Into the bowels of a beast

I’m not even sure where to begin…..

Wednesday,  Thursday, Friday of last week were some of the most physically, and mentally challenging days I have put in, in a long, long time.

I got a text last Monday, asking if I knew anyone who might be available for some seasonal, part-time, or possibly full-time employment.  I have two confirmed construction projects on my schedule for April, but decided, what the heck, I enjoy learning new things, and I knew most of the people at the place anyway, from doing construction projects around the facility, so I got in touch with the person in charge of hiring and said, I would be interested in helping out, but it would have to be part-time, because of my  previous commitments.

I started Wednesday morning.

It feels like I’m in one of those TV shows where the boss goes undercover, to find out what’s really going on….

And find out I have.

Because the men working here, do know me,  each of them has confided in me on the side.

As much as I would like to give you very specific details of the types of jobs I have had the” opportunity” to do, I am concerned that if I did to much of that, someone might be able to figure out, where I have been working, and who I am writing about, and that I do not want to do. (Yet)

I will just say this, the business has been now turned over to the next generation and the young man now at the helm does not have a clue.  I don’t think he’s even stepped foot in the facility since last October.  While he may or may not have some sort of business degree from college, in terms of the skill sets, and conditions he expects his employees to work under,  he would not last a day.

I consider myself somewhat in shape from being in construction.

I have had to take  drugs every night before bed  just to get my body and brain to relax.

One of the saddest things for me is, these guys that have been here for years, really do take great pride in their work, and management do not seem to realize it.   I have been amazed at the attention to detail they take.  If they were working for me, they would be getting a $5 raise (instead of an 10% pay cut that went into effect last year, right before Thanksgiving.)

I said I would work here until the 1st of May….

After next week, it will be just me, the shop foreman, and whomever else they can scare up from the temp agency.

The rest of the help will have jumped ship.

There is a reason, this widget company is in a death spiral.

 

 

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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….”

 

after the storm1

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…