Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This Is Water

Yesterday seemed like a doozy. 
I was in the office early enough to unlock the door. 
I left long after the small hand hit six.
I spent 95% of the day talking about numbers. 
Which – to me – is a lot like trying to speak a foreign language without a tongue.
Long. Day.
My head hurt in places that haven't seen cheap hairspray in years. 

I drove home in a hurry behind a maroon Buick. 
Enough said.
In the rain, Cody and I did the chores and stock work.
While cleaning up the supper mess at 9:37 PM, a pipe broke under the sink and the entire sink of dirty water flowed throughout the kitchen.  
Like, contaminated, thawing meat, dirty water.
So tired, I cried in the kitchen, head down, with my hands on my knees, spying the dirt (or something more organic?) under my fingernails, as the dirty water demonstrated just how uneven our old farmhouse floors are.
The water was all drawn to one spot.
Under the oven.
I cried like a 12-year-old.
Wearing mascara. 
With (?) under her nails. 
Long. Day.

But then, in perfect time, our cattle friend Dave Vansickle passed this along:

What perfect timing, Dave

He firmly reminded me:  This is water.

This is water. 

I heard the speech some time ago, but never realized it's depth.

Long Day?
Turns out, I have no idea what "Long day" means. 

Please watch this video. 
Even if you've seen it before. 

Are you living beyond your natural Default Setting?
I wasn't. 

I hope you do. 

Rural internet doesn't allow me to upload the file, 
I hope you'll view it here. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Funeral Calling at Coldwater Creek

I've always been an old soul. 

My favorite song in first grade was "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore, and I sang it in front of the entire elementary school in the Variety Show. 


Looking back, a lot of time-outs and break-ups could have been avoided if everyone knew that this was my anthem at 7-years-old. 

For my 11th birthday I got episodes of The Honeymooners on VHS. 

Best. Birthday. Ever. 

I have a real passion for rescuing things from the past and bringing them back to life. Which explains why you can barely walk in our garage. And also why there is an entire corn crib hanging up in the second floor of our house. 

I believe in hand-me-downs 

and writing letters 
and recipe cards stained by time and shortening 
and clothes on the line 
and mom jeans. 
Even mom jeans. 

This explains why I was pretty darn excited when I received a gift card to the women's store, Coldwater Creek. While I'm not in the market for any elastic waistband trousers, I do appreciate timeless pieces that I can add to my wardrobe and wear for years to come. However, the Coldwater Creek in Indianapolis just announced that they're closing in May. 

I rarely shop outside of Richmond's Elder-Beerman, but a bit of urgency to spend that gift card set in with the closing announcement.

But before I start this story, let's be clear on one thing: 

NONE of the women in Coldwater Creek actually look like the ladies that adorn the website. 

I was peacefully shopping (totally appreciating the fact that their X-Small = size 6) when I hear a man's voice completely interrupt the Barry Manilow playing over the store sound system. 

"Marie!!" yelled the 103-year-old man in khakis and a Titleist polo. 

"What Frank!?" a small, petite woman yelled from behind a rack of cardigans. 
"My God I've been all over this mall looking for you..." mumbled the grumpy old man with both hands full of shopping bags, shaking his head. 
"Why would you go all over searching for me?" she nagged. "This is the only place I shop!"

I smiled to myself and looked around; everyone who witnessed the reunion was doing the same. I found a few pieces that I liked and requested a dressing room. 

For whatever reason, some of my life's most memorable encounters happen in dressing rooms, where I'm completely exposed and vulnerable; at the mercy of some stranger to bring me the size I actually wear, without judgement. 

There was a gal about my age working the dressing room. Her name was Rachel. She was patient and had on comfortable shoes. 

Like a good granddaughter, she traveled down the aisle assuring that all customers had what they needed. 

"Margaret, do you need anything?"

"No, thank you," Margaret replied. 

"Doris, how are you getting along?"

"Fine, right now," Doris replied. 

"Betty? Do you like that dress you held back?"

"I haven't made it that far!" Betty laughed. 

"Phyllis, everything fitting?"

"Well," Phyllis said, "I guess I must have gained some weight since Christmas..." she said, sounding questionable. 
"Ok," said Rachel, "What size did you try on?"
"10," said Phyllis. 
"So would you like me to grab you a 12?" Rachel asked. 
There was rustling in the dressing room next to me.
"...Better make it a 16."

With my hand over my mouth, I wondered if Phyllis was referencing weight gain from this Christmas or the Christmas of '95?


I decided that I needed to depart Coldwater Creek as soon as possible. I found two things I wanted, and longed to find a store where the customer names weren't cycling back into popularity after 70 years. 

I got in line to check out when I saw something - a lot of things - that caught my attention:

Flowers...arrangements lined up on the shelf behind the counter like a funeral home. 
What in the world?
Beside me, Peggy wondered as I did, and she inquired. 
"Oh, those are from faithful customers and even some other stores here in Keystone. They sent them because of our closing," said the gal behind the register, voice cracking.

And just then, it hit me: I'm at a funeral calling for Coldwater Creek. 

And boy, did her comment open the flood gates. 

There were tears.
And questions:
"How could they?!"
"When did you find out?"
"You would think by the money I spent here..."
There were also the women pulling coupons out of their purses.
Gift cards, too. 
I was one of them. 
Women gave tearful hugs to each employee and thanked them for their help over the years. 
Amongst all the tears, one old hag even had the audacity to ask what the drop dead (no pun intended, of course) date for returns was. 
I liked her. 
Mind in the right place. 

By the time I got to the register I didn't know if I should just present my gift card or tell the employees how the store never looked so natural and that it lived a long and happy life.

I left Coldwater Creek with a few things that afternoon:
A new appreciation for customer loyalty,
a bag that better - given the price - last until we're the age that Cody gets lost looking for me in the mall,
and a new black lace pencil skirt to wear in the event of the next fashion funeral. 
Please, retail gods who make those decisions, don't let it be Elder-Beerman. 
I'll feel obligated to send flowers. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Mom ≠ My Best Friend

This entry is not going to be popular. Still, I write.

A social media post made weeks back inspired this Wednesday. It was by a talented gal who has a lot going on in her early 20-something life. It was a grateful tribute to her mom who is her partner in crime and remained her very best friend in this world. What would she do with out her? She claimed to have the best friend in the world in her mother. 

I didn't argue or disagree with the post (though she's not had the pleasure of meeting Linda). I did read it and immediately feel sorry for the gal. What a disappointment.

You see, while I think my mom is one of best out there, I also say this with confidence: 

My Mom has never been my best friend - and for good reason. 
Do you each remember that one kid you went to school with, the one with the prettiest mom? 

The mother stood out because she looked younger than the rest of the moms in the class and she dressed to fit that role, too. She was the Mom who asked about the latest gossip in the school and knew exactly who was dating who. She was completely invested in her child's life. So much so that the two lives seemed to merge every once in a while. She was incredibly fun and forgiving, mostly because her parenting style was "Been there, done that. Wouldn't mind doing it again." 

Yeah, I remember that mom, too. 

It wasn't mine. 

Mine knew who was dating who only after I told her, but my information usually wasn't accurate because sometimes I lost track of those things, myself. 
Mine was invested in my life. But also her marriage to Dad. And the life of her two other children. And keeping a home. And a farm. And being devoted to her home extension club
Mine forgave me only after I had learned the lesson. And for some reason I had the tendency to learn the hard way?...

The point is, I was raised by a mom who knew where to draw the line between being our parent and being our friend. And while that was a tough concept to understand (/respect) a decade ago, it's one for which I am incredibly grateful. I'm better for having one less "friend" and one more strong parent.

There are several reasons why, when parents become best friends, damage can occur. I blogged months ago that "fathers teach us confidence and mothers teach us compassion." But darn it, mothers teach us confidence, too. 

Best friends can't be role models. Think of that best friend whom you wanted to model yourself after - wasn't there just a little bit of envy? Wasn't there just little part of you that wished you were more like them, rather than yourself? We can't teach our daughters confidence when the very model they're designed to emulate is viewed as competition in their eyes - or visa versa. With today's diluted values, overshadowed by wacky media, mothers are made to be older versions of their children, rather than experienced models in which to follow. 

Lindsay and her Mom

Lindsay and her Mom

Pretty much the only difference in the pairs is less hair in the bottom two. 
And, Momma and I have never showed up to the same club wearing the same Express cami. 

But it isn't just mothers who can steer us wrong by trying to be our best friend. Not long ago a had a conversation with a friend where I asked, "What happened to him?" I was referring to a bright kid who seemed to have lost his way sometime between high school and ten years later. The friend's honest response: "I am not joking one bit when I say that downfall of this kid was that his dad wanted to be his friend. Not his parent. He didn't have guidance, he had someone who wanted to run the course with him. It ruined him. He never grew up because he didn't know what grown up looked like." I was taken back, but not surprised at all.

Another reason why I'm grateful Momma never tried to be my best friend:
Best friends don't give the most sound advice. 
Best friends want to see you happy. They tell you things to prevent tears. They exercise caution with their words and cushion reality with cotton ball adjectives so they don't hurt feelings. 
Parents give sound advice because your happiness validates their role. 
Parents expect tears and slamming doors and silence and not being the most liked person. And they're OK with that. Their popularity with you isn't the goal at hand.  
They give great advice because they don't want you living in their basement for the next 15 years. 
And also because the content of their Christmas letter to high school friends depends greatly on how happy their kids are. No one wants to read about little Jill who got released out of juvi early for the second winter in a row. She's an all-star, for sure. 

I remember quite vividly a time when Momma taught me this lesson far before anyone else could. We were in GAP at the Muncie Mall. I took a pair of size 6 jeans to the dressing room and from the knee up I had to literally back to the wedding dress disaster). I knew they were tight. But didn't guys my age like tight jeans on girls?

I walked out to show Momma and she made me turn around. 
Her first question: Will you feel comfortable wearing those in front of friends and family?

Darn her sensibility!!!

She wasn't there to be a friend; she was (is) my voice of reason.
She also had to peel said jeans off of me. That also made her handy to have around that day. 
I know good and well that had I taken any of my friends to the mall that day, I would have bought those jeans. And probably a second pair. 

My Momma has never been my best friend.
And do you know why?
She never had the time,
Because she's always invested her time and efforts into being one heck of a mom.

Two weeks before our wedding I met Momma at the local jeweler to get her opinion on bridesmaids' gifts. While looking through the Pandora bracelets and charms I picked up one that I made me smile. I pulled it from the grey cushion and showed it to her. It was a reversible charm that read "Best Friend" on one side and "Best Mom" on the other.
Her response, after getting out her bifocals out to read it: "That's pretty.......but it's not really us?"
She was right.
And I am grateful.

"Suck it in...More."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Back To School

Monday I started a new adventure which

You may think I tend to use the word "adventure" frequently. The Post office, Alaska, dressing room - all adventures in their own right. 

I traveled back to the place where I 
founded my professional passion, 
discovered my need to sleep in cold rooms and
met two of my four bridesmaids. 
And a sister-in-law, actually. 

All Hail, Our Old Purdue. 

It's been several years since I've been back. 
The parking lots that we'd cut through, late to class, are now giant brick buildings with Last Names plastered on the side. 
Construction cones were everywhere. 
There was a bistro, deli, kitchen or smoothie shop on every corner. 
And there were just a lot of yoga pants. 

But as I drove down State Street through the pouring rain on Monday afternoon, two Asians darted in front of my car like little clueless cats, causing me to say words that I'd rather not type. 
Suddenly it hit me: the place really hasn't changed at all. 

I've enrolled in an Executive AgriBusiness Program through Purdue so I gain the ability to see numbers on a sheet of paper and actually understand just what all of those digits mean. 
You betcha:
Back to School, Back to School,

A strange feeling came over me as I climbed Chauncy Hill  (in my car) and entered campus.
So many strangers. 
Different languages. States. Countries. GPAs. Backgrounds. Experiences. 
I remembered just how little confidence I had when I went to school here. It was a quiet, small lack of confidence that usually spoke to me the morning of exams which were held in lecture halls the size of my hometown. 
At that point in my life, Purdue was the biggest, greatest place I had ever seen. 
Familiar intimidation set in for a gal who works and lives in the very state in which she was raised. 
Doing what she loves. 
Why was I so intimidated by my Alma Mater? The place I called home for four years? 
Going to my first class at 29 felt much like it did at 19. 
Only I had a few more hours of sleep in me this time around and I knew how to dress. 

Lecture began Tuesday at 8:00 AM sharp. 
I had highlighters ready, my phone on silent and the perfect seat. 
I loved it. 
Even being completely intimidated by those around me. 
How much did they already know that I didn't?
But then...
It was like Devine intervention. Or just too much coffee and a nervous stomach.
I began challenging the Doctor presenting the course. 
His idea was that history has a minimal influence on strategic planning of a business. 
I disagreed, and somehow found the guts to tell him.

And that is when this blog entry came to fruition.
I challenged (what I thought was) the Doctor's lack of appreciation for lessons learned in our history. 
His rebuttal: 
You should always care about your history.
It built who you are today.
But remember, the rear view mirror of your car is much smaller than the windshield, and for good reason.
If you spend all of your time looking back, you're liable to get into a real mess as you try to move forward.

Instantly, a post I had read on Facebook Tuesday morning made sense. 

Why was I - again - intimidated by the brilliant people on this large campus?
I have done some exciting things since graduation, even if my name isn't on the side of a billion dollar building...
Who am I to compare myself to others who have completely different experiences, backgrounds, ideals, histories and values?
Or maybe a better question - 
Who are you to compare yourself to those around you?
As I write this, I'm trying to close with some witty saying about looking in the windshield to move forward, paying no attention to the insecurities that may be found in your rear view mirror.
But all I can think about is that Harvard Business Review article that I have yet to read to and the discussion questions I have to be prepared for in just a few hours. 
Darting Asians and my innate ability to procrastinate until the last possible minute: some things really never do change. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let Them

It’s been nearly three years since I asked dozens of people the same question: 
In this life, what is one thing you know?
The responses came for weeks, and I documented each in three separate Jean's Boots entries that you can read here:


I encourage you to read all three days if you've not already; Jean's Boots readers are funny and wise. 

Given the response from three years ago, I'd like to do that again - only asking a different question. 
Think about your answer(s).
Then Privately Message me 
on Facebook 
or email me by clicking any of the links above.
You can also send me a letter, as some readers prefer to do.
I will anonymously record all responses and again blog to share with Jean's Boots readers. 

Quite often I read things like this:

And perhaps the "wish/make it happen" quote is true. My childhood leads me to believe it is. 

(By the way, thanks to Walt Disney, Michael Jordan 
and Abraham Lincoln for apparently each making that statement.)

But for a moment, 
can we all just wish 
with reckless abandon 
and anonymous voices?.....

Again, think about your answer(s).
Then Privately Message me 
on Facebook 
or email me your response by clicking any of the links above.

Right now, I wish...
My answers:
Right now, I wish that I would have kept myself current regarding our country's political situation. I feel vulnerable. 
Right now, I wish I could visit with Granddad one more time. 
Right now, I wish Dad knew that leaving to get married was as emotional for me as it was for him. 
Right now, I wish I would have gone to bed earlier. 
Right now, what do you wish?
Email Me! (don't post a comment)
I look forward to hearing from you -