Making diamonds

I love hearing stories about what my kids are up to…heard this one this morning. DM

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“We decided to move our business here because of you!”  the young woman told my daughter yesterday with a grin.

(Daughter works behind the counter @ a local pharmacy.)

Daughter didn’t know who this person was, and had a puzzled look on her face.

Lady smiled and continued…

“Well, we are new to the community, and you stopped by where I work back on March 21st in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, with those lottery tickets.  Your attitude really touched me.  I asked you if you  worked outside the home and mentioned you worked here…  My husband and I wanted to start doing business here because of you.”

Three years ago, our third grandchild was born.

Shortly after his birth, it was determined he had Down Syndrome.   The first several weeks of his life  were touch and go.  Even to this day, there are medical issues he is having to deal with related to Downs….

None of us really know how we will respond to  life’s challenges until we are in the middle of it.  Our daughter and her husband have decided to  celebrate the birth of their little boy by passing out lottery tickets in honor of him and raise awareness of those who have been blessed by down syndrome each March 21st.  (Those are her words)

Kasen celebrated his third birthday last week.  He is a hoot.  Loves to hang out with his dad, and grandpa when they cut firewood. He loves to sit on my lap and listen to Scottish drum music. His dad is a fire fighter, Kason has already been adopted by the local fire department as one of their own.

 

Kasen during one of his stays in the  Intensive Care Unit

Kasen and his new toy chainsaw

 

Life is good.

If you don’t want to watch all 9 minutes of that Scottish drum music (see link)  jump ahead to about 7 minutes…that last song is Kasen and my favorite. 😉 DM

 

Here and now I’m in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don’t know what’ll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it’s here in the ashes
I’m finding treasure

He’s making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us”

From the song Diamonds by Hawk Nelson

Landslide

We headed  to Cedar Rapids that night  to hear  live music at the Java Creek coffee-house. Scott and Michelle/ a husband wife duo, both master musicians in their own right,  took it to another level when they played together.  Michelle was teaching our daughter Rebekah guitar at the time and when they saw the three of us in the audience, they asked Rebekah to come up and sing a song with them.

It was all spur of the moment.

Rebekah picked Landslide.

Quick back story…When Rebekah worked as a Subway artist back in the day, it was not uncommon for her to lapse into song while at work…nor was it uncommon for someone who knew her, to request a song when she was working. She was like a little songbird 🙂

So there we were @ the Java Creek coffee-house, on a Friday night.  Our 16-year-old home schooled daughter took the stage with Scott and Michelle…she was wearing a leather trench coat.  Funny how  details like that stick in my head. 😉

Those couple of minutes  are still frozen in time in my mind.

She sounded  every bit as good as Stevie Nicks.

You could have heard a pin drop when they finished.

I still remember a young man sitting at a table close to us, wondering who in the heck that girl was. 😉

Anyway, Landslide was on the radio just now as I was driving home…took me right back…

 

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

Dealing With The Public

When I walked up to the Lowes contractor desk on Wednesday, I sensed tension….a lot of tension. (I am pretty sure I know why, but I am not at liberty to talk about it here.)

It had been a long morning for me as well.  My brain was fried.  I had one of those small projects where the homeowner hovered over me while I worked.   The icing on the cake was when it came time to collect.

Back story…

This was a small job.  The guy (let’s call him Bob) had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, almost died.  I worked for Bob last year.   In spite of his  sometimes cantankerous personality,  he’s grown on me, and when I heard he was seriously ill, I stopped to see him while he was still in the hospital a few weeks back.   He expressed a desire to have a little 16 by 16 deck built and wondered if I would have time  this Summer.

My thought was,  the guy had almost met his maker, and this was a great way to give him a little encouragement, so I worked his project into my schedule ASAP. Tuesday of this week we built the deck. Got done a day sooner than I had projected.  Asked him if he wanted me to come back on Wednesday because I had allocated two days for his project.

“That would be great,” he told me!

His parting comment to me when he handed me the check Wednesday was, ” Boy, I didn’t realize this deck was going to be so expensive.”

(When I work for Bob, it is on a time and material basis…he buys his own materials and I work by the hour.)   I looked at him and thought, you have got to be kidding me..….

He didn’t get the area ready for the deck like I had suggested…so in addition to building the deck, we also ended up leveling off and packing 6 ton of lime. That shot an extra hour and 1/2  the first day.

Here’s a picture of the deck after the first day:

And here is a picture of the finished product:

So Wednesday after lunch, went from Bob’s place directly to Lowes to order material for landscaping job to be done later this Summer….

Did I  mentioned I was tired? 😉

I asked one of the ladies standing @ the counter if I could set up a delivery for 100 bags of red mulch, 80 landscaping blocks and matching caps.

Well, they didn’t have enough red mulch to  do my order…they did have another product on hand but that would be another $.67 per bag…= $67 more… and this was a bid job…..oh well.

Because this was going to be a larger order, I asked if there was any chance they could work with me on the delivery charge?

The lady said she would have to ask the store manager…which she did, and he said, they would deliver for $25. (a $40 savings for me.)

“Could she  match the $3 price?” 

“Well I will have to check with the store manager again.”  she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.  (I just wanted to get things ordered and head home.)

There was some confusion @ the counter, as they tried to ring up the order.  They could not find me in their system  as a contractor.   I get regular e-mails from corporate, so I was pretty sure I was.

I could see one of the older estimators sitting @ his desk listening to me try to get things sorted out and he said, “Why don’t you just come here to my desk and I will help you.”

I had all of my notes with me, from when I’d originally looked up Lowes prices on-line…(the red 2 cubic mulch at that time was selling for $2.50 a bag…not $3 and certainly not $3.67)

So he and I  found the skew numbers for everything…and sent me on my way.

When I got home, I realized he’d sold me the mulch for $2.50 a bag.  He didn’t ask the store manager.  He just did it…a $117 savings and I did not raise my voice.  I didn’t whine, I didn’t rant.  I didn’t say, that’s not fair….nothing.  I was too tired to do any of that…. 🙂

There is definitely a lesson in all of that somewhere  😉

My heart goes out to those of you that work with the public on a daily basis…not just one cranky old codger @ a time (like me and “Hovering Bob”)…but dozens of personality types a day.

It has to get exhausting.

Guess who I am going to work with next time I need to get an estimate from Lowes…

Be nice to the customer service reps, the receptionists you talk  to, and yes, even the medical bill collectors. (I have a story about that I could tell you, but this is already getting way too long.)

Have a good weekend. DM

 

The Disease of Being Busy

Yesterday morning my son and I tried something new.

We’ve been wanting to spend a little more time together connecting in an unhurried fashion… Now that he too is a husband and young father, trying to make his way through this jungle called life, I appreciate having a relationship with him where he is comfortable and free to talk about whatever is pressing in on him….Early Saturday mornings work best for both of our schedules…I put on a pot of coffee (Starbucks/ french roast/ whole bean) and in the quietness of my wood shop we talked….everything from the deeply personal to vehicle needs and work. It did my heart good as a dad, and I sensed it left him just as encouraged.

I’m hopeful we will do this again..

Came across the following article just the other day, on the topic of business.  The first several years after we were married, even after the kids started coming along, as a firstborn, workaholic myself, spending some unhurried time just talking would not have fit into my schedule.  I’ve written about that season of my life before…I’ve been on both sides of the equation,  I know what it’s like to be running on empty, and I know what it’s like (now) to be able to have margin.

Trust me, margin in life is worth fighting for…..DM

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The Disease of Being Busy

by Omid Safi (@ostadjaan), Columnist

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

  1. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

From this link:

https://onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/

Gracie

I like to mix things up at work when I can.

We were roofing a house the summer of 2008.  It was the year I got Winston the pig.  She was still a little piglet.  The second day on the job, I brought Winston to work with me.  The family I was working for had a young girl named Gracie.

Gracie asked at the end of the day if Winston could stay overnight and have a sleep over with her and her little dogs.

Why not? Right 😉

 

The local small town newspaper got wind of this sleepover.

( I called them)

Editor came up later in the day to do a short story and take an action photo.

While I was shingling that day, I had this urge to hear the story of Charlotte’s Web….I asked if Gracie  would mind reading it out loud to me while I worked.  Their roof was only one story, with a shallow pitch, and I thought, most kids would love to be able to climb up on the roof of their home, as long as it was safe….and Gracie was more that willing.

I can still remember Gracie sitting there reading to me…seems like it was just a few years ago.

This afternoon, I am attending a Gracie’s high school graduation reception

It touched me that I was invited….

Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

In case you’ve never see it, here’s a picture of Winston, shortly before I had to tell her goodby:

Now that was some pig.

Iowa Nice

Daughter # 2  (Kathy) was heading home from work a year ago about this time of day when it happened.  She noticed the car in front of her begin to fish-tale.  Then quoting now, “chunks of rubber began  flying off.”   Kathy didn’t know who was behind the wheel, but instinctively pulled over to see if she could help.

Out stepped a young Korean woman, her hands were shaking.  Her name was Ling.

“What just happened?”   Ling asked Kathy

“Your back tire blew” she said.

“Do you have someone you can call?” Kathy asked.

Ling pulled out her phone, but because they were in a low spot, she didn’t have a  signal.

Ling was a music major, heading for a recital in Dubuque.  Kathy offered to stay with her until they could figure out what to do.   Kathy called a local towing company she knew.   They ended up taking car back to the shop to address the tire situation.  (Don’t tell anyone I told you this) but Kathy offered to pick up the tab on the tow. When the tow truck driver realized she was doing this, he knocked 50% off the total and told her, if she  brought him in a plate of home made cookies  he would call it even.

After the spare was put on the car, and a couple of the other tires  rotated, Ling was back on the road.  Kathy and Ling kept in touch periodically throughout last year.

Last week, Ling’s parents were stateside for  graduation.  They wanted to meet “the angel” who had helped their daughter the year before, and go out for lunch.

As a parent of three daughters myself, I can very easily put myself in their shoes.

 

Kindness is alive and well in Iowa.