Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Two Hours With Temple

I don't know why or how, but for some reason I've had the opportunity to spend time with incredibly special people. Whether you recognize their names or not, each one of these folks have given me timeless advice that I keep close in my mind's library, just between the sarcastic jokes and the content I am compelled to pass on. Part of it has been along the lines of "get a life, kid" while others offer more substantial words that I keep, write down and  look at daily. Thanks, by the way, to people like Doug

You may not ever recognize their names, but I hope you understand their lessons. 

To my knowledge, I have never had the opportunity to spend time with anyone with autism, until I had the chance to do so with Wilt and the Animals For Life Foundation last week. As I looked forward to working with Dr. Temple Grandin, I say with confidence that I was flat out nervous. 

And for good reason. I was about to spend a morning, one-to-one, with world-renowned animal handling pioneer and subject of a movie, Dr. Temple Grandin. A professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, and a specialist in livestock handling and animal facility design. In fact, half of the cattle in the United States and Canada are handled in facilities designed by Grandin, and she has offered animal welfare consultation to companies such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King.

But, Grandin’s remarkable achievements are underscored by an amazing success story. She was born a severely autistic child, and by the age of two she could not speak. Years of speech therapy helped her to overcome her disabilities, and encouragement from a high school teacher led her to pursue a career in animal science.

That lead her to the crossing of my tiny path. 

I walk a fine line in disclosing the lessons and releasing the moments. 

As is life. Remember that. 
I had a time taking notes, for as much as Dr. Grandin told me during breakfast and in my little Ford Escape. In fact, somewhere on I-270 around Columbus, Ohio she scolded me for texting and driving. Fair enough. Her lessons were brief and pointed. 

Nonetheless, I share a few brief lessons from Dr. Grandin's raw, weathered hands and mind.

Today, we are a population completely away from anything practical. 
We don't understand how our food reaches our table. In school we have no sewing. No woodworking. No home economics. We are masters of No Trade. We have no idea how to balance a budget or mend clothing or even console our children. We cannot coach our own children through life because we don't have a really good grasp at what is going on. That is troublesome. We spend our money on things that only serve ourselves: clothing, appearances, entertainment. How do those things improve life for the next generation? How selfish are we? 

We can not let bad become normal. 

This is everywhere. The way we raise our livestock. The way we present ourselves in public. The way we speak to one another. The way we dress our daughters and sons. 
We have become lazy - LAZY - and that is not good. The bad way of addressing  many things has become the normal. When we let the bad replace normal, we're all in a really poor place. 

There is no worse feeling than visiting your childhood home and finding that your "kite flying field" has become a subdivision. 
Remember it. The house. The field. How the sky looks just before sunset. And even better, just before sunrise. Visit home. Even if it changes. Remember the land. The slope of the hill. That is the landscape of your life; the very first scene of your story. 

Your mind. Your body. Dr. Grandin asked me what sports I participated in to keep my body active. Nothing like telling this lady that I've not played sports since high school...Stay active. 

Never quit challenging yourself. 
The best days of Dr. Grandin's career have not been staring into the open skies of the west or even the board rooms of Washington, DC. Her most rewarding days have been spent onsite in the trailers "with the guys" trying to determine how to construct an animal handling project. A few of her favorite moments now are flying into/out of the Denver airport and visualizing how she would utilize the equipment on the site. Find a better way to do things. 

Don't question your abilities. 
Dr. Grandin recalled being told by a counselor that her calling was to work in animal behavior. "Of all the things," she laughed, "animal behavior. I remember being told that. Being told that I would go into animal behavior. But I worked with it." 

And the greatest thing Dr. Grandin taught me:
No one cares about your circumstances. 
Blaze your own damn trail. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Just Another Manic Wednesday

I'll be honest. I woke up at 4:50 this morning in Columbus, Ohio, in preparation for a big event (Seriously, I've been as busy as a one-legged duck in a swimming contest) and had this initial thought:

Is today Blog Wednesday???

So today on Jean's Boots, I present to you a few 
awakening thoughts on this First Day of Spring, 2013:

I bet that if I hit snooze again, when I do get out of bed, I'll move as fast as a cat on a hot tin roof and can make up for that lost time. 

But if I get up now, I won't hear the second most annoying sound in the world: the hotel phone wake-up call. The first being, "License and registration, please."

The 18th decorative pillow on this bed is about as useless as Chuckie Cheese bucks at the Bellagio.  

I really, really anticipated it being warmer than this on March 20. I'm as disappointed as a twelve-year-old with a bag phone.

Why did the mail lady look at me yesterday like a dog looks at a high pitched sound? All I needed was 300 post card stamps.  

I would love to know where the lid to my trash can back home is. Considering the wind we had yesterday, I'd say that deal is as lost as last year's Easter egg. 

I wonder if Temple is in the air yet and east-bound.

Why did the dreadful waitress ask if we wanted dessert last night? I mean, does a fat puppy hate fast cars?

I can't believe there are birds chirping at 30 degrees. They're as confused as a chameleon in a bag of skittles.

Did I pack a razor?

Happy Wednesday, All!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Library Burns To The Ground

One year ago I sat in a waiting room and listened to an old man give me some of the most sound, unsolicited advice I've ever been given. 
It rocked me. 
It made me think. 
I blogged about it. 
I apply the lesson every single day. 

Less than six months after that conversation with the stranger in the waiting room, I drove to Ivy Tech Community College to sit on a committee to plan an event for their School of Agriculture. I walked into the classroom and instantly recognized an old man - the same one whose words struck a cord in me. 

I introduced myself and he said, "Yes, I was in the waiting room with you some time ago..." Just as I remembered him, Joe remembered me. 

Joe and I went on to work closely together to plan the event for the college. We met monthly, discussing who should be invited, who should speak and why we were so adamant that the event for the college went well. But as Joe's wisdom impressed me in the waiting room, his passion for agriculture - both local and global - impressed me exponentially more. 

I have never met anyone more devoted to learning, teaching and studying agriculture.  He defined initiative. A life-long learner. I have never met anyone so determined to teach others.  He was a passionate advocate for agriculture. 

Joe had a true servant's heart in a farmer's body.

And Joe was funny. We went to breakfast at Bob Evan's in February. Joe was conservative in his selection: oatmeal and other heart-healthy choices. I, on the other hand, ordered the biggest, meanest omelet a gal could find, extra mushrooms. Joe laughed at me when the waitress delivered our meals and an omelet bigger than my head was placed before me. But he took me a lot more seriously when he saw me finish it off. "What? I was taught to clean my plate," I told Joe. He threw his head back, his eyes dancing with laughter. 

I worked with Joe through Ivy Tech. 
I visited with Joe at the Soil and Water Conservation banquet. 
We both enjoyed the fact that we left Wayne County and drove to Indianapolis and visited again last month at the 2013 LivestockForage and Grain Forum.
He asked me that day if I was following him to each of these events. I told Joe - only half jokingly - that I couldn't keep up with everything he was involved in. 

My last laugh with Joe was in late February. He told me he had just bought a welder from my Dad and he was regretting the decision. Hesitantly, I asked him why. "Well your Dad has a wedding to pay for this summer. I bet in September that welder will go on sale!"

Momma called me late Monday night and told me Joe had passed away. 

When an old man dies, it is as if a library burns down. Never, ever before have I wanted to share his waiting room message more than I do now. 

Something I've never done before,  I'm reposting the blog about Joe, written before I realized what an impact the man would have. 

Even if you read it last February, I sure encourage you to read it again. 

A Lesson in the Waiting Room 

March 15, 2012

"Sometimes the doctor's office waiting room is the loneliest, most desolate place in the world," said the stranger, sitting four seats from me. 

I had taken Momma to the doctor. She'd been sick for days; she's also been bull-headed for years. I knew it was bad when she called me at work and asked me to get her to the doctor that very afternoon. So, being that daughter that drops off a rambunctious sixth-generation feral dog (with a heart of gold) at her house every day, I didn't hesitate to help Momma out. 

I took a book to read, as you never know how long you'll wait in those situations. Lucky for us, the doctor was surprised to see the BSG Manager of Operations sitting in his waiting room  and not in coveralls; he took her right in.  

While Momma was in back I kept reading Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action; the full, silent waiting room seemed like the perfect place to read. Until the stranger, four seats away, broke the silence with his comment. 

He was older, probably in his mid-70s. He was a strikingly handsome man for his age, with a head full of wavy hair and a handsome smile. He wore brown shoes and black socks, a red flannel shirt with a turtleneck underneath. His jeans were faded but still in working order, and it wasn't until he went back to see the doctor that I noticed just how far he had them pulled up.  

With the exception of one man, the entire waiting room looked up at the old man after he made his "loneliest, most desolate" comment out of the blue. 

He had our attention, and he continued...

"I've been to a few of these in my lifetime. I'm a cancer survivor. I had several heart stints put in a year ago. I thought I was out of the woods until just the last few months, but something isn't right. That's why I'm sitting here, I suppose," he said with a smile. 

I put my book down. I had this feeling I was about to learn something, and it wasn't about leadership.

He continued, "When I was out in Indianapolis years ago I made some friends out there. The first week was scary. I didn't know what I was in for, or what they - the others in the waiting room - were in for. But I finally got one of the other men talking and we got to be good acquaintances. Others, daily, joined our waiting room conversation."

I couldn't help but notice how well articulated he was. I also noticed that the lady in the corner went back to reading her Ladies' Home Journal. Are you serious, lady?! How could you not find this survivor's story so intriguing?!, I thought to myself. 

Seeing he still had a somewhat captive audience, the man kept talking. 

"The place went from a room of scared, quiet, lonely fighters to a room full of supportive teammates. We were fighting the same battle. All we had to do was ask how the other person was doing that day. That's all it took to start a conversation. And to learn."

He took off his khaki coat and hung it over the chair beside him. I wondered why he hadn't done it sooner; it seemed like a blazing 400-degrees in that tiny room to me. 

"I truly believe that communication, that putting into words how we were feeling, saved my life. I looked forward to it. Guess I needed it. You never know what kind of battle that other person is facing until you ask," he said. 

The side door flew open, "Mr. Johnson?"

"That's me!" And as though he'd been healthy his whole life, the old man shot out of his seat, grabbed his coat and headed back to see the doctor. 

Just like that, the moment of inspiration had come and gone. But it certainly stuck with me, otherwise I wouldn't be sharing it here. What a simple, yet profound thought - we're never going to know or understand what a person is going through, or what they may need from us, until we simply ask. 

Take the time to ask, even if they wear a smile. 

That old man's inspiring words reminded me of one of my favorite quotes; I first read it waiting in line at a local office supplies store - it was taped to the cash register:

The world needs more like Joe Meyer. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Love For The Original

Another year in the books and we celebrate 
another year with our dear, beautiful, Original Jean.

A few years ago we planned a surprise birthday party for my Grandma. My sister  played a big role in the surprise and convinced Grandma to ride to town with her and pick up a pizza, rather than cook. 

When they returned to the farm, of course Grandma immediately noticed the line of pick-up trucks and cars lined down her lane. 

Grandma's first response: "Oh no...hide that pizza!"

The Original Jean isn't one for surprises. Namely the ones that require her to feed the masses or wash her windows. 

Next week we will celebrate The Original Jean's 83rd birthday in rural Ohio. She won't do much of anything special for herself; we're getting together over the weekend for cake and ice cream. 

Rather than plan a surprise party for Grandma, I'd like to surprise her by showering her with cards. I've said it a thousand times before: sending cards or letters is a lost art. It takes less than ten minutes, and the reward of making someone's day is worth it, 100 times over. 

Grandma understands the value in a hand-writeen note, too: 

If you have 5 minutes, I encourage you to sit down, 
grab a pen and a sheet of paper off of your desk 
and send The Original Jean - the namesake for this blog - a happy birthday note, even if you've not had the pleasure of meeting her. 

The Original Jean
3409 Toney-Lybrook Rd. 
Eaton, OH

When she goes to to bed on the night of her 83rd birthday, Grandma may not know who exactly sent all the cards, letters or notes. 
She sure won't remember what each of them said. 
But rest assured, she will never forget how special they made her feel. 

And her granddaughter, too.