Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm an airline snob. . .it's only Soutwest for me!

Over the weekend, I attended the Fort Worth Stock Show, and though it is just a 9-hour drive, weather this time of year is always tricky and it really is a "quick trip" for me, so I opted to fly down and back. Unfortunately, DFW isn't serviced by number one choice of airlines--Southwest. So, though I was only in the air a grand total of 3 hours or maybe less during the entire trip, I was reminded by their competitor, whose name will remained unmentioned but sounds somewhat like the country we live in, why I dread flying anyone but Southwest!

First, I got to the counter in KC, not to be greeted by the usual smile of a Southwest agent, but by the two ladies behind the counter, literally ARGUING about whom had taken the others' pen. Seriously?!?! Then, the inevitable--the $20 fee to check ONE bag! On Southwest, I check two pieces of luggage FREE!!! Once through security, their boarding process was simple enough, and I was glad to be in Group 2, but it was comical watching the other passengers lug suitcases as large as the one I had checked onto the plane and try to make them fit in the storage compartment! I suppose this was to avoid the $20 fee! And, that overhead space was at a premium--I barely had room for my computer bag, but I had already stashed my camera bag under the seat in front of me.

The flight was smooth; we actually arrived early. However, the flight attendants sounded like robots; didn't smile; say thank you for flying with them. We did have our choice of water, coffee or apple juice--no ice for the juice or water, though.

On the return to KC, is when I about really lost it! I got to the counter to check in at DFW, to be greeted by a man who could have been Barney Fife's great nephew--not poking fun, just trying to give you a visual--he had his pants hiked up; tie tucked way down into his pants and all six hairs slicked way back. I handed him my photo ID and told him I was going to KC, and he wanted to charge me $270! Way more than my original ticket, which was paid for. I questioned him; he typed; the security announcements came over the loud speakers and he cupped both hands over his ears. He typed some more; said yep, I owed them; I said, no, please may I speak to a supervisor; he called someone, but had to put the phone down to cover his ears AGAIN during the next set of announcements. He finally got it figured out that I didn't owe for anything for my bag, which he made me weigh in three different positions--standing, on its side and flat--always weighing 42.2 pounds. I know my suitcase, and Purplicious never weighs over 50 pounds. About 45 minutes later, I got my boarding pass and was on my way, but as soon as I got settled at the gate area, they paged me. Yep, Barney thought I took too many pieces of paper. He was getting off his shift, and couldn't find his copy of my receipt for the checked baggage. I had to prove to the lady, who was very friendly, that I only had mine.

Now, I did have a cheap ticket, less that $200, but customer service on the ground and in the air, is not a strong suit for this airline. I can hardly wait for my next 3 work trips--they are already booked on Southwest, an airline known for their customer service, short turn around time, and no checked luggage fees. It will be like coming home!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do YOU Believe in Angels?

I never really believed in angels until May 27, 2009, when on the eve of my 36th year I was introduced to Melanie Yang, who became my 8-year-old angel, that I wasn't aware I needed. You see May 27 was the night I was "matched" with Melanie, my "little" through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Saint Joseph. And, though as the "big sister" volunteer I was supposed to help this youngster from a single-parent home, she opened my eyes and helped me grow more than anyone or anything really ever could.

You see, I am a self-proclaimed workaholic. For years, during my annual review, I have been criticized for putting in too many hours (I never knew that was a bad thing, but I blame my parents for my work ethic). But, then, late last spring, I met Melanie, and my life changed. Through BB/BS I was required to spend 2-4 hours per week with my little, and since I travel most weekends in the summer, that meant leaving the office at 4:30 (closing time) to pick her up and spend time with her before her mom's curfew of 8 p.m.

Our first night, we went over the ground rules, and then only had about 45 minutes, so we made our first trip to Baskin Robbins, a place she'd never been before. By summer's end, I made sure Melanie had ice cream whenever her heart desired! Throughout our weekly visits, we'd play mini-golf, talk walks along the River Walk, make crafts, bake cookies, go shopping, visit PetCo to watch the animals, play board games (Yahtzee, Monopoly and Life), eat out--I took her to her one and only trip to Olive Garden, but she was just as happy at McDonalds.

We participated in BB/BS match activities like a swimming party and movie night. As we gathered with other "matches" it amazed me how well the program paired the bigs and littles. Even though I grew to love Mel's little sister Tiffany, she was much more a girly-girl, and giggly and outgoing, where Mel was more like me--laid back, loved the outdoors, loved to bake cookies and was a little competitive. And, Tiff's big sister Pam was very well suited for her.

Tonight, was the night I knew was coming, but hadn't really prepared for. Melanie told me in early December that they would be moving to Minnesota to live with her grandparents, and that she didn't want leave her friends or me. I've talked to her each week about the move, and the art of being a pen-pal. I should know--my parents and I moved about every 4 years during my growing up years, and I still write and Facebook at least one friend from each of my schools. I have tried to be the adult--until tonight. When I picked Melanie up tonight she and Tiff showered me at their apartment door with gifts--a plush little teddy bear named Dena, a gift certificate to the mall, and a necklace that says #1 sister. That's when the tears started rolling. You see, I've never been a sister before--I've been a daughter, granddaughter, niece, and Aunt Shelia, but never really a sister. And, I knew right then, what started out as a very happy morning for me was going to end as a very sad night.

After we baked cookies and ate cookies and drank milk at my house, we took a few final pictures and headed back to Melanie's apartment. The tears streamed down my face the entire way, but I tried to keep the conversation light. I asked her what her favorite parts of our experience had been, and she replied, baking cookies, going to the River Walk and the first night we met. And, I have to agree. When we got to her apartment, Tiff insisted on a "group hug" one of my favorite weekly activities, and I thanked their mom for the nice gifts, now wearing the necklace. Her mom thanked me for all I had done for them. But she'll never know what that 8-year-old angel brought to my life--a new perspective.

If the littles get as much out of BB/BS as this "big" did in 8 short months, it has got to be one of the best organizations ever!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Real Life Grey's Anatomy

When I was a little girl, my parents always encouraged me to pursue any career path I wanted; however, my mom always added, "except nursing." Now, maybe this was from her years of experience as a Registered Nurse or perhaps mother's intuition. I mean, I love the Thursday-night TV show, "Grey's Anatomy", and "fixed" all my stuffed animals and dolls' ailments playing doctor. But today, I was reminded once again that Mom really does know best.

Today, Mom had surgery at Salina Surgical Hospital in Kansas. And even as the surgeon was describing the procedure post-op, I was feeling a little queasy. It really is amazing me that I can donate platelets at the drop of dime or watch animals being born or even go through a cattle harvesting facility without passing out.

Then, after what felt like an eternity, my dad and I finally got to go back to her room. I don't do well with those cords, tubes and machines either, but Mom had warned me on the phone the night before (mother's intuition at work again). THEN, Tanya, the prettiest, sweetest nurse who was attending to my mom, and Darcy decided it was time to make my mom walk--I understand this is good for the blood flow and to get her organs working. But my mom got dizzy, and faint, and I thought I was going to get that way myself. So, it was time for me to hit the lobby and return yesterday's voice mails!

Basically, God has given us all a purpose on this earth. It takes special people like Tanya and Darcy to be nurses and take care of those in need--people who are caring and compassionate about others and can stomach anything.

This blog is dedicated to my friends and family in the medical profession: Mom, Terri Svoboda, Jessica Sawyer, Ashley Davis, Barry Pollard, Shirley Pearson, Chris Smith, Mallory Trosper, Iris, Tara, Margaret, Jo and Amy (my friends at Community Blood Center), Dr. Makos (my AWESOME neurologist) and anyone else who practices medicine and takes cares of others! THANK YOU! As for me, I'll stick to event planning and cattle photography. . .two things my stomach can handle. . .

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Game of Life

As a child, I used to LOVE the board game "Life". Remember this one, with the spinner on the huge board, where you picked the car of the color of your choice, and girls were pink pegs and boys were blue pegs? From the start, the players chose the college path or the career path, and everyone knows that you make more money in the long-run if you go to college, so taking out that initial $100,000 loan will be so worth it! As you go, you get married--EVERYONE does, because that's LIFE! And, then you have a career, buy a starter house, upgrade houses, file lawsuits, have babies (more blue and pink pegs--mind you the car only holds up to six), send the kids to sports camp, sponsor art shows and ultimately retire. And, in the end, the player with the most money wins.

Well tonight, my little sis Melanie and I played Life. Here's a summary of our courses of action:

Melanie: Purple car, no college, started as salesman at $20,000; first home was at Tudor style at $120,000; ended up married with twins and an additional boy. She sold the Tudor style home and her second "homes" were an RV and a trailer. Changed careers to become a professional athlete ended up making $80,000 per payday. She asked if she be a tennis player. Why not?? At the end of the game, she had sued me twice for $100,000 each time--and I had to explain in 8-year-old terms what a lawsuit was.

Shelia: Red car, went to college, so started $100,000 in debt; started as a teacher at $40,000; then became a doctor for $100,000 paycheck. Then, I chose to go back to school, to advance my career, which turned out to be a police officer at $40,000, and $5,000 each time Mel spun '10' and that was quite often. My first home was a charming $100,000 log cabin; but when I upgraded, I went to the $800,000 mansion. I had a set of twins--girls. And, I got to sue Melanie just once.

When the game ended, Melanie the uneducated tennis player had a stack of cash and Life tokens, that I didn't bother to add up. I had about 6 life tokens, and no cash, but my mansion was paid for, and well, I was well-rounded as I'd had three careers and multiple college degrees. And, I decided, this is definitely a kids' game.

Sorry mom and dad for begging you to play Life with me so much! Now, that I'm in THE game of LIFE, I realize how depressing this board game really is! Next week, Melanie and I have already decided we'll bake cookies... Now, that's what I call living!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's your Passion?

Once upon a time, I thought a few of my friends that I work with at the Association were crazy, almost to the verge of loco. We'll call these friends Kenny, Sally, Jerry and David. This group of friends ran each and every day and no one was chasing them--they ran because they enjoyed it! Then, after careful observation and some understanding on my part, I grew to understand they weren't really crazy--really. They were passionate. They all shared a passion as runners.

During the past weekend, my friend and mentor, Sally Northcutt, ran 39.3 miles, competing in and completing the Disney half-marathon and Disney marathon on back-to-back days thus earning the "Goofy Challenge" medal. Sally is a dedicated, talented athlete who has competed in numerous marathons across the country, including the Boston Marathon (I was in her cheering section last April). She is also an avid golfer. Sally loves running. And for those of you keeping up with the weather, you might imagine that training for a major running event this winter in Missouri hasn't been easy, so she's booked quite a few treadmill hours--not ideal for a runner. But, because of Sally's PASSION, she now has three more AWESOME medals and two more races under her belt.

I'm so proud of Sally, and all of my running friends. I'm a runner's fan. Marathon's are great spectator events! I've been to the Chicago Marathon to watch Jerry, Boston to watch Jerry and Sally; Las Vegas to watch Kenny and his wife Nicole cross the finish, and some local races. If you ever get the chance, go and cheer on the runners--it is a huge boost for them. Though I'm not a runner, these folks all show true passion for what they do. They are great athletes. They compete on their own, independent of others for their own success.

Do you have a passion? What is in your life that gets you truly excited? Today I challenge you to think about your passion in life? Follow that passion, and and you'll always have something to stand for or chase after!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My wish for you. . .

For the past 11 years, during the National Western, I drive by the Denver Rescue Mission each day enroute between my comfortable downtown Denver hotel and the NWSS Complex. Each morning and evening, I witness homeless people lined up for meals and even worse sleeping huddled up next to each other on the cold concrete with a thin blanket and their possessions in a grocery bag next to them. And, each time I think to myself, "How do these people end up with no one to love them and no where to go?"

I know some year I WILL break down, buy some blankets or even contact the Rescue Mission before I come to Denver to see how I can make a difference. I just can't imagine that these people have no one in their lives. I am definitely blessed to have family and friends across the country and around the world that I could call in a time of need, and crash on their couch or floor. I would be happy if a friend would offer me a bread and butter sandwich. These people are sleeping on concrete in sub-zero temperatures!

So, my wish for you friends, is this: if your life is ever so bad that you have no place to go or no where to turn, call me! I am here for you. I have room, beds, blankets, food. I may not be wealthy, but I pray I always have a roof in some form over my head and as long as I do, my house is open to you. And, when you are under my roof, there is nothing that you, me and God can't handle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mother Nature and Me

I'm starting to think that Ma Nature has a problem with me traveling to Denver. First, she gave me low visibility leaving my grandparents when I was supposed to fly to Phoenix for an ROV show right after Christmas. Then, Wednesday night/Thursday morning she visited the Midwest with the RAWEST, most bitter winds I think I've ever experienced as I was ready to leave St. Joseph in a loaded down 12-passenger van destined to Denver for this year's National Western.

I woke up Thursday morning, to 2-feet drifts in front of my house (south side), but my little Saturn got through the north side alley, to the office. I-29 was brutal, and I was a little afraid, but then I remembered my #1 co-pilot, God, and about 8:30, he and I and a van full of computer equipment, show awards, sale books, trade show booths and cloths, a blanket, snow shovel and bottled water headed south on I-29. It took me 1 1/2 hours to go the first 50 miles, to the Legends or Speedway area for those familiar, and I saw more than 30 cars and at least 6 semis in the ditches and median. I was creeping along about 35mph, reciting Psalm 23 frontward and backward and my knuckles were as white as the snow and ice covered road I was driving on. No, I wasn't blessed with an overload of common sense, just a lot of stubbornness and will power. I was only afraid twice when the van got a little squirly in the wind. When I headed west, the roads weren't totally covered in white, and about half way through Kansas, the roads became dry, and it was back to normal speeds for me and Gold (the van).

I-70 when I headed West

I appreciate my friends, family and co-workers who checked in on my during my drive, sent up prayers and posted words of encouragement to Facebook. Right now, I'm not planning to drive to Denver again until July for our National Junior Angus Show. I wonder what Mother Nature will have in store for me then?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dream Big

This morning my friend Ashley posted this to his Facebook page:

It takes courage to Dream big Dreams. You will discover that courage when you do three things: Accept the past, Trust God to Handle the Future, and Make the most of the day He has given you. No Dream or Hope is to big for God if it is in his plan for your good.

I have been thinking about this statement all day. As a youngster, I had dreams--dreams that were pretty big for a little girl in the Nebraska Sandhills: I was going to be a successful writer and photographer, raise great purebred livestock, be a loving wife and mother. Of course, I thought all my dreams would come true by the time I was 25. Then real life happened. However, I'm very blessed, and as I am approaching my 37th year, I realize some of my dreams have come true, and some of the best and biggest dreams still will, as long as they are God's will.

So, if I can leave you with one thought this evening, remember this. God has a plan for all of us. We don't know that plan until it happens, but when it does, it is something special. Until then, DREAM BIG!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Defining Success

I've been attending livestock shows my entire life, whether with my own livestock, helping someone else, participating in the judging contests or during the last 11 years representing the American Angus Association. I guess you could say shows are in my blood. And, as an exhibitor, I loved to win...who doesn't? But I also brought home my share of those "off-colored" ribbons and stood places in class I don't even care to remember. I always remember my dad saying, "If you don't want to get beat, don't go out into the ring," and "This weekend it is one judge's opinion; live with it, and next weekend, we'll have another show and a different judge."

So, now that I'm more in the show management mode, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I see grown men and women act childish because they didn't win their class or division. I guess their parents didn't share with them the same advice that dear old dad did with me. But, this past week in Phoenix, I witnessed something so AWESOME, I wanted to share it with you all.

First, it was refreshing to have a younger judge who did a great job evaluating all the cattle, and who said something positive about each animal in the ring. Phoenix is an ROV (point show) for the Angus breed, and we did have a large, competitive show, with cattle from Oregon, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.

There was one rough and tumble couple from the Southwest whom I'd met the year previous who doesn't exhibit at other Angus ROV shows, but they come to Phoenix with a big string of Herefords and a few Angus. They aren't polished by any means, but they ended up in the largest class of the day--the Jan/Feb bull calf class. Once it was placed, they were third in class. As the lady lead their third place bull calf out of the ring, the judge Jake Scott talked about his merits being ideal for the range and the commercial cowman. The man in his faded jeans, scuffed up boots and bandana around his neck beamed from ear to ear and exclaimed, "Baby, that's as good as winning grand champion!" As I was working in the line up area, I couldn't help but hear his words and see both of their smiles. No, she wasn't carrying a purple banner or even a blue ribbon. But she was carrying the satisfaction of hearing one judge's kind words, and knowing she had beat six other bulls in class that day.

As we go through life, how do define success? Is it always being number 1? Is it winning the trophy? Or is it knowing that we did our very best? Or like this couple, hearing someone say something nice about us or the product we raise?

I know at the end of my life, the banners will be faded and the trophies tarnished, but I will never forget the kind words that are said about me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolutions. . .made to last

Yesterday on my flight from Phoenix to Denver, I read in an article that most new year's resolutions last, on average, only 6 weeks. So, by mid-February, most people have broken their resolutions. I typically wait until my birthday to make my "new year" resolutions, but along with so many other people I have decided to start this next decade and make some resolutions. But, I do have a confession. . .I've been practicing some of these for a while.

Late in the summer of '09, I decided my life needed a lift, so I started some new rituals and brought back some old habits that needed revitalized. My life is much fuller for these things.

So, in 2010, I'm going to continue:
Reading and studying The Word each and every day (thanks Mom and Dad for the new Bible for Christmas--one every 25 years is nice and now I have three versions in the house). Plus, from the Blackberry or laptop, I recommend as an EXCELLENT resource for scripture.

Volunteering--hopefully, my little sister will still be in St. Joseph, when I get home and not have moved. Either way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a great organization and I will continue to be involved. I also want to start volunteering at Grace House and will continue to donate items for families in need.

Excercise--did really well in early 2009.

Be kinder than necessary--this hung above John Crouch's door during his time at American Angus, and I will always remember that no matter how bad my day, someone is facing bigger challenges, so a little kindness with a smile goes a long way!

So, now that I've made my resolutions public, there's NO going back! My new year's hope for you is to have the most blessed, healthy and happy new year ever! Life is what we make of it. So make 2010 the best yet!