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?