Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.¬† ūüôā

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Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. ūüôā

I would say:¬†¬†“Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.”¬†

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax¬†instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.¬† That was deep.¬† I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,¬† with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)¬† I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve¬† been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.

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A friend of ours  recently updated us about  her son. Son  lives on the east coast.   Both he and his wife have great paying stress filled jobs.  Just had a new baby, (that makes 3)  Son recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree, (while still working full-time.)   Made me stressed just hearing about their lives..  I know her son just a little.  Good guy.  I like him.

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Dad is 86.¬† Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.¬† Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.¬† We never saw him except on weekends.¬†Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.¬† I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in¬† dad’s priorities after that.¬† He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.

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It’s all about balance.¬† Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”¬† and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.”¬†

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

 

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.¬† I appreciate each and every one of you!¬† If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” ūüôā

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM

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Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.¬† The temperature¬† yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and¬† exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.¬† ¬†I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.¬† The learning curve is crazy steep.¬† I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.¬† Fortunately for me,¬† there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current¬† project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy¬† fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”¬† I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.¬† We¬†took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.¬† Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.¬† She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.¬† He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.¬† Great union benefits.¬† ¬† I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.¬† ¬†That is not the first time this has happened.¬† Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.¬† Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. ūüôā

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has¬† changed.¬† Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves¬† and our plane.¬† Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that ūüôā

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.¬† If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.¬† ¬†If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

The Persuader

A couple of Sundays ago a tour group from¬† Northern Germany was in our area.¬† The expressed purpose of the tour was to connect with long lost cousins who had immigrated to our area from about 1880 into the early 1920’s. My great grandfather and my grandmother, both on my dad’s side had done that very thing,¬† ( immigrated from Ostfriesland) so I asked¬† dad if he was interested¬† in attending a meet and greet¬† that Sunday.

Picture of my grandma on the deck of the Dresden  immigrating to America in 1929.  (She is 2nd from the right)

As we walked up to the pavilion, half a dozen older ladies that I didn’t know and a guy I did were sitting on a rock wall.¬† The German tour group hadn’t arrived yet so we stopped to talk.¬† Turned out the ladies were all 1st cousins to each other. The Barker clan.

I mentioned I’d worked with a John Barker back when I was 16. He was framing a house for my dad.¬† Turned out John was their uncle, one of ten brothers.

(Can you imagine???? One of ten???!!!!)

The wheels in my head began to spin.

I wasn’t sure how much to say about old John B.

These were all ladies, and John was long gone.

I remembered his thick German accent, his bib overalls, his big belly…He had a short temper and an infatuation with a word that started with “f”.¬† ¬†He lived on an acreage on the edge of town.¬† I graduated with his daughter Kristi.

His wife had the sweetest disposition.

It was always a mystery to me why in the world she’d married him.

I ended up telling them the following two snippets of information:

First one had to do with the¬†¬†German word for sledge hammer that John had taught me. He called it the¬†¬†“uben-schlogger”.¬†

Right away, one of the ladies (Barbara)¬† got excited, grabbed her German/ English¬† dictionary and tried to look up “Uben-schlogger.”¬† I knelt down beside her.¬† We found something close, but¬† weren’t quite sure.

Another snippet  I told them was about time John was roofing a big barn.

His helper was nervous.¬† Didn’t know if he could do it.¬† John, in his thick accent barked:

“Get up on the roof!¬† I command you!”¬†

You would have thought I was a rock star.¬† Everybody sitting on that rock wall was soaking up every morsel of those details of good old uncle John.¬† One of them (Denise)¬† was writing everything down in a spiral notepad.¬† She “couldn’t wait” to get back home to Texas¬† and share these stories with her sisters.

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The next Monday @ work, I was telling Jason about my encounter with John’s nieces.¬† He looked at me and said,¬† “John was not the one who told you about the Uben – schlogger…and besides, it’s not pronounced Uben -schlogger…it’s Uben schweiger” (the persuader).¬† We learned it from Thomas.” (Another young German¬†who worked with Jason¬†and I back in the early 1990’s)

I told him I liked my word better. ūüôā

We had a good laugh.

There I was, a lover of local history,  blending stories.  Something funny and not quite right about all of it at the same time.

In the end, I was able to track down Denise on Facebook.¬† Sent her a message, told her the story. Just in the nick of time she said. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to her sisters yet.

Early picture of me showing off with an uben schweiger:

The goal is to touch your nose with the sledge while keeping your forearm straight.

 

Who are you? Who am I? That all depends

Wednesday was a big day.¬† We are currently framing a 2000 sq foot addition and three stall garage.¬† I came home physically and mentally exhausted.¬† ¬†Wife is out of town for a couple of days, so about 6:30 in the evening, I decided to run to town to fill up with gas and grab something to drink.¬† (A quart of chocolate milk.) ūüėȬ† ¬†I hadn’t¬† gotten cleaned up, so I looked a little rough around the edges.

I have been buying¬† gas at this same¬† store for several years.¬† I am on a first name basis with several of the ladies I see in the mornings.¬† ¬†Since it was 6:30 in the evening, a couple of guys I’ve only seen once or twice were manning the registers.¬† As I walked up to the counter I said “How’s it going?” and even though I made eye contact with both of them, neither of them said a thing.

They just stared at me.

I put my check on the counter, asked what I owed them.

I was already just a little put off by their demeanor,¬† normally wouldn’t have given it another thought, but the guy who “seemed to be” in charge,¬† had an air of arrogance and condensation about him.¬† ¬† He bent over, put his elbow on the counter, looked at my check, looked at me and said, “Who are you?”¬†¬†with what I perceived¬† as a low grade sarcastic¬† tone in his voice.¬†¬†(My name is on the check.)

Several thoughts¬† went through my mind at this point…

What are you talking about???? I’ve been buying gas here for four years.¬† Your people skills suck.¬† I am tired and not in the mood for some condescending, dweeb giving me crap after a long day at work.¬† ¬†I‚Äôve¬† spent more time in this store than you have and frankly, you should be more professional.¬† Wonder if the manager who hired you knows what kind of jerk you are when she’s not in the store.

None of that came out.

Instead, I snapped¬†“Who are you?”¬†¬†

(That is so not me.)

It was at this point he face flushed,¬† step back, shook his head and realized¬†I wasn’t in the mood.

I pulled out my wallet and showed him my ID.

When one of my younger cousins gets a little upset,  his sentences become short.  He bites his words off.

I could feel myself starting to sound like my cuz.

I continued,¬†¬†You know, the girls in the morning,¬† are not nearly this testy to deal with.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said.

He mumbled something about me being the second person today who had said something similar.

Hummm….. ya think…

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I know it can be hard and draining to work with the public.

I do it myself on a daily basis.

In all fairness to him, he was only doing his job. (verifying me)

I’m seriously wondering if some of his attitude toward me was because of how I looked.

What I didn’t care for was how he initially attempted to intimidate me, because that is definitely what I was picking up.

A sense of humor can go along ways when dealing with people.

The tough guy stuff,  not so much.

Wife has a little ditty on our kitchen cupboard blackboard currently, that says,

Be careful what you tolerate. 

You are teaching people how to treat you.

He asked me a question, I ask myself on occasion…Just who am I?¬† Who is this person I occasionally see in the mirror? Am I the same person I was 25 years ago? (and the answer to that would be a resounding no)¬† ¬†The question is a great question.¬† The rub is in who’s asking, and why?

Have any good interactions with someone lately?  What made it memorable?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  DM

Honest Work

When my husband Matt was about ten years old, his grandfather started taking him to the family cherry orchards on Saturday afternoons.¬† Matt would work alongside the farm hands, whistling as he went, to let his grandfather know he wasn’t eating any of the cherries intended for the bushel. a full day’s work netted Matt 50 cents.¬† If his grandfather bought him a hot dog and soda, they called it even.

As a teenager,¬† his dad would call up from the breakfast table, “Two minutes!”¬† Matt knew better than to challenge – he was dressed, fed and out raking leaves or tilling soil before the sun had risen over the ridge.

I was horrified by these stories during our first years together.¬† I mourned for his lost childhood, thinking gratefully of my¬† Saturday mornings in front of the cartoons, slurping cereal.¬† After we were married, though, I noticed quickly he’d be done with his chores while I was still cursing over the dishes.¬† His focus was intense but cheerful.¬† He got the job done well and quickly because he put himself completely into the task – because he’d learned to enjoy honest work.

No matter if he’s cleaning the gutters or finishing a report, Matt embraces each project as an opportunity for expression.¬† His lovingly stirred spaghetti sauce says, “I feed and nourish our family.”¬† His well- weeded garden says, “I savor my connection to the earth.”¬† Through example after example, he demonstrates the key to happiness in whatever we do.¬† Matt’s lesson: All work – on the field, in the factory, or on the computer – can be honest and fulfilling, if we approach it from a place of devotion.

As Matt has shown me, honest work is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose.¬† ¬†Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too we are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick – or compost pile or database or cherry pie – at a time.

By Mariska Van Aalst from the book 50 Things that really matter

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My wife read this to me  this week, said it reminded her of me.

I’m sure our kids have stories to tell.

 

Daughter  pouring concrete with the Papa.

 

Never too young to start. (Grandson and I at his first pour)

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I was thinking about this essay on work again this morning.¬† We had an early Saturday morning cement pour¬†at my daughters house.¬† It was a small pour, as far as pours go…just 12 yards of concrete. (See photo @ beginning of this post.)

12 yards = 2 truck loads

Lots of friends and family showed up to get-er-done as they say. Cement truck got there at 7:15 and I was back on the road heading home by 8:30.¬† ¬† ¬†I love that my 60-year-old body¬† enables me to still do this sort of thing.¬† ¬† I did break a sweat, but the rush of endorphins kicked in 3 minutes after I started moving concrete.¬† I know there will come a day, if I live long enough, that I will leave the concrete work to younger men..but until then…

I’ll round this out with a couple of crew pictures…one taken when I was 19 and the second, this past week.

I love my job.

That’s me holding a can of Old Milwaukee back in the day

Crew photo from earlier this week, just after we finished hand setting (20)  30 ft long by 8 ft high garage trusses.

Later! DM

 

 

 

Aspirations

Got a call this morning from a guy named Dave.¬† ¬†Dave sells post and beam construction houses and is looking for a local crew to sub out part of a project.¬† Before coming to Iowa, he was in the military jumping out of air planes.¬† After that he worked¬† for a spell building million dollar log homes in Colorado.¬† Spent some time living off the grid out west.¬† Finally settled down and started a family.¬† Now he’s in Iowa.¬† His body is shot.¬† Got my name from the guy I’d gotten honey bees from last year.

I was telling my crew about the conversation at break.

Jason made the comment he’d love to start general contracting¬† larger projects.

I told him my aspiration, is to learn the art of consistently growing large onions. (I still haven’t figured it out.)

Learn how to consistently grow large onions and get a few laying hens. (again) ūüėČ

Ones that lay large brown eggs.

Nothing like stepping outside in the morning before heading to work, heading over to the chicken house for breakfast.¬† ¬†Eggs¬†that are still warm.¬† Chop up a large onion,¬† saute in butter.¬† Maybe¬† cook up a little bacon or ham,¬† Couple of eggs over easy....and coffee….dark roast.

Now that is a thing of beauty. ūüôā

.

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Fell into my life calling quite by accident. Been doing it for 40 plus years.¬† Intended to go to college after a working for a year for my dad.¬† At the end of that first year, I realized I loved construction. I loved what I was doing, and if I stayed with it long enough, it held out the possibility of making a decent income.¬† I love working with my hands.¬† Love using applied math to calculate roof pitches, stairs stringers,¬† estimates, etc.¬† ¬†I stick framed a¬† high-end¬† house roof¬† back in the 1990’s that had 27 hips and valley’s.¬† Two story, 12/ 12 pitch.¬† Yep.¬† Been there done that.¬† General contracted enough houses (5) to get that out of my system too.¬† I can give you several reasons why I would never/ ever general contract a house again. Sub out parts of it, absolutely. General the whole thing.¬† Nada.

I’m all about stress management.

Love it when the phone doesn’t ring.

 

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Came across the following  30 years ago and it continues to inform my choices:

“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil…for the Lord gives to his beloved sleep (or gives to his beloved in his sleep”)

(A Jewish scripture.  Psalm 127:2)

I’ve written on this topic multiple times. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

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If you were having coffee with me today,  how would you  answer that question on goals and aspirations (currently)?

I’m genuinely interested. DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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