Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

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Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

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Who are you? Who am I? That all depends

Wednesday was a big day.  We are currently framing a 2000 sq foot addition and three stall garage.  I came home physically and mentally exhausted.   Wife is out of town for a couple of days, so about 6:30 in the evening, I decided to run to town to fill up with gas and grab something to drink.  (A quart of chocolate milk.) 😉   I hadn’t  gotten cleaned up, so I looked a little rough around the edges.

I have been buying  gas at this same  store for several years.  I am on a first name basis with several of the ladies I see in the mornings.   Since it was 6:30 in the evening, a couple of guys I’ve only seen once or twice were manning the registers.  As I walked up to the counter I said “How’s it going?” and even though I made eye contact with both of them, neither of them said a thing.

They just stared at me.

I put my check on the counter, asked what I owed them.

I was already just a little put off by their demeanor,  normally wouldn’t have given it another thought, but the guy who “seemed to be” in charge,  had an air of arrogance and condensation about him.    He bent over, put his elbow on the counter, looked at my check, looked at me and said, “Who are you?”  with what I perceived  as a low grade sarcastic  tone in his voice.  (My name is on the check.)

Several thoughts  went through my mind at this point…

What are you talking about???? I’ve been buying gas here for four years.  Your people skills suck.  I am tired and not in the mood for some condescending, dweeb giving me crap after a long day at work.   I’ve  spent more time in this store than you have and frankly, you should be more professional.  Wonder if the manager who hired you knows what kind of jerk you are when she’s not in the store.

None of that came out.

Instead, I snapped “Who are you?”  

(That is so not me.)

It was at this point he face flushed,  step back, shook his head and realized I wasn’t in the mood.

I pulled out my wallet and showed him my ID.

When one of my younger cousins gets a little upset,  his sentences become short.  He bites his words off.

I could feel myself starting to sound like my cuz.

I continued,  You know, the girls in the morning,  are not nearly this testy to deal with.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said.

He mumbled something about me being the second person today who had said something similar.

Hummm….. ya think…

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I know it can be hard and draining to work with the public.

I do it myself on a daily basis.

In all fairness to him, he was only doing his job. (verifying me)

I’m seriously wondering if some of his attitude toward me was because of how I looked.

What I didn’t care for was how he initially attempted to intimidate me, because that is definitely what I was picking up.

A sense of humor can go along ways when dealing with people.

The tough guy stuff,  not so much.

Wife has a little ditty on our kitchen cupboard blackboard currently, that says,

Be careful what you tolerate. 

You are teaching people how to treat you.

He asked me a question, I ask myself on occasion…Just who am I?  Who is this person I occasionally see in the mirror? Am I the same person I was 25 years ago? (and the answer to that would be a resounding no)   The question is a great question.  The rub is in who’s asking, and why?

Have any good interactions with someone lately?  What made it memorable?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  DM

Honest Work

When my husband Matt was about ten years old, his grandfather started taking him to the family cherry orchards on Saturday afternoons.  Matt would work alongside the farm hands, whistling as he went, to let his grandfather know he wasn’t eating any of the cherries intended for the bushel. a full day’s work netted Matt 50 cents.  If his grandfather bought him a hot dog and soda, they called it even.

As a teenager,  his dad would call up from the breakfast table, “Two minutes!”  Matt knew better than to challenge – he was dressed, fed and out raking leaves or tilling soil before the sun had risen over the ridge.

I was horrified by these stories during our first years together.  I mourned for his lost childhood, thinking gratefully of my  Saturday mornings in front of the cartoons, slurping cereal.  After we were married, though, I noticed quickly he’d be done with his chores while I was still cursing over the dishes.  His focus was intense but cheerful.  He got the job done well and quickly because he put himself completely into the task – because he’d learned to enjoy honest work.

No matter if he’s cleaning the gutters or finishing a report, Matt embraces each project as an opportunity for expression.  His lovingly stirred spaghetti sauce says, “I feed and nourish our family.”  His well- weeded garden says, “I savor my connection to the earth.”  Through example after example, he demonstrates the key to happiness in whatever we do.  Matt’s lesson: All work – on the field, in the factory, or on the computer – can be honest and fulfilling, if we approach it from a place of devotion.

As Matt has shown me, honest work is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose.   Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too we are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick – or compost pile or database or cherry pie – at a time.

By Mariska Van Aalst from the book 50 Things that really matter

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My wife read this to me  this week, said it reminded her of me.

I’m sure our kids have stories to tell.

 

Daughter  pouring concrete with the Papa.

 

Never too young to start. (Grandson and I at his first pour)

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I was thinking about this essay on work again this morning.  We had an early Saturday morning cement pour at my daughters house.  It was a small pour, as far as pours go…just 12 yards of concrete. (See photo @ beginning of this post.)

12 yards = 2 truck loads

Lots of friends and family showed up to get-er-done as they say. Cement truck got there at 7:15 and I was back on the road heading home by 8:30.     I love that my 60-year-old body  enables me to still do this sort of thing.    I did break a sweat, but the rush of endorphins kicked in 3 minutes after I started moving concrete.  I know there will come a day, if I live long enough, that I will leave the concrete work to younger men..but until then…

I’ll round this out with a couple of crew pictures…one taken when I was 19 and the second, this past week.

I love my job.

That’s me holding a can of Old Milwaukee back in the day

Crew photo from earlier this week, just after we finished hand setting (20)  30 ft long by 8 ft high garage trusses.

Later! DM

 

 

 

Anarchy

I was just getting settled into my seat on the plane.  We were part of a large group traveling to an out of state wedding when from the back of the plane some little kid (turned out to be from our group) started screaming  “Fu@k you!,  Fu#k you!!!”

On and on…(at his mother, who was trying to get him strapped in.)

Mother was aghast.  She did the best she could to shush him, but he didn’t stop.  He finally quit screaming, out of exhaustion.

Flash forward to last week.

Same branch of the  family…..

Next generation.

They now have a Little Boy.

Last week his Grandpa from Germany flew in town for the week.   He was having a conversation  with the grandpa from Amerika. (This would be the father of the little boy on the plane from 20 years ago.)

Little Boy has been running around the living room in a large circle, saw visiting grandpa standing in his way, screamed at him to move, proceeded to spit at him.  Grandpa from Germany didn’t hesitate, grabbed grandson,  said “you will NOT spit on me,” picked him up, gave him a well placed swat on the backside.  Little Boy having never (as far as I know) ever experienced anything like this in his life, began to cry.  Father of Little Boy, heard the commotion came up from the basement, took Little Boy away…few minutes later, took his dad off to the side and informed him, they do not believe in physical punishment in their home/ ever.

Grandpa from Germany, did not apologize, did not back down.  For the rest of his visit, there is an under current of tension.

Unbeknownst to him, he (the grandpa) is now on the naughty list.

(I got this story 2nd hand last night from a first hand witness,)

 

I know this stuff shouldn’t vex me (but it does.)

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We’ve raised 4 children into adulthood, that all still love to come home and hang out.  I’ve taught in multiple settings, (mostly Jr High, and one year of high school).  I learned early on, if the respect (and fear of consequences) is not there, you are in for a ride.

Talk to me.

I’m trying to process and shake this off.

DM

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family reunion talent show update

Saturday night was the long-awaited talent show at my wife’s family reunion in Grand Island Nebraska.

Read this first  to know the context of what follows.

Three fourth’s the way through the program it was my turn.

While I had the normal pre-performance jitters,  I was actually pretty calm and relaxed until I had the floor.

As I stood in front of the group,  I got choked up.

A wave of emotion  hit me out of nowhere,  and my voice started to break.

 

100% happy/ positive good stuff going on inside..but  wow…

Took me 20 seconds to compose myself.

(Talk about a hook to get people’s attention) 😉

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It all started back in July of 2015 when I watched a little girl, (I’m guessing she was about 4)  sing a solo in front of 90 people, most of whom she didn’t know.

The next morning when I complimented her on her performance, she  asked me a question that has followed me around for 3 years…”Why hadn’t I signed up for the talent show?”

Her question caught be  off guard, and whenever I thought of it, it felt like God (or the universe if you prefer) was gently asking me that question.

Why not? Why hadn’t I put myself out there?…And the bigger question,  not just at a family talent show but in a hundred other situations in life as a whole.

What am I afraid of?

The truth was, is,  I fear of making a fool of myself.  I fear I have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

These kind of thoughts  normally keeps me safely in my seat,  hidden in the middle of the audience.

But in the weeks leading up to this family reunion, that question continued to challenge me.   I realized I did have something (possibly several somethings ) I could share) Maybe my “talent”, didn’t  fit into the standard box at a talent show..(sing, play a musical instrument, or dance) but that’s OK.

I opted to tell a short story.

Yea, I took several of yours advice and told a story.  Condensed something that normally takes me 30 minutes to tell into 3 minutes, so it was a little abbreviated, but that’s OK.

I pushed past my insecurities and fears and did it.

To use a biblical word picture,  I heard a voice calling me to step out of the boat, and  walk on water.…

What

a

rush.

Picture of Mary and I afterwards.

 

 

 

What Mary Said

Every three years, my wife’s  extended family gather in central Nebraska for a family reunion.  It  starts on a Friday night and ends Sunday after breakfast.

Saturday night is the talent show.

Singing, piano songs, tap dance, guitar.  One of the uncles brought some pottery pieces last time and talked about that. It’s open to everyone.  You just never know what to expect.

We’re about a month out from the next reunion…

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I was sitting in the lounge area three years ago, waiting for my wife at the end of the weekend.  One of her cousins with two little ones sat down on the couch opposite me.   The older girl  had performed in the talent show the night before. Her name was Mary.

I told her she’d done an awesome job in the talent show the night before.

Takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of seventy people, you barely know and sing a solo.

Mary singing in the talent show - Copy

Mary singing  in the talent show.

“Thanks.” she said.  “What’s your talent?”

Took me totally off guard.

She looked at me with the most intense, matter of fact expression.

 “Did you perform  in the talent show?” 

“No.”

“Why not?”

I mumbled something lame about being good in the audience.

Her question caught me off guard.  I remember mumbling something about promising to do something next time.

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I have thought about Mary and her questions for three years.

What’s your talent?

And why not?

The talent show is not about being better than the next person, or winning a prize.  It is about sharing a piece of my life  for the encouragement and enjoyment of the rest.

I am not a great singer.  I dabble in music.  Yes I was in choir, until the teacher asked me to be apart of a guy/ girl singing group where I would have to dance and sing.  I didn’t think so.   Yes I had 5 years of piano lessons and 2 years of organ lessons.  Yes I played the trumpet in jazz band.  Yes I know some basic chords on the acoustic guitar and can read music.  But sharing any of that in a family talent show?  None of that really lights a fire in me now.  So for the past three years I have been wracking my brain about what talent or story or hobby to bring with me to the next talent show, because I gave my word to Mary you know.

Yesterday morning it clicked.

I know what I am going to do. 🙂

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What about you? What would you say to Mary? What part of your life could you share with the rest of us  and sitting on the sidelines was not an option?  Because, here’s the deal.  I believe, in the big scheme of things,  each and everyone of us is a walking, talking repository of life stories, life skills, life lessons, meant not just for ourselves to hoard, and keep stashed away, but to share as well.

Where does the fire burn?  Do you love to garden?  What are some of the favorite things you grow and why? What are some gardening tricks you’ve learned over the years?  Art, do you love to paint, draw, work with your hands? Give me details!   Have you been given abilities to fix things with your hands?  Tell me a story about something that had you stumped, then figured out how to fix.   Are you good with children, older people, the sick?  Tell me a funny story about that.  Do you love the outdoors?  Why? What is it about the outdoors that brings you joy?  Do you live in a big city?  Tell me a story about life in the big city that will make me laugh…or surprise me because of the kindness of a stranger.

You’re up next. 🙂   DM

 

Here’s a link to a blog post about this same encounter written three years ago, right after it happened. To be totally honest, I’d forgotten I’d written it.  It showed up on my screen this morning after I posted the new one.  Maybe my clutch is starting to slip.