Permission

Just west of our place, a neighbor has been building a new home.  I’ve been watching the progress since the cement was poured last Fall.  The curious thing is, there has been no activity for the past three months, Still doesn’t have any siding, nor roof over the front porch.  I heard this morning that the neighbor had fired the carpenter.  I’m not sure I believe it, because I have worked alongside this particular carpentry crew  multiple times, and they are first rate.

Pause.

I have a confession to make.

The thought (even if it turns out not to be true) that he was let go, gave me this strange happy peaceful feeling.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inside of me that wishes ill of this other tradesman.  I think it has to do with me feeling I’m not alone when it comes to work related drama.

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Yesterday I was installing a storm door for a repeat customer. Her name is Lisa.  While I was in the middle of hanging the door, Lisa came back to the house, muttering something about, “I’d lose my head  if it wasn’t attached to me…”

I said, “What happened? ”

“Oh, I went outside with a rag in my hand to dust off the kids swimming pool, and now I can’t find it. I’ve looked everywhere.  Must have set it down someplace.”

 

“Well, yesterday, I proceeded to tell her,  I misplaced a bank deposit in my truck, three checks, and a $100 worth of cash.  I had it in my hands, while I was filling out the deposit slip, set it down somewhere, (in the truck) and it took me five minutes (literally) to figure out where I put it.”

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I’d much rather hang around people who are willing to admit they don’t always have it together once in a while.

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I was about 16 at the time.  It was crunch time trying to get the oats in.  Dad had just brought home the large spoked wheels for his oats seeder from the machine shop.  (New bearings installed.)   Seeder was parked on the edge of the field while I disked.  On one of my first passes, I got too close to the oats seeder, and caught the spokes with the outside blade of my disk.  Turned the oat seeder wheel into a metal pretzel.  To his credit, my dad never said a word.

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Late 1980’s we were living in Northern New Jersey.  One of the families in our local church offered to let us borrow their Suburban when we decided to take a trip back to Iowa.  So there I was driving this expensive  borrowed vehicle as I pulled into a parking ramp in downtown Cedar Rapids. The gate went up, half way through the entrance, wife had a question.  I stopped.  The gate began to come  down.  I panicked/ hit the gas.   Gate goes flying in a half a dozen different direction.  Then a very large security guy stepped out from the guard shack….(things go blank after that)

Have I ever told you about the Amish butterflies we found in our pantry ?  I need to tell you if I haven’t already.

People that try to make out like they are  “perfect” all the time, can be really hard to live around.

Don’t be like that.

My point in all of this…  in case you need a reminder, or some encouragement, or a kick in the pants…

To be human is to be imperfect.

 

Amish Butterfy/  Google Image

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Moving off the farm

Picture of dad milking by hand/ early 1970’s

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Tomorrow is a BIG day.

We are moving my parents off the family farm.

I was nine years old when we moved to the farm.  Had never been around farm life before that, except for a few early memories of my grandparents farm (I was 4 when they moved to town.)

Growing up on a  120 acre working family farm shaped me in ways I will probably never fully appreciate.  Dad bought 20 Holstein milk cows when I turned 12.  Expressed purpose was to give us some spending money. (And keep us out of mischief.)  Milking is a two times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year activity.  Up close and personal with the whole cycle of life.   Learned about delivering babies, afterbirth, still birth, cesarean births,  the art of milking a first time heifer whose utters are on fire with mastitis.  Learned how to deflect the back hoof of an animal ten times my body weight, that wanted to kick the crap out of me, because she didn’t  like what I was doing to her.

Manure.  Could write a book on the topic.  Sometimes you just have to block out the fact, you are getting splattered with e-coli.

Doing chores… Climbing into a dimly lit haymow in the dead of winter, afraid one of the banshees from Darby O’Gill would appear at any second.

Winter mornings so stink’n cold my fingers felt like they were on fire.

I learned it was not a good idea to engage the power-take-off on the manure spreader with a 20 mile wind to my back.

I remember side raking hay,  singing along to the radio, in the middle of August listening to Band on the run.

Last month, I worked alongside a young man vacuuming hallways.  He  lasted three days. Told my son that his wrist was bothering him.  Said he had pulled an all nighter playing video games, and wondered if he could knock off an hour early. I felt sorry for him.  He doesn’t know any different.

Baling hay in the summer is still one of my favorite memories.  My job of choice was  in the hay-mow.  Our barn could hold 300 tons of hay if we packed it to the top.   (10,000 bales X 60# = 60,000# divided by 2000# = 300 tons) Over the course of a season, I would have handled every one of those bales at least once.    In mid July, in Iowa, the temperature gets into the upper 90’s, so it had to be 100/ 110 degrees in the mow.   We never gave it a second thought.   It was just a part of getting the crops in.  Working in those conditions shaped my attitude about the weather.

When our kids were still home, out of financial need, we started a small commercial cleaning business on the side. The older ones went with us in the evening and weekends as we emptied trash cans, scrubbed toilets, vacuumed and mopped the floors.  I wished we could do more to incorporate the chores of my youth, but we were living in town and a dairy cow was not an option….

Final story.  Look at that picture of my dad milking again.  See that fuzzy cat on the left getting  milk straight from the cow?    Come to find out, she (Fuzzy)  was a prize winning show cat. Had blue ribbons to prove it.   She used to hang around the lumberyard where my dad worked.  He thought she was a stray, so he took pity on her and brought her home. Year later, lady who lived close to the lumberyard happened to be visiting our farm, noticed the cat and mentioned she used to have a cat like that.  We never let on.

If you were a cat, would you rather spend your days  eating dry cat food or having a front row seat by the family cow?

You can take the boy (or girl) off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy (or girl)… thinking too about my fellow farm kid, MJ as I wrote this post.

You get extra credit if you can tell me the breed of the milk cow in that photo.

Later! DM

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Update 12 hours later…just got home.  Lots of great help. Went without a hitch.  Here are a couple of action photos:

Dad loading up the family picture 

The moving crew

 

She Warned Me This Would Happen

The following was written by my friend and former co-worker Chris.  This week the two of us spent three days building a fence at his house. It was good.  I asked him if he would have any interest making a guest appearance on the blog…. maybe write about our time building fence together, etc.   I know he stops by here sometimes, because he will occasionally shoot me a text on something I have written.

Please give a warm welcome to Chris…. 😉 DM

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She warned me this would happen…

With the arrival of our first, the past year and a half have been a blur and a blast. What was a wriggling, cooing mass of cuteness only a blink ago, has since grown in to an adventurous, yet shy, beautiful toddler.

This addition to our family sparked a seemingly endless chain of spiraling adjustments, to almost all reaches of our lives. With the new plateau of mobility and curiosity came a sudden realization that dangers we could once keep at bay were suddenly within reach to Felix.

Rather than test the limits of his name (Felix; fortunate, lucky, blessed), we decided to erect a fence around our backyard. As much for his safety as our enjoyment, this decision cued DM’s arrival on the scene.

We have history, this carpenter and me. At a time in my life when I was landing kitchen jobs and had been constantly on the move, my significant and I made the decision to move back to my hometown. Life for us had been an adventure for quite some time. With a youthful desire to not limit ourselves in any way, we had been burning the candle hot at both ends. Looking back, I know we learned and grew a lot through those experiences, but we both were in need of a drastic change.

He said he was looking for someone with no experience, and that was what he got. Those first few weeks were an eye opener for me- my emaciated frame had never known such pain! Parts of my body I had not known existed suddenly were screaming at me.

At the same time, I found myself suddenly having conversations with a man who had crossed life’s seas and knew all the knots. I remarked to my wife (girlfriend at the time) that going to work was like going to therapy. Quick with encouragement and laughter, in the middle of a trench or on top of a roof, I found myself wanting to rise to his level of Zen.

I learned a lot over those two years; to not shy away from pain, to reflect and introspect daily, the importance of taking a break, how to set healthy boundaries, time management, the list goes on. Unashamed to share personal trials and challenges, his level of honesty with himself and with me was something not yet known in my life. It was just what I needed. Without realizing it I was making the transition out of childhood at a point in my life that I can reflect on now as ‘just in time.’

Snap forward to the present. It had been quite a while since I had seen DM, and I was looking forward to our time together building a fence for Felix in the backyard. My wife jokingly warned me the day before we were set to get started, “You’re going to want to quit your job and start working with him again after this I bet!”

My frame is not so emaciated at this point in my life, but the pain was the same as on that first job site. I made the remark something to the effect that physical work is so much more rewarding than mental anguish. As my muscles were ripped apart yet again (from neglect, admittedly), I was reminded of the journey I had taken under DM’s wing all those years ago.

She was right.

 

Fence building week

The Talk

The past couple of months # 1 son and I have been doing remodel  projects together, projects that he had acquired.

This past year  when #1 son came back to work part time, I was the one who has lined up the work, and he was the helper.)

I caught myself a couple of times  the past month, possibly overstepping my role.  It happened again yesterday, so I decided to breach the subject this morning.  The last thing I want to do is cause him additional work pressure.

It is one of my few pet peeves…
Working with a “know it all.”

I have traditionally hired people with little or no construction experience, intentionally.  I would rather train someone to do it my way than constantly debate how to approach a given task.  It makes for a long day.

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The process of mentoring is not an exact science.   It is a lot like parenting.

You haven’t ask, but I will give you the short version of my approach to parenting:

The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job.

Then, at some point,  (changing word pictures),   just like the eagle, there comes a time to “stirs the nest”  ie.  Kick  young eagle out of  nest  where it’s flap or die… 🙂

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It is important to know when to speak up and when to let the school of life kick in. I’ve always been a big advocate of letting natural consequences play themselves out.  Told my young eagles early on, with a smile on my face, that if, in the event they found themselves behind bars, not to call looking for bail money.

Some of the most powerful life lessons  are the ones not learned out of a book…but I digress.

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Now that #1 son has begun to bid and line up work, I would rather err on the side of him asking me for my input rather than just assume he is looking for “suggestions” from his all-wise father.

The conversation this morning, went refreshingly well.  Son assured me, I had not (yet) overstepped my bounds.  He had not (yet) felt frustrated with me sticking my nose where he didn’t want it.  On the contrary,  he said, and I’m quoting now,  “It is good to have several pair of eyes looking at certain situations…one person may see something another person is missing.  It happens all the time in masonry work.” 

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Here are some  action work photos from the past:

Learning to do flat work.

Teaching how to use a hand saw 20 years ago.

Flying solo, cutting tile with a wet saw and diamond blade.

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Later! DM

 

Birthdays

Having a cup of coffee  with my mom on her 80th birthday.

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I have been thinking about how to mark my 60th birthday, which is in about a week.

For my 40th,  we had a big party.  Large guest list, lots of food, skits, gag gifts, black balloons,  the whole enchilada.

For my 50th,  wife sent out letters, far and wide to the people in my life, asking them to write a note…memories, things they appreciated about me, stories etc. bound them up in a keepsake book of memories.  Things  you might say about someone @ their funeral visitation but never get around to saying it. To this day, it remains my most prized possession. (I will come back to this in a moment)

For my 60th, my mind as been thinking about the book Tuesdays With Morrie, and his answer to what his idea of how to spend the perfect day.  Morrie was dying of ALS and he was having these powerful meaningful conversations with a young man he’d taught from college…

Here is where my thoughts are  so far. 😉

I am SO excited and thankful as this chapter of my life arrives.  Honestly, I love being at this season/ age of my life.  I’ve already lived a full, full life.  Still have much of the passion and energy I had as a 30 yr old, just tempered with life experience and wisdom. I feel like I am in the prime of my life.  Would not want to go back and repeat any of it.

I do not have any regrets.

I have been able to shed much (not all) of the people pleasing baggage I was carrying when I was 20.

I know myself.  I have a  pretty good sense of my strengths and weakness and can own up to both freely.

I have lived to see my children’s children.

I am in a vibrant relationship with  the same woman for almost 40 years.  That is no small feat, considering what a rascal I can still sometimes be.

I have checked off most of the things on my bucket list…(except running a mile nonstop, and traveling to the Highlands of Scotland, and Northern German)

Both of my parents are still very much alive, in the land of the living and both of them wrote the most meaningful letters to me for my 50th.  What more could I want…

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I have no desire for a large party this time.  I hope to take the day off of work.  Start out by cooking my own breakfast of little smokies,  2 eggs over easy,  fresh pot of Starbucks French Roast whole bean/ not ground) coffee, couple of pieces of white toast, with butter.

I have a new rifle I would really like to zero in.  Haven’t shot it yet.  Need to set up some targets/ 50 yards/ 100 yards/ 200 yards and fine tune it.  I had a gun smith zero in the scope with a laser but still need to take it out to the field. Don’t even  know how to clean it for sure so that will have to be part of that activity…..

After that, the day is still open until evening, when I hope to have a dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken/ extra Crispy/ dark meat.

(Oh, I know I am going to work a nap into the afternoon @ some point.  That is one of the life lessons I learned early into adulthood.  How to take a nap without shame.  How to turn off the workaholic old German that still lives in my head.  I’m going to do it, just to remind him of who is in charge….

Going to wrap out the day by renting a movie.  Wonder Woman.  I’ve watched the trailers multiple times.  Looks like a great “escape” movie. Regardless of what those Court Jesters in Hollywood say.

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And finally a shameless plug…

If you’re so inclined/ absolutely no pressure… I would love to hear from  you that are part of my blog family… tell me  something(s)   you appreciate about me….Real good chance your words will end up in my book of memories.  If you’d rather not leave your words on the blog/ shoot me an e-mail, or nothing @ all..that’s OK too. 🙂

Later! DM

 

Restoration of a claw foot tub part 1

This fall, the main cast iron pipe in our bathroom started to leak.  As it turned out, it was more serious than we realized. All of the cast iron pipe in the basement was literally disintegrating and needed to be replaced.  The bathroom as a whole has been in need of  attention ever since we moved here in 1995.    The lead paint  was chipping off the wall.  A purple, yellow and black color scheme that I never could figure out….  Soft spots in the  floor around the tub, that turned out to be 10 inch diameter holes under the multiple layers of linoleum.  It is a wonder someone didn’t take a ride to the basement.

Here is a before picture:

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I have always wished out loud, if we ever did remodel I  wanted suggested a  white claw foot tub with all the bells and whistles.  (Wife and several of her lady friends, have always said, the  purple tub must stay)

Here on the other hand, is what I had in mind:

photo by google

That’s what happens when you read too many of those Country Living Magazines. 😉

Well, once things got rolling  this Fall, it turned out the purple tub had to go…  (that’s too bad I thought) 😉

So  I had permission to start looking for a claw foot tub… came across one in need of some TLC on Craigslist for $60.  Sure it  looked a little rough, but that’s half the fun of it.

Today  I had a block of time and  was able  to cut loose with a wire brush attachment and start stripping.

 

Claw foot tub feet

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Well, that’s it for now.

Mostly just wanted to start a conversation about refinishing a claw foot tub with this post…

Stay tuned for updates.  DM

 

 

 

 

Mary Did You Know?

Mary started working for me in 2006.

To this day, she remains one of my favorite employees.  We lost touch after she moved back east.  I was thinking about her  yesterday as I was roofing.

At the time I hired her, I  was looking for one laborer.  She met all of my qualifications but one…

Needed to be able to carry an 80 pound bundle of shingles up a ladder.

We talked about that at the interview. She thought she could probably do it.  She told me her last job as an archaeological assistant  was very  physical. She liked working outdoors, in all kinds of weather, wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  In the end, I hired her and young man named Brady.   I knew Brady could handle the shingle lifting.

Like I said,  Mary came to mind yesterday as that Christmas song Mary Did You Know  was  flitting through my brain…

Couple of quick stories about Mary.

First week she came to work, she cussed like a sailor.  I didn’t say anything. Figured she just wanted to make a good first impression with a bunch of rough construction guys.  I used to cuss like a sailor myself, so I didn’t think too much about it.  About the 3rd day she came to work, she brought the cussing  up.  Seems she and her day care lady were talking about her new job working for me….(whom I kind of knew)  The day care lady went on and on about what a “good Christian man I was.”  (yea right)  so Mary  told me she was sorry about all of the “f bombs.”

I laughed.  Told her not to worry about it.  To my ears, they were just words.  I noticed a change  after that conversation. She became more relaxed and  genuine.

Few months later, we were heading to work one morning.  She told me to pull over, quick….  she was feeling sick.   Lost her breakfast next to a telephone pole.  (sorry)  When she got back in the truck, I asked her if she (quoting now) “Had one in the oven?” 😉

“Absolutely not!  It was probably a greasy salad dressing I had the night before.”  She said.  Well, me, having watched my wife go through pregnancy  four times  wasn’t convinced.

The time of day was suspect. The fact she didn’t have the flu made me suspicious.

In the end, I was right. 🙂

As we got closer to Christmas that year,  I could tell she was under financial stress.

No family in the area.

Pregnant…

My heart went out to that young family, 1000 miles from home.   I mentioned something briefly in an adult Sunday School class I was a part of.

“Wouldn’t be fun to pass the hat  in the spirit of Christmas?”   I told the class I would have to come up with a way to present it to her, because she was not a mooch.

There is nothing quite as much fun as being able to help someone out who really needs it, and who is not expecting it.  We ended up collecting  about $300 as I recall.   I gave it to her that next Monday morning before work.

She cried.

Said she couldn’t accept it.

Can’t remember now what I said, but eventually she  did.  The following week, more money trickled in…

I had to apologize and tell her I had more money for her.

It wasn’t my fault.  Someone else had heard about their situation and wanted to help.  I think I got a hug out of that one. 🙂

I’ve tried to track Mary down a few times since she moved but she’s fallen off the radar. She reminded me a lot of my eldest daughter Angie.

I’ll close with Pentatonix’s version of Mary Did You Know.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s generosity?

Have you ever had the chance to be on the giving end to help someone out?

Tell me your stories!

I want to hear about it!   DM