Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Season that Wasn't

Happy first day of Autumn!

Fall has been and probably always will be my favorite season. I love the warm colors of the oranges, reds and browns as the leaves turn. I love the chill in the air and the Saturday "Big Red" Nebraska Football games. And I love what fall represents--harvest--a time to reap a year's worth of planting and then praying that Mother Nature does the right thing to produce a bountiful harvest. And this year I especially like that fall means that Summer 2011 is in the books and I'll NEVER have to relive it again.

Oh, my summer definitely had it's high points. If I was reporting back to the first day of school, I could probably find three highlights.

  1. My dad was honored with the Distinguised Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents at its annual meeting in Kansas City--a very proud moment for all of us.

2. Aunt Barb spent nearly a week with me (see #1 above) and we ate out, relaxed, shopped and became regulars at Starbucks. We also cheered on Dad as he received his DSA.

3. My travels took me to numerous states that allowed me to see many friends and make some new ones. Trips included a drive to Harrisburg, PA for NJAS; and flights all over the place.

But, after that top three, the last three months have been blah. I mean I didn't take a vacation. I didn't even get an entire book read. The flowers I planted in spring dehydrated. And I didn't have time to blog.

My summer didn't start too great, but I don't really want to talk about the first day of summer. I'm just glad fall is here. Time for Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie and time to reflect on the harvest. Happy Fall ya'll!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are YOU ready for The End?

So, I’ve been living in my own little world lately—the past two weeks have revolved around planning American Angus Association events for summer, fall and winter and welcoming my two summer intern roommates to the house. I haven’t had much time for news. But just today I picked up a paper and read that the world could potentially be coming to an end, according to some man’s prediction—and the end will start this Saturday! WHAT?!?! Either I’m wasting my time planning for these events or I should be out playing living my life to the fullest the rest of the week!

So I got to thinking. . .Imagine that!?!?! And I did a little further research. I guess this same guy predicted the apocalypse in 1994—didn’t happen then either—but supposedly he thinks a worldwide earthquake will rumble the earth, and the those worthy will go to Heaven to meet our Maker, and those not so worthy…well, they will eventually die here on Earth. Nice. Now, as a Christian, I know that my judgment day will come—we all will have one—we just don’t know when that will be, but we have to be prepared. So, I decided to see what my favorite radio station, K-LOVE, would have on its news page to say about Mr. Prediction. Well, they didn’t have much on the subject, but they did have a headline link, “CDC Warns to Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse” so I clicked on the link, and it went to FOX News—another favorite of mine. Well, this article mentioned how zombies might be an effect of the radiation after such disasters like the tsunami and quake in Japan. We can plan with an emergency preparedness plan and an emergency kit—I can’t make this up—here’s the link:

Ok, I think the original CDC discussion stemmed with hurricane preparedness, but this link has got many more hits due to its content. Where was I, oh yeah…the world is coming to an end in less than 48 hours! Well, if I follow CDC recommendations, I should be fine. I have bottled water, cheese crackers and pop tarts in my car. I have no one to meet, and if the entire world is coming to an end, there will be no one to worry about settling the estate or figuring out my binder system for my next event.

But then I got to thinking, “Am I ready for the world to end?” Spiritually, yes. I am good with the LORD and ready to go whenever He comes. But, physically and emotionally, I still have a lot I want to accomplish. I mean, I still want to go to the Kentucky Derby, Australia and ride in a Hot Air Balloon. I want to go to Africa and take pictures of giraffes and elephants in the wild. I want to go on a Mission Trip, and I want to have the three little letters “Mrs.” In front of my name. And, I want to go to Maryland next week and see some of my friends! The world can NOT end Saturday! I have a Southwest flight Sunday morning!

But if it does, I’m ready. I know I’ve lived a full life. I have family and friends who I love and love me. I have been successful in my career. I have cared for others, and I have tried to make a difference in the lives of others. Isn’t that really all we can expect to do while on this tiny place we call Earth?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

The past 24 hours I took a long ride down memory lane to a place that I called home for two years. I place that molded me and shaped me into the person I am today and the place where I met and made some of my dearest and closest friends. And, a place I left 17 years ago. Yesterday I took a journey down the memory lane or Hwy 36 across Kansas back to my first college. The place where I first lived on my own and the place where I first experienced life: Colby Community College. And today I learned just one more lesson at this alma mater of mine. Today I learned that to say good-bye to a mentor it is so nice to be surrounded by people who share so many memories with you.

Those of you who know me well know that I’m a planner, and well, my plans for this week didn’t include going to Colby. Not until my I got the e-mail from my JuCo livestock coach Nick on Tuesday and found out that one of my all-time favorite teachers, “Pick” had passed away. Then, my best bud Christy and I started burning up the phone lines between W. KS and Joe Town trying to figure out our action plan—funeral attendance; rallying our judging team; getting a memorial together; and where was all of our team? And at that first moment I talked to Christy I knew I would be driving to Colby.

You see Pick didn’t just teach chemistry. He taught students. He cared about the individuals. He wasn’t just herding kids through a classroom to assign grades and get a paycheck like so many instructors I’ve had at the three colleges I’ve attended. He was there and he wanted you to learn. The first day of class, he would give out his home phone number and his “woman’s” phone number and invited students to call—up to a certain time. But if you needed individual help, he was there for you too. I remember more than one occasion, he would stick around or come back to the chem lab and teach me in the evenings after I’d put the weekly newspaper to bed or finished working out with the judging team. He wanted us to learn. And that never stopped. Today, on the back of the funeral program, was the periodic table of elements—only Pick.

And he knew his students too. He called everyone by name, or Brother John or Sister Susie. But, I worked at Burger King during college, and he came in there on weekends for coffee. So eventually, I became Sister Whopper, a name only Pick could get away with calling me!

I can tell you because of Pick, a lot of students over 3 plus decades learned more than just chemistry at CCC. They learned how to listen, how to care and how to give back to others. And, some of them like my friend Christy even were inspired enough to become a science teacher too.

So, no I didn’t plan on driving over 700 miles this week to say good bye to a friend and mentor, but I’m glad I did. Saying good bye is never easy, but I had two of my judging team mates, my coach and a whole community gathered there with me. And I saw other teachers and class mates I hadn’t seen for 17 years. It was journey filled with mixed emotions. Some of my best memories in life happened right there at CCC; some of my saddest memories too. But all scenarios share a common thread--the friends that I have made and still have. Friends that are like family to me and friends that are always there. It was great to see those friends today as we said good bye to one great friend, Max Pickerill.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Focus on Fido: My trip to the Posh Pet Store

Last weekend while visiting friends in Maryland, Laura and I made a stop at Bark!, which I would describe as the most posh pet store I have ever been in. Now, Laura claims she doesn’t frequent this store, but she needed a new I.D. tag with her new phone number on it for her canine companion Parker, so we stopped by after our first stop at Starbucks. Since PetSmart is about the nicest pet store I’ve been to in the Midwest, I was somewhat shocked as we made our way around the perimeter of the store to find the frozen section. That’s right—the FROZEN section of this organic pet store, that makes the following claim on its website: “Partnering with you, your pet, and the planet to enrich the human and animal bond by providing products that are healthy, ecologically sustainable, and socially responsible.”

Already, I had a blog post in mind. If people that belong to groups like PETA and HSUS think animals kept as pets are treated with cruelty and deprived, they are so WRONG! Yes, there are bad people in every group of society, but the pets I know personally--Sammie, Rocket, Parker, Buddy, Mollee and Angus—see most even have human names—are treated like members of the family! And, if anyone shops in the frozen section of Bark!, well, they probably pay more their pet food than for the food they put on their own dinner table!

Here are just a few examples of what your dog or cat friends could choose from in the frozen section:

Frozen Yogurt treats—Peanut Butter/Banana Flavor and at a low, low price of $6.99 for this teeny tiny box.

Beef & Lamb—The farm girl in me was glad to see that they had the Super Beef Dinner and the Dandy Lamb Dinner. I’m kicking myself for cutting the prices out of the pictures, but I believe the 6 lb. bags ran somewhere between $29.99 and $34.99, and as you can see they come in large patties.

Sea & Air—For the seafood loving dog or one who prefers foul, those options existed too! Here, you can see the Surf & Turf dinner. Seriously! I rarely have that at a restaurant! And next to it is the Duck, Duck Goose Dinner and Chicken Dinner. It runs a similar price point as the above.

Watch out Easter Bunny—No wonder the rabbits go crazy my parents’ house when the dog ventures off the deck. Yes, there was even the “raw frozen rabbit dinner.” It sells for $33.49, or $5.58 per pound!

I couldn’t take much more of this store without laughing out loud. I did make a purchase, though. They had some really cute cards with photographs on them of different animals and very appropriate sayings. As we were walking out, something else caught my eye and triggered my fancy—Yappy Hour at the park! Laura explained it was a BYOB social where dogs could “have a play date” and their owners could socialize. Now, that sounded kind of fun, but I doubt if any of the farm dogs I’ve ever owned would “play well with others”.

So, animal activists. I just want you to know, whether you spend nearly $6 a pound on frozen rabbit or $3 a pound on dry dog food, pet lovers DO love their pets. They are our family. They are the kids we’ve never had; the little brothers that replace the “empty nest” when the kids fly the coop, and the companion we need to ride in the truck with us to the farm. They are family! And we don’t have to buy special yogurt to show them that. Just an extra game of ball or a scratch behind the ear is all they really need. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of love.

Friday, April 15, 2011

64 Years of Loyalty

“For better or for worse. For richer or poorer; in sickness and in health.”

Webster defines “commitment”, well, I don’t like Webster’s definition, but when I saw the synonyms, I saw “faithfulness” and here is what Webster says there: full of FAITH or steadfast in affection or allegiance : LOYAL. And these words describe two of my favorite people, who today, April 15, are celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary.

Obviously I wasn’t there in 1947 when Martin and Margaret said their wedding vows in a humble ceremony. But one thing is definite—they are the epitome of faithfulness as they have been there for one another through sickness and health; for better and for worse, and today, April 15 they are still there for each other as they celebrate their wedding anniversary.

I love to hear my grandparents, Martin and Margaret Raymer talk about their courtship and the early days of their relationship. When they could go to “the show” for a nickel or a dime and when they would go to dances on Saturday nights. Grandpa worked for area farmers, and he worked hard until he could make it on his own. And when he and Grandma were first married they took a road trip to the West Coast in his Studebaker, which was one of the first of its kind in the county. Grandma, being the record keeper in the family, kept track of their expenses in a notebook, just like she keeps track of family Rummy scores today.

I can just envision these two love birds driving from the Nebraska Panhandle to the Washington Coast, holding hands , sharing a soda and telling stories. See, when I visit then about twice a year, they still occasionally squeeze each other’s hands and they still like to tell stories. “Remember when….” And another tale of days gone by begins.

But their journey hasn’t always been filled with joy and laughter…it has had its share of hardships that has made them stronger, and I’m sure there are some I will never know about. But sickness, that is one I do know about, because as a very early grade schooler, I remember going to Denver, when Grandma was in the hospital with a brain tumor, and cancer wasn’t very well understood back in the early 80s. But, Grandma, she’s a strong one, and she survived! And she survived multiple tumors and multiple surgeries with Grandpa and the rest of her family by her side. And she hasn’t slowed down since. She’s got a better social life than I ever will, and has always given back to her community, whether it’s serving lunches for funerals or organizing and managing the month long Church rummage sale. And later, that nasty cancer got to Grandpa – I guess years of farming and sun exposure got the better of him. And now, Grandma is right by his side, taking care of him.

And they worked together. As a child I loved going to my grandparents in the summer. Some of my favorite meals were served on the tailgate of a pickup when we would take dinner or supper to the guys in the field—and Grandma didn’t just through together a sandwich every time. Often, we would have fried chicken and lots of it! Portion control is not in Grandma’s vocabulary! And at calving time, if there was a cow that wouldn’t take her calf, Grandma would take care of the bottle calf or calves.

But now they are older, and they don’t “go” like they used to. But they still have each other, and they still are a shining example for their family. A few years ago, Grandpa jokingly said, “I was thinking about leaving, but there isn’t anyone in the neighborhood that cooks as good as Grandma.” And you know what, he’s right! And there’s no one in the neighborhood that can set an example of what true love is like the two of them!

Tonight, I called them to wish them a happy anniversary. Grandma said they “were celebrating.” They were going to have leftover meatloaf and my aunt and uncle were coming down to look at some old slides…a walk down memory lane. And Grandma had bought some cream puffs for desert. I assured her I had the same cream puffs in my freezer (because they are soooo good and NOT fat free!) and I would have some tonight too!

So, here’s to true love, commitment that lasts a lifetime, and to better and worse and sickness and health! Here’s to my Grandpa & Grandma! Thank you for showing your kids, 6 grandkids and even the next generation what true love really is. Thanks for being great farmers and cooks and family. And thanks for showing us what love really is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Perspectives: Agriculture from another Viewpoint

This past weekend I took some time to visit friends in Maryland. It seemed so refreshing to get away from the busy-ness of life—planning multiple events, spring cleaning the house, and out to the serene countryside onto my friends’ farm in Montgomery County, Maryland. It seemed serene as I passed lush green pastures, wooden fences, horse farms, fields, and turned down the lane where Angus heifers stood grazing. Everything about my weekend destination seemed so peaceful, but in reality, I was just 22 miles from our Nation’s Capital and in a county that has a population of 1 million people. That’s right—1 million people take up residence in Montgomery County. I had to have Mr. Bob repeat this statistic on Sunday morning as we were visiting about farming, and how he was a third-generation farmer. In my native state of Nebraska, we don’t even have 2 million people in the entire state, and they cram 1 million folks in a COUNTY and still have a place to graze cattle and farm the land.

As you can tell, this population statistic really impressed me, and as I spent the afternoon exploring the farm some more, I realized that although ALL farmers and ranchers face so many challenges—the environment, activists, the markets, just to name a few—the reality of urban sprawl really slapped me in the face. I mean, tasks that my family takes for granted like moving a piece of machinery becomes a major headache on these highly traveled highways or narrow, windy roads in the East. And, land value is such that many landowners are selling land that has been farmed for years for development, leaving farmers without ground to work.

Now even though the friends I spent the weekend with have more neighbors than the entire state of South Dakota, they are still raising food for the folks that live in their county and elsewhere in a safe manner that is good for the environment. They are stewards of the land, and would never do anything to harm the land, because it really is our most precious commodity. They make sure the pastures are not overstocked and overgrazed, and yet the cattle have ample forage and water. They are concerned about predators, especially at calving time, and work to keep their cattle safe. They know if they take care of the land and livestock, they will take care of them.

I was impressed with their spirit; their roots run deep. Take Mr. Pete, a 94-year-old man who had worked on numerous farms in the area since his teen-age years. We visited with him while he recollected the farms he had worked on with pride. He displayed a wall of ribbons he had won showing Percheron horses. Later, we rode through pastures of baby calves to see the results of mating decisions and hear about the next crop of embryo calves as we read the recips’ tags with the matings she was carrying inside her. We went to the antique tractor and steam engine show, where we saw some really neat old tractors, and little tiny engines that were powerful enough to churn ice cream.

It was like a time warp—a little of the old tied in with a little of the new—steam engines and embryo matings from a national champion female. I experienced all of this less than 30 miles from where lawmakers are trying to regulate every move farmers and ranchers make. It all seemed so serene, and yet so much hustle and bustle takes place just down the road. Maybe just one day, those senators and congressmen will take the opportunity to share in this experience—to realize that there are multi-generation farmers and ranchers in Maryland and Nebraska and across the United States that are out there producing food and fiber for their family and yours. . .sometimes it just takes a different perspective. Sometimes you just have to be one in a million to appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live Like You Were Dying

The other day at lunch, my friend Donnie and I were talking finances—pay day is approaching and we were grumbling about the usual—paying bills and savings. He asked if I participated in our 401K, and I replied, sheepishly, “yes, but not at the maximum level.” You see, I explained to him, I’d rather enjoy my money now, while I can and while I’m able, then to leave it behind because only God knows when my time will be up.

Well, then Donnie told me of a local lady who went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms around 9 AM a few weeks back, and by supper time the same day, she’d passed on—no good explanation. And, over the weekend the cattle industry lost a couple just a few years older than me in a head-on collision just a short distance from their home, the way I understand it, and they left behind three children, one seriously injured in the car with them. You just never know.

So no, I’ll probably never max out my 401K, and I hope Donnie’s right—with that attitude I’ll live forever. And, with my drive and desire to be around people, I will probably want to work past my mid-60s, even as a Wal-Mart greeter or at a local boutique or photography shop. But, my point is, take advantage of every opportunity that life hands you! You just never know!

Eat on the good china! Go fishing with your dad next time he asks! Pay $3.5/gallon for gas and go visit an old friend! Spoil your kids, nieces, nephews, yourselves! Go ahead and order dessert! We can’t look back on the past; and we can’t live for the future. We must live for the here and now. Today is a gift; that’s why it's called the present.

Oh, and Dad, get the boat ready. Once Spring “officially” arrives and you and I both have a free weekend, I’m buying some of that high priced gas, and a one-day fishing license if you’ll loan me a pole. We’re goin’ fishin’!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hello March!

If March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb or vice-a-versa, then 2011 must have come in like a Texas tornado, because just this weekend I have had time to breath! I actually flipped my kitchen calendar yesterday from January to March--sorry February you were just a blur! And, I also took down my outside Christmas lights. Yes, I actually contemplated leaving them up and being ahead of the game for 2011 Christmas, but I'm not that St. Josephied yet!

So, you might ask, what did I do in January & February? I'd like to tell you I was setting around eating bon bons, drinking sweat tea and watching Oprah. But since I don't like any of those three, that would be hard to I'll fill you in: 1) Cow Shows and 2) fighting germs!

I actually kicked off my new year trying to get to KS from the Arizona National on New Year's Eve and got to my good friend's house at 9 minutes til Midnight so we could ring in the New Year with Sparkling Grape Juice and go to bed. Sooooo much different from my olden days of New Year's Parties! It was fun to kick off New Years with the Hammer's and Gabrielle loves posing for me, see:

Then, January was literally filled with 10 days of the National Western--one of my favorite events of the year; and a few days of the Fort Worth Stock Show. Angus events were great at both of these events, but in between, I felt like I got hit by a Mack Truck--I had sinus infection, ear infection, lost my voice, had the flu. I even took three sick days, more than I think I've taken in 12 years with the Association!

February=CHAOS! Started off the month at the Cattle Industry Convention in Denver. Attended some meetings, worked the Angus booth, and visited with a lot of great people. Also went to the YCC Alumni reception where I saw about 20 of the folks I toured with the past summer. It was great.

From there I went to Tampa for the Florida State Fair, and then to the Dixie National ROV Show. At these southern shows, I always play tourist: Mini Zebus in Tampa and the National Gert show in Jackson!

Made a couple quick trips to the Iowa and Illinois Beef Expos to visit with members. Participated in a quarterly Board meeting; helped my Dad celebrate his birthday. And, hello, March!

Oh, and in between, I still volunteered a few times to play Monopoly and Yahtzee with my little sis, Kat, and we took in the Nature Center and went bowling...

I'm really glad to be home most of this month--my power planning month--when I'm doing a LOT of event planning for the rest of the year. But, come April, watch out! I'll be ready to dust off those suitcases and travel the world again. I mean, it is who I am!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Always Say Thank You

When do you say thank you?

I came home tonight so excited to pack for one of my biggest and most exciting trips of the year—the National Western Stock Show. But now I’m setting on my bed, tears streaming down my face. I just read two Facebook posts that my longtime friend and mentor Price Harrison, from the Angus News, passed away today, and all I can think, is “did I ever tell him thank you?”

Price owned and published the "Angus News" or AN, as we called it back in my PR days from Dowelltown, TN, and I don’t know that he’s ever charged a nickel for a subscription, but for a summer PR intern, it was a great place to get portfolio material, because you see Price publishes everything the PR department sends out. And, my year as an intern I went to the TN preview show, so I got to meet him in person. He was one of the nicest and kindest gentlemen I ever will know. And, I can still see him in his green sport coat setting in the stands at the North American just above the back drop with his wave and a kiss being blown down to me.

But as I think about the 11 years I sent Price Angus news for his “Angus News” I wonder, did I ever thank him for putting up with an up and coming communicator? Have I ever thanked other mentors like Evan Slack who knows my roots and never fails to mention them, when trying to sell me an ad for the National Conference or NWSS Bull Sale? These are veteran communicators who although might not have taught me the 5 W’s and H, but have taught me the people skills needed in this business.

We get so “busy, busy, busy”. And then, our mentors are gone. And we have to eulogize them, and not just reminisce with them. I have had mentors at the Association that taught me to “be kinder than necessary” and others to “always talk to a stranger, because they might be the next bull customer.” Have I thanked these men? I just can’t remember, but I know I am running out of time.

No, I don’t grieve well. Those of who have followed my blog, have probably discovered that. But writing helps, so thanks for bearing with me. I think I’ll sign off now. I have a few thank you notes to write now…

Monday, January 3, 2011

Opportunities: Make Resolutions for the New Year

Resolutions, it seems like everyone makes them in the excitement of the New Year, but six weeks into the year, and do you even know what you have resolved? I typically make some resolutions when my New Year starts on May 28; and those are easier to keep, because I’m not worried about comparing lists with everyone else (yoga, diet, excercise,etc). But since it is a new year, and the start of a new decade, I’ve decided to make a list—more like a “Bucket List” of goals to accomplish this year. And, I’m going to share it with you, my friends and readers so I’m accountable. We’ll revisit it throughout the year to see how I’m doing.

1.Take advantage of the opportunity. Whether it’s visiting a friend, touring a farm, trying something new or picking up the phone and calling an old friend, I am not going to pass by an opportunity.

2.Read daily. This might be a chapter in my Bible or my scripture study; or a book for enjoyment, but I’m going to read. I love to read, and I miss it.

3.Live by a budget. Sometimes I’m too generous and too frivolous. I’m going to start saving more, tithing more regularly and planning my donations better, rather than just giving on the spur on the moment. And I'm going to shop less.

4.Fall in love. I’ve prayed about this, and I know God has a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11

So, those seem simple. Yes, they are few in numbers, but will still take perseverance, faith and some work. They would be simple if they were my only focus, but I still have a career I love and devote 10 plus hours to per day, volunteering and a household to run.

I’m going to take advantage of a little time to get off the computer and read and get some extra sleep. Until next time, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!