Schools Of Thought

“Well, I want it done right!”  Dave told me yesterday. He sounded a little exasperated   We were talking about how to proceed with tiling his shower.

I told him at the beginning of his project, I have done four tiling projects so far.  If I didn’t know something I would not fake it.  I do know who to ask most times if I have a question. Tiling is not rocket science, although there is more than one way to do things.

Yesterday, the plumber on the job, (who has also tiled),  made some suggestions I had never heard of before on how to fabricate the shower base from scratch.  Talk to three tilers and you’ll probably get three different  approaches.

Same goes with bee keeping. It is not an exact science.  We have a local  husband and wife  who both wanted to be bee keepers. Both wanting to do things right, had strong (different) opinions on what that looked like.   They decided each needed their own hives to manage.  End of conflict.

Side note…we opened our  hive last Sunday.  There were (9) new queen cells forming….

Talk to three different bee keepers and you will probably hear three different approaches to what to do next…..

When I took some classes years ago, called Introduction to Theology, I had a teacher that I really liked.   I remember covering the topic of  end times.  The technical term is Eschatology.  I found out there were at least (3) major schools of thought, with subsets even within that.  We covered all three, thoroughly. At some point, the teacher shared with us where he was at in his understanding and why, but  it never felt like he was  trying to manipulate me to get me to a certain understanding.

I appreciate intellectual integrity, and don’t respond well to manipulation, lying or snark.

I have a strong independent streak. (Just ask my wife) 🙂

I use the same approach when it comes to politics,  social issues and life in general.  I used to meet with a friend on a regular basis over coffee to talk about local history.  Sometimes our conversations would drift  into  politics and current events.  We were polar opposites in some respects, (He was an anarchists I am not. 🙂  He served on the board  of the ACLU/ absolutely hated Christians, organized religion, had served a tour of duty in Vietnam,  which left him with another whole set of issues, I did not.  But… we shared a love of local history,  both grew up on a farm, and worked real hard at showing each other respect when we talked.

I had (and still have) a genuine intellectual curiosity, to try to understand why and how he was coming to some of his conclusions.    I had (and have) absolutely zero interest in getting into a pissing match conflict with someone about some issue.  It is hard enough to get along and communicate effectively in the context of a healthy marriage…why in the world would I go looking to take a spin on the crazy cycle with the rest of the world…it ain’t going to happen.

Crazy cycle: a word picture for getting into a fight where you just go round and round and nothing is resolved.

I have been privy to two absolutely crazy relationships lately where one of the parties had zero concept on how to work through a difference of opinion.  I’ve seen and heard things said that should never be said between two people….It made my gut turn.

Second year  we were married, we went to a marriage workshop.   One of the topics was how to have a good fight.  Don’t you just love that title! 🙂

Conflict in and of itself is not always bad.

It is possible to express anger in a healthy way.  It does not have to be destructive.

When seeking to resolve a conflict…try to stay on topic.  If the issue is conflict about money, then don’t go off on bunny trails about other unresolved issues.

Schedule a time when you can talk ..ie.  Wife and I have found, Saturday morning is a lot better time than right before bed to talk about money problems.

Don’t garbage dump, get historical, or hit below the belt (name calling, bringing up old wounds, etc.)

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements…better to say, “I am angry because”, rather than, “You make me angry….”

So much of communication is nonverbal…ie. eye contact, tone of voice, etc. Don’t get into a conflict over the phone, via the internet, letter, etc. It is hard enough to really hear what the other person is saying in person.

Any other thoughts on conflict, difference of opinions, etc?  I really appreciate those of you that take the time to read these ramblings.

Later! DM

 

 

 

How would you approach this?

Twice a month, my wife and a neighbor  take turns driving to an Amish discount grocery store.  It is a combination, girls day out, and a chance to save some serious $  on the food budget.

When I got home from work, the last time they made the trek, my wife looked at me and said, “We were almost killed this morning in a traffic accident.”

Our neighbor, is in her late 60’s, does not like to drive in traffic, and creeps along when she is out and about.   Apparently, she (the neighbor) did not look to her right as she turned left out of the driveway.  The Amish store is situated on a paved road, below the crest of a hill..accident waiting to happen.  There is not a lot of traffic on it, but all it takes is one screw up.  Just as they were about into their lane, a blue pickup truck, flew in front of them, going at least 60 mph.  Both wife and neighbor were startled,  and neighbor sheepishly admitted she had forgotten to look to her right.

THEN,  as they were having this conversation, a semi barreled over the hill and passed them on their left…he too was flying, and had they been in an accident with the pickup truck moments before, there was little doubt in my wife’s mind, that the semi would have ran into all of them.

It is not my place to tell my wife, how to run her life, BUT I did suggest, she think twice about riding in the same car with the neighbor, if she is driving.

Wife had already made up her mind, that was the last time.  I suggested saying something sooner than later about the driving arrangement, before the next trip rolls around.  Both of us are pretty sure, our neighbor will not respond graciously when my wife breaks the news…Their next trip is coming up in a week or so…and neighbor reminded my wife on the phone yesterday, it was her turn to drive.  Wife didn’t say anything on the phone.

I always think, as much as possible it is better to have those kind of conversations in person, rather than over the phone, via e-mail, etc. etc.

Any suggestions on how to have that conversation and how you would word it?

As far as I’m concerned, she is an accident waiting to happen.  I can  very easily see this drive a wedge in our neighborly relationship.

Oh well.

Of Grit and Bone 6/10/2017

Read this earlier post if you’re curious about the title (Of Grit and Bone)

Monday evening of this week I had an encounter with a raccoon.

Back story: We have (4) laying hens.  I separated one of them from the rest of the flock recently because they had started to  peck on her.   In case you’ve never been around chickens, they really do have a pecking order and they can be vicious.   The chicken they were picking on is my personal favorite. She is a broody hen….(the impulse to sit on her eggs until they hatch.) That trait has all but disappeared from most chickens. As chicken breeds have been genetically manipulated and bred for specific traits (ie. fast growing for meat, or designed to lay lots of eggs, etc) one of the  unintended consequences has been they have lost their motherly inclination… Things are not any better when it comes to the roosters… by and large, they  have forgotten how to do their courting and mating rituals and  become brutish….Historically, farm chickens would do courting and mating rituals (much like a prairie chicken or wild turkey).

It is really rather disturbing.

Anyway, I went out before dark to lock up the broody hen and there in the doorway to the hen-house, was a raccoon. It  ran into the small area with my broody hen sitting on the perch, not three feet above.  I’ve never heard such a scream, and I’ve been around plenty of raccoons over the years.  It sounded almost demonic. Another (5) minutes and the hen would have been history.  I ran back into the house to grab my 12 gauge, but by the time I returned, the raccoon had escaped into the bowels of the barn.

 

Thursday morning, I got sucked into the middle of a domestic dispute.   Husband and wife were going at each other right in front of me.…and in an unguarded moment, I said something to the wife. She looked so broken and humiliated and said something about him doing this in front of me…

That was a mistake.

I know better….

Yesterday morning I wound up in the ER.   Got nicked by my skill saw on my forearm.  Could have been much worse.  Forty five minutes and three staples later I was back in the saddle.

After my trip to the ER, I crawled  into a 4 ft high attic  to move loose, dusty  insulation.  Temperature was forecast to climb into the 90’s  so wanted to get that part of the project done while it was still cool.

It took the better part of two hours…..reminded me of my days on the farm mowing bales of hay.  You would be covered with dust and chaff…absolutely no air movement.

Good thing I love my job 🙂

This morning my siblings and I went out for breakfast with my parents.  Dad celebrated his 85th birthday today.  What a gift to still be able to hang out with both of my parents.  I don’t take it for granted we  get along.  That even came up in passing while we talked. One of the branches of our family is relatively well off financially, but lots of interpersonal conflict. Before the old man died, he owned  7 farms.  Take a 160 acres farm @ $8,000 an acre times (7)…you get the idea.

How was your week?

Describe it in 10 words or less.  DM

Dealing With The Public

When I walked up to the Lowes contractor desk on Wednesday, I sensed tension….a lot of tension. (I am pretty sure I know why, but I am not at liberty to talk about it here.)

It had been a long morning for me as well.  My brain was fried.  I had one of those small projects where the homeowner hovered over me while I worked.   The icing on the cake was when it came time to collect.

Back story…

This was a small job.  The guy (let’s call him Bob) had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, almost died.  I worked for Bob last year.   In spite of his  sometimes cantankerous personality,  he’s grown on me, and when I heard he was seriously ill, I stopped to see him while he was still in the hospital a few weeks back.   He expressed a desire to have a little 16 by 16 deck built and wondered if I would have time  this Summer.

My thought was,  the guy had almost met his maker, and this was a great way to give him a little encouragement, so I worked his project into my schedule ASAP. Tuesday of this week we built the deck. Got done a day sooner than I had projected.  Asked him if he wanted me to come back on Wednesday because I had allocated two days for his project.

“That would be great,” he told me!

His parting comment to me when he handed me the check Wednesday was, ” Boy, I didn’t realize this deck was going to be so expensive.”

(When I work for Bob, it is on a time and material basis…he buys his own materials and I work by the hour.)   I looked at him and thought, you have got to be kidding me..….

He didn’t get the area ready for the deck like I had suggested…so in addition to building the deck, we also ended up leveling off and packing 6 ton of lime. That shot an extra hour and 1/2  the first day.

Here’s a picture of the deck after the first day:

And here is a picture of the finished product:

So Wednesday after lunch, went from Bob’s place directly to Lowes to order material for landscaping job to be done later this Summer….

Did I  mentioned I was tired? 😉

I asked one of the ladies standing @ the counter if I could set up a delivery for 100 bags of red mulch, 80 landscaping blocks and matching caps.

Well, they didn’t have enough red mulch to  do my order…they did have another product on hand but that would be another $.67 per bag…= $67 more… and this was a bid job…..oh well.

Because this was going to be a larger order, I asked if there was any chance they could work with me on the delivery charge?

The lady said she would have to ask the store manager…which she did, and he said, they would deliver for $25. (a $40 savings for me.)

“Could she  match the $3 price?” 

“Well I will have to check with the store manager again.”  she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.  (I just wanted to get things ordered and head home.)

There was some confusion @ the counter, as they tried to ring up the order.  They could not find me in their system  as a contractor.   I get regular e-mails from corporate, so I was pretty sure I was.

I could see one of the older estimators sitting @ his desk listening to me try to get things sorted out and he said, “Why don’t you just come here to my desk and I will help you.”

I had all of my notes with me, from when I’d originally looked up Lowes prices on-line…(the red 2 cubic mulch at that time was selling for $2.50 a bag…not $3 and certainly not $3.67)

So he and I  found the skew numbers for everything…and sent me on my way.

When I got home, I realized he’d sold me the mulch for $2.50 a bag.  He didn’t ask the store manager.  He just did it…a $117 savings and I did not raise my voice.  I didn’t whine, I didn’t rant.  I didn’t say, that’s not fair….nothing.  I was too tired to do any of that…. 🙂

There is definitely a lesson in all of that somewhere  😉

My heart goes out to those of you that work with the public on a daily basis…not just one cranky old codger @ a time (like me and “Hovering Bob”)…but dozens of personality types a day.

It has to get exhausting.

Guess who I am going to work with next time I need to get an estimate from Lowes…

Be nice to the customer service reps, the receptionists you talk  to, and yes, even the medical bill collectors. (I have a story about that I could tell you, but this is already getting way too long.)

Have a good weekend. DM

 

The Disease of Being Busy

Yesterday morning my son and I tried something new.

We’ve been wanting to spend a little more time together connecting in an unhurried fashion… Now that he too is a husband and young father, trying to make his way through this jungle called life, I appreciate having a relationship with him where he is comfortable and free to talk about whatever is pressing in on him….Early Saturday mornings work best for both of our schedules…I put on a pot of coffee (Starbucks/ french roast/ whole bean) and in the quietness of my wood shop we talked….everything from the deeply personal to vehicle needs and work. It did my heart good as a dad, and I sensed it left him just as encouraged.

I’m hopeful we will do this again..

Came across the following article just the other day, on the topic of business.  The first several years after we were married, even after the kids started coming along, as a firstborn, workaholic myself, spending some unhurried time just talking would not have fit into my schedule.  I’ve written about that season of my life before…I’ve been on both sides of the equation,  I know what it’s like to be running on empty, and I know what it’s like (now) to be able to have margin.

Trust me, margin in life is worth fighting for…..DM

_________________________________

The Disease of Being Busy

by Omid Safi (@ostadjaan), Columnist

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

  1. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

From this link:

https://onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/

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.”

___________________________

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