Billy

Across the street from where we are currently working is a group home for handicapped young men.   The first day we were on the job, I  swore I heard an auctioneer.  Looked out the window and there was Billy, pacing back and forth with his microphone calling out to an  imaginary crowd.

“Who’ll give me five dollar?  Who’ll give me five???”

“Hep!”

On and on it went, for  15/ 20 minutes.

If you didn’t know any better you’d have sworn it was a real auction.

This will be the 4th week on this same job, and Billy has probably had a dozen auctions since I’ve been on the job.  He’s crossed the street a couple of times just to give us give us some crap.

(Crap is  German for good-natured teasing by the way.)

Billy is a big boy.  Place him in his mid 20’s.  He’s all of 6 ft tall,  220 pounds.  Cusses like a sailor…worse than a sailor actually.   But behind that intimidating exterior, is someone’s little boy.  I have no idea who his parents were, or what the specific details of his disabilities are.  I do know he can walk.  He can carry on a conversation. I think he works part-time @ a local can sorting place for people with disabilities.

Having 2 grandchildren ourselves with disabilities has given me a whole different perspective on people like Billy than I used to have.  He’s mobile.  Lives on his own with minimal supervision.  He has a job.  Has a lot going for him.

Where I’m going with all of this you may be wondering….

Well, yesterday I decided to buy something @ Billy’s auction.  I was working in the driveway, cutting out stair treads when I heard him again.  Looked across the street and it looked like he was pointing right at me while he was calling..

So I raised my hand and shouted “Yep.”  Then “Yep” again.  Finally shook my head and made a cutting sign across my throat, indicating I wouldn’t go any higher.

Pretty sure I just bought my own truck.

 

 

 

 

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In the middle of the night

Two weeks ago, I followed a young couple  into our local farm and fleet store.  She had a noisy pair of boots on that were going “clomp, clomp, clomp.”  There were purple wisps of hair sticking out of her head scarf. I couldn’t help but hear the tone of her voice as she talked with her man.  It was  short and snippy.   I found myself forming a judgmental attitude not because of how she was dressed but because of  her attitude and tone of voice.

Three minutes later  when I went over to the stain and paint isle, they were standing right in front of the dark walnut stain selection, the last item on my list.  I asked they if they could see any cans of dark walnut stain?

The woman turned to look at me and inwardly my judgmental attitude  was suddenly gone.

I  recognized the two of them.

I was ashamed.

I knew part of their story….

They had been in a  terrible car accident two winters ago. The roads had suddenly turned to a sheet of ice, and as they approached an intersection,  they couldn’t stop.  Their car slid  out  into the path of a semi.  There were several fatalities and both of the two people standing in front of me that day had spent weeks recovering in the hospital, and to this day are still dealing with medical bills and reconstructive surgery.

Just within the past month, the woman had confided to someone I know, that she has to take a lot of medicine in order to “Keep her s*#@t  together.

We never know what other people are dealing with when we see them in public.

In the middle of that night, I woke up  thinking about that young family and what they are still dealing with.  A thought began to form in my mind… I wanted to do something/ anything/ to encourage them, yet do it anonymously.

Since we live in a relatively small town, I had to be careful and keep the details kind of vague.   Decided to posted the following on our facebook page:

I stood in line behind a young family today who has had some serious heartache the past year or so. I don’t know them personally, just knew who they were. When she turned to say something to me, I could literally see the pain and brokenness in her eyes. Anyway, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about them and wanting to do something anonymously for Christmas. I happen to know where the wife works, and also know her boss…here is what I’m thinking…I would like to give them a card and a gift in the form of either cash or gift cards to Walmart, the grocery store, etc. If you want to be a part of it, or know more specifics, shoot me a message. …. Going to give it to her boss Friday the 21st…the first day of winter. .

PS this will be the only time you see this post…won’t keep seeing it on our feed. 

 Thanks! DM”

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7 people stepped forward and said they wanted to be a part of the action.

I’ll be dropping the $ and gift cards off this coming Friday.

Kindness and love are  still alive and well in middle earth.

Do not doubt me.

 

 

Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.  🙂

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Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. 🙂

I would say:  “Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.” 

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.  That was deep.  I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,  with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)  I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve  been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.

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A friend of ours  recently updated us about  her son. Son  lives on the east coast.   Both he and his wife have great paying stress filled jobs.  Just had a new baby, (that makes 3)  Son recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree, (while still working full-time.)   Made me stressed just hearing about their lives..  I know her son just a little.  Good guy.  I like him.

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Dad is 86.  Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.  Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.  We never saw him except on weekends. Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.  I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in  dad’s priorities after that.  He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.

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It’s all about balance.  Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”  and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.” 

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

 

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.  I appreciate each and every one of you!  If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” 🙂

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM

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.  

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

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.

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