Iowa Nice

Daughter # 2  (Kathy) was heading home from work a year ago about this time of day when it happened.  She noticed the car in front of her begin to fish-tale.  Then quoting now, “chunks of rubber began  flying off.”   Kathy didn’t know who was behind the wheel, but instinctively pulled over to see if she could help.

Out stepped a young Korean woman, her hands were shaking.  Her name was Ling.

“What just happened?”   Ling asked Kathy

“Your back tire blew” she said.

“Do you have someone you can call?” Kathy asked.

Ling pulled out her phone, but because they were in a low spot, she didn’t have a  signal.

Ling was a music major, heading for a recital in Dubuque.  Kathy offered to stay with her until they could figure out what to do.   Kathy called a local towing company she knew.   They ended up taking car back to the shop to address the tire situation.  (Don’t tell anyone I told you this) but Kathy offered to pick up the tab on the tow. When the tow truck driver realized she was doing this, he knocked 50% off the total and told her, if she  brought him in a plate of home made cookies  he would call it even.

After the spare was put on the car, and a couple of the other tires  rotated, Ling was back on the road.  Kathy and Ling kept in touch periodically throughout last year.

Last week, Ling’s parents were stateside for  graduation.  They wanted to meet “the angel” who had helped their daughter the year before, and go out for lunch.

As a parent of three daughters myself, I can very easily put myself in their shoes.

 

Kindness is alive and well in Iowa.

Yea Baby…..

Earlier this winter, Jason asked me if I would be interested in bidding on a project no one else was interested in.

When we got to the job-site, I saw why.

There was between 40 and 50 foot of sidewalk needing  to be jack hammered out, then carried   75 to 100 ft by hand.

8 ton of concrete = 16,000 pounds.

There was not enough room to get a skid loader in.  Heck, we could barely get a wheelbarrow in between the bushes and the property line fence.  Everything would have to be done old school….ie.    Manuel Labor.

These kind of projects stir something inside of me.

The  challenge maybe?  🙂

Well, I got the job…..

Tuesday  was our first day.  The demo went better than I’d expected…so by early afternoon, all 16,000 pounds of concrete was in a pile next to the curb.  It was raining  Wednesday, but because there would be a check waiting for me once the concrete was gone, I, we pushed  and got it loaded.   My son John has been helping me…one of the things I really appreciate about all of the guys who have worked for me the past few years (That includes you Chris if you happen to read this) 😉  is these young men have had great attitudes  in spite of working conditions…not a hint of grumbling.

Growing up,  dad would say...”Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”

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Well today was “pour the new sidewalk day.”

I woke up this morning @ 4 AM.  Adrenalin, already coursing through my veins.  We couldn’t bring in the new concrete the way we removed the old…all of it had to be wheel-barrowed down a series of ramps and inclines.

Couple of hundred feet.

On top of all of the logistical challenges we had placing the new concrete, would you believe we got a cement truck driver with an attitude problem…..

Yep.

I sensed it right away….didn’t say anything to the rest of the crew, but 20 minutes into the pour, Jason came up to me and said “The guy is a “blank-ity- blank.”  and he had half a mind to tell him to his face.

I suggested waiting until we were finished…

Minute later Jason commented on the aroma of the lilac bush we were working around.

“Focus on the smell of the  Lilac instead of the blankity blank truck driver, grasshopper.” I said with a smirk… 😉

“You are just like Splinter,” he said to me…

“Yes, and you are like Raphael the Ninja turtle.” I replied.

We laughed,  got all 16,000 pounds of new concrete placed without a hitch.

Splinter  Image by Google

I left that project around lunch time, stopped by our local Menards to get some landscaping block samples.  Would you believe, the guy at the contractors desk who waited on me, also had a bad attitude.   Since I was still basking in the afterglow of getting that concrete poured, there was no way, I was going to let that get under my skin…and it didn’t.

I did get home early (and exhausted.)

Told my wife at supper time, today felt like I’d run through an obstacle course.

I can already tell you, I will sleep like a baby  tonight.

Later- DM

Busted

I was in the middle of loading the mixer with  thirty, fifty pound bags of grass seed  yesterday  when it happened.  I forgot to take the tag out of the partially used  bag of seed and before I could grab it, the auger on the mill sucked it in.

David, (the other  new guy) and myself had just been warned ten minutes before to be extra careful that no small pieces of string (from the top of the bags)  fell into the mixer…because something like that could plug up the farmers grain drill while  planting.. If that happened, then depending on the planter, he might have to manually unload a seeder full of grain.

Now there I was, dumping a chunk of paper, the size of my cell phone into the mixer….

I  mentioned something to our foreman, a few minutes later when he  checked on me.  I was  ready for a butt chewing, but it never came.

Later in the morning as we were transferring the seed into a holding bin, I spotted the tag, just as it headed up the grain leg elevator. 🙂

Fortunately for me, it was at end of the batch, and when I opened the access door, there it was…right on top.

What. A. Relief.

(I brought it home as a souvenir )

Today, Dave and I had to re bag three bags of seed.  One of the machines we are both “learning” to use (I say that loosely)  is a hand-held sewing machine.  We use this beast to  stitch the ends of the grain bags shut.  You definitely wouldn’t want to have that sucker get a hold of your hand.

The first thing I thought of when I saw that machine was my grandmother Edna.  She worked in a shirt factory back in the 1920’s….she ran the sewing machine right over her knuckle.  They wanted to take her finger off, but she wouldn’t let them.

We were  not setting any records  this morning, when Dave did something I’d not seen before.  (He’s also has a healthy fear of this machine.) 🙂

He got the sewing machine jammed, and it would not let go of the bag.  On top of that, the bag got torn, which normally would be no big deal…but these were special bags. Stored, twenty feet in the air, accessible only with a fork lift.

I couldn’t wait until our foreman came back! (Not)

Well, after waiting on a customer, he finally came back…luckily by that time, I had figured out how to at least get it off the bag.

 

As he came over to check on us, he asked how things were going…

“You’re not going to be happy,” I said. “We had a problem with the sewing machine, and are going to need another bag…”

 

 

 

Seed tag I fished out of the mixer.

__________________________

 

Here are some other bloopers  from my life I could tell you about…

The time I poured a sidewalk in the wrong place.

Why we installed  (3) different tubs in our B and B in one year before  finally getting it right.

The time I demolished my dad’s oats seeder with the disk, just after he got it back from the machine shop. I can still see him looking at that spoke wheel now in the shape of a pretzel…to his credit, he just stood there and shook his head…

The numerous times I have had things fall off my truck in the middle of traffic. (Including a skid-loader right in front of the police station.)

Tell me about some of the blunders  you’ve made over the years.   🙂

I won’t tell anyone.

 

 

An Old Buzzard

Tuesday afternoon I had to have a tooth pulled.

As Ann, the dental hygienist and I were waiting for the Doctor, we talked about parenting.  She has two kids, a 13 yr old daughter and an 10-year-old son.  She alluded to there being quite a bit of tension in their household between the daughter and them.

When I have these conversations, I feel  like an old buzzard on a tree limb watching  as a young family tries to navigate their way through those teen years… I can see the lay of the land in a way that they can not from my perch.

It doesn’t take much to tap into the confusion and anger I felt when I was the one trying to figure out my way through that wilderness.

Pause.

I got a call yesterday from my eldest.  She is 36.  She called me in the middle of the morning, just to visit. Said it had been a while and she was thinking about me.  We talked for 10 minutes about grand kids, her part-time job, honey bees…

She (my eldest) has the most infectious laugh, and laughed several times while we talked.  I thought about that phone call several  times throughout the day. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

When I got home later, my wife mentioned within the past two days, she has had really good visits with all four of our now grown kids.

If you are a parent, and your kids are still in the home, (and even if they are not)  one of the long-term goals you probably  have, is that after they become adults, you and they stay in touch.

Just healthy peer to peer relationships…how does that sound for a parenting goal? 😉

I have that and I take absolutely no credit for it.

I struggled with knowing how to keep the balance when they were in the house between being their parent, and being their friend.  There is a difference.  Yes, the long-term goal is friendship, but that is second compared to being the parent.  Sometimes being the parent means taking a tough stand, when your feelings tell you otherwise.

It wasn’t until one of my “dear, sweet” children, ran away that I realized,  just because we birthed them, did not mean they automatically respected us.

They too were just trying to find their way.

That experience was a watershed moment in my life as a dad.

I gave that child two choices..and neither one of them involved coming home, (initially).

Every family, every, parent/ child relationship has its own dynamics.   There is not “one size fits all” when it comes to raising kids.

One relationship that helped keep me sane was another dad who was also dealing with an out of control older daughter.  He got it.

Our culture did a crappy job preparing me to parent in a healthy way. What I longed for was real advice from real parents, who were dealing with the same issues, just further along on the trail.

Beware of both extremes…being too heavy handed, or too nicey/ nicey.

Eventually, all four of our kids did reach adulthood (alive) and eventually, got the partying, out of their system.

The human brain does not really mature until about age 25, so give them some time, even after they move out.

Parenting is like baking cookies.

My first born batch (or three) felt like I was  flying by the seat of my pants… by number four, I  started to relax.

 

Google Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rodeo Clowns

As I was pulling through the security gate Wednesday @ Menards, a semi with “CDL in a day” written on the cab was exiting in the other lane.  He was pulling a 28 ft flatbed trailer.

Sharp looking rig.

I got the phone number and called him, to ask about costs, scheduling, etc.

If you’re a regular reader, you know  I have been attempting to get my  class A CDL license. (That would enable me to drive a semi or large truck, and  dovetail nicely into my skill-set.  If  when construction work slows down I could always pick up some hours hauling grain, bulk milk etc.

Tim (the owner of business/ CDL in a day) texted me  yesterday. He had a cancellation and wondered if I had time to  practice driving then take my test at the D.O.T  on Saturday?   (today.)

Absolutely!

So yesterday,   I showed up at his shop to spend an hour (ended up being three) prepping for my driving tests.

I debated  whether or not to tell him about my last experience with the CDL instructor, 

I decided to let him know about  the other instructor and his hollering at me.

Best decision of the day.

Tim told me, he himself had tried to get his CDL through John.  Had spent $450  and never did get his license.  I didn’t want to slander John, (even though the whole experience did leave a nasty taste in my mouth), so I just listened.   Tim went on to tell me,  I was not alone.  He has had several pupils come to him for instruction who have  also spent  hours and hundreds of dollars with  John, none of them ever passing.  (And all of them talked about getting hollered at)

The day I spent an hour with John, we spent 1/2 the time sitting with the truck idling, while he talked about horses, rodeos and a rodeo clown.

Tim had  heard the same stories, the same yelling.  We laughed.    My conclusions about John as an  instructor were not so far off after all.

Getting back to yesterday…

So there I was,  a slightly traumatized class A CDL student getting back in the saddle.  (Yea me)

Since my last lesson, I have watched video’s on YouTube, spent an hour with my neighbor driving his semi, and saw yesterday, a 50 percent improvement in my ability to up shift (go from low to high)…

BUT when it came to downshifting,  I was still grinding gears/ forgetting to flip the high/low button..etc.  At least three times, when it came time to downshift, my mind went completely blank…

Blank.

Imagine being behind the wheel and being responsible for 26,000 pounds of steel,  going 55 MPH in traffic.  You are still  confused with  how to bring this mass of metal, rubber and glass to a predictable, safe stop… (that is a peek into my brain)

Hour number two, I had a bad case of cotton mouth.  Haven’t experienced that since I was in 8th grade  wrestling.

Have you ever experienced cotton mouth?  You’d know it if you had.

Hour number three was brutal.  More road time/ plus the skills portion of the test (straight line backing/ 90% backing and parallel parking which I did OK on).

I texted Tim last night, thanked him for the lesson but had decided not to test.  Then I e-mailed the company I had tentatively gotten a job offer  with for seasonal truck driving and told them, I had a change of plans.   It was not going to work to drive.   I have already spent 5 hours of one on one instruction, plus several hundred dollars and it just isn’t clicking.

I would be a liability on the road.

I am going to put the goal of acquiring a class A CDL on the shelf for now.  I gave it my best shot.  I’m sure if I had a truck up on blocks/ and a day to practice I would have it mastered…but I don’t.

I feel no embarrassment or shame in taking a step back.

I have a right to change my mind.

I gave it my best shot.  When I got home yesterday, I felt emotionally like I had been in a ring with a silver-back gorilla. (or a rodeo clown) 😉

As I was processing out loud this morning with my wife, she reminded me, I had quote “been in the arena.

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt from his speech The Man In the Arena

That’s how things are currently rolling (or not)   out here in the heartlands of Merica.  Later!  DM

 

 

Knowing when to get angry

“You have to learn what’s worth getting angry about.”  Lester said to me  in his gentle way.

I was 16 years old, had just unleashed a string of profanities.

That conversation took place over 40 years ago and  I can STILL remember it to this day.

I remember thinking, “You know, he’s right.  Nobody pays too much attention to me now when I get mad.  That can’t be good.”

Lester  reminded me of Ben Franklin….

Retired farmer,

Bib overhauls…

Here’s an early crew photo…Lester is in the middle and I’m to his right:

Work crew from back in the day.  We had just finished pouring a basement wall.

And yes, that was a can of Old Mill in my hand.

________________________________________

These days, it does take a lot more to light the fire.

The fuse got lit on Tuesday.

I’m temporarily working with another construction company…

My work load had slowed up, and this crew needed some extra help.

Win win.

Tuesday night  on the way home, my cell phone rang,  it was the boss…He’d just got off the phone with the customer of the job I’ve been at the past month.    It was implied we were taking too long to finish the project and we needed to start putting in 10 hour days.

You’ll have to take my word on this one, but I have been busting my chops the past 5 weeks  with a crew of 2 (just myself and a helper.)

The week previous I  picked up some  little clues the boss thought we must surely be about done, he had sent Dave to round-up the screw guns, and extension chords .  I could see we had at least another 2 to 3 weeks, assuming there were no more change orders.  To compound my frustration, the boss has not personally set foot on the job site for two weeks,…. he personally hates detail work   (which is what we have left to finish)…

Fast forward to this phone call….

After I hung up, Jack, who was riding in the truck with me and  who had heard my side of the conversation asked what that was all about?

I repeated what I’d been told.   He reacted with “That is bull@#$%”   (which is German for “That is not fair!”)

We both felt unappreciated and misjudged.

I could feel the anger start to build.  Rather than just stuff it, I wrote a punch list (things yet to do) when I got home.

The next morning I was @ the shop 30 minutes early, with the intention of talking to the boss one on one.

When  I got there,  the crew was already starting to trickle in. I asked to talk  with the boss in the office.   He said he didn’t  think it was necessary so I gave him the punch list in front of the assembled.    I told him  someone else could finish those items because I had my hands full,  framing walls and installing glass board.

He told me I was  quote “over-responding” and made light of my frustration.

(This is in front of others mind you.)

I told someone later, the mind games, the  passive – aggressive behavior, in the midst of conflict no longer works on me quite like they once did.

Anger in and of itself, is not always a bad thing…..it all depends on what you do with it.

Anger reminds me of rocket fuel.

If you’re not careful, it can ignite, blow up and you’ll have a bigger problem.

Anger can be a wonderful  motivator for change and conflict resolution.

____________________________

Update 2/23/17.  I posted this for a specific group of people.  I realize most of you didn’t know me when I was younger, but I entered adulthood as a hard core people pleaser, with a very low self image. One of the issues that dogged me back then, was an inability to stand up for myself in a healthy way.  People would take advantage of me, even older family members. I would be manipulated, talked down to, on and on. Internally, I would seethe, but NEVER, EVER< give voice to any of it….

And then, through the efforts of a friend, I addressed the low self esteem head on, and ever so gradually, my life began to change…so by the time this event took place I wrote about, my response was a 180 degree flip from the old DM….and the boss I wrote about, didn’t know what to do with me.  He was used to the  old compliant DM…so I wrote this to give hope to the people pleaser, the person with a low self esteem.  You do not have to live there.  There are greener pastures.  I am not talking about turning into a mean spirited abusive person.  I am talking about wholeness in your inner person…it is radical stuff..and it is good.

 

The country mice and the city mouse

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

_____________________________________

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.

kristinap2008-003

Kristina the Home Engineer when she met Winston the pig