Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Five From Five (And Under)

I thought of this line while visiting with my niece and nephew last night. Hours earlier I had brainstormed what I might write about. I needed a change in perspective. 

So when I reached the young guns, I decided to simply listen, observe and let their "gems" - at ages four and five - write this week's blog. 

Five Lessons From Age Five and Under

1. What makes someone a best friend? They have to laugh at your jokes.

2. Age doesn't mean a thing when it comes to fun. The best toys around are the ones that were built - and used daily - twenty-five years ago. Some things get better with age. 

3. Drink plenty of water. Apparently the young guns have taken it upon themselves to remind their Grammie to drink plenty of water. 
"Grammie, drink your water!" Hank yelled during dinner. 
Marlee looked at me. "Grammie is supposed to drink two fill ups of water every day. She still has one more fill up to drink today."
I told Marlee it was already 9:15 at night - trying to instill some sense of urgency. 
Concern swept cheerleader Marlee's face, but she didn't let up. "Don't worry Grammie! You still have one hour before bed to get your other fill up!"
Things of quality have no fear of time. 

4. Broken crayons are still just as good as not broken crayons. They're just harder to hold. 
Substitute the word "people" for "crayons" and Hank has another very valid point. 

5. Undies are optional when you go to bed. (But you have to earn that right.)

Life lessons, age five and under. 
Isn't it amazing what you can learn when you simply listen?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

But What If I Don't?

Oh my gosh...I should go!
But why?
I shouldn't. 
But I can!
But why would I?
There is no time. 
But I'm so close. 
But why would I?
What would I say?
I'd be setting myself up for disappointment. 
Maybe even disaster. 

But what if I don't?

This was the internal conversation I had with myself several times last week. You see, I didn't write because I was at a communication conference (I know, the irony); the National Agri-Marketing Association annual conference, to be specific. 

As I took the stairs (and by stairs I mean elevator) to the 16th floor where my room for the week sat, I couldn't help but take in the Kansas City view. 

...And maybe sing Kansas City Lights in my head. 

Something caught my eye as a scanned the buildings, lights and old signs that dotted the historic stock town skyline. Only two blocks away, on the side of a building was a recognizable brand, and one of which I've been a card-carrying member since I got my license and could drive myself to the local Wooden Key. 

Wait. WHAT?! 
I'm this close to the Hallmark world headquarters? 
How did I miss that when I planned my week?

I went to my room and opened my laptop. Before my mind plotted anymore, I needed to confirm that this was fact and not fantasy. 

It was fact. 

All things NAMA continued throughout the week and each time I went to my room, or a breakout session didn't hold my attention, my mind drifted to the thought that I was just two blocks from the institution that held my "dream job" - writing for Hallmark

The familiar tug-o-war conversation clouded my thoughts each time. 

Oh my gosh...I should go!
But why?
I shouldn't. 
But I can!
But why would I?
There is no time. 
But I'm so close. 
But why would I?
What would I say?
I'd be setting myself up for disappointment. 
Maybe even disaster. 

But what if I don't?

I went back through the conference's jammed schedule and found one hour between sessions when I could sneak out and go to the Hallmark headquarters. 
To introduce myself. 
Give them a business card. 
Or two. 
Maybe tell a joke. 
At 3:00 I visited with a few industry colleagues and let them know I'd catch up with them closer to 4:00. I had an errand to run. I took the Heel-Toe Express out of the hotel and down the Kansas City sidewalks. 

This is not me. 
You and I both know I have my mother's cankles. 

Before I knew it, though maybe a bit further than the estimated two blocks, I was much closer to the beloved brand I'd seen in the sky days before. 


I walked the long corridor to an entrance that appeared to be official. You know, because I'm a very formal person. Truly, if I wasn't there on business I would have likely pecked on the first floor windows until noticed. 

A security guard, proudly still serving at the approximate age of 114, greeted me as soon as I entered the foyer. 

"Can I help you?" the guard asked. 
"Yes, a strange request. But for twenty years I've had the dream of writing for Hallmark. I'm in Kansas City this week on business and I saw your headquarters were so close. I just....Can I speak to someone in your Creative department?"
"The name of the person you'd like to speak with?"
"Oh, well, I don't have a specific name...." I was losing steam with gramps. 
Blank stare. I'm not sure he wasn't blind. 
"I have business cards....for my blog! Can I give you these and you see that they make it to someone in the Creative writing department?"
"I can't do that," he softly said, calmly crushing my dreams. 
"You can't do that? They are just business cards. Just so someone can find my blog. Nothing dangerous. No white powder......," I continued. Anthrax was not what I imagined my joke would be about, but in this point of the charade I was running out of ideas. 
"I cannot do that," he sternly replied.
Guess he was serious. I wondered briefly if I was something like the 187th street-wanderer he'd dealt with today?
"Here. Here is the internet code (it was a website: to find a job. That is all I can do. Go to the museum. If you haven't been there," he finished. 
I don't want to go to the museum. I don't even want a full time job!  I actually love my job! I just want someone to read Jean's Boots. My thoughts stayed internal. 
"Where is the museum?" I asked, deflated. 
"You passed it walking in. Just at the other end of the corridor."

I thanked him and left, putting my cards back in my shoulder bag. Dang it. 
I took the Heel-Toe Express back down the echoing corridor and entered the museum and gave it one last shot. 
The gal behind the desk to me to go across the corridor and speak with the security guard. I reveled that he had sent me her way, and she was just as confused as I. She reached in a drawer and gave me the exact same piece of paper with the Careers link on it. 
The communications geek in me was glad that they were at least consistent in the their message. 

I quickly walked through the amazing Hallmark Visitor's Center and tried to digest as quickly as possible all the history and heirlooms meticulously displayed in one place. 

Norma Rockwell's Kansas City Spirit
Even a Hereford made it into the history. 

My visit to Hallmark was brief and unsuccessful. A lot like I envisioned the "disaster" in my pre-planning thoughts, in fact. I didn't get "inside", I didn't get a free-lance gig and I didn't get my blog business cards to Hallmark Creative. 

But I did learn a lesson. 

Home almost a week now I've thought of that strange experience and wondered what got me to charge over there with such expectation and slight confidence

That question is easy to answer with another:

But what if I don't?

I knew that if I left Kansas City, within blocks of Hallmark, and never tried to promote my passion, I would have wondered for the rest of my life what might have been. The easy part happened: I got shot down. The hardest part would have been to wonder what if for the rest of my life. 

So what if you did the same?
What if you downsized...everything?
What if you told her how you really felt?
What if you asked for forgiveness? And, what if you extended it?
What if you moved home?
What if you went to the meeting?
What if you started taking care of yourself, now?
What if you apologized?
What if you stood up for yourself?
What if you wrote the letter?
What if you left the well paying job for one that made you happy?
What if you were made uncomfortable, for once?
What if you made the phone call?
What if you registered for the course?
What if you admitted to it?
What if you didn't care what they thought?
What if you actually pushed yourself?
What if you told someone?
What if you did it? That one thing.

But what if you don't?

Let my story of two business cards still on my kitchen table be a lesson. Your greatest pain in life could lie in wondering what might have happened had you compiled the courage. Don't let that happen. 

But don't just listen to me. Take it from this guy:

Side note: Anyone know anybody who works for Hallmark?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Lost Volumes

I never met the man, 
but I've sure enjoyed watching his life unfold, 
more than ninety years after it happened. 

I went to an auction in Auburn, Indiana five years ago and found a bunch of things I didn't need, such as a lamp I never got to work, a desk bigger than the room in which I intended to use it and a set of chipped ice cream bowls. 

Don't even act like you're surprised. They were in the $5 and under pile.

Oh...and an entire box of old photos, albums and greeting cards. A jackpot for a gal like me who loves history and once dreamt of a job with Hallmark. Who am I kidding? I'm still anxiously awaiting the day that one of their Execs stumbles upon this blog. I sure hope it's the day that I have no grammatical errors. 

Anyway, as I briefly thumbed through the box of photos, I couldn't help but think that it was some sort of mistake. These weren't old torn greetings cards or scenic photos; these were documentation of an individual's life. My stomach hurt in a way that I knew it wasn't hunger pains. I let the box be (you can't appear too interested in those situations - folks always want what others do, and auctioneers who know the bidders' desires are dangerous, in themselves), stepped away and roamed through other tables of "junk" (aka treasures).

At the end of the day, I walked away with the box for $5.00. 

Shortly following that auction, I dove into the box that intrigued me so much. I spent the Friday and Saturday nights of one weekend in my dear little (first) house and sorted through photos of Richard, born in 1921.  The more I saw, the more sadness came over me. 


Richard's Birthday, 20 years apart. 
Camping trips. 
First loves. 
The service. 
First home. 

This man's entire history was in one box. 
Sold for $5.00 at a general auction. 
Weekly I've turn Richard's life photos into greeting cards for family and friends. I sent one just this week to dear friends who just had their second son. 

Richard was a happy man. Who adored his wife. Served his country. Loved his sister, Catherine. Traveled to California. 

But who would know that? His lost volumes were sold for $5.00. 
Photo by paper photo I've tried to imagine what he was doing or feeling in the moment, so many generations ago. I've sorted his photos, piled them and stored them. Convinced that my organization and commitment will preserve his story, I've also began thinking of my own. 

A coworker came into my office this week and tossed a Snapfish package at me. 

"We only use Snapfish for Christmas cards," Brandon said as he relayed the large photo tube to me. (Don't worry boss, I ordered poster size aerial photos of our Randolph County locations for the new meeting room. My time on Snapfish was legit). 

"I've never used them, but made an account to get this meeting room finished and wow - there is a lot on there," I told him, as I unrolled my co-op posters. 

He revealed that he can't remember the last time his family physically printed a photo. I sat back in my chair and wondered about the same. 

I remember in high school we stood in line at Wal-Mart the afternoon following a dance to print and finally see the photos taken the night before. There were no retakes. There were no deletes. There were no selfies. There was, however, a lot of wasted film. 

But do you know what? I can still look back on those photos and remember the naive fun we had. 

I told the coworker that he better start printing the memories. As a father of three daughters, we was bound to need photos for a wedding slideshow - or three. He laughed but seemed to really digest that idea. No father of daughters likes to talk about weddings, I guess. 

Our conversation made me think back to Richard, born in 1921, and all the quick glimpses of his life that I have. Thank goodness I have them. The negatives, too. 

Just as a family has lost 
volumes of one man's life, 
our high-speed generation is 
losing volumes every single day 
with technology. 

When was the last time you printed off a picture? A real photo that generations to come can hold? Something you can write on the back of, identifying who was in the photo and the year it was taken? Something physical, not digital. Trust me: jpegs  and RAW files won't be around forever. 

And, how will we document your battle 
with head lice if we don't print 
and write on the back of photos?

I have no great way to store the photos that I speak of (I could do an entire blog on the photos Cody and I sorted or tossed (burned) once we married and began living together) because I get sick of storing my own. But I think they're important. They're physical proof of the life we're living now. They're the stock show photos our grandsons will one day find and frame and the wedding photos our great granddaughters will one day put in a locket. They matter. Don't post your story, print it.

As for Richard, I hope that his lost volumes inspire you to print - if only ten per year - photos that document your family history. I'll continue to send his story across state lines and time zones in an effort to pass his unidentified legacy on. 

Can we commit to no more lost volumes?

Or, at least can we all pledge not to sell our great-grandparents love story in a glorified garage sale? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Again

At 6:47 in the evening  I found myself 4,000 steps away from my Fitbit goal. No bueno. 

I did what any crazy Fitbitter would do: Put on some comfortable boots and decided to take a walk. Camera in hand. 

No rest for the weary, I thought to myself. 
Or, those included in a public challenge where other people can see your daily steps...

Spring has finally showed her pretty face around the farm.
New blooms, new green, new life.

While I walked the fence row, I wracked my brain to come up with a blog idea. It had been a long time since I made it to 7:00 on a Tuesday night and just didn't feel anything humorous or inspiring to share. 

Suddenly, everywhere I looked I was reminded that we're in the midst of Holy Week and just exactly what that means. 

I can't put the gift into words, 
but I can share with you my favorite song that puts this week 
- and His sacrifice - 
somewhat in perspective.

Like spring on the farm, He has made all things new again. 

It is beautiful. I hope you'll listen. 

New Again by Brad Paisley & Sara Evans

You may view it larger by clicking here. 

Video compiled by Blake Bowden