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

You Can Keep Your Socks On….

I got to the clinic a few minutes early.  Two women sat behind the counter.  One smiled as I approached, the other didn’t.

I made a bee-line to the smiling one. 😉

After she scanned my driver’s license, and took my $100, she pointed to a table at the far end of the hall, next to the coffee pots, and told me  I should wait there…someone would be with me shortly.

Few minutes later, another person who was all business asked me to follow her to the lab  where I was told to pee in a cup.

Side note: My baby sister works at this same hospital, and sometimes I will let that slip in hopes it will loosen up the person I’m dealing with.  She (my sister) is a fire cracker.  Works in rehab. Her patients (and co-workers) love her.

After I was finished peeing into the cup, I was told to sit and wait for the results.  Couple of minutes later, a grizzly bear of a nurse appeared. (She looked and sounded like a bear) She started barking about something in the bathroom I’d just left..said she was going to write someone up…!

I watched her, thinking I was thankful I didn’t have to work with her on a daily basis.

Next I was introduced to the nurse  in charge of the DOT physical.

Anyway, after taking my blood pressure, she tested my vision, and hearing from 10 ft away…then she took me to another examination room.

“I’m not sure if anyone as told you what to expect for this physical…”  She points to one of those hospital gowns with the open back…you’ll need to slip off your clothes, and put this on.  You can keep your underwear on, as well as your socks.  The Doctor will need to examine your skin for scars…just to make sure you haven’t had any hernia  surgeries.  Believe it or not, we’ve had people lie about that.”

At some point in this conversation, I realized the Doctor I was about to see was a she.

I liked her the minute she stepped into the room. I’m going to guess, early to mid 40’s.  No airs about her.   Relaxed.  Personable.

I told her about the grumpy guy who I’d hired to teach me to double clutch. Told her, “I am not used to getting chewed out for something like that, and by golly, I let it slide that time, but it better not happen again, because I wasn’t a kid with a low self-esteem, and even though he was 350 pounds, he didn’t intimidate me!”

We were just about finished, when she asked me to stand up.  Said she needed to check for any hernia’s…

Up came the gown, down came my fruit of the looms.

That part of the exam was over in 10 seconds..(which I had no idea was coming )

One of the beautiful things about aging, is after you’ve had a couple of colonoscopies and a few other invasive procedures, the buck naked stuff doesn’t bother me as much.

Anyway, I laughed and told her, that was a piece of cake compared to my visits to the urologist!

Here’s a shout out to all of you in the medical field who still have your sense of humor and people skills.

I don’t take you for granted. DM

 

 

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…

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.

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Uncharted waters.

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letters

 

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

 

Ordering Your Private World

“Throughout the film he contrasts the frantic pace of modern life with a thoughtful interior life….”

French film director Eugene Green in a recent interview

Those words…“the frantic pace of modern life with the thoughtful interior life” jumped off the page to me last night as I was winding down.

I forget  what it feels like to live  life at a  “frantic pace.”

My life has not felt that way ever since I began to intentionally weave “margin” into my life.  I am loath to get myself suckered into the rat race again.

It did  happen briefly last fall.   I had two major construction projects needing to start at the same time, due to weather and customer delays, but that is no longer the norm.

Don’t get me wrong…I have not “arrived” in terms of anything…BUT, I am convinced the frantic/ manic pace of life will suck the life out of me unless I am very careful.

I am a first-born type A personality.  I grew up on a dairy farm which compounded my need to stay busy, so I know what I’m talking about.

There are two young families that I know, (sort of) where the financial and job pressures are sucking the life out of their marriages. (Like  fire sucking the oxygen out of a room)  There is the illusion they have made it.  Super nice homes.  Nice cars.  Both spouses making multiple times more per year than I.

We could live off the income of any one of those four people and  have money set aside.

If that is the lifestyle both of you  love and enjoy…then there is not a problem.

Just different priorities.

If however, one of the people in either one of those situations feels trapped….then it is (a problem.)

How sad to live your life, day in, day out, commuting to a full-time job you hate,  never feeling like there is enough money, not enough hours in the day.  Being married to someone, who (initially) you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, but now..not so much.

That is what I am talking about.

I’m a visual person, so it helped me to have something I could look at to get my bearings.

In my mind’s eye, I felt like I was the captain of a large ocean-going vessel, headed the wrong way….  So  I literally, drew a diagram with a large ship on a piece of white poster board/ taped it to the wall in front of my desk, with different positions on the chart showing the boat changing directions.

I needed to turn my ship around and set a new course….Well, you can’t turn a ship that size around on a dime…but once you move the rudder hard  you do change directions.

Moving the rudder meant setting some new financial, time management, and relational goals and then acting on them.

Just drawing that chart gave me hope.  I knew where we were headed,  even if the circumstances had not changed in the short-term.

There was a new sense of hope and purpose in our home, in our relationship, in my heart.

It all starts in the mind.

There were a couple of books that also helped me re-plot my course. One of them was called “Ordering Your Private World.”

I’ve written on this topic  before…As I find the older posts in  my archives, I will put the link to them here..

Here’s one of those earlier posts.

Chasing Rabbits

When I was @ the lumberyard yesterday,  the store manager asked me if I’d built such and such a building this fall… (a $400,00 commercial project  30 minutes from here).

“Nope, I said, although Jason and I did spend a month doing the landscaping…”

“Oh, I was just wondering” he said….

I thought to myself, I don’t have the crew nor desire to take on that large of a project….

Then fleeting thoughts of  “failure…looser”  went through my mind, but I ignored them.

This year, I have been doing mostly small repairs, building doors for a dairy set up, tables, fixing holes in buildings.. still working, but nothing large.

Yes,  there are times I wish I was generating more $ 😉

(see my last post)

and yet….there is a young man I know whom  I see regularly at the lumberyard, He just starting  his own business. He recently purchased a 2016 full size pickup with all the bells and whistles.   I know from various sources, he has financial problems…  Doing the type of work I do, there is no way, I  generate enough net income to afford that  truck….but if you were to meet him and I, and judge us solely by the  trucks we drive, you would think he is more successful than I…..

(I drive a Toyota Tundra with 180,000 miles on it, that is paid for)

I love what I do…but (and I’ve written about this before) when our kids were younger,  I was doing a poor job of managing my time. My marriage and  family was floundering.  We were living pay check to pay check. I was gone a lot. My wife was doing 99% of  the work raising our kids,  and we were drifting apart as a couple.

She finally said to me, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Then came across the following…

“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool….”

and another one…”if you are a hero to strangers, but a stranger to your children... (same thing/ you are a fool).

Whop/ Felt like someone had hit me across the nose with a 2 by 4…

So here I sit, almost 30  years removed from that season of my life, no longer a driven, workaholic and I meet young men all of the time chasing the  same rabbit around the track I used to chase…

But there is more than one way  to measure success.

I have two areas of my life that I keep an eye on.

Like gauges on an engine…

One is called relationship.

Relationship.  My relationship with God, (as I understand him)  my relationship with my wife and children.. relationships with the rest of the people in my life. (Which is also why I invest time blogging..I really do value those of you that I interact with here!)

And the second (and equally important)  gauge, my heart…

Not my physical heart, but, the  inner/ hidden person of my heart.

There is a mantra (I try) to keep in the fore-front of my life, that goes like this:   “Keep, (or guard) your heart with all vigilance (or diligence)  for from it flows the springs of life…” 

ie. inner life: (peace, joy, and all of that) flow out of an artesian spring, down deep in the bedrock of my heart… because of the world  in which I live, my heart  can easily become dirty and fouled, cluttered with too many job pressures,  financial pressures, etc.

So, if work, (or anything for that matter)  is choking the life out of me, then it behooves me to do something about it.

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