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.