Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Letter from a Stranger

I write a weekly column for our local newspaper. It reflects a lot of content from this blog, except I try to remember to remove the cuss words and also  keep in mind that there is a high probability that my former teachers will read every word in print. No pressure. 

I’ve heard from several, quite random, individuals that they subscribe to the paper and enjoy my farm life perspective and the adventures I encounter as a farm wife. I very much appreciate that feedback from the paper’s urban audience, as I write with transparency to tell our story of a family in agriculture. I tend to believe that there are few other public columns that will admit that this week’s farm adventure is a mouse in the silverware drawer. 
Even though we have a barn cat that sleeps on our front step. 
Figure that one out. 

Anyway, I’ve also received really poor feedback about grammatical errors or my inaccurate telling of our lifestyle, but I don’t think that negativity deserves mentioning here. I buried that hatchet in the back yard out by the chicken coop along side our dear Shadow, God rest her skinny, strung out soul.

But the feedback I received Monday night tops them all.

Under a stack of cattle sale catalogs, insurance bills, vet invoices, Elder-Beerman advertisements and a single (gorgeous, sparkly) wedding invitation, rested this letter inside our mailbox.

Though the note was addressed quite vaguely, it was delivered by the rural postal service (two weeks after being time stamped), anyhow. I do love rural America. 

Mrs. Jones, an out-of-town Gazette subscriber, wrote to tell me that she finds my column quite interesting (is that like saying I'm special?) and she reads it each time I'm published. She also noted that she is 91 years old.

You can imagine my excitement here, folks. I had just opened a time machine in my mailbox!

The reason for her correspondence was to tell me a story about her mother drying clothes before the days of electric dryers. My column about the farmhouse register brought back some memories that she felt compelled to share. 

Early in the 3-page letter, she asked if I was Stephen’s daughter?
By the end of the letter, she had apparently talked herself out of her previous guess because she wondered if “Perhaps you’re Phillip’s daughter?” I’m certain this is why she wrote c/o Phillip Bowman on the envelope. 

I think it is important to note that I have not lived with my Dad (and mom), Phillip, in nine years, and four years before that I resided at Purdue. Also, my parents don’t even have an Economy address. In the spirit of small-town America, the letter arrived to our rural homestead, anyway. 

I assume she got my city and state correct because at the end of my column it always reads, “Lindsay Sankey resides outside Economy and raises Angus and Shorthorn cattle with her husband and daughter. She is the writer behind Jean’s Boots Are Made For Talking,”

Mrs. Jones certainly pays attention to details.

This letter, though simple and scattered and maybe a bit shaky, is quite valuable because it came from someone who wanted to pass on encouragement to a stranger. 
For no reason, other than to pass on encouragement to a stranger. 
Because this lady took the time to sit down and write a letter to tell me that what I do makes a positive difference, I'll keep this note forever. 

And I will read it on the bad days. 

And so I challenge you 
(and by putting it in writing, I challenge myself) 
to write a letter to someone who 
has brought positivity into your life. 

Maybe someone at the gym
Maybe someone in the waiting room
Maybe someone you haven't talked to in years
Maybe someone at church
Maybe someone in your family
Maybe someone you do business with
Maybe someone you actually don't really care for
Maybe someone waiting on you behind the counter
Maybe someone at work
Maybe someone you've never actually met
There is no better time than now to let them know. 
Well, maybe yesterday. But now is a good time, too. 
Put it in writing that they are appreciated.

I will keep Mrs. Jones' heartfelt note forever.

And now that I know the 91-year-old is reading weekly, I’ll be TRIPLE checking to ensure that every cuss word is omitted from the weekly Gazette column. 

A detail worth passing on:
In her signature, Mrs. Jones put her maiden name in parenthesis. 
Some gals just have a hard time letting go of their daddy's name. 
I get it, Mrs. Jones, I get it. 

The best, 

Lindsay (Bowman) Sankey

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wife Hacks

Even though the days are technically getting longer, I haven't found myself being more productive and cranking out any additional work in a day's time. Maybe it's because I can't keep up with the mysterious chunks of mud that seem to find their way onto our kitchen floor; or maybe it's because 90% of my time in the house is spent having a staring contest with a brown eyed beauty over her shoddy eating habits. 

Whatever the reason, I find myself utilizing a series of, not Life Hacks, but rather Wife Hacks, that get me through the day and continue to keep me semi-sane as a Homesteading Optimist. On social media Life Hacks are quick 12-second clips on how to organize your pantry and send your kids to college in 6 easy steps. Life Hacks demonstrate 2-ingredient Thanksgiving meals in 15 minutes or less. 

Much the same, I have found my Wife Hacks to be simple, creative ways to save time and sanity around the farm and home. 

Kitchen Wife Hacks:

Dinner time can be a point of tension in our home. Cody has a taste palate that is complete opposite of mine. I actually enjoy kale and beans. He favors Velveeta and tacos. 
The few ingredients we agree on: 

  1. Beef
  2. Rotel
  3. Rocky road ice cream

That's quite limiting when leafing through cookbooks and making out a grocery list. However, I've learned that a little bit of marketing can go a long way when preparing meals.

For instance, if I simply put a friend's name in front of the particular dish I'm making, it sounds more appealing to him. I mean, it's weird, but somehow it works. 

Last week we had Tyler Cates Chicken
John McCurry Parmesan Pork Chops and
Jeremy Haag Beef Stew
You can find full recipes at the end of this blog. 

Also, for whatever reason Cody doesn't trust any recipe I find off of Pinterest; probably because he understands that 70% of the things seen on the site are unachievable. He does - however - love the butter-enriched cowboy food that comes from the Pioneer Woman. So even if I'm cleaning out the refrigerator and creating some kind of Chef's Surprise casserole, I set out one of my Pioneer Woman cookbooks and prop it open so that it appears that I'm getting my direction from some fiery red head in Oklahoma. 
He never seems to offer suggestions when it is a Pioneer Woman recipe. 

Wife Hacks:

I have an album in my phone of barn cats doing stupid barn cat things. So when Cody is on a 5-day run out west and asks how the barn cats are, I just pull a random picture from the album on my phone and send it his way to give him a little peace of mind that they're doing great

The trick here is to remember to delete all photos of certain cats once they hit life #9. Nothing confuses Cody more than sending him a picture of Sunny in the mud when Sunny was actually found frozen to a scoop shovel back in January. Not that I speak from experience. 

House Wife Hacks:

Cody is great about letting me know when he's an hour from returning home and then asking if he needs to pick up anything before reaching the homestead. Even though I know he is incredibly ready to just be home, this gesture is so helpful to me. Mostly because we're usually short on diapers or bananas, but also because it sends me into a series of Wife Hack actions:

1. Turn on all wax burners and ensure they're burning something that smells clean. Never - ever - burn something that smells like a food, because then there will be an expectation that a pan of sticky cinnamon buns/loaf of banana bread/warm sugar cookies are waiting on the counter. This breeds false hopes and dreams. 

2. Run (I use the term loosely) outside and feed the barn cats so they don't act like starving idiots and attack his truck when he pulls into the driveway. Our barn cats don't talk, but they are quite the story tellers. 

I'm not particularly proud of my Wife Hacks but they've gotten me through 3.5 years of marriage and 9 months of motherhood so I'd like to think they're worth something. Although my mother - a solid cross between June Cleaver and Judge Judy - would be absolutely mortified that I make meals with fewer than 17 ingredients. 

This is one of those weeks where I wrote strategically. Meaning, I know Momma and Dad are calving out cows like crazy at Bowman Superior Genetics and her chances of getting on the computer and reading this entry are slim. 


Pork Chops
Beef Stew

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Farm Wife Fitness

Someone asked me last week if I had a gym membership. 

I tried really hard to hold in my laughter, but it seeped out in the form of:
"You can't be serious? By you mean Slim Jim? Jimmy John's? Jungle Jim's? Wait. Are you serious?"

I drove home wondering why I don't spend more time - and money - on my health. Why not pay dollars a month to walk around an indoor track (let's be honest: That's all I'd do)? 
Answer: Because I live on a farm.

Which keeps me active, or at least moderately out of breath. 

Farm Wife Planks
Farm wife planks are the motion done when your husband tells you that the electric fence is off, but you have had trust issues since a shocking event in 2009, so you have to roll under the high tensile fence.  But the ground is wet - or cold - and you try to make as little ground contact as possible. 

Farm Wife Weight Lifting
Two things prevent me from going to a gym to lift weights: 1. carrying buckets of feed instead of transporting them via Kubota and 
2. This chunk

Farm Wife Sprints
Farm wife sprints are done when your husband calls and wants to know the sex of the newest calves and you have to dodge all mother cows in order to do a 2-second tail lift before sprinting back to (and over) the gate. 

We have no footage of the farm wife sprint, which further proves the fact that I only run if I'm being chased. However, we do have footage of this broad:

Farm Wife Squats 
Farm wife squats are the action done when you're trying to get under a string of temporary fence by finding the lowest point in the ground that offers the greatest depth between the fence and ground. Arms out for balance. Head tucked down for clearance. Bad word whispered for good measure. 

Farm Wife Chin-Ups
Farm wife chin-ups are done  when there is excess room between the hay mow ladder and the ground so you have to stack buckets to get to the right height to climb. Except said buckets fall over and you have two options: 1. Do chin-ups to get up the ladder or 2. bust your tail bone.

Farm Wife Cardio
Farm wife cardio can be done a lot of different ways, but the easiest way to get your heart rate elevated is to simply get in the hay mow when you're absolutely terrified of heights. Especially if said hay mow has a shoddy floor and every step has you assuming it's your last. 

I hope you've read this and found creative ways to feel the burn in your own little piece of the world. Listen, you don't have to pay for a gym membership to get healthy; you just have to move

But trust me: If you don't have a spotter, stay off the buckets. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Honesty in the Doctor's Office

I had a routine wellness check nearly a month ago. 
You know, the kind where they ask for your blood, urine, time, patience, insurance card and father's grandfather's uncle's health history. 

I told the doctor that I thought he was healthy but passed at age 35. 

World War I really took a toll on the young, healthy guys. 

I was asked to sit alone in a quiet, cold room and proofread five pages of contact information followed by eight pages of health history. 

How many times should I need to write my last name, middle initial and first name for one appointment, do you think?

How many times did I write "Bowman" rather than "Sankey"? 

Perhaps year four is the ticket.

Then I moved into the health history questionnaire. 

Every year prior, I've breezed through this bad boy like a college student who knew they were going to pass the class without regard to how they did on the final.
All answers were - proudly - marked NO.

This time was different. 

This was the first time in a while that I was 

1. Alone
2. Not in my car
3. Not in the shower
4. Completely focused on me. 

This time I took the wellness survey quite seriously. 

Do you have an existing and/or recent problem with:

Please explain all answers marked YES.

Insomnia: YES

I haven't slept in 9 months

Daytime drowsiness: YES

I think not sleeping in 9 months may have something to do with this. 

Recent weight gain/loss in the last 6 months: YES

I've teetered between the same 30 lbs. for the last nine months. 
I eat a slab of rocky road nightly in hopes to bounce back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. They're my favorites and GAP stopped making them. 

Sensitive ears: YES

There was a time in my life when I lived one block from railroad tracks and I never once heard the (4) night trains. 
Today I can hear Mike Craig's (neighbor) cows bawl and I can also hear Caroline's toes wiggle. I can hear clouds move. Make it stop. 

Shortness of breath when walking with other people 
at an ordinary pace on level ground: YES
Have you ever tried to push a stroller through mud while carrying a 5-gallon bucket of feed?
I didn't think so. 

Wheezing that interferes with your job: YES
See above. 

Heartburn that is not related to eating: YES

11 months of the 2016 Election

Pain in abdomen: YES

26 hours of labor. 
Thought I was tough. 
She's healthy and strong and it all worked out. 

Pain in neck: YES

My brother

Numbness in limbs: YES
Sometimes when CJ (thats my daughter, not my husband) falls asleep in the recliner with me I wake up and can't feel or move my arms. 

Wondering if life is worth it: YES

In the last week I have stubbed the same ingrown toenail on the same coffee table in the 5:15 AM darkness. Twice. 

I submitted my clipboard to the nurse and took a cat nap on the paper table lining while she and her team analyzed my honesty. 

The doctor came in the room six short minutes (I was counting on a 30-minute snooze) later. 

She held on to her stethoscope like it was a necklace and crossed her legs like a friend moving in for a really raw chat. 
"How are you, Lindsay?"
"I'm Well," I responded without thought. 
She leaned in like a sister that knew too much. 
"I have a seven-month-old at home and it's bull sale season.....Travel season for my husband," I responded without prompt. "And we're calving."
She smiled. 
"You need to get that baby to bed earlier. Take daily walks. And shut off your phone after 9:00 every night."

Three instructions. 

No drugs. 

I walked out of the doctor's office wondering if I was a hypochondriac.

Then I quietly assured myself:

Not a hypochondriac, I'm a mother.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reasons to Wear Perfume

For the first time since I became a mother, today I’m wearing perfume.

It is not for a special occasion, special person or special day, but rather, very ordinary events that unraveled my morning well before the beautiful sunrise struck Indiana.

I came in contact with the feces from three species before 6:30 AM: bovine, feline and Caroline. Because of this, I’m wearing my fourth outfit of the day – hopefully my final. Until I get home tonight and have to feed cattle, again. Hopefully, after that: pajamas. Six changes of clothes in 12 hours isn’t bad for someone not in diapers. Right?

For the record, CJ is on outfit number three and I 
packed four more to cover the next eight hours. 

I have this strange smell of amoxicillin and acid reflux swirling around me, and despite holding strands of my hair under the bathroom sink faucet and using Bath & Body Works White Citrus hand soap as shampoo, I can’t seem to get rid of it. I have two strategically placed bobby pins in my hair holding back certain parts that have dried, not clean, but crusty. I did a spray-and-run of Lysol and perfume before leaving the house to cover all germs and smells. 

After giving CJ her infant Tylenol, I licked my fingers, rather than wash them, hoping that the sweet relief she gets from the stuff will somehow alleviate the pain her mother recognizes as “Thursday”.  Despite the .05 mL of drugs ingested, I can still feel the pain.

On the way to daycare I asked CJ to behave, to be kind, to take a nap and to eat her food. She promised fifty-percent. That’s the most I can hope for from a 7-month-old. At least she’s honest.

I listened to praise music on full blasters all the way to work because I figured it was the only way to keep myself from cussing the morning; it’s hard to say bad words when worship music is filling your ears. I came into the co-op parking lot on two wheels, leftover Mexican food in one hand, computer bag in the other, stopping every three feet to check the bottoms of my shoes. Something was lingering and it wasn’t amoxicillin, acid reflux, Lysol or perfume.

Damn barn cats.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Toys On The Ground

Making dinner of an evening now takes quite a bit longer than it used to, but it is twice the fun with my kitchen helper. 

As my mom did, I'm making an effort to include Caroline in the kitchen early and often. Every evening she sits in her high chair and judges the way my 1 tablespoon of butter measures more like 1 1/2 tablespoons. One day she'll appreciate my generosity. 

Meal preparation takes longer, not because of her inability to mince garlic, but rather her ability to throw her toys on the ground. 

Because I believe in the 5-second rule (and I'm also terrified that Cody wore his work boots across the kitchen to grab an Angus Journal in the living room without me knowing), I try to pick up her discarded toys as quickly as I can. 
Then blow them off. 
Or rinse them off. 
Or put them in the "to boil" pile. 

Maybe because my mind runs in several different directions often, 
or perhaps because something is heavy on my heart at all times
each night as I prepare dinner for our family 
I think of a message that 
I want to share with you. 

I have a tattered relationship with a friend that is in desperate need of repair. Each time I reach out, they make it clear that they want little to nothing to do with me. It weighs on me daily, and strangely each time that I'm in the kitchen and Caroline throws a toy to the ground without any regard to the hard, dirty farmhouse floor resting at the bottom of her tiny force, I think about that friend and our discarded friendship. 

In my true (ignorant) I'm a good person and you hurt my feelings fashion, the first (3) times my friend told me to leave them alone I took it quite personally. Then I got mad. 
Their loss. I thought. 
I'm a nice person. I thought. 
We've had a great time over the years. I remembered. 

Then I had a conversation with someone else that changed my perspective. I told this person (my not-paid-enough-pseudo-counselor) that I feel like one of the objects so thoughtlessly tossed aside; perhaps that's why I'm so quick to pick up every toy. Or spoon. Or spaghetti strainer. Or book. Or teether. Or mixing bowl. Or anything on the ground. 

And I was quickly reminded that I'm not just a toy on the ground. 

I was quickly reminded that everyone is facing a battle that we know nothing about. 

I was reminded that everyone is facing a battle that we know nothing about. 

Everyone is facing a battle that we know nothing about. 

Those last three lines were not typos. I hope you read, read and re-read them. 

Instead of showing frustration, I'll show my friend love, as Jesus has shown me (John 15:12). I'll love my friend in the way that Caroline loves each toy once I wash it off and present it to her again. Each time, she is excited to see it, as though it's a brand new toy she's never seen before. Her excitement and appreciation is admirable.

If you have a friend in need, don't give up. Don't stop reaching out to them because they act as though they want you to go away. Don't get offended because you're the last person they want to spend time with. It isn't always about you. Don't be discouraged because they're bothered that you check on them. Seasons of life affect people differently, and in the long run I can promise you the effort of caring you put into the relationship will not be something you regret.

Tonight I'll cook dinner with CJ in the high chair and CS in the barn.
I'll pick up the discarded toy and the strainer and the spoon and the bowl and the teether and more. 
Later at night I'll lay my head down on my pillow thinking of - and praying for  - the friend that would rather I go away than bother them again. 
And I'll commit to loving them through the storm. 

And I'll hope that you do the same for your friend 
that came to mind as you read this blog. 

Also, Jesus doesn't judge the state of my kitchen floor and you probably shouldn't, either. 
Only my mother is warranted to do that.