Speak Life

Quick story from this morning….

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like it.

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

Do I do this perfectly?  Nada.

Especially at home.

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

 

 

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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.

 

 

Why I Write

Got a call this morning from a friend.  Their family was in the middle of one of those situations where you are grasping for straws.

Just so happened, I’d walked through something very similar 10 years ago.

We talked for 5 minutes,  I mostly listened…

When it seemed appropriate, I shared just enough of my story to let her know I  got it….I put into words some of the confusion she was feeling.  By the end of our conversation, I heard  just a glimmer of hope in her voice.

I called her tonight just to check on her.   Still not out of the woods, but at a better place than this morning.

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Dawned on me tonight, that is the main reason I keep this blog.

CS Lewis wrote: ...”I read to know I am not alone.” 

Well, I write to let you know you are not alone.

Real life is full of ups and downs, highlights and low lights….if I am to believe social media,  then many people’s lives are one big success story….and we both know that is not true. Life is a mixed bag.   Currently things in my life are on an even keel…and I like it that way.  If a person dropped into my life for the first time right now, they’d never guess some of the stuff I’ve wrestled with and won.

Friend of mine joined a grief support group a few years ago after loosing one of her children.  One of the older women in the group had buried a husband and two children.   When she spoke, (the older woman) she spoke with insight forged on the anvil of life.  She said she had credentials.  She wasn’t just spouting theory.

That pretty much sums up where I am coming from.

If you dig a little deeper on this blog, there is some darker stuff as well, and I’ve put it there intentionally.

Yes, I’ve been known to write about refinishing  a claw foot tub,  tending an apple orchard, or dealing with a testy neighbor…. At the end of the day, my main intention is to share my ordinary life with anyone who cares to follow along.  I work real hard at not spouting trite platitudes…

I hate them.

Two days ago, a friend shared with me in confidence  something he had been thinking.  I told him, I’d had similar things go through my head before..

“No way!   Really?”

Oh yea. 🙂

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That is the long and short of it.

Gonna leave you with a song…make sure you turn up the volume. 😉

DM

 

A Second Cookie

There are 106 partially completed blog posts sitting in my draft folder,with titles like Locked and Loaded, I Once Met A Model, She Lives In My Head,  Russian Nesting Dolls, Reina De La, Two Pieces Of Sand, etc.

Scrolling through them this morning,  the following caught my eye.  I know I’ve told the story about the second cookie before, but  it bears repeating…at least I think so. 😉  It has been a very good week since getting the biopsy results on Tuesday.  Really touched me how many of you took the time to comment and wish me well. DM

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I come home most nights physically and mentally exhausted from work.

We are re-roofing a 160 ft long cattle shed and as I mentioned to Tim  Monday morning when he came in 20 minutes late, he did not have a clue as to  all of the job pressures that I was under….

Concerns about the wind ripping off the #30 felt before we got it covered.  If that happened,I would have to absorb the cost of material and labor to redo it.

Safety concerns.

Dealing with  mud and not being able to get equipment in to where it needs to be.

Time pressures.

Employee’s coming in late or not at all.

Cash flow pressures.

Communication and expectation issues with the customer,  bla bla bla…

Some day he might understand, and when that day came, I wanted him to give me a call. 😉

I am living my life for the long haul, and yes, while this current project sucks a lot out of me, I am doing OK.

I have learned to pay attention to my inner world and pace myself.

I am so thankful my wife recognizes my need to transition when I get home and gives me space.

I  know three men, all married to women who regularly put major expectations on their husband’s time after they get home from work.  None of these men are what I would call  couch potatoes.  I was catching up with two of them recently and both  casually mentioned some of the tasks their wives had saddled them with in addition to their own personal responsibilities.

I kept quiet, but inside I was thinking, you have got to be kidding me.

(I’m not talking about fixing a leak in the sink, but hours and hours of busy work.)

Years ago, Mrs DM used to take care of an elderly lady I’ll call Ann.  Ann’s husband  (Carl) was still very much alive.  Wife’s job was mostly to do a little laundry, pick up around the house, that sort of thing.  Ann was pushing mid 90’s at this point.  One morning while wife was sitting in the chair talking with Ann,  Carl starts grilling Ann about the 2nd cookie he suspects she has eaten that morning…..

A second cookie!!!

Now I get it.  She didn’t have an active life style and cookies = empty calories =weight gain.  The other side of the equation was Ann was still 100% still in her right mind, she didn’t have long to live, and cookies were one of the few pleasures she could enjoy.

To this day, that exchange comes up in our home.  If either one of feels the other is over stepping their bounds with the other, we will bring up Carl and micro-managing the cookie count.

This same issue could just as easily surface between a parent and their older child, or a child and their aging parent.

Boundaries,  and imposing my will on the will of someone else who is of sound mind and body, “in the name of love.”

If you are reading this and happen to fall into the camp of being a controller,

I have two words for you…

Stop it!

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PS.  If you are on the receiving end of a controlling personality,  and need to talk, feel free to leave  a comment and or question.  I have a great readership base here,  with lots of insight.  DM

 

Jitters

I found myself sitting at the head table this past Sunday afternoon with an executive director and her staff, for a 50th anniversary celebration.  I had been invited to do a 30 minute presentation as part of their program.

As I was working on my salad, I  heard the snippet of a conversation, between the director and one of the staff…

“You’ll do fine! A little nervousness is normal.”

Since the director and I were in the same boat, (both experiencing “pre-presentation” jitters) I joined the conversation.

A little background….

I am not one of those people who loves the limelight.  Just the opposite.  I prefer the back row.  (That way I can quietly slip out if I need to use the little boys’ room.)

I’ve mentioned portions of my  story before  but when I was  22, I realized   shyness  low self-esteem was hamstringing my life on multiple fronts.

 I was sick and tired of it.

On a  lark I stopped by the office of a friend who also happened to be a nun trained in social work.  (She seemed like a safe person.)

I looked across the desk,  told her my story and said, “Can you help me?  Do you have any suggestions?”

(She did.)

And over the course of time, (we’re talking months/ not 30 minutes)  little by little,  large chunks of my inner crap  began to be dealt with.

No  Kristina I have not arrived. 😉

I have lost track of the number of times now I have spoken in public, in various settings…at least a couple of hundred.  To this day however, I still experience  jitters every time.

There are lots of helpful books, articles, courses, etc. on public speaking, dealing with anxiety in front of a crowd, low self-esteem, yada, yada,  so rather than just regurgitate  10 suggestions you can pick up in a workshop, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what was going on in little old me this past Sunday afternoon.

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Two  images were playing nonstop  on the  screen of my mind…

The first clip was an Olympic wrestler I saw several years ago on TV.  As the camera man panned the event, he stopped on a wrestler, sprawled out on his back, taking a nap.  I can still remember the commentator talking about it.  In just a few minutes, this wrestler was going to be center  stage vying for an Olympic metal, and yet there he was, asleep.  He was in the zone.  He had tuned out all of the distractions and found his happy place (my words now/ not the TV commentator.) 😉

SO..whenever I find myself in the final  hours leading up to something that is giving me jitters, I think of that wrestler.

The second thing playing on the screen was even more powerful….and this one wasn’t “playing” as much as it just was….

The tiger that lives inside of me

photo compliments of google

I sensed this tiger pacing back and forth.  Last Sunday was the most pronounced I’ve ever felt it.  It was like he was pacing back and forth in my mind. Ever few minutes  he would shove his shoulder against the door of the cage to see if it was still locked.

He wanted out.

I rarely give a presentation on anything unless I’m feeling passionate about the subject.

So Sunday afternoon, after an introduction, I got out of my seat, walked up to the podium….

and out jumped the tiger.

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They say speaking in public is a common fear. Do you have it? Have you done it ? (spoke in public) Tell me about it.

 

 

 

 

Schools Of Thought

“Well, I want it done right!”  Dave told me yesterday. He sounded a little exasperated   We were talking about how to proceed with tiling his shower.

I told him at the beginning of his project, I have done four tiling projects so far.  If I didn’t know something I would not fake it.  I do know who to ask most times if I have a question. Tiling is not rocket science, although there is more than one way to do things.

Yesterday, the plumber on the job, (who has also tiled),  made some suggestions I had never heard of before on how to fabricate the shower base from scratch.  Talk to three tilers and you’ll probably get three different  approaches.

Same goes with bee keeping. It is not an exact science.  We have a local  husband and wife  who both wanted to be bee keepers. Both wanting to do things right, had strong (different) opinions on what that looked like.   They decided each needed their own hives to manage.  End of conflict.

Side note…we opened our  hive last Sunday.  There were (9) new queen cells forming….

Talk to three different bee keepers and you will probably hear three different approaches to what to do next…..

When I took some classes years ago, called Introduction to Theology, I had a teacher that I really liked.   I remember covering the topic of  end times.  The technical term is Eschatology.  I found out there were at least (3) major schools of thought, with subsets even within that.  We covered all three, thoroughly. At some point, the teacher shared with us where he was at in his understanding and why, but  it never felt like he was  trying to manipulate me to get me to a certain understanding.

I appreciate intellectual integrity, and don’t respond well to manipulation, lying or snark.

I have a strong independent streak. (Just ask my wife) 🙂

I use the same approach when it comes to politics,  social issues and life in general.  I used to meet with a friend on a regular basis over coffee to talk about local history.  Sometimes our conversations would drift  into  politics and current events.  We were polar opposites in some respects, (He was an anarchists I am not. 🙂  He served on the board  of the ACLU/ absolutely hated Christians, organized religion, had served a tour of duty in Vietnam,  which left him with another whole set of issues, I did not.  But… we shared a love of local history,  both grew up on a farm, and worked real hard at showing each other respect when we talked.

I had (and still have) a genuine intellectual curiosity, to try to understand why and how he was coming to some of his conclusions.    I had (and have) absolutely zero interest in getting into a pissing match conflict with someone about some issue.  It is hard enough to get along and communicate effectively in the context of a healthy marriage…why in the world would I go looking to take a spin on the crazy cycle with the rest of the world…it ain’t going to happen.

Crazy cycle: a word picture for getting into a fight where you just go round and round and nothing is resolved.

 

Second year  we were married, we went to a marriage workshop.   One of the topics was how to have a good fight.  Don’t you just love that title! 🙂

Conflict in and of itself is not always bad.

It is possible to express anger in a healthy way.  It does not have to be destructive.

When seeking to resolve a conflict…try to stay on topic.  If the issue is conflict about money, then don’t go off on bunny trails about other unresolved issues.

Schedule a time when you can talk ..ie.  Wife and I have found, Saturday morning is a lot better time than right before bed to talk about money problems.

Don’t garbage dump, get historical, or hit below the belt (name calling, bringing up old wounds, etc.)

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements…better to say, “I am angry because”, rather than, “You make me angry….”

So much of communication is nonverbal…ie. eye contact, tone of voice, etc. Don’t get into a conflict over the phone, via the internet, letter, etc. It is hard enough to really hear what the other person is saying in person.

Any other thoughts on conflict, difference of opinions, etc?  I really appreciate those of you that take the time to read these ramblings.

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

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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