Gratitude 7/18/2020

I am thankful.

Thankful so many moons ago, my dad (with whom I never ever remember having any deep conversations growing up) put a book in my hands when I was about 16.  It was called The Power of Positive Thinking.  He’d just finished reading it.  I can remember him saying something to the effect like..”Junior, this would be a good book to read.”

Flash forward to today.  That conversation is still bearing fruit in my life.  I am even more convinced now that I am 60 plus years and counting in the power and importance in the attitudes I chose as I approach  today.   A large part of right thinking involves being thankful.  Finding things to be thankful for, even in the midst of chaos.  Even in the midst of heartache and not so pleasant circumstances.  Even in the midst of medical stuff.

What can I identify I can be thankful for?

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Got a call this week from someone in crisis.  Asked if I could take them to the hospital, they were in the midst of a major panic attack. Ever been around one of those?  Lot of people never have.   If you’ve not, contrary to what you might think, it’s not usually weak people that are most vulnerable, rather, it’s often times someone who is a go/ getter/ type a, never take a break, full throttle 7 days a week personality type.  Yep.

I was thankful I was able to get in touch with 2 people on the phone as I was headed to their house…a counselor I know, and a nurse I know.   Both picked up the phone. Both gave me great input as to how to proceed. I was thankful for their input. Thankful I didn’t have to fly completely blind as I took off with my friend to the hospital.

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Thankful to for a book I read 25 years ago on the coaching tips from former Green Bay Packer coach, Vince Lombardi.  I am not into food ball as funny as that might sound. I read the book because I was intrigued by his ability to motivate people.   A quote  from that  book came to mind  this week…

He said, “Football…beyond any game invented by man is closest to war…

it teaches a most important lesson of life…. 

the ability to walk through a storm and keep your head high.”

Yep,  It was a full week for me (emotionally exhausting).

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I am thankful I learned the art of weaving “margin” into my life in my late 20’s.   As a first born,  get-er-done.  Work 7 days a week/ dairy farmers son I didn’t know any different.

Life is a marathon.

It is not a sprint.

We are not meant to be “on” 7 days a week.

You will pay the piper.

Feel free to do otherwise. 🙂

Time  to play in  the shop.  Need to get ready to install another air conditioneer/ coolbot setup in the walk in cooler.

Tell me about your week.   DM

PSA.   I never know who may be reading this in the future.  If by chance you’ve stumbled across this post after googing “panic attack” etc,  Get yourself a copy of The Anxiety Cure by Archibald Hart.   

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

 

Ode to the blue collar man (ie. my father)

Ode: An ode is a kind of poem, usually praising something. … An ode is a form of lyric poetry — expressing emotion — and it’s usually addressed to someone or something, or it represents the poet’s musings on that person or thing.

(Long time readers may remember a version of this post from 2016.  It showed up on my “blog stats” this morning and I thought it was worth reposting. DM)

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My dad graduated high school in the early  50’s.

A local attorney  (Remley) who at one point owned the farm my dad  lived on,  offered to pick up the tab on his college tuition “because  he had a knack for math.” My grandparents were not rich.  They’d raised a family through the great depression, then after WW 2,  shipped, case after case of canned food and clothing to grandma’s relatives  back in the old country (German).. .so grandpa and grandma never really got ahead financially. Dad opted not to go to college, instead went into the service, then went to work at a packing house. After that, he started  driving a cement truck for a local cement company.   At some point, he was asked to come into the office and help behind the counter in the lumber yard portion of the business, eventually rising through the ranks to manage both the lumberyard and the concrete plant.

(Remember what I told you about math.) 🙂

In the early 1970’s dad went into business with his brother as a general contractors. They built up a multi-million dollar construction company, employed one  hundred eighty men over the course of a 30 year span, one of which was me.

This is an ode to the  blue collar man that shaped my life..

 

Ode To The Blue Collar Man

He

had

 the

hands

of a

farmer.

The heart of

a musician,

the mind of

an engineer.

But somehow..

between raising a family,

paying the bills and farming the land,

his steel guitar  got misplaced in the mix.

Life is a pendulum.Sometimes we learn

by example, and sometimes we choose

a different path.

Checking In

How are you doing this morning?

What’s it like locally where you live?

I was telling my wife this morning over coffee, one of the harder things to deal with (for me) is getting accurate information,  trying to sort the crazy rumors out from what’s really true so we can make good decisions.

I stumbled across a fresh source of news on Thursday I have good feelings about.  It’s called the Epoch Times.  They are currently running a special.  First month is only a $1.00, then after that, it’s $70 something for 6 months.  What impressed me, well one of the things that really impressed me was their coverage on the Covid-19 (the coronavirus).  They have an ongoing data base that is updated every couple of minutes with statistics on number of confirmed cases, number of deaths, broken down, by country, and state.   Crunching the numbers myself, I saw that in Italy for example the rate of death was over 8%…which is crazy.  When it comes to accurate information from China, I absolutely do not trust the information, from them or the mainstream media in our country.

Got this off their website:

    “The Epoch Times was founded in the United States in the year 2000 in response to communist repression and censorship in China. Our founders, Chinese-Americans who themselves had fled communism, sought to create an independent media to bring the world uncensored and truthful information. We are free from the influence of any government, corporation, or political party—this is what makes us different from other media organizations. Our goal is to bring our readers accurate information so they can form their own opinions about the most significant topics of our time.”

I’ll let you know in a month, whether or not we chose to subscribe.  It’s a little steep, but knowledge is power as the saying goes.

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On a local front here, I have a full morning.  Dropping off a couple of dozen farm fresh eggs to one of our regulars,  then stopping by my mom and dad’s for a cup of coffee.   Their in their 80’s so they are laying low.   At 10 I am picking up our 6 year old grandson.  He get’s to hang out with grandpa today (me), going to show him how to start tomato plants from seeds.   Then as they mature, send several of the plants home with him for him to plant and take care of and eventually show him how to save tomato seeds for next season.

After our seed starting workshop, we are going to pick up beer cans.

Home Schooling PE class at it’s finest. 🙂

Get some exercise, clean up the environment, hang out with grandpa and make money at the same time,

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Here’s a link to the Epoch Times, in case you are curious:

And finally, I’ll leave you with this…I shared it last year:

Take care. DM

Growing up on a farm

Write about what you know they say…..

Growing up on a farm shaped me in ways  I didn’t realize at the time.

Seeds were  planted that didn’t germinate until years later.

Like when you have to borrow your neighbors tractor make sure you top off the gas tank before you take it back.  And if by chance, something breaks, you  get it fixed. Take it back better than when you got it.

Everybody thinks that way, right?

Found out a few years ago, that is not always true.

We invited a young person stay with us for three months, a musician who was trying to get their bearings.  We didn’t have a spare vehicle, so I put the word out  amongst my people to see if anyone would have a spare loaner car?    Well, a few months turned into almost a year, and when it came time to return the car, our guest was incredulous that I insisted we needed to take it to the shop to get some things fixed that had started to act up.

What was I thinking?   Our guest didn’t have any extra money, plus that was a risk my friends had taken when they originally loaned the vehicle out.

Absolutely no way my guest was responsible for any repairs on that car!!!

No way.

Wasn’t going to happen.

They looked at me like I was nuts.

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I moved to the farm when I was  9.

Left the summer I graduated high school and didn’t looked back….until 19 years later…

At that point, we were in middle of raising a family of our own,  things were not going to well.  We decided we needed  to find  a place  in the country, even if we had to rent, to regain control of our lives.

It worked.

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I’ve spent several weeks again  this winter, working on our family history.  I’ve got most of the important names and dates established, going back 4 generations  and in some cases, multiple generations more. My next goal is to flesh it out with stories.  That’s  probably where some of the stirrings for this post came from.

Several of my ancestors were farmers.

Unless you grow up on a farm, you probably never gave much thought to what it is like to milk a fresh heifer (fresh heifer = young female cow who has just had her first calf) by hand? Especially when it’s fifteen times your weight,  has no interest in getting milked, because it has a case of mastitis.

Can you say RODEO?

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Ever had an old rooster come after you?  Not sure about other animals but a mean rooster can sense  if you’re afraid.  Chickens really do have a pecking order and the rooster is usually @ the top of the flock.   Depending on the bird, they may either try to fly up into your face and peck you, or grab you by the leg and rip you with his spurs.

I tell them to bring it on.

Roosters are like bullies.  You just have to let them know who is in charge.  It’s all about boundaries.

 

Dad and I with three of his roosters.

All three of them came after me that day.

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Well, I feel a nap coming on.

Definitely did not learn the art of napping growing up on the farm…just the opposite.

“Better is one hand with quietness, than two fists full, with  stress  and the chasing after the wind. ”  3000 yr old proverb.

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I have a couple of stories about  buffalo I want to write about next.  We raised them until the bull got loose.

Later!  DM

Brother and I back in the day holding a couple of farm cats

Better is….

“Better is one hand with quietness, than two fists full, with  stress  and the chasing after the wind. ”   3000 yr old proverb

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We got home last night about 7:30.  Spent  850 miles in the car yesterday.

Boy is it good to be home.

Spent the last three weeks in the Denver Colorado area framing walls and hanging drywall for family. There was very limited access to the computer (not to mention, very little time) which was why I have been quiet.

One of the things I was acutely aware of the last three weeks was the contrast between the pace of my life (now) and the pace of life of those we were staying with.

Seeing those bumper to bumper car lights  of people  heading home from work on Hwy 470 one evening made me thankful that is no longer part of my routine.  We used to live in Northern New Jersey. I can still remember the work traffic that went past our place on the way to New York City.

Quick story.  In the early 1990’s I started a new job framing houses for JP construction.  I would say there were 15 to 20 of us on the crew.  JP’s brother-in-law Al was a part of that mix. Wasn’t too long before I realized Al loved to stir the pot.  He was always looking for ways to instigate drama and conflict.  I’d never in my life worked around someone like that.  One day he tried to embarrass me in front of several of the other guys for no other reason than our personalities didn’t play well together.  He asked me a trick question,  and rather than take the bait, I asked him why he wanted to know.  “Don’t answer my question with a question.”   I smiled and that was the end of it.

I thought  of Al this week when our host family turned on the “news” each night after we ate.   The  suckers were doing the very same thing as Al used to do..,..attempting to stir the pot between the rest of us.

I’m not taking the bait.

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Another quick story.

We are related to someone who loves to send us links to various alarming current event issues.  He sent three this week.   In person, the guy is full of himself. 95% of the conversations are about him and his interests.  He talks down (and over me) when we’ve seen him.  I used to find him a little bit quirky but  endearing.  Not so much anymore.    So  when we get these pushy unsolicited links via the computer, it is a complete turn off.  If I felt there was even a little more humility and genuine interest  in little old me, that would go along ways.  As it is,  he scores zero in terms of influencing my life. Zero, absolute zero.

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I was also struck by kindness of strangers.  From the guy that helped me at the Lowes  store in Brighton Colorado, to the check out girl in Kearney Nebraska.  Kindness is still  alive and well  across the Fruited Plains.

I have missed all of you the past three weeks.   Our interactions are apparently one of the ways I keep myself grounded.    I suppose I could quit blogging entirely,  put in longer days at work, and (maybe), have a few more dollars in my bank account.   30 years ago, that might have sounded like wisdom.

“Better is one hand with quietness that two fists full with stress and chasing after the wind.”

Well, time to get my duff away from the computer and plan the rest of my week.   Take care. DM

I am officially A Keeper Of The Stories

This morning it dawned on me… I really am a Keeper Of The Stories.

This is the 2nd winter I intentionally set aside a block of time to work on family history.  I’m trying to tie together the collective stories of both, my and my wife’s family history.

And once I am satisfied I have a fairly detailed representation from each root, I’m hoping to put this information together in 5 hardcover books.

Either you get it or you don’t….(this interest in family history.) I can tell when I’ve  met another person who has been bitten by the bug. There is an instant connection.  I’m guessing only 10% of the population has been infected.

I’ve tried to analyze the draw.

Heck even googled it this morning.. “What is the fascination with genealogy?

Speaking just for myself, here my draw:

As I think about what my parents, and grandparents, and their parents and grandparents went through the past hundred and fifty to two hundred years,  I am grounded.  They’ve lived through multiple world wars, the Great Depression,  a severe depression in Germany,  the Irish Famine… immigrated to a foreign land, dealt with alcohol addiction, attended college 100 years ago, death, abject poverty, discrimination because of their background, raised large gardens, raised large families, butchered their own meat,  and on and on and on….

I hear these stories and it grounds me….right here, right now.

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I’ve never been 100% happy with the way family trees are typically displayed…The closest thing I’ve ever seen that I liked was a room in one of the Harry Potter movies with someone’s family tree….a mural on a wall, with winding branches, pictures, etc.

It finally clicked in my mind last week, my version of a family history display. It is part mural, and part book.  5 books to be exact.

A main trunk (which represents the family my wife and I have created)  4 branches (each representing one of our  four children, and  4 roots. Each  root, tied to a book.  A root tracing my dad’s families of origin, a root for my mom’s, and two roots for my wife’s parents.  The trunk will have a book  entitled “The Story of Us”.  Each book, a combination of pictures, narratives , newspaper clippings, and notes on world events at the time.

For example, my  dad and mom’s  formative years were right during The Great Depression. Neither one had indoor plumbing,  etc.  so definitely going to have some stories about that.  Dad’s  father, my grandpa,  as I’ve written about before, used to make moonshine with his brother Meno.  I found out a few years ago, Meno and Opa as I called him, had a Moonshine route.  In addition to including their moonshine recipe, which I have, I want  to spend a little time talking about prohibition, don’t you think? 😉

Grandma (my dad’s mom)  immigrated from Germany in 1929. Some of you have seen the picture I’ve posted before of her on the boat coming to America:

Oma, 2nd from the right, on the boat coming to America  1929

You can bet, that will be in the book….

Anyway,  This morning the creative juices started to bubble over.

We’re getting together with my wife’s 2nd cousin on Monday who has a stash of old family photos and stories to go  with them. I can’t wait.

Feel free to share any tips/ thoughts you might have… DM

Me…A life coach?

Took my dad to the dentist this morning.  Dad is 87.  On the way home dad  mentioned G. W., a former employee of his who he’d taken to a rehab center, back in the day.

Dad said the day he took GW in, the guy at the front desk said:

        “Look at the door…There are no locks on that door.  You can leave the same way you came in.  On top of that,  if you’re not interested in dealing with your problem, you  might as well leave right now, and not waste any more of anyone’s time.  Real change has to start between your ears .”

The guy checking GW in, was himself an former alcoholic and knew what  was what.

That conversation made me think about some thoughts I’ve had rumbling around in my head the past month as we’ve begun a new decade.

This past year, I had two different people suggest to me  I would make a great “life coach.”

To be honest, after the second conversation, I did do a little looking into that idea, because it did stir something inside of me.

After doing some reading,  I decided I am not interested in jumping through all of the hoops  that would get me certified.   I love my current job too much to give that up completely, not saying I wouldn’t be open to doing a little coaching on the side.

Heck,  in an informal sort of way, I have been doing “life coaching” for  years anyway.

Just for fun, I decided to identify  areas of my  life  I have had to work on, and would feel comfortable working with someone else with…

Dealing with a low self esteem.

Dealing with crippling  shyness.

Dealing with poor boundaries.

Living a balanced life and living with margin.

Marriage and relationship issues.

And finally, I  have presented several workshops on  identifying and pursuing your life passions and interests…

Wife has told me multiple times she could see me being a motivational speaker.

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I’ll close with this thought:

One of the secrets to a  (my)  happy life is coffee.   That’s right, coffee.   It’s from the vegetable family, it’s full of antioxidants,  and doesn’t leave  you with a hangover the next day.

 

If someone were to approach you and ask you to deal with  certain life situations..which areas of life would you feel  comfortable giving input?

Christmas Eve Morning 2019

It’s Christmas eve morning 2019.

My heart is full.

Got to spend a day and a half with our daughter Rebekah and her two girls this past weekend.

The highlight for me was when  the oldest and I crossed a busy street. (She just turned 4).

I asked her if she would hold my hand to help me cross the street.

Not only did she hold my hand the whole distance, but kept holding it until we got to the front door of the store we were going to.

Think what you will.  That 60 seconds of joy will stay with me for a long time.

Hugs and well wishes to all of you this holiday season.  DM

The whole tribe this past April when everyone was back to celebrate our 40th anniversary.

 

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….