Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Enough Already, Please

My recent flight home from Denver was restless. Returning from a whirlwind weekend full of stock and little sleep, you would have thought sleep would come naturally. I think it may have been because my friend Emily was sitting next to me. 
She's thirty.
A mom.
Can still do a back tuck. 
And, I think she wears the same size jeans that I did when I was in sixth grade. 
The last thing I needed was for her to see me fall asleep on a plane: bent neck, mouth wide open and the occasional bobbing head
I sat straight up in my seat, set Mike Ryan up in my earbuds and found something to read. 

I'm glad I did. 

I read the Southwest magazine and found a like-minded writer who says it better than I. Inside was an article that confirmed something I've believed for a long time:

The downfall of the 
latest generation is 
the misconception that 
participation trophies 
benefit kids. 

Below, I invite you to read more of the article that kept me awake when my body needed sleep. It is written by Heidi Stevens, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune and the author of Balancing Act.

The story begins on page 62 and is one of the most well-written pieces I've read in some time.

If you're not able to view the PDF below, you can click here the view the story. 

Let me know - do you agree?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On The Mic

Late Thursday night - in time to miss the Angus show - the big bird in which I was snoozing touched down in Denver for the National Western Stock Show. After being one not there for more than a week, there was no place I'd rather be. I was fortunate to even make the brief trip; I daily thank God for selflesshard-working parents

Walks through the historic yards, spending a few hours with our beautiful nice Bayler, visiting on the Hill, shifting weight the in green cheap seats, dodging tourists throughout the barn, breakfast burritos, watching Cody judge the breed I adore,  laughing with Katie from Fancy In The Country, reconnecting with old friends and red beer. This summarizes my quick trip.

But looking past all of the events watched, places seen, ounces consumed or money spent, something really struck me during this particular visit to the Mile High. 

Whether or not I recognized a showman or judge in the ring, I listened intently to reasons given by each livestock judge. 
Soundly structured. 
Heavy muscled. 
Nicely balanced. 
But I was captivated by the closing remarks which each judge made just before they chose the champion animal. The winner of the 2015 National Western Stock Show. What an honor. 

Every judge that I watched thanked particular people out of their life who got them to the place in which they spoke from today: Credible enough to judge the The Super Bowl of Stock Shows, humble enough to accept with gratitude. 
In that moment, the appointed judge had the microphone and the attention of an entire international arena. What did they do with it?

They each - in length -  justified their selections, then very briefly gave credit where credit was due. 
One thanked his wife and boys for working so hard in Texas so he had the opportunity to travel to Denver. 
One thanked his parents back home - watching the show online - for raising him the in industry that would go on to fuel his burning professional passion.

One thanked stockman showing in the opposite ring; for it was the folks in the other breed that raised that particular judge. 
And I heard one thank his wife for everything she does at home. 
She heard his deep voice crack with emotion and that was enough 'thanks' for her.

Each of those individual closing remarks initiated a tennis ball in my throat and mental notes.

If I were given the opportunity to speak at an international level in front of an industry that has become a passion, who would I thank?

Who would I mention on the mic?

It had to be someone who 
ignited a fire
fueled a passion
was a quiet cheerleader
supported you despite your shortcomings
never stopped inspiring 
showed forgiveness
was patient
was open-minded

If you were given the microphone, 
who would you thank?

And, I'm not just speaking in livestock terms. 
a teacher
a mother
an enemy
an advisor
an executive
a father
a person you've never officially met
a competitor
a soul mate you hate
a manager
a sister
a severed friend
a stranger you need to find again. 

You may not have a microphone, but don't forget to thank those who influenced where you are today - in large part or as a silent motivator. 
Send a letter. 
Make a phone call. 
Shoot them a text. 
Shake their hand. 
Thank God you had time with them while they were around. 

Because you and I both know:
Where ever you are today,
you didn't get here alone. 

Thank you, Legacy Livestock Imaging and Bailey Core for the photos. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Ones Not There

I had a friend text me the other night while he was feeding cows in frigid temperatures. He had just read The Stockman’s Wife and wheels were turning:

Just thinking...1 of ur blogs could be about the 1s not there?

His message was cryptic, but I understood it perfectly. He was one of them, as was I.
I responded with frozen fingers:
"love if.
I was cold, my fingers hurt and my phone was frozen.

If you’re connected to the livestock world even the slightest bit you know that the National Western Stock Show in Denver is currently going on. Fifteen days of history, livestock, competition and red beers. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  

Three years ago today (crazy) it was at the National Western that I met my husband.
Four years ago this week I passionately documented the experience of The Yards.
Nine years ago this week I found it as a place to reconnect with my Dad.
Today I’m on of those not there. The same with a lot of folks.

So what is life like during these fifteen days for those not at the National Western?

The ones not there send those who are away with food. Road food. Chex mix. Cookies. Beef jerky. Vitamins. Advil. And Five-Hour Energy. The road to Denver is long, windy and unusually munchie. 

The ones not there add Denver, CO to their Weather Channel app so they can stare at the 50° display on the screen while they’re chipping ice off their windshield. Gluttons for punishment. 

The ones not there have the rare opportunity to stand in the barn lot with their Dad in the quiet darkness and find the big dipper once the clouds clear and temperatures drop. Dad can always find it quicker. 

The ones not there have the guts to set a live trap, then are absolutely horrified when they catch the wrong (angry) animal. Now what?

The ones not there spend far too much time on the Internet trying to watch shows live (cursing their rural internet) and catch up on show results via social media. Social media posts are like salt in a wound to the ones not there. 

The ones not there thank God they're not a single parent. Getting little ones to school, programs, supper and bed is tough alone. And FaceTime is just really poor with the blowers fired up in the background. 

The ones not there schedule every social event they’ve been unable to plan for months. Dinners, drinks, reunions, coffee and antiquing – all things that may take second fiddle throughout the year. She also may be sadly ready for bed by 8:30; frozen valves do that to a person.

The ones not there control the thermostat, television channel, menu, bedtime, grocery list, laundry schedule and bed covers. The ones not there remember what it was like to be single.

The ones not there don't mind the hassle of getting ridiculously bundled up - and unbundled - several times a day because frankly, it's like a mini work out. The same with the burning lungs. Spend an hour outside in below zero temperatures and it's like you just ran a mini marathon. Assuming you know how that feels...?

The ones not there wait on phone calls for placing outcomes, sale reports, latest news and family updates. The ones not there usually fall asleep before these calls come due to the time difference.

The ones not there watch heifers start springing, cows start bagging and new calves figure out this big old world. The ones not there spend a lot of time in the barn thanking God that they were given the responsibility to keep all of these creatures - the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50- alive.  

 The ones not there find a certain luxury in the fact that they don’t have prepare as much supper, as half of the consumers are gone. Some nights, the ones not there gladly suffice with cheese and crackers. Several nights, actually. Maybe four nights in a row. 

The ones not there navigate their way through frozen pipes in the house, frozen valves in the pasture tanks, over flowing commodes after young company, curious heifers who snap temporary fence (twice), a full 15° day without a door on the house and also an ice storm for good measure.  Now you know why I’ve looked so incredibly strung out since last Wednesday.  I’ve learned to let my hair dry under a toboggan.

 The ones not there are reliable, optimistic (typically, but not always), 
humorous (typically, but not always), understanding (typically, but not always), and patient (typically, but not always).

They survive pleasantly. Because they know the worst that could happen is frozen valves, and they've already mastered those. 

The ones not there don't complain, they just get things done because being the only one home for a while means one wonderful thing: 
For two Saturdays in a row they can sleep in past 5:30 and no one knows. 

They're not talking.
They get fed too well. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter On The Farm

Winter on the farm. 
Not a season for the faint of heart, soul or mind.
It's a rare breed, those who can wake up to -30ยบ windchill and still look forward to the opportunity that the day presents 
before them. Somewhat

Winter on the farm. 
It is wondering how in the heck cows can walk across broken, frozen lots in hooves when Mucks boots are barely saving your ankles. "That broad gives a whole new meaning to sound footed," you think to yourself, tip-toeing as though your life depended on the next step. Which, it might. 

Winter on the farm. 
It is defined by the shrieks of pure Christmas morning joy when the youngest opens a new pair of Carhartts or a conditioned show halter. Nothing pink, chargeable or begins with "i". Rather something to be grown into, both in size and spirit

Winter on the farm. 
It is staying up late to figure rations on your bred heifers' feed plan, meticulously planned so they don't over gain.... then not thinking twice about the frozen pizza
- Or two frozen pizzas -
that your family just devoured. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's trying to follow tracks in the snow then feeling small when your legs don't quite make length. Winter on the farm is the first place you learn this lesson: Staying on the path is important; each time you stray it shows. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's being certain you'll know no other pain than when snow gets packed between your glove and your coat, convinced the ice will erode your veins. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's all about blame. 
It's about trying to remember who was supposed to drain the hose. 
Because, obviously, no one did. 
And this has ruined your morning routine. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's electric blankets, extra insulation, stacked straw, constant weather watching and chili. It's spending three hours moving snow just so you can get down your long lane in order to go shovel the neighbor's drive. Winter on the farm is losing your head because your husband bought a heated water bowl for the stray cats in the barn. It's slamming the door in his smiling face once you hear his claim that it was 75% off.

Winter on the farm. 
It's bedding expectant mothers nightly. It's pitching frozen manure and spreading dusty straw and- through your sneezes - wondering about the last time you changed the sheets on your own bed?

Winter on the farm. 
It's sitting in the warmth of your own bathroom and trying to teach a newborn calf - half frozen - how to suck. It's exhausting your patience and heart while breaking your back as you force feed a baby who was born early in arctic temperatures. Winter on the farm is talking to God: "I know I ask for a lot, but please, please God place your arms around his baby and warm her up. God, let her live. God, please, save this calf." Winter on the farm is wondering how parents with sick children get through it. Winter on the farm is falling asleep against a washing machine holding a 70 lb. "baby".

Winter on the farm.
Winter is trading fashion for function. It's strategically layering cotton under wool under waterproof. It's being so bundled up that - unless you're going to be in the house for more than two hours - you don't unbundle until you're done for the day. Winter is replacing your image with warmth. 

Winter is also following the BYOHH rule: 
Bring Your Own Hot hands

Winter on the farm. 
It's rolling over to realize you'r husband is gone. 
And for a second you're concerned - but then you wake enough to remember.
You know he's gone to check on things in the barn, too tired to sleep

Winter on the farm.
Hay is like gold and it's treated that way. Stockpiled, rationed and  sought after. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's not being mad that the winter weather alert blasting through your stereo speakers interrupted your favorite song as you blow out heifers. 
Winter on the farm is spending extra time in the barn at night because you  know you won't have school tomorrow. Winter is that confident excitement. 

Winter on the farm. 
It's waking to the dark and breakfasting in the dark. 
It's working in the dark.
It's feeding in the dark then sleeping in the dark. 
Winter on the farm is dark

But winter on the farm brings great light. 
Fresh snow. 
Young life.
New year. 
Soft beginnings. 
Another notch on the belt if you don't play your cards right. 

Winter on the farm. 
Not a season for the faint of heart, soul or mind.
Rather, one worth bundling and blowing through in order to get to something different. 
Something warmer. 

Something like spring mud. 

Have you read about the life of