Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Four Years, Four Lessons

It was four years ago Monday, July 14, that I posted my very first blog entry. I believe it was read a total of three times:
Twice by me and once by Momma, who drove to my house to use the internet to view the story. 
Strangely, I'm too embarrassed now to go back and read it. I know it was about a pet cemetery. 
I don't even like cats. 
You have to begin somewhere, right? 



At the end of my "Freshman Year" of blogging, the photos easily told the story of my newfound passion for photography. 
I ran with it. 
And still do, I suppose. 



And while I'd rather celebrate Jean's Boots 4th birthday with a trip to The Dairy for a dipped ice-cream cone, I realize I'll be happier with myself tomorrow if I simply sit down and write. 

There are a lot of things I've learned while opening my life to complete strangers and best friends by committing to this blog
once a week
for four years. 
I've made myself vulnerable, to be laughed at and criticized. 
I've also found a piece of myself I'd forgotten, met strangers who laugh with me and learned to combat criticism with confidence
I've learned a lot. 



1. Appreciated Familiarity Can Be Found In Routine

Once I whole-heartedly found a reason why I'd post at a certain time on a specific day, it was easy to maintain.

When I moved to Washington, DC, I made a commitment to write a letter (the kind delivered in an envelope that gives you a paper cut on your tongue with a real stamp that will one day be collected) to my Grandma and Granddad every Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. 
And I stuck with it, every single Wednesday. 
I always looked forward to those quiet Wednesday mornings when I could sit down and express myself with ink and paper; it was then that I could thank Grandma and Granddad for instilling such deep agricultural roots in me. Those traditional hand-written mornings made Wednesday, without a doubt, my favorite day of the week. 
Though Granddad is gone and I’m out of the big city, you now know why I post this blog every Wednesday morning at 7:00. And because I can still share my life stories with all of you, Wednesdays are still my favorite. 


What do - or can - you do 
on a regular basis that allows for 
familiarity in your days, weeks or months?




2. Don't Downplay Or Forget Your Personal Talents

I was married to Cody for nearly a year before I complimented his mother on a large oil on canvas hanging in she and my father-in-law's bedroom. 
"Oh thank you. It is one of my favorites," she remarked, watching me admire it. "Do you know who painted that?"
I walked to the wall and took a closer look: C. Sankey
My husband. 



Throughout my June solo-stay with the in-laws, they continued to show me several things that Cody had created over the years that adorned their walls or home. Drawings, paintings and even vases and perfect platters that now (thankfully) rest in our home. 




When I asked Cody about the artistic talent he'd buried over the years with ruminant nutritional studies and black-hided pedigree passions, he simply responded:


"I was young and had the time, I guess."

Being the good wife that I try to be, I won't show him some of my works of art that Momma still has at BSG:



No need to compete with your husband, I remind myself. 
(Mine is a cute blue-eyed mouse holding flowers, in case you can't visualize it)

Learning of Cody's young art ability reminded me of the release felt when I began writing again, by way of Jean's Boots. Forgotten was the comfort found in applying a talent. Even if it was discovered when younger. 

What have you forgotten - or pushed aside - because of age, time or the demands of life? 
Guitar?
Needlework?
Photography?
Baking?
Studying?
Traveling?
Writing?
Growing something?
Reading?
Political discussions?
Organizing?
Motivating others?
H.O.R.S.E. on the court?

Revisit that. 
You don't have to share it with the world. 
Do what makes you happy. 

3. Never Over-Commit And Under-Deliver. 

This is so simple. 
Only you can determine your priorities.
You know the demands on your life's schedule. 
You know your boundaries, your limits and your heart.  
You know what matters in your own life. 
You know what you're comfortable with.
Do not commit to others what you may not be able to do, well
Because, frankly, (ear muffs Momma!) life is too short to do half-assed.

4. Be Unique, Not Self-Centered

When I developed my theme for the blog (not a mommy blog,  not a fashion blog (unless Mom Jeans are coming back around, right Rachel?) and not a recipe blog), I told an established blogger that I was going to simply tell stories of growing up with very conservative parents on a cattle operation and all of the funny things that life throws my way. 
The gal politely shot me down.

But I thought my life was funny and relatable?
I mean, hadn't everyone been given 8-year-old aspirin as a child, and survived it?


"Out of curiosity, I checked the label: EXP 3/1980. No wonder it burned; using it in 1991 was like applying kerosene to an open wound using a lit match."

The experienced blogger was right. 
The longer I blog, subjecting my - our - life to anyone's opinion, the more I learn that readers need to gain something by reading Jean's Boots every Wednesday morning. 
A lesson. 
A laugh. 
An idea. 
The same can be applied to life. 

Do those you interact with leave as better people for knowing you?
Are you pleasant?
Do they leave with a new idea or insight?
Or are they exhausted hearing about you?
Do they leave feeling good about themselves?
No? Then click here. 



  • Appreciated Familiarity Can Be Found In Routine
  • Don't Downplay Or Forget Your Personal Talents
  • Never Over-Commit And Under-Deliver 
  • Be Unique, Not Self-Centered
Four Years, Four Lessons. 
Thank goodness I rediscovered how much I enjoy writing. 
Because if I hadn't, I have a real concern that I may still be trying to perfect the eye color on ceramic bunnies. 



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Turning Thirty: Utilizing The Chinese Fire Drill

The thought of turning thirty next month continues to show up in my mind from time to time. 
Mostly just when I wake up or fall asleep. Sometimes in my dreams. 

I consider the age of thirty and everything I thought it would encompass when I was younger - in my teens and early twenties. At that naive, marshmallowy point in my life I figured by thirty I would be married to a guy I met in college and raising three kids on a farm with sweet corn in the garden. 

I was way off. 

I didn't meet The One in college, 
we have no children but plenty of cows and 
this spring we reseeded what was the garden back into grass. And though it seems I'm not living what I believed to have wanted 10+ years ago, I'm quite happy. I'm happy that together we're laying the ground work for a remarkable life, when not busy working cattle or selling the other's belongings in garage sales.



It is interesting the life map we mentally design for ourselves. The routes we plan to take and the anticipated stops along the way. And as we check off the things we get done, the places we see or the people we meet, it can be easy to forget that the simple days lived only to meet the next obligation or destination is actually life



I've always enjoyed studying maps and finding the best way to get somewhere, though not necessarily the quickest. As of late, I've realized that perhaps life without the map brings as much joy - or more - to a person. While I've focused on checking all the boxes, it's my hope I remember a bit of the view. Even when I'm (gasp!) SEVENTY.



Really, who are we to assume we get to pick the route? The school, the job, the house, the spouse - sure, all of these things become our choice and determine our direction. And since we're the ones determining the direction in which we move confidently 



that also makes us the driver. Keeping the foot on the gas and a close watch in the rear view mirror

The closer I creep towards thirty-years-old, the more clearly I realize the importance of a Chinese fire drill. Letting someone else take the wheel. Because beyond the map and the plan, I now understand that I simply can't do all of the driving. 

No matter how much I intend to use a map to route my life and the stops I anticipate, God is the ultimate navigator. He knows our end point, and the route we must take to get there. 
The pit stops
flat tires
amazing sunsets
blinding sunrises
dirty windshields 
speeding tickets and 
uncomfortable hours 
are all part of the trip planned for me.

And you. 

Don't be afraid to take a back road every once in a while, tossing the map in the back seat. Sometimes flat tires and other obstacles turn out to be blessings. Construction only means that better things are on the way. It is ok if you take a bit longer to get to the destination.



Be confident enough to allow a 
Chinese fire drill 
in your life. 

Remember:
Chinese fire drills give you the opportunity to enjoy the view and put the navigation in Someone Else's hands. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Slow Down

I used to play deaf to the sound of time rushing by me like the wind. 
Selective hearing I inherited from my Granddad, I suppose. 


It seems as though I boarded the Red Line for another day at work and when I emerged from the tunnel 
I was older, 
cleaning an Indiana farmhouse shower the way my mother taught me, 
with an alarm clock sounding in my head saying it's 5:30 AM: time to pull CIDRs and give shots with my husband. 


Oblivious. 
I thought it was just another metro ride to work. 
Where does time go?

The minutes turn to days, 
and the days become years. 

Somewhere between learning to ride a bike and learning to complain about the price of gas, our days have come to fade away into some memory bank we only remember in snapshots. 
Slow Down. 

I have learned: 
We don't fully recall travels, 
rather the moments that comprise the trip.

And if we move too quickly, 
it's darn easy to miss the scenery. 

So why do we count down the days until Friday?
Why do we hope we can only get through one more day until vacation?
Why do folks hit the snooze button? (<- me, every day)
Do you see that glimpse of light peaking through your blinds? 
That's life. 
And it's waiting. 
Life is waiting. 


And then our feet hit the floor...

When do you think we'll stop glorifying "busy"?
Busy is dreadful. 

Slow down. Happiness is trying to catch you. 
Between the kindergarten registration you stressed over and the high school graduation you cried over: How many of those moments were you present for?
No phone. 
No camera. 
Just emotion and memory. 
That's life. 
Slow down. 

(Seriously: you're not important enough to miss the big stuff)

If we're always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one we're in?
Slow down; come home from work and not worry about sweeping up the tracks across the kitchen floor to the pitcher; he was thirsty. 
Slow down; don't use the back of the church bulletin to make your grocery list; there is a time and place.  
Slow down; don't look out the window and fret about the spots; enjoy the amazing view. 
Slow down; look in the mirror and not notice the circles; thank God for another day to do things right. 
 
Slow down. 
Enjoy it. 
Life happens fast. 



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Unsolicited Advice

Have you ever noticed that people are fantastic resources for telling you how you should do something?

Everyone else always knows how to do it better.
It’s true.
Think about it.

The gal in the grocery line in front of you knows how to better soothe your toddler in the middle of a pediatric breakdown.


The friend visiting your farm always has a better idea of how you should have set up your fencing. 


And Pinterest is the expert in giving you five ways to manage your time, ensuring that family comes first.
(Hint on that one: log off of Pinterest.)



Well, today I’m here to tell you…


1. Couples should experience a ruined load of laundry. 
Why? Because I guarantee you’ll only experience it once. I screwed up Cody’s honeymoon laundry the week we got back from Alaska as newlyweds.
That did three things for us:
  1. Confirmed the honeymoon was, in fact, over
  2. Cost us a bit of money for replacement clothes
  3. Relieved me from doing any of his laundry from here on out. I’m serious. I haven’t touched it since then. And this is a wave I’m willing to ride…

2. Couples should go to church together. 
It is a great way to start the week and also a wonderful conversation starter. It is always interesting to see how Cody interprets the sermon and applies it, whether to himself or his expereinces with others. There are Sundays we walk away with different messages, and I appreciate that so much. Perspective is everything, remember? 

3. Couples should work together to park a livestock trailer in an unfamiliar area. 
Or a boat. Or a trailer of any kind. I will try to communicate this important advice as clearly and simply as I can: You don’t realize you have communication problems until you have to act as the eyes for a man fifty feet away who can’t hear your (shoddy) directions due to the roar of a diesel engine and a load of cattle bellowing through aluminum. 


4. Couples should have one person run over a t-post with the lawn mower and see how the other reacts.
This experience isn’t nearly as fun as church. The lawnmower had just gotten out of rehab and I put it right back in. Cody handled it with grace. He asked a lot of questions, and I had a lot of answers that started with, “I don’t know! I was just driving along…” He didn’t raise his voice a bit, but he did show me the damage when he removed the deck and that was lesson enough for me:
No more daydreaming on the mower. 

5. Couples should work cattle together.
Why? Because this event rarely goes as planned. It’s about teamwork, and coordination and patience. It’s basically thirty-five years of marriage wrapped up into one afternoon. 
While working cattle, couples may say things that don’t compliment the other like,
“Why am I the only one moving my feet?”
“Here is why your idea will not work…”
“You know they can all see you standing there, right?”
Him: “Can you hand me that?? …….........… Me: “Your arm is entirely in that cow. So what will happen if I don’t?”
Letting the wrong animal through the gate is as serious as throwing away your retainer with your lunch tray. There is this surreal moment of did that really just happen? Then the dirty work starts to get back “the one that got away” – literally.
But when the chute work is done, the couple can share a sense of accomplishment, relief and flat out JOY.
After working cows together for over an hour, a while back I sat on the tailgate as Cody left chute side and went to get warm water to breed a cow. He stopped just before he went in the house and yelled across the barnyard, “Are you still going to be here when I get back, or are you going to run?”
I considered my options.

“I’ll be here. 
You’re not that lucky 
and tomorrow is church.”


These five things: Trust Me. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

If You Don't Have The Time

I never understood why Momma enjoyed the hours spent mowing the yard.

Until I got a yard. 
And a home. 
And a herd.
And a husband. 
And a long list of demanding responsibilities at the homestead, and away:



For the record - this is Johnny Cash's to-do list, not mine. 
I have ABSOLUTELY NO PLANS of practicing piano. 

In fact, time spent on a lawnmower on Sunday afternoons 
may be the only solitaire time I get in a week, 
where I am totally focused on one 
- and only one
goal at hand:

To mow the yard

.............and let my mind wander aimlessly 
into the last twenty-nine years and 
forward into the next one-hundred.

And dodge the rocks. 
Always. Dodge. The. Rocks.

"I don't know what happened!" I told Cody after he returned from an extended visit to the neighbors' (<- Go Like them on Facebook), "It just started making this awful noise and sparks started coming from the blade deck."

Cody jacked the Husqvarna Hog onto blocks and did some clanking. 
And clinking. 
And cussing. 
Next thing I know a lawnmower blade gets tossed onto the driveway and he's firing up the old hog. 
He made one satisfactory lap and asked me to get on the handicapped mower and finish the yard. 
With one blade. 

"Now, you only have the left blade. Remember that," he coached me. "It's going to take twice as long but you'll get the yard done tonight, doing it this way. I'll call the repair shop tomorrow."
He retreated to the pasture. 
Our favorite place. 



And it took twice as long, indeed. 

This is an exact replica of the route I had to take to get the backyard finished, with one blade:


Circles represent the trees and the curved lines represent the moments when my mind was in a different decade and I forgot that I was working with only one blade. 

But guess what: I got it done.

We didn't have supper Sunday, 
or clean bedding, 
and I didn't read a page of my homework, 
but the yard sure looked nice.

My Uncle Rex posted this on Facebook the next day and it made me think:

 

So, so true. 
It reminded me of the yard fiasco just eighteen-hours prior. 


And a lot of other things.

I love shortcuts as much as the next guy (I don't own five "3 Ingredients or Less!" cookbooks for nothing), but I'm learning to appreciate the time it takes to do something right.
And well. 

There is a thorough list of things I do at 65% quality in order to get 95% of my to-do list done. 

How disappointing is that?
Why not dive into the adventure full-fledge, all-heart, sure-minded?



Cody used to tell the students he worked with at Michigan State:
"By waiting to marry until after 30, I figured I missed a divorce."
Isn't that the truth? Rush to get something done prematurely without thought and you may find yourself in a real bind. 
Far beyond a lawnmower blade. 

I always thought Jason Boland said it best:

When I get tied down by the ties that bind

Seems like I'm never gonna find the time

To do what I need.
 ....
In a place that big a man could get lost

Never mind the time, 
forget about the cost

There’s more important things


Take the time to do things right - 
The mopping
The gardening
The assignment
The relationship
The commitment you dread 
The devotional 
The inventory
The dishes
The mowing
The marriage
The measuring
- the first time. 
And avoid the need to come back and do things better down the road. 

What do you have better to do - watch the World Cup?



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Did Good


Two weeks ago a big part of our 
little town called it quits. 

(but this week his lesson plans live on!)

...Actually, can you consider it "quitting" after forty years of dedication? 


Didn't he  just complete the requirements for accreditation? 

Mr. Sturgeon, our beloved FFA advisor and "Old Owl", has retired after forty years in the classroom. 
The old, cinderblock, back-hall classroom.
That clammy room was a safe haven for hundreds of kids who excelled with technical work, rather than the philosophical studies of Aristotle
Thank you for establishing that place for "our kind".  We owe ya. 

Exactly a week ago, old and young alike came back to our Alma Mater and thanked Sturg for his years of service. 
And millions of miles of driving. 
And late nights. 
And beef sticks and Mt. Dew in the old fridge. 


And sense of humor. 
And tap dancing. 
And Bible on his desk. 



And lemonade shake-ups.
And hall passes. 
And compassion. 

My brother and I were asked to speak at Sturg's celebration last week. 
We don't know why. 
We spoke, anyway. 
The speech impediment only showed it's ugly face once. 


Let it be known:
Don Sturgeon taught us more about life 
than he did 
weed identification or embryology
We are so grateful for that.


________

It’s no doubt that after more than four years with the same teacher, a student is bound to learn something from that individual. 
At least – one would hope.
Much of it would probably be quite applicable through life, like public speaking, salesmanship, parliamentary procedure and animal evaluation. 
But then there is a bit of it you hope to never experience again, in your life, ever...
Like cleaning out the aquaculture tank.


In the 8 years combined that we spent with Mr. Sturgeon, we definitely picked up a few things that we’ve carried around in our back pockets, through Purdue, maintaining careers and going home to start the next generation at our home place. Whether he realizes it or not, a lot of things Mr. Sturgeon taught us in the small cinder block classroom at 701 Baker Rd. has remained with us through this thing called life. Speaking to us, and teaching us far beyond agriculture. Today, we want to share a few of those lessons with you:

1. Things of value have no fear of time.
I suppose that’s why we’re all here today: To recognize a man who has committed 40 years to this school system and community. 40 YEARS. 60% of  those folks reading this blog were not even born when this man began teaching. 
Sit back. 
Digest. 
Read on:
And it isn’t as though he improved our program for a couple years, and rolled through town. Mr. Sturgeon stuck it out. He promoted agriculture to students through the late eighties – when agriculture was not the place to be. Over a span of forty years, he’s built a valuable ag program that is recognizable and has been quite successful for decades. It didn't take two years to build this program. It took forty. 
He’s even taught generations; sons and daughters of the program.



And between you and me….In my opinion, Sturg probably would have spent all 40 years here at Hagerstown if Brad Culy weren’t in his inaugural class. But that is neither here nor there…
Our world needs more of Sturg's commitment. 



2. People want to be needed.
Not everyone who walked to the back hall to sit through Mr. Sturgeon’s class was the next Norman Borlaug, but Sturg found value in them. Not every student had a burning interest in horticulture or Bovine Reproductive Physiology. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there were more than  a few students that took his class who believed that their cotton t-shirt came from a sheep.
But Sturg gave them purpose, anyway. Sorting fruit, sending letters to the community, setting up for an event, cleaning the greenhouse …or the fish tank…..every student was put to work in the back hall: No matter who you were or where you called home, Mr. Sturgeon made every student feel needed. There were kids who went home every night and never felt like they had purpose at all. I say with confidence, Sturg never let students feel that way. No matter their talents or faults, they were viable. 
Our world needs more of Sturg's ability to make everyone feel valued. 



3. Small words of encouragement go a long way.  
People – in general - need to know they’ve done well, and Mr. Sturgeon taught us that. He never went without sharing a few praises with students, no matter the situation. Small accomplishments - like weighing peanuts accurately, didn't even go unnoticed. 
Words of encouragement or praise are so scarce in this world we live in. It seems we'd rather blame or condemn. 
Whether students placed above their personal expectation in a soils judging contest or a former FFA student married out of their league, Mr. Sturgeon would always say these resounding words to anyone: 
You did good, my child. You did good.

Such a simple, but powerful praise for young adults  even if it came years after they left his classroom.
Our world needs more of Sturg's vocalized praise.



Thank you, Mr. Sturgeon, for playing an incredibly important role in hundreds of young peoples’ lives over the last 40 years. 


No matter how much research and fact-finding we tried to do in preparation for tonight, your timeless reach cannot be quantified and your positive influence cannot be calculated. 

Thank you.

You did good, our dear Old Owl
You did good.