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

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

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

The Philosopher’s Scales

I love stepping back in time.

Do you doubt me?

Do you doubt it can’t be done?

My favorite doorway into history is fragile,  thread bound, sometimes ink stained, original editions books… (before the politically correct crowd has had a chance to get their little hands on them.)

Back in 2007 I was doing  research for a local history project and wanted to immerse myself in the 1830’s….

On a lark I purchased an assortment of  original edition school textbooks from 1833 up until late 1800’s …McGuffy Readers, Ray’s Arithmetic,  etc. on e-bay.

And it worked.  I was able to re-enter the world of 1839 through the eyes of a teacher, and the scholar.  (Students were called “scholar” back then.)

Well, the  last few nights I have been pulling  the  First Class Reader compiled by B.D. Emerson  1833 off the shelf  and discovered several keepers.

Pause.

I am an educator.

Not formally trained but, an educator, never the less.

A teacher friend of ours, who  has a  degree, and who has sat in my class room on numerous occasions, once said something to me about my teaching ability  that removed all doubt in my mind of that concern. (Could I teach?)

Anyway, back to the book…I  wanted to share a portion of a poem by Jane Taylor (  link) entitled The Philosopher’s Scales… (She died in 1824.  She was a prolific writer and poet, most famous for her poem Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 🙂

I’m going to only share part of it.  Some of the words and her analogies may require a little digging on your part if you want to suck  the marrow out… DM

The Philosopher’s Scales

What were they? – you ask:

you shall presently see;

These scales were not made to weigh sugar and tea;

O no; – for such properties wondrous had they,

That qualities, feelings, and thoughts they could weigh,

 

Together with articles, small or immense,

From mountains or planets to atoms of sense;

Nought was there so bulky but there it could lay,

and nought so ethereal but there it would stay;

And nought so reluctant but in it must go: –

All which some examples more clearly will show…….

 

Next time he put in Alexander the Great.

With a garment that Dorcas had made- for a weight;

And though clad in armor from sandals to crown,

The hero rose up, and the garment went down….

 

By further experiments (no matter how)

He found that ten chariots weighed less that one plough.

A sword, with gilt trappings, rose up in the scale,

Though balanced by only a ten penny nail.

A Lord and a lady went up at full sail,

When a bee chanced to light on the opposite scale.

 

Ten doctors, ten lawyers, two courtiers, one earl,-

Ten counselor’s wigs full of powder and curl,-

All heaped in one balance, and swinging from thence,

Weighed less than some atoms of candor and sense;-

A first-water diamond, with brilliance begirt,

Than one good potato just washed from the dirt;-

_______________________

Pause

Sometimes I wrestle with whether or not my life is accounting for much….compared to, let’s say, someone in politics,  certain professions, etc.   And after immersing myself in a poem (like this one)  my heart is again re calibrated, and tracking as it should.

(Like when you take your car into your mechanic and he does a front end alignment.)

 

Question for you the reader….

Are there certain authors, poets, books, poems, quotes etc. that you love, that helps you to stay on track?   I would love to hear about them.  If you have a link, post it.   DM

 

Fallow

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Fallow field just outside my window

Fallow: Dormant, Inactive.

Fallow field: Intentionally giving a field a rest, a break from crop production, in order to replenish soil moisture and nutrition.

The same can apply to writing…. whether I am writing  a blog post or a book…

          “for he thought I was idle…. perhaps I am,  and perhaps I am not.  He forgot that a plowman’s mind wants to lie fallow a little, and can’t give a crop every year….”                                                                                                                              John Plowman

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Uncharted Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made it back to his shop….finally.

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

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

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

I have been here before.

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

Cool, calm, crisp, and accurate.

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

Tell me your story.

uncharted-waters

Uncharted waters.

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