Doing Hard Things

What was I thinking ?!?!?

My friend Mary had talked me into going on this trip.  She had talked me into d-tasseling corn too.  I should have known.

Mary was out-doorsey.  I was not.  This was to be a camping, whitewater rafting, climb out of the Grand Canyon adventure.

I didn’t do adventures.  I read adventures.  I was a bona fide, certified, hardcore bookworm.

Mary was my best friend. She was silly, goofy, fun to be around and persuasive.

It was the 1970’s.  I look back on this experience as one of the most thrilling and hardest things I’ve  ever done in my life.  Whitewater rafting was thrilling.

The ascent out of the Grand Canyon was just plain hard.

Up until that trip, my one experience camping was an overnight, under the stars with Mary, in her front yard, camp out.

At this point I must insert a tidbit of personal info.  My DNA shows I am 56% Irish.  Dark Irish. Dark auburn hair,  blue eyes, fair skin with freckles Irish.  I was/am white white, pale white, pure white. As one of my classmates put it, blinding white.

I do not do well in heat.

There was a reason I stayed indoors and read.

When it came time to climb out of the Grand Canyon, Mary set a goal to be one of the first of our group to make it to the top.  She said goodby to me when I started to slow down.  As the temperature rose, I emotionally spiraled.  Looking ahead, there were miles of switchback trail ahead of me.  I hoped just to make it to the top by sundown!  Other than the occasional passerby, some on mules, I was alone.  I honestly didn’t know if and how I was going to make it.

I was athletic, playing several different sports – but this, this was different. This was grueling, testing me to my limits.  I was in a hard place.  In the end it came down to focusing on one thing… one step at a time.

I learned something that day.  Face the hard thing head on, and take one step at a time.  Then take the next step.  I saw what I was capable of.  I do possess determination,  fortitude, tenacity, and courage.

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Google Image  Grand Canyon switchbacks 


I took another journey recently … life changing.  Every bit as hard as climbing out of the Grand Canyon.

I signed up for a class called The Ultimate Journey.

I heard  many positive things about it.  One lady said she had been in counseling for years and this class helped her more than all the years of counseling combined.  Hmm

Was I afraid to face the past? Yes!

Hard Thing- step one.  sign-up for class.

Hard Thing – step two- Go to first class.

Hard Thing-  step three – Go to second class.

Next thing I know, I’m looking forward to class and I was sad when it ended.

I made friends.  I’m more peaceful. There is freedom.  I am more compassionate with myself and others.

 

I wrote this quote on our blackboard as a reminder:

“When it is all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass.

 

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This was another in a series of guest posts…this one written by my wife.  DM

Fired Up

 

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

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

It happened like this….

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

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

So we piled in the van and headed into town.

Everything was just as she promised.

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

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

“Not at all!”

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

Community building started right away…

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

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

Brewing artisan beer in his garage.

One question led to another…

It was fascinating.

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

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

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

Pause.

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

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

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

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

I really do want to know! DM

 

 

The country mice and the city mouse

This is the third guest post installment….written by Lucy,  I mean Kristina the Home Engineer    DM

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I wanted to write about feminists and abortion or the Kingdom of Heaven. But Doug said no, so I will write about them (D and his wife,  M) . A subject a little less divisive and hostile.

I met D many moons ago whilst blogging, he commented, I commented, he asked me to read his book, I read his book.

Our family was going through some very trying times and I needed a vacation. They had a bed. and breakfast.

So doing something very uncharacteristic of me, I took my son and we ventured from Seattle WA to Eastern Iowa.

To let strangers take care of us for a few days.

They had a farm! They had a pig! They had apple trees and crickets and quiet and woods and quiet. They had chickens in the basement.

As extremely weird and awkward as it sounds, it quickly became fun and easy, relaxing and safe.

They had a little potluck music get together called the Apple Jam and families came with crock pots and desserts and curious people asking where we were from and feeding us. They have sloppy joes but they are called Maid-Rites!

I have visited these two people pretty much every year for seven years [?] now. Once they came here, to the big city, by train.

Just wanted to give you all a different perceptive of these people I have grown to know and love.

I saw their last family picture and envied at how I was not in it.

First the house… Its old, its a farm. It is real wood. It has the old original house attached to it with the old wallpaper and creaky stairs. I am still trying to convince them to remodel it so I can run away and live there. The barns are huge, and bats live there. It is quite a sight to see a billion crockpots and food lined up on  makeshift ledge table upstairs. Workshops, garage, land, apple trees, built-in freezer, apple press. Cellar for safety, buckets of dry good ready for an emergency. I could go on and on but suffice to say it is the opposite of what this city girl grew up in and exactly where this city girl wants to be.

As I said I was going through a bad time and this place was my run away dream, the opposite of all I was going through, no drama, no court dates, no crying, no anger, no having to explain all the discord. Heaven.

We have joked around about us being the country mouse and city mouse, but by no means is this a slam or disrespect in any way. A different way to live. Not better, not worse. I would drop everything and pack and live in that dusty farm community in a heartbeat and enjoy the rest of my days hanging out with Mrs. M and Doug, their friends and family.

Being with them has actually helped with my ”my way or the high way anal retentive” way of living I had grown accustomed to.

Even if that meant no fine restaurants or grocery stores with vegan options or quick access to, well, everything.

Doug: big personality, he is the humblest person he knows, I’m not buying it. I call him Pig Pen [He, is turn, calls me Lucy] for he leaves messes wherever he goes. He drinks too much coffee. He cooks and takes out the garbage.  He is eclectic, he writes, he builds, he creates. He has many ideas rolling around in that bald head, much to the dismay and worriment of his bride. If he were my husband, he would have me in the fits. lol

He has rough hands and a soft heart. He loves people, he wants to help people, but he also doesn’t take much crap from people. He loves his kids. you can often tell a person’s personality by the way they dress… he wears jeans, boots, t-shirts. Bright t-shirts. By the bright t-shirts, he wants to be seen [his way of standing out] but is a plain and simple guy dressed for the work he does. Labor. He thrives on connection. He lives life as it comes and sometimes throws convention out the window. He and I could be siblings, we argue and pick at each other like that. I sometimes think of them in a parental way and other times as friends.

To this day it amazes me that they can walk into any store in any small community near by and everyone knows them!!

It’s also funny to tell people where I’m from and that I don’t eat meat. They look at me like I’m crazy…and I am..when I’m sitting in the middle of farm land.

Mrs. M  : she is shy, simply beautiful, kind, old-school wife and mother. She struggles with the same things I do. Mothers and wives worry about their family regard of geography. She is soft-spoken. She is curious and is eager to try new foods, unlike Pig Pen. When she laughs it’s from down deep. She makes her own detergent.  She finds the good in everything. She cooks, she cleans, goes out of her way to help others. She writes notes. Lots of notes. She loves thrift shopping. Maybe a bit too much. But who doesn’t love a good bargain AMIRIGHT? I think with the line of work her husband is in and maybe her childhood she saves things. I understand the need. I never had to worry about those things, but I understand it.  The last visit I was informed I was to stay a longer period of time and help D with his book. So for 2 weeks I stayed. They offer me their best bed in the warmest room and turned on the shower upstairs so I don’t have to take baths. I hate baths.

We go to thrift stores, Amish discount stores, Walmart and lunch. We take walks with the dog. We decided this last trip that the house needed some sprucing up and emptying of accumulated stuffs. I tested my ‘clutter clean-up’ job skills. [I’d actually love to be one of those, but I’m a bit too hard on folks..so I’m told] we gathered everything up in one spot, wrote out decluttering plans, bought some storage stuff and went to work. Mrs. probably had the hardest time getting rid of stuff. I know I do. She did great tho and got rid of dusty forgotten duplicate things and made a promise to have the rest of the house done by the time I get back this year…which is coming up soon, girl!

Something I told her she remembers…. two things to think about .. do you need it and do you have a place for it [not hidden away] if not..don’t buy it. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, or a people thing, but we tend to have things scattered and not in the same place, like bathroom goods stored in 3 places or important paperwork in different rooms. Sometimes we don’t realize how much stuff we have until we can get it all together.

We talk of life, love, hardships, relationships. The good, the bad. We have made charts on the chalkboard, lists and talked how to make a better world.  They live a slower life, a quieter life. No TV, just a computer. They had never seen the show Hoarders, we watched a few episodes. They both love books. They have wallpaper on a wall that looks bookshelves. They keep ‘the books’ on paper.

She would never tell Pig Pen that he leaves his stuff around. When I brought it up, he asked her if she agreed. She did. He put that in his mental file and helps more around the house.

Does it seem like I’m being weird about these two people? I probably am. They fascinate me. Because they are different yet the same. They are so kind. Everyone I have met there is so damn kind. In the city it’s so easy to lose that. I miss it. Even in our little church fellowship community it’s not as common.

I’ve met the kids and have nothing but nice things to think and say about them. They’re kind and funny and sweet just like their parents.

Doug’s mom and dad are the best. I wish I could move in with them and let Janet cook for me and tuck me in bed and let Don shake his head in wonderment that I keep a pig inside my house. He has a farm and still grows soybeans and corn.

One visit I actually carried homemade cinnamon rolls home to my son from Janet! Can you believe it? She is the quintessential mom/grandmom who wants to feed you and love you and remembers what you tell her!

They do not attend a conventional church. They have a group of friends that get together once a week to pray, read over scripture, exhort, encourage and listen to each other. And there again…I just wanted to embed myself into their lives. Doug doesn’t like to impose his faith on anyone, doesn’t mention it much on his blog, but he and  M keep the greatest commandment:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Thanks for letting gush on and on about your family and lives. I could think of many more things to crow on about them.  I’m not a creeper honestly. I crave the simple quiet real life you all have and am blessed beyond measure to know you.

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Kristina the Home Engineer when she met Winston the pig

Checking out the checkout….

Over the next couple of weeks, I (DM) will be sharing this platform with a few guest writers from time to time.  There is still time to get your name in the hat if you’d like.
Wanted to thank Pensitivity101 for being the first one to get back to me on the offer…. She and her hubby hail from across the pond. (England)
DM

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Checking Out The Checkout
One of our past times is people watching, and there is nothing more fascinating than watching someone else’s shopping going through the scanner. I confess I’ve got really nosy and if I have time, will get behind the person with the fullest trolley just so as to see what they are buying and how much their bill is at the end.

Usually you can tell the family Mom doing the weekly shop, crisps, bottles of pop, biscuits, bumper pack of loo and kitchen rolls, several loaves of bread, veg, fruit, meats, milk by the gallon, chocolate type cereals etc. Weekly bill around £125 -£150 for a family of four I’d guess.

Single people tend to buy for a couple of days at a time, and those in a hurry just pick up whatever they pass en route to the check out.

I have noticed lately that more wrinklies (OAPs) are buying bottles of wine or spirits.

We always chat to the checkout staff as they’re processing our purchases, and I sometimes wonder what they, or those in the queue behind us, make of it.
Somehow 4 packs of rice, 3 packs of pasta, 6 cartons of UHT milk and some fruit don’t exactly give you visions of an appetizing meal. In a way it was so much better in the cottage as we would buy 24 cans of tomato soup (9p per tin at the time), 36 cartons of milk, 12 tins of spam,  12 corned beef, a dozen packets of instant mash and instant custard, take full advantage of the three trays of meat for a tenner (at least 14 meals), 12 cans of pineapple, 12 cans each of potatoes, carrots and peas, 12 cans of baked beans, 3 boxes of cereal, a tray of 30 eggs, plus the pasta, rice and spaghetti. Our bill would be around £60 (oh those were the days) but then that would have been our basic month’s shopping and anything else later would just be topping up. The highest One Shop bill was just under £70, but then that included the washing agents and toiletries.

Food prices here are on the way up, and we can’t take advantage of the multi buys like we used to as we simply can’t store them. I am trying to keep our weekly bill down to around £25 -£30. Maggie’s food has been in short supply for a few months, and now it’s back on the shelves with new wrapping (but not less weight, yet), it’s gone up by over £1 a bag. If we see it on special, we buy at least two, as one 2.7kg bag will last her just under a month.

Veg is still relatively cheap though, but going back to the beginning of my message here, Paul’s digestive system can’t cope with too much of the healthy stuff. Stew is on the menu again, but this week I’m really pushing the boat out and we shall have meat in it (cue chop for about 70p) !

From The World Of Bees…

My wife and I have been getting together for coffee at our local coffee-house with a small handful of people since 1999.  It is an open group.

Anyone is welcome.

What I have appreciated about this group (and why I think we have continued to get together  this many years) is because of what happens when we are together.

I come away feeling heard.

There has evolved a mutual give and take when it comes to our interactions.

The topics of conversation are rich and varied.

There is a lot of laughter.

It is hands down,  the high light of my week.

You’ll have to trust me on this next stuff, and believe me when I say, I am not embellishing anything.

Last week we were joined by Tim,  (who is a talker, and tends toward the negative).

The last time Tim joined  us,  was early last Fall, leading up to the election.  After a 3 minute angst and fear-mongering speech that felt like it was literally sucking the air out of the room, I couldn’t take it any more and asked him to stop.

Told him, that wasn’t the time or place.

I took everyone by surprise, including myself 🙂

He had (and has) no idea, how his presence completely changes the dynamic of our time together.

Instead of a mutual, give and take, he (literally) has to say something

every

single

time

someone else has spoken.

(Have you ever known someone like that?)

I’ve known Tim for 30 years, this is how he rolls.  I’ve heard his wife call him out on his talkativeness.

Pause.

To give you another word picture  from the world of bees….

A bee hive  is a cohesive,  collaborative group, where everyone works together for the common good.  Their goal is to put up enough honey so everyone will have enough to eat through the winter...everyone.

Once in a while, bumble bees, or yellow jackets  will show up with the intention of stealing the honey.

There is not a sense of give and take.

It is all about them.

Pause.

The “honey” in this case  (I think) Tim is attracted to, is having the undivided attention 5 or 6 people who are all good listeners.

I decided to keep quiet last Saturday and watch as Tim dominated the interaction.  We hadn’t seen Tim since I’d laid into him last fall and it just didn’t seem appropriate that I say something again.

If I knew Tim was thinking about coming on a regular basis, I would find a time to visit  outside of Saturday morning and  as nicely and diplomatically as possible ask him to just come and listen for a few weeks.

Because this group is such an important and long standing part of my life, I refuse to just roll over and do nothing.

If Tim is not at coffee, this coming Saturday, I definitely plan to bring up his most recent visit, …

and if he is there,  we will just have to see.

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Yellow jackets stealing honey.

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A Letter From England…

Lou Brown contacted me two weeks ago and asked if I would consider building her a harvest table for her new home.   (She lives in England.)  I told her absolutely yes...as long as she lined up the shipping details. 🙂

Our paths first crossed in 2009 when she was on tour.  We were listed on a house concert website as possible hosts, she got in touch, ended up spending a couple of days with us. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.   I’m re-posting a portion of a  follow-up letter she wrote from her time with us. Some of the things she shared are timeless and worth repeating….

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Hi, My name is Lou Brown.

“There is something about DM’s home that warms my heart every time I think about it.  Our paths in life crossed when I came over to the mid-west to tour last Easter.  As a songwriter here in the UK I felt like having a mighty adventure and taking my music to an area of The States that not many of us Brits visit that often.  Sure loads of us go to New York for shopping or Florida for the theme parks but Iowa, nope I don’t know anyone else that’s been to Iowa except us.

Lucky me I say, for my few brief weeks I spent in Iowa were the most humbling of my life.  There is something about the mid-west which we just don’t have over here.  Yes we have history a plenty, beautiful palaces and Royal estates, our villages, towns and cities are all firmly established and it only takes a couple of hours of driving to reach France and the rest of Europe.  But Iowa has a sense of community and hospitality which I have never experienced.  I will never forget driving in the thickest fog ever in the middle of the night up a dirt road to Doug and his wife’s B and B in Iowa, the moment Aimee and I opened up the guest room door to find fresh towels, the electric blanket on, and a packet of Butterfingers on the pillow.  I have never ever been so grateful to anyone in my entire life.  I was missing home like crazy, the three of us touring together were starting to get on each others nerves and suddenly we had arrived in paradise.

In a world where the media are ramming fancy new products, brands and technology down our throats, where our young people view their future aspirations on being on Pop Idol or America’s next top model rather than hard graft and apprenticeships, and where the current economic climate brings a fear into every household across the globe that we might not be the ones to survive the recessions.  I remember that moment…and hold to it tightly to remember that life is actually about hospitality and opening our doors to others and simply having the time to be interested in someone else.  Those small things in life are priceless and outweigh any amount of money we can be given or fancy clothes we can wear….”

 

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Our home at sunset after a rain.

Tell me about a time you’ve experienced the unexpected kindness of a stranger.

I love details.😉 DM

pss I originally posted this on my farm blog, so those of you that are long time readers may have seen it before…

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

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I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

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Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM