This time it was different.

Caught up with someone last night we hadn’t visited with for  5 years.    Over the years whenever we’ve talked,  I would come away from those conversations feeling like I’d been interrogated.   (And judged.)

Last night was no exception,

Since it had been five years, there was a lot we caught up on….

Another grand child on the way, my good health compared to my peers in  construction, honey bees, wife’s involvement with hospice work, personal debt,  the normal every day stuff you might expect…

At some point, the topic of conversation came around to retirement,  She’s looking forward to retiring this Spring.  Where was I at with all that?  The pro’s and con’s of drawing social security early?

And that is when that sense of having to justify myself, rather than just catching up for catching up’s sake kicked in….I could hear that familiar slightly judgmental tone in her voice.

But this time it was different.

I laughed.

We were talking about me wanting to take an active roll in how we handle these choices, rather than turn it over to an expert.  Our accountant has been a lot of help, because that stuff is always changing..but other than that, I am very interested in personal finance.

Side note… I think with a little more education, I would make a great financial planner. JMHO 😉

I said ,”Listen,  It is not rocket science.   Years ago, I picked up a book called Sound Mind Investing, that  is what’s next after getting out of debt.  It was  highly recommended by Larry Burkett (Pre- Dave Ramsey/ Mary Hunt/ get out of debt guru’s) )…  At the time, Larry, said a person needs to be thinking about goals after getting out of debt, or there is a good chance you’ll go right back where you started if you don’t….

(So the Sound Mind Investing book, has been sitting on the shelf for at least 10 years, as we’ve moved in the direction of getting debt free, and in the last several months I have been rereading it again.  (I ordered the updated copy  which I would highly recommend if you’re at all curious about this topic)

I then rattled off a handful of other things that gave me confidence I have some sense of what we’re doing….

I have been talking with our tax guy.

The fact that my construction business is a Sub chapter S, gives us way more options.

The fact we home schooled the kids for 9 years, gives me  confidence  I have the ability to learn something new, and do it well.

I  talked to her about our risk tolerance when it comes to money management (neither one of us are risk takers), so we’re not doing this blindly.

And finally, I said, “Well, check back in 10 years and ask me how it went.” 🙂

I love the confidence that has come with getting older.

DM

Found it in an old box of family photos….

Last winter, my sister Karen and I spent a morning going through boxes of old family photos  after we moved our parents into town.   My box of pictures and keepsakes has been sitting here next to my desk for the past month.   Decided last night to start sorting.  Came across  a couple of pieces of paper in my dad’s handwriting.  It was a story he’d recopied on the topic of  parenting.  (I’ll post that at the end).

Things were very tight the whole time our kids were growing up.   Sometime after we started home schooling, we decided to start a commercial cleaning business on the side with the older ones helping out.

I remember having conflicting feelings, a part of me thought it was brilliant,  and a teeny tiny part of me felt like a failure.  Asking our kids to help  out by empty trash cans, cleaning toilets, vacuuming, etc. so they would have  money to buy their clothes,  just seemed a little______?

Now that our youngest is 30, (and owns a commercial cleaning business of his own),  and I am  30 years removed from that season of our lives, I can see the fruit of those parenting choices in our children’s lives.   I have a completely different take on all of those memories.  All four of  our kids have turned into hard working, caring, loving adults, and it’s not because we were so brilliant and knew what we were doing.

Hardly. 

I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants

the

whole

time. 🙂

Life lesson:  Asking our kids to work/ not just dabble, but get in there and hustle, did not hurt them.  Those were their formative years, and being able to work hard as an adult now is something that sets them apart.

I ought to know.  As an employer, i t gets harder and harder to find people who know how to work.

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Here is that story I came across:

Thoughts on Work, family, sacrifice from my dad’s perspective

A young man went to seek an important position at a large printing company.  HE passed the initial interview and was going to meet the Director for the final interview.   The director saw his resume , it was excellent, and he asked, “Have you received a scholarship for school?”

The boy replied, ‘No.”

“It was your father who paid for your studies?”

“Yes” he replied.

“Where does your father work?”

“My father is a blacksmith.”

The director asked the young man to show him his hands.   The young man showed him a pair of hands soft and perfect.

“Have you ever helped your parents at their job?”

“Never.  My parents always wanted me to study and read more books’, besides he can do the job better than me. “

The director said,” I have got a request.  When you go home today, go and wash the hands of your father and then come see me tomorrow morning.”

The young man felt his chance to get the job wasn’t high.  When he returned to his house, he asked his father if he would allow him to wash his hands.  His father felt strange, happy, but with mixed feelings and showed his hands to his son.  The young man washed his hands, little by little.  It was the first time that he noticed his father’s hands were wrinkled and they had many scars.  Some bruises were so painful, that his skin shuddered when he touched them.  This was the first time that the young man recognized what it meant for this pair of hands to work every day to be able to pay for his study.  The bruises on the hands were the price that he paid for his education, his school activities, and his future.  After cleaning his father’s hands the young man stood in silence and began to tidy up and clean the workshop.  That night, father and son talked for a long time.  The next morning, the young man went to the office of the director.

The director noticed the tears in the eyes of the young man when he asked him.  “Can you tell me what you did and what you learned yesterday at your house?”

The boy replied,” I washed my fathers hands and when I finished I stayed and cleaned his workshop.  Now I know what it is to appreciate and recognize that without my parents, I would not be who I am today.  By helping my father I now realize how difficult and hard it is to do something on my own.  I have come to appreciate the importance and the value of helping the family.”

The director said, “This is what I look for in my people.  I want to hire someone who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the hardship of others to do things, and a person who does not put money as his only goal in life.  You are hired.”

A child that has been coddled, protected and usually given what he wants, develops a mentality of “I have the right.” And will always put himself first.

If we are this type of protective parent, are we really showing love or are we destroying our children?  You can give your child a big house, good food, computer classes, a big screen TV.  But when you’re washing the floor or painting a wall, please have him experience that too.

After eating, have them wash the dishes with their brothers and sisters.  It is not because you have no money to hire someone to do this, it’s because you want to love them the right way….

 

 

 

 

 

Mine would say 7

 

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I can still remember his name…. Keith.  Showed up unannounced with his girl friend  one evening 38 years ago.  Discovered that night he was a talker.  He talked, and talked, and talked, and talked.  Gave no indication, he was planning on leaving any time soon.

We had 2 little toddlers, and I was ready for bed.

Suddenly something shifted in my brain.  Some filter must have tripped a breaker.

It just came out of my mouth.

“Good night please…”

My wife was aghast, but I had finally had enough.

Saw that picture tonight and thought of Keith.

Come to think of it, I read  a proverb this morning that goes along with this meme..

Proverbs 25:17

Google it if you’re curious.

Well, time to go  and lock the chickens in.  It’s going on 7.

 

DM

 

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

The Wedding Dance

One of our nephews got married this past weekend.

At the reception, the DJ announced a dance for “All the married couples.”  And then he said,  “You know how this works…keep dancing until your year is called, so we can find out who here has been married the longest…”Wife looks and me and says, “Let’s  do it!”  I’d already been out on the floor dancing with one of our granddaughters so I was OK with the idea.  I’m going to guess there were about 20 couples on the floor.

“5 years or less, please leave the floor…”  “Dang,” said a young couple off to my right.

“15 years or less…please leave the floor..”

“25 years or less…

35 years or less...(the parents of the bride and groom left at this point.)

40 years…. (It was at this point we made a bee line to the edge of the floor.)

I could hear the DJ saying something about that last couple, turned out it was us. We were that last couple.  Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, thought it was one of my brother-in-laws, for a second, then realized it was the DJ.

“Any words of advice?”

My mind went  blank.  Completely  blank.   And then, a thought began to take shape, but I wasn’t sure I should say it.

What the heck, he asked me again so I blurted it out: ,“It takes a lot of work” (not the most romantic words, but he’d asked, and as far as I was concerned, it was the truth. 🙂

He asked the question a third time? ” What words of advice would you give a younger couple after being married for 40 years?” 

Fortunately, my wife had her wits about her and she said,  “Well, coffee in bed…He brings me coffee in bed, and has done so for years..” (I could hear a collective awe) 🙂

“It’s the little things that matter.  Kindness..”

After we sat down and the microphone was no longer in my face, my wife added…“I wish I would have said a sense of humor…a sense of humor in marriage goes a long ways!”

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The year we marked our 25th anniversary,  I did  write down some thoughts on marriage.  They are as true today as 15 years go and if you’ve never read my list,  here is what I wrote:

#1. A marriage relationship is a living thing, very much like a plant.  There are things you can do to enhance it, make it flourish, and there are things you can do in terms of neglect.  It can go without water and sunlight for a spell, but make no mistake…the principle of sowing and reaping is just as relevant in marriage as in any area of life.

#2.  A “healthy” marriage takes work.  You don’t feel the “warm fuzzies” for each other all the time.  Don’t panic…that is normal. Wife and I like to spend time together, we enjoy each other’s company.  But, as Dr. Dobson puts it, “Emotions come and go.  Do the deeds and the feelings will follow.”

  Make the phone calls from work just to say, “Hi. I was thinking about you.” Bring her coffee in bed.  Get out one-on-one, just the two of you , even if it’s just for a cup of coffee. Help out around the home with the dirty dishes, dirty, diapers, and here is a big one…pick up after yourself!

#3, Take time to listen and stay “current” with each other.  Don’t pour all your energy into your job and have nothing left over for your family.  Don’t become “married singles.” (two people living in the same home who no longer have anything in common.)  If your job does take all of your energy, all of the time, then Buddy, you need to find a different job.  There is nothing more tragic in life than a man who makes it to the top of the company ladder and loses his family in the process.

#4. Use these words often (You will need them):

“I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong.”

“Please forgive me.”

“You are right.”

#5. Dance…have fun…keep doing the silly things you did when you were just dating or courting.

#6. When (not if) you find yourself having an unresolved conflict in some area (money, sex, parenting, work, church, etc.) work at it until you find an answer! (God has used everything from books to other couples, to paid counselors, to help keep our boat afloat over the years.)

#7 Get out (or stay out) of debt.  There are a lot of spin-off ramifications that come with financial pressure.    Just a side note on this one-  for the most part, we have been a one income family, and since I have chosen to make a living with my hands (I am in construction)  we have made financial choices including…renting instead of owning the first 15 years of our marriage,  driven an older dependable car, shopped @ garage sales, discount grocery stores, etc.

These are choices we all have to make, but as children enter the picture, Dad needs to have some time and energy left over at the end of the day or be willing to “pay the piper” later in life. (Remember the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”???)

#8. Give each other some space and freedom.  Trust and respect are foundational issues.

#9. Pray and share with each other spiritually.

#10 Be a forgiving person.  Let’s face it, you are not perfect, your mate is not perfect, “stuff” happens.  Cut each other some slack….practice grace….be the first to initiate reconciliation.

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If you have any thoughts you would like to add to this list, absolutely feel free to do so.

I feel a nap coming on. 🙂 It’s raining here today.  I took off work early in order to take a couple of our chickens to do a program for group of Kindergardeners before I sat down here at the computer.

What a hoot.

Take care.  DM

 

Dancing with the granddaughters.

 

Did not see this coming

Did not see this coming.

Once a year, our 4 children agreed a couple of years ago, as it is hard to get everybody together at the same time, it would be great just to set aside a couple of days each year where we knew everyone would be able to be back.  (2 of our 4 kids  live out-of-state).

So everyone was back in town this week to celebrate their mama’s birthday.  5:15 we had planned to get together for a cookout @ one of the daughters homes.

Walked into the garage and I was confused.  Saw my brother, my mom and dad, heck, all of my siblings were there and their spouses….I thought..ah, neat..they’d been invited to help celebrate my wife’s birthday with us….but then  a cake caught my eye.  A Princess Bride themed cake… It was a good 45  to 60 seconds before I realized this was a surprise anniversary celebration, and I was one of the guests of honor.

I have never had a real surprise party in my life…never.

Two days later I am still in shock.

If it would have been possible,   I would love to have had each of you that read this blog, to have been invited.  I mean that.

The Princess Bride is one of those goofy movie’s from the 80’s that has taken on a life of it’s own in the fabric of our family’s life.

 

Princess Bride themed cake

Group photo