Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Greatest Institution In The World

If you ever want to be reassured there is still wholesomeness in the world, come with me to a county home extension club meeting. 
But wear a turtleneck. 

Growing up Momma avoided volunteering in the classroom on certain Thursdays because she "had Club" -
Had Club?
What kind of Club?
Babysitter's Club?
Mickey Mouse Club?
Super Reader of the Month Club?
I didn't know. I just knew it was a special Club because she always made cookies the night before the meetings and sometimes we had to clean like little slaves on the days leading up to the elusive "Club". 

"Did you dust the banister?" Momma would ask. 
"Are your friends going upstairs?" we would push back. 
"It doesn't matter. This is Club. These ladies invented the dust rag."
After that thought churned in our tiny little heads, we didn't ask questions. We just dusted the banister. With Pledge. 

Years passed and I learned that "Club" was Momma's county home extension club meetings. 
They sewed. 
They cooked. 
They shared cleaning tips. 
They read devotions and prayed together. 
They collected clothes and toys for families in need. 
They took care of their kids. 
And grandkids. 
And great grandkids.
And kids they'd never have the opportunity to meet. 

I later moved to college and became even more thankful for parents - Momma and Dad - who found immense value in such training. At Purdue I met young women who had mothers who wanted to be their friend, not their parent (whole other topic, read my thoughts here). Those who wanted to share their jeans, not mend them. Those who wanted to cut turkey out of Thanksgiving due to a vegan diet, not teach them how to use the turkey drippings in the gravy. Yum-o. 

When I moved home from Washington, DC one of the first things I did was join Club. 

I'm a fourth generation member of Harrison Extension Homemakers in Indiana. I'll admit that nothing I bring to the club is ground-breaking (I swear a few of these women taught Paula Dean how to cook), but I do really bring the average age of membership down. My great Grandma Ruby was a founder of the club, and periodically I wear her TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) bracelet to remind myself that any recipe I redeem from an extension homemakers meeting will surely go straight to my Moyer thighs. 
Thanks, Grandma. 

Annually we have a meeting (Gifts From The Home) where we bring gifts/recipes from the home, something we've handcrafted for someone else. Not only do we have to present our craft, we also have to share instructions on how we made it. You see, home extension clubs are like Pinterest before Pinterest (or the internet...or computers...or electricity) existed. These projects are actually feasible and already completed by a real person.   
Gifts From The Home night is a lot like Pinterest, except it's real. 
I brought personalized Jean's Boots Stationary. I dare you to try explaining how to operate a Cricut to a roomful of women who don't yet understand why you'd knowingly keep an "insect" in your office. 

Then go on to explain why, instead of hand-mending a pair of ripped jeans, you'd cut them into strips for denim on said Jean's Boots Stationary. 

There were gasps of disappointment and confusion. Some even geared towards my innocent mother. 
I did not win "best gift from the home" that night. 
A cross-stitched wall hanging of cats in Santa costumes won. 
They were holding hands dancing around a Christmas tree. 
Made of catnip. 
The caption: Meowy Christmas!
I'm not bitter.
...At all. 

I don't usually see the ladies of club outside  the home unless we're at the county fair, church or the funeral home. In fact, there was a time two years ago that we considered having our annual meeting actually at the funeral home due to the foot traffic we were giving the place. Sadly, we lost a couple keystone members that year. Shortly thereafter we had a great lesson on incorporating bacon into three meals a day. I had a strange feeling that lesson was a gift from our friends above. 

Though I may smirk at the interactions I have with members of my beloved home extension club, the truth is I desire to be more like these women. They're simple, self-sufficient, creative, God-fearing and kind. They successfully reared children and enjoyed marriages and  played an active role in giving back to their community. They know there is satisfaction in a more simple life. 
And they live by that. 
I desire to live by that, too. 

I've never left a Club meeting where I didn't learn something I'll incorporate into our home. At the conclusion of each meeting we recite the Extension Homemaker Creed. I don't know it by heart yet, but I smile each time we read it. 

We believe in the present and its opportunities, in the future and its promises, in everything that makes life large and lovely, in the divine joy of living and helping others; and so we endeavor to pass on to others that which has benefited us, striving to go onward and upward reaching the pinnacle of economic perfection, in improving, enlarging and endearing the greatest institution in the world, The Home.                
Mrs. C.W. Horne

I sincerely hope that home extension clubs will be around for generations to come. Far beyond the words that I can type, there is value in those programs and lessons. Today's world needs them, craves them
The next generation needs to know how to tend a garden, prepare a healthy meal, sew on a button and help a friend in need. 
Besides, where else would I find the determination and time to learn how to cross stitch for next years project for gifts from the home?
My current project is a wall hanging of the Easter Bunny with his arm around a St. Patrick's Day leprechaun. 
The caption: Lucky Rabbit's Foot

Game on. 

--> If you're interested in joining a Wayne County, Indiana home extension club, contact me!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Your Way

I love advice. 

Let me rephrase that. 
I love sound advice that doesn't put me in debt or institutions. 

Last night with cold hands and a running nose I stood in the driveway of an old friend. We caught up about family, work and life in general. We had just finished taking photos of her wonderful family and we had some time to catch up on "us" before I headed back across the state line.

"If I could tell you anything, it's this," she said, petting the old dog's head which stood nearly at her hip. "You can listen to advice from a lot of people, but in the end, make sure you do things your way."

What perfect advice.
For a newlywed.
Or a 55-year old going through a divorce. 
Or a 16-year old trying to figure things out. 
Or a 34-year old who is leaving that steady paycheck to go out on a limb. 
What perfect advice. 

In this storm of life, somehow we forget that it is really pretty awesome to be true to one's self. Because of current media and eroding values and parents who want to be friends, we live in a population that strives to be just like the next. 
The next door neighbor. 
The next online sensation. 
The gal that sits next to you in algebra. 

If God wanted two of you, He would have made them. 

Oddly enough, we have learned to base our decisions - and lives - on advice from people who have absolutely never lived a day in our boots. They may have similar experiences, but they've never, ever been us

Why do we weigh others' opinions so heavily against those of our own?
Why do we discount what our own souls tell us is right and true?
Well, I'm not really sure. 
And I really hope you didn't read this today to find a scientific answer...
I had to take chemistry twice at Purdue. 

But I do know that I felt 110% better the day I marched into my high school and declared I'd do things my way. 
Sadly, that was a dream I had when I was 22. 
But if I had to do it over...

I know this: Expectations are high.
We're expected to follow trends. 
We're expected to fit a certain mold when it comes to fashion or timelines or beauty. 
We're expected to do more than our fathers did in order to move progress along. 
We're expected to be more maternal than our mothers. 

But what about the needs of our own?
Tune out to what is popular. 
Dial in to you. 

We only get so many trips around the sun. 
So many years. 
So many months. 
So few weeks and days. 
The hours? They are pass through our hands more quickly than the change from a five dollar bill. 

Why in the world would you not do things your way?  

The idea of being untrue to yourself takes me back to my favorite quote:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson 

We shouldn't be preparing the path that we can travel with ease with the rest of the world, but rather preparing ourselves to travel any path we'd like.

Remember what Stacy said: You can listen to advice from a lot of people, but in the end, make sure you do things your way.

For instance, I didn't take the advice of the weather man and did things my way last night.  Now my ferns, boots and three pair of jeans that we're drying outside are covered in snow. It turns out that my way, is also the hard way...  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rebates: A Genetic Disorder

It is with great fondness that I look back on a life where the word "rebate" was part of a language known only by my parents.

(It is 6:17 on a Monday morning and we're having buckwheat pancakes and authentic Vermont maple syrup - NOT Mrs. Butterworth's) 

Dad, tucking in his white oxford and straightening his tie: 
Did you mail in that Craftsman rebate?

Momma, warming the syrup in a pan of hot water on the stove so it would pour easier:
Yep, I sent that yesterday. 

And what about the one for that set of Bocce balls I bought last month? We should get an extra ball from that one, if I remember right. 

Extra ball should arrive to our house any day...

I had no idea what my parents were talking about. I just knew I really wanted pancakes that didn't taste like the Original Jean's fiber cereal.

Fast forward fifteen years and I was a happy, broke single gal trying to scrap all the money I could for Saturday nights, victorian doors and plane tickets. I learned to clip the heck out of the Sunday news. I scanned my parent's paper (I refused to subscribe at my house) for anything that read "REBATE". There was just something rewarding about buying 15 quarts of motor oil and getting a $10.00 gift card in the mail. 

I began to hold on to receipts like they were the secret recipe to Bush's Baked Beans and Duke the dog and I had some illegal deal in the works. I made copies of everything

And for a while (few years), my rebate system seemed to work really well. Until some bitter December Monday night when I realized I couldn't get my car in the garage because I had 10 bags of Purina dog chow stockpiled directly in front of the door. And two bags of free (rebate) cat food on top of that. I had one 9-pound puppy at the time, and I completely despised anything that purred that didn't have an engine. It was then, as I unstacked and moved bags of unneeded pet food in dress slacks and heels, that I first questioned if I had a rebate obsession? 

I continued to rebate hunt, printed in black ink only and clipped the bar code from my toilet paper purchases - just in case. 

Next thing you know, you're buying jerky makers and potato bakers for a $20.00 gift card to a store that left the area four months ago? 
And by "you" I mean me. 

Before I could phone all the manufacturers to tell them I didn't need the "freebees," there was a calamity in Greens Fork. I had baking dishes that read in european measurements only and car batteries stacked in the "Rebate Rewards" pile in my already-full garage. And where in the world was I going to store two sets of Michelin go-cart tires???

Four years have come and gone since I stood in a room with others and blatantly admitted I had a rebate problem. Granted, it was Momma and Dad's living room and they both stared at me as confused as a pair of chameleons in a bag of skittles. Nonetheless, it felt good to get that off my shoulders. 

Later that afternoon I had to remind Momma of my home address so she could exceed the "one rebate per household" limit for a second microwave.

Which reminds me. I'm not pointing fingers, I just need to know who to blame for the twelve 5-gallon buckets of hydraulic oil stacked on a pallet in my driveway. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


For everything we do, there is a reason. 

We buy Meijer pasta salad then transfer it into a pretty bowl so our our mothers - who have never bought a pre-made, out-of-the-case salad in 60 years -  will think we slaved all morning on the side dish. 

We set our alarm an hour early, and title it, "DEVOTIONS, DISHES, GET 2 WORK EARLY!!!!" for motivation, then hit snooze five times because said motivation is no where to be found.

We back date our checks by two days so the person processing the payment thinks the US post office is the reason why our payment is two days late, not our poor planning. 
Is that just me?

In June I received an email from a gal who works for the media company that produces Mutual of Omaha's Aha Moments. She also enjoys Jean's Boots Are Made For Talking every week.

The gal asked me if I'd share my own Aha Moment when the Airstream visited Indianapolis later in the summer. I agreed, then racked my brain for a week trying to think about the moment that it all came together for me. Frankly, I feel like it's still coming together. I stewed and talked to friends and family about it. Then someone phrased the question this way: What is the reason why you do what you do?

Stated that way, it was easy. 

I put myself on a deadline every single week, without pay or promise that any more than one person will read this blog, because of a woman in California I've never met in my life. She is my Aha Moment:

Thanks for reading Jean's Boots. 
I hope you have a reason to come back every week. 
And for the record, the only reason I check voicemail is to get that little annoying red "1" off the bottom of my iPhone screen. 

What's your Aha Moment?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rainbow Language

One day, I'll tell our kids about the power of rainbow language. 

I spent the morning of April 25, 2013 near Anderson, Indiana taking field photos for use in a promotion set to launch in late summer. It was nice visiting with the local salesman, learning about the work he'd done over winter to prepare the soil for spring planting. Later, I reached my car to head south for the office and checked my phone; I found a message from Cody telling me that the place we had our eyes on fell through. 

The dream of having our own farm to run cows just wasn't in the cards for us - again

That familiar knot in my stomach made it's presence known and I started the 55-minute drive back to Richmond. I shut off the radio about thirty minutes into the drive and began praying. I found myself talking (venting) aloud and cautiously observing every farm - large or small - that I passed on the highway. It wasn't long until I came across one that caught my eye. Then another. And a third, and fourth. 

But then there was the 12th or so. With the sun shining down on the young, green grass and a few black cows grazing behind new fence I asked God (kind of rudely?), "God! Why can't anything like that be for sale?" Quite frankly, I was tired of Cody and I striking out in the search for a farm to run cattle. Did we deserve a place to move our cows, weed whack thistles and pick up trash?

I did the mental checklist in my head as I drove by:
Several outbuildings. 
Good fence. 
Big yard. 
Rickety farmhouse. 
Modest homestead. 

Feeling sorry for myself, I proceeded to eat an entire Grab Bag size of Cheetos in the miles that followed. I reached the office and began sorting through emails received during a morning away from my desk. My mouse turned orange. What a drag. 

Within the hour Cody called me again. This time he told me that the realtor we'd been working with - a real treat (and if there was a sarcasm font, I'd sure use it there) - just learned of a farm that is likely going to go on the market very quickly. A co-worker of her's just got the call and was going to meet with the owners within the next day. 

"Well, it's worth looking into, I guess," I said, already feeling defeated before we started the process again. "Where is it?" I asked.
"Not sure, but I have the address written down. I'll text it to you," Cody said just before hanging up.

I copied the address out of iMessage and pasted it into Google maps. 
Then, I sat in front of my computer screen and stared blankly. I didn't know if I should puke, cry or go to Square Donuts and buy everything out of the case. 

I didn't do any of those things. 
Instead, I asked God if he was kidding. And wiped the chills from the back of my neck. 

The farm Cody directed me to via text message 
was the exact same farm 
I had just called out to God about 
less than an hour ago. 

When I saw Cody later that evening I told him all about it. He was as taken back as I. We waited out the weekend and looked often (like, really often) for the For Sale sign to go in the yard. It never did. Five days later, after work on Tuesday we met in my kitchen and decided to grow guts. He and I put on clean jeans and headed north. I also put on lipstick and a pair of turquoise earrings. 

We pulled into the farm and shut off the truck. Cody made his way up the sidewalk and I closely followed. I felt like we were about to ask to adopt someone's child right out of the blue. He knocked on the back door. A pretty blonde gal about Momma's age greeted us. 

"Hi ma'am, this is really random, but is your farm for sale?"
She stared at us. Then she put her finger in the air and asked us to hold. She called her husband. "Are you close? There is a couple here asking if the farm is for sale........."

That Tuesday evening they gave us a tour of the farm, completely taken away by the fact that this young couple showed up on their doorstep less than 36 hours after they met with the realtor. The farm hadn't yet been listed. There was no sign in the yard. How in the world did we even know it was for sale?

In the weeks that followed Cody and I visited the farm quite often. We walked the pastures. Got our boots stuck in stray wires. Explored the old barns.  Dreamt about two bathrooms in the old house. And tripped over a lot of cats. 

But on visit number four we found the answer we were looking for...

When I was young my parents discussed - endlessly - the idea of buying the farm that bordered our property line. They prayed for a sign. It wasn't until one day when Momma yelled for Dad to come out to the road that they realized that the place was meant to be their own.

Dad barreled through the door and saw the sign that Momma had discovered. A rainbow over the farm. Immediately, they made the phone call to buy. 

One day our child will marry and move away to create a life of their own. And in a defeated, broken voice they'll ask us how we had the courage - how we knew - to buy our first farm. At first we'll encourage the lottery. 
And then we will reveal that the only thing we knew for sure was the language we learned from our parents. Because on the fourth visit to the farm, Someone made it quite clear the direction we needed to go.  Double time. 

We will tell them that we understood rainbow language. 

This big world can sure be crazy. And during our entire lives we'll each experience languages that influence, teach and guide us. Some confuse, some lead astray and some guide with pin point accuracy. I prefer the ones that arch. 

On April 30 we visited the farm for the first time and tripped over kittens. 
On August 6 we closed on the farm. 
On August 10 we got married. 
On September 11 we were given the keys and the "kittens" from the spring had just had babies of their own. 

On our second date ever, Cody asked me if he could teach me how to play golf. 
On our second month of marriage, he asked me if he could load me into the bucket loader to  reach the high spots on the house. 
That my friends is how poor, happy, people live. 
Even in mom jeans and Meijer tank tops. 

Today the tall-as-house shrubs are gone and we work to make the place our own. I have yet to touch golf clubs but rain or shine, everyday I scope the sky for a rainbow. 

I guess that's the life of a homesteading optimist.

Anyone need a cat?