Wednesday, August 17, 2016

When The Barn Is Empty

One by one and pen by pen, barns are emptying out across America.

Auctioneers tap the gavel one last time at county fairs and the pot rolls away. First-time 4-Hers are consoled by parents and seasoned showmen still find it particularly tough to say goodbye. Perhaps because ten years passes much quickly than they ever imagined it could.

State fairgrounds clear out overnight as worn out show crews make their way across the next state line just before midnight. Junior shows or open shows, they chase a white line down the interstate to the next one.

Everyone, no matter the stock or the state, returns home to a similar scenario:

An empty barn.

When the barn is empty the pens will be cleaned out one last time. The last time, and consequently, the best time. For whatever reason, this is the time that no one – not even the family griper – complains about cleaning out pens. It’s not such a bad job when the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty the showbox gets emptied, too. Curled up ribbons, Capri Sun  straws, discarded show numbers, half empty aerosol cans, bottles and sprays, stale Combos and loose change: Each thing finds it’s place and the show box is shut up and moved to the corner when the barn is empty. It will be opened only once between now and next season – as the middle child searches high and low for his belt. 

When the barn is empty the alarm clock doesn’t go off nearly as early. Show kids feel rested…
….for a day. After that, they feel strangely unfulfilled when remembering that the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty show moms realize that they are finally basking in the light at the end of the tunnel. And for some reason, that light isn’t nearly as bright as it seemed two weeks ago when she wished so badly that the barn was empty.

When the barn is empty the aisle gets swept with no concern for chips or straw cluttering the way. Every piece will be just where it should be – for once. And sadly it will stay that way, no hooves dragging pieces in every direction, when the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty, it’s only then that someone can appreciate routine. Starting your day with great purpose at a certain time, ending your day doing what you enjoy at the same place every evening. There is a certain comfort in routine. A comfort you may not recognize until the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty favorite songs on the radio are replaced by talking teachers, blowers are traded in for bookbags and registration papers are replaced by syllabi. School starts in no time once the barn is empty. 

When the barn is empty dads have a hard time finding a modified to-do list for the kids. No rinsing. No feeding. No Leading. He’ll tell them to organize that and clean up this - and they will. He’ll reiterate that “it better stay that way!” - and it will. He’ll say, “don’t leave that wash rack water running all day!” – and they won’t. Daily instruction is different when the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty, the forks and shovels will finally be put exactly where they’re supposed to go. And they’ll stay there. The halters will be cleaned up, hung up and left to do nothing but collect cobwebs. And they’ll stay exactly as they should when the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty the fans are switched off, unplugged and slowly the blades cycle one….last………..time…………………dragging out goodbye.

When the barn is empty the lights are flipped off, with nothing but the sun lighting a path from one corner to the other. There is a strange loneliness in the darkness when the barn is empty.

When the barn is empty and the door slides shut one last time, it’s sealed like a time capsule commemorating competition, disappointment, passion, and pride; high hopes for the next great one, memories of the one that just passed through. If you do it right, you’ll have more than just ribbons and trophies to carry on that memory long after the barn is empty.

Rest easy and rest while you can. Because the thing about an empty barn - no matter what feeling moves through the hollow pens - is that it doesn't last long. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Speedy Vacation

My husband kindly reminded me this week that my “three-month vacation” is halfway over. That Cody. He’s hilarious.

I was quick to correct him. 

You see, I’ve never been on a vacation where you so easily lose track of the days. What day is it? Well if the trash truck comes by during the 3 am feeding, it’s either Monday or Friday. Any day in between those two I consider Wednesday. If Cody’s alarm doesn’t go off during the 5:00 am feeding it’s Saturday or Sunday.
If you go by this system, it’s almost always Thursday. And that’s OK. Tuesday never did much for me.

I’ve never been on a vacation when science experiments were around every corner. Yesterday I tried to warm some to-go water so Caroline and I could make a jail break for a 1:30 meeting, only to forget to take the lid off the bottle.  
57 seconds later a bomb exploded in our microwave, every window in the downstairs fogged up, Caroline and I both cried and I learned that I did, in fact, have motherly instinct: I was on top of her in .043 seconds flat.


I’ve never been on a vacation and forgotten all formal education in 6 weeks out of the office. I said weeks ago that I was still committed to writing, and I am. In fact, I wrote this grocery list just last week:


And I haven’t even made it to the grocery. Unless it’s a place that asks for my health insurance card, I have yet to show up.

I’ve never been on a vacation where I’ve had to be so creative. Two weeks ago I started putting baby bedtime time lotion all over her body right around 3:00 when I need a nap. Listen, it’s better than a pacifier dipped in something strong. She has no interest. The lotion never works. Rather, it makes her slippery and harder to hold. I think she’s on to me.

I’ve never been on a vacation where I was so na├»ve. I actually bought 3 books to leisurely read during my 12-week vacation. I seriously went to a bookstore in Muncie, spent over an hour sorting through reading material, purchased three, and thought I’d read them by night light during the 3 am feedings. Go ahead, laugh. I’m an idiot. There’s no reading on maternity leave. In fact, the only thing I’ve read in 6 weeks is gripe water labels and a will writing tutorial. 

I’ve never been on a vacation where I didn't pack some fun clothes, whether that be a bathing suit or clothes to explore Alaska. What do I pack these days? Oh, 15 diapers, 5 onesies, a clean shirt for myself, two bottles, a pair of socks, a rubber snot sucker, pacifier wipes (listen, it's my first child), extra strength Tylenol, a melted fun size Snickers bar and a can of Frizz Ease. You think I'm kidding?

It doesn't matter if I'm in the car for ten minutes or thirty, it seems each time I get behind the wheel I hear Thomas Rhett's song Vacation. Have you seen the video? 

There are absolutely no similarities between Rhett's vacation and mine. Bummer. 

I don't know where I went wrong, 
but next time I plan on taking a 12-week vacation
I'm using a different travel agent. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I'm Sorry, Shadow

"I think you need to shoot the cat," I said to Cody in early June as I walked in the house one evening after work. 
"What?! Why?" he instantly asked with a concerned look on his face, obviously fearing the worst.
Our barn cat - affectionately named Shadow because she follows so closely that she tripped me twice during her first week on the farm - began looking pretty rough not long ago.
"Have you seen her lately? She's so skinny. Strung out. Sometimes she drags one leg. She hasn't blinked in weeks. I think you need to put her out of our misery," I presented my argument. 
"Geezo preezo (famous CS line)...give her a break. She isn't dying; she just had four kittens. I'm not shooting her - she is taking care of her young," his bleeding heart responded.

Well, I tried. 

Now, two and a half weeks into motherhood, I'd like to take this time to publicly apologize. 

I'm sorry, Shadow. 
I so get it now. 

For a month I've watched you hide on one side of the barn while your beady-eyed babies meow for a milky treat. I've watched you lie alone in the shade and not move a muscle to console them while they look around for you. I thought you were heartless. Non-maternal. Lazy

I get it now. Two days ago a beady-eyed baby in my living room woke from a nap earlier than I anticipated and I dropped to the floor and army crawled across the carpet to the staircase so she wouldn't see me. She wasn't crying, but she was searching. I don't even know if she can see me at this age? She is always looking around, aimlessly; in fact up until Saturday, we assumed she was blind. I get it, Shadow. I understand not wanting to be seen, for just a few more minutes, until you get one more thing done. I get wanting to use your arms for thirty more seconds. I understand wanting to change the laundry out in the basement without hearing a blood-curling scream through the farmhouse register. 

I'm sorry, Shadow.
I so get it now. 

I've always wondered why you act half-dead during feeding time. Like, on your side, eyes shut, barely breathing, no movement, half-dead. Totally taken advantage of. 

For the record, I'm not the one who made the giant ball of yarn/twine 
for the kittens' entertainment, but I bet you can guess who did. 

I feed only one baby and every two hours she sucks the life right out of me. I understand half-dead because right now I'm living on under-eye concealer paired with waterproof mascara, middle-of-the-night Snapchats from single friends, chicken salad from the church ladies, Dr. Phil reruns, and a cup of black coffee I've warmed up three times in the microwave. Sometimes I fall asleep in the nursery and wake up only because the beautiful, snoozy infant in my arms reminds me that it's time to feed, again. I get it. 

I'm sorry, Shadow.
I so get it now. 

From our patio I've watched you tackle your kids, hold them down with two legs, and bath them using such force that you could be a prime story on the CBS Evening News resulting in a peaceful protest. I've watched them resist, fight back, then finally give in. 

I get it now. I've tried to bath a baby 1/25 my weight only four times and each time I cry more than she does. I get the struggle. I know why you use gentle force - because they're a double threat:  breakable and slick. I have a fancy farmhouse kitchen sink bath tub and I still worry about drowning, missing a crease and using too much soap. 

They say parenthood changes things and I couldn't agree more. 
Until last week I had never cried tears of joy when zipping up my favorite mom jeans.

Or, publicly written an apology letter to a feral cat.

I think I need a hobby. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Back In The Saddle

Two weeks ago I ended my blog by saying, "I guess maybe I just need to talk to my Dad," to be reminded of how temporary life's tough stuff really is. I did just that after work last Wednesday, then I went into labor 12 hours later. 

World, meet Caroline Jean

The days have flown by since becoming a mother on July 1 and the nights seem to last approximately 45 minutes. Cody has really pulled through on Dad duty and helped in any way he possibly can. Two shining examples:  

Repeating "This is temporary, remember, this is so temporary......." endlessly during 25.5 hours of labor. By the time Caroline arrived I was really regretting that last blog entry. 

Offering these words of encouragement while standing in the nursery door the night we brought her home: "If you can teach a dumb Hereford calf to suck, I'm certain you two can figure this out."

Ah, the life of a Stockman's Wife

We're adjusting more every day to a family of three and frankly trying to figure one another out. We've learned just how much time a baby can tack onto your travel. We came home on the 4th of July and wanted to see fireworks as a family. So we packed up and made the 45-minute drive to town (we live just four miles north, but for some reason the vehicle maxed out at 33 mph?), parked in the Farm Credit parking lot to avoid the public and watched the patriotic display. Well, Cody did. Caroline and I slept in the backseat the entire time. Motherhood changes things. 

But not my commitment to this blog. I'm back in the saddle after a week away and ready to acquire a new normalcy in terms of a schedule. Because 11:00, 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 am feedings don't last forever, right?

Everybody say it with me: This is so temporary

No really. She woke up right after this was taken and didn't sleep for (what seemed like) 4 days. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


To celebrate Father's Day two weeks ago the local farmer-owned cooperative asked readers to complete a simple sentence:

My Dad taught me _______________. 

I submitted a few filled blanks but the lesson I really thought worthy of passing on deserved more than one sentence. So here we are. 

I remember I had just turned eighteen (late bloomerwhen Dad taught me this lesson. I also remember the disappointment I felt as I sat against the headboard of my bed, kleenex in my hand.
I was experiencing heartache I hadn't yet known:

My first broken heart. 

Dad did something really simple that night when he got in from the farm. 
He came into my room. 
Sat on the end of my bed.
Acknowledged that I was upset (probably by saying something very straightforward, like: "I know you're upset...."
And then went on to say something so basic and true that I've remembered it several times since:

"This is so temporary."

Dad went further to say that what I'm going through isn't uncommon (turns out, this was true)
And though it was the first time for me, it very likely it won't be the last time (turns out, this was true)
And though it felt like the disappointment was about to shut my heart down, it would be over soon (turns out, this was true)

What I was going through was so temporary. 

Years - actually more than a decade - have passed since that evening and the things that weigh on my heart have certainly changed, but this lesson has never waivered. 

This morning I think of a long list of friends and family who are going through a particularly difficult time. Some are in a place so dark and hidden, they're wondering if they'll ever get out. If there is even a way out. My reassuring (unpaid, unschooled) counsel always seems to be the same, because I believe it, year after year. I hope you believe it, too: this is so temporary. Sometimes I say it enough just to reassure myself. 

Whatever you're going through

A tough work situation
Frustration at home
A class that leaves you feeling less than brilliant
Deep and broad disappointment
Addiction that changes a family
A situation that just doesn't sit well with your heart
Guilt, upon guilt, upon guilt
Poor health
Monetary issues that ensue panic
Absolute anger
Fear of the unknown
Frustration that keeps you awake
Discouragement, doubt or disbelief 

Nothing lasts forever, including this. When you get to the other side, you'll be so glad you stuck it out. 

This is so temporary.

One possible exception: Pregnancy. 
Pregnancy is a condition in which the last two weeks actually lasts more than a month. 
I guess maybe I just need to talk to my Dad

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

And Now, We Wait

So the nursery is done. 

It should be noted that these are before photos

Like most things we do, there was some thought into how we got this room ready. 
How about a tour? 
A virtual tour. 
You all know how I feel about last minute company

We did keep the Compromising Crib theme throughout the room. 
A nice reminder at 3:37 AM that this is a partnership.
The Compromising Crib: Tearing down an old barn, then moving it 
into the house because we both had our heels dug in.

Have you read about one of the greatest lessons I've ever learned?

Anyway, back to the tour - 

Our inspiration for this little room that will hold our entire world:

Not knowing the gender but knowing how this kid will be raised, we went with a lot of neutral tones and a vintage western theme. I found the perfect fabric at Hobby Lobby and my wonderful Aunt Susan of Susan Bell Upholstery made us curtains as a shower gift. 

Family friends gave us a beautiful crib that we really loved. Then someone called it a "double-drop-sided-death-trap" and these clueless parents-to-be got a tick nervous. I went on to order this DaVinci Jenny Lind crib for peace of mind purposes only. 

It just wouldn't be a Lindsay Bowman project if I didn't recycle something from a former life. The bookshelf came out of 851 David Ross Road. Thanks to whoever's Dad made these shelves years ago. They were passed down from sorority sister to sorority sister to sorority sister to sorority sister to sorority sister to sorority sister and left Purdue's campus with me. Sharpie names still on top, and all. Function over fashion. 

I found this little dresser at A Corner Cottage in Noblesville, IN during an annual girls' day with Purdue friends. I loved the blocks as drawer pulls, but Cody had an even better idea. 

He sanded the dresser down and took it to one of our favorite shops, The Vintage Market in Cambridge City, IN (you have to visit this store to do it justice!). There they painted it and distressed it to fit the room. 

Then he found these drawer pulls and painted them out in his shop to make them look like Angus calves. 

Many gave me the advice to buy a comfortable chair since we'll be spending a lot of hours in it. I worked with Bullerdick Furniture to get this rocker-glider-swivel chair designed and put together. I also worked with them on a no-questions-asked warranty that covers bodily fluids, Sharpie marker, nail polish and anything else I could think of before signing the paperwork. 

Let's get a close-up of that fabric before it gets 
abused by a tiny, popsicle-wielding tyrant. 

Tags will stay on as long as possible. 
Which is right about the time I'll yell, 
"This is why we can't have nice things!!"

The quilt, you ask?

Friend and co-worker Cindy surprised us with this quilt just last week. Isn't it beautiful?!
The kicker: She didn't know the neutral/vintage western theme before creating this for us. 

I can't believe how perfectly it fits into the room and even matches the curtains. 

Every perfect stitch!

We were also handed down this family quilt with some pretty special initials on it. 

To encourage less writing on the walls. 

A Shepler Family Favorite:
Harry Shepler's Palomino stud horse, 

Every kid needs a horse, right?
Well, this is the only one our kid is getting. 
Already kid-broke.

Is Book-It still around? If so, we need a new button to start earning free pizza ASAP.

We found what we thought would be an ideal dresser/changing table at Building 125 in Cambridge City, except the color and a few of the options weren't quite right. We went on to work with the owners to order this one in the color, solid top and pulls that suited this place perfectly. The crew at 125 were wonderful to work with - another must-stop-shop if you're in this area. 

How long will 138 diapers last? 
I'll let you know.
I'm hoping a year. 

One of my favorite personal accents: Vaccum lines that haven't been touched. 
I thought them important enough to document. 
Makes us look fancy. 

And now, we wait.