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!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Make a diffference. . .EVERYDAY

The radio station that I listen to each and everyday features Mondays as “Make a difference Monday” and listeners are encouraged to call in and share how someone has made a difference in their lives over the weekend, or how they have had been a positive influence or role model in someone else’s life. I love hearing these stories of inspiration, and they have often become ways I’ve tried to make a difference in someone else’s life too.

But, here’s a thought. . .let’s make a difference EVERYDAY! I know that is really pushing the nice-o-meter, even for a person like me who claims not to be so nice. But all it really takes is a smile and saying hello to someone. That’s it. You could go above and beyond and hold the door, or buy the coffee for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru. But a simple smile and hello is often a really good start. And, it will make people wonder what you are up to.

As a follow up to an earlier blog, tomorrow I take my volunteer application down to the Grace House, along with a huge bag of clothing (I had no idea I had so many clothes), some luggage and more purses. And, I hope to hang out and actually start helping around the place. And I’m going to take some of your suggestions and take some hotel samples down there too. I always saved them for my guest bathroom, but let’s face it, I have enough saved up to have guests every night for the next 3 years, and there are people that actually need these items.

So, let me know how you are going or how you did make a difference recently! I love reading your comments. They are so inspiring to me. They make a difference, and isn’t that why we’re here…

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back to the "W"

Last week I addressed the Global 4-H Conference in Kansas City, for about the fifth or sixth year. The conference is geared toward high school students and focuses on career exploration. I remember going to it myself as a young 4-H member from Northwest Kansas, and this year, I had about 32 youth from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in my group.

Normally I give a two-hour presentation on Ag Journalism and Public Relations; but since my role at the Association changed slightly in August, I felt it somewhat hypocritical of me to talk only about journalism since I primarily focus my efforts on event planning and show management--still aspects of PR. So I made new slides, titled the "ABCs of Public Relations, Ag Journalism & Event Planning". I had at least one slide for each letter of the alphabet, and by the time I got to "W" I was running out of creativity. But my talk isn't just about career development, it's about personal development too, and I even talk about goal setting and have the individuals set short, medium and long range S.M.A.R.T. goals.

But, back to the "W". I made a slide about Words that always Work--you know the ones I'm talking about--Please, Thank you, How can I help. Well, this week I have received several thank you notes in the mail from these kids, and here are just a few excerpts from them:

"You really helped me because I want to do journalism, but never knew what it took. Now I know & I'm very glad that you came and helped me understand the things. Thank you."

"I learned a lot about of this workshop that I can use in my future career. You are a very talented and educated person and thank you for being involved in the 4-H Global Summit."

"It was so full of fun & info. It was the best workshop in my 3 years of coming to the KCGC!"

And, speaking of "Words that always Work" I would like to give a huge shout out to all those who read this blog regularly or are reading for the first time, encourage me in my writing and other endeavors and support me in all I do! I know I don't say it often enough, but thank you!

If you are reading this now, you have made a difference in my life at some point, and I appreciate you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Me, in ten words

I felt the need to express myself today. It is rainy and gloomy here in Northwest Missouri, and that isn't really anything to write about; who wants to read about the weather? So, I saw this on a blog I follow, which a friend who knows I like to be inspired shared with me. (Thanks, Nate) Caroline described herself in ten words.

That's right friends. I'm going to describe how I feel at this very moment on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 in 10 words. Then, I'm going home to grill a steak and some veggies.


That's me in a nutshell. Take me or leave me! Now, I'd like to see you describe yourselves in ten words. It isn't as easy task.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not in my town

Call me naive. Call me sheltered. But, who would have thought that homelessness existed in my town? That's right folks; here in St. Joe, Mo., population near 74,000 there is a homeless epidemic. I guess I am naive. Growing up in rural America, the only time I saw homeless people was when I went to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and I never really associated St. Joe with the "big city" as it is so spread out and friendly. However tonight, I was exposed to another side of town.

For the past few months I have been on a personal cleaning spree that started with packing to move to my new digs last fall. I am not one to have patience with having a yard sale although wouldn't Grandma Raymer LOVE that if I did! Nor do I feel I have the time. But I do think I have some pretty good "stuff". So my friend at work, Sara, told me about the Grace House, a place downtown that was looking for donated items for St. Joe's needy. At the time, needy didn't equal homeless in my little brain.

I have taken several car loads of clothes, blankets, sheets, towels, dishes, purses, shoes, pots and pans down to the Grace House on Saturdays that I'm home, and have always left in awe with the number of folks in there picking out items. Tonight, with assistance (muscles and use of pickup), Don Laughlin and I took my loveseat and living room chairs to the Grace House, in anticipation of my very first "new" furniture that I purchased that will be delivered next week. The coordinator recognized me, asked me what church I attended, and said, "God Bless You!" with a smile, as she had just given away her last two sofas, and had other families in need. Then, I told her I had more clothes and shoes at home, and that is when Don's interest was sparked. He asked if she accepted men's clothing. Then, she started talking about the homeless, and how they needed "sturdy men's jeans" and "men's shoes or boots with good soles" because summer was coming and the homeless would be walking and sleeping near the river (Missouri) to stay cool. WHAT? That is when I acted calm and cool, and not so naive. I know I wrote about the homeless in Denver in January, but we're talking about the town I live in! I know life can be bad; I've seen some tough St. Joe neighborhoods in my other volunteering, but to sleep on the streets?!? I sure hope any of you readers know if your life ever gets that bad, you can always come stay with me!

So, now I have a new passion. Next Tuesday, and the Tuesdays and Saturdays I'm not traveling for the Association or for my own enjoyment, you might find me at 5th and Edmond. You might just find me at the Grace House. I have to apply to be a volunteer first. (I hope they accept me!) But, I really feel this is a great step to my calling that I've been searching for--helping others.

Next time you think, "not in my town" or "not in my lifetime" take a look around. You'll be suprised to what you might find. I was.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Who really benefits?

Once again the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program (BB/BS) continues to bless and amaze me! As a "big" I know I'm supposed to be mentoring my "little" but wow--these kids put life into such perspective. Each time I'm with my little I feel like I'm the one getting benefiting from the program.

I know I write about BB/BS a lot, but I am so passionate about it! You might recall from an earlier post that my first "little" Melanie moved away, and broke my heart; the good news is I got her address today just in time to send her a birthday card next week! YEAH!

And, the other bit of good news is I was re-matched with my second "little" Kat, short for Kathleen. Tonight was our 4th meeting, and I took her to my house for the first time. Her eyes got big as saucers when we walked into my modest home and she wanted to know how many people lived there and why I didn't have pets. How do you explain to someone who shares a one-bedroom home with 5 people that one person lives in three-bedroom home? It was awkward...especially when I had just finished the talk on how we can't do an activity that costs money every week like we had the first three weeks, because in her eyes I was "rich."

Now, just to set the record straight, I am not a gourmet cook. I can make some pretty killer grilled meat and veggies; and a few other items, and I love to bake. And, I mainly cook on weekends when I have time. Tonight I had put in 10 hours at the office, picked up Kat, and driven home with the thought of spaghetti or tacos. She chose spaghetti, and for tonight it was Ragu in the jar and some pasta. She ate two helpings like it was the best food she'd ever had! Then, we played Yahtzee, where she whooped me both games, and we headed back to town. She explained that her Mom was going to meet us because she had just got done at her cousin's 10th birthday party. WHOA!! I asked her why she hadn't rescheduled with me to go to her cousin's party, and her reply, "Well, we're family too. You're my big sister." If that doesn't melt your heart, nothing will.

On the way back to town with the sleet hitting the windshield, she asked if I had ever been to Hawaii, and I told her no, but I would like to go there someday when I was married. She didn't miss a beat, "Maybe I can come with you." I just had to smile. I told her Hawaii was a lot more fun when you get out of college! (at least that is what I've heard)

So, once again, I wonder who is benefiting from this big/little relationship? Sure Kat gets to do cool things with me like go to the Lipizzaner Stallions (which I discovered I'm allergic to), paint ceramics, go ice skating and eat McDonalds. But I get to do those things with her and am reminded to count EVERY blessing, both large and small and never, ever take anything for granted. I think I'm coming out ahead on this deal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four hours, three tourists, one stop

Last weekend, my friend and co-worker Robin and I headed East for the Mid-Atlantic Junior Angus Classic, where we and two NJAA directors helped with this junior show at Harrisonburg, VA. It was typical MAJAC weather--cold and damp, but we still had a great show evaluated by my friend Alan Miller. The show was over in good time on Sunday, and we dropped Chris Cassady off at Dulles Airport. Robin, Andrew Rogen and I had time to kill as we didn't fly out til EARLY on Monday morning. Andrew asked how far we were from Washington D.C., so we punched 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. into the Garmin and in less than 20 minutes we were in the heart of D.C., a place none of the three of us had ever been.

We didn't let a little mist in the air or a slight breeze dampen our experience! In a little more than 4 hours we walked 6 miles or so, saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, U.S. Capitol (from a distance), the White House, and the Treasury Department. And, I didn't even get honked at, which is better than I can say during Robin's and my drive to Whitestone Farm on Thursday, but that's another blog...

Here are Robin and I in front of the Washington Monument, both a little more enthusiastic about the "longer" daylight hours that daylight saving time provided!

And me, at the Washington Monument with the Lincoln Memorial in the far background. It was a damp, windy day, but we were three tourists with nothing but time, enthusiasm and cameras!

Honest Abe was huge! I was so glad to get to see these monuments and memorials at night with the lights on them. If the weather was going to be rainy and damp, might as well look for some positive!

I loved this shot of the flag, Washington memorial, and fountain. Once I get a subject, I could shoot it all day (you should see my Eiffel Tower pictures).

This Korean War Soldiers Memorial was very moving. It was so dark by the time we got there, it was almost like we were among the soldiers. A great reminder that freedom is indeed never free.

Finally, our parking garage was right near the National Press Building, and well there is still a little journalist left in me, so I couldn't resist one more posed shot!

Who knew that three friends could have so much free fun in one place in four short hours? I definitely will head back to D.C. in the near future, and once again was reminded that we must live each day to the fullest and take advantage of every opportunity! I mean, I could have sat in the Fairfield Inn and watched the March Madness selection, Facebooked and did my show report, but how much fun would that blog have been for you all to read?!?!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's in the Air!

When it comes to the weather, I'm like little bear's porridge, I want the temperatures to be "just right"; not too cold and not too hot. Perhaps that is why I have always loved Spring the most of the four seasons. Or maybe its the renewal of life--flowers blooming, trees budding and baby lambs and calves born on the ranch I was raised on. Or perhaps it is a combination of all of the above. Whatever it is, Spring is definitely in the air in Northwest Missouri right now, and I LOVE IT!!!

About a 1 1/2 years ago I took up walking due to doctor's orders and the positive influence of so many of my friends who are runners. Well, we've had a pretty brutal winter here, and I don't do treadmills, so I took the winter off. But last Wednesday, I decided was the day I was going to start my spring fitness routine. Just one week ago, I was literally dodging snow piles, water holes and mud on my usual route on Ashland Ave. Today, it was 50 degrees, the birds were chirping, squirrels were chasing each other, and the flowers were just starting to poke through soil. What a difference seven days can make!

The day light hours are longer, so now I get to see the sun at least twice a day. It is always a little sad to come to the office in the dark at 7 a.m., and leave the office at 7 p.m., and still never get to see the sun!

Soon the trees will be budding and my favorite lilacs will be blooming. One tradition I had at my first purchased home was planting a lilac each spring. That way, I could track the number of years I lived there. I will really miss that in my new generic sub-division.

I hope you all enjoy this season of birth and renewal as much as I do! Take a few extra minutes to soak up the sun or take in the smells of your favorite flowers. Afterall, there are more minutes of sun light and spring won't last forever. Pretty soon we'll be threatened by the humidity and bugs of summer! HAPPY SPRING!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Don't Rush Life

I always wondered what I'd do with a weekend at home with absolutely no plans. Well this past weekend, I had the opportunity to discover what that would be, and I did a lot of soul searching. Of the 48 hours in the weekend, I spent 70% of it soul searching (including church), 25% sleeping (I was a little behind in my required sleep) and the other 5% cleaning the frig/freezer and doing laundry. Pretty pathetic, huh?

Now, I'm not going to share with you everything I discovered, because honestly, I don't think my journey is over. Is it ever? But I did come to one revelation--being an adult isn't for the weak.

But here are a few of my thoughts. And for you YOUNG people, pay attention! You see, as an adult we are faced with decisions that we must make--not like what color our prom dress is going to be or who we're going to hang out with for the weekend. These are big time decisions. They don't always only affect only our lives, but many other lives as well. We have to think with our head and also our heart.

Then, we have an endless pile of bills. Thanks to my new buddy, Dave Ramsey, these are managable. But I also have another buddy like Eddie Bauer for instance that doesn't care what Dave says and knows I'm a sucker for a good deal, especially via the internet.

I remember the Monday after I graduated from SFCHS, my friend Tish and I drove to Colby so I could find a job because I was that ready to get out of the house and small town America. Guess what? I would give anything to have a redo button. To have that summer back working at the C-Mart in Sainty, not sleeping at Burger King (literally) and waiting on busloads of people on their way to see the Pope in Denver that summer. Remember, let your parents take care of you as long as they want!

Finally, do what you love and love what you do! I don't think you are too old to discover your purpose in life. I always am thankful that my parents told me I could be anything I ever wanted. There was never any limitations set at my house, other than I was going to attend K-State! But, even though I have a degree in Ag Journalism, I do more event planning now than anything. And, I don't know that event planning is my final purpose in life--refer to paragraph #1 (soul searching). So, when people ask you what you want to be, dream big, but that doesn't mean you have to stick to it.

Tonight as I went for a walk, I thought about all these things. Several runners and joggers passed me buy. I wondered what their rush was. As someone who lives by deadlines and a color-coded calendar, I thought for once, wouldn't it be nice, if we didn't have to rush life along? Take time to enjoy it. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Heavenly Reunion

Last night I got the call I knew would come eventually, but one the selfish, nearly-37-year-old me was hoping would wait until after Easter. My mom left a message at nearly 10 p.m. (remember when I was still going strong at 10?) and said, "call me tonight". So, I called her to learn that my great-grandma Nona Kutschara had passed away. Like I said, this was expected, but it sent chills up my spine, because all day, I kept thinking, "I need to get Great Grandma a birthday card," and on my drive home I remembered that I had forgotten. You see, she was going to be 103 years old on March 14, and she adored getting mail.

I am so blessed that I had Great Grandma in my life as long as I did, as many of my friends don't even get to have grandparents in their lives; and I still have a pair of those, who are two of my best life mentors. I often reflect on Great Grandma and though we are from totally different generations, I see some of her in me sometimes.

She was a tough little lady. She survived the depression. She survived breast cancer. She survived on the farm by herself for three decades after Great Grandpa passed away. She's survived two heart attacks in the last few months. She knew how to work hard, provide for her family and save a dollar. She loved her daughters, grandkids, great grandkids and great-great grandkids. She loved farm animals, and fed any cat that came to her doorstep.

I will always remember Great Grandma for her homemade chicken and noodles, and according to her, you have to use an old hen to get the right flavor. She always brought a yellow box of the Whitmans sampler chocolates to holiday gatherings. She also crocheted doilies and tops of kitchen towels to hang from the refrigerator door or oven door. She was a quilter. I have at least 4 of her quilts and will always cherish her handiwork.

She was a stubborn woman, according to my grandma; but according to my mom, my grandma is stubborn and according to me my mom is stubborn; you might notice a pattern here. I think being stubborn was a survival tactic, and still is. :-)

I remember how tickled Great Grandma was when she moved herself to a town apartment from her big, lonely farm house and discovered cable TV and CMT, where they "played music all day long". She thought that was great! And, when she turned 100, there is a century club of ladies from all over the country that sent her knitted butterflies. .

They say traits skip generations, and this is definitely true with these four ladies, here: my mom, Great Grandma, me, and Grandma. Mom and Great Grandma are artists--quilters and make beautiful things with their hands. Grandma and I are social and planners--we can put together a party or event

But, today Great Grandma is at the best event she could imagine in the last 35 years. She is in Heaven with the love of her life--Great Grandpa. She is with one of the kindest men I've ever learned of, and she is with our Maker. She doesn't have to be a tough little lady anymore. God Bless you, Great Grandma.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We are family

It always makes me smile that my first words as a child were not "mama" or "daddy" but instead "bye-bye" and I don't mean this any disrespect to my parents whom I love so dearly. Instead, it should have been a warning to them at a VERY early age, that I was going to be the traveling type. That being said, I am fortunate to have "family" in what seems like every corner of the United States. No, we're not related by blood or marriage, but we're tied together by life experiences and sometimes that makes us closer than blood could on any given day.

Every time one of these "relatives" achieves a milestone I get so excited for them, and when they claim defeat, a little piece of my heart breaks for them too. Many of my extended family are those I attended college with and that I've met through my 11 plus years at the American Angus Association.

Take my buddy, Brandon who I judged with at Colby. We became "blood brother and sister" one day in the parking lot of the dorms in the early 90s using his dirty pocket knife--no one said we were real smart but we did have fun! I'll never forget the sound of his voice on the other end of the line when he called me last November when I was in Louisville to tell me his dad had suffocated in a grain bin. I felt so helpless knowing I had the biggest event of my work year ahead of me and I couldn't be physically in Western Kansas with him and his family. But, just last week, he called again, to say, "Stella, you're gonna be an aunt again!" And of course, he asked his same round of questions he always asks--Why wasn't I married; what was I waiting for; when was I coming Kansas to see him and the family? He's definitely the brother I never asked for, but one I could never live without either.

Of course, I have a slew of "nieces and nephews" and the title of "Aunt Shelia" or "Aunt Shera" as Livy says is one I will always cherish. These little people are so important to me, and though some are not so little anymore (Grace will be 16 this fall), I love watching them grow up! Luckily most are involved in livestock shows, so I get to watch them show at some point. I just wish I got to see them all more often.

Then, there is my Angus family. Since I served as an advisor for the NJAA board for nine years, I became close with many of the young men and women who wore the green jackets on the Junior Board. Now, many of them are getting married and starting the next generation of Angus enthusiasts, and I almost feel like a "grandma" but thankfully, some of them still refer to me as "Aunt" Shelia and NOT granny! It's so much fun to see these young people succeed in their families and their careers! I'll always remember where I was when Trever told me that Krista was "the one" and when he called to tell me that Claire was born. And, just last weekend I got to see all three of them. It is great fun to go to Jr. Board weddings--almost like a little reunion! And, I was even fortunate enough to serve as the wedding photographer for one past NJAA member and Miss American Angus and now very dear friend, Jamie.

So, see it really is experiences not blood that makes a family. I thank God for my family each day and ask Him to watch over them and provide them health and safety. But I really am blessed to have such a wonderful "extended" family. I know my parents are thankful too.