In the middle of the night

Two weeks ago, I followed a young couple  into our local farm and fleet store.  She had a noisy pair of boots on that were going “clomp, clomp, clomp.”  There were purple wisps of hair sticking out of her head scarf. I couldn’t help but hear the tone of her voice as she talked with her man.  It was  short and snippy.   I found myself forming a judgmental attitude not because of how she was dressed but because of  her attitude and tone of voice.

Three minutes later  when I went over to the stain and paint isle, they were standing right in front of the dark walnut stain selection, the last item on my list.  I asked they if they could see any cans of dark walnut stain?

The woman turned to look at me and inwardly my judgmental attitude  was suddenly gone.

I  recognized the two of them.

I was ashamed.

I knew part of their story….

They had been in a  terrible car accident two winters ago. The roads had suddenly turned to a sheet of ice, and as they approached an intersection,  they couldn’t stop.  Their car slid  out  into the path of a semi.  There were several fatalities and both of the two people standing in front of me that day had spent weeks recovering in the hospital, and to this day are still dealing with medical bills and reconstructive surgery.

Just within the past month, the woman had confided to someone I know, that she has to take a lot of medicine in order to “Keep her s*#@t  together.

We never know what other people are dealing with when we see them in public.

In the middle of that night, I woke up  thinking about that young family and what they are still dealing with.  A thought began to form in my mind… I wanted to do something/ anything/ to encourage them, yet do it anonymously.

Since we live in a relatively small town, I had to be careful and keep the details kind of vague.   Decided to posted the following on our facebook page:

I stood in line behind a young family today who has had some serious heartache the past year or so. I don’t know them personally, just knew who they were. When she turned to say something to me, I could literally see the pain and brokenness in her eyes. Anyway, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about them and wanting to do something anonymously for Christmas. I happen to know where the wife works, and also know her boss…here is what I’m thinking…I would like to give them a card and a gift in the form of either cash or gift cards to Walmart, the grocery store, etc. If you want to be a part of it, or know more specifics, shoot me a message. …. Going to give it to her boss Friday the 21st…the first day of winter. .

PS this will be the only time you see this post…won’t keep seeing it on our feed. 

 Thanks! DM”

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7 people stepped forward and said they wanted to be a part of the action.

I’ll be dropping the $ and gift cards off this coming Friday.

Kindness and love are  still alive and well in middle earth.

Do not doubt me.

 

 

Aspirations

Got a call this morning from a guy named Dave.   Dave sells post and beam construction houses and is looking for a local crew to sub out part of a project.  Before coming to Iowa, he was in the military jumping out of air planes.  After that he worked  for a spell building million dollar log homes in Colorado.  Spent some time living off the grid out west.  Finally settled down and started a family.  Now he’s in Iowa.  His body is shot.  Got my name from the guy I’d gotten honey bees from last year.

I was telling my crew about the conversation at break.

Jason made the comment he’d love to start general contracting  larger projects.

I told him my aspiration, is to learn the art of consistently growing large onions. (I still haven’t figured it out.)

Learn how to consistently grow large onions and get a few laying hens. (again) 😉

Ones that lay large brown eggs.

Nothing like stepping outside in the morning before heading to work, heading over to the chicken house for breakfast.   Eggs that are still warm.  Chop up a large onion,  saute in butter.  Maybe  cook up a little bacon or ham,  Couple of eggs over easy....and coffee….dark roast.

Now that is a thing of beauty. 🙂

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Fell into my life calling quite by accident. Been doing it for 40 plus years.  Intended to go to college after a working for a year for my dad.  At the end of that first year, I realized I loved construction. I loved what I was doing, and if I stayed with it long enough, it held out the possibility of making a decent income.  I love working with my hands.  Love using applied math to calculate roof pitches, stairs stringers,  estimates, etc.   I stick framed a  high-end  house roof  back in the 1990’s that had 27 hips and valley’s.  Two story, 12/ 12 pitch.  Yep.  Been there done that.  General contracted enough houses (5) to get that out of my system too.  I can give you several reasons why I would never/ ever general contract a house again. Sub out parts of it, absolutely. General the whole thing.  Nada.

I’m all about stress management.

Love it when the phone doesn’t ring.

 

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Came across the following  30 years ago and it continues to inform my choices:

“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil…for the Lord gives to his beloved sleep (or gives to his beloved in his sleep”)

(A Jewish scripture.  Psalm 127:2)

I’ve written on this topic multiple times. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

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If you were having coffee with me today,  how would you  answer that question on goals and aspirations (currently)?

I’m genuinely interested. DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you ever wondered what they look like…

This will have to be short…

Monday I got a call from Don. There is no doubt in my mind Don is a millionaire.   Don is a regular client of mine and asked if I could stop by his farm house  and take a look at some windows that needed “tweeking.”    After I got the key from him, I grabbed number one son  and away we went.

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the kitchen was the smell of dogs.  Then I remembered the last time I worked there, there were two or three ankle biters running around outside.

Ankle Biter:  Small dogs that don’t stop barking.

I changed the furnace filter, grabbed a busted storm window sash, made some mental notes and headed home.

We were no more than two or three minutes down the road, when number one son said something about a small bug on his coat.   He grabbed a piece of duct tape and caught it before it got away. Minute later,  he got another one, then a third. Son has this thing about spiders anyway, so I wasn’t paying too  much attention….He did something with his phone and announced those small bugs were in fact fleas.

While I had been switching out the furnace filter and a window pane, he had been on his hands and knees checking out the carpets.

When we got back to town, I texted Don and suggested the first thing he needed to do was call the Bug Man and fumigate the house. His house had fleas.

Ten seconds later my phone rang. It was Don. There was a momentary pause on the other end of the phone…then Don said to me..”That explains it.  I had several bits on my legs this morning when I woke up.”  (Don had spent quite a while at that farm-house earlier in the day assessing the situation.)

I suggested there was a very good chance he had hauled some of those fleas home with him..and they were “probably” in his bed.

More silence on the other end of the  phone..

“Do you think I should tell my wife?”

That’s your call, I said, but would definitely change the bedding.”

Being the ever thoughtful person I am,  I sent him the following picture:

Flea under electron microscope

Image compliments of google.

Never did hear from Don.

Makes me wonder if his wife knows….

Later!

PS In case you were wondering where things are at, my biopsy has been rescheduled for 1 PM December 28th.

Merry Christmas to me. 🙂

 

Jitters

I found myself sitting at the head table this past Sunday afternoon with an executive director and her staff, for a 50th anniversary celebration.  I had been invited to do a 30 minute presentation as part of their program.

As I was working on my salad, I  heard the snippet of a conversation, between the director and one of the staff…

“You’ll do fine! A little nervousness is normal.”

Since the director and I were in the same boat, (both experiencing “pre-presentation” jitters) I joined the conversation.

A little background….

I am not one of those people who loves the limelight.  Just the opposite.  I prefer the back row.  (That way I can quietly slip out if I need to use the little boys’ room.)

I’ve mentioned portions of my  story before  but when I was  22, I realized   shyness  low self-esteem was hamstringing my life on multiple fronts.

 I was sick and tired of it.

On a  lark I stopped by the office of a friend who also happened to be a nun trained in social work.  (She seemed like a safe person.)

I looked across the desk,  told her my story and said, “Can you help me?  Do you have any suggestions?”

(She did.)

And over the course of time, (we’re talking months/ not 30 minutes)  little by little,  large chunks of my inner crap  began to be dealt with.

No  Kristina I have not arrived. 😉

I have lost track of the number of times now I have spoken in public, in various settings…at least a couple of hundred.  To this day however, I still experience  jitters every time.

There are lots of helpful books, articles, courses, etc. on public speaking, dealing with anxiety in front of a crowd, low self-esteem, yada, yada,  so rather than just regurgitate  10 suggestions you can pick up in a workshop, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what was going on in little old me this past Sunday afternoon.

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Two  images were playing nonstop  on the  screen of my mind…

The first clip was an Olympic wrestler I saw several years ago on TV.  As the camera man panned the event, he stopped on a wrestler, sprawled out on his back, taking a nap.  I can still remember the commentator talking about it.  In just a few minutes, this wrestler was going to be center  stage vying for an Olympic metal, and yet there he was, asleep.  He was in the zone.  He had tuned out all of the distractions and found his happy place (my words now/ not the TV commentator.) 😉

SO..whenever I find myself in the final  hours leading up to something that is giving me jitters, I think of that wrestler.

The second thing playing on the screen was even more powerful….and this one wasn’t “playing” as much as it just was….

The tiger that lives inside of me

photo compliments of google

I sensed this tiger pacing back and forth.  Last Sunday was the most pronounced I’ve ever felt it.  It was like he was pacing back and forth in my mind. Ever few minutes  he would shove his shoulder against the door of the cage to see if it was still locked.

He wanted out.

I rarely give a presentation on anything unless I’m feeling passionate about the subject.

So Sunday afternoon, after an introduction, I got out of my seat, walked up to the podium….

and out jumped the tiger.

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They say speaking in public is a common fear. Do you have it? Have you done it ? (spoke in public) Tell me about it.

 

 

 

 

Jack the plumber and other stories

My niece bought a coffee shop last month.

The previous owners had allowed me to sell my local history book in their gift store so I stopped by this week to restock.

I ran into a  high school class mate.  We decided to do coffee Saturday morning.

Saturday, as I sat at the main table, I was concerned I was sitting in someones chair.

“Not to worry,” they said.

One of the regulars, (Jack) is a plumber.  I’ve seen Jack around town for 40 years.    He was heading to work on a water heater after he left the coffee-house.

My classmate asked me to guess how old Jack was after he left…I guessed 80 only because I knew he was about my dad’s age…

88.

Jack is 88.  He has the energy of a man 20 years younger.  Now think about it for a second.   On a Saturday morning Jack was installing a water heater for someone.  I thought I was doing good to be at the coffee shop on my day off by 7:30. 🙂

My dad used to say “The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.”  Another one I’ve heard him say is, “Do what you love and  you’ll never have to work a day in your life…”  Those little ditties were  being lived out in front of my Saturday morning in the person of Jack.

Pause.

I am still reading  John Muir His Life And His Letters And Other Writings.   I started using the highlighter.  The guy was a poet.

Came across another nugget the other night.  He was telling a friend goodby….

He wrote:

“I don’t envy you.  You’ll have a hard time keeping your heart light and simple in the midst of this crowd of madmen.  Instead of the music of the wind among the spruce-tops and the tinkling of the waterfalls, your ears will be filled with the oaths and groans of these poor deluded, self-burdened men.”

Reading that admonition by Muir to his friend, confirmed for me yet again this impulse to keep my heart light and simple in the midst of life.

Yes,  sometimes I wished I had a little more wiggle room when it comes to finances.  If I had the option,  would I rather spend my life making lots of money in a job I hate with the goal of someday slowing down and enjoying it, or make a lot less and enjoy myself now.

As a firstborn, formerly driven workaholic, I can now take a nap  without shame.  (That is no small feat.)  I  no longer hear the voice of the old German taskmaster who  lives in my head.  I know he’s still up there, but he no longer in charge.

The old German.

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And on an almost unrelated  note.  We had a crop failure this year with the apples.  (we have a small orchard of about 100 trees) In June we had a nasty hail storm.  The apples kept forming but 90% of the crop was severely blemished. Still OK for cooking, cider, etc. but not marketable.

2017 hail damaged apple

Had two different Amish families come and pick some for cider.   I know they probably thought I was nuts to just give them away…but hated to see them go to waste and I was darned if I was going to deal with snarky comments.

I would rather give them away or let them rot.

“keep your heart light and simple, in the midst of this crowd of madmen…” John Muir

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

 

 

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.