Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Provider

The woman inserted her quarter and the grocery cart was released from it's line of inmates. 

So we meet again she thought as she walked through the Aldi entrance. There was a sale on butter so her objective was to buy an entire case, as well as other things discovered in the Sunday flyer. 

She waited behind a couple to get a gallon of milk. They were deliberate in their choices, marking each with discussion as they crossed items off of their list. The woman couldn't help but notice that they didn't appear to have much; by the way they were kept and dressed. It was far too cold this March to leave the house wearing thin t-shirts and no coats. 
They were polite and apologized for standing in her way; the woman didn't mind. This was her day off the farm

Fifteen minutes later the woman made her way to the check out line and found herself once again behind the same couple. The man had his wallet out and was reviewing the groceries they had placed on the belt. 

In a deflated, quiet voice he whispered to his wife, "I don't think I have enough money." He continued to leaf through the folds in his wallet, and then his jean pockets. The wife watched with worried eyes. "Do you have any money on you?" he asked.

The wife searched through her purse and pulled out a couple dollar bills. They paired their money and both looked at the food they hoped to buy.

The woman behind them suddenly felt a bit of anxiety on behalf of the couple. 

The cashier scanned the items quickly, dropping them into the cart at the end of the belt. He read them the total and the man handed him the bills. "We're short."

The cashier counted the money. "You're short $1.40," he let them know, quietly. The couple reviewed their cart and quickly discussed what item they could do without that week. 

"How much are you short?" the woman behind them asked. The cashier repeated: $1.40. 

"Well, I've got that, I'm certain of it," said the woman. She dug into her purse and handed the cashier the exact amount. Both the man and his wife were incredibly grateful and thanked the stranger multiple times. They left with their cart full.

The woman visited briefly with the cashier as he rang total. He and she both agreed that we've all been there. 

"Like butter?" he asked. 

"You have no idea....," the woman replied. 

She packed her bags, returned her cart and retrieved her quarter. Then she loaded her car and settled in to drive to the bank. "This car is such a mess!" the woman said aloud as she tried to get things organized on the seat and console so she could even operate the Ford. She lifted a tablet, her calving notes  from the farm that morning, and stopped. Instantly. 

Under the stack of records:

$1.40 sitting on her console. 

Across town, my phone rang.

"Hi Momma."

"Boy do I have a story for you!" she said enthusiastically across the phone lines. 

"Oh my, what happened?" I asked, then listened to her tell the story.

Plenty left over to share with others. Mom got her $1.40 back, somehow. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rural Neighbors

Rural neighbors. Not everyone has them, but everyone can appreciate them. 
Their friendship. 
Their patience. 
The way that they always seem to have the extra 1/2 cup of sugar that you're lacking. 

Rural neighbors are the first person called when your husband is out of town and you find a set of twins, one with a broken leg. Rural neighbors try like heck to console you through tears, emotion and panic. The rural neighbor does one heck of a job in role he's not prepared for. 

Rural neighbors lend their sons to your manure-hauling efforts and kindly ask you to buy candles to support their daughters' cheerleading fundraiser. 

Rural neighbors are the first ones you call when your dog goes on an extended journey and is no where to be found. They're also the first ones you call when your dog has pups sixty-three days later...

Rural neighbors show up for no reason, stick around for no reason and don't leave - because they have no reason to do so. 

Rural neighbors are tried and true hay help when a storm is brewing. 

Rural neighbors seem to have just the right tool or piece of machinery - you know, the one that you don't own - to get the job done. 

Rural neighbors are on call. 24/7. No questions asked. Without pay. 

Rural neighbors make burning Flint Hills pastures a team effort. Countless sprayer trucks, eyes and evaluations. 

Rural neighbors Leave The Light On

Rural neighbors are the ones you contact first, even before the power company, when the electricity goes out to see if they’re in the same situation.

Rural neighbors don't pass judgement when they drive by and see a serious argument taking place in the barnyard. Rural neighbors know that every farm has a trash pile. 

Rural neighbors watch the neighbor boy turn into a basketball star using only discipline and a plywood backboard connected to a 150-year-old barn. 

Rural neighbors have sons that drive too fast, sons  that have a truck that's too loud and sons that never sleep. Rural neighbors have sons that have been 17 for, what seems like, five years. 

Rural neighbors see your children off to Vacation Bible School, the Junior Prom and finally...their honeymoon. 

Rural neighbors spend evenings around the kitchen table with the coffee pot brewing, pondering this simple question: What went wrong?

Rural neighbors are the first to organize frozen meals for mothers-to-be, the first to begin funeral food preparation and the first to share a favorite recipe. Rural neighbors know that love is in breaking bread. 

Rural neighbors know the value in a flashlight with good batteries or a bright moon on a clear night.

Rural neighbors keep the congregation updated on your progress when you haven't been able to sit in a pew for weeks. 

Rural neighbors know these lines all too well:
 You didn't hear this from me...
Between you and I...
If I was him...
Bless her heart...

Rural neighbors know the value in hand-me-down clothes, kid's boots barely worn and one-night prom dresses. Rural neighbors take full advantage of these resources before ever considering a mall. 

Rural neighbors aren't shy. They'll ask why the vet truck was in your barn lot for two hours, who drives the BMW that sat in the driveway last week, and why they didn't see your daughter's minivan around during Christmas. 

Rural neighbors will - without a doubt - judge you based on what hangs on your clothesline and also how you react when the clothesline snaps. 

Rural neighbors ensure you'll never sit alone at the Rural Urban Banquet. 

Rural neighbors know when your calves are calving. They're always sure to report the masses of afterbirth their dogs drag onto their back porch. 

Rural neighbors always answer the call. Even the one when the Sheriff calls to tell you there are cattle in the road and you're 600 miles from home. Rural neighbors get those cattle in. 

Rural neighbors may assess the future of your relationship based on your answer to this single question: How passionately do you feel about good fences?

Rural neighbors act as an insta-taxi for your kids when the flu hits your homestead. Football practice, 4-H, livestock judging, dance class...Sure. Your rural neighbor can handle that. She thinks?

Rural neighbors are the first to pull your tractor out of the situation. And, also the first to tell the entire township. 

Rural neighbors give you what is left of their Sunday coupon section after they've clipped through what they may need. 

Rural neighbors agree to - without asking a single question - watching your stock during your son's wedding, your Daddy's funeral or the one weekend in twenty-seven years your groom decides to take you on a real vacation. 

Rural neighbors get you out of situations that you're certain you could not handle alone. I'm so thankful for rural neighbors like Tim at Schaeffer Show Cattle. Good. People.  

Rural neighbors. Not everyone has them, but everyone can appreciate them. 

This spring, take the time to thank your rural neighbor for the support they bring to your life when you need it most. 

Their friendship. 
Their loyalty. 
And perhaps most important: their neutered dog. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fifty Years Apart

Today is a very special Wednesday.
Two of the most important people in my life
celebrate another year of influence.  

This beautiful blonde, The Original Jean,  turns 85 

And this courageous cowboy, my husband,  turns 35

On March 11, fifty years apart, 
my destiny was shaped in a special way. 

Checking cows last night I wondered about the greatest lesson The Original Jean and Cody have taught me. 
Put grandkids with solid lung capacity in the trunk to avoid admission costs at the Preble County Fair? 
Hold on to things for ten years, then see if they really matter?

When I was young - I'm talking like six years ago - Grandma's kitchen table was the safest place. It was only there that I felt comfortable enough to tell her about the changes, disappointments and searching I faced in life. Though she married young, she didn't seem to judge, she just listened. Her advice was never gushy or deep or even Biblical. Her advice always referenced patience and was typically this:

"You don't have to marry the man. 
Just let him take you to dinner."

Yeah, thanks Grandma. Because of that advice I went through about 403 first dates and started a few fires that nearly burned me to the ground. I also ate a lot of really good meals. Hence the fat jeans/skinny jeans drawer in my dresser. 

I also sifted, because of The Original's advice. 
What I believed was real. 
What I selfishly prayed for. 
What I expected. 
All totally wrong, but silently I kept The Original Jean's advice in my back pocket. 

I don't have to marry him, 
just enjoy the company without expectations. 

Really shoddy long-term advice for a gal who grew up playing M.A.S.H.

Anyway, on March 11, 1980 there was a new kid on the block in Kansas. He looked like his Papa Laflin and had a restless spirit like his dad, Chris

Papa Laflin and Cody

And despite giving him the wrong phone number, he still treated me to the dinner that The Original Jean encouraged.
For the record, it was the Worst. Food. Ever. 
But the company sure made up for it. 

He is a passionate man. Made of grit and contemplation. 
He generally doesn't say much, asks plenty questions and his mind never shuts off. 
He constantly evaluates, processes and projects. 
I just typically repeat my question because he takes too long to answer. 

If these March 11 babies have taught me anything, it is patience. 
They've taught me that worrying does nothing. 
They've taught me to let go of expectations and see where life fearlessly leads. 
They've taught me that life happens when you put down the map
They've taught me to be careful what you pray for. 
They've taught me that yelling louder doesn't make someone understand what you just tried to explain. 
They've taught me that just because they think they did, doesn't necessarily mean someone remembered to latch the gate. 
They've taught me that sometimes it doesn't pay to to buy the cheap stuff
They've taught me that "expectations" is "get a life" spelled backwards. 
Just kidding. 
They've also taught me this:

The best things happen when you're not looking. 

So put away the grand plan and let life go where it will. 
I trust you'll learn that 
the best surprises are the ones 
that had nothing to do with all of your worry.


Happy Birthday, Grandma & Cody!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Long Road Home

I hurried out to start my car yesterday morning. It needed to run several minutes before making the twenty-five minute trek into the office. Not exactly July in Indiana, you know. 
Same routine, same idea, same old predictable same.
But on this particular morning I arose early to get to the office for some added responsibility due to a meeting. 

Then, I lost my footing on the sidewalk and was forced to slow down. 
Whoa, I had forgotten it was going to freeze over night. Weather gal wasn't joking. What an inconvenient day for an icy ride down Highway 35.
Immediately, I thought about everything I had yet to do before noon: 
Make the rural trek in. 
Sort copies. 
Data sort customers. 
Update spreadsheet. 
Print all files for appropriate members. 
Print labels. 
Box documents. 
And at some point, address overnight emails and voicemails. 

Time was of an essence - and if I could make it back to the house without breaking my tailbone - I was going to capitalize on every passing minute. 
I did. 
I rushed to change my boots. 
I hurried the lunch packing. 
I started the coffee, then got frustrated that it percolated slowly. 
For just a few minutes, I patiently listened as Cody said our PS savers. 
I grabbed my bags, lunch and water and rushed back down the sidewalk. 
Slipped again.
Only worse. 
I was again annoyingly forced to slow down. 
I reached the end of the lane only to get behind a car, behind a truck, behind a semi. 
"Really don't have time for this," I said to myself. If I hadn't started Cody's coffee, I'd be in front of that semi. 

Our caravan made it five miles before the leader of the pack - the semi - slowed down abruptly. I thought for a minute maybe a deer or an officer had slowed his pace. But the semi continued at the twenty-under pace for several miles. What did he see that I couldn't?

Miles later we - the pack of job-bound cars and trucks behind the semi - reached the small town of Williamsburg where our route was redirected by a Sheriff. Accident ahead. We rerouted through the rural town and ended up coming out just 100 yards from the scene of the route-changing head on collision with entrapment. The IU Health helicopter was there, awaiting passengers.

(Photo by Matt Monnig....continue reading to learn more about that)

I was sick, enough to roll down my window in need of fresh air. 

As slow as a funeral procession, our caravan climbed the hill parallel to the accident scene. I made it to work just fine, not thirty minutes early, but rather seven minutes after eight.  
Seven glorious minutes. 
I don't know how women can't keep mascara in their car console.

The PS Prayers were good to us. The meeting went well, the day was brief but a good one. I had a dentist appointment at 4:15 and that's a blog for another Wednesday morning. No cavities, but enough content to suffice. 

The long road home was different.
I cautiously made my way back to the homestead after work, eyes forever scanning side ditches and cross roads. A heavy fog had set in and familiar landmarks were getting more and more less visible, let alone the vehicle directly in front of me. I remembered the morning commute and took my heel off the gas. I had all the time in the world. 

I made it home without trouble just in time to help Cody feed the cattle and meet the new kid on the block (a heifer). And also give a pep talk to some young mothers about their role once they were allowed past the gate.

But then, as generally done when given a few minutes to stop and reflect, I began thinking back on the day and how it completely parallels so much we experience in life:

Fiercely rushing through a morning - or day? Week? Month?
Darn near busting my ability to ever do a back handspring again. 
(Just kidding - that happened in 8th grade when I never actually could physically do a back handspring. Ever.)
Annoyed by a row of three (only 3!) vehicles slowing my progress. 
Curious about Someone (in this case, a semi driver) who might know better than I. 
Then, on the return trip home, uncomfortably watching for familiar signs that weren't there. 
White knuckled with anticipation of an unknown outcome. 
A heavy fog nearly able to erase any familiar comfort or knowledge of a place we thought we knew. 

Do you get it?

The Long Road Home is not one for the faint of heart. And as I type that, I'm not referring to anything that has to do with asphalt or passing lanes. 

The Long Road Home is about 
realizing that the living is not in the rush
The Long Road Home is about learning that 
patience is one trait that will be used more often than it will sit on the shelf.
The Long Road Home is about 
understanding that it is okay to learn from those in front of you. Take notes. Heed their warnings, disregarding pride. 
The Long Road Home is about 
learning patience as you wait for signs that you think are to come. Or should come. Or will come. Or, may never come at all. 
The Long Road Home is about patience. 
The Long Road Home is about
letting go of what you thought was to be, and accepting what is. 

Sometimes, the path - that one that we might deem dreadful and discombobulated - is the long road Home. 

It's life. 
Perhaps not the one planned, but rather the one designed specifically for us. 

Either way, you're going to need sunglasses to deflect the snow and maybe a double shot of patience to get through the upcoming years. Trust me. 

On a oh-so-ironic side note, the IU Health helicopter that began the entry of this blog, ended up landing in my cousin's yard in Ohio later yesterday, due to ice. You can read more - including little Cora's perfect, brief media response - here.