Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Farmhouse Frustrations of Fall

There are several things I appreciate about fall. 

Photo-worthy foliage.

The next generation of calves hitting the ground.

Honeycrisp apples from Meijer.

And most important: Ponchos that cover an extra five pounds.

Our culture goes cray cray over fall, and seemingly more so in the last five years. I’m not sure if it’s been the introduction to pumpkin spiced lattes or the re-introduction of ponchos, or phones with fantastic cameras and one-touch filters, but here we are, drooling over burlap and mums and flannel and cinnamon.

The burlap, mums, flannel and cinnamon fall seemed to have ended at our place about a week ago. Now we’ve moved into the real, frustrating fall in this farmhouse. Everything I've done to make this place Country Living-worthy is now rotting and and frankly, all of my ponchos are at the dry cleaner.

In October I parked my car in a ditch along a rural roadside and gathered as many hedge apples as I could before the anonymous homeowner returned home or spotted me and my plastic grocery bags whipping in the wind.
What? They were going to have to mow over them, anyhow.
I drove home and placed the seized hedge apples all over our house, in an effort to 1. decorate with a green punch and 2. keep spiders away.
On heat registers.
In window sills.
In the mud room sink.
By the washer and dryer.
Under the coffee table.
On the mantle.
Under the kitchen sink.
Along the basement and second-floor steps.
And other random places I’ve since forgotten.
I dropped these bad boys so many spots that the only way I can find them all is to follow the awful smell they’re now emitting, a month later as we enter the frustrating fall. I hope to have found all of the hedge apples by the time I hide Easter eggs. Lofty goal, but one Cody has set for me. 

There are two sides to every stink. 

Speaking of…
I’d like to think I’m fairly tough.  
I walk across gravel in heels daily.
I once endured braces and the world’s worst haircut simultaneously. I'd post a photo but I'm not that stupid. 
I’ve worn Spanx for more than five hours straight.

But when it comes to mice, I cannot mentally muster the strength it takes to even address these tiny refugees fleeing the cold weather and hiding in our home. 

This was a day that we had zero bounty. 
God probably thinks I talk too much. 

When Cody is out of town, trap checking becomes my responsibility. I get serious hand sweats before this exercise. Sometimes it’s the only cardio I do in a day.
Last week Cody bought a new set of traps, Jaws of Death, or something spikey, black and sure to do the job. Or so we both thought. 
The other night I was watching TV alone (I thought) when I heard a trap fire.
And then a tap dance routine ensue.
Game over.
Farmhouse For Sale. 

I had to clip the screen shot there. 
My response wasn’t ladylike. 
Or wife-like. 
Or humane.
It's hard to take "haha" advice from a guy texting me from a prime steakhouse a state away. 
To summarize, I told him we better just stick 
to the $.99/2 pack neck snappers that actually work. 

And another thing. 
Another thing that chooses our homestead to die during frustrating fall.
The flies. Everywhere. 
Listen, flies and orange ladybugs, I know you're tired. I'm tired, too. But you'd probably have a little more energy if you didn't zoom around lightbulbs for for hours on end. 
Chill. Out. 
Nothing worse than having to turn up the TV volume because you can't hear Angela Lansbury give her Murder, She Wrote final remarks due to the B-51 Bombers pinging off the lampshade beside your head.  Really quick way for me to lose my head. 
My favorite part of holiday decorating is candles in the windows. Looks great from the road. Welcoming, cozy and colonial. It's like a subtle sign that we're waiting for Paul Revere.


But from our internal view, it's carcasses everywhere, daily. 
I can barely stay ahead of the carnage. 

Late fall is tricky because the harvest dust finally settles; all over everything, inside and out. I’ve learned that the greatest way to address this “harvest glitter” (I’m an optimist) it just to throw things over it. Every time I see something that needs dusted, I transition directly from fall to winter and toss some festive berries. As I type this, our home is decorated with aging hedge apples, pumpkins, gourds, mums that died of thirst the same week I bought them and two out-of-place Christmas berry bushes. And it wasn't until I look photos for this blog that I realized I still have spring decor up, too. No sense in taking it down now. December is half over. 

I sure hope this is one of those entries my Norman Rockwell-reincarnated-mother gets too busy to read.

Make no mistake, I do love my favorite season of fall, it’s just that the hype and glitter flakes off when things start dying and the dust settles all over our furniture. But I guess that transition happens right in time for Christmas to roll in and rekindle the spirit of the season. 

Then I look at the example on our coffee table in which I'm determined to emulate:
 The December 2015 Country Living cover

And reality hits me: There is simply too much going on here. Where on earth would I find a place for the tiny refugee traps? And those popcorn strings would be like a welcoming feast for them!
I think I'll stick to reality and our regular farm house frustrations. 

After all, what would life be without them?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gut Check: Contentment

Unbridled, or tethered in tide, 
the safety of the fence or the danger of the ride, 
I'll always be unsatisfied

A few years ago I worked under a man named Forrest who insisted on bi-weekly "gut checks". These gut checks were his way of keeping a pulse on the business and the voices of his team members. Were we focusing on the things we should be? While there were weeks I didn't have much to say, there were also weeks that the punch in the gut was exactly what I needed: whether I originally believed that when I entered the meeting, or not. 

Fast forward seven years (time flies):
Sunday we sat down in the pew and I opened the bulletin. If you're feeling sorry for yourself, read through the church prayer list. Heart wrenching. 
The sermon headline instantly caught my skimming eyes: Are You Content?
Without hesitation I answered in my head, Of course.
I took notes throughout the sermon, anyway. 
I didn't know it then, but a gut check was on it's way. 

As it turns out, people can be a lot of things. 
But truly content? That's tough to accomplish. 

As it turns out, contentment is not a matter of circumstances, but rather a matter of attitude. Sometimes the most difficult thing we have to learn to do is separate what is really important or valuable with all the other "stuff" that can interfere with a content life. 
The family beside you. 
Your health. 
Home windows that don't sing with the wind. 
Someone you can count on. 
Comfortable shoes.  
The whole idea of taking assessment of those truly important things -  and learning to live with out life's frivolous perks - reminded me of the story I told some time ago about what is was like to grow up rich. Did you happen to grow up rich, too?
I was told once that if you can talk/text on your cell phone while waiting in line to upgrade to a new one, you're rich enough. 
How is that for perspective?

As it turns out, a guaranteed way to find contentment is to quit comparing yourself and your life anything.
To others'. 
To what might have been. 
To something you read in a magazine. 
To something you saw from a distance. 
To the what if that still burns inside you. 
How tough is this?  Daily we're surrounded with other people who seem to completely have it together. 
In the bank. 
At the house. 
With the family. 
Amidst the solid future plan. 
Where does that leave you and the 854 questions still left lingering in your head?
In a world where something - or someone - more is just a click or conversation away, it's no wonder we may find ourselves constantly seeking ways to find something better. 
Do something bigger, better. Are the most discontent people the ones who have to keep up with social statuses?
Go somewhere farther, more exotic. Are the most discontent people the ones who constantly claim that they need a vacation? Personally, I prefer a life that I don't need to vacation from. 
Be someone better, more exciting. Are the most discontent people the ones who never find peace within themselves?

That brings me to the final gut check:

Perhaps the greatest ways to find contentment in life is to find - and live - your purpose. 
Purpose and contentment are actually brothers, did you know that? And while they're not conjoined and the hip, you can usually find one with the other. 
Diving into your life's purpose can be the most terrifying, gratifying thing you ever do. It may take some time to find it. Sure, you're on this earth to love your husband or wife, be a teaching parent and keep the family unit operational. But is there something more? What is missing?

Where might you finally find that contentment? 

Maybe you're not making the income you hoped for. Work to improve yourself and your abilities. 
Maybe you haven't lost the weight you've let drag you down for years. Today is the day to get started. 
Maybe you're 1,000 miles from where you want to end up. Devise a plan to get there. 
Maybe you find yourself going back to what could have, might have, should have been. There  is nothing more empty than living in those terms. 
Maybe you walk through your house and dream of all the improvements you'd like to see made. Make a list and start saving your money. 
Maybe there is still a void. Pray about it. 

There is power in saying, honestly: 

This is where I am today. 
I am confident it will get better. 

It's strange that sometimes I can remember the exact moment that I got my name on the board for the very first time. Mrs. Baker's class. 1990. I was talking out of line. I told Kristen Sparks I liked her headband. I remember that as though it was yesterday. But other times I have a terribly difficult time remembering my purpose. And that's when discontentment begins to set up camp in my life. 

Sunday was the best gut check I've had in some time. Not because it was something I wanted to hear, but because it was something I needed to hear. 
I know that I'm happy, but am I content?
Are you?

We studied Philippians 4:10-13 
:: Thanks for the Gifts::

Oh, how I long to live this. 
No matter the circumstances. 

As a follow up...
I didn't post this on my regular Wednesday because I chose to honor America's Veterans by re-sharing a Veteran's Day post from 2011 that honored our small town hero, Tim

I'll admit: I was a bit hesitant to post this entry because I never want to come off as a sermon. I want this blog to be a lighthearted look at life's good stuff. Never stuffy. 

As I went about my Wednesday, I saw a Facebook post from a local family who lost so much as their nursery business went up in flames overnight last week. A daughter of the owner posted this update after visiting with her father about their immense loss:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Let The Light Shine

I learned this week that folks 
really get bent out of shape when you 
allow the light to shine in their windows 
just a little earlier every morning.

I'm just going to leave this right here...

The best way to avoid the worst in folks is to never mention Daylight Saving Time. Ever. 
I'm serious. Wowza. 
I've never seen the masses so angry about driving home in the dark. I mean, you know you have headlights, right?

This concept of Daylight Saving Time is not new. In fact, it roots back to something like 100 years ago.
I don't know for certain, I'm only 30. 
Anyway, the original reason behind "falling back" and "springing forward" was to 1. conserve energy and 2. make better use of daylight. 
Instead, we seem to 1. use our energy to complain about and fret over something we cannot control and 2. sleep away the extra hour of morning daylight. 
And we have a bazillion more opportunities for electric lighting around our condos/homes/farms/ranches than we did in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed Daylight Saving Time into law!
Yes, we are a weird species. 
Life, you know, is all about interpretation.

Beyond the counterproductive babble regarding a process created to deliver daylight to us earlier, what can we all learn from Daylight Saving Time?

Simply this: 

You didn't lose that hour of light. You simply have to rise earlier to enjoy it. 
Have you considered that?
While we get worked up over losing an hour (60 minutes. 3600 seconds.) of daylight in the evening, but it's not been stolen from us. It's been moved. 
It's still there. 
Go find it. 
Rise & Shine. 

And that's a good reminder of how short our days - I'm not referencing daylight hours - are. 
24 hours. 
To enjoy a show together. 
1,440 minutes.
To drive through the acres and reflect on what you've built.
86,400 seconds. 
To listen to your kids laugh.
That's it. 
A moment to ever to be seen again. 

Listen, I understand the early sky fall can be discouraging. 
I feed a black, mature bull twice a day in the dark. 
Some days sprinting from something I can't see - I can only hear - is the only cardio I get in a day. If it were still daylight, I know I'd feel safe knowing where his massive carcass was. But that's not the circumstance. And I deal with it. Even if I'm a 'fraidy cat. And I hate cats. 
Life, you know, is all about interpretation.

So don't complain when the sun comes up.
Be glad you're able to see it. An hour earlier this time!
Watch it. 
Live it. 
Check out the stars when they show their pretty little faces a little earlier of an evening. 
They've been so amazingly bright!
Don't bend the neighbors'/son's/teachers'/friends' ears about Daylight Saving Time. 
Appreciate that super early morning hug around the neck from your kid, won't you?
Simply let the bright morning light shine while you live

And until you agree with my message, here is another way to spring forward/fall back. 
Life, as you know, is all about interpretation. 

Let The Light Shine

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cold, Wet Blanket

Yesterday was cold. 
And quite long.
And wet. 
I drove home with my wipers on full blast thinking how the day left me feeling like I was covered in a wet blanket. 
Craving something dry and red.   
I was talking about my electric blanket, of course. 
Yep, I'm over 30, why do you ask?

I watched the 5:00 news and tried to give myself a pep talk about going out into the windy rain  to feed stock. 
I felt discouraged. 
I rarely feel that way. 
Where did this cold, wet blanket feeling come from? 
I tried to work through the recent worry on my mind. 

The ag industry seems to have had a wet blanket thrown over it in the last week. First, Subway makes the uneducated marketing stunt to veer consumers away from a child sex scandal and announces they will begin serving chicken raised without antibiotics. As well as source antibiotic-free turkey, pork and beef within a 10 year period. 

The entire announcement made the ag industry drop their five dollar footlongs and listen to the decision like a dog hearing a high pitched sound. Antibiotic free meat? We already have that regulation in the United States. If a producer sold protein with antibiotics in it, they'd lose their way of living.

Next came the non-scientific article from the WHO (cares?) claiming that bacon, hotdogs and other delicacies  may - possibly - might - cause cancer. Maybe. Not doing your homework before issuing a public statement is one thing, but throwing the "C" word around with those watered-down claims? That's just irresponsible. Do you know the fear attached to that word? The WHO does and they got the attention they didn't deserve. 
I celebrated their assumptions with a Nathan's that evening. YUM-O
But today let's talk about us, not an industry. 
Just a bit of discouragement - personally, professionally, emotionally, passionately - can quickly throw down the wet blanket. 
And it doesn't take much to land beneath it. 
Have you been there?
When you're simply wrong.
When you're completely too tired. 
When the meeting didn't go as you hoped.  
When you can't adequately express what is right. 
When someone doesn't know the truth you defend. 
When you're running out of resources,  at a loss for a better way. 
When you lose the encouragement to take better care of yourself.
When you're certain you deserve better, but you cannot find the backbone to declare it. 
Have you been there? 
Wet blanket and all? 
You are not alone. 
Stand up and and shake it off.

I bundled up and went out to feed. Only to find the spark I needed. The latest addition to our  farm was running circles around the herd. Through the rain. And wind. Covered - saturated - in a cold wet blanket of black hide. It didn't affect his spirit. And it need not affect mine. 

There will be dreary days of discouragement. 
There will be days of amazing light and grace. Hang on to those. 

Don't let that wet blanket distinguish your spark. 
Because it's fixin' to get cold and when those winter winds blow and Old Man Winter shows up at your door you're gonna need that spark. 
And some fuel oil. 
And a good chili recipe. 
Anything but a wet blanket. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Black Mistress

In the beginning - even before we wed - I picked up on his subtle signs.
Anxiousness when she was around. 
Mentioning her in random conversations. I used to hear him reference her and think, "How does she have anything to do with this conversation?"
Not being able to keep his eyes off her when they were in the same room. 

I brushed it off, thinking - the further we got into our relationship - she would just go away. 
I'll admit: I was one of those gals who thought getting married would change things. 

But things haven't changed since August 10, 2013. In fact, I wonder if they've not gotten worse. 
Every so often she still comes back to visit. 
She is incredibly enlightening. 
Always attractive and so put together - even after traveling hundreds of miles. 
She has a social life we - Cody and I - can only dream of. Is there any event she's not invited to?
She meets every expectation. And Oh So Well. 

But I've come to terms with it: the Angus Journal is the full package. 
And every month I have to compete with her for Cody's attention. 

1. He anxiously awaits their next encounter. 
Did you get the mail?
Anything good in today's mail?
Did you get the mail today?
Have you gotten the mail?
No, cray cray. I have not and will not get the mail on days that I anticipate that 390 page mistress with a gorgeous face waiting for me across the road. 
Angus Journal arrival days are like tiny Christmas mornings at our place. For he, not I. 
Just substitute wrapping paper with plastic shrink wrap and we're smack dab in the morning of December 25th. 

2. It consumes his attention. 
When the Angus Journal arrives, nothing else in the house matters. I could be on fire, tap dancing in the kitchen with a band of donkeys and I'm certain Cody would not hear me. 
Or, us. 

3. It opens up a whole new exciting, dangerous world to him.
The Angus Journal is kinda like some hot chick a college kid meets on a study abroad trip.
A world past beautiful Economy, Indiana or Council Grove, Kansas. 
Bold opinions. 
Industry insight.
Gorgeous photos. 
Intriguing stories. 
Outstanding pedigrees. 
Excitement and blaze and lust. 
Advertisements with photos and EPD's of cattle he suddenly must have. 

Silence is powerful. 
Ya'll see the backtracking in that message?
Guess who bought another cow with a "tiny" bid? 
Actually, he (we) made an awesome investment. 

4. He adores her, despite her faults. 
Some months she is 150 pages, other months she is 390 pages.
He doesn't care. He still gives her the same attention and adoration. 
It's exhausting. And disgusting. 

5. She makes his passion come alive. 
I know no one else more dedicated to the success and longevity of the Angus breed than Cody. 
He studies it. 
Breathes it.
Adores it.
Lives it. 
Loses track of time because of it.
Surrounds himself with it: We have Angus luggage tags, wine glasses, blankets and trashcans, for goodness sake. 
When CS sits down to sort through the Angus Journal, I know that his heart and mind are exactly where they should be: progress and passion. Our future. 

And that's exactly why I try to avoid catching fire and tap dancing with donkeys in the kitchen while he's with his mistress. 

I continue to dust around those darn (my mother-in-law reads this blog) Angus Journals and have never once used them for kindling. Though I've been tempted terribly, bless their glossy covers. 
That beautiful, smart, attention-getter is now a part of our home and our marriage. 

However, if she starts showing up with big hair wearing square toes, 
 knowing how to make a mean Mexi meal, 
we're gonna have a come to Jesus.

Wait. Did you really think this post was going to be about Scandal?