Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cold, Wet Blanket

Yesterday was cold. 
And quite long.
And wet. 
I drove home with my wipers on full blast thinking how the day left me feeling like I was covered in a wet blanket. 
Craving something dry and red.   
I was talking about my electric blanket, of course. 
Yep, I'm over 30, why do you ask?

I watched the 5:00 news and tried to give myself a pep talk about going out into the windy rain  to feed stock. 
I felt discouraged. 
I rarely feel that way. 
Where did this cold, wet blanket feeling come from? 
I tried to work through the recent worry on my mind. 

The ag industry seems to have had a wet blanket thrown over it in the last week. First, Subway makes the uneducated marketing stunt to veer consumers away from a child sex scandal and announces they will begin serving chicken raised without antibiotics. As well as source antibiotic-free turkey, pork and beef within a 10 year period. 

The entire announcement made the ag industry drop their five dollar footlongs and listen to the decision like a dog hearing a high pitched sound. Antibiotic free meat? We already have that regulation in the United States. If a producer sold protein with antibiotics in it, they'd lose their way of living.

Next came the non-scientific article from the WHO (cares?) claiming that bacon, hotdogs and other delicacies  may - possibly - might - cause cancer. Maybe. Not doing your homework before issuing a public statement is one thing, but throwing the "C" word around with those watered-down claims? That's just irresponsible. Do you know the fear attached to that word? The WHO does and they got the attention they didn't deserve. 
I celebrated their assumptions with a Nathan's that evening. YUM-O
But today let's talk about us, not an industry. 
Just a bit of discouragement - personally, professionally, emotionally, passionately - can quickly throw down the wet blanket. 
And it doesn't take much to land beneath it. 
Have you been there?
When you're simply wrong.
When you're completely too tired. 
When the meeting didn't go as you hoped.  
When you can't adequately express what is right. 
When someone doesn't know the truth you defend. 
When you're running out of resources,  at a loss for a better way. 
When you lose the encouragement to take better care of yourself.
When you're certain you deserve better, but you cannot find the backbone to declare it. 
Have you been there? 
Wet blanket and all? 
You are not alone. 
Stand up and and shake it off.

I bundled up and went out to feed. Only to find the spark I needed. The latest addition to our  farm was running circles around the herd. Through the rain. And wind. Covered - saturated - in a cold wet blanket of black hide. It didn't affect his spirit. And it need not affect mine. 

There will be dreary days of discouragement. 
There will be days of amazing light and grace. Hang on to those. 

Don't let that wet blanket distinguish your spark. 
Because it's fixin' to get cold and when those winter winds blow and Old Man Winter shows up at your door you're gonna need that spark. 
And some fuel oil. 
And a good chili recipe. 
Anything but a wet blanket. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Black Mistress

In the beginning - even before we wed - I picked up on his subtle signs.
Anxiousness when she was around. 
Mentioning her in random conversations. I used to hear him reference her and think, "How does she have anything to do with this conversation?"
Not being able to keep his eyes off her when they were in the same room. 

I brushed it off, thinking - the further we got into our relationship - she would just go away. 
I'll admit: I was one of those gals who thought getting married would change things. 

But things haven't changed since August 10, 2013. In fact, I wonder if they've not gotten worse. 
Every so often she still comes back to visit. 
She is incredibly enlightening. 
Always attractive and so put together - even after traveling hundreds of miles. 
She has a social life we - Cody and I - can only dream of. Is there any event she's not invited to?
She meets every expectation. And Oh So Well. 

But I've come to terms with it: the Angus Journal is the full package. 
And every month I have to compete with her for Cody's attention. 

1. He anxiously awaits their next encounter. 
Did you get the mail?
Anything good in today's mail?
Did you get the mail today?
Have you gotten the mail?
No, cray cray. I have not and will not get the mail on days that I anticipate that 390 page mistress with a gorgeous face waiting for me across the road. 
Angus Journal arrival days are like tiny Christmas mornings at our place. For he, not I. 
Just substitute wrapping paper with plastic shrink wrap and we're smack dab in the morning of December 25th. 

2. It consumes his attention. 
When the Angus Journal arrives, nothing else in the house matters. I could be on fire, tap dancing in the kitchen with a band of donkeys and I'm certain Cody would not hear me. 
Or, us. 

3. It opens up a whole new exciting, dangerous world to him.
The Angus Journal is kinda like some hot chick a college kid meets on a study abroad trip.
A world past beautiful Economy, Indiana or Council Grove, Kansas. 
Bold opinions. 
Industry insight.
Gorgeous photos. 
Intriguing stories. 
Outstanding pedigrees. 
Excitement and blaze and lust. 
Advertisements with photos and EPD's of cattle he suddenly must have. 

Silence is powerful. 
Ya'll see the backtracking in that message?
Guess who bought another cow with a "tiny" bid? 
Actually, he (we) made an awesome investment. 

4. He adores her, despite her faults. 
Some months she is 150 pages, other months she is 390 pages.
He doesn't care. He still gives her the same attention and adoration. 
It's exhausting. And disgusting. 

5. She makes his passion come alive. 
I know no one else more dedicated to the success and longevity of the Angus breed than Cody. 
He studies it. 
Breathes it.
Adores it.
Lives it. 
Loses track of time because of it.
Surrounds himself with it: We have Angus luggage tags, wine glasses, blankets and trashcans, for goodness sake. 
When CS sits down to sort through the Angus Journal, I know that his heart and mind are exactly where they should be: progress and passion. Our future. 

And that's exactly why I try to avoid catching fire and tap dancing with donkeys in the kitchen while he's with his mistress. 

I continue to dust around those darn (my mother-in-law reads this blog) Angus Journals and have never once used them for kindling. Though I've been tempted terribly, bless their glossy covers. 
That beautiful, smart, attention-getter is now a part of our home and our marriage. 

However, if she starts showing up with big hair wearing square toes, 
 knowing how to make a mean Mexi meal, 
we're gonna have a come to Jesus.

Wait. Did you really think this post was going to be about Scandal?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Are Enough

Earlier this week I was asked to attend a career fair at my alma mater and recruit the best and brightest from Purdue's College of Agriculture. 
No pressure. 
Nearly 1/3 of our awesome employees will retire in the next 10 years. 
No pressure. 
At all. 

The long day spent standing on the wood floors of the Union took me back to place in my life - not too terribly long ago (like yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time) when internships were something only upperclassmen were charged with and I only attended a career fair because I thought it included ferris wheels and carmel apples. 
I hate it when you show up to an event looking for cotton candy and walk away with 17 pencils, 4 business cards and a mouse pad. 
And growing up. 
That was my freshman year. 
I had so much to learn. 
And I did. 
And I want to share that with ag kids trying to find a professional place in the industry - after their 5:00 mornings on the family farm have passed. 

Be Confident
You have done so much up to this moment - the vulnerable moment when it seems you're throwing yourself out to the entire, mature world. 
Only you know what it's like to make the dreaded walk up to the barn to tell your Dad that you've mown the rock that has stood in the same field for 1,000 years. 
Only you have called your Momma to tell her that everyone is OK, but your truck isn't. 
Only you have cared for animals you've lost, rode in the buddy seat and seen your Dad's heart break and watched your Grandma's arthritic hands pray for rain that never came. 
Only you have juggled FFA, 4-H, BPA, Student Government, cheerleading and studies. 
You've survived. 
You've done so much up to this moment. 
Be confident in all that you are and all that you are yet to be. Stand up straight. Look them in the eye. Be proud that - during this 3-minute flash interview - you're representing your Dad's farm and your Momma's dream. 
That's you. 

Firm Handshakes Are Still Better Than Fist Bumps
I don't know or care what's in style (I still love 80's hair and wear high-wasited jeans to the office every Friday), but I do know with certainty that a weak handshake is the first point of differentiation in agriculture. 
It wasn't long ago that handshakes were as telling as the wax seal on the exterior of a formal proposal letter. 
It wasn't long ago that we didn't need legal counsel; a man's word and handshake was enough. 
It wasn't long ago that prenuptial agreements didn't exist. 
And though we're far past those days, a firm handshake still outweighs a dead fish. 
I don't care if you're asking to mow the neighbor's yard or looking for corporate experience - may your handshake be firm. Let the recipient know your intentions are sincere. 

Get your hair out of your face and tuck in your shirt.
This is just really fundamental guidance that your mother probably wore out during your formative  years, but darn it - it still matters today. 
I can't count on my hands the number of young men who needed their hair cut, the young ladies who wore ill-fitting clothes or the number of square toe boots that needed polish. 
Any other day you may wear your hair so the professor doesn't know when you fall asleep.
Any other day you may wear whatever you'd like (don't be an idiot) to the social event on Saturday night. 
Any other day you may wear your favorite boots to 27 farms/ranches to look at stock. 
But when it comes to the career fair - pull that deal together. 
You have one chance! 
Get the hair cut; show us those pretty, honest eyes. 
Wear the flattering suit; we need not know what color underwear you wear, but we'd like to know your gender. 
Polish your boots. A boot cleaning kit is an awesome gift. It will last years! 
Consider this: You can't get into Canada with boots in that condition - what makes you think you'll get the job?

You Are Not Here to Land Your Dream Job
Understand this: Your first job won't be your dream job. 
The toughest job you'll have to land is your first job. You can always use connections to look for a second opportunity. 
The career fair - the networking in college - is about exploration and learning corporate culture and people and positions. It's not about landing a job in your home county or making more money than your roommate right out of the gate. 
Your dream job comes after a few years - maybe even decades? - of experience. 
Your dream job comes after years of dangerous learning curves and fear that you're fixin' to derail. 
Your dream job comes after you've skipped nights on the town with friends to go back to your empty apartment and eat generic Cheerios, topped with honey from home.
It gets better!
I promise you that. No toes crossed

You Are Enough
You have carried a load, at only 18, 21, 23 years old.
Life has been good in agriculture, but things are changing. 
You have a family at home as passionate as you - with expectations ever greater. 
You have a Dad that made it through the 1980's in agriculture and absolutely expects you to do the same, when someday asked. 
You have a mother that set the bar extremely high. A college degree. An admirable job. She still packed your lunch everyday before school. She still looks 10 years younger than her classmates, despite years in the sun. 
You have been able to watch your Granddad and Dad work side-by-side and make the family farm what it is today. And after schooling, you're silently expected to take it to the next level.

But you. 
Yes, you, with - what seems like - the weight of the world and the future on your shoulders:
You are enough. 
Did you hear me?
Yes, I'm talking to you. 
Take out your ear buds and read that line again:
You. Are. Enough. 
You have so much work to do. You have so very much to learn. And that is OK.
You are smart and loved and make folks proud. 
Sure, you have pressure on your shoulders - it is good for you. 
That pressure on your shoulders is sure to keep you grounded. 
So when you interview for the internship off the farm or the first job, remember that years of day-to-day experience have landed you here. 
Don't be consumed with the idea that you're inadequate in front of 35-year-old professionals who seems to have it together. 
Because those professionals - in their pressed slacks and perfectly starched oxford - wish that someone would have stood in front of them at 21, shook their nervous, clammy hands and simply said: This is just the beginning. You are enough. 

My day at Purdue was a good one; it was a mini reunion, seeing so many folks I went to school with, working to recruit the same kids. 
We're on the other side of the fence now, as 35-year-old professionals - in pressed slacks and perfectly starched oxfords - who seem to have it together. 

We were staring right into the bright and shining faces of the next generation of ag kids. 
Granted, the shining may have been beads of sweat.
But Dan Seals said it best: Not all that glitters is gold. 
Sometimes, it's just nerves. 

You are enough. 
Young or old. 
In agriculture or not. 
Now go change the world.