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.

 

 

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Jumble of words

Saw the following picture on our screensaver this morning.

(Our screensaver scrolls through the photos I’ve uploaded on the computer)

Grandson helping dad and grandpa cut wood with his chainsaw

Kasen was born with an extra  Chromosome 21

(Down Syndrome)

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My mind is a jumble of  words when I see that picture.

95% positive

I am so thankful my daughter and her husband did not choose to end his life while he was still in the womb.  6 out of 10 babies diagnosed with down syndrome never make it out of the womb alive here in America.   The odds are even worse in Europe (9 out of 10)

Kasen is as much a part of  our family as any of us.

The Thanksgiving holiday here in America  is day after tomorrow.  Wishing all of you that stay in touch with me on a regular basis here via my blog(s) a great day…and if you lived locally I would invite you to join us for lunch.

I really would…

Then you could meet Kasen  🙂  and the rest of clan.

Take care. DM

Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.  The temperature  yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and  exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.   I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.  The learning curve is crazy steep.  I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.  Fortunately for me,  there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current  project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy  fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”  I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.  We took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.  Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.  She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.  He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.  Great union benefits.    I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.   That is not the first time this has happened.  Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.  Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. 🙂

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has  changed.  Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves  and our plane.  Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that 🙂

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.  If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.   If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

Q and A with Dr Philly

Attended a wedding reception last night.  Sat next to Don and Philly.

Haven’t talked to them in years.

Lots of laughter coming from our table @ the reception I was told.

Told them I’d been  talking  about them just the week before! 🙂

“No wonder my ears were burning.” Philly said.

“It had to do with parenting I said.  I remember one of them making the comment, years ago, that one of their goals as parents was, if one of their kids was acting up at a basketball game, all they had to do  was to look across the gym and their child would straighten up.”  

Don gave me a knowing smile.

(None of this, “I’m going to count to three stuff or else.”)

Then I reminded them about another conversation that we’d had with them during that same season of our lives.

(A conversation to this day ranks as one of the all time most helpful, most impacting, conversations of my life.)

The conversation had to do with sex.

Philly was an RN, same age as my mom.  We as a couple were dealing with  the normal tension and stress many couples experience in the area  of sexuality. Don and Philly were attending the same church we were at the time, and even though they’d been married 40 years, there was definitely a “spark” in their relationship. They were doing something right.  I really wanted to pick their brain.  When I need input in my life, I would much rather talk with someone with practical experience than one who is just book smart.   Out of desperation really,  we reached out to them as a couple to see if we could talk to them about the area of sexuality.   Don suggested we talk to Philly, because of her background and personality,  she was more than happy to do so.

We ended  up driving around town  while we talked.

Think Private conversation with Dr Phil 😉

Where no question was a dumb question.

What about ___________?

What about ____________?

On and on.

Conversation went on for a good hour.

Laugh….boy did we laugh. 🙂

You can cover a lot of ground in an hour if you have to.

Came away from our time together both of us feeling heard.

We were able to untangle some knots in our relationship, that frankly, I’m not sure we would have ever been able to untangle on our own.

Don and Philly are in the mid 80’s now.  There is still a spark in their relationship.

Don and Philly, thank you for being willing to open your lives to a young struggling couple.

DM

 

 

 

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

 

 

Funeral Day

I should be in bed.

Can’t sleep.

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Went to a funeral visitation today.

Buried one of our pet cats yesterday.    Two tangible reminders in one week  to the  fragility of life.

I will miss her. (The cat)

She was feral.

We called her “Miss Kitty”.

Pretty sure she was abused before  she showed up at our door.  Never, really trusted us.
But she did have a special relationship with Libby. The two of them would snuggle together in the winter.

 

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Funerals, funeral visitations, receiving lines, that whole flurry of activity that comes with a death.   Mom and I were talking about all that stuff again recently.  She agreed with me when I said the less you say the better.  Hugs, warm handshakes, look the family in the eye…but no empty cliches!

That approach has served me well the last several times.

The month my father-in-law died, my favorite grandma also died, then a few weeks later, a third person.  We were emotionally numb.  I can still remember our friends Leslie and Mel, Chris and Kelly,  sitting in the foyer of the funeral home just hanging around.  They knew this was our 3rd trip to the funeral home in a month.  Just their presence there was enough.

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Few years ago, when we were more  involved hosting concerts, Beth Wood a singer/ songwriter stayed with us one weekend.  She had just released her album  Beachcombers Daughter.   One of my favorite songs on that album was called Funeral Day.

It goes  like this:

We were laughing, it was funeral day
I guess it might seem strange that we’d behave that way
It was just our bodies craving levity,
My grief a heavy blanket weighing down on me
So we laughed until the sun went down
Trading stories, passing the bottle around
Recalling all the good times we had
It didn’t seem so sad

It all started at the parlor doors
Cousin Henry’s kid tripped on an extension chord
We busted out, what else could we do?
Hell, I knew that you were up there crackin’ up, too
So we laughed until the preacher came in
Then we settled down and we listened to him
Staring at your photograph

It didn’t seem so sad

Well we got some dirty looks from the old blue-hair crowd
But with all due respect, I think we did you proud
By laughing out loud

…it’s just a simple story, we’re here and then we’re gone

So I laugh remembering that day
How we carried on and how it washed our tears away
I’m smiling and I’m looking back
It doesn’t seem so sad.

Sending this one out to all of you that are missing someone.

Whether it’s been just a few weeks or 20 years.

DM

 

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