Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clear The Air

I'm not mad, I just need to know when I can open the windows again. 

I learned to fall asleep with the crickets' music and rain falling on the roof of our front porch. Fresh air would move across our shared room and carry out anything that didn't belong there. Like too much of this stuff:

When I moved to Purdue I slept in the cold air room of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Wind, leaves and snow would each blow in August through May, but the fresh air cleaned out the room that held 80 sleeping gals and kept us healthy. Mostly. 

I pulled this from the AXO Alpha Beta Facebook page 

After going to college I had actually forgotten what it was like to have a super angry Mom. It had, after all, been years (weeks) since Luke left the hydrant running and she'd lost her head. But then I came home on Christmas break - and before bed - opened all four large windows of my bedroom to recreate the fresh air paradise of my youth. And college. 

Boy was Momma mad to learn turning up the thermostat throughout the night did nothing to alleviate the draft that was traveling under my bedroom door.

Now as a wife, I'm a huge promoter of wool socks and electric blankets if that means we can open the windows to air out the house while there is still frost on the ground. Dead flies, damp basement, Muck Boots, wet gloves, dirty dishrags, all things man...each proponents of cooped-up-house-smell, and in turn creating cramped-up-Lindsay-paranoia. 

I'm not concerned with the fact that fully opening the windows in this old house may cause reason for alarm once we return home after being gone. Cody got home on day earlier this month and initially thought our house had been broken into. The flowers once on the kitchen counter were scattered across the linoleum. The screen of the window over the kitchen sink was thrown across the floor. Our mail pile stretched from the kitchen to the dining area. Did someone enter through the window? No. I had opened the window too far, didn't secure the screen and left the house open to a storm. Floor was wet, bills were wet, but the house smelled great. You just can't buy that thunderstorm in my kitchen smell!

We've had three birds in our house because of my need to clear the air. I get so excited about a fresh breeze that I fail to remember that some windows simply don't have screens. I've had to run through the house under an umbrella, resuscitate an old fern and leave the house for hours at a time hoping the problem would just take care of itself, i.e. avian heart attack. 

So you can imagine my distress when temperatures dropped over the last week and I'm left with nothing to do but close the windows. 

False. Nobody puts baby in the corner. And shuts the windows. 

I opened the windows before bed Monday night hoping that if we just fell asleep, the house could breathe a bit and we'd not notice that temperatures were dipping into the 40s. Wrong. I woke to Cody stammering around trying to find the windows without his glasses and saying something about frostbite on his arm. I fell back asleep to a dream that I was an eskimo. Weird. 

The thermostat read 53ยบ went I got in the shower the next morning. But that didn't bother me nearly as much as learning that it was so chilly in the house that I'd bottomed out on the recommended temperature at which you're supposed to keep aerosol hairspray. The liquid gold was stagnant. I can work around frostbite, but no Frizz Ease? Count me out. 

I've used the oven for the first time in weeks just to have the ability to leave the oven door open (once shut off) to heat the kitchen while I do the dishes. Extra warmth. I've also inconveniently forgot to shut it off (twice) to warm the kitchen a little bit longer. It's much easier than turning on the furnace. Yes, Cody pays the electric bill and I buy the fuel oil. Why do you ask? 

We've been living in operation Clear The Air for two months now and I can finally walk into the mudroom and not smell iodine from February. It just lingered. 

My goal is to walk into our house with my eyes shut and not know if I'm home or in a rainforest. I think that if a few more thunderstorms roll through the kitchen and Cody tracks in another 10 pounds of grass clippings from mowing pastures we'll be well on our way. 

Toucans aren't native of Indiana, right?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things That Matter

I don't know if my head is more likely to spin or explode, but something bad is fixin' to happen. 

One morning this week I watched The Today Show as Matt Lauer tried to seamlessly transition from one major crisis to another. He went from emotionally covering the mass destruction in Nepal to very matter-of-factly reviewing the suspensions Tom Brady would suffer (I use that term so, so loosely) as a result of Deflate Gate. 

I stood in front of our TV in awe, a toothbrush in my mouth and a question in my head: How do those two stories even deserve the same airtime in a primetime spot? 

They don't. 

Something as trivial as the amount of air in a ball used in a glorified American sport (and I love football as much as the next person - Go Steelers) has no place following a story regarding a natural disaster that has buried alive more than 8,000 people. 

Do you get it? When you step back and really appraise life's spirit, some things matter and some things simply don't. 

What are the things that matter? 

Well, I can only start this morning with a brief list:

Things that matter:
Believing in something bigger than yourself. 

Things that don't: 
A false sense that you have to get through it alone. 

Things that matter:
Engaging in conversation and sharing a meal with others. 

Things that don't: 
Believing that your cell phone is more interesting than the people physically around you. 

Things that matter:
Fresh air in your lungs, compliments of the great outdoors. 

Things that don't: 
Airing out your problems to solicit attention.

The best current commercial:

Things that matter:
Living within your means. 

Things that don't: 
Living with a strange, sad hunger to impress others with material things. 

Things that matter:
Our forgotten soldiers - on foreign lands and home - who have undergone immeasurable emotional, physical and mental damage and immediate, irreversible changes.  

Things that don't: 
Bruce Jenner.

Marine Staff Sgt. John Jones 
from the "Injured Soldiers" collection 
by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Things that matter:
Deadlines, as they hold you accountable, on time and productive. 

Things that don't: 
Timelines. Worry not about how you envisioned the last ten years going or the next ten years unfolding. The plan and timeline you're referencing are simply not your own. 

Things that matter:
Expiration dates on drugs. 

Things that don't:
Expiration dates on salad dressing. 

Things that matter:
How you use past experiences to emulate an example of treating others well and with kindness. 

Things that don't: 
How poorly someone has treated you in the past. 

Things that matter:
Realizing and remembering that some of your best memories will come from slow, ordinary days.  

Things that don't: 
The false sense that if you don't hurry, you'll get left behind. 

Things that matter:
The orange low fuel warning light. 

Things that don't:
The "It won't happen to me" mentality.

Things that matter:
Giving your best self every single day.

Things that don't:
Worrying about living up to someone else's standards.

Things that matter:
Education, it’s invaluable. 

Things that don’t:
Not trying, wanting, or risking learning something new each day.

Things that matter:
People and relationships.

Things that don’t:

There are so many more, but this week my evenings and mornings are consumed with the exciting task of watching heat. My Stockman's Wife duties generally trump the time I set aside for creative writing. 

What are the things that matter - or the things that don't - from your perspective? This can be a working document, and I'd be happy to add your thoughts if you'll comment.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Is There Life Out There

It seems like five years ago, and yesterday at the same time, that I traveled back to Purdue University to navigate my late-twenties-something self through the Executive Agribusiness Program with Land O'Lakes. Tomorrow morning at 8:30 I'll present my thesis in front of my classmates, Purdue faculty, CEOs from across the United States and the Land O'Lakes senior leadership team. And then I'll graduate. 

...I'm as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. 

But my boss left me with words of encouragement Monday: No matter how bad you screw this up, you probably won't lose your job. 

Thanks, Boss. 

Until this course work, I hadn't thought much about a certain song. Not since my confident, third grade self stood in front of the entire elementary school and sang it in the variety show. I was young and I didn't fully understand the message. But twenty years later, this entire process of going back to school and learning to study and apply concepts again has taken me back to Reba's Is There Life Out There

By marking things off my life's to-do list prior to getting married just days before age 29, I've avoided the is there life out there? question. But I can still soundly relate to the idea of stress and work/life balance that comes along with curriculum and home. 

Granted, we have no children to read bedtime stories, as seen in the music video. We do, however, have quite a few cows that get cranky when you postpone feeding due to an online homework submission deadline looming ahead. 

And, if Cody would have spilled something on my thesis (as seen in the music video), I (probably) would not have lost my head and made him use a hair dryer to salvage the report. I would have simply printed another copy. Times have changed. 

But the idea of surrendering some things to achieve others has not.I've stretched myself, my resources and my time to get to where I'll be Thursday morning. All for accomplishing a goal of greater education. I've also become a shareholder in post it notes and highlighters. 

How about you?

What sacrifices - small or large - are you making right now to put yourself, your future or your family, in the right direction? 

Or perhaps you're on the other end of the song? The beginning of it. Maybe you're the one who yearns for something greater than what you have now. Maybe you're wondering: Is there life out there? So much you haven't done?

Where ever you stand, remember these three things:

1. If it's still in your mind, it's worth taking the risk. 
2. If I can learn to study again, you can pretty much do anything in the entire world. Ever. 
3. Your hair will never look as cray cray as Reba's did in this video. Bless her heart. 

I'm going to get back to rehearsing my thesis presentation in my hotel room while you will hopefully watch the music video to Is There Life Out There, below. I still cry like a baby when I see her in that cap and gown. 

But if you don't watch the video, can you do one thing? 
Wish me luck! 

She married when she was twenty

She thought she was ready
Now she's not so sure
She thought she'd done some living
But now she's just wonderin'
What she's living for
Now she's feeling that there's something more

Is there life out there

So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

She's always lived for tomorrow

She's never learned how
To live for today
She's dyin' to try something foolish
Do something crazy
Or just get away
Something for herself for a change

Is there life out there

So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

There's a place in the sun that she's never been

Where life is fair and time is a friend
Would she do it the same as she did back then
She looks out the window and wonders again

Is there life out there

So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

Is there life out there

So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Five From Five (And Under)

I thought of this line while visiting with my niece and nephew last night. Hours earlier I had brainstormed what I might write about. I needed a change in perspective. 

So when I reached the young guns, I decided to simply listen, observe and let their "gems" - at ages four and five - write this week's blog. 

Five Lessons From Age Five and Under

1. What makes someone a best friend? They have to laugh at your jokes.

2. Age doesn't mean a thing when it comes to fun. The best toys around are the ones that were built - and used daily - twenty-five years ago. Some things get better with age. 

3. Drink plenty of water. Apparently the young guns have taken it upon themselves to remind their Grammie to drink plenty of water. 
"Grammie, drink your water!" Hank yelled during dinner. 
Marlee looked at me. "Grammie is supposed to drink two fill ups of water every day. She still has one more fill up to drink today."
I told Marlee it was already 9:15 at night - trying to instill some sense of urgency. 
Concern swept cheerleader Marlee's face, but she didn't let up. "Don't worry Grammie! You still have one hour before bed to get your other fill up!"
Things of quality have no fear of time. 

4. Broken crayons are still just as good as not broken crayons. They're just harder to hold. 
Substitute the word "people" for "crayons" and Hank has another very valid point. 

5. Undies are optional when you go to bed. (But you have to earn that right.)

Life lessons, age five and under. 
Isn't it amazing what you can learn when you simply listen?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

But What If I Don't?

Oh my gosh...I should go!
But why?
I shouldn't. 
But I can!
But why would I?
There is no time. 
But I'm so close. 
But why would I?
What would I say?
I'd be setting myself up for disappointment. 
Maybe even disaster. 

But what if I don't?

This was the internal conversation I had with myself several times last week. You see, I didn't write because I was at a communication conference (I know, the irony); the National Agri-Marketing Association annual conference, to be specific. 

As I took the stairs (and by stairs I mean elevator) to the 16th floor where my room for the week sat, I couldn't help but take in the Kansas City view. 

...And maybe sing Kansas City Lights in my head. 

Something caught my eye as a scanned the buildings, lights and old signs that dotted the historic stock town skyline. Only two blocks away, on the side of a building was a recognizable brand, and one of which I've been a card-carrying member since I got my license and could drive myself to the local Wooden Key. 

Wait. WHAT?! 
I'm this close to the Hallmark world headquarters? 
How did I miss that when I planned my week?

I went to my room and opened my laptop. Before my mind plotted anymore, I needed to confirm that this was fact and not fantasy. 

It was fact. 

All things NAMA continued throughout the week and each time I went to my room, or a breakout session didn't hold my attention, my mind drifted to the thought that I was just two blocks from the institution that held my "dream job" - writing for Hallmark

The familiar tug-o-war conversation clouded my thoughts each time. 

Oh my gosh...I should go!
But why?
I shouldn't. 
But I can!
But why would I?
There is no time. 
But I'm so close. 
But why would I?
What would I say?
I'd be setting myself up for disappointment. 
Maybe even disaster. 

But what if I don't?

I went back through the conference's jammed schedule and found one hour between sessions when I could sneak out and go to the Hallmark headquarters. 
To introduce myself. 
Give them a business card. 
Or two. 
Maybe tell a joke. 
At 3:00 I visited with a few industry colleagues and let them know I'd catch up with them closer to 4:00. I had an errand to run. I took the Heel-Toe Express out of the hotel and down the Kansas City sidewalks. 

This is not me. 
You and I both know I have my mother's cankles. 

Before I knew it, though maybe a bit further than the estimated two blocks, I was much closer to the beloved brand I'd seen in the sky days before. 


I walked the long corridor to an entrance that appeared to be official. You know, because I'm a very formal person. Truly, if I wasn't there on business I would have likely pecked on the first floor windows until noticed. 

A security guard, proudly still serving at the approximate age of 114, greeted me as soon as I entered the foyer. 

"Can I help you?" the guard asked. 
"Yes, a strange request. But for twenty years I've had the dream of writing for Hallmark. I'm in Kansas City this week on business and I saw your headquarters were so close. I just....Can I speak to someone in your Creative department?"
"The name of the person you'd like to speak with?"
"Oh, well, I don't have a specific name...." I was losing steam with gramps. 
Blank stare. I'm not sure he wasn't blind. 
"I have business cards....for my blog! Can I give you these and you see that they make it to someone in the Creative writing department?"
"I can't do that," he softly said, calmly crushing my dreams. 
"You can't do that? They are just business cards. Just so someone can find my blog. Nothing dangerous. No white powder......," I continued. Anthrax was not what I imagined my joke would be about, but in this point of the charade I was running out of ideas. 
"I cannot do that," he sternly replied.
Guess he was serious. I wondered briefly if I was something like the 187th street-wanderer he'd dealt with today?
"Here. Here is the internet code (it was a website: to find a job. That is all I can do. Go to the museum. If you haven't been there," he finished. 
I don't want to go to the museum. I don't even want a full time job!  I actually love my job! I just want someone to read Jean's Boots. My thoughts stayed internal. 
"Where is the museum?" I asked, deflated. 
"You passed it walking in. Just at the other end of the corridor."

I thanked him and left, putting my cards back in my shoulder bag. Dang it. 
I took the Heel-Toe Express back down the echoing corridor and entered the museum and gave it one last shot. 
The gal behind the desk to me to go across the corridor and speak with the security guard. I reveled that he had sent me her way, and she was just as confused as I. She reached in a drawer and gave me the exact same piece of paper with the Careers link on it. 
The communications geek in me was glad that they were at least consistent in the their message. 

I quickly walked through the amazing Hallmark Visitor's Center and tried to digest as quickly as possible all the history and heirlooms meticulously displayed in one place. 

Norma Rockwell's Kansas City Spirit
Even a Hereford made it into the history. 

My visit to Hallmark was brief and unsuccessful. A lot like I envisioned the "disaster" in my pre-planning thoughts, in fact. I didn't get "inside", I didn't get a free-lance gig and I didn't get my blog business cards to Hallmark Creative. 

But I did learn a lesson. 

Home almost a week now I've thought of that strange experience and wondered what got me to charge over there with such expectation and slight confidence

That question is easy to answer with another:

But what if I don't?

I knew that if I left Kansas City, within blocks of Hallmark, and never tried to promote my passion, I would have wondered for the rest of my life what might have been. The easy part happened: I got shot down. The hardest part would have been to wonder what if for the rest of my life. 

So what if you did the same?
What if you downsized...everything?
What if you told her how you really felt?
What if you asked for forgiveness? And, what if you extended it?
What if you moved home?
What if you went to the meeting?
What if you started taking care of yourself, now?
What if you apologized?
What if you stood up for yourself?
What if you wrote the letter?
What if you left the well paying job for one that made you happy?
What if you were made uncomfortable, for once?
What if you made the phone call?
What if you registered for the course?
What if you admitted to it?
What if you didn't care what they thought?
What if you actually pushed yourself?
What if you told someone?
What if you did it? That one thing.

But what if you don't?

Let my story of two business cards still on my kitchen table be a lesson. Your greatest pain in life could lie in wondering what might have happened had you compiled the courage. Don't let that happen. 

But don't just listen to me. Take it from this guy:

Side note: Anyone know anybody who works for Hallmark?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Lost Volumes

I never met the man, 
but I've sure enjoyed watching his life unfold, 
more than ninety years after it happened. 

I went to an auction in Auburn, Indiana five years ago and found a bunch of things I didn't need, such as a lamp I never got to work, a desk bigger than the room in which I intended to use it and a set of chipped ice cream bowls. 

Don't even act like you're surprised. They were in the $5 and under pile.

Oh...and an entire box of old photos, albums and greeting cards. A jackpot for a gal like me who loves history and once dreamt of a job with Hallmark. Who am I kidding? I'm still anxiously awaiting the day that one of their Execs stumbles upon this blog. I sure hope it's the day that I have no grammatical errors. 

Anyway, as I briefly thumbed through the box of photos, I couldn't help but think that it was some sort of mistake. These weren't old torn greetings cards or scenic photos; these were documentation of an individual's life. My stomach hurt in a way that I knew it wasn't hunger pains. I let the box be (you can't appear too interested in those situations - folks always want what others do, and auctioneers who know the bidders' desires are dangerous, in themselves), stepped away and roamed through other tables of "junk" (aka treasures).

At the end of the day, I walked away with the box for $5.00. 

Shortly following that auction, I dove into the box that intrigued me so much. I spent the Friday and Saturday nights of one weekend in my dear little (first) house and sorted through photos of Richard, born in 1921.  The more I saw, the more sadness came over me. 


Richard's Birthday, 20 years apart. 
Camping trips. 
First loves. 
The service. 
First home. 

This man's entire history was in one box. 
Sold for $5.00 at a general auction. 
Weekly I've turn Richard's life photos into greeting cards for family and friends. I sent one just this week to dear friends who just had their second son. 

Richard was a happy man. Who adored his wife. Served his country. Loved his sister, Catherine. Traveled to California. 

But who would know that? His lost volumes were sold for $5.00. 
Photo by paper photo I've tried to imagine what he was doing or feeling in the moment, so many generations ago. I've sorted his photos, piled them and stored them. Convinced that my organization and commitment will preserve his story, I've also began thinking of my own. 

A coworker came into my office this week and tossed a Snapfish package at me. 

"We only use Snapfish for Christmas cards," Brandon said as he relayed the large photo tube to me. (Don't worry boss, I ordered poster size aerial photos of our Randolph County locations for the new meeting room. My time on Snapfish was legit). 

"I've never used them, but made an account to get this meeting room finished and wow - there is a lot on there," I told him, as I unrolled my co-op posters. 

He revealed that he can't remember the last time his family physically printed a photo. I sat back in my chair and wondered about the same. 

I remember in high school we stood in line at Wal-Mart the afternoon following a dance to print and finally see the photos taken the night before. There were no retakes. There were no deletes. There were no selfies. There was, however, a lot of wasted film. 

But do you know what? I can still look back on those photos and remember the naive fun we had. 

I told the coworker that he better start printing the memories. As a father of three daughters, we was bound to need photos for a wedding slideshow - or three. He laughed but seemed to really digest that idea. No father of daughters likes to talk about weddings, I guess. 

Our conversation made me think back to Richard, born in 1921, and all the quick glimpses of his life that I have. Thank goodness I have them. The negatives, too. 

Just as a family has lost 
volumes of one man's life, 
our high-speed generation is 
losing volumes every single day 
with technology. 

When was the last time you printed off a picture? A real photo that generations to come can hold? Something you can write on the back of, identifying who was in the photo and the year it was taken? Something physical, not digital. Trust me: jpegs  and RAW files won't be around forever. 

And, how will we document your battle 
with head lice if we don't print 
and write on the back of photos?

I have no great way to store the photos that I speak of (I could do an entire blog on the photos Cody and I sorted or tossed (burned) once we married and began living together) because I get sick of storing my own. But I think they're important. They're physical proof of the life we're living now. They're the stock show photos our grandsons will one day find and frame and the wedding photos our great granddaughters will one day put in a locket. They matter. Don't post your story, print it.

As for Richard, I hope that his lost volumes inspire you to print - if only ten per year - photos that document your family history. I'll continue to send his story across state lines and time zones in an effort to pass his unidentified legacy on. 

Can we commit to no more lost volumes?

Or, at least can we all pledge not to sell our great-grandparents love story in a glorified garage sale? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Again

At 6:47 in the evening  I found myself 4,000 steps away from my Fitbit goal. No bueno. 

I did what any crazy Fitbitter would do: Put on some comfortable boots and decided to take a walk. Camera in hand. 

No rest for the weary, I thought to myself. 
Or, those included in a public challenge where other people can see your daily steps...

Spring has finally showed her pretty face around the farm.
New blooms, new green, new life.

While I walked the fence row, I wracked my brain to come up with a blog idea. It had been a long time since I made it to 7:00 on a Tuesday night and just didn't feel anything humorous or inspiring to share. 

Suddenly, everywhere I looked I was reminded that we're in the midst of Holy Week and just exactly what that means. 

I can't put the gift into words, 
but I can share with you my favorite song that puts this week 
- and His sacrifice - 
somewhat in perspective.

Like spring on the farm, He has made all things new again. 

It is beautiful. I hope you'll listen. 

New Again by Brad Paisley & Sara Evans

You may view it larger by clicking here

Video compiled by Blake Bowden