Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: A Summary of my Year in 100 Words

NWSS Activities Director
First Dixie National
New Little Sister, Kathleen
Jamie, Sonya, Shelia Weekend
MAJAC, first D.C. experience
RENO in April
Turned thirty-something, at the Atlantic National and met new friend

Young Cattlemen’s Conference, met more new friends, expanded interest and knowledge of the greatest industry on earth—BEEF

1st NJAS in different capacity, judged the CAB Cookoff—another great week
Weddings: Jeana & Dustin & Cortney & Tyler
KJLS—Grace “Sweet 16”;

Cooked Thanksgiving dinner
Online Bible study with great girlfriends
One year in house

Discovered meaning of unanswered prayers
21 states
Discovered meaning of true friendship

Very Blessed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wanted: My Christmas Spirit

Eleven days and counting until the biggest day of the year, and I can't seem find my Christmas Spirit anywhere! Oh, I've gone through the motions--purchased and wrapped every gift on my list; mailed the ones that needed mailed; wrote and sent the annual letter; listened to Christmas music in the car, home and office. I even set out my Nativity scene and decided against putting away my decorations at home until AFTER Christmas this year (I usually don't like coming home from the ROV show in Phoenix after New Year's faced with cleaning the decorations before Denver!). I even made it to the church Christmas program where I saw Ella as an Angel sing so many wonderful songs. I just can't seem to find my Christmas Spirit anywhere!

I have a pretty good life. I have a roof over my head, my health, a full belly and a car that runs. I have family and friends. I have no reason to run around like the Grinch. And, I'm not even grumpy. I go through the motions of exchanging gifts. I bought countless gifts for the adopt-a-family at work; I bought a toy for the Angel tree at church. I am thankful for the blessings in my life and that I can give. I just wish I could find my Christmas Spirit.

I have been wearing socks with candy canes and snowmen and wreaths on them. I even wore a jingle bell bracelet last Friday. I'm trying to be festive. I read my friend's KCK Christmas blog, and that helped a little, as I thought of some of my Christmas' long ago. But then I slept, and during that sleep, I lost my Christmas Spirit.

I sincerely hope that somewhere over the (Missouri or Niobrara) river and through the woods (or Halsey Forest) on my way to Grandma's house on this Sunday, as I take a few days of R&R to spend with the grandparents I find my Spirit. I know my Grandma has three things on her agenda when I get there: 1)playing cards, 2) cooking and 3) eating. And, none of those will help me find my Christmas Spirit; I'll just get fatter and sassier.

So, if you have any ideas on how to catch the Christmas Spirit, please let me know. I hope this doesn't happen to you. After all, it is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Do You Believe?

Disclaimer: If you are under 12-years-old OR still believe is Santa Claus please stop reading this now, and send an e-mail to cowphoto73@yahoo.com and tell me why I should also believe in the big guy in a red suit that drives a sleigh. If the above description doesn't fit you, you may now continue reading this installment of my blog.

During the Thanksgiving weekend while my parents were visiting, we watched a late 1990s remake of a Christmas classic, "Miracle on 34th Street," which basically is about a little girl, Susan, who doesn't believe in Santa Claus because her workaholic/realistic mother has convinced Susan he doesn't exist. Then, the mother hires Kris Kringle to work as "Santa" in an upscale NYC department store during the season to listen to all the good little girls' and boys' wishes. Susan tells Kris she doesn't believe, and the only way she will believe is if HE grants her wishes--which she's told no one else. Well, come Christmas morning both of her wishes come true! And they all live happily ever after . . .

So, flash back to 1979 when Susan, I mean Shelia stopped believing. There was nothing more that little cowgirl wanted from Santa than a saddle. And guess what? On Christmas morning, under our little tree in my favorite house on Dunlap Route, there was a SADDLE!!! But it wasn't just ANY saddle, it was the saddle that had been in our tack shed for a while. You see I pretty much went all over the ranch, and the tack shed was no exception. And I put 2 and 2 together, and right then and there, my Santa died. As I recall, my parents even tried to convince me that since the saddle was big, Santa had to "store the saddle" in advance; but like Susan's mother, I too was a realist, and the truth was out. I really don't know who was more crushed, me or my parents, but we moved on, and we still exchange gifts and Christmas morning is still a special time when we open our stockings of fun small gifts from each other.

Now, fast forward to 2010, when I watched "Miracle on 34th Street." I realized that maybe I gave up too easily. Or maybe I believed in the wrong person. You see, I quit writing letters to Santa; why waste my time? And, so I stopped asking. But, I also stopped believing in something more important than a guy in a red suit. I stopped believing in the Spirit of Christmas. Oh, I celebrate the MEANING...Jesus' birth, and the spirit of giving...but watching that movie made me think about MIRACLES. They do exist. They happen every day. We just have to talk to someone bigger than Santa. We have to talk to the LORD. We don't have to wait until December. We can make a list, big or small, every day. And we can write that list down or whisper it or shout it out loud.

It's only taken me several decades, but I finally figured out the miracle of Christmas! It took some remake of a TV Show, and a childhood memory, but this year, I'm sending my wish list to someone much greater than Santa. My Christmas wish for you, is that you too, find your Christmas miracle this year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

National Adoption Month

“Adoption is not about finding children for families, it's about finding families for children” --Joyce Maguire Pavao

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I never really realized this or new there was a month to celebrate one of the greatest things that ever happened to me, but I'm so glad I discovered it. And, I would first like to say THANK YOU to 4 individuals. I'd like to thank my parents, John and Connie Stannard for taking that leap of faith, driving to Omaha and picking me up and making a make-shift bed for me in that dresser drawer for those first couple nights of my new life with you. And I'd like to thank two responsible teenagers who made what was probably the biggest decision of their lives--they gave me a better life and didn't terminate my life by taking "the easy way out" as many did back in the early 70s.

Yes, I was adopted at just a few weeks old, and I never thought my life was any different. My mom and I fought like a lot of moms and daughters fight, and people say I look like my dad--maybe that was when we were younger and he had hair. My parents were always open about where I came from and I even corresponded with the Children's Home during different milestones in my life--graduation and special achievements. They always wrote me back. And then, as I got older I did seek information about my birth parents--purely from a medical standpoint--so I might know something about my medical history. However, I never had the desire to know my biological parents. They did the responsible thing, and although I sometimes wonder how my life would be different--Would I be a city kid vs. a country bumpkin--I never regret one day of my life.

My first meeting with my awesome parents!

It seems the older I get the more adopted folks I know, and more people my age have also adopted children, both in the U.S., and internationally. My adoption was closed, but I know several who have gone through open adoption where the children are still in touch with the birth mother. Both are great situations, as long as they work for all involved.

People face adoption from both sides for many reasons; I was showing a co-worker my baby book today since I brought it in to scan some of these great photos of me--look I loved wearing red, even at 8 months old--and he couldn't believe that there was a write-up about my adoption in the local newspaper. I explained to him that adoption wasn't taboo in my family. And, just like my cousins, I deserved a "birth announcement" too.

Even today, I hear people say, "well we have tried to have a baby, but my husband is against adoption." Or "I could never adopt, it just wouldn't feel like my baby." These words sting, and I explain to the people who say them if they really want a family, that adoption is a fabulous option. And, there are so many babies and children out there that deserve a loving family.

So, as I continue to count my blessings this month of Thanksgiving and recognize National Adoption Awareness Month, I would like to say thanks to those who take time to help others children their families. And I'd like to thank the families whose lives have been completed with their children. Due to respect of privacy, I won't mention names; just know you all are special people, whether in Nebraska, Illinois, Maryland, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, New Mexico or wherever you might be. And know that you have made a difference.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Community: it's more than just a place

I've been thinking about what makes up a community a lot lately; and as you might guess with my lack of blogging I've had lots of windshield and airport time to think. It's funny, but I always thought of a community as a place--you know that location where one grew up, went to school or church. But in the last month or so, I've realized a community just isn't a place. It's your peeps. It's a group of people that you share common interests and beliefs with. Yes, that group might all be from the same locale, but they don't necessarily have to be.

As the daughter of gypsy parents (really, Trey, you believed that?) I am sometimes at loss to describe by traditional "community". When asked where I'm from, I often reply that I grew up in Western Nebraska and Western Kansas. But, that is pretty broad. I mean, I lived in about a dozen houses by the time I was 16 and had numerous addresses--Hemingford, Mullen, Hay Springs, Alliance, Chadron. And that was before we moved to Heaven, I mean St. Francis, KS. So, this is the root of my search for my communities. So, let's take a look at some of the communities I claim today.

Obviously, I have my Angus community. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of people to be associated with. I love the Angus breeders, members, exhibitors, fitters. The whole bunch is amazing. I was on vacation a few weeks ago to an Angus wedding, and while traveling, visited two other Angus families, both of which I adore. I know I can go practically anywhere in the US, and have Angus peeps to visit or take care of me in a pinch.

Then, I think back to life before Angus, which is sometimes challenging--I have my college peeps. The guys and gals I went to all three colleges with. We saw each other through some of the best and some of the worst times. And though we don't see each other as often as I'd like, we are all still just a phone call away.

Then, there are the ag communicator peeps. This group is about the most exciting/motivating group ever, and I got to spend some time with them last weekend in KC, thus the renewed blog interest. They are passionate about being a voice for agriculture, and I know I need to be better at this too. Thanks for the inspiration!

Finally, there is my faith community. Although, I attend church on a regular basis--ok, when I'm in town, which is not a regular basis--I rely on friends and family to help me build my relationship with the LORD. This might be with conversations, scripture on Facebook or my online Bible study gals, which definitely aren't in the same location.

So, there's some thoughts to ponder for the evening. Where is your community? Is it where your feet and roots are planted or are your communities where your people are. I say they are our friends and loved ones and it does take more than one community to raise this adult!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Head, Heart, Health, Hands

As we close out National 4-H Week, I've been doing a lot of thinking this week about what 4-H has done for me, and frankly, I don't know where I'd be without this great youth program. I don't think it was ever discussed in my household if I would join; it was just a given, and when I turned 8 years-old by that magical January 1 age, I joined my very first 4-H club, the Sandhill Hillbillies in Hooker County, Nebraska. It seems to me I enrolled in every project under the sun, but my dad's and my main focus was the beef project. I loved my cattle project, and spent every waking moment in the barn and corral with Herfy, my first calf. That was in 1982. I still have the trophy I won with Herfy. It has gone with me EVERYWHERE, and I do mean everywhere. While the others are left to collect dust at my parents' house, that little gold plastic fat cow on a red velvet crown standing a marble base was one of my proudest accomplishments--I mean I was 9, and it was the Hooker County Fair.

I think that little trophy goes with me from college to college and house to house as a reminder. A reminder of what 4-H has done for me. The next year, my family moved to Dawes County, where I joined Southern Valley 4-H Club, and started gaining my event planning skills. Our 4-H club started a spring lamb progress show, and I was a control freak even as a kid, serving on various organizational committees. But, Dawes County 4-H programs really expanded my horizons. I became involved in public speaking, photography, geneaology, and one of my favorite projects, "Teen Shop Smart"--you know for the non-sewers.

My second heifer, Holly, and I far exceeded my expectations that year, as I won the county fair--not only did I have champion Herford Heifer, I also had grand heifer, a feat I accomplished three consecutive years!

But, I also learned that 4-H wasn't about winning. It was about friendships. It was about record keeping. It was about sportsmanship and helping others. It was about community service. It was about parliamentary procedure. And, most of all, it was about memories. I can honestly say that some of my closest friends and deepest memories revolve around the friendships I've made and the time I've spent in 4-H.

4-H teaches responsibility. Yep, I had heifers and steers and lambs to feed, rinse, walk, and care for everyday. And, record books.

How many of you have sat around the kitchen table the night(s) before record books are do screaming and battling it out with your kids or parents? (depending on your age) That was the Stannard household scenario about every year in late September/early October for about a week straight, as we dug for receipts--cattle feed, film processing, or for photos or tried to recall something for that great 4-H story that Don Huls, my Extension Agent, was bound to read. I never really knew who was more relieved that record books were finished in my home--me or my parents.

4-H teaches life skills. I've already touched on this briefly, but if it weren't for 4-H, I doubt if I would be an event planner/activities director for a beef breed association today. I received so many of my "roots" for my professsion in the 4-H programs. I took photography in 4-H; now I take cattle photos nearly every weekend across the country. I wrote and delivered speeches every year in the 4-H speech contest; today I can get on a microphone in front of 1,000 people to talk about Angus programs or do a radio interview about the beef industry. I livestock judged in 4-H; and weekly I attend livestock shows, and I can tell the difference between a good and not so good animal. In 4-H we had community service, ranging from clowning at a nursing home to picking up trash in the road side for miles; today I know the importance of "giving back" and still volunteer time for worthy causes.

So, fast forward to the last two chapters of my 4-H career. I'm a sophomore in high school, and my parents uproot me from Nebraska to Kansas. This was pretty hard on a girl, but you know what I took with me? 4-H. That's right. I got involved in the Lawn Ridge 4-H club in Cheyenne County, and started livestock judging and meeting people all over Northwest Kansas. People that I'd later live with in college and then later in life even call my "best friends."

And now, an adult, 4-H still impacts my life. Each spring, I volunteer to share about my career with young people at the Global 4-H Conference in Kansas City. I attended this event as a 4-H member, and was so glad when I was contacted to be part of the program.

I know I am the person I am today because of this program called 4-H. "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to better service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Fun at the Fairs!

It’s my favorite time of the year! No, it’s not Christmas, or my birthday. It doesn’t come just one day a year, and as a matter of fact, I’m merely taking a break from the season—a “half-time” so to speak. The time of year I’m writing about is STATE FAIR SEASON! And, if you’ve noticed an absence on my blog, it is highly due to the fact that August and part of September was consumed by state fairs from Illinois to Idaho and points in between, and in October, I have two more state fairs and two more national livestock shows to attend. So I wanted to take this break to share with you some of the highlights of my state fair adventures.

I’ve been everywhere. I started August at the All American Breeders’ Futurity in Louisville, Ky.; then off to Illinois State Fair in Springfield; Wisconsin State Fair, Milwaukee (same trip as IL SF); then to Western Idaho Fair, Boise; DuQuoin Fair back in Southern Illinois; Minnesota State Fair, Minneapolis; Tennessee State Fair, Nashville. This month’s itinerary includes Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock, the NILE, Billings, Mont; North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh; and the American Royal in Kansas City.

It’s my job! So before I talk about my adventures, I might as well state the obvious, I don’t go to these fairs just for fried cheese curds and funnel cakes, I go for work. That’s right, I get paid to give up my weekends and look in dirty bovine ears at tattoos and tailing cattle in a show ring and taking the champion photos. So, in between that, I like to take in the fairs! Although, most I go to annually, a few have been new adventures for me this year, and I always like to find one unique feature of each fair; usually it’s food.

I spend an extended amount of time in Illinois due to the fact they show junior cattle on Friday and open on Tuesday, and we go to Wisconsin in between. This year, I actually “saw” more of the fair because Keegan Cassady hung out with me, so we rode a couple rides, including the sky ride, which goes from the middle of the fairgrounds to the edge, and gives riders a “birds-eye-view”. This was HUGE for me, due to my fear of unstable heights, but we did have a great view.

One of my annual stops at IL SF is the butter cow display—she’s right next to the best ice cream! I love the butter cow, and each year she is so unique!

Another cool new discovery this year in IL was the WOW Ball—they are like human hamster balls that go on water. Keegan did this for about 5 minutes, and it was a blast to watch her! Looked like a great workout!

Another first for me at the IL SF was a champion duck party! A junior Angus member, Morgan Kramer, had the supreme champion duck, Donald. Her mom Vickey is always up for a good party, so they busted Donald out of the poultry barn and brought him to the Angus barn for a duck party.

Wisconsin was a quick trip—but I had to take a picture of the cheese stand. Even though I didn’t have any this trip, I did indulge during the World Beef Expo in Sept.

On to the Western Idaho Fair, and when in Idaho—eat potatoes! So, I had a plate of curly fries for lunch, and they offered me “fry sauce”. I accepted it, but only used it as a photo prop—it looked like a mixture of ketchup and mayo, neither of which I’m a fan of.

While eating my fried delicacy, I also watch “Bibby” the clown make balloon animals, flowers, bugs. You name it, she made it, and for free too! I watched this for about 35 minutes until I realized we had a junior show to work!

DuQuoin was a new fair for me—I loved this display of produce!

And, another favorite there, and at most fairs—Salt Water Taffy! Mmmmm!

The Great Minnesota Experience aka MN SF was also a new experience. I was warned that there was going to be a lot of people—but WOW!

I drove by the main entrance at 6:45 a.m. the day of the Angus show, and there were fairgoers going in the main gate on a Saturday! I couldn’t believe it! I did discover the next generation of butter cow carvers.

And, in Minnesota, they combined two of my favorites to make wine ice cream!

The one thing I look forward to each year in Tennessee is the pumpkin and watermelon weigh-off.

This year the giant pumpkin was smaller than the past, but the watermelon set a new record.

I also like exploring diversity of ag commodities from across the country, like tobacco hanging here, at TN SF.

And, so that’s a summary—not real brief, but I hope you enjoyed the pictures, courtesy of my iPhone.

What’s your favorite fair? Favorite fair memory? Let me know! Maybe I’ll have a new experience I need to check out along my adventures!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Small Town Living

Since Thursday evening, I have been in DuQuoin, Illinois, population 6,600, and home to the DuQuoin State Fair, the Association's newest Roll of Victory Show. DuQuoin has a neat charm about it, especially since the fairgrounds here are AWESOME, but more importantly it isn't located in a major metropolitan area like a lot of the state fairs I have traveled to (Boise, Springfield, Milwaukee) or will travel to (Minneapolis, Nashville, Raleigh). It is, in my mind a small town.

Being creatures of habit, Jerry and I took recommendations from the locals and ventured downtown, which is very quaint, on Thursday evening to Alongi's for some dinner. It is a family-owned Italian restaurant that has been around since 1933! And, it is DELISH! So, after we ate, we walked about 4 blocks to the ice cream shoppe (can't recall its name) for 1 scoop. And we walked around the town taking in the beautiful fall evening air.

Fast forward to Friday. Checked in Angus cattle at the fair, and had about 3 Angus exhibitors recommend Alongi's. So we went back, tried the thin crust pizza, walked down to the ice cream shoppe, sampled some home made fudge, made by the scooper/owner's daughter; and each tried a different kind of ice cream. Oh, and I bought a half pound of peanut butter fudge. YUM

Fast forward to Saturday. Junior Show at DuQuoin; more Angus breeders suggested we try Alongi's, "best place in town", so we did; walked down to the ice cream shoppe, tried a different kind of fudge, and had more ice cream. The scooper/owner comments that he's glad to have "regulars" coming in, as he now noticed we've been there 3 consecutive nights. We tell him we're only there for the fair. He says to stop in on Sunday after 6. He isn't open during the day Sunday of the fair so he can spend time with his wife, who is dying of cancer. This makes me sad, and as we leave, we know we'll be stopping for fudge and ice cream on our way out of town on Sunday. I knew there had to be a reason our show didn't start until 2.

On our third nightly walk, around the town, eating ice cream and talking, I say to Jerry, "We're acting like old people," and he replies, "Maybe we are." Or maybe we're just slowing down. Taking time to enjoy life's simple pleasures--a scoop of ice cream and small town living on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A time to move on

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1, NLT

Well, friends and family, it's been nearly a month since I've taken time to blog. But I've done a lot of reflecting, and during that month, I feel like I've experienced a lot of personal change and growth. Earlier this week, I observed the first anniversary of my activities and events director position at the AAA, and I'd say overall, the past year and especially the past month, I've learned more about myself and changed more than I have the 36 years previous.

Yes, for everything there is a season. There is a time. And there is a reason. I firmly believe these statements. Let me explain a little about some of the changes I'm experiencing.

For everything there is a season. I feel like I'm maturing. I don't know if that is the right term. I'm either maturing or hibernating. I'm just not the fun-loving social person I used to be. It's not that I don't want to go out and have fun. It's just that I don't want to go to the work of dressing up and re-doing my hair and makeup. At the end of the work day at a show, I am exhausted. I want to eat, take a shower and get sleep so I can get up early, get ice for the coolers and make sure everyone is taken care of the next day. Take for example the NJAS. Last year, I was out every night in Perry. I had fun, fun, fun. This year, in Denver for the same event, I went out one night, had one adult beverage, and was back to the hotel room before 11. This is totally not the same old me. I don't feel bad about my decisions. I just feel awkward. As my good friend, Matt Caldwell, who is actually younger than me says, "It sure is fun watching you kids grow up."

For everything there is a time. This time of year is traditionally one of my favorites for two reasons--it's time for LEAD, our annual youth leadership conference, and it's state fair season. Well, this is the first time in 11 years I won't be attending LEAD. Yes, it is hard. But, I'm no longer in the PR department, and I'm no longer an advisor, so I'm not really needed. I always loved LEAD because it was the one junior Angus event where kids got to be kids--they didn't have cattle to take care of or contests to prep for. They got to interact with one another and learn some really cool life lessons and experience a new region of the country. Most juniors will travel to LEAD today or tomorrow, and it is really heavy on me that I'm not going.

But, there is a reason for everything too. One of my good friends, and a former NJAA director, who I got to advise is getting married this weekend in Manhattan, so I do get to attend that wedding and help Jeana and Dustin celebrate their new life together--an opportunity I'd have to miss if I was at LEAD. See, everything happens for a reason. State fair season--that's a whole other blog!

You know the third chapter of Ecclesiastes talks about times for so many different things to happen. I have really embraced that the past few weeks, and while I haven't been writing for you all, I've been reading and re-reading that scripture. It, along with Beth Moore's book, "So Long Insecurity, You've been a bad Friend to Us" has made me realized these changes are part of life. It is ok to change. There is a time to grow up. There is a time to not worry about popularity. There is a time to stand up for what you believe is right.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An Angus Legend: Frank C. Murphy

Today, the Angus community received word of the passing of a legend. Longtime Angus artist Frank Champion Murphy passed away June 28 in his home state of Illinois.

I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Murphy on several different occasions, and he was a true gentleman. Although he grew up in the Chicago area, he spent his summers in Texas on his grandparents' cattle ranch, and had drawn and painted for the American Angus Association for nearly 60 years. He was very fond of the Angus breed, and you could tell that by the time and energy he spent on each of his pieces.

In 2002, Frank was commissioned to paint, "In Apple Blossom Time," for the Association. The original hangs just outside my office near my friend and assistant, Monica's desk. Number 1 of 1500 signed and numbered hangs in my office--no I didn't buy that one, I have 528 at home--and it is one of my favorite Murphy pieces, depicting a "typical" Midwest farm scene in the springtime. While creating this masterpiece, Frank taught me a little about art. Remember, I struggle with stick people. He taught me that there is "no true black" that he paints an Angus using a multitude of colors. He also used several cows, including my friend Tanya's El to put together his "ideal" mama cow for this picture.

Of course, who doesn't love the calf and the butterfly? I loved working in the PR department, and handing this or the calf and prairie dog out at trade show booths--especially to multi-generation visitors. It was always fun to hear the grandparent pick "just one" up for the grandchild at home "because I had it in my room when I was a kid." This original is also outside my office, and I pass it, only about 72 times a day when I'm going to the photocopier.

And, then of course, some of my all time favorites are the pencil sketches. That is how Frank really got his start for the Association--sketching Angus for some early 1950s ad campaigns. The Angus Foundation has turned a series of four of these into their "Profitmaker" series and sells them. I bought the set last year, framed them, and gifted them two at a time to my dad for Father's Day and Christmas--only after I had Frank personalize and sign one of them. Hang onto that one Dad!

Frank painted up until his last days, including last September's Angus Journal cover, which showed the changing times, a family in front of a backdrop at a county fair, getting photographed with a camera phone.

In my mind, he truly is an Angus legend, and has contributed greatly to the breed and the Angus Foundation through his time and talent. I know there is a big canvas, and "the cattle upon a thousand hills" for Frank Champion Murphy to paint in Heaven. I know he'll paint them all Angus. God Bless you, Frank.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just what Ms. Independent Needed

It's July 4, and I'm not wearing red, white and blue nor sporting little flag earrings. As a matter of fact, if it hadn't been for church this morning it might have been really easy to pull the covers back over my head and just not face to world today. You say I'm not patriotic; that's where you are wrong. I'm just tired of how commercialized Independence Day has become! And, it's pretty simple in this town, where it seems the neighbors have been setting off LOUD fireworks for the past 10 nights until way past my bedtime, and employee productivity has likely been down all week with everyone chatting about their "big weekend plans". I think that most people forget why we even celebrate Independence Day, and so I have been rather "scrooge" like about the holiday until this morning at church.

You see, we had a special visitor at Ashland United Methodist this morning. Lt. Colonel Tim Karcher came and greeted the congregation as the service started. He and his wife were married at AUMC, and it is his church home, but just a little more than a year ago, he was fighting for his life, while fighting for OUR freedom. Late in June 2009, he lost both of his legs when a bomb hit his vehicle in Iraq. As he sat in his wheel chair at the front of the church and thanked the congregation for their prayers, he reminded us of a simple message. God hears our prayers, and He always answers them. I wish everyone could hear Lt. Colonel Tim's message. Maybe more people would pray.

So, it's people like Lt. Colonel Karcher in Iraq; my grandpa, Captain Donald C. Stannard in the Pacific Theater of Japan during WW2; and friends Justin Rutledge, Josh Moritz, Rodney Harp, Brandon Douglas, Jarrett Martin, and so many other men and women who have served and are serving our country that have allowed us to keep our freedom that I'd like to recognize on this Independence Day. Thank you for our freedom. Thank you for allowing us to live in a country where we can pray. God Bless our service men & women and God Bless the U.S.A.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life Lessons at a Cattle Show

I always get a little sad when I leave a weekend cattle show; especially a junior show. Maybe it's the camaraderie; maybe it's the enthusiasm. It definitely isn't the hair, hay and wood chips that I'm allergic to. This weekend the Illinois Junior Angus Association hosted the Eastern Regionals, and it was somewhat nostalgic for me, as I reflected on some of the life lessons I learned while participating in 4-H, FFA and Junior Hereford programs. Here are some of those lessons combined with some observations from the weekend.

1--Responsibility: I didn't spend my summers in front of the TV or playing video games. I got up every morning, fed, rinsed, and made sure the lambs and cattle had water and shade. I exercised my lambs every night and practiced showmanship with my heifers and my dad each evening. When I was real little, my parents made me set on a 5-gallon bucket and read out loud to my lambs as a way for them to get used to me.

2--Work ethic: Sure I tubed the Niobrara River almost daily, but AFTER my work was done. And, I learned that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right the first time.

3--Competition: We went to progress shows nearly every weekend, and my dad taught me if I didn't want to get beat, we could stay home. And, if we did get beat there would be a different judge the next weekend to offer his or her opinion of our animals. Nothing is more discouraging to me today, than to hear a parent say to a child, exiting the showring, "that judge is just stupid; we have bigger shows to win anyway." Parents, please try to teach your kids to win gracefully and lose gracefully.

4--Team work: This weekend, I witnessed a girl show a heifer for one of her "competitors" who had two heifers in the same class, then turn around and show her own heifer in the next class against the same girl who had another heifer in that following class as well. That takes integrity in my book; way to go Jessica R!

5--Family togetherness: My parents and I took two vacations that didn't involve cattle or sheep shows and sales--one when I was 4 to the Black Hills and one when I was 22 to South Texas. Enough said.

Yes, these livestock projects offer a lot of benefits to young people. They did 25 years ago, and they still do today. I hope they remain in tact for years to come, and I hope I am part of them in some way or another.

Friday, June 11, 2010

YCC: Life Changing Experience

Ok, so one week ago I wrote about the first three days of the Young Cattlemen's Conference (YCC) conference that I was attending.
Little did I know that the best was yet to come.

The trip was intense. We slept a little, traveled a lot, experienced much and made friendships to last a lifetime. We toured feedlots in our shit kickin' boots, and made our way to Capitol Hill in business suits to talk to our respective state congressmen and senators to be a voice for the beef industry. We toured the plant where McDonald's hamburger patties are formed and we watched as the Chicago Board of Trade opened on Monday morning. We drank beer. We danced. We tried tongue, and other cuts of meat that are usually exported.

We exchanged ideas and shared information. We rode in buses, airplanes, and even crammed 22 of us in a 12 passenger van. We shared cabs and we shared rooms. And, in the end we are stronger in our beef industry knowledge, leadership and communications skills. We heard from people who work at NCBA, USDA, FAS, USMEF, JBS, OSI and CAB. We supported the PAC--oh man did I support the PAC! We graduated with our MBAs (Masters of Beef Advocacy) and we survived YCC.

I wish I could give a day-by-day and play-by-play account of this trip. I could talk about it for days, and I will, so don't get me started unless you really care and have a lot of time. I would encourage any of you involved in the beef business to GET INVOLVED. Join NCBA. Apply with your state affilliate or the Angus Foundation to attend YCC. It is an experience that will change your life. I know it did mine.

This entry is dedicated to my classmates: 2010 YCC, you are the best and brightest in the beef industry. Thanks for sharing 10 days and many memories with me!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tater's Thoughts

Well, tonight ends one of the best experiences of my 37 years so far. My YCC class will have its wrap up, final dinner and party and say our farewells, until we meet again. The past 10 days have been intense: early mornings, later nights, buses, airplanes, three time zones in three cities, packing plants, feedyards, congressional briefings and visits with our lawmakers and a party at Whitestone Farm. Yes, intense says it best. When I get in my cab tomorrow morning, I'm leaving knowing I've made 53 new friends in the cattle business, and I am already looking forward to seeing them and meeting their families in the near future.

These next thoughts are not mine. They are Tater's. Tater is from Montana, and he's "kinda a big deal." That's how he introduced himself more than a week ago as we made our initial introductions around the NCBA offices in Denver. He's a rounder fella with glasses and mustache and obviously a great sense of humor. I've been trying to set with someone different each bus/airplane ride, and last night on the way home from Whitestone Farm, Tater drew the short straw. But thanks to Tater, I may have gained as much insight in that 45 minutes as I had the previous 10 days.

You see Tater and I talked about life. We talked about love and we talked about careers. And, for a feed salesman/rancher, used-to-be-college-rodeo-coach, Tater had a lot to offer this sometimes lost spirit who appears to have it all together. So, here are a few of the thoughts Tater shared with me.

1. Marry your best friend. I asked Tater how he met his wife, and he told me the story, and told me about their initial long-distance relationship, and how they got to know one another first.

2. Marriage takes a lot of work from both sides, but it is so worth it. He said he knows he's gonna want to sleep when he gets home, but he also knows his wife is gonna want a little help with their three kids since he's been gone so much.

3. Take time for yourself.
We were talking about how I have some frequent flier miles, but don't know when or how I'd have time to use them. He said to make time.

4. Climbing the corporate ladder isn't the only thing in life that matters. Tater did this for a while. Traveled the country, lived in the big city, but ultimately knew what was important in life.

So, thanks for these thoughts, Tater. I know my life got a lot richer last night because I rode the bus with you. I wanted to get them written down. I know they impacted me, and I know your heart is as big as that Montana sky.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Experience of a lifetime

Yesterday I embarked on the experience of a lifetime. For me, like most people, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am honored that the management team at the American Angus Association selected me for this honor. You see, I am not part of the 2010 Young Cattlemens Conference (YCC) class through the NCBA. So, I flew to Denver on Wednesday afternoon, only after putting the 2010 BLI class on it's bus North, and started my trip of a lifetime.

YCC is designed for young cattle producers and industry professionals 25-50 years old, and one must be nominated and sponsored by an NCBA affiliate. I'm the third staff member the AAA has sent. Thanks Bill, Bryce and Rich! So, what is little ol' event-planner me doing on this trip? I am meeting cattle ranchers, feeders, cattle women and NCBA staff. Some are Angus enthusiasts and some are not; but we all share a passion for the beef industry. Yesterday I shook hands with the CEO of NCBA; and I've made friends with the president-elect of NCBA, Bill Donald from Montana. Some of my "classmates" are from the King Ranch and Parker Ranch, both so well known; and others are from small family farms; while yet others represent the feeding industry in SW Kansas. And others use Angus genetics. Today one producer from Washington just got his data back from his AngusSource calves, and had 85% grade Choice or better, so I discussed Certified Angus Beef qualifications with him.

So, what have we done on this trip? Day 1--yesterday: we met at the NCBA offices, met one another, learned about NCBA, and had a personality assessment from the folks at Elanco. I'm a BLUE according to the Insights assessment--organized, analytical. Who would have guessed...And last night we had wonderful steaks.

Day 2--today: we spent the day in Greeley at the JBS plant, which meant I made it through my third plant without passing out, visited the Fiver Rivers Kuner feedlot, and then had dinner at JBS offices, which were fantastic. Their staff prepared us cuts of beef not traditionally available in America, but rather cuts that Asians and Brazilians would eat. And, yes, I even had tongue for the first time. And, I liked it!

What will days 3-10 hold? 1 1/2 days left in Denver learning more about the industry and touring a Safeway store; Monday morning we'll wake up in Chicago and visit the Board of Trade and OSI. And Tuesday through Thursday, watch out D.C. We're going to visit our respective state law makers, visit the USDA and Canadian Embassy. We'll have media training and issues training first--all things I'm VERY excited about. Wednesday night, we'll be back on some familiar turf, as Whitestone Farm at Aldie, VA, hosts us for dinner. I can't wait!

Stay tuned for more about my adventure of a lifetime. Thanks to Logan Ipsen and Jerry Cassady for taking the 2010 BLI class on tour this year, and thanks to all the staff pitching in at next week's Board meeting! I know I will walk away from YCC with a new perspective, new ideas, new colleagues and friends, and memories of a lifetime!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

George Washington, More than the First President

Monday I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, our nation's first president. I am slightly obsessed with presidential homes, and though not very knowledgeable about history, I love the older homes and plantations and visiting these sites where they actually had laundry buildings keeps me in perspective and reminds me how fortunate we really are to have indoor plumbing air conditioning.

In the short afternoon I was at Mount Vernon yesterday, I learned that George Washington was more than a president and the nation's highest ranking army official. He was the people's president, stepping down honorably after two terms of service in a time when most countries served under a monarchy of a greedy ruler. He was an inventor, a self-taught man and he was an agriculturalist.

Mount Vernon is serene. It is awesome. And it is incredible that it is so well preserved even after millions of visitors tour through the mansion each year. Of course the highlight for me was seeing the furniture in the house in the rooms that George decorated, which was customary in that era. And the other highlight was seeing his farm, where he used rotational farming practices. I was slightly dismayed that George Grant hadn't brought Angus to America yet, and so Milking Devons were the General Washington's cattle breed of choice. One of the very interesting inventions on the farm was this 16-sided threshing barn, that was two story for "threshing" wheat. Horsess would stomp over the wheat on the top level, and the grains would fall to the second level. Of course, being covered, this harvesting method could be done in any weather conditions.

I'll definitely be making a trip back to Mount Vernon again. And I would recommend you do too!

Please come back for more photos. This machine of mine is being a little cranky! It took forever to get one uploaded, and now keeps giving me errors!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Garmins: not just for getting you between Points A & B

Tonight I also found another use for my trusty Garmin, who sometimes I refer to as "Gary" (I'm big on alliteration), and that use was to meet some not so friendly police offices somewhere in Northern Virginia on the edge of Washington D.C.

You see, I'm supposedly on a few days of vacation (ha! I have a dozen phone calls and a conference call, and a meeting) in between the Boot Camp that just got over at Virginia Tech and the Atlantic National next week in Maryland. So, I decided to save on an extra plane ticket and stay out East and take in the sights. Tonight's adventure...meeting the POLICE.

I had checked into my hotel in Chevy Chase, MD, wanting to stay near the National Cathedral, my first stop tomorrow morning, much on the recommendation of my friend K.C. in response to an earlier D.C. blog, and had ventured to a mall just to walk and get out of the rain. On the way back I was talking to my friend Jen, trying to listen to Gary and navigate in the rain and the dark back to the Courtyard by Marriott. When I turned off the main drag, I knew I had made a bad choice. I don't know where I was but, it was a very secure area, with a LOT of surveillance cameras, fences, gates, and three cop cars with the officers standing guard outside the cars. As soon as I saw the surveillance cameras, I told Jen I had to go, as I was making my U-turn to get the heck outta Dodge. And, two of those cops hopped into their car, started the siren and turned on their pretty Kentucky blue lights. That's right--little Midwest bumpkin in the New Jersey rental car was busted! Of course I pulled over right away and was afraid I might wet myself, but I didn't. They both got out the patrol car. The she-cop shined a very bright light in my face and the he-cop questioned my destination. Our conversation went something like this:

Him: Where and you going and where did you come from?
Me: My Garmin got me lost. I'm not from here, just trying to get back to the Courtyard by Marriott on Wisconsin Ave from the Tyson Mall, and I obviously took a wrong turn. I'm from Missouri, I'm lost, and I didn't mean to do anything wrong.
Him: Well, you need to get on the Beltway.
Me: Yes, I want 495 North to Maryland. How did I get here.
Him: Take three rights and you'll get there. Drive safe.
Me: Thank you!

I was slightly freaked out. Ok...really freaked out. But, if it were not for this lovely piece of technology, I wouldn't have got to meet new people tonight. Who knew that Garmins were so helpful??

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I can still hear those words

"I'll shoot the first pot licker to show up on my door step to see my little girl on a motorcycle."

Even though it's been 25 years, give or take, I can still hear those words like it was yesterday coming out of my overprotective Dad's mouth when we lived at Iodence Hereford Ranch, along the Niobrara River in the Nebraska Panhandle. And, being the very literal, very gullible 12 year-old girl, I feared for the day that some young man a/k/a pot licker showed up on a motorcycle. I knew that it would never happen though. I knew everyone in our neighborhood, and there were no boys around except those from the ranch. Or were there?

Then, it happened. It was a hot day early June between my fifth and sixth grade year, and this blond, curly haired, sort-of plump, but in his growth spurt boy came to my door step on a motorcycle. Thank God my dad was in the hay field that day, as I feared for his life. I explained to him, that he had to leave IMMEDIATELY before my dad came home and shot him. Today, I'm sure that would be construed as a threat and their would be a lawsuit, but this was just a kid a couple of years older than me that wanted to know if I could hang out for the afternoon. His name was Ryan, and his parents were educators at Bridgeport a couple hours away, but came up in the summer and lived in the yellow house on the hill. He was Bob & Vi's nephew, and his dad, Myron, helped on the ranch during the summer. I said I thought I could come over, but NO WAY was I getting on that motorcycle. I didn't want my dad mad at both of us! So, I got my bike, which had been my mom's (interpreted old), and I peddled the mile or so on sand and gravel around the curve and up the hill to Ryan's house, and that day a friendship between two families was formed. We played basketball, I stayed for supper, and his dad put my old bike in the back of the pick up and drove me home and quizzed my dad, "I understand you wanted to shoot my son today," all of which was a BIG misunderstanding that my dad was unaware of since he was in the hay field the entire time!

After that initial meeting, Ryan became like a brother to me. We were both only children, and both of our families had sheep; ours had Hamps and Dorsets and his had Suffolks. We got Ryan involved in our 4-H club, and traveled countless miles to sheep shows and sales throughout the year. We cooked out, floated the Niobrara River daily in the summer and when he got married the first time, I was a bridesmaid, and my dad a groomsman. Our families became families for each other.

As happens over time, miles separate us. But, just earlier this week, I learned of Myron's death. He was only in his late 60s; way too young. It's amazing how something so sad can bring back the memories in one's mind. It's like I'm 12 again, and teaching Ryan to show a lamb. Or hearing Myron yell at Ryan because a ram literally chased him up a tree. I can still hear those words.

The last time I saw Ryan was 8 years ago. I will call him this week. It won't be easy. But it will be necessary. And, I hope he hears my words. I hope he knows that just because time and distance have separated us, the memories never will. Thanks Dad for not shooting Ryan.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Girls and horses. . .Life IS Good.

As a girl, I LOVED horses! I collected the Breyer horses, loved to ride and thought I was a real cowgirl out on those Nebraska Sandhills riding Lucky, my little pony along with my mom and dad and the ranch hands when it came time to round up cattle. When I was having a bad day, I could count on Lucky to listen to my problems or my mom's mare, Penny. It was like they understood little girls, and I understood them. And, as I've gotten older, it seems like most little girls I know adore horses too. So, I wasn't too surprised when the Big Sisters/Big Brothers coordinator Tiffany contacted me about an opportunity for me and Kathleen to join her and some other "vulnerable" littles at the Broken Creek Youth Ranch for some group equine therapy.

I had no idea what we'd do when we arrived. All I did know was there would be no actual riding, and I was so thankful the weather had held last Thursday when we arrived for our therapy session. Three matches, and two mares were paired up, and each "little" was given a side of the horse to brush if the little so desired, and then paint whatever she was feeling that day. The "bigs" were instructed to keep quiet (torture, I know), and observe. So, Kathleen grabbed her brush and started giving Sassy a thorough brushing while I tried to stay out of the path of blowing dead horse hair. My allergies were already mad at me for being outside; I didn't figure I should add horse hair and dander to the mix. She brushed and brushed and brushed some more. Finally, she painted. She painted a small, but cheerful smiley face on the hip of Sassy. Then, she loved on another mare in the pen the rest of the time we were there. The youth ranch coordinator had the littles tell why the painted what they did--all a lesson in communication skills. It was one of the coolest things I think Kathleen and I have done together.

None of the girls wanted to leave. All of them loved the horses. But, then what girl doesn't love horses? I really hope we get to go back there, and I hope other matches have the same opportunity we did. Girls and horses. Together they speak a language all their own.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reasons to Smile

Zig Ziglar once said,
"A smile is a little curve that set a lot of things straight."

I'm not a smiler. I'm happy, but I'm not a natural smiler. I don't know if I'm self conscious about my teeth or because I've spent so many years on the back side of the camera. But, lately I've been practicing smiling. Sounds kind of silly doesn't it? Well, I do. I learned a long time ago, the only way to get better at something is to practice, so in the mornings while standing in front of my mirror doing my hair and makeup, I practice smiling. And, one trick I have for meetings, and public speaking appearances, is I actually write the word "smile" on top of a notebook. Cheesy i know. Smiling just isn't natural for me, and I'm not a fake smiler either. Some people's lip lines automatically curve into a smile, and some are always cackling on and have that fake, "I'm a Barbie doll" smile. But that just isn't me.

So, while brushing my pearly whites this morning and practicing my smile, I thought I need to think of things that make me smile. And I did. Here is that list, in no particular ranked order:

~Reading my friends' Luke and Catherine's blog (usually makes me laugh out loud!)
~Getting a phone call or e-mail from a particular Southern gentleman
~Being around my "little" friends--those under the age of 16 who call me Aunt Shelia and know I would go to the moon and back for them.
~Looking at photos of friends and family and reminiscing about times spent together.
~Dreaming about the future.
~Friendly e-mails, phone calls and e-mails from past and present NJAA members.
~Seeing my Angus family at shows and events
~Spending time with my family and friends.
~A good glass of wine, and apparently last Saturday night, this slice of homemade pizza made me smile too!

What makes you smile?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How's Your Weather?

Snow. Rain. Sleet. Hail. Sunshine. It's a topic of conversation no matter where you are or what your age. I always thought it was an agricultural topic of conversation because as people of the land our lives revolve around the elements. You can't plant or harvest if it's too wet, but the crops won't grow if it's too dry.

This week, I have experienced all four seasons. You read that correctly. I never left the Continental U.S., yet experienced all four seasons. We've had spring showers here in Missouri; it was hotter than the dickens in Reno, almost like Summer; Wednesday in Montana was like a cool fall day, followed by a winter Wonderland on Thursday morning when I woke up in Bozeman. Yes, this photo was taken Thursday, APRIL 29 in Bozeman, Mont.
I couldn't believe the snow. I believed it alright when it caused my flight to be delayed 6 plus hours.

The weather. It is an universal language, too. Last night on my Delta flight from Minneapolis to KC, I had a European trio behind me. I am unsure what language they spoke, but about every fifth word had a harsh "iche" attached to the end. The three words I did understood came during our initial decent into KC through some pretty rough turbulence. When following the captain's announcement, I heard them say, "Thunderstorms. Kansas. Twisters-iche." I had to chuckle, especially since we were on the Missouri side.

We need a new topic. What else could we talk about? We can't talk about politics or religion...oh no! That would be bad. We can't agree on those subjects. So, how's the weather where you are?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh the places you'll go!

Travel isn't a glamorous part of my job.

In the past 24 hours, I've been in five airports, in four states, slept in my own beds less than four hours, and spent about three hours in the office. Yes, I should have my head examined. But, I wouldn't trade one minute of these last 24 hours for anything! Well maybe the turbulence, wasn't the best, but I love the experiences of watching people, eating TCBY in Denver, and evening listening to the 'ding, ding, ding, ding,' of slot machines in Reno and Vegas.

I have been blessed with a career that allows me to travel to various places, and lets me meet a variety of people and take part in various events. Last Thursday through yesterday, I was in Reno, NV, for a Super Point Roll of Victory Show and Regional Junior Angus Show; both of which had record numbers. I got to spend time with Angus exhibitors, meet new people, play some blackjack, and oversee a show, which even went on without a glitch.

The next two days, I'll be driving this year's National Angus Tour in South Montana with regional manager Andy Rest. I'll get to see brand new country, meet some Angus people I've never met and get to see some old friends. These next two days will be spent on ranches, totally different from the show ring in Reno, and yet, I love both experiences.

Someone once said, if you love your job, it isn't really work. I totally agree. From now through July, my job will take me to Denver (three times), Virginia, Maryland, Illinois (twice), Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Kentucky, and perhaps some other stops along the way. Each trip will offer something a little different, and yet each trip will be rewarding!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

It's the one thing we all have in common--we all live on this EARTH--but we only celebrate Earth Day once a year?!?! I find this slightly ironic. But, it's on my calendar, April 22: Earth Day. As someone who grew up on ranches in Nebraska and with the majority of my family whose sole livelihood depends on agriculture, we have been celebrating the Earth for many, many days.

Each holiday when four generations of farmers, ranchers, Angus Association employee (me) and County Extension Agricultural Educator (my dad) are seated around my grandparents' dining room table, the topics of conversation center around the prices of land, cattle, wheat, and fuel. We talk about the challenges that face farmers and ranchers, and we talk about the consumers and how to better educate them. Sometimes it gets pretty heated around that table, but it's real life for our family.

So, while the rest of the world is celebrating the one thing we all have in common today, I challenge you to celebrate the Earth each and every day. If you are in agriculture, I know you already do. Farmers and ranchers are original stewards of the land. If they don't care for the land and the animals that live on the land, their livelihood doesn't survive. If you don't live on the land, thank a farmer or rancher who provides the food you eat or the fiber for the clothes on your back. They'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Musical Memories

A song can make a difference.

Last night I was watching the Academy of County Music (ACM) Awards, and I will admit I got just a little teary eyed (OK a lot) when Brooks & Dunn took the stage singing "My Maria" for their final ACM appearance as a duo. Their music reminds me so much of my JuCo days, and why wouldn't it? They have been together 20 years, and well I was at Colby Community College just when they were discovering their first successes! YIKES--Am I really that old?!?! But it isn't just Brooks & Dunn's music that gets to me. I am very sentimental when it comes to music.

Whenever I hear the hymns, "Amazing Grace" or "The Old Rugged Cross," I usually cry. They remind me of my Grandma Stannard and her strong faith in God. Grandma S was musical; and forgive me Aunt Barb and Dad for saying this, but did anyone inherit this trait?? Perhaps Aunt B is musical, and hasn't expressed it to me yet.

But Dad and I both appreciate our old Nazarene preacher from Hemingford who said, you didn't have to sound pretty in church, you just had to "make a joyful noise." Reverend Parks claimed if you could hear the person in the pew next to you singing, you weren't singing loud enough, and I still live by this, much to the dismay of many little old Methodist ladies in St. Joe, Mo! Oh, back to Grandma S. . .she was musical, and she could whistle like a songbird. She whistled many pretty songs, but loved hymns most of all. At least that's that the way I remember her.

Another song that has meaning to me is "Life's a Dance," by John Michael Montgomery. Of course I used to think about the words to this song alot. But, I will never forget when it was real popular, around the winter of 1993. . .my JuCo judging team was about to compete in our first big contest--the NWSS in Denver. That song was playing on the radio, and our coach, Nick said, "Go out there and dance, just don't trip up today." Some things just stick with a person the rest of their lives; like I can listen to "Fishin' in the Dark" without doing the corny actions my friends, Tish and Tricia and I made up in high school. Or, I can't think of the song "Pour Me," without thinking, Jen should be here to Karaoke to this.

I could ramble on and on about songs that have meanings and the people they remind me of. . .but really? I think I'll go crank up my iPod, and sing along. Who knows? Maybe I'll discover my hidden musical talent. Or, maybe I'll just make a joyful noise!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cabin Fever

I think I must be crazy.

Ok, those of you who know me well can stop laughing or nodding your head in agreement now. I admitted it. I'm crazy. But, I partially blame my parents. You see on weekends I'm in Saint Joseph, I have to force myself not to go to the office. And, with the exception of one weekend I traveled in March for work and the Easter/Spring break trip to Nebraska, I have been home in March and April up to this point, which means I've been home the longest stretch I can remember in quite some time. This is all good as it has given me ample time to organize the eight events I'm working on at work, plus coordinate summer and fall show travels. But, I have cabin fever on weekends.

That's right. I have to force myself not to go into the office. Which means my house is spotless, laundry caught up, spice shelf organized, garage organized, closet color coordinated, and weeds picked out of my "rock garden" patio. I have walked the neighborhood, shopped, baked, and written letters. And today, I even watched two movies (which I rarely do), and then started to go to the office. Oh, and why do I blame my parents?? Because they are the people who instilled this work ethic into me!

So, I know I should enjoy this calm before the storm. Because starting next weekend when I get to go to Reno for the WNAF/WREG, there are very few weekends I get to actually live in my house in May, June, July, August, and September. Those months, my house becomes more of a place to sleep and do laundry a few nights a week. And, by October, I'll welcome a little more time at home. At least I'll be doing something productive!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another Thankful Thursday

Never, ever take life for granted.

When I first started working at American Angus 11 1/2 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to invest in a multi-pack of sympathy cards, for when a co-worker, director or friend's loved one passed away. And, these deaths always happened to occur in "threes". Now, I can barely keep enough sympathy cards on hand, and I must admit I've turned to using the the funeral homes "online condolence" feature more and more for acquaintances and Angus breeders. Just this week, I know of four cattle producers who have passed away. And, I have three friends or friends of friends who have undergone major surgery.

Yesterday afternoon I met with Pastor Gary. At the end of our meeting, he asked if I had any prayer requests. . .boy was that the wrong question to ask me! I had a list. Then he stated that he remembered that I always listed several people weekly on my church attendance sheet, and asked how I knew so many struggling people. I told him, I didn't know all of them personally, just that I believed in the power of prayer, and my friends and family know that, so they pass prayer requests onto me. (You can too at anytime.)

So, I'm sorry this is grim. It isn't uplifting or funny like my friends' Luke and Catherine's blog. But, I'm getting to my point. Tonight or tomorrow or this weekend whenever you take time to read this blog, give thanks for the things you have. Right now I am so thankful for my health, my family and friends that support and uplift me, my faith, my home and my career. And tell someone that you are thankful. Tell God. Tell your mom or dad or significant other or a friend or the lady at the drive thru window. Write a note. Write a poem. Donate to a charity. Give thanks. And never, ever take life for granted.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tonight I just couldn't win. . .

So, I hadn't spent any "big sis" time with Kat since we went to the Great Wolf Lodge way back before Easter. I thought tonight would be a great opportunity to catch up, and plant some flowers in hanging baskets for my front porch, grill some Angus hot dogs and eat on the patio. I was pretty pumped up about the evening, and even more so when I pulled up to her house, and was greeted by her waving at me, all smiles, from the top of 25 steps to her front door.

That's where the great ideas ended. We stopped by the grocery store on the way home, because I don't eat Catsup on anything, and I know Kat is a huge consumer of Catsup and will need some for her hot dogs. I also buy buns and potato salad--we need some carbs, too! While in the store, she asks for EVERYTHING! The girl wants chocolate covered donuts, Twinkies, zingers, glow sticks, bubble gum, and you name it! I asked her if she brought money, and she said, "no," so I said, "then I guess you don't need it." I don't mean to be rude, but I have bought Kat a lot already and I explained to her she doesn't need sugared bubble gum, and I always have gum if she needs a piece, and we have a good dinner at home, and I refuse to buy donuts and zingers. Yes, I am SCROOGE!

So, I have this great plan to plant flowers on my back patio...you know, soak up some afternoon sun, and she plops down on my sofa and turns on the TV. I've always had a NO TV rule with my little sisters. If they want to watch TV, they can do that on their time, not mine. SO, once again, I was the mean lady...We marched outside and started planting. Two girls, two containers, I thought this was a no brainer. WRONG. She was more interested in the rocks around my patio than planting flowers. So, one big sister planted two baskets. One little sister played in my rocks, and even asked if she could take some home. I said, sure. Not like I don't have enough.

Dinner. . .I made a nice fruit salad. Fresh strawberries, blueberries, kiwis and bananas. I MADE her try one of each. She said she had only had fruit in JELL-O. I thought this was totally sad. She said she didn't like it all mixed together, so I told her to separate it. I'll be having the rest of the fruit for my 10 PM snack tonight. The good news is she had never had potato salad either, and she did like that. Oh, and I have taught her when she's with me we pray before eating. She waited for me to say Grace tonight, and so we are getting somewhere there.

SO, any adults from my childhood, Mom, Dad, Aunt Barb...I apologize now if I was ever a difficult child. To my friends out there that are parents, my hat is tipped to you. Maybe I'm emotional, maybe I think I'm fun all the time, but I'm not really...I mean, she was playing with rocks. . .But on the way back to her house tonight, she said, "I had a really good time planting flowers."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Good for the Body & Soul

I finally found a workout regime that is enjoyable, doesn’t require a gym membership and lets you have a little fun at the same time. I know…how do all those things happen at once? Well, last week I had a “play date” with 4 ½ year-old Wryder at the Sargent Park, and four days later, my muscles are still telling me how much they hate me!

I had no idea basic playground equipment would be such a good workout, but then I started analyzing it. First, we hit the swings. Pumping our legs back in forth to see who could go higher had to do something! Then, on to the teeter totter, which I think did the most for my leg muscles. Since I outweigh Wryder by 100 + pounds, it was all my legs pumping him up and down, and every once and a while I got some arm action into it too.

Then, he tricked me into playing on this brightly colored piece of equipment. First we did the “bumpy slide” and it took only once to discover his is not for full figured women! But I kept climbing the steps to do the little slide so his mom, Jen, could get photos.

Finally, I attempted the bars…you know how you hang and climb from bar to bar, like there are sharks swimming below you! HA HA HA!! I could barely hang on!! I had those mastered in grade school, but let’s face it. . .it’s been a few years since those days at Cottonwood Creek.

SO, instead, I helped Wryder, again working on my upper strength training.

Overall, it was great being a kid again! And, I believe it was great for some muscle toning too! So, if you see me at the park sometime soon, just remember I’m getting in a workout. . .both for my body and soul. Sometimes, you just gotta be a kid!

Friday, April 9, 2010

You can go home

During the course of my vacation last week, I made a couple of Angus stops. Some people might find this odd since I was on vacation. But, I truly consider many of the Angus breeders and Association members family. As a matter of fact, I see many of them more often than my family so last Saturday on my way across Nebraska's Hwy 2, I made a stop at the Kraye Angus Production Sale in Mullen. Now, mind you my family and moved to Cox Hereford Ranch in 1978 and moved away in 1983, when I wasn't quite a decade old. But I learned alot about ranch life in those old Sandhills, which is some of the best cow country on Earth.

So I was perusing through the bulls at Kraye's when I ran into John, the second of the third generation on this family operation. He looked at me, and just started shaking my hand, and said, "Shelia Stannard, how are you? I can't believe you drove all the way from St. Joe to come to our sale!" Well, I explained to him that I was passing through town on my way to the Panhandle to see family and I couldn't forget their sale day. He mentioned that he was honored I was there from "the Association." And, I looked at John, and smiled, thinking to myself, I wasn't really on official business, and I could never forget where I came from.

Well, his dad, "whispering" Fred, didn't think one thing about me being from the American Angus Association. When I walked into that sale barn, Freddie put his arm around me and I was that 9-year-old third grader again. He led me around from rancher to rancher, exclaiming, "I bet you don't recognize this old gal," only like Freddie could! Very few people did recognize me, but hello, I wasn't wearing my bell-bottom Wranglers, my ball cap pulled down tightly over my ears and my leather belt with "SHELIA" engraved in the back with a little hereford belt buckle like I did so many years ago! I would hope I have straighter teeth, straighter hair, and am not quite so goofy looking! I got to talk to the Coxes, the ranch we lived on and worked for. And I got to see most of the Kraye family. It was just like being "home".

Oh, and why do they call him "whispering" Fred? Well, they say if you walk into the barns in Denver, and all the cattle are laying down with the fans blowing, Freddie can say "hello, friend," to the first person he sees, and it will be so loud all the cattle in the barn will stand up. He's been that way since I first met him in his feed store back in the late 1970s and he'll always be that way. It's nice to know that you can go home.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Making Memories

Hay Springs, Nebraska. Yep, that was my “Spring Break 2010” destination this year. No, it isn’t Cabo, Maui, Padre or any other tropical destination. As a matter of fact, the ground is covered in fresh snow just today, April 6. But, two very special people make this my Spring Break destination each year—my Grandpa and Grandma Raymer. I try to get up here for Easter and spend 3-4 days extra. We eat, play cards, nap, watch westerns, and do it all again the next day. That about sums up the time I spend with them. But that would be my shortest blog ever, so I’ll elaborate.

I love to watch my grandparents interact with each other. Next week they will have been married 63 years, and they still hold hands and flirt with each other. It is so incredible! My grandpa is a man of few words, but today when Grandma was away at her weekly coffee/card party he dug out some old pictures and told me about how he started farming for a Floyd when he was just 15 years-old and Floyd paid Grandpa $60 a month, which back then was a great wage. Grandpa saved that money and bought the first Studebaker that anyone in the area had, and showed me a photo of him in front the car that he paid $1,600 for. Grandma told me yesterday that when they honeymooned they drove that Studebaker all the way from Hay Springs to the West Coast through Yellowstone to Oregon and down to California and back. She kept track of their trip and spent less than $10 per day, including lodging, meals and gas. I love hearing these stories!

Flash forward to present day; there are so many reasons even as a 30-something I love to spend with my grandparents. Here are my top 10 reasons I still vacation at grandparents:

10~Lose touch with reality; no news channels, only Encore Western Channel and the Weather Channel (and whatever channel Wheel of Fortune comes on in the evenings)

9~Feels like the tropics; the older they get, the warmer they keep their house!

8~Free entertainment: card games after breakfast, after lunch, after supper.

7~Grandma tells you that 6 AM is too early to be up and to go back to bed when she sees you in the hallway. Who’s going to argue with Grandma??

6~I will not go hungry. Breakfast consists of fried breakfast meat, fresh fruit, toast and jelly and cereal with milk. And then Grandma says, “We should have a donut.”

5~Three naps per day; they follow the card games.

4~Predictability; each grandparent has a recliner. Each has a crossword puzzle book by their recliner. And before I leave tomorrow, Grandma will say, “What do I have that I can send home with you?”

3~They don’t understand what I’m doing on my computer and iPhone; I don’t understand why we watch Westerns all afternoon!

2~I admire them for everything they’ve worked for all their lives; they admire me for being a “career woman” who works all the time.

1~We love every minute we get to spend together and don’t take any of it for granted!

So, this vacation I won’t be bringing home any souvenirs or pictures or sending any postcards. But, I will be carrying with me another 4 days of priceless memories from two people who I love deeply.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Here's Your Sign

During the course of my lifetime, I have put on hundreds of thousands of miles in my travels; perhaps even a million by now if you combine my trips to livestock shows and sales while growing up, FFA, 4-H and junior and senior college judging trips and all my travels representing American Angus the past 11+, not to mention the personal trips to see friends, family and the world.

Today, while driving on a stretch of I-80 that I’ve driven countless times heading West outside of Lincoln, I encountered a travel first. It was like any other day with my tunes cranked up, big diet soda and a bag of cheap gas station popcorn and my favorite “alone travel game” of looking over and trying to figure out the driver next to me and what his or her life story might be when I pass someone on the interstate.

So there I was, about 4 in the afternoon, driving and talking to my mom, and passing Mr. Truck Driver. It didn’t take me long to figure out his story. He shared it loud and clear for me on an 8 ½ x11 yellow sign with bold black letters he held up on his side window when I passed him, “SHOW YOUR BOOBS”. Yeah I stared and my little blue Saturn hit the rumble bars on the left side of 80 because I wasn’t sure that I had read the sign correctly. But as I passed him and pulled my car in front of the shiny semi, the dark haired bearded man was waving his yellow sign in his front windshield at me, loud and clear.

Although somewhat disgusting and perverse, I couldn’t help but laugh! My mom, on the other end of the phone wanted to know what was going on, and I don’t think she was pleased either. She commented that obviously Mr. Driver had been away from home a little too long. I figured out his story right away. Although, I don’t agree with his sign or what he was doing, Mr. Truck Driver definitely added some spice to a stretch of road that gets pretty boring after a while. So, thank you Mr. T.D. for giving me a lot to think about today and breaking up the monotony of the trip. I sure hope you found what you were looking for!

Thank God I'm a Country Girl

Yesterday afternoon our temps in NW Missouri reached into the 80s and my little sis wanted to go bowling. I told her no way, no how. . .we were going to enjoy the beautiful weather despite my allergies. So we loaded up and drove to Krug Park, even though I had never been there before.

We parked in front of this nasty, dirty body of water, and lo and behold, a geese pond occupied her mind for nearly an hour and I just kept thanking God that my mom had A) subscribed to that “Ranger Rick” magazine for me all those years; and B) that we had actually had geese for a short stint on the ranch at Mullen. Otherwise, I was pretty sure I had totally missed the “poultry” unit they taught in Animal Science 101that was offered at Colby Community College!

Kat had 101 questions, and well, being the older, wiser “big sis” that I am, I had 101 answers! I just hope she doesn’t ever compete in an academic bowl and claim that I imparted this knowledge on her! YIKES!! I felt pretty comfortable with the basics though, like the daddy geese (males) are ganders and the babies are goslings and a group of them are a gaggle. Then we got into feather features. Well of course they need feathers to fly and swim and as a defense mechanism and for heating themselves in the winter, but I might have stretched it a little when I said the feathers are even used for cooling devices as they fan themselves in the summer (seemed logical to me and she bought into it)!

Kat was concerned when the geese kept ducking their heads into the water and then shaking their heads. I equated that to washing our hair, and then when a feather was falling out, I explained the whole shedding process. WOW!!! All these answers while I’m surrounded by some of the things I fear and dislike most—birds (I’m afraid they’ll attack me) and bird poop is just plain nasty--give me cow ____ any day! But, it was an hour of outside fresh air and togetherness.

Finally, Kat proclaimed she was hungry, and we loaded up to find dinner. My only limitation was NO McDonalds! (I should have bought stock when she and I were matched). So, we had KFC. . .It only seemed logical.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter. . .Simply Stated

Last night, I took a very special 6-year-old, Ella, out for dinner to I-HOP. This was a long-overdue “birthday” outing, as her mom suggests to me it is sometimes more fun for her to receive these outings from me than another wrapped gift of an outfit or toy. And, I agree. And, I-HOP had just opened last fall around the time of Ella’s birthday so I made her a little card promising her a “girl’s time at I-HOP.”

I had forgotten how insightful Ella was, as I haven’t got to spend as much time with her as I used to now that she is in school and involved in other activities and we have moved to opposite ends of town where we both used to live in the central part of town. She also reminded me the main reason it took us six months to get together for our outing is “because I go on too many trips!” Yes, she has that one right!

As we were driving down Ashland Ave., we went right by Ashland United Methodist Church, where we both attend. She said in a proud little voice, “That’s my church!” I told her that was my church too, and asked if she remembered seeing me there sometimes. She said, sometimes, but she goes to the “middle church and there are lots of people there.” She was right again! That’s when the contemporary service is and they have great uplifting music and it is way more packed than either of the traditional services. Last week, I wanted to go to a traditional Palm Sunday service, so I went to “late church” and it was great, so I asked Ella if during the “middle church” last Sunday all the kids waved palm branches down the aisle and she said indeed they did, and proceeded to tell me the Easter story she learned in Sunday school.

Ella explained that Easter is when Jesus comes back from the dead, because he died for our sins and went to Heaven, but Easter Sunday is when he comes back to life. But only Jesus comes back to life here on Earth. When people die they don’t come back to life until they get to Heaven.

Well put Ella! I’d say her parents, grandparents and Sunday School teachers get big kudos for that explanation. I couldn't explain the Easter story in in three sentences any simpler than that myself. Happy Easter, readers and remember the real reason for the Season!