Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Long Road Home

I hurried out to start my car yesterday morning. It needed to run several minutes before making the twenty-five minute trek into the office. Not exactly July in Indiana, you know. 
Same routine, same idea, same old predictable same.
But on this particular morning I arose early to get to the office for some added responsibility due to a meeting. 

Then, I lost my footing on the sidewalk and was forced to slow down. 
Whoa, I had forgotten it was going to freeze over night. Weather gal wasn't joking. What an inconvenient day for an icy ride down Highway 35.
Immediately, I thought about everything I had yet to do before noon: 
Make the rural trek in. 
Sort copies. 
Data sort customers. 
Update spreadsheet. 
Print all files for appropriate members. 
Print labels. 
Box documents. 
And at some point, address overnight emails and voicemails. 

Time was of an essence - and if I could make it back to the house without breaking my tailbone - I was going to capitalize on every passing minute. 
I did. 
I rushed to change my boots. 
I hurried the lunch packing. 
I started the coffee, then got frustrated that it percolated slowly. 
For just a few minutes, I patiently listened as Cody said our PS savers. 
I grabbed my bags, lunch and water and rushed back down the sidewalk. 
Slipped again.
Only worse. 
I was again annoyingly forced to slow down. 
I reached the end of the lane only to get behind a car, behind a truck, behind a semi. 
"Really don't have time for this," I said to myself. If I hadn't started Cody's coffee, I'd be in front of that semi. 

Our caravan made it five miles before the leader of the pack - the semi - slowed down abruptly. I thought for a minute maybe a deer or an officer had slowed his pace. But the semi continued at the twenty-under pace for several miles. What did he see that I couldn't?

Miles later we - the pack of job-bound cars and trucks behind the semi - reached the small town of Williamsburg where our route was redirected by a Sheriff. Accident ahead. We rerouted through the rural town and ended up coming out just 100 yards from the scene of the route-changing head on collision with entrapment. The IU Health helicopter was there, awaiting passengers.

(Photo by Matt Monnig....continue reading to learn more about that)

I was sick, enough to roll down my window in need of fresh air. 

As slow as a funeral procession, our caravan climbed the hill parallel to the accident scene. I made it to work just fine, not thirty minutes early, but rather seven minutes after eight.  
Seven glorious minutes. 
I don't know how women can't keep mascara in their car console.

The PS Prayers were good to us. The meeting went well, the day was brief but a good one. I had a dentist appointment at 4:15 and that's a blog for another Wednesday morning. No cavities, but enough content to suffice. 

The long road home was different.
I cautiously made my way back to the homestead after work, eyes forever scanning side ditches and cross roads. A heavy fog had set in and familiar landmarks were getting more and more less visible, let alone the vehicle directly in front of me. I remembered the morning commute and took my heel off the gas. I had all the time in the world. 

I made it home without trouble just in time to help Cody feed the cattle and meet the new kid on the block (a heifer). And also give a pep talk to some young mothers about their role once they were allowed past the gate.

But then, as generally done when given a few minutes to stop and reflect, I began thinking back on the day and how it completely parallels so much we experience in life:

Fiercely rushing through a morning - or day? Week? Month?
Darn near busting my ability to ever do a back handspring again. 
(Just kidding - that happened in 8th grade when I never actually could physically do a back handspring. Ever.)
Annoyed by a row of three (only 3!) vehicles slowing my progress. 
Curious about Someone (in this case, a semi driver) who might know better than I. 
Then, on the return trip home, uncomfortably watching for familiar signs that weren't there. 
White knuckled with anticipation of an unknown outcome. 
A heavy fog nearly able to erase any familiar comfort or knowledge of a place we thought we knew. 

Do you get it?

The Long Road Home is not one for the faint of heart. And as I type that, I'm not referring to anything that has to do with asphalt or passing lanes. 

The Long Road Home is about 
realizing that the living is not in the rush
The Long Road Home is about learning that 
patience is one trait that will be used more often than it will sit on the shelf.
The Long Road Home is about 
understanding that it is okay to learn from those in front of you. Take notes. Heed their warnings, disregarding pride. 
The Long Road Home is about 
learning patience as you wait for signs that you think are to come. Or should come. Or will come. Or, may never come at all. 
The Long Road Home is about patience. 
The Long Road Home is about
letting go of what you thought was to be, and accepting what is. 

Sometimes, the path - that one that we might deem dreadful and discombobulated - is the long road Home. 

It's life. 
Perhaps not the one planned, but rather the one designed specifically for us. 

Either way, you're going to need sunglasses to deflect the snow and maybe a double shot of patience to get through the upcoming years. Trust me. 

On a oh-so-ironic side note, the IU Health helicopter that began the entry of this blog, ended up landing in my cousin's yard in Ohio later yesterday, due to ice. You can read more - including little Cora's perfect, brief media response - here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Penny Pincher

I don't always pinch pennies with the likeness of vice grips, 
but when I do it's on necessities and comforts 
such as food and toilet paper. 

At one point last weekend, I set out to pick up a few things. 

Besides the extreme pressure and anxiety I feel during check out, I love shopping at Aldi. They carry almost everything I need, their selection has more than doubled in the last two years, they have unbeatable prices and the store is small and easy to navigate. Avoid that place on the first day of the month and it's an even better experience. I can reorganize stock in search of empty boxes with the the very best of them in order to get $1.79/gallon milk and Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc at $6.99.
However, without fail I get so nervous during check out. 
Is there a cart at the end of the belt?
Should I push my cart around? 
Will I get my quarter back?
Is the cashier in a good mood?
Is there space for me at the packing counter?
Who is behind me?
Why are they buying so much beef jerky?
Why didn't he put a divider between our food? I am not buying his beef jerky...

"How are you today? $34.28. Cash back? Have a good evening."

Where am I?
Did I already pay? 
Before I know it, the cashier is pushing my cart out of the way and asking the Jerky Hoarder how his day is going. It always happens so fast. It's like the Soup Nazi experience of grocery shopping.

After my blood pressure lowered from my Aldi experience, I stopped at the Amish Dollar General to pick up other things I had on an imaginary list somewhat stored in my cray-cray head. The Amish discount store has a reputation for great prices on all items, if you can get past the cosmetic shortcomings...

Last summer I bought two coral Maybelline lipsticks, one each for Momma and I. They were only $.80 and looked great if you could get past how bad they made your lips burn. I also bought Cody a 50-count One-A-Day men's vitamin that was only a couple months expired. Fifty vitamins for $1.50, regularly $8.00! He has yet to break the seal on the vitamins, but I'm optimistic that 2015 is the year. He mentioned something about sterilization. I don't really remember. 

Anyway, while I roamed the aisles aimlessly like a lost child, I was thrilled to find Italian seasoning by the case, two pounds of butterscotch chips and bananas - none of which I had even thought of prior to entering the store. I came in to look around and went out with $.03 change from a twenty dollar bill. 

Minutes later (the real problem with each of these places: convenience) I reached the homestead and began to make trips into the house with my newfound treasures. 

I walked back outside after trip number one to see Cody staring blankly into the back hatch of my vehicle.

"Please let me you did not buy food at either of those places. Tell me you only bought cleaning supplies."
"Food and toilet paper," I responded, holding up my 18-double-roll-super-pillow-plush toilet paper purchase. 

"Linds," Cody said while studying the purchase, "that has tire tracks on it. It's been run over by something."

(UGH! He's such a details guy, I thought to myself.)

"I saw that, but I just need to reshape it then store it somewhere where with won't regress. It only cost like eighteen cents per roll. You can't put a price on that!"
"Yeah, I can. It's eighteen cents....on roadkill toilet paper."
"Oh, there are worse things," I continued as we carried the groceries in. I was trying to think of worse things, but the more I looked at our little flattened rolls of roadkill, I couldn't think of much. Between you and I, I'll never tell Cody that. How was I supposed to get those on the spool? 

"Uhhh, are these bananas?" he asked once we reached the kitchen.
"Uhhh, what else would they be?"
"Did you really buy midget bananas? They're already starting to brown. Why would you buy bananas with cheetah spots already?"
"Because they were thirty-cents per pound compared to sixty-six cents. You do the math." 
And then Cody said something under his breath that had absolutely nothing to do with math. 

That night we had had some good friends over for dinner. I opened the freezer and my two-pound bag of butterscotch chips hit the kitchen floor, busting open and scattering like hundreds of ants scurrying across the linoleum.
I - along with six others - dropped to my knees and started scrambling to snatch up the tiny pieces, one by one. 
"Do you want to save these?" Timmy asked as his long arms extended to corral the rogue candies.
Before I could even open my mouth, Cody yelled, "No! We're tossing them." I didn't even have a chance to ask everyone to put them in a bowl so I could rinse them off for a refreeze! Darn that Cody, always looking out for my reputation. The next few minutes were a haze. With every chip I heard ping into the trash, I simultaneously heard a dollar cha-ching!
Something like $3.00 down the drain. 

Days later and I've found that my pinching pennies did nothing for patience. Being run over by a Peterbilt should have been the least of our concerns when it comes to the toilet paper. These roles are somehow triple-layered, mismatched, uneven and basically a really big pain in the the....neck. One minute we're trying to get a few squares, the next it's like the entire bathroom floor is covered in shreds of paper and half the "value" roll is gone.

Oh, and - the 18-pack value pack only had 16 rolls in it. 
Darn those Amish, always doing things their way. 

The way I see it, I'll continue using my vice-grip-money-saving-practices, like buying a case of knock-off Windex with twelve broken spouts, until one of two things starts happening:
1. Some discount salad dressing that was a victim of an I-70 fender bender causes our hair to fall out or
2. Cody starts doing the grocery shopping. 

See you Saturday at the 
Amish Dollar General, Bertha Yoder. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

If The Boot Fits

If I ever go missing I'm certain my disappearance will first be noticed when I miss a Wednesday blog. 
Thank you for the texts, calls and emails checking on my well-being. Read assured, I was overwhelmed with responsibilities last week, not tucked in a dumpster at a truck stop along I-80. 

Back to 7:00 am Wednesdays...

It's been another frigid few days in Indiana as below zero temperatures and snow coated the area. Per the usual poor timing, Cody was out of town judging the San Antonio Stock Show and really missing out on all the fun back home. Someone hand me a towel, that last sentence is dripping with sarcasm. 

Frozen valves on electric water tanks, calving cows and heifers, frozen pipes in the house and wind so strong we lost siding. Oh, and I watched our 16-month nephew for the weekend, which ended up being the absolute highlight. And in all of my free time I went to work at my real, full time job. 


On Monday evening I went in the house to change into my barn clothes. I suited up, complete with insulated everything, and traveled back out to the barn. I couldn't help but notice the stark differences in my tracks into the old homestead and my tracks out. One reflected the wedge boots paired with slacks and a blouse worn to business meetings throughout the day. The returning tracks represented a pair of Muck boots full of already-cold feet and three pairs of socks.

Such different roles one person can - and must - play throughout the course of a day. If the boot fits, I thought to myself. 

How many different boots do you wear throughout the day?

The teacher turned housekeeper?
The lawyer turned peacekeeper?
The nurse turned one in need of attention?
The banker turned rancher?
The politician turned introvert?
The geneticist turned cook?
The shining star turned coward?
The thought leader turned dreamer?
The designer turned addict?
The addict turned father?
The pastor turned event planner?
The optimist turned pessimist? 
The wife turned actress?
The stockman turned salesman?
The trainer turned glutton?
The stay-at-home mom turned financial analyst?
The assistant turned boss?
Or better yet: The boss turned assistant?
Or do you wear so many different boots that you can't keep track?

And why do those boots change?
Well, for me: I just don't think our CEO would appreciate me tracking calf placenta from one end of the office to the other. 

But other than the obvious - why do we change the boots we wear in a day?
We want to. 
We need to. 
We're made. 
We're asked. 
We're demanded. 
It pays the bills. 
You're too afraid not to. 
It's expected of you. 
You've never questioned it. 
You know no other way. 

A person will wear a lot of different boots in a day, let alone a lifetime. My challenge to you is recognizing those boots and the relevance they provide in your life. The rhyme, the reason. 
What boots can you put in the toss pile?
Which ones should you put on more often?

I returned home from work convinced there was no need to change out of my manager heels and into my work boots. Cody was home from Texas and he would likely spend hours well into the dark outside catching up on things around the farm. 


He gave me a beautiful Charlie Favour cuff and and undebatable invitation to slip into something....- warmer -....and come back outside to help him thaw the ears of the newest baby, born at -6ยบ. 

"Don't forget your hair dryer!" he called across the barn lot. I made the familiar trek up the sidewalk.

At some point in the last twenty four hours I've taken off the manager boots and slipped into assistant - finally and thank goodness. 

I was getting half concerned that I'd have to learn to tag calves in heels to improve efficiencies. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ten Years Later

“It’s amazing what a man 
thought was important enough 
to keep ten years ago.”

Cody made this statement last Saturday as he threw a toolbox down in the yard in an effort to clean out his office. You would think – after moving from Kansas to Oklahoma to Michigan to Indiana – he would have sorted through the contents in his office over the last ten years, several times. 

I guess sometimes, amidst the spirit of a move, emotion allows us to easily overlook the tossing, and encourages us transport everything to the next “home”.

Beautiful Economy, Indiana is the last place the pieces of CS' life stopped, and we aligned our calendars to find a day that we were both actually home - on the same day - and decided to sort. 
Oh boy, did we sort.

Kansas City Chiefs art from the early 1990’s
A Viking helment

Puppy collars for dogs no longer around
Bovine lubricant by the gallon
File after file of things studied at Oklahoma State University

Angus Journals from 1999
A party cone hat - identical to the one below

First pay stubs
Registration papers from cows that first calved in 1994
Letters from gals I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting…

All things important enough to keep ten years ago.

The next day, during the Super Bowl I mentioned to Momma how we had spent our Saturday.
“Oh, was it tough?” she asked, thinking of all the memories being tossed.

By the way:
(I know with confidence (I texted her yesterday to confirm details) that Momma still has Laura’s baby teeth wrapped in tissue paper inside a ceramic jar , a splinter that was plucked from Luke’s little body after a furniture incident and my baby book. Granted, my book is still wrapped in plastic and hasn't been tainted with a dot of ink in thirty years, but she kept it, nonetheless. Tossing doesn't come easy for Momma.)

I responded:
“No, it was mostly Cody’s stuff so I had no problem tossing it,” said the helpful wife. “I did find a box of my birthday cards in the file cabinet I had forgotten about. I put them in plastic and moved them to the storage barn. I have no idea where they’ll go when we decide to clean out the storage barn….” 
My focus drifted to guacamole.

Some things are pertinent to have around in order to get through particular stages in our life. I'm certain Cody couldn't have made it though undergrad or graduate school without a viking hat. But just as time changes paths, it changes priorities,  too. 

Ten years later, I’m not just speaking of “stuff” that may be kept around.
What about the other things we had ten years ago that we’re still in possession of?

Ten years ago, which of these things 
were you desperately keeping within you? 
Which ones are you still carrying, today? 

Some things are important enough to keep.
To store.
To preserve.
To still find among – or within – us ten years later, soliciting a memory.
And others are better left in the past. 
Or the burn barrel. 
Sort wisely. 

Anyone have a burning desire to learn more about Prairie Chicken Management in Oklahoma?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Enough Already, Please

My recent flight home from Denver was restless. Returning from a whirlwind weekend full of stock and little sleep, you would have thought sleep would come naturally. I think it may have been because my friend Emily was sitting next to me. 
She's thirty.
A mom.
Can still do a back tuck. 
And, I think she wears the same size jeans that I did when I was in sixth grade. 
The last thing I needed was for her to see me fall asleep on a plane: bent neck, mouth wide open and the occasional bobbing head
I sat straight up in my seat, set Mike Ryan up in my earbuds and found something to read. 

I'm glad I did. 

I read the Southwest magazine and found a like-minded writer who says it better than I. Inside was an article that confirmed something I've believed for a long time:

The downfall of the 
latest generation is 
the misconception that 
participation trophies 
benefit kids. 

Below, I invite you to read more of the article that kept me awake when my body needed sleep. It is written by Heidi Stevens, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune and the author of Balancing Act.

The story begins on page 62 and is one of the most well-written pieces I've read in some time.

If you're not able to view the PDF below, you can click here the view the story. 

Let me know - do you agree?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On The Mic

Late Thursday night - in time to miss the Angus show - the big bird in which I was snoozing touched down in Denver for the National Western Stock Show. After being one not there for more than a week, there was no place I'd rather be. I was fortunate to even make the brief trip; I daily thank God for selflesshard-working parents

Walks through the historic yards, spending a few hours with our beautiful nice Bayler, visiting on the Hill, shifting weight the in green cheap seats, dodging tourists throughout the barn, breakfast burritos, watching Cody judge the breed I adore,  laughing with Katie from Fancy In The Country, reconnecting with old friends and red beer. This summarizes my quick trip.

But looking past all of the events watched, places seen, ounces consumed or money spent, something really struck me during this particular visit to the Mile High. 

Whether or not I recognized a showman or judge in the ring, I listened intently to reasons given by each livestock judge. 
Soundly structured. 
Heavy muscled. 
Nicely balanced. 
But I was captivated by the closing remarks which each judge made just before they chose the champion animal. The winner of the 2015 National Western Stock Show. What an honor. 

Every judge that I watched thanked particular people out of their life who got them to the place in which they spoke from today: Credible enough to judge the The Super Bowl of Stock Shows, humble enough to accept with gratitude. 
In that moment, the appointed judge had the microphone and the attention of an entire international arena. What did they do with it?

They each - in length -  justified their selections, then very briefly gave credit where credit was due. 
One thanked his wife and boys for working so hard in Texas so he had the opportunity to travel to Denver. 
One thanked his parents back home - watching the show online - for raising him the in industry that would go on to fuel his burning professional passion.

One thanked stockman showing in the opposite ring; for it was the folks in the other breed that raised that particular judge. 
And I heard one thank his wife for everything she does at home. 
She heard his deep voice crack with emotion and that was enough 'thanks' for her.

Each of those individual closing remarks initiated a tennis ball in my throat and mental notes.

If I were given the opportunity to speak at an international level in front of an industry that has become a passion, who would I thank?

Who would I mention on the mic?

It had to be someone who 
ignited a fire
fueled a passion
was a quiet cheerleader
supported you despite your shortcomings
never stopped inspiring 
showed forgiveness
was patient
was open-minded

If you were given the microphone, 
who would you thank?

And, I'm not just speaking in livestock terms. 
a teacher
a mother
an enemy
an advisor
an executive
a father
a person you've never officially met
a competitor
a soul mate you hate
a manager
a sister
a severed friend
a stranger you need to find again. 

You may not have a microphone, but don't forget to thank those who influenced where you are today - in large part or as a silent motivator. 
Send a letter. 
Make a phone call. 
Shoot them a text. 
Shake their hand. 
Thank God you had time with them while they were around. 

Because you and I both know:
Where ever you are today,
you didn't get here alone. 

Thank you, Legacy Livestock Imaging and Bailey Core for the photos. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Ones Not There

I had a friend text me the other night while he was feeding cows in frigid temperatures. He had just read The Stockman’s Wife and wheels were turning:

Just thinking...1 of ur blogs could be about the 1s not there?

His message was cryptic, but I understood it perfectly. He was one of them, as was I.
I responded with frozen fingers:
"love if.
I was cold, my fingers hurt and my phone was frozen.

If you’re connected to the livestock world even the slightest bit you know that the National Western Stock Show in Denver is currently going on. Fifteen days of history, livestock, competition and red beers. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  

Three years ago today (crazy) it was at the National Western that I met my husband.
Four years ago this week I passionately documented the experience of The Yards.
Nine years ago this week I found it as a place to reconnect with my Dad.
Today I’m on of those not there. The same with a lot of folks.

So what is life like during these fifteen days for those not at the National Western?

The ones not there send those who are away with food. Road food. Chex mix. Cookies. Beef jerky. Vitamins. Advil. And Five-Hour Energy. The road to Denver is long, windy and unusually munchie. 

The ones not there add Denver, CO to their Weather Channel app so they can stare at the 50° display on the screen while they’re chipping ice off their windshield. Gluttons for punishment. 

The ones not there have the rare opportunity to stand in the barn lot with their Dad in the quiet darkness and find the big dipper once the clouds clear and temperatures drop. Dad can always find it quicker. 

The ones not there have the guts to set a live trap, then are absolutely horrified when they catch the wrong (angry) animal. Now what?

The ones not there spend far too much time on the Internet trying to watch shows live (cursing their rural internet) and catch up on show results via social media. Social media posts are like salt in a wound to the ones not there. 

The ones not there thank God they're not a single parent. Getting little ones to school, programs, supper and bed is tough alone. And FaceTime is just really poor with the blowers fired up in the background. 

The ones not there schedule every social event they’ve been unable to plan for months. Dinners, drinks, reunions, coffee and antiquing – all things that may take second fiddle throughout the year. She also may be sadly ready for bed by 8:30; frozen valves do that to a person.

The ones not there control the thermostat, television channel, menu, bedtime, grocery list, laundry schedule and bed covers. The ones not there remember what it was like to be single.

The ones not there don't mind the hassle of getting ridiculously bundled up - and unbundled - several times a day because frankly, it's like a mini work out. The same with the burning lungs. Spend an hour outside in below zero temperatures and it's like you just ran a mini marathon. Assuming you know how that feels...?

The ones not there wait on phone calls for placing outcomes, sale reports, latest news and family updates. The ones not there usually fall asleep before these calls come due to the time difference.

The ones not there watch heifers start springing, cows start bagging and new calves figure out this big old world. The ones not there spend a lot of time in the barn thanking God that they were given the responsibility to keep all of these creatures - the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50- alive.  

 The ones not there find a certain luxury in the fact that they don’t have prepare as much supper, as half of the consumers are gone. Some nights, the ones not there gladly suffice with cheese and crackers. Several nights, actually. Maybe four nights in a row. 

The ones not there navigate their way through frozen pipes in the house, frozen valves in the pasture tanks, over flowing commodes after young company, curious heifers who snap temporary fence (twice), a full 15° day without a door on the house and also an ice storm for good measure.  Now you know why I’ve looked so incredibly strung out since last Wednesday.  I’ve learned to let my hair dry under a toboggan.

 The ones not there are reliable, optimistic (typically, but not always), 
humorous (typically, but not always), understanding (typically, but not always), and patient (typically, but not always).

They survive pleasantly. Because they know the worst that could happen is frozen valves, and they've already mastered those. 

The ones not there don't complain, they just get things done because being the only one home for a while means one wonderful thing: 
For two Saturdays in a row they can sleep in past 5:30 and no one knows. 

They're not talking.
They get fed too well.