine may have been kicking in by this point. (The five of us shared a  bottle.)  Anyway, I got to laughing so hard, I could not breathe.

Kristina has done pet sitting the past several years, so you know she loves animals. The look on her face when she heard about my dastardly behavior…well, if looks could kill.

And finally…

The three of us have been doing major decluttering the past two days with Kristina’s help. To set the tone, and keep us motivated,  we watched another episode of hoarders last night.

Since we don’t watch much TV, I’d only seen snippets of the show.

What is it about the human heart and our love for stuff?

I have much to be thankful for….much.

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Are you a saver?  Have you ever had a scope down your throat? When’s the last time you really had a good laugh?  If you’re a blogger, have you ever met any of your readers, and if so, tell me details! DM

 

Dispatched From The Pit Of Despair

Got a note from a friend this morning:


“Thanks for visiting this past week.  I value your input and appreciate your listening ear.  I was encouraged by our conversation….even though my circumstances haven’t really changed….it was so nice to be heard!”

Told Mrs. DM about the note. Said  it reminded me of a time in my life when a friend of mine..(Thomas), did the same for me – ( validated and listened to me.)

At the time it felt like I was free-falling into a black bottomless pit.

Thomas and I started getting together once a week to talk about what was going on in my life @ the time that was causing the angst.   Just having another person really grasped what was going on in my life, to the point where he started to also get angry, in some mysterious way, gave me hope.

Initially, it felt like his validation just caused the free-falling feelings to stop… I was still stuck….but then pretty quickly, a glimmer of hope returned, and I began climbing out of the pit.

The  circumstances didn’t changed at all…and even to this day, (20 years later)  if I allow myself to go there, I can start getting angry.  I’ve written about this before, so won’t revisit the details ..

I also experienced  grief. and same goes with that..My grief would occasionally be triggered by the most random things even 15 years later…a picture, a conversation, etc.

So when my friend e-mailed me this morning telling me she felt heard and validated..that was encouraging. because here I sit, 20 years removed from having those same kind of conversations in my life, and still thankful for the gift of a listening ear.

climbing out of the pit of despair

Climbing out of the pit of despair

Never underestimate the power of a listening ear.

Have you ever experienced the pit of despair?

What got you out of it?

Are you still in it?

Lessons From A Tavern

An old Marine Corps buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, (became a Christian) after he was discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily, loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.

A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we’d talked awhile, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and laugh and drink a pitcher of beer and tell stories and let our hair down. I can’t find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk about my battles-where somebody won’t preach at me and frown and quote me a verse.”

It wasn’t one month later that in my reading I came across this profound paragraph:

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”

Now before you take up arms to shoot some wag that would compare your church to the corner bar, stop and ask yourself some tough questions, like I had to do. Make a list of some possible embarrassing situations people may not know how to handle.

A woman discovers her husband is a practicing homosexual. Where in the church can she find help where she’s secure with her secret?

Your mate talks about separation or divorce. To whom do you tell it?

Your daughter is pregnant, and she’s run away- for the third time. She’s no longer listening to you. Who do you tell that to?

You lost your job, and it was your fault. You blew it, so there’s shame mixed with unemployment. Who do you tell that to?

Financially you were unwise, and you’re in deep trouble. Or a man’s wife is an alcoholic. Or something as horrible as getting back the biopsy from the surgeon, and it reveals cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good. Or you had an emotional breakdown. To whom do you tell it?

We’re the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded. We can become the most severe, condemning, judgmental, guilt-giving people on the face of planet Earth, and we claim it’s in the name of Jesus Christ. And all the while, we don’t even know we’re doing it. That’s the pathetic part of it all.

Written by  Charles Swindoll  1983

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My mind  (DM) was thinking about this illustration this morning on the way to where we do church. I am fortunate to be able to hang out with a few people each week where it does feel  “permissive, accepting, and inclusive, and  unshockable. 🙂

I do  tell these people secrets on a regular basis… and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. I come home most days feeling known, and loved.

I am  aware that those of you that read this blog come from a wide array of backgrounds spiritually, and because of it, I tend to downplay this component of my life.  I hate it when people try to force their worldviews down my throat, and I work really hard not to do so with you the reader.

Sometimes however, when I’m interacting with some of you, there have been times when I’ve wished I could  bring the spiritual up in a non-threatening way.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

If you’re willing to play-  summarize where you are at spiritually in 20 words or less.  Thanks! DM

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