When Norah Met Mr. Dan

By Tara Wood

The day before my daughter Norah’s fourth birthday, something she said foreshadowed a remarkable event.

I’d just picked her up from preschool when she cautioned me to mind the elderly person walking across the parking lot at a glacier’s pace.

She went on to explain that she has a soft spot for mature folks:” I like old people the best ’cause they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon, so I’m gonna love’em all up before they is died.”

Sure, it got kinda dark at the end, but I liked where her heart was.

I was struck by her thoughtfulness and empathy and posted that quote as a status update on Facebook when we got home.  I had no idea how much she really meant it.

The following day-her birthday again on the way home from school, she asked if we could stop at the grocery store to buy cupcakes for her and her six siblings to enjoy after dinner.

How do you say no to a birthday girl?

I popped Norah and her younger sister into one of those car-shaped grocery carts and headed toward the bakery.  After we picked up the cupcakes, I stopped at a clearance shelf that caught my eye.  While I was distracted, Norah was busy standing up in the cart, excitedly waving and gleefully proclaiming, “Hi old person!  It’s my birfday today!”

The man was elderly, stone-faced, and furrow-browed.  However, before I could shush her for calling him an old person or ask the earth to swallow me whole, he stopped and turned to her.

If he was troubled by my no-filter child, he didn’t show it.  His expression softened as he replied,” Well, hello, little lady!  And how old are you today?”

They chatted for a few minutes, he wished her a happy birthday, and we went our separate ways.

A few minutes later, she turned to me and asked,” Can I take a picture with the old man for my birfday?”  It was the cutest thing every, and although I wasn’t sure if he’d oblige, I told her we’d certainly ask.

We found the man a couple of aisles over, and I approached him,” Excuse me, sir?  This is Norah, and she’d like to know if you’d take a photo with her for her birthday?”

His expression morphed from confused to stunned to delighted.

He took a step back, steadied himself on his shopping car, and placed his free hand on his chest.” A photo?  With me?” he asked.

“Yes, suh, for my birfday!” Norah pleaded.

And so he did.  I pulled out my iPhone, and they posed together.  She placed her soft hand on top of his soft hand.  He wordlessly stared at her with twinkling eyes as she kept his hand in hers and studied his skinny veins and weathered knuckles.  she kissed the top of his hand and then placed it on her cheek.  He beamed.  I asked his name, and he told us to call him Dan.

We were blocking other shoppers, but they didn’t care.  There was magic happening in the grocery store that day, and we could all feel it.  Norah and “Mr Dan” sure didn’t notice.  They were chatting away like long-lost friends.

After a few minutes, I thanked Mr. Dan for spending a bit of his day with us.  He teared up and said, “No, thank you.  this has been the best day I’ve had in a long time.”  He turned to my daughter.” You’ve made me so happy, Miss Norah.”

They hugged, and we walked away.  Norah watched him until he was out of view.

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a weepy mess after their encounter.

I was blown away by this meeting and thought maybe some of the readers of my Facebook page might enjoy hearing about it.  I posted the story and a photo of the two of them.

Later that night, I received a private message from a local reader who recognized Mr. Dan.

His wife, Mary, had passed away six months earlier, and he had been lonely since his beloved had gone.  The reader wanted to let me know she was certain his heart was touched by my little girl, that he needed that connection and likely would never forget it.

I asked for Mr. Dan’s phone number and called him a few days later.

We visited Mr Dan’s cozy and tidy house- reminders of Mary still proudly displayed everywhere.  He had gotten a haircut, shaved, and put on slacks and dress shoes.  He looked ten years younger.  He’d set out a child’s table, blank paper, and crayons for Norah.  He asked if she’d draw some pictures for him to display on his refrigerator.  He happily agreed and went right to work.

We ended up spending nearly three hours with Mr. Dan that day.  H was patient and kind with my talkative, constantly moving girl.  He wiped ketchup off her cheek and let her finish his chicken nuggets.

We walked with him to his front door after lunch.  He pulled out a pocketknife and cut the single red rose blooming by his porch.  He spent ten minutes cutting every thorn off the stem before  handing it to his new friend.  She keeps that rose, now dry as a bone, in a zip lock bag under her pillow.

Norah asks about Mr. Dan every day.  She worries about him.  She wonders if he’s lonely, or cold, or has cheese for his sandwiches.  She wants him to be OK.  She wants him to feel loved.

Mr. Dan thinks about Norah too.  After another recent visit, he relayed that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since his wife died.  He told me that he had slept soundly every night since meeting my girl.

    “Norah has healed me,” he said.

That left me speechless and my cheeks wet with tears.

Seventy-eight years separate these two people in age….

Norah and I have made a promise to see Mr. Dan every week, even if it’s for only 15 minutes, even if only for a quick hug and to drop off a cheese Danish (his favorite!)

I invited him to spend Thanksgiving with us.  He’s part of our family now.  Whether he likes it or not, he has been absorbed into my family of nine, and just as Norah said, we’re gonna love him all up.

Taken liberally from the April 2017 edition of my Readers Digest written by Tara Wood

Norah and Mr. Dan 

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I (DM) read this tonight after work.   Just what the Dr ordered after a hard day in the trenches.  Wanted to share it with you. 🙂

 

 

 

An Old Buzzard

Tuesday afternoon I had to have a tooth pulled.

As Ann, the dental hygienist and I were waiting for the Doctor, we talked about parenting.  She has two kids, a 13 yr old daughter and an 10-year-old son.  She alluded to there being quite a bit of tension in their household between the daughter and them.

When I have these conversations, I feel  like an old buzzard on a tree limb watching  as a young family tries to navigate their way through those teen years… I can see the lay of the land in a way that they can not from my perch.

It doesn’t take much to tap into the confusion and anger I felt when I was the one trying to figure out my way through that wilderness.

Pause.

I got a call yesterday from my eldest.  She is 36.  She called me in the middle of the morning, just to visit. Said it had been a while and she was thinking about me.  We talked for 10 minutes about grand kids, her part-time job, honey bees…

She (my eldest) has the most infectious laugh, and laughed several times while we talked.  I thought about that phone call several  times throughout the day. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

When I got home later, my wife mentioned within the past two days, she has had really good visits with all four of our now grown kids.

If you are a parent, and your kids are still in the home, (and even if they are not)  one of the long-term goals you probably  have, is that after they become adults, you and they stay in touch.

Just healthy peer to peer relationships…how does that sound for a parenting goal? 😉

I have that and I take absolutely no credit for it.

I struggled with knowing how to keep the balance when they were in the house between being their parent, and being their friend.  There is a difference.  Yes, the long-term goal is friendship, but that is second compared to being the parent.  Sometimes being the parent means taking a tough stand, when your feelings tell you otherwise.

It wasn’t until one of my “dear, sweet” children, ran away that I realized,  just because we birthed them, did not mean they automatically respected us.

They too were just trying to find their way.

That experience was a watershed moment in my life as a dad.

I gave that child two choices..and neither one of them involved coming home, (initially).

Every family, every, parent/ child relationship has its own dynamics.   There is not “one size fits all” when it comes to raising kids.

One relationship that helped keep me sane was another dad who was also dealing with an out of control older daughter.  He got it.

Our culture did a crappy job preparing me to parent in a healthy way. What I longed for was real advice from real parents, who were dealing with the same issues, just further along on the trail.

Beware of both extremes…being too heavy handed, or too nicey/ nicey.

Eventually, all four of our kids did reach adulthood (alive) and eventually, got the partying, out of their system.

The human brain does not really mature until about age 25, so give them some time, even after they move out.

Parenting is like baking cookies.

My first born batch (or three) felt like I was  flying by the seat of my pants… by number four, I  started to relax.

 

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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

 

 

A Short Love Story

True story

He sat in the front row of the class room every morning. Directly in front of the door, so that the second the alarm bell rang he would  be the first to shoot out the door. Small for his age, he wore nerdy glasses, loved to go to the library and read, played the trumpet.

He was shy,  cripplingly so. Had no idea how to carry on a normal conversation with  a girl.

When he was 16 his brother and he were talking about girls one night.  The boy realized if something didn’t change, he was destined to be single his entire life.

There was this girl in home room, he had a secret crush on.  She was a year younger, sat with all of the popular kids in the back of the room.  She had long dark hair.  She was athletic. Played varsity basketball her freshman year.  She came from a well to do family.

Totally out of his league.

One day in Spanish lab, the cute girl and her friend asked the shy boy a question about a homework assignment.  The conversation lasted all of thirty seconds.

Would you believe through a series of serendipitous circumstances that boy eventually did get a date with that cute girl…..and then years later…they were married.

I was thinking about that kid this morning.

Because that kid was me.

 

 

A Nun, A Machinist, and a Dairy Maid

What do a nun, a machinist and a dairy maid all have in common?

Any guesses?

They are all in my  Beekeeping class.

Last night was week five.

One more week to go.

The atmosphere in the classroom  last night was  electric.  Thirty five people from all walks of life, ranging in age from twelve to seventy-five.  At least 50% of the class are women.

We talked about motivation for going into bee keeping again. Discovered motives were as varied as the people there.

Our instructor told us, this will be his 26th year managing bees… just about everything you can do wrong, he’s done.

When he started out, he didn’t have anyone to mentor him. He did know of one other guy, but that person refused to return his phone calls.

To sit under a master, who is willing to share his wisdom, now that is a gift.

I mentioned on Facebook last week, we were moving in the direction of getting honeybees, and  I had eight different people tell me they wanted to buy honey  when it was ready….

Eight sales, and I don’t even have any bees yet. 🙂

I think I’ve discovered an itch.

Did you know, that large-scale honey producers can cut their honey by as much as 30% and still call it “Pure”?

Something is wrong with that picture.

We also touched briefly on the topic of “organic honey.”   Well, that is also a murky topic.   A beekeeper has no control of where his honeybees will forage, (lawns sprayed with insecticides,  etc.  are all fair game.  A honey bee will travel three miles (or more) in search of pollen and nectar, so according to our instructor, there is just one honey producer in the Dakota’s who is legitimately  certified “organic” because of the several square miles of ground they own…everybody else is pulling your leg…no matter what they say. (Next time you’re in the store, study the labels on the honey jar and get back to me with what you find out)

I crave integrity.  It is such a precious commodity.  While I am far from perfect, I work really hard at being a man of my word.  Two weeks ago, I sold one of my harvest tables to a lady on the East coast.  After a few e-mails back and forth, we talked on the phone. She was amazed I didn’t want a deposit up front, said it was a delight to deal with someone she felt she could trust.  I told her I had not been burnt yet, and that’s how I prefer to run my business.

Yes, on the larger projects I do have written contracts, it’s better for both parties to get as much as possible clearly spelled out and in writing.

Pause.

Now how in the world, did I get from talking about beekeeping to cultivating trust in relationships?

The common thread is trust, and integrity. 😉

(Which is still alive and well, here in the Hinterlands.)

Check out that post on the Hinterlands if you have a second…I wrote it a couple three years ago,  for my farm blog.

So, tell me, how about you,….are there still pockets of trust and integrity where you live?  Give me an example.  Tell me a story. I love stories.

Thanks in advance! DM

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing when to get angry

“You have to learn what’s worth getting angry about.”  Lester said to me  in his gentle way.

I was 16 years old, had just unleashed a string of profanities.

That conversation took place over 40 years ago and  I can STILL remember it to this day.

I remember thinking, “You know, he’s right.  Nobody pays too much attention to me now when I get mad.  That can’t be good.”

Lester  reminded me of Ben Franklin….

Retired farmer,

Bib overhauls…

Here’s an early crew photo…Lester is in the middle and I’m to his right:

Work crew from back in the day.  We had just finished pouring a basement wall.

And yes, that was a can of Old Mill in my hand.

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These days, it does take a lot more to light the fire.

The fuse got lit on Tuesday.

I’m temporarily working with another construction company…

My work load had slowed up, and this crew needed some extra help.

Win win.

Tuesday night  on the way home, my cell phone rang,  it was the boss…He’d just got off the phone with the customer of the job I’ve been at the past month.    It was implied we were taking too long to finish the project and we needed to start putting in 10 hour days.

You’ll have to take my word on this one, but I have been busting my chops the past 5 weeks  with a crew of 2 (just myself and a helper.)

The week previous I  picked up some  little clues the boss thought we must surely be about done, he had sent Dave to round-up the screw guns, and extension chords .  I could see we had at least another 2 to 3 weeks, assuming there were no more change orders.  To compound my frustration, the boss has not personally set foot on the job site for two weeks,…. he personally hates detail work   (which is what we have left to finish)…

Fast forward to this phone call….

After I hung up, Jack, who was riding in the truck with me and  who had heard my side of the conversation asked what that was all about?

I repeated what I’d been told.   He reacted with “That is bull@#$%”   (which is German for “That is not fair!”)

We both felt unappreciated and misjudged.

I could feel the anger start to build.  Rather than just stuff it, I wrote a punch list (things yet to do) when I got home.

The next morning I was @ the shop 30 minutes early, with the intention of talking to the boss one on one.

When  I got there,  the crew was already starting to trickle in. I asked to talk  with the boss in the office.   He said he didn’t  think it was necessary so I gave him the punch list in front of the assembled.    I told him  someone else could finish those items because I had my hands full,  framing walls and installing glass board.

He told me I was  quote “over-responding” and made light of my frustration.

(This is in front of others mind you.)

I told someone later, the mind games, the  passive – aggressive behavior, in the midst of conflict no longer works on me quite like they once did.

Anger in and of itself, is not always a bad thing…..it all depends on what you do with it.

Anger reminds me of rocket fuel.

If you’re not careful, it can ignite, blow up and you’ll have a bigger problem.

Anger can be a wonderful  motivator for change and conflict resolution.

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Update 2/23/17.  I posted this for a specific group of people.  I realize most of you didn’t know me when I was younger, but I entered adulthood as a hard core people pleaser, with a very low self image. One of the issues that dogged me back then, was an inability to stand up for myself in a healthy way.  People would take advantage of me, even older family members. I would be manipulated, talked down to, on and on. Internally, I would seethe, but NEVER, EVER< give voice to any of it….

And then, through the efforts of a friend, I addressed the low self esteem head on, and ever so gradually, my life began to change…so by the time this event took place I wrote about, my response was a 180 degree flip from the old DM….and the boss I wrote about, didn’t know what to do with me.  He was used to the  old compliant DM…so I wrote this to give hope to the people pleaser, the person with a low self esteem.  You do not have to live there.  There are greener pastures.  I am not talking about turning into a mean spirited abusive person.  I am talking about wholeness in your inner person…it is radical stuff..and it is good.

 

Doing Hard Things

What was I thinking ?!?!?

My friend Mary had talked me into going on this trip.  She had talked me into d-tasseling corn too.  I should have known.

Mary was out-doorsey.  I was not.  This was to be a camping, whitewater rafting, climb out of the Grand Canyon adventure.

I didn’t do adventures.  I read adventures.  I was a bona fide, certified, hardcore bookworm.

Mary was my best friend. She was silly, goofy, fun to be around and persuasive.

It was the 1970’s.  I look back on this experience as one of the most thrilling and hardest things I’ve  ever done in my life.  Whitewater rafting was thrilling.

The ascent out of the Grand Canyon was just plain hard.

Up until that trip, my one experience camping was an overnight, under the stars with Mary, in her front yard, camp out.

At this point I must insert a tidbit of personal info.  My DNA shows I am 56% Irish.  Dark Irish. Dark auburn hair,  blue eyes, fair skin with freckles Irish.  I was/am white white, pale white, pure white. As one of my classmates put it, blinding white.

I do not do well in heat.

There was a reason I stayed indoors and read.

When it came time to climb out of the Grand Canyon, Mary set a goal to be one of the first of our group to make it to the top.  She said goodby to me when I started to slow down.  As the temperature rose, I emotionally spiraled.  Looking ahead, there were miles of switchback trail ahead of me.  I hoped just to make it to the top by sundown!  Other than the occasional passerby, some on mules, I was alone.  I honestly didn’t know if and how I was going to make it.

I was athletic, playing several different sports – but this, this was different. This was grueling, testing me to my limits.  I was in a hard place.  In the end it came down to focusing on one thing… one step at a time.

I learned something that day.  Face the hard thing head on, and take one step at a time.  Then take the next step.  I saw what I was capable of.  I do possess determination,  fortitude, tenacity, and courage.

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Google Image  Grand Canyon switchbacks 


I took another journey recently … life changing.  Every bit as hard as climbing out of the Grand Canyon.

I signed up for a class called The Ultimate Journey.

I heard  many positive things about it.  One lady said she had been in counseling for years and this class helped her more than all the years of counseling combined.  Hmm

Was I afraid to face the past? Yes!

Hard Thing- step one.  sign-up for class.

Hard Thing – step two- Go to first class.

Hard Thing-  step three – Go to second class.

Next thing I know, I’m looking forward to class and I was sad when it ended.

I made friends.  I’m more peaceful. There is freedom.  I am more compassionate with myself and others.

 

I wrote this quote on our blackboard as a reminder:

“When it is all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass.

 

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This was another in a series of guest posts…this one written by my wife.  DM