Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Unsolicited Advice

Have you ever noticed that people are fantastic resources for telling you how you should do something?

Everyone else always knows how to do it better.
It’s true.
Think about it.

The gal in the grocery line in front of you knows how to better soothe your toddler in the middle of a pediatric breakdown.

The friend visiting your farm always has a better idea of how you should have set up your fencing. 

And Pinterest is the expert in giving you five ways to manage your time, ensuring that family comes first.
(Hint on that one: log off of Pinterest.)

Well, today I’m here to tell you…

1. Couples should experience a ruined load of laundry. 
Why? Because I guarantee you’ll only experience it once. I screwed up Cody’s honeymoon laundry the week we got back from Alaska as newlyweds.
That did three things for us:
  1. Confirmed the honeymoon was, in fact, over
  2. Cost us a bit of money for replacement clothes
  3. Relieved me from doing any of his laundry from here on out. I’m serious. I haven’t touched it since then. And this is a wave I’m willing to ride…

2. Couples should go to church together. 
It is a great way to start the week and also a wonderful conversation starter. It is always interesting to see how Cody interprets the sermon and applies it, whether to himself or his expereinces with others. There are Sundays we walk away with different messages, and I appreciate that so much. Perspective is everything, remember? 

3. Couples should work together to park a livestock trailer in an unfamiliar area. 
Or a boat. Or a trailer of any kind. I will try to communicate this important advice as clearly and simply as I can: You don’t realize you have communication problems until you have to act as the eyes for a man fifty feet away who can’t hear your (shoddy) directions due to the roar of a diesel engine and a load of cattle bellowing through aluminum. 

4. Couples should have one person run over a t-post with the lawn mower and see how the other reacts.
This experience isn’t nearly as fun as church. The lawnmower had just gotten out of rehab and I put it right back in. Cody handled it with grace. He asked a lot of questions, and I had a lot of answers that started with, “I don’t know! I was just driving along…” He didn’t raise his voice a bit, but he did show me the damage when he removed the deck and that was lesson enough for me:
No more daydreaming on the mower. 

5. Couples should work cattle together.
Why? Because this event rarely goes as planned. It’s about teamwork, and coordination and patience. It’s basically thirty-five years of marriage wrapped up into one afternoon. 
While working cattle, couples may say things that don’t compliment the other like,
“Why am I the only one moving my feet?”
“Here is why your idea will not work…”
“You know they can all see you standing there, right?”
Him: “Can you hand me that?? …….........… Me: “Your arm is entirely in that cow. So what will happen if I don’t?”
Letting the wrong animal through the gate is as serious as throwing away your retainer with your lunch tray. There is this surreal moment of did that really just happen? Then the dirty work starts to get back “the one that got away” – literally.
But when the chute work is done, the couple can share a sense of accomplishment, relief and flat out JOY.
After working cows together for over an hour, a while back I sat on the tailgate as Cody left chute side and went to get warm water to breed a cow. He stopped just before he went in the house and yelled across the barnyard, “Are you still going to be here when I get back, or are you going to run?”
I considered my options.

“I’ll be here. 
You’re not that lucky 
and tomorrow is church.”

These five things: Trust Me. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

If You Don't Have The Time

I never understood why Momma enjoyed the hours spent mowing the yard.

Until I got a yard. 
And a home. 
And a herd.
And a husband. 
And a long list of demanding responsibilities at the homestead, and away:

For the record - this is Johnny Cash's to-do list, not mine. 
I have ABSOLUTELY NO PLANS of practicing piano. 

In fact, time spent on a lawnmower on Sunday afternoons 
may be the only solitaire time I get in a week, 
where I am totally focused on one 
- and only one
goal at hand:

To mow the yard

.............and let my mind wander aimlessly 
into the last twenty-nine years and 
forward into the next one-hundred.

And dodge the rocks. 
Always. Dodge. The. Rocks.

"I don't know what happened!" I told Cody after he returned from an extended visit to the neighbors' (<- Go Like them on Facebook), "It just started making this awful noise and sparks started coming from the blade deck."

Cody jacked the Husqvarna Hog onto blocks and did some clanking. 
And clinking. 
And cussing. 
Next thing I know a lawnmower blade gets tossed onto the driveway and he's firing up the old hog. 
He made one satisfactory lap and asked me to get on the handicapped mower and finish the yard. 
With one blade. 

"Now, you only have the left blade. Remember that," he coached me. "It's going to take twice as long but you'll get the yard done tonight, doing it this way. I'll call the repair shop tomorrow."
He retreated to the pasture. 
Our favorite place. 

And it took twice as long, indeed. 

This is an exact replica of the route I had to take to get the backyard finished, with one blade:

Circles represent the trees and the curved lines represent the moments when my mind was in a different decade and I forgot that I was working with only one blade. 

But guess what: I got it done.

We didn't have supper Sunday, 
or clean bedding, 
and I didn't read a page of my homework, 
but the yard sure looked nice.

My Uncle Rex posted this on Facebook the next day and it made me think:


So, so true. 
It reminded me of the yard fiasco just eighteen-hours prior. 

And a lot of other things.

I love shortcuts as much as the next guy (I don't own five "3 Ingredients or Less!" cookbooks for nothing), but I'm learning to appreciate the time it takes to do something right.
And well. 

There is a thorough list of things I do at 65% quality in order to get 95% of my to-do list done. 

How disappointing is that?
Why not dive into the adventure full-fledge, all-heart, sure-minded?

Cody used to tell the students he worked with at Michigan State:
"By waiting to marry until after 30, I figured I missed a divorce."
Isn't that the truth? Rush to get something done prematurely without thought and you may find yourself in a real bind. 
Far beyond a lawnmower blade. 

I always thought Jason Boland said it best:

When I get tied down by the ties that bind

Seems like I'm never gonna find the time

To do what I need.
In a place that big a man could get lost

Never mind the time, 
forget about the cost

There’s more important things

Take the time to do things right - 
The mopping
The gardening
The assignment
The relationship
The commitment you dread 
The devotional 
The inventory
The dishes
The mowing
The marriage
The measuring
- the first time. 
And avoid the need to come back and do things better down the road. 

What do you have better to do - watch the World Cup?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Did Good

Two weeks ago a big part of our 
little town called it quits. 

(but this week his lesson plans live on!)

...Actually, can you consider it "quitting" after forty years of dedication? 

Didn't he  just complete the requirements for accreditation? 

Mr. Sturgeon, our beloved FFA advisor and "Old Owl", has retired after forty years in the classroom. 
The old, cinderblock, back-hall classroom.
That clammy room was a safe haven for hundreds of kids who excelled with technical work, rather than the philosophical studies of Aristotle
Thank you for establishing that place for "our kind".  We owe ya. 

Exactly a week ago, old and young alike came back to our Alma Mater and thanked Sturg for his years of service. 
And millions of miles of driving. 
And late nights. 
And beef sticks and Mt. Dew in the old fridge. 

And sense of humor. 
And tap dancing. 
And Bible on his desk. 

And lemonade shake-ups.
And hall passes. 
And compassion. 

My brother and I were asked to speak at Sturg's celebration last week. 
We don't know why. 
We spoke, anyway. 
The speech impediment only showed it's ugly face once. 

Let it be known:
Don Sturgeon taught us more about life 
than he did 
weed identification or embryology
We are so grateful for that.


It’s no doubt that after more than four years with the same teacher, a student is bound to learn something from that individual. 
At least – one would hope.
Much of it would probably be quite applicable through life, like public speaking, salesmanship, parliamentary procedure and animal evaluation. 
But then there is a bit of it you hope to never experience again, in your life, ever...
Like cleaning out the aquaculture tank.

In the 8 years combined that we spent with Mr. Sturgeon, we definitely picked up a few things that we’ve carried around in our back pockets, through Purdue, maintaining careers and going home to start the next generation at our home place. Whether he realizes it or not, a lot of things Mr. Sturgeon taught us in the small cinder block classroom at 701 Baker Rd. has remained with us through this thing called life. Speaking to us, and teaching us far beyond agriculture. Today, we want to share a few of those lessons with you:

1. Things of value have no fear of time.
I suppose that’s why we’re all here today: To recognize a man who has committed 40 years to this school system and community. 40 YEARS. 60% of  those folks reading this blog were not even born when this man began teaching. 
Sit back. 
Read on:
And it isn’t as though he improved our program for a couple years, and rolled through town. Mr. Sturgeon stuck it out. He promoted agriculture to students through the late eighties – when agriculture was not the place to be. Over a span of forty years, he’s built a valuable ag program that is recognizable and has been quite successful for decades. It didn't take two years to build this program. It took forty. 
He’s even taught generations; sons and daughters of the program.

And between you and me….In my opinion, Sturg probably would have spent all 40 years here at Hagerstown if Brad Culy weren’t in his inaugural class. But that is neither here nor there…
Our world needs more of Sturg's commitment. 

2. People want to be needed.
Not everyone who walked to the back hall to sit through Mr. Sturgeon’s class was the next Norman Borlaug, but Sturg found value in them. Not every student had a burning interest in horticulture or Bovine Reproductive Physiology. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there were more than  a few students that took his class who believed that their cotton t-shirt came from a sheep.
But Sturg gave them purpose, anyway. Sorting fruit, sending letters to the community, setting up for an event, cleaning the greenhouse …or the fish tank…..every student was put to work in the back hall: No matter who you were or where you called home, Mr. Sturgeon made every student feel needed. There were kids who went home every night and never felt like they had purpose at all. I say with confidence, Sturg never let students feel that way. No matter their talents or faults, they were viable. 
Our world needs more of Sturg's ability to make everyone feel valued. 

3. Small words of encouragement go a long way.  
People – in general - need to know they’ve done well, and Mr. Sturgeon taught us that. He never went without sharing a few praises with students, no matter the situation. Small accomplishments - like weighing peanuts accurately, didn't even go unnoticed. 
Words of encouragement or praise are so scarce in this world we live in. It seems we'd rather blame or condemn. 
Whether students placed above their personal expectation in a soils judging contest or a former FFA student married out of their league, Mr. Sturgeon would always say these resounding words to anyone: 
You did good, my child. You did good.

Such a simple, but powerful praise for young adults  even if it came years after they left his classroom.
Our world needs more of Sturg's vocalized praise.

Thank you, Mr. Sturgeon, for playing an incredibly important role in hundreds of young peoples’ lives over the last 40 years. 

No matter how much research and fact-finding we tried to do in preparation for tonight, your timeless reach cannot be quantified and your positive influence cannot be calculated. 

Thank you.

You did good, our dear Old Owl
You did good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

If You Believe Everything

If you believe everything pop history tells you, you may believe that Michael Jackson was a hero. 
If you believe everything you read about agriculture, you may think that denim cows are the most mistreated animals on earth
If you believe everything from Washington DC, you may believe that the Oval Office was clueless about Benghazi. 
If you believe everything you hear, you may be a bit concerned about how you're fixin'  to charge your iPhone. 

If you believe everything you read, you may believe this:

But believe me: 
Don't believe everything.

Not everything you hear is true. 
Not everything you read is credible.  
Not everything you see is real. 
Not everything people say is right. 

This has become increasingly evident to me since late last week, when I read the story of the parents who have allowed their very young daughter to take on the role of a boy: dressing her that way, cutting her hair and calling her their son, because she said was a boy and didn't like dresses. 

You know what? I hated dresses as a young girl, too. 
My thighs rubbed together. 
It hurt like hell. 

I am completely taken back by this entire story, which can be debated for hours. But that's not why I'm writing. I write because the little girl's life is forever changed based off of a claim she made early, as she learned to speak. A statement of what she claimed to be at three years. Her parents believed everything. 
I could barely rationalize not strangling a sibling over a Cabbage Patch doll when I was that age.
So many young kids think they're firemen. 
Doesn't mean we suit them up and send them into the burning building. 
Young girls think they're mermaids. Doesn't mean we push them into the pool and teach them to swim. 
Kids have no idea who they are, except for who they're taught to be. 
Heck - at 20 I was barely figuring out who I was. 

You know what I thought I was when I was three-years-old?
Both older siblings conspired to call me, "Lindsay Shirley Jean Bowman".
According to our "family history" (sketchy, seeing as how I never had a baby book) my real mother's name was Shirley. 
Unlike my siblings, I had green eyes because of Shirley. 
Shirley was also where I got my curls. 
(Darn you, Shirley)
Sure didn't help that we sang Psalm 23:6 before every meal at Grandma Bowman's house. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. - Psalm 23:6

If my real mother, Shirley,  follows me everywhere, 
why haven't I met her?

Not everything you hear is true. 

Even twenty years later, I heard something that I believed....for a bit. 

In college, a gal told me that I'd "never be anything but a big-haired-fat-person".
Perhaps worst of all, the scorn came from a sorority sister. 
I never truly believed her words, but I tell you what: I'll never forget them. 
It's things like that - when not paired with self confidence - people may find easy to believe. 
Thanks Betsy, wherever you are. 
Your words became a great reference for encouraging people to question to outside sources. 

If you believe everything you hear, you may make judgements based on ignorance. 
If you believe everything you're told, you may learn to dislike yourself. 
If you believe everything people say, you may question all of the hard work you've devoted to a program. 
If you believe everything, you may to not believe in anything, at all. 

Speaking of...I heard last week that scientists have discovered that solar panels are draining the sun of all of its energy. I knew I shouldn't have bought that solar powered watch, and I asked Cody to consider returning our solar powered fence charger. 

If you believe everything...