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

 

The Talk

The past couple of months # 1 son and I have been doing remodel  projects together, projects that he had acquired.

This past year  when #1 son came back to work part time, I was the one who has lined up the work, and he was the helper.)

I caught myself a couple of times  the past month, possibly overstepping my role.  It happened again yesterday, so I decided to breach the subject this morning.  The last thing I want to do is cause him additional work pressure.

It is one of my few pet peeves…
Working with a “know it all.”

I have traditionally hired people with little or no construction experience, intentionally.  I would rather train someone to do it my way than constantly debate how to approach a given task.  It makes for a long day.

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The process of mentoring is not an exact science.   It is a lot like parenting.

You haven’t ask, but I will give you the short version of my approach to parenting:

The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job.

Then, at some point,  (changing word pictures),   just like the eagle, there comes a time to “stirs the nest”  ie.  Kick  young eagle out of  nest  where it’s flap or die… 🙂

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It is important to know when to speak up and when to let the school of life kick in. I’ve always been a big advocate of letting natural consequences play themselves out.  Told my young eagles early on, with a smile on my face, that if, in the event they found themselves behind bars, not to call looking for bail money.

Some of the most powerful life lessons  are the ones not learned out of a book…but I digress.

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Now that #1 son has begun to bid and line up work, I would rather err on the side of him asking me for my input rather than just assume he is looking for “suggestions” from his all-wise father.

The conversation this morning, went refreshingly well.  Son assured me, I had not (yet) overstepped my bounds.  He had not (yet) felt frustrated with me sticking my nose where he didn’t want it.  On the contrary,  he said, and I’m quoting now,  “It is good to have several pair of eyes looking at certain situations…one person may see something another person is missing.  It happens all the time in masonry work.” 

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Here are some  action work photos from the past:

Learning to do flat work.

Teaching how to use a hand saw 20 years ago.

Flying solo, cutting tile with a wet saw and diamond blade.

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Later! DM

 

L’chai-im

“To life, l’chai-im! 
L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! 
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, 
Next day a stomach ache, 
Drink L’chai-im, to life!

From the movie Fiddler On The Roof

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I saw two pictures yesterday that  made me think. First one was a young woman in a glittery golden dress at a wedding.  The second picture was the same young woman three days later in a dark sweatshirt, holding her sick baby.

Life. L’chai-im

Life is a mixed bag.  Good stuff/ blah stuff / sometimes  soul crushing stuff/ all rolled into one big happy meal.

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I turned 60 on Tuesday.

It was not a good day.

Had nothing to do with me turning 60.   ( I still love being this age for all of the reasons I mentioned  a week ago. (see here)

Nope, what tripped me up was my plumber not coming to hook up the claw foot tub I have been refinishing  for my birthday.   He knew it was my birthday/ I’d touched bases with him just two days before to confirm Tuesday would work. No exaggeration, I have been patiently waiting, literally for weeks, figured this would be the perfect way to celebrate my special day.

I had visions of me having a celebratory soak in the tub…maybe a glass of wine…

It never happen.

He told me he was buried in service calls and would touch bases at noon.  That never happened either. (He never called.)

By mid morning on my special day, my good attitude was in  trouble and by 1 PM I was stuck.

Stuck in a mopey  low grade funk  that 24 hours later morphed into anger.

Tripped up by an expectation.

I should know better….But it was my 60th…how many 60th birthdays do we get?  Am I not entitled to having just a few expectations?  🙂

I reminded myself, I had a fully functioning bathroom on the 2nd floor…and there are millions of people all around the world right now that would love to have indoor plumbing with hot running water/ and I am sulking just because I am not important enough for my regular plumber to make me a priority on my 60th birthday for cryingoutloud….

It took me the better part of two days to regain my equilibrium.

Two days!!!  I  give myself a D- on that one.  Something that should have taken mere seconds, taking 2 days…wow.

I was “probably” not the easiest person to live with….

I posted a picture of the tub last night on Facebook after I finally shook off my funk:

Claw foot tub almost ready.

My plumber buddy saw the picture, apologized for dropping the ball on Tuesday and asked about my rubber ducky?

I told him “No worries.”He was still my favorite plumber but I didn’t have a rubber ducky.”

Last night I was pricing  large rubber ducks on Amazon .  

Yea, I’m easily entertained.

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And then, in the mail yesterday, I got a letter and $25 cash from an Amish farmer.  He profusely apologized for his tardiness in paying me and his rubber check.  He asked me to forgive him. 

I already had.

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We are going to a benefit lunch today for a 54 year old woman I know who works behind the meat counter at our grocery store.  I used to work with her at my sisters restaurant.  I’ve always liked her.  Down to earth/ no airs about her.  Three months ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and bone cancer.

Don’ think I haven’t been smok’n that one in my pipe…

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Time for coffee….

DM

 

 

 

 

Quoting Harry Potter

The other day I was reading through a comment thread on a garden forum.  Out of the blue, someone quoted a verse from the Bible to back up what they were saying. (It felt out of context/ and  just a wee bit off putting)  Next person weighed in and said to them, “You might as well  quote a line out of Harry Potter…it has the same effect….”  

Yea, I thought to myself, this is the world in which we live….and if a person decides to get into a discussion on the Internet,  (which I never do, except here in the blog-o-sphere among those of you I know)   you need to choose your words wisely.

Unless I live in a bubble,  and only talk with those in my bubble, I am constantly interacting with people from  wide and diverse viewpoints on every issue under the sun….. They are called “World views.”  Everybody has one…from the homeless guy living under a bridge in Portland, to the Queen of England.  From the ISIS fighter in Syria to the organic farmer just down the road from me.  Each of us looks at life through the lens of our world view.  It helps me make sense of what I see, how I interact with others, how I live my life.

I have always found that fascinating….

(This is stirring  up a whole bunch of random bunny trails in my head right now/  but I need to stay focused, because I really do have something  I am leading up to…)

It has to do with the Amish farmer I have written about twice before… here and then here.

Thursday of last week I got a check in the mail from the Amish Farmer.  Two months late/ but a check never the less.  There was a $5 tip and a note attached, hoping he could come back for more apples in the fall….(I thought to myself..we shall see.)   Anyway,  instead of doing what I normally do and cash the check at my bank, something told me to stop by his bank…just in case.

Well, I happened to know the lady in the drive-up window, so I asked her  to verify that he did in fact have enough money to cash the check…

30 seconds later…….

Nope.

He had sent me a rubber check.

I was told by someone who knew, this Amish man typically got paid on Fridays, so to give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried again on Saturday.

Nope.

Still no good.

I decided yesterday to return the check with a letter.  Wanted to share that letter here in its entirety, along with some background into why I said what I said.  I reference the Bible in my letter. In his worldview and in mine, the Bible is a reference point.  A source of common authority ( In theory at least.)  To his ears  I am not just quoting Harry Potter.  😉

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1/4/2018

Dear ***,

Enclosed is your check for $25 that the bank would not cash.  I tried twice, and both times I was told there was insufficient funds.   Life is too short to deal with this, so I am returning the check to you.

I need to tell you a story.

A few years ago now, I heard about an Amish family moving into the area, with possibly more families to follow.  I thought to myself, neat.   I would love to meet them. My background is German.  My dad still speaks low German.  I grew up on a small dairy farm, plus I am a Christian, been a Christian since I was 22 years old.

So even though I am not Amish, I felt there were many things I share in common with an Amish person.  This past June we had a bad hail storm. Really did a number on our apple crop.  I decided to turn a heartache into a blessing.  Instead of marketing damaged apples,  we decided to share them with others, (that whole “do unto others what you would have done unto you” thing.)    Your family just happened to be the first family that approached me, after we had made that decision.  Make no mistake, I could have advertised #2 apples on Craigslist, or our orchard page on Facebook but I chose not to.

So I was excited when you  approached me about getting some free apples.   I was a little taken back by your comment, that you were not going to share my phone # with your Amish friends until you had gotten all of the apples that you wanted.

First impressions are so important.

The second thing that seemed a little “off “ was as we walked to my  apple wood stash (You’d asked if we might have any apple wood for smoking?)   It felt like you were trying to get as much apple wood as you could for the least amount of money…I sensed you thought you were dealing with a naive, simpleton…

Trust me I am not.  It did irk me just a little, after giving you hundreds of dollars worth of free apples, that  you were still trying to dicker with me. 

We talked about $20 for 1/3 of the pile of wood..and you would leave the money on the mantle of my shop in case I wasn’t around…simple as that.  (Couple of years before, I was selling my apple wood to a sports bar in *** for $1 a pound..  I made over $1000 that year, when my work was slow, and I needed $ to pay my bills)  So that apple wood pile for me was money in the bank…My contact @ the bar no longer worked there, and I wasn’t sure the new owners would remember me and buy the wood..which was why I thought, what the heck, if this Amish farmer needs a little apple wood, why not….

Skipping ahead to early  December, you called to say you were coming the next day to pick up the apple wood.  I happened to be in the house doing book work the day you stopped, so when I went out to the shop later that day to get my $20 I was honestly taken back, you had not left the money, nor a note, nor called me to let me know  you hadn’t left the $20, which is why I called you and asked about the $. 

You said  “$20 may not seem like a lot of money to me, but it was to you.  Things were a little tight right then, but you assured me the next time you went to town, you would stop by and pay.  

 I said, I felt the same way…$20 is a lot of money.  I asked you how long that might be…a  couple weeks?  You assured me, it would be two weeks or before.  Well,  a month went by and no $20.    I was starting to get agitated with you

It really has nothing to do with the money. 

Heck, I gave you several hundred dollars of apples, (not to mention the apple wood) if it were about the money,  I would have charged you for the apples way back when you first stopped.  I was upset by your lack of integrity.    I thought to myself, this Amish man I am dealing with is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.  I can’t believe they (the Amish) are all this sneaky and selfish.

Rather than continue to stew on it, I sent you an invoice a month after you got the wood.

We went to a program at our local library early  January about the Amish lifestyle.  I was tempted to tell my story about your dealings with me, but decided not to..

it would not have been right.  I did learn however about how your churches are structured..how there are deacons and bishops that oversee 25 to 30 families in an area. I decided to attempt to find out the name of the bishop or deacon in your area and bring my situation before  him.

In Matthew 18:15-17 it says:

“If your brother wrongs you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church….” (the goal here is reconciliation/ conflict resolution)

So, ***, I tried talking to you one on one..followed up with an invoice in the mail.…then took it to the next level, and brought it before your deacon.   I talked with *** your deacon  a couple of weeks ago.  He assured me he would be talking to you)…

So here I sit with a worthless check,  and I’m thinking to myself… boy would I  love to come to one of your church meetings,  stand before the assembly, and tell my story about  brother ***  who is leaving a not so good impression with some of the people in the area.  As an Amish man and even more importantly as a professing Christian.

I turn 60 years old this coming week.  I have learned to pick my battles.  Life is too short.    I suspect this is not the first time you have done this sort of thing, and will probably not be the last, unless God turns the lights on.

Please do not call or stop next Fall to ask about free apples.

 

Sincerely,

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So we shall see.

My whole point in sharing this sliver of my life with those of you that care to read along, is this…There is more to loving my neighbor as myself than just warm fuzzies.  There is a place for confrontation.  Feels an awful lot like parenting older kids if you ask me.  🙂

Later! DM

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

 

It’s not about the money

This is part two of my dealings with an Amish Farmer.

(Make sure you read part one to get the big picture) 😉

I got a call from my Amish farmer friend the first of December letting me know he would stop the next morning to pick up some apple wood.

I went over the details again.

You are going to take 1/3 of the pile of wood.  If I’m not home when you stop, just stick the $20 bill in the shop on the mantle.”

“Yes.  I will.”

Well, he did stop the next day.  I happened to be in the house doing book work and saw him pull in and leave.  Few hours later I went out to the shop to get the money.

I could not find it, so I called and left a message on his phone.  Thirty minutes later, he called back.  I asked him about the money?

There was a pause on the other end of the phone..”Well, I am a little short of cash right now.  Twenty dollars may not seem like a lot of money..but I will get it to you the next time I come to town.”

Me: “When do you think that would be?  Within a few weeks?”

Amish farmer : “Oh, yes.  Within a couple of weeks....”

Well, 4 weeks went by and I never heard from him.  Decided to send him a gentle  reminder with some of my apple orchard stationary…Reminded him it had been a month, and it was past due.

By now, I was starting to battle a low-grade bad attitude.  It was not about the money.  It had to do with integrity.   His word. Feeling like I was being played for a fool.

Keep in mind, I do have a market for apple wood…just have not aggressively pursued it this Winter.  I was getting $1 a pound for it @ a local bar.  Sold over $1000 worth a couple of winters ago.

My desire to be a good neighbor to this new community of Amish was starting to go south.

I was wrestling with thoughts like, “Am I being petty?   Is $20 worth all of the mental vexation I was expending on it?”

Problem was I couldn’t shake it. (The vexation)

There was a program @ our local library last month about the Amish. (Within the past 5 years, over 40 Amish families have moved into our area.)

One of the things I learned was that over every 25 to 30 families there are either deacons or a bishop who takes care of the day today issues of the congregation.  I decided last week I was  not going to just write off the $20, rather I was going to make an effort to contact the local Bishop (or Deacon) and tell my story.  If he blew me off, then I would let it go…but not until.

Last night I sent a Facebook message to a lady I know who drives for the Amish.  Since the Amish do not own cars, they hire out local people when they need a ride somewhere further than they can take their horses.  When I told her what I was thinking, she absolutely encouraged me to get a hold of the current Deacon, gave me his name and number…

This morning he returned my call.

He asked me what I wanted? I told him I had a 30 second story, and was looking for his input.

When I finished  the first thing he said, was there were two or three  people he knew that have pulled stuff like that before, then asked me his name.

I told him.

He said, “He was at the top of my list.  This was probably the 6th time he had gotten a phone call about this man…If it wasn’t wood, it was hay, if it wasn’t hay, it was something else…”

We talked a couple of more minutes.  He thanked me more than once, and said,  “It isn’t about the money.”

“I want to know about this sort of thing.  Thank you for calling.”

My vexation was 100% gone.

He took my name and address and said he would make sure I got my money.

 

View from the orchard floor