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.

Rodeo Clowns

As I was pulling through the security gate Wednesday @ Menards, a semi with “CDL in a day” written on the cab was exiting in the other lane.  He was pulling a 28 ft flatbed trailer.

Sharp looking rig.

I got the phone number and called him, to ask about costs, scheduling, etc.

If you’re a regular reader, you know  I have been attempting to get my  class A CDL license. (That would enable me to drive a semi or large truck, and  dovetail nicely into my skill-set.  If  when construction work slows down I could always pick up some hours hauling grain, bulk milk etc.

Tim (the owner of business/ CDL in a day) texted me  yesterday. He had a cancellation and wondered if I had time to  practice driving then take my test at the D.O.T  on Saturday?   (today.)

Absolutely!

So yesterday,   I showed up at his shop to spend an hour (ended up being three) prepping for my driving tests.

I debated  whether or not to tell him about my last experience with the CDL instructor, 

I decided to let him know about  the other instructor and his hollering at me.

Best decision of the day.

Tim told me, he himself had tried to get his CDL through John.  Had spent $450  and never did get his license.  I didn’t want to slander John, (even though the whole experience did leave a nasty taste in my mouth), so I just listened.   Tim went on to tell me,  I was not alone.  He has had several pupils come to him for instruction who have  also spent  hours and hundreds of dollars with  John, none of them ever passing.  (And all of them talked about getting hollered at)

The day I spent an hour with John, we spent 1/2 the time sitting with the truck idling, while he talked about horses, rodeos and a rodeo clown.

Tim had  heard the same stories, the same yelling.  We laughed.    My conclusions about John as an  instructor were not so far off after all.

Getting back to yesterday…

So there I was,  a slightly traumatized class A CDL student getting back in the saddle.  (Yea me)

Since my last lesson, I have watched video’s on YouTube, spent an hour with my neighbor driving his semi, and saw yesterday, a 50 percent improvement in my ability to up shift (go from low to high)…

BUT when it came to downshifting,  I was still grinding gears/ forgetting to flip the high/low button..etc.  At least three times, when it came time to downshift, my mind went completely blank…

Blank.

Imagine being behind the wheel and being responsible for 26,000 pounds of steel,  going 55 MPH in traffic.  You are still  confused with  how to bring this mass of metal, rubber and glass to a predictable, safe stop… (that is a peek into my brain)

Hour number two, I had a bad case of cotton mouth.  Haven’t experienced that since I was in 8th grade  wrestling.

Have you ever experienced cotton mouth?  You’d know it if you had.

Hour number three was brutal.  More road time/ plus the skills portion of the test (straight line backing/ 90% backing and parallel parking which I did OK on).

I texted Tim last night, thanked him for the lesson but had decided not to test.  Then I e-mailed the company I had tentatively gotten a job offer  with for seasonal truck driving and told them, I had a change of plans.   It was not going to work to drive.   I have already spent 5 hours of one on one instruction, plus several hundred dollars and it just isn’t clicking.

I would be a liability on the road.

I am going to put the goal of acquiring a class A CDL on the shelf for now.  I gave it my best shot.  I’m sure if I had a truck up on blocks/ and a day to practice I would have it mastered…but I don’t.

I feel no embarrassment or shame in taking a step back.

I have a right to change my mind.

I gave it my best shot.  When I got home yesterday, I felt emotionally like I had been in a ring with a silver-back gorilla. (or a rodeo clown) 😉

As I was processing out loud this morning with my wife, she reminded me, I had quote “been in the arena.

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt from his speech The Man In the Arena

That’s how things are currently rolling (or not)   out here in the heartlands of Merica.  Later!  DM

 

 

Uncharted Waters

What I thought was going to be a slam-dunk, turned out to be a lesson in humiliation.

I have decided to pursue getting my class A CDL drivers license this winter while work is slow.   I would legally be able to drive a dump truck, cement truck, or semi, as long as I was not hauling  hazardous  chemicals, etc.

I decided to take the test driving a clutch vehicle (rather than an automatic) That would give me more options.  I called John (someone  who offers a short CDL class) on Tuesday.

He asked  “Have you ever “double clutched” before?”

“No,” but how hard can that be I thought.  My first car had a three in the tree, and at least four of my work trucks over the years  have been 4 and 5 speeds, so driving with a clutch should not be too hard…right? 🙂

Just to be safe, I booked a lesson with John using a double clutch.

To use a word picture,  if you are driving in the mountains,  there is a danger  if you use your brakes too much,  they will overheat,   and   quit working. (You won’t have any breaks and won’t be able to stop.

Well, that’s what happened to my brain half way through the lesson last night…  John, eventually lost his cool and started to holler.  He said I was not paying attention. (I was)

*technical detail here…* when double clutching, instead of pushing the clutch pedal all the way to the floor, you push it 1/2 way, to take it out of gear, then push it 1/2 way down again, as you slip it into the next gear (either higher or lower, depending on what you are doing)  If you push the clutch pedal in too far, the clutch  goes into “break” mode, do it too often, and you will burn out a clutch.

That is a $2000 repair. (or maybe more)

Learning to driving a semi means learning a whole new set of  terms and skills.

Just like wading out into the unfamiliar waters of self-publishing at age 40.  Learning  the difference between a PDF and Word, the pixel number of your photos, how to upload the file to a publisher…

Or  going into teaching  at a local community college for the first time at 50. Where you are required to create your own metrics for grading, creating lesson plans, knowing how to handle conflict in a class room with high school students….

Or my favorite… “Attempting” to learn how to roller skate for the first time  at  age  22 with a group of 8th graders.

We made it back to his shop….finally.

As I processed last night after I got home, I came to the realization, I am again in uncharted waters.  What looked simple from the outside, (double clutching and driving a large truck) turns out not to be so simple.

Also came to the conclusion, John could be a better instructor, in terms of explaining things.

I need practice time behind the wheel. Next step is finding someone with  a truck I can practice with, (and who is very patient.) 😉

I have been here before.

Growing up, if my dad got really ticked,  my hand/ eye coordination driving the tractor with scaffolding would evaporate.  No one around, and I was a master.

Cool, calm, crisp, and accurate.

Do you know what I’m talking about?  Can you relate?

Tell me your story.

uncharted-waters

Uncharted waters.

Google Image

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

Google image

I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

_____________________

Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM

 

Re-calibration

surise-12-30-16

View from our porch

Sunrise December 30th 2016

_________________________

Spent this past Friday and Saturday crunching numbers.

The following thoughts are a continuation of this post.

I am self-employed carpenter/ remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/ concrete pour-er/ whatever pay the bills, kind of guy.

Because have chosen to be a self-employed carpenter/remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/concrete pour-er/ whatever pays the bills kind of guy in small town Iowa, I did not know  my net income for 2016  until all of the bills were paid and all of the checks came in….

Most of you reading this are no strangers to financial pressure.

It is  part of life.

I also think it’s fair to say, most of us are uncomfortable telling someone else what our income is. It  feels like letting someone see us in our underwear, (vulnerable)

I have no qualms talking to someone about these things in private..for me it’s like, what’s the big deal..this stuff is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the first place.

I had a friend who was an accountant for two trucking companies…Both had dozens of semi’s  on the road.  Company A owned everything on paper.  Owner was making his monthly truck payments to the bank and everything worked.  Company  B owner did not believe in debt.  All of his trucks were paid for.  This was about the time diesel prices spiked. Friend told me, he would be very surprised if company A would be able to stay in business… Company B, he felt, on the other hand should be able to weather the storm.

I am a Company B kind of guy…I hate debt, (although we do have a little again)

The model I use for coming up with how much money we have to work with is by coming up with a 3 year average.  Take the net income from 2014, 15, and 16, add them all together and divide by 3.  I totaled up the numbers Sunday morning and it looks like we may need to figure out a way to chop $400 a month out of our already lean, (we’re talking lean)  lifestyle.

ie.  our food budget for the two of us is currently $225 a month…and that includes toiletries.

The next few months may require some major life choices (again).

Assertiveness Bill Of Rights

I have the right to change my mind

(From The Assertiveness Bill Of Rights)

(Not sure that is the exact same list we worked off of, but you’ll get the idea if you read through it)

I took a weekend workshop several years ago through our local community college on the topic of assertiveness, and assertive communication.

It was a watershed experience in my life.

Best $45 I have ever invested in personal growth and development.

I would highly recommend it!

I know I’ve written about it before, just not sure if I was here….

It gives me the freedom to tell you, I have changed my mind.

I have decided to continue posting  here.

I miss the interaction….  DM

Mr Bulldozer Man

bulldozer

Today I found myself thinking about a conversation I had a few years ago  with  the guy who did the bulldozer work,  on the housing development we were framing in.

He was my kind of guy…

A little scruffy.

Would not put up any guff from the developer we were both working for.

Bulldozer man and I were taking  coffee break together one morning,  catching up on things because  he’d  just gotten out of jail I (again) for driving without a license.   He wanted to show me a berm he had been working on between the pond and a deep ditch before he went to jail.

After we walked over the berm he started to get animated…He started to vent and make some generalized  negative statements about Muslims.  I told him, I did not profess to be an expert on  Islam…but after 9/11 I have tried to get a  basic working knowledge of the religion, and the conclusions he was drawing at that time were simply not true.  These kind of conversations I am very selective about entering.  Having been married for over 35 years to the same person, I know how to have a robust conversation with someone who may not see things the same way…and as long as both parties abide by some basic ground rules,  a lot  of good can come out of them.  If on the other hand, one party doesn’t play fair ( name calling, unwillingness to listen, doesn’t respect, makes “you always” or you never” statements, then you might as well pack it up your toys and walk away.  I had a personal motivation for challenging this burly young mans thinking…one of my good  friends is married to a Muslim, and to remain quiet would have felt like  betrayal, even though she was 1000 miles away, and would never hear about the conversation unless I told her.  (Did I ever tell you  LMS ;-)?) By the end of coffee break, the lights had turned on with Mr Bulldozer man.

I sensed a sigh of relief.  Not all Muslims were terrorists!  In fact, just a small fraction of them were.

Just as not all white conservative Christian men secretly belong to the KKK and like to dress up in pointy sheets.  I know several hundred Christian  men of various races personally  and I have never/ ever met a single kkk member.  So the next time you are tempted to believe some outlandish story about some  “Christian”white guy you’ve read about on the Internet, do me a favor and push the pause button.

Shoot me a note.

Ask me what I think….you may be in for a surprise.

Back to Mr Bulldozer man….His attitude  had been flowing out of some serious mis-information  and when I started to explain there were at least 3 major branches of Islam (and multiple subsets within them).  It was important to know most of them were just like he and I…just everyday people trying to raise  families, pay bills and get along.

______________________________

A portion of the following poem hangs in the entryway of our home. It also captures some of what I’m trying to say…

 

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by;
They are good, they are bad, they are weak,
They are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban? –
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)