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.

Yea Baby…..

Earlier this winter, Jason asked me if I would be interested in bidding on a project no one else was interested in.

When we got to the job-site, I saw why.

There was between 40 and 50 foot of sidewalk needing  to be jack hammered out, then carried   75 to 100 ft by hand.

8 ton of concrete = 16,000 pounds.

There was not enough room to get a skid loader in.  Heck, we could barely get a wheelbarrow in between the bushes and the property line fence.  Everything would have to be done old school….ie.    Manuel Labor.

These kind of projects stir something inside of me.

The  challenge maybe?  🙂

Well, I got the job…..

Tuesday  was our first day.  The demo went better than I’d expected…so by early afternoon, all 16,000 pounds of concrete was in a pile next to the curb.  It was raining  Wednesday, but because there would be a check waiting for me once the concrete was gone, I, we pushed  and got it loaded.   My son John has been helping me…one of the things I really appreciate about all of the guys who have worked for me the past few years (That includes you Chris if you happen to read this) 😉  is these young men have had great attitudes  in spite of working conditions…not a hint of grumbling.

Growing up,  dad would say...”Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”

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Well today was “pour the new sidewalk day.”

I woke up this morning @ 4 AM.  Adrenalin, already coursing through my veins.  We couldn’t bring in the new concrete the way we removed the old…all of it had to be wheel-barrowed down a series of ramps and inclines.

Couple of hundred feet.

On top of all of the logistical challenges we had placing the new concrete, would you believe we got a cement truck driver with an attitude problem…..

Yep.

I sensed it right away….didn’t say anything to the rest of the crew, but 20 minutes into the pour, Jason came up to me and said “The guy is a “blank-ity- blank.”  and he had half a mind to tell him to his face.

I suggested waiting until we were finished…

Minute later Jason commented on the aroma of the lilac bush we were working around.

“Focus on the smell of the  Lilac instead of the blankity blank truck driver, grasshopper.” I said with a smirk… 😉

“You are just like Splinter,” he said to me…

“Yes, and you are like Raphael the Ninja turtle.” I replied.

We laughed,  got all 16,000 pounds of new concrete placed without a hitch.

Splinter  Image by Google

I left that project around lunch time, stopped by our local Menards to get some landscaping block samples.  Would you believe, the guy at the contractors desk who waited on me, also had a bad attitude.   Since I was still basking in the afterglow of getting that concrete poured, there was no way, I was going to let that get under my skin…and it didn’t.

I did get home early (and exhausted.)

Told my wife at supper time, today felt like I’d run through an obstacle course.

I can already tell you, I will sleep like a baby  tonight.

Later- DM

Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.

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

 

 

Fired Up

 

This morning  I read an article titled 5 ways total strangers can make your trip better

It reminded me of one of my all time favorite conversations with a complete stranger….

It happened like this….

We were  visiting our eldest daughter in Wisconsin.  Lunch time rolled around and  daughter suggested we needed to visit her new favorite place to eat……

The deli @ her hometown grocery store.  (I love that girl!)

So we piled in the van and headed into town.

Everything was just as she promised.

Broasted chicken, fish, roast beast,  fresh watermelon, strawberries, salads, dark roast coffee, etc. etc.

The only thing they didn’t have was adequate seating.  As we stood there weighing our options I worked up the nerve to ask a  businessman sitting at a table by himself..“Would  he mind if we joined him?”

“Not at all!”

So we grabbed another chair and the (5) of plopped down next to him.

Community building started right away…

Who we were, what brought us to town, yada, yada…

And how about him?….turned out he worked as an engineer for one of the bigger businesses there in town… more small talk…he loved his job…  yada yada… and then somehow we stumbled across his current passion…

Brewing artisan beer in his garage.

One question led to another…

It was fascinating.

We were introduced to  the microbial  world of beer fermentation (and none of our party even drinks beer).

You could feel the energy around the table. There was a genuine sense of connectedness and letting down of our guards.

Then before we knew it, it was time to go our separate ways.

Pause.

That sense of connection is the main reason I blog. It has created opportunities to get to know people I otherwise would have never met…

and at a level that is virtually impossible to get to any other way. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the type of topics we  interact over. Last count, Mrs DM and I have met seven of you in person, some of you more than once.

Without exception, you have all been exactly as I would have expected..except better.  Each time, it has felt like I was meeting a long-lost relative.

So tell me, If I was sitting @ the deli table with you right now, and  asked, What is something you enjoy that gets you fired up what would it be?

I really do want to know! DM

 

 

Mushrooms Aren’t Just For Casseroles Anymore…

When DM sent out a call for guest writers my interest was piqued, but my world is a bit dark right now and he specifically requested that no negativity be a part of any guest post. Even with some suggestions I just felt that I had nothing to say.

Then, in true DM fashion, he posted a story about one of his current interests, and along with that topic, began interweaving aspects of his past and present. Have you noticed how he can do that almost seamlessly at times? He’s also great at asking questions about his readers lives. And he really wants to know the answers. So because he asked about jobs, and because his question made me remember, I’ve put together a post.

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I was a teenager in the 1970’s. I think one of my biggest ambitions at the time was to own my own car. I had access -thanks Dad- to a very old, very ugly Ford pickup that I was allowed to use and drive to school. I parked that truck not in the school’s parking lot, but down the block so as not to be associated as the driver of that vehicle. Learning gratitude as an adult has made me appreciate the fact that I was given the option to use that truck, ugly or not. At 16 I could not easily understand just how lucky I was: Me, a rather nerdy girl just trying to fit in, was no longer a walker, or worse, a bus rider. I drove to high school, slightly embarrassed, but I drove.

However, I set out to purchase a car that was my own. That choice meant working at something more lucrative than babysitting. I had a steady, but very small, regular income from those jobs. I was even afforded a bonus from one of my regular babysitting assignments- chicken pox at the end of my Freshman year! Babysitting took a backseat quickly after that. Two very different jobs helped me to reach my goal.

Through a deepening friendship with my 9th grade Home Economics teacher, I not only watched her kids on occasion, but also began cleaning her house. Mrs. H was amazing. I never really said anything about my home life to her, but she knew. Somehow she figured out enough to realize that I needed a stable adult and someone who was simply available. Her husband was a football coach at the local high school. She had three daughters. They had horses, and dogs. I honestly can’t remember how often I would go to her home to clean but my motivation wasn’t all focused on money. They were the family I didn’t have. I loved it there. Somehow vacuuming and dusting and picking up after 3 kids and scrubbing showers and toilets didn’t seem so bad.

Through this job, I was able to find more clients. A few things stand out about some of those jobs/clients.

-My very first encounter with a refrigerator vegetable bin so neglected that the old vegetables had turned to a gelatinous, stinky mass in the bottom of the bin.

-A stove with oven and burners so caked with crud that no matter how much I scrubbed, it never came clean.

-Shower scum. Thick shower scum and grout mildew. I would sweat trying to clean that stuff. It would have made sense to actually clean naked and then take a shower when I was done.

-Cream of mushroom soup, utilized as a stand alone bowl of soup to be eaten for lunch. I knew cream of mushroom soup. My mom used it in tuna noodle casserole. I never knew that anyone would serve it for lunch. In a bowl. By itself. To me. It took me a long, long time to eat anything with mushrooms after that.

-Ironing. So much ironing. Except for underwear everything this family wore ended up in the ironing basket. I ironed upstairs in a small room. This elicited more sweat.

-Cat hair. Dog hair Cleaning stairs with cat and dog hair wedged into corners and crevices.

-Fear. Somehow I accepted a job cleaning for two guys. As my first meeting with them approached and I drove to their home my radar started alerting. Somehow I managed to ‘inadvertently’ get lost and just never show up for that meeting. I never scheduled to go back.

I also spent two summers working as a cashier and customer service rep. Many things stand out still about this job and this post is running long as it is so–

Was it easier than cleaning houses? Of course. Did I feel grown-up? You bet. Did I earn my way into this job? Nope, and I am not proud of the fact that my position came about as a direct result of privilege. My dad was a manager in the company. What do I remember most about this job? 1. Learning to drink coffee at break time with lots of sugar and creamer because that’s what the other adults did. 2. Sexist remarks. I was 17. It was the late 1970’s. I worked with men who had very high opinions of themselves and their skills. Enough said.

In the end, I got my car. I was the proud owner of a 1969 Buick Skylark 2-door Coupe.

buick-skylark-1969-4

Worker Bees…a meditation

honey-bee-flowers

Google Image

The life expectancy of a worker honeybee is 6 weeks.

Just 6 weeks!

Do you know what eventually kills her?

She dies because  her wings wear out, and she is unable to get back to her hive.

This past Thursday night  was my first bee keeping class.  I enrolled in a  6 week, 18 hour course titled First Lessons In Bee Keeping.  Class didn’t start until 6 PM.  I didn’t get home until after 9:30, which is way past my normal bedtime, so you know I’m motivated. 🙂

By the end of these six weeks, I will know whether or not I want to take the plunge and become a bee keeper.

Here are a few more bits of bee trivia….

In a healthy hive there can be, between 60,000 to 80,000 worker bees at the peak of the season.

A healthy queen honeybee may live 2 to 3 years, although due to the chemicals on plants these days, you’ll be lucky if she makes it a year.

There are 3 different types of bees in a hive:

A queen,   the worker bees and the  drones.

In a good year, you can expect to harvest 40 to 80 pounds of honey off of one hive.  Last year our instructor Bill told us, was not a good year.  He averaged  40 pounds of honey per hive. ( He has 300 hives.)  A gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds.  Bill recommended a minimum of 2 hives for starters…for reasons I am not going to get into here…but even if it was a bad year, that would potentially = 80 pounds of honey or 6 and 1/2 gallons of local honey.

Side note- this past year we have made the transition from white sugar to honey.   Not going to go off on a bunny trail right now, but the more I learn about  the white pure cane sugar many of us grew up on (and  corn fructose)  the more I am motivated to replace those  sweeteners poisons with honey.

 

” Anyone can plop a bee hive out in the back forty over the summer.  You are not a bee keeper until your bees have survived through the winter.”                Bill the bee keeper

Pause

And on a related note…

I did not get home until 2:45 AM this morning.  Went in to work at 11 PM last night to clean, then set up a banquet hall for a Ducks Unlimited meeting.

I’ve always said, if I had to, and work was slow, I would go to Hardees and flip burgers.     Well, I finally got my wish 🙂

Construction work is  slow.   I have a friend who works part time for a commercial cleaning company.  His boss told him, if I ever needed work, to give him a call.

So last night I got up close and personal with all of the toilets, sinks, and urinals in a 400 seat conference center, as well as an introduction to dry mopping, and reading a table placement diagram.

Last night the story of the Prince and the Pauper flittered through my brain…You remember that story right? A prince and a pauper trade places..and each gets to experience life in a whole new way….

Here I am a self-employed business owner, used to hiring and firing, bidding work, collecting, dealing with customers, and all that goes into being self-employed…

and last night…

I was a worker bee.

(Notice I didn’t say “just” a worker bee.)

There is nothing  degrading about cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Talk about job security.

Woke up this morning with a song in my heart.

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Tell me about some of the types of jobs you’ve had over the years..(even if it was 50 years ago)….DM