She Warned Me This Would Happen

The following was written by my friend and former co-worker Chris.  This week the two of us spent three days building a fence at his house. It was good.  I asked him if he would have any interest making a guest appearance on the blog…. maybe write about our time building fence together, etc.   I know he stops by here sometimes, because he will occasionally shoot me a text on something I have written.

Please give a warm welcome to Chris…. 😉 DM

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She warned me this would happen…

With the arrival of our first, the past year and a half have been a blur and a blast. What was a wriggling, cooing mass of cuteness only a blink ago, has since grown in to an adventurous, yet shy, beautiful toddler.

This addition to our family sparked a seemingly endless chain of spiraling adjustments, to almost all reaches of our lives. With the new plateau of mobility and curiosity came a sudden realization that dangers we could once keep at bay were suddenly within reach to Felix.

Rather than test the limits of his name (Felix; fortunate, lucky, blessed), we decided to erect a fence around our backyard. As much for his safety as our enjoyment, this decision cued DM’s arrival on the scene.

We have history, this carpenter and me. At a time in my life when I was landing kitchen jobs and had been constantly on the move, my significant and I made the decision to move back to my hometown. Life for us had been an adventure for quite some time. With a youthful desire to not limit ourselves in any way, we had been burning the candle hot at both ends. Looking back, I know we learned and grew a lot through those experiences, but we both were in need of a drastic change.

He said he was looking for someone with no experience, and that was what he got. Those first few weeks were an eye opener for me- my emaciated frame had never known such pain! Parts of my body I had not known existed suddenly were screaming at me.

At the same time, I found myself suddenly having conversations with a man who had crossed life’s seas and knew all the knots. I remarked to my wife (girlfriend at the time) that going to work was like going to therapy. Quick with encouragement and laughter, in the middle of a trench or on top of a roof, I found myself wanting to rise to his level of Zen.

I learned a lot over those two years; to not shy away from pain, to reflect and introspect daily, the importance of taking a break, how to set healthy boundaries, time management, the list goes on. Unashamed to share personal trials and challenges, his level of honesty with himself and with me was something not yet known in my life. It was just what I needed. Without realizing it I was making the transition out of childhood at a point in my life that I can reflect on now as ‘just in time.’

Snap forward to the present. It had been quite a while since I had seen DM, and I was looking forward to our time together building a fence for Felix in the backyard. My wife jokingly warned me the day before we were set to get started, “You’re going to want to quit your job and start working with him again after this I bet!”

My frame is not so emaciated at this point in my life, but the pain was the same as on that first job site. I made the remark something to the effect that physical work is so much more rewarding than mental anguish. As my muscles were ripped apart yet again (from neglect, admittedly), I was reminded of the journey I had taken under DM’s wing all those years ago.

She was right.

 

Fence building week

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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

 

Parenting Cliff Notes

Parenting.

Just about the time you finally have some sense of how to do it, you’re done.

My thoughts turned toward the art of parenting again last night as I was on the phone with my wife. She is helping out our daughter who has a new baby.  As we were talking, I could hear the other grandchild in the back ground throwing a temper tantrum.  Since she isn’t my child, it isn’t my place to tell them how to parent,  and yet…

“What makes you think I have anything credible to say?”  You ask.

Now that is a great question! 😉

Especially since I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time.   Those last years  I was in  survival mode.

And yet,  I have  watched our four kids enter adulthood, start families of their own.  They love to come home to their mama and papa and, they get along with each other.  That’s the end game.  Work yourself out of a job.

I refuse to take credit for how our children turned out,  which in itself is instructive.

Children are remarkably resilient.

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I have been reading gardening comment threads on the Internet the past month.  Spring is in the air.  I was reminded again, just how many and varied are the approaches to gardening, and just how full of themselves are some of the “experts.”  It is such a turnoff listening to someone tell a Newby how to “do it correctly.” (Especially when I come from a completely different school of thought.)

So that is the last thing on my mind when I talk about parenting.  I do NOT have it “all figured out.”

The whole parenting experience (for me)  came to a head when our oldest two hit their teen years.

One of the girls (age 14) decided to run away.  If I remember correctly, she told us  she was thinking about running away because we were too strict.  She wanted to spend more time with another girl whose family  wasn’t like ours.   I told her to think twice, because if, on the outside chance DHS  (State agency that works with families) got involved, you never know..they could even removed her younger brother and sister  from the home.

Well,  those words fell on deaf ears, and the next thing I knew, she did  runaway.  She was still in town, but thumbing her nose at us as a family.  She was going to do just what she wanted to do, and that was that.

Well, this was all new, uncharted territory for me. I’d never run away myself although I had thought about leaving home when I was 16.  I’d read the book My Side of the Mountain, and magazine articles by  Euell Gibbons.   I remember  having a craving to eat cat tail root, catch crawdads, find a big old tree and live in the trunk.  I had a hunting knife and a hatchet, a sleeping bag, and a pup tent (in case I couldn’t find a big enough tree.)  I’d been in cub scouts when I was younger, so I was pretty sure I had what it took to survive….but that was about as far as it got.

We gave her two days, then decided it was time to reel her in.  It was Summer.  Baseball season.  My sources told me she was at a little league game down by the fairgrounds.

I called our pastor at the time and asked him if he wouldn’t mind riding along with me to pick her up.

I went to the game.  Saw her sitting on the end of the bleachers.  She glared at me when she saw me. I  told her it was time to go and to get in the van.  She could see I meant business.   We headed to our pastor’s house  and sat down at the kitchen table.  I told her she had two choices.  Boarding school or two weeks at my cousins who lived several hours away.  He  was married, had a  young family.   He had a reputation for being VERY strict  and the last place our kids would have chosen to spend the summer….

I told her (with tears) that I would not sit by and watch her or anyone destroy our family.  I reminded her again about the very real possibility of DHS coming in and pulling her younger brother and sister out of the house, and that hadn’t mattered to her.

It was a watershed moment in our relationship.

She decided to go to my cousins, for two weeks.

When she came back, there was a  change in our relationship, (for the better.)

You’ve heard about strong-willed children?  Yep, she is one and I love her to pieces.  The stories she brings to our lives now, well, I could write a book.

The challenge is to break that defiant, in your face, bad attitude without, breaking their spirit.

If you’ve bought into that siren song of being your child’s friend first and everything will all work out, then I wish you the best…I will have to admit, I bought into some of that, which in hindsight was a big part of the confusion.  When they start telling YOU how it’s going to be, maybe you will think back to this post and drop me a note and we can talk.

I’ve taught  Jr high, high school and college classes, as well as managed a construction crew, all of which has helped me tremendously on the road  to be a wiser parent…it’s funny, many of the same principles apply.

Without respect (and it goes both ways) it’s only a matter of time before things  get crazy (Home, school and work.)

There is absolutely a place  to have  “fear of consequences” in the back of a person’s mind, then being willing to deliver on them when you are tested.

When love, respect, clear expectations, and real consequences are in place, then you are at a good place.

 

 

Birthdays

Having a cup of coffee  with my mom on her 80th birthday.

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I have been thinking about how to mark my 60th birthday, which is in about a week.

For my 40th,  we had a big party.  Large guest list, lots of food, skits, gag gifts, black balloons,  the whole enchilada.

For my 50th,  wife sent out letters, far and wide to the people in my life, asking them to write a note…memories, things they appreciated about me, stories etc. bound them up in a keepsake book of memories.  Things  you might say about someone @ their funeral visitation but never get around to saying it. To this day, it remains my most prized possession. (I will come back to this in a moment)

For my 60th, my mind as been thinking about the book Tuesdays With Morrie, and his answer to what his idea of how to spend the perfect day.  Morrie was dying of ALS and he was having these powerful meaningful conversations with a young man he’d taught from college…

Here is where my thoughts are  so far. 😉

I am SO excited and thankful as this chapter of my life arrives.  Honestly, I love being at this season/ age of my life.  I’ve already lived a full, full life.  Still have much of the passion and energy I had as a 30 yr old, just tempered with life experience and wisdom. I feel like I am in the prime of my life.  Would not want to go back and repeat any of it.

I do not have any regrets.

I have been able to shed much (not all) of the people pleasing baggage I was carrying when I was 20.

I know myself.  I have a  pretty good sense of my strengths and weakness and can own up to both freely.

I have lived to see my children’s children.

I am in a vibrant relationship with  the same woman for almost 40 years.  That is no small feat, considering what a rascal I can still sometimes be.

I have checked off most of the things on my bucket list…(except running a mile nonstop, and traveling to the Highlands of Scotland, and Northern German)

Both of my parents are still very much alive, in the land of the living and both of them wrote the most meaningful letters to me for my 50th.  What more could I want…

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I have no desire for a large party this time.  I hope to take the day off of work.  Start out by cooking my own breakfast of little smokies,  2 eggs over easy,  fresh pot of Starbucks French Roast whole bean/ not ground) coffee, couple of pieces of white toast, with butter.

I have a new rifle I would really like to zero in.  Haven’t shot it yet.  Need to set up some targets/ 50 yards/ 100 yards/ 200 yards and fine tune it.  I had a gun smith zero in the scope with a laser but still need to take it out to the field. Don’t even  know how to clean it for sure so that will have to be part of that activity…..

After that, the day is still open until evening, when I hope to have a dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken/ extra Crispy/ dark meat.

(Oh, I know I am going to work a nap into the afternoon @ some point.  That is one of the life lessons I learned early into adulthood.  How to take a nap without shame.  How to turn off the workaholic old German that still lives in my head.  I’m going to do it, just to remind him of who is in charge….

Going to wrap out the day by renting a movie.  Wonder Woman.  I’ve watched the trailers multiple times.  Looks like a great “escape” movie. Regardless of what those Court Jesters in Hollywood say.

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And finally a shameless plug…

If you’re so inclined/ absolutely no pressure… I would love to hear from  you that are part of my blog family… tell me  something(s)   you appreciate about me….Real good chance your words will end up in my book of memories.  If you’d rather not leave your words on the blog/ shoot me an e-mail, or nothing @ all..that’s OK too. 🙂

Later! DM

 

A Second Cookie

There are 106 partially completed blog posts sitting in my draft folder,with titles like Locked and Loaded, I Once Met A Model, She Lives In My Head,  Russian Nesting Dolls, Reina De La, Two Pieces Of Sand, etc.

Scrolling through them this morning,  the following caught my eye.  I know I’ve told the story about the second cookie before, but  it bears repeating…at least I think so. 😉  It has been a very good week since getting the biopsy results on Tuesday.  Really touched me how many of you took the time to comment and wish me well. DM

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I come home most nights physically and mentally exhausted from work.

We are re-roofing a 160 ft long cattle shed and as I mentioned to Tim  Monday morning when he came in 20 minutes late, he did not have a clue as to  all of the job pressures that I was under….

Concerns about the wind ripping off the #30 felt before we got it covered.  If that happened,I would have to absorb the cost of material and labor to redo it.

Safety concerns.

Dealing with  mud and not being able to get equipment in to where it needs to be.

Time pressures.

Employee’s coming in late or not at all.

Cash flow pressures.

Communication and expectation issues with the customer,  bla bla bla…

Some day he might understand, and when that day came, I wanted him to give me a call. 😉

I am living my life for the long haul, and yes, while this current project sucks a lot out of me, I am doing OK.

I have learned to pay attention to my inner world and pace myself.

I am so thankful my wife recognizes my need to transition when I get home and gives me space.

I  know three men, all married to women who regularly put major expectations on their husband’s time after they get home from work.  None of these men are what I would call  couch potatoes.  I was catching up with two of them recently and both  casually mentioned some of the tasks their wives had saddled them with in addition to their own personal responsibilities.

I kept quiet, but inside I was thinking, you have got to be kidding me.

(I’m not talking about fixing a leak in the sink, but hours and hours of busy work.)

Years ago, Mrs DM used to take care of an elderly lady I’ll call Ann.  Ann’s husband  (Carl) was still very much alive.  Wife’s job was mostly to do a little laundry, pick up around the house, that sort of thing.  Ann was pushing mid 90’s at this point.  One morning while wife was sitting in the chair talking with Ann,  Carl starts grilling Ann about the 2nd cookie he suspects she has eaten that morning…..

A second cookie!!!

Now I get it.  She didn’t have an active life style and cookies = empty calories =weight gain.  The other side of the equation was Ann was still 100% still in her right mind, she didn’t have long to live, and cookies were one of the few pleasures she could enjoy.

To this day, that exchange comes up in our home.  If either one of feels the other is over stepping their bounds with the other, we will bring up Carl and micro-managing the cookie count.

This same issue could just as easily surface between a parent and their older child, or a child and their aging parent.

Boundaries,  and imposing my will on the will of someone else who is of sound mind and body, “in the name of love.”

If you are reading this and happen to fall into the camp of being a controller,

I have two words for you…

Stop it!

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PS.  If you are on the receiving end of a controlling personality,  and need to talk, feel free to leave  a comment and or question.  I have a great readership base here,  with lots of insight.  DM

 

Mary Did You Know?

Mary started working for me in 2006.

To this day, she remains one of my favorite employees.  We lost touch after she moved back east.  I was thinking about her  yesterday as I was roofing.

At the time I hired her, I  was looking for one laborer.  She met all of my qualifications but one…

Needed to be able to carry an 80 pound bundle of shingles up a ladder.

We talked about that at the interview. She thought she could probably do it.  She told me her last job as an archaeological assistant  was very  physical. She liked working outdoors, in all kinds of weather, wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  In the end, I hired her and young man named Brady.   I knew Brady could handle the shingle lifting.

Like I said,  Mary came to mind yesterday as that Christmas song Mary Did You Know  was  flitting through my brain…

Couple of quick stories about Mary.

First week she came to work, she cussed like a sailor.  I didn’t say anything. Figured she just wanted to make a good first impression with a bunch of rough construction guys.  I used to cuss like a sailor myself, so I didn’t think too much about it.  About the 3rd day she came to work, she brought the cussing  up.  Seems she and her day care lady were talking about her new job working for me….(whom I kind of knew)  The day care lady went on and on about what a “good Christian man I was.”  (yea right)  so Mary  told me she was sorry about all of the “f bombs.”

I laughed.  Told her not to worry about it.  To my ears, they were just words.  I noticed a change  after that conversation. She became more relaxed and  genuine.

Few months later, we were heading to work one morning.  She told me to pull over, quick….  she was feeling sick.   Lost her breakfast next to a telephone pole.  (sorry)  When she got back in the truck, I asked her if she (quoting now) “Had one in the oven?” 😉

“Absolutely not!  It was probably a greasy salad dressing I had the night before.”  She said.  Well, me, having watched my wife go through pregnancy  four times  wasn’t convinced.

The time of day was suspect. The fact she didn’t have the flu made me suspicious.

In the end, I was right. 🙂

As we got closer to Christmas that year,  I could tell she was under financial stress.

No family in the area.

Pregnant…

My heart went out to that young family, 1000 miles from home.   I mentioned something briefly in an adult Sunday School class I was a part of.

“Wouldn’t be fun to pass the hat  in the spirit of Christmas?”   I told the class I would have to come up with a way to present it to her, because she was not a mooch.

There is nothing quite as much fun as being able to help someone out who really needs it, and who is not expecting it.  We ended up collecting  about $300 as I recall.   I gave it to her that next Monday morning before work.

She cried.

Said she couldn’t accept it.

Can’t remember now what I said, but eventually she  did.  The following week, more money trickled in…

I had to apologize and tell her I had more money for her.

It wasn’t my fault.  Someone else had heard about their situation and wanted to help.  I think I got a hug out of that one. 🙂

I’ve tried to track Mary down a few times since she moved but she’s fallen off the radar. She reminded me a lot of my eldest daughter Angie.

I’ll close with Pentatonix’s version of Mary Did You Know.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s generosity?

Have you ever had the chance to be on the giving end to help someone out?

Tell me your stories!

I want to hear about it!   DM

Conversation(s) with an Anarchist

So there I was…

Sitting across the kitchen table from Dave,  having a cup of coffee/ (Starbucks/ French roast/ whole bean/ not ground.)  I asked him  what it meant to be an anarchist?

I could tell I had tapped into some strong anger….

As a peace-loving, non anarchist type myself, I was genuinely curious.

Besides he was drinking coffee from out of my stash….

I hate/ loath/ stay as far away as I can, from arguments of a non-productive nature.  Life is too short.

You do what you do..I do what I do.  (I’ll give you ten points if you can tell me what movie that phrase comes from.)

It is hard enough to work through an issue with a person I am in a long-term committed relationship with. Why in the world would I go there with someone who doesn’t feel that way about me?

Not going to happen.

But at the same time, I am nobody’s rubber stamp.  I have lived long enough to know  I do not always have a corner on the truth, and once in a while have the energy to “go there”  in the right setting and with the right person…

 

to be continued….?

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I so do  appreciate those of you that have me on your feed or take the time to stop by, read my stuff and occasionally leave a comment.  It adds immensely to my quality of life.  Each of you, in your own way,  give me just a little bigger sense of connection to the world.

Have a great weekend!   DM