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

Substance

Read a thoughtful column last night from my favorite author Andree Seu Peterson titled Let’s Do Lunch.

I have to make a confession, Some of last nights column went right over my head.  Same kind of feeling I get when I try to read a poem.

But I did come away with a nugget and the realization I am not the only one who can only tolerate so much shallowness.

I can banter with the best of them, and love a good tease, BUT give me deep meaningful interaction anytime over shallowness with a guarded person.

(That is one of the biggest draws for me in the blogging…meaningful interaction)

An hour later I applied what I’d just read.

I got a random text from someone I don’t know all that well.    She had been watching  something on a TV series  and one of the characters  reminded her of me….

She wrote...”So and so reminds me of you…”

In the past, I probably would have just replied with something like...”cool…or neat…or thanks”… but because I am not watching that series,  I had no idea what she meant…

I wanted to know more.

I wrote her back…

I said, “Cool”..but then asked , “In what way did I remind her of so and so..?”

Her reply  left me  encouraged.

So much so, I made a copy of her words and hung them up on the wall overlooking my desk.  I have this habit of making copies of encouraging words and pinning them on the bulletin board overlooking my desk.

DM

 

Fired Up

 

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

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

It happened like this….

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

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

So we piled in the van and headed into town.

Everything was just as she promised.

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

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

“Not at all!”

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

Community building started right away…

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

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

Brewing artisan beer in his garage.

One question led to another…

It was fascinating.

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

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

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

Pause.

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

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

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

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

I really do want to know! DM

 

 

Mushrooms Aren’t Just For Casseroles Anymore…

When DM sent out a call for guest writers my interest was piqued, but my world is a bit dark right now and he specifically requested that no negativity be a part of any guest post. Even with some suggestions I just felt that I had nothing to say.

Then, in true DM fashion, he posted a story about one of his current interests, and along with that topic, began interweaving aspects of his past and present. Have you noticed how he can do that almost seamlessly at times? He’s also great at asking questions about his readers lives. And he really wants to know the answers. So because he asked about jobs, and because his question made me remember, I’ve put together a post.

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I was a teenager in the 1970’s. I think one of my biggest ambitions at the time was to own my own car. I had access -thanks Dad- to a very old, very ugly Ford pickup that I was allowed to use and drive to school. I parked that truck not in the school’s parking lot, but down the block so as not to be associated as the driver of that vehicle. Learning gratitude as an adult has made me appreciate the fact that I was given the option to use that truck, ugly or not. At 16 I could not easily understand just how lucky I was: Me, a rather nerdy girl just trying to fit in, was no longer a walker, or worse, a bus rider. I drove to high school, slightly embarrassed, but I drove.

However, I set out to purchase a car that was my own. That choice meant working at something more lucrative than babysitting. I had a steady, but very small, regular income from those jobs. I was even afforded a bonus from one of my regular babysitting assignments- chicken pox at the end of my Freshman year! Babysitting took a backseat quickly after that. Two very different jobs helped me to reach my goal.

Through a deepening friendship with my 9th grade Home Economics teacher, I not only watched her kids on occasion, but also began cleaning her house. Mrs. H was amazing. I never really said anything about my home life to her, but she knew. Somehow she figured out enough to realize that I needed a stable adult and someone who was simply available. Her husband was a football coach at the local high school. She had three daughters. They had horses, and dogs. I honestly can’t remember how often I would go to her home to clean but my motivation wasn’t all focused on money. They were the family I didn’t have. I loved it there. Somehow vacuuming and dusting and picking up after 3 kids and scrubbing showers and toilets didn’t seem so bad.

Through this job, I was able to find more clients. A few things stand out about some of those jobs/clients.

-My very first encounter with a refrigerator vegetable bin so neglected that the old vegetables had turned to a gelatinous, stinky mass in the bottom of the bin.

-A stove with oven and burners so caked with crud that no matter how much I scrubbed, it never came clean.

-Shower scum. Thick shower scum and grout mildew. I would sweat trying to clean that stuff. It would have made sense to actually clean naked and then take a shower when I was done.

-Cream of mushroom soup, utilized as a stand alone bowl of soup to be eaten for lunch. I knew cream of mushroom soup. My mom used it in tuna noodle casserole. I never knew that anyone would serve it for lunch. In a bowl. By itself. To me. It took me a long, long time to eat anything with mushrooms after that.

-Ironing. So much ironing. Except for underwear everything this family wore ended up in the ironing basket. I ironed upstairs in a small room. This elicited more sweat.

-Cat hair. Dog hair Cleaning stairs with cat and dog hair wedged into corners and crevices.

-Fear. Somehow I accepted a job cleaning for two guys. As my first meeting with them approached and I drove to their home my radar started alerting. Somehow I managed to ‘inadvertently’ get lost and just never show up for that meeting. I never scheduled to go back.

I also spent two summers working as a cashier and customer service rep. Many things stand out still about this job and this post is running long as it is so–

Was it easier than cleaning houses? Of course. Did I feel grown-up? You bet. Did I earn my way into this job? Nope, and I am not proud of the fact that my position came about as a direct result of privilege. My dad was a manager in the company. What do I remember most about this job? 1. Learning to drink coffee at break time with lots of sugar and creamer because that’s what the other adults did. 2. Sexist remarks. I was 17. It was the late 1970’s. I worked with men who had very high opinions of themselves and their skills. Enough said.

In the end, I got my car. I was the proud owner of a 1969 Buick Skylark 2-door Coupe.

buick-skylark-1969-4

Worker Bees…a meditation

honey-bee-flowers

Google Image

The life expectancy of a worker honeybee is 6 weeks.

Just 6 weeks!

Do you know what eventually kills her?

She dies because  her wings wear out, and she is unable to get back to her hive.

This past Thursday night  was my first bee keeping class.  I enrolled in a  6 week, 18 hour course titled First Lessons In Bee Keeping.  Class didn’t start until 6 PM.  I didn’t get home until after 9:30, which is way past my normal bedtime, so you know I’m motivated. 🙂

By the end of these six weeks, I will know whether or not I want to take the plunge and become a bee keeper.

Here are a few more bits of bee trivia….

In a healthy hive there can be, between 60,000 to 80,000 worker bees at the peak of the season.

A healthy queen honeybee may live 2 to 3 years, although due to the chemicals on plants these days, you’ll be lucky if she makes it a year.

There are 3 different types of bees in a hive:

A queen,   the worker bees and the  drones.

In a good year, you can expect to harvest 40 to 80 pounds of honey off of one hive.  Last year our instructor Bill told us, was not a good year.  He averaged  40 pounds of honey per hive. ( He has 300 hives.)  A gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds.  Bill recommended a minimum of 2 hives for starters…for reasons I am not going to get into here…but even if it was a bad year, that would potentially = 80 pounds of honey or 6 and 1/2 gallons of local honey.

Side note- this past year we have made the transition from white sugar to honey.   Not going to go off on a bunny trail right now, but the more I learn about  the white pure cane sugar many of us grew up on (and  corn fructose)  the more I am motivated to replace those  sweeteners poisons with honey.

 

” Anyone can plop a bee hive out in the back forty over the summer.  You are not a bee keeper until your bees have survived through the winter.”                Bill the bee keeper

Pause

And on a related note…

I did not get home until 2:45 AM this morning.  Went in to work at 11 PM last night to clean, then set up a banquet hall for a Ducks Unlimited meeting.

I’ve always said, if I had to, and work was slow, I would go to Hardees and flip burgers.     Well, I finally got my wish 🙂

Construction work is  slow.   I have a friend who works part time for a commercial cleaning company.  His boss told him, if I ever needed work, to give him a call.

So last night I got up close and personal with all of the toilets, sinks, and urinals in a 400 seat conference center, as well as an introduction to dry mopping, and reading a table placement diagram.

Last night the story of the Prince and the Pauper flittered through my brain…You remember that story right? A prince and a pauper trade places..and each gets to experience life in a whole new way….

Here I am a self-employed business owner, used to hiring and firing, bidding work, collecting, dealing with customers, and all that goes into being self-employed…

and last night…

I was a worker bee.

(Notice I didn’t say “just” a worker bee.)

There is nothing  degrading about cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Talk about job security.

Woke up this morning with a song in my heart.

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Tell me about some of the types of jobs you’ve had over the years..(even if it was 50 years ago)….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…

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.