Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Faster Than The Egg Nog

The last blog post of 2014. 
Where does the time go?
Down the drain faster than the egg nog. 

I called Cody, just after hitting the road for work:
Me: YUCK! I'm going to PUKE! I just took the last of the milk for breakfast and I took a big gulp of it as I pulled onto the highway - IT WAS SOUR! And I couldn't spit it out because I was on the highway. BLAH! I need a toothbrush!
Him: It's funny you called. I saw that you took the last of the milk so I just chugged some egg nog on my way out the door. Definitely bad. DEFINITELY. BAD.

I laughed - and gagged - all the way to the office. 

That sums up 2014 for us. Week days drag on, then all of the sudden sour milk makes you realize just how quickly time moves: Faster than the egg nog. 

I'm generally not one for annual resolutions because...well, they're a part of my life only until March. But in 2015 I feel compelled to share a few big things I'd like to accomplish, ongoing throughout the year.

1. Take Care

I'm committing to taking better care of myself. Not only does this include eating better, it also entails flossing and not popping my knuckles. Also, exercising if there is time. Baby steps. 

I'm committing to taking better care of this house. I mopped with my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser this week and was so embarrassed by the dirt found on the sponge by the end of the task that I removed the eraser and wrapped it in a plastic bag then disposed of it, as if to hide evidence. It was as though I was disposing of a smoking gun. Momma would have been mortified. 

I'm committing to taking better care of my husband. No husband should be left to suffer through a breakfast of sour egg nog. I could have at least offered him some of that Dollar General Wonder Bread he kindly provided me................

2. Find Beauty

My friend Laramie (remember the gal who - for once in her life - was on time and it saved her life?) is my best example of finding beauty in every day. I don't know how much time in a day she spends taking photos, but if I had to guess  I'd say it may account for a second job. But she's damn good at it, and I'm grateful. Sunrise to sunset: She has a great eye and a trigger finger. Her ability to see things reminds me to open my own eyes

Photo by Laramie Smith 
How does she do that?

In 2015 I'm committing to finding beauty in the strange world around me. Everyday: To finding, studying and appreciating the beauty. 

As practice, I took these two shots as I wrapped up my evening:

I call the left one "Toothpaste on Faucet" and the right one "Dirty Dishes"

Move over, Laramie. 
There's a new Beauty Finder in town. 
Kind of. 

3. Communicate

In 2015, I commit to writing again. 
Not for work (though I will because my livelihood depends on it). 
Not for this blog (though I will because my sanity depends on it). 
But for the sake of connecting. Or, reconnecting. 

And to keep my handwriting in tact. I wrote a check two weeks ago and could barely decipher my own script. 
I'd hate for someone to try to cash my check for "Two Hungry and Fifty Six Daubers". 

58 Daubers are just too many. 

In My Life, B.C. (Before Cody) I wrote one letter a week to friends or family across the country without second thought. With an ink pen. The kind with no backspace. 
It was natural. 
It was easy. 
It was fun. 
I had time. 
I did laundry occasionally because I had four closets and no one questioned it. 
I didn't have a husband...or cows. 
But now I have grand responsibility and even bigger love

In 2015 I commit to starting again, to writing one hand-written note a week. The kind of letter - that - three decades from us will find in a shoebox tied with string. And they'd read in it in awe, trying to match my handwriting with a font. And they'll wonder what a New Years Resolution was. 

My Goals for 2015 Summarized 
(see, you could have skipped to the bottom and saved some time)

1. Take Care
What have you neglected?

2. Find Beauty
What have you overlooked?

3. Communicate
What words do you need to speak?

I hope that when I awake from the holiday haze in February I've stuck to my written words. I wish the same for September, when I'll wonder where the summer went. And next December, when I sit down to reflect again, I hope you can hold me accountable by thinking to yourself: I saw one of her letters. 

Or, you could think: She definitely looked 
thinner when I saw her in June. 

Whatever comes to your mind first. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fourth Annual Jean's Boots Christmas Letter

It's the evening of December 23rd and I'm just sitting down to write my obligatory Christmas letter that outlines the middle-of-the-road happenings in our world for the last twelve months.. 
For the sake of time, I hope none of you have dial up.

Though there were no earth shattering events to fill the last twelve months that went by so quickly, 2014 was good to us.

We logged countless outdoor hours while making improvements to the farm we bought last August:

  • New electric in three barns
  • Outdoor lighting 
  • Created a working system
  • New high tinsel fence on the west property boundary
  • Cody installed four new waterers
  • Converted the crop ground into pasture
  • Caught two stray cats eating our barn cat's food

The inside of the house got a little attention, too, as I discovered the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and spent many Sunday afternoons "erasing" things. Just get the deal wet and wipe away! Note: The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is, in fact, an eraser. It WILL erase paint. From walls. 

Though we've made awesome progress on the interior of the homestead, it's still an old farmhouse. And mice like old farmhouses when the temperature drops outside. After nagging (guilty) about setting a trap, one morning I found Cody standing in the middle of the kitchen with a mouse trap clamped on his finger and a teaspoon of peanut butter plopped on his forehead. And on the cupboard. And the window over the sink. Trap setting gone wrong. I made a sincere effort to not laugh aloud but it made my insides burn and I had a mouth full of coffee. PS Prayers were brief - and sticky - that day. 

In 2014 we celebrated one year of marriage and continue to charge through year two. Daily we learn more and more about one another and how we process thoughts differently. A brief, recent example:
After discussing dinner options one Friday evening:
Him: Let's go there. It's low-lit, kind of dark...
Me: Whoa. Is this really a date night? (optimist)
Him: No, I just don't want anyone to see the mud on my jeans. (realist)

Cody was on the road often for work in the last year,  so I enlisted the help of my family to keep this place operational. This plan typically worked. Typically. Until one Saturday when Luke and I were feeding hay and we were reminded why Dad generally gave us to-do lists for different farms growing up. Even in our thirties, we tend to get ourselves in situations

These photos were all taken after we miraculously got the tractor pulled out. 

This place could really use a good freeze. 

In May great friend Katie Mae, of Fancy In The Country, and I took our annual girls' trip and decided to head east rather than west.

We antiqued, dined and explored all that West Virginia had to offer....including the Mystery Hole. In my thirty years of life, The Mystery Hole was one of the most strange, creepy, this is how Dateline always starts, places I've ever been. But we took the tour, experienced the bizarreness that is The Mystery Hole and lived to tell about it. 

In November I was fortunate enough to spend ten days in Argentina studying their culture, economics and agriculture systems. What an amazing opportunity. While I was enjoying the land of red meat and Malbec, Cody was judging the junior Angus show at the North American. I was bummed that I wasn't able to be there to support him, but modern technology really pulled through for us.  

As did the wine.

I did try to focus on personal development a bit in 2014 and really challenged myself to do better. Some personal achievements only worthy of sharing in this obligatory Christmas letter:

1. Made gravy from scratch that was digestible:

2. Took this panoramic shot of Buenes Aires without puking on the glass:

3. Got on a real serious health kick and used the local trail to walk three miles 
for three days straight. 
Three months ago. 

My goal for 2015 is to fine-tune my organizational skills so that Cody doesn't have to call me at work looking for the 4-wheeler keys. Or, send this photo two hours later illustrating where he actually found said missing keys. 

As soon as I saw it, I remembered: I hung them on that random wire on the side of the barn so I could run out to the mailbox. I was afraid if I carried them, they'd get lost in the shuffle....Hopefully my fine-tuning in 2015 brings Cody some sort of relief.

While we gladly spend the great majority of our evenings on the farm, every once in a while we leave the farm - together. In 2014 I surprised Cody with George Strait tickets and he returned the gesture with Eric Church tickets months later. How lucky are we to see two great ones in one year?

I think it's only fitting:

Another year turned into a memory. That's so hard to believe. I sure appreciate you keeping up with Jean’s Boots as I wear out more soles than I care to count. 

The Sankey’s wish you the best in 2015.

Lindsay Jean

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In Sickness And In Health

Well, we're there. 

This week I've been in bed with the flu that seems to be sweeping the area. It's been so bad that I asked Cody to find other things to do because I didn't want him around the house with me. 
I didn't want him to see me in that state? 
Rather, I'm more like a sick dog when I don't feel good: I don't want to be seen, talked to, bothered, acknowledged, etc. I mostly want to hide under a tree in the woods and die. 
Or, under a blanket on the couch. 

In the three years we've known one another, neither have been in this state of sickness. 
He nor I. 
It was time. 

Cody tried to both 1) respect my requests to leave and never come back (unless wielding a gun) and 2) be a caring husband. 
I woke up Monday morning with he looking over me. 
I wasn't startled; I could barely open my eyes. 

"Linds, Linds are you alive?" he whispered, kneeing the edge of the mattress, obviously smart enough to not touch me. "I went to the Dollar General and bought some things to get you better."
I rolled over to see his arms full. 

Two bottles of Pepto-Bismol, 
a box of saltines, 
a block of cheese, 
one loaf of Wonderbread and 
a 64-ounce orange Gatorade. 

Poor guy. He'd been listening to me from outside the bathroom for 24 hours and no idea which end the problem was coming from. 

I rolled over and tried not to throw up into my pillow just imagining all of that combined. The next thing I knew it was 11:00 pm and CS was climbing the stairs for bed. I had lost 36 hours of my life. 

Yesterday, Cody put things in perspective as I was somewhat on the mend.
As I refilled my water jug Tuesday evening, from the kitchen window I watched Cody walk halfway to the barn - throw up twice in the driveway - then do the feeding. Watching with a dropped jaw, I didn't know if I should throw up to prove my allegiance to our team or give him a round of applause for his stamina. 

It ain't pretty around the Sankey homestead right now, but at this rate we both should be well by Christmas. Or, at least not grocery shopping at the Dollar General. I wish I had something more - or even funny - to say about the situation but frankly I think I saw my sense of humor go out in the last trash bag. 

Wash your hands, friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Deer Wrangler

Bear with me, it is an interesting story. One of which I forgot until I was in Argentina in November.

We were dining before a tango show and one of the gals at my table decided to begin the dinner/drink conversation with this question: "We've spent seven months together in class and traveled to Argentina as a group; what is one thing other participants don't know about you?"

For as boggled as my classmates appeared to be by the challenge, they sure offered up some incredible stories: 
1. As a young gal, one woman found a bear drinking fresh milk out of the can that her cows had just filled, so she got a gun and shot the bear...which proceeded to run around the Minnesota countryside with a metal milk can stuck on it's head. 
2. One guy was a hired man on a ranch in Texas where a triple-murder took place. He had to testify, then went on to help arrest the killer....who happened to be another ranch hand at that time. 
3. Me? I only tackled a deer. 

I was thirteen years old when a stray deer decided to jump into Momma and Dad's herd. And let me tell you: Cattle don't take too kindly to rigid, awkward visitors. 
In fact, when this particular deer jumped the fence and joined the BSG crew, it chased our animals and scared the cattle greatly - causing them to find any way out: Over or through fence. 

Since I was small, cattle getting out has sent me into complete shock. Crying, puking, shaking - no matter if I'm 13 or 30 - my reaction is the same: Bad. 

Darn that random deer, shaking up my world that day. And the thing about deer: they never really slow down. 
The deer ran. 
Across pastures. 
Over fences. 
Along borders. 
Until finally, Dad and brother Luke corralled it onto the feedlot floor. 

It was a scrappy thing, ramming and jamming into the red gate at the south end of the feedlot floor. The deer really wanted out of the situation (as did I), but seemed to have lost all sense (as did I). It repeatedly ran full force into red metal gates that were going nowhere. What an idiot. 

Luke and Dad were lined up one behind one another, preparing (kind of) for the deer's next move. 
Momma and I stood at the end of the feedlot floor, as spectators next to the barn. I wasn't the best spectator; my head was yakking between my knees. 

Below, a true-to-life sketch of the layout just before running. 
The deer (brown stick deer) is by the red gate between the south silos. 
Luke is the first green X. 
Dad, the second. 
Momma and I are to the left, by the barn. 

Back to me with my head between my knees: Suddenly, the deer calmed down a bit, as if scheming. Breathing. Preparing. 

And he turned around. 

The deer charged full steam ahead, northbound, head down, towards Luke and Dad. The hooves scrapped across the concrete bottom. Scampering. Scuffing. Speeding. 

Luke leaped towards the deer - missed him. 

Seconds later Dad did the same - and the deer flew by him, too. 

At this point in the day, I was frustrated, scared, freaked out, sick, confused, and mostly just flat out MAD
This deer was the reason that our cows were out all over the farm. 
I decided to take matters into my own hands. 

I stepped out in front of the the raging reindeer, grabbed the SOB by it's belly and took it down, rolling the animal on top of me. He was such an angry little elf carrier. It's legs flailed aimlessly (actually, he was trying to kill) and it's razor sharp hooves whipped around like knives. 

 I held the Edward Scissor Hands Jerk as close to me as I could while Luke yelled out, "Hold on to him, Jeany! I'm going to go get a halter!"
Yeah, thanks Luke. Least you could do. Literally: The. Least. You. Could. Do. 

I managed to hold the deer as tightly as I could onto my chest until Luke and Dad took him off my hands. They tied him up and - because he had an identification tag - called the DNR. When the officer arrived he gave me some long speech about how I should have never tackled the deer, how people die from getting cut by their hooves, what a risky decision it was, blah blah blah. I must have given the guy a really bad look looking during his dissertation because Momma squeezed my arm really hard.  

Much to my dismay, I was then known as "The Deer Wrangler" in places far and near. I just wanted to be a prom queen. 

Seventeen years later (wow), it is strange how I remember it all so vividly. I remember punching the deer once before they loaded him onto the trailer. Hateful? Maybe. But hell hath no fury like a thirteen year-old-gal who despises anything which causes the cattle to get out. 

Weeks ago, while I was in Argentina Cody left a gate unchained overnight and woke to a woman pounding on the front door, letting him know that there was a cow grazing in the front yard. 

"Yeah," he said - in his calm, cool, collected, Cody tone. "It was one of those mornings when it was a good thing you were countries away."

I nervously laughed as I sat in my Rosario hotel room, envisioning the entire event. He was totally right: No one wants to see a gal flat tackle her husband because he was the reason that the cows roamed boundlessly. 

But then again, 
maybe that comes in year three?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bringing Rockwell Home

Decorating for the holidays brings a certain familiarity to where ever I am in life, time or location. My simple childhood, awkward adolescence, wanderer in Washington, learning newlywed. Things appear more clearly when seen by the light of a Christmas tree glow.

No matter how old I get, there is something about decorating for the holidays that takes me back to a simpler time, when I was very young and the greatest worry I had was specifying - and spelling - exactly what I wanted for Christmas in a letter to Santa. 

This is not my letter. 
Santa did not save my letter. 

Do you know what else decorating for the holidays does for me?

It reminds me that I'm the third child.

This was the year I got a lamb ornament because 
my two older siblings showed sheep in 4-H. 
At least she dated it. 

I gladly agreed to help Momma decorate the BSG homestead last Saturday. Someday I'll post photos, but when Momma decorates she does not skip a detail. Walking into the Bowman homestead during Christmas is like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting. The sights and smells.Everything is nostalgic and perfect...

Back to me agreeing to help her decorate:
This has become a two-day ordeal. Growing up we had one tree and three stockings. The entire task - start to finish - lasted two hours, mainly because there were six tiny, anxious hands involved. 

Granted, we didn't really have much of a living room to decorate, but we made it work. 

Today there are seven trees, six stockings and 41 Rubbermaid tubs full of tangled lights that haven't worked in years. We're still holding out, hoping they'll come back around at some point. Also included is a zip-lock bag of spare twinkle lights. Momma has been accumulating those since '96.

Momma and Dad have bought each of us a Christmas ornament annually, accounting for 93 delicate story-tellers on the keepsake tree. They each have a background story that allows us to reflect on the previous year. That's assuming - after 30 years - we remember the story.

Some special ones:

A hand-painted ballerina slipper for Laura, the year she eagerly got involved in the local dance studio. A natural talent. 

A special football ornament commemorating the year that Luke's 8th grade football team went undefeated. For four years, Luke was #58 on the football field. 

And to think, all those years of 
sitting on aluminum bleachers 
in the autumn cold and 
Momma was watching the wrong kid. 

And one of mine. This little gem was to commemorate the 2-week period that Dad and I trapped/shot 17 raccoons in our bank barn. Must have been a boring year on the farm. Something tells me Momma bought this on Elder Beerman's yellow dot clearance table on the evening of December 23rd. I think I get my creativity from her. 

Now, I'm a young  wife trying to make our homestead feel as cozy and memorable as my parents' home does around the holidays. I just want to bring that little piece of Norman Rockwell home. 

It ain't easy. 

First of all, Cody and I stored our artificial tree in an outbuilding. When we brought into the house, approximately 1,000 orange beetles dropped out of it. The kind that stink. I used the Dust Buster to try to capture the critters but had to empty it three times due to capacity. The Buster also ate half of the tree skirt in the process. I rearranged it and put that side in the corner. 

Then I couldn't find the ornaments. Excuse me - couldn't find my ornaments. 
No problem. 
His were boxed, labeled and stacked. 
I found them two hours later inside a box labeled "Barn Towels" under a puppy crate full of VHS tapes. For everything a place, I guess. 

Perhaps my favorite holiday display is our nativity scene on the mantle.

We prefer that a pair of bronze beef watch over our Nativity scene.

But I got in a rush to create an ideal scene, fumbled a few things and now we have a three-legged billy goat just hanging out in the berry brush. Dang it.

Still sound-footed. 

Decorating the interior of the homestead was the easy part. In fact, I did it all while Cody was gone for the afternoon so there wouldn't be any discussion as to why red berries had been spewed in every nook and cranny of our home. Better that way. 


But then Cody came home. 
And I had expectations. 
And per usual, they were high. 

Twenty minutes into the conversation he said
while carrying an aluminum ladder across the barn lot:

"I know you have this 
antique magazine cover 
pictured in your head, 
but I just don't know 
if it's going to work..."

Well, at least he gets me. 

Thirty minutes after that, Cody was up to his neck 
in a pre-lit wreath project and from the ladder he yelled, 

"This is one of those 
stupid ways people get killed!!"

I asked him to not be so dramatic; a husband has never died from making his wife happy. 
After the wreath was hung, Cody got a brief lesson on what it means to “fluff the bunny ears” on the bow. He acted like he’d never fluffed bunny ears 
on a bow atop a ladder during 30 mph winds. 

By dusk we had candles in the windows, 
three trees standing, 
three wreaths hanging and 
an old sled leaning. 

I think maybe next year I'll be more acclimated with the limits within this homestead and set  the bar for Christmas decor a bit lower. After all, not everyone can be Linda Bowman

Ah, who am I kidding. 
Rockwell has already captured 
Cody and I's Christmas escapades perfectly.