Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Waterproof Mascara

In the newfound fuzzy that comes with two kids in diapers and Desitin, I did something really dumb about two months ago. 

And I really didn't have time for it. 

Since Cyrus' birth, I've remembered that it is in the witching hours from 1:00 AM - 4:00 AM that a gal can really get some work done. By "work" I mean sending emails, planning events, packing lunches or researching a new mascara. 

Eight hours later I grabbed my CVS coupon and the baby and I made our way to the CVS a town south. I purchased Lash Paradise in Mystic Black because you and I both know when you're 30-something and frazzled, paradise sounds like a great idea. 

I'm a fanatic face washer. I can count on one hand the number of times annually that I go to bed without washing my face. It's just part of my way to wash the day away. So after my big purchase of a new mascara (I think I used my yellow tube type for probably 10 years), it took one face wash to realize I made a terrible mistake. I had bought waterproof mascara. 

Nope. Nope. Nope.
Can't do it. 
It's one thing to cry pretty, but another to waste 45 minutes of your evening trying to get tar out of your eyelashes. 

But the tube was like $10.00, so I did what any frugal, frustrated gal would do. Rather than throw it away and buy the correct type, I bought $47 worth of various eye make-up removers over three weeks until I found one that was nothing short of anointing oil and Country Crock. 

After another three weeks of that bedtime fiasco (I realized there was a problem when I'd used the holy oil and lard to wash my lashes, then couldn't see well enough to climb the stairs to bed) I gave up and tossed the tube. Straight into the trash. 
I returned to CVS the next day and bought Lash Paradise, non-waterproof. 

The next evening my face-washing routine was like the good old days. The black sludge rolled down the drain and I was reminded why a concealer is no longer an option. I was also reminded of this:

Don't hang on to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it. 

This is real and it is true and it is good. 

I think far past mascara and wonder about the things I may have hung on to much longer than I should have because I had invested too much time, money or pride to let go of them. That didn't do much for my state of mind, but it sure gave some blog content, I guess. 

So I ask you - 

- the one holding on so tightly to 
the job that leaves you uninspired because it is familiar and easy
the shoes you never wear because they hurt your feet but they were expensive
the relationship that you know isn't "it" but it's been pretty good for three years of your precious life
...Is it time to let go of the mistake in order to find what is best for you?

Toss the tube. 
Swallow the pride. 
Declutter your closet and life. 
Realize that sometimes staying is worse than leaving. 

Ain't nobody got time for waterproof mascara. Especially middle-aged gals with cows and kids to feed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Stay in Room 539

I knew he didn’t feel well when he wouldn’t stop crying. 
I knew he really didn’t feel well when he wouldn’t eat. 

Two weeks ago, I made an after-hours phone call to the pediatric center about our (then) 6-week old son. The nurse could hear his labored breathing over the phone and recommended I take him to the ER to be checked out. Cody was somewhere west of the Mississippi, so I quickly packed a diaper bag and dropped Caroline off at my parents; I thought I’d be back in a couple of hours. 

Despite a full – I’m talking standing room only – waiting room, the ER staff got him right into an exam room. 

That evening, and the days that followed, reiterated that God has a creative way of teaching. 

Be kind, for very person you encounter is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Cyrus and I had only been in the exam room thirty minutes before I heard something I’ll never forget. A man and a woman screamed painfully and loudly for their mother. Over and over and over again. And then weeping, sobbing, mourning. That night, in the small room next to ours, a family lost their mother. From that moment I knew we could face anything the doctor was about to determine on our little boy. 

Hebrews 13:2:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 
Four hours later Cyrus was admitted, and by default I was, too. We got into an actual inpatient room at 3:30 AM. Cyrus was finally asleep and I wanted so badly to join him. I was so surprised by how awake, friendly and active the nurses were. I guess had forgotten there is an entire species that works diligently and tirelessly while I am home sound asleep. I’m thankful for those folks who work off of a very different clock than I. When I was at my worst: worried, exhausted, and hungry (shocking, I know), these people made me feel at ease. And they brought me a 4:00 AM snack. I will never view nurses in the same way again, because they do so much more. 


Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
“This has got to be the loneliest place on earth, and still, they won’t leave us alone,” I thought to myself on the second night at Reid. For four days and three nights I only put Cyrus down if they had to change his IV, during the spinal tap or if I was in the bathroom. But even with his tiny body close, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so lonely. This experience offered a whole new perspective regarding those who spend much time in a hospital or those with sick children. There was constant beeping, checking, monitoring, waking, adjusting, and prodding, still I felt like we were a million miles from home or anyone we knew. I was a mere 25 minutes from home and husband. 

But on day three flowers arrived. 

A middle-aged lady brought flowers to our room on Friday. She said it was part of “Random Acts of Flowers” where strangers pay to have flowers randomly delivered in hospitals. Let me tell you: it was like being back on the farm in Economy and Christy Herr, our veterinarian, showing up with one of her beautiful, home-grown arrangements. It was then that the kindness dissolved the loneliness I’d felt while stuck in room 539 for (then) 64 hours.  

This was our view one evening from room 539

RSV, rhino virus and double ear infections kept us at the hospital for four days. He’s well on the mend now and growing wildly fast despite a few setbacks. 

Day Four: Over It. 

Before Cyrus was born I prayed every night for a healthy baby. After my prayers were answered I’m not sure I thanked God adequately. I sat awake one night in room 539 wondering: When was the last time I truly, tirelessly, wholeheartedly thanked God for two healthy children?

It reminds me of that question: What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday? 

Eight weeks in to life with a son, and I’ll never make that mistake again. I will also never pack a diaper bag with without a toothbrush and deodorant…but that is a column for another week. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

High School Reunion

I had my class reunion the third weekend of August during our rural town, mid-America hometown festival. While it was so good to see folks I haven’t since June 1, 2003, the greatest reunion I’ve experienced since that time has been the most unexpected.

I had no (known) enemies while I walked the halls of Hagerstown High School years ago. But if you asked me the person that I avoided the most, the answer would have been easy: Her name was Morgan. We didn’t run in the same circles (to be fair, I only ran if I was being chased) and when our 17-year-old lives did overlap, it was never overly friendly. I don’t remember specifically why we were never on the right path from day one, but I know I was never a friend to her, and vice versa. 

Fifteen years later, you can imagine my surprise when I began seeing Morgan in the waiting room each time I had a doctor appointment for our second child. As fate would have it, she, too, was expecting a second child. To take irony one step further, we were due on the exact same day: August 5, 2018.  

A lot can change in fifteen years. 

Over the last seven months, I’ve communicated more with Morgan than anyone from high school. I’ve found her to be a source of comfort (“Can you believe we’re in our last trimester already? The end is near!”), reassurance (“I asked my doctor about that and he said it is completely normal…”), insight (“I have a recipe you have to try…”), humor (“You will not believe what I did today….”), and company (“I hope I’m not waking you, but you’re probably awake, anyway….”). She has become the new friend I never thought I’d need at 34-years-old. 

I’ve learned to view Morgan as the kind of person who has been through a sleepless hell, only to walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those (that’s me) still consumed by the fire. I know she’s exhausted, but she always asks me, “Is Cyrus sleeping better for you?” That is kindness from a mother with experience. 

Motherhood is quite lonely, even if you’ve not technically been alone for four weeks, two days and seventeen hours (not that I’m counting). But I’ll tell you, having someone in the trenches with you makes it a whole lot better. If you look at Morgan and I’s paths to today, they’re drastically different in schooling, careers, relationships, and beyond. We've never once talked about high school or the years that fall into the 15-year gap since we spent 45-minute classes together. We only talk about today. Or, last night. I’m grateful that we had one similarity, strangely aligned more than a decade after high school. It’s been a fantastic, ongoing class reunion. 

And, a great lesson to remember when my daughter comes home upset with classmate. I'll now have a story in my back pocket that I can share...
"Don't be mean to her, she may be your lifeline down the road. Let me tell you about a girl named Morgan..."

I think back to my high school self and wonder now what began and drove that wedge between Morgan and I in the early 2000’s? We were adolescent girls, so I’m certain it was petty and brief. Unfortunately, it took me fourteen years and nine long months to resolve it. 

That reminds me of the old question, “Whatever is troubling you: in five years will it still matter?” I wish I would have asked myself that in 2003. That would have spared me a couple awkward visits in a waiting room in order to find a friend in Morgan. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Guilt of a Second

I write from the throes of pregnancy at week forty. 

None of my favorite jeans fit, I’m sleeping very little and I find myself hungry all the time. It’s like college all over again, but my beloved Chocolate Shop isn’t right around the corner. 

I have a terrible admission to make. I thought if I tell you – and only you – it’ll be off my chest and perhaps I’ll feel a bit less guilt? We’ll see. 

I feel terribly guilty about having a second child. Our daughter Caroline, who just turned two in July, has soaked up every bit of attention and adoration my husband and I have had to offer for twenty-four months. There is no way a second could capture our hearts in the way she has. It is as though I have little love left to give because my heart is running around the outside of my body, begging to go check cows with her baby doll in tow. 

Is this normal? 

Did anyone else feel like their second child would automatically be getting the short end of the stick right out of the gate? How could I possibly love anything in the way I love our first born?

The second will be introduced to hand-me-down clothes on the day they (gender to be discovered at time of birth) come home from the hospital. 

The second will be swaddled in blankets monogrammed with their big sister’s initials. 

The second will use sippy cups with little teeth marks already along the edges. 

The second will never know a mother without grey hair or dark circles under her eyes. 

The second will be bathed with tattered washcloths, wear bibs with spaghetti stains down the front and strut around in cowboy boots already broken in to fit someone else’s feet. 

The second will read books with missing pages, put together puzzles with bent corners and will never have a plastic kiddie pool to themselves.

The second will be compared to the first, out of habit. Will they walk sooner? Cry longer? Bite harder? I pray daily that they arrive in fewer than twenty-six hours of labor. 

The second will use a pacifier that fell on the barn’s dirt floor and wasn’t boiled afterwards. Or, ever. 

The second will blow out birthday candles that have already been lit and blown out once before.  

The second will never get to name their first heifer without input from the next room over. 

The second will never have their birthdate or initials used in a password sequence.

The second will require a sense of humor, high pain tolerance and fierce independence for survival. 

The second is definitely getting the short end of the stick. 

I told my mom and sister about my feelings of guilt and my perceived inability to ever love a second child in the way I have loved our first. My mom quickly responded to my concern with, “How do you think I felt with three kids?!” 

It should be noted here that I’m child number three. 
And her response actually explains a lot of the last thirty-three years. 


Cyrus Sankey was born August 10, 2018 and when it comes to my fears listed above, 
I think I've had a change of heart. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Discomfort ≠ Suffering

I have never thought of myself as an individual with an entitlement complex, but I do remember certain experiences where I'd like to go back and kick my own butt. One happened just this morning, so I guess that's why I'm writing today.

My first job out of college took me back to a place I swore I'd never live again: Washington, DC. I had interned there one summer and enjoyed it, but certainly didn't catch the "Potomac fever" as many often did. But one year later, the job I wanted to launch my career required I move back to the east coast; I packed a UHaul and my Ford Focus and began my career on 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. 

I remember rinsing out the office coffee pot at the end of a really bad day, thinking to myself, "I did not go to Purdue University for four years and earn a degree to do this."
After a few minutes of scrubbing the pot in my heels and then wiping down the countertops, I remember thinking: "Your father would absolutely kill you if he knew those words were going through your head right now. You were raised better" 
It's funny how sometimes your upbringing can shout at you from the back of your mind when you're 518 miles from anything you've ever known. 

And do you know what? The next day was better. 
And the day after that was better. 

And day, after day, I learned to be grateful for discomfort on the long days because it made the good days that much better. It also proved that I'm capable of anything. Including washing a coffee pot I never poured a cup from. I also learned how to make coffee at my first job. 

We live in a society where discomfort is associated with suffering. People no longer want to experience any discomfort or inconvenience, at all. 
We expect heated steering wheels and seats. 
We no longer drive to a movie store or even a Red Box; we hit "download" and have whatever we want on our living room big screen.
We have thirty pairs of shoes because each feels different on our feet when the temperature swings by ten degrees. 
We don't pay attention to landmarks or even keep a map in the console because we can type an address into our phones and be spoon fed step-by-step directions. 
We expect our professional careers to be constant climbing and measurements of success because we've studied and worked hard and deserve it. 

The truth is that sometimes you have to go into situations understanding that: 

Challenging jobs,
college experiences, 
buying our not-such-a-dream home, but rather the one we can afford
skipping a vacation, 
a lemon of a used car,
or taking the long way
are all things that might not be comfortable, but they will allow us to grow in unforeseeable ways. 

Someone asked me recently how I've come up with content for a blog for eight straight years. 
Well, sometimes I try to be my own life coach and talk myself off a ledge by typing away on this keyboard. 
Because as I type this, our kitchen sink and counter tops are sitting in the yard and will be there over night. A small kitchen project turned a regular Monday into the most Monday-est Monday, ever and this morning I washed breakfast dishes in the 6:00 AM darkness by garden hose while the barn cats watched, smirking. 

So, yeah. 
My discomfort is not suffering. 
It's just a phase of life. 
Let's just hope this phase moves fast. I've got big things to do next week and I don't like making eye contact with animals when I'm still in my nightgown. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Me Before You

Time flies when you spend your evenings pulling corn cobs from the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Caroline turned two years old on Sunday and in 24 months' time I've learned time passes more quickly when you're living for something beyond yourself. I mean, I thought recess went fast decades ago, but motherhood moves at lightning speed. 

Very few songs you'll hear on the mainstream radio keep my attention for two full minutes. But the current song that garners my full attention when broadcast is Brothers Osborne's "I Don't Remember Me (Before You)". It's a song about a guy who - despite seeing pictures or hearing stories - can't remember himself before he met the love of his life. It is spellbinding.

Although there are ways I can relate to that song, I certainly do remember life before I loved Caroline. 

For instance, 

Before Caroline my Amazon searches consisted of must-read books, Liverpool jeans and kitchen gadgets that allow me to open and aerate wine more quickly. 
Two years in, and my Amazon searches consist of toddler water shoes, Pull-Ups and gummy vitamins. 

Before Caroline, Cody and I could talk about anything, anywhere, any time. 
Two years in, and our breakfast conversation goes something like this:
"I have to breed C-O-W-S first thing this morning. Your plans?" Cody asks.
"When we get home from town I'm going to fill the P-O-O-L. Have you charged the J-E-E-P?" I respond. 
"Yes. It's behind the T-R-A-C-T-O-R." 
Our adult dialog is a constant spelling bee to avoid losing track of the tasks at hand. 

Before Caroline I never gave a second thought to the pigment of the outer edge of my drink ware.
Two years in, and I realize you can ruin a person's entire morning by pouring milk into the wrong color cup. 

Before Caroline I enjoyed showers. 
Two years in, and I can shower, shave and moisturize in less time than it used to take me to undress. Motherhood is a prime case study of survival of the fittest efficient. 

Before Caroline I could get into the refrigerator and simply select what I needed then promptly shut the door to keep the cold air in. 
Two years in, and I find myself giving a diaper diva a four-minute synopsis of the practical uses of every condiment on the door shelves, followed by a 30-second lesson on energy and appliance efficiency. She never seems to care about the energy lesson because I repeat it five times a day. 

Before Caroline I could try on clothes in a dressing room without saying a word....other than, "The hell? Did I grab the wrong size?"
Two years in, and I find myself saying these phrases on repeat:
"Do NOT unlock that door."
"Stand up! Do NOT peak under that wall!"
"I appreciate your self-confidence, but please stop licking the mirror."

Before Caroline I would spend my evenings doing chores and focusing on heat cycles, levels inside the creep and mineral feeders and pasture growth. 
Two years in, and I find my feeding time twice as long because I have a chore pal who thinks cows in standing heat is hilarious,  enjoys getting her hands in bags of feed to explore textures and likes picking forage samples and showing me every red clover she can find. 

Before Caroline my time was my own. 
Two years in, everything takes twice as long, but is one hundred times over more gratifying. 

There are days when I'm not sure who is learning more, Caroline or her parents, but let's keep that between us.
And while I'll never be a mother that claims to not remember the me before her, despite the self-doubt and dry shampoo, I like this version of myself a whole lot better. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What I Learned from Polly

In recent conversation, I thought of a name I hadn’t in years. 

“Powell. Are they related to Polly Powell?” I asked my cohort.
“Yes, same family. How in the world do you know Polly Powell?” he questioned, back. “She’s quite a bit older than you.”

I thought back briefly to how I knew that name. 

“When I was young, like, your daughter’s age, she was fair queen and she stopped and talked to me at the fair. And that made my entire year. I hadn’t thought of her in a long time,” I explained to him. 

It turned out to be an association so simple, yet quite significant. 

It was true; I hadn’t thought of her in a long time, but she influenced me greatly. During a demanding week of schedules, obligations, heat and responsibility, Wayne County 4-H Fair Queen Polly Powell didn’t pass up an opportunity to visit with a young, impressionable girl. One she did not even know. She got down on my level and asked me a couple questions. I studied her crown and sash. She had perfect teeth. Some things you just don’t forget. 

A decade after Polly, at the age of 17, I was crowned queen over the fair. It was because of that brief encounter years before that I made a conscious effort to be aware of the younger people around me during that week. Who was watching me? Who could I say hello to? It really was incredible how one (very one-sided) conversation left such an impression. That entire year, I tried to be more like Polly.

And so, a lesson for those in the second half of their 4-H career about to spend a week at the county fair, or the ones who are getting organized to attend a national junior livestock show somewhere across the country: 
You're in a unique position to offer something very positive to those around you. 

There are little eyes upon you, who think you’re the best, the expert, maybe even an idol of theirs. Perhaps the greatest swine showman or steer fitter or wood worker or cake baker they’ve ever seen. They already know your name, probably your club or your state association. There is someone who would love to say hello to you, to learn from you, or someone who may just stop by your stall to watch you work. Let them. 

Meet them. Get to know them. Show them how. Teach them. Show them what kindness is. 

It is in those brief encounters that you may encourage a hobby, dream or livelihood. 
You may build a bit of confidence in someone who is lacking it terribly. 
You may bring a bright spot to a day where there hasn’t been sunshine in weeks. 
I encourage you to look around during the busiest of weeks and find someone who could use a brief “how’s it going?” from you, a possible mentor. 

Last Friday the Wayne County 4-H Fair Queen Contest committee hosted a reception for all sixty former Wayne County 4-H Fair Queens at Centerville High School. The earliest queen in attendance was 1959 – how awesome is that? I attended hoping to visit with gals I hadn’t seen in a long time, but also to officially meet Polly. I wanted to thank her for influencing my actions so many years ago. She wasn’t in attendance. I did take a look at the historic wall hanging they had on display to confirm just how old I was when Polly Powell was queen. It was 1992; I was just shy of 8 years old. 

Twenty-six years later, and I still associate very good things with a gal I’ve never met because she created an opportunity to influence a little girl.

Although I do remember the dress she had on that day in 1992 (ask me what I ate for breakfast - I have no idea) what was special about Polly wasn’t the fashion in which she wore her crown as a queen, but rather the way in which she used it to show kindness.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I Want More

The house that built me sat close enough to I-70 that we could see the interstate when the corn was down, but we couldn't hear it. We knew if east or west bound lanes were stopped, but it required the use of binoculars to figure out why. 

To pass time in the late 80's, early 90's, we'd use Dad's commercial grade walkie-talkies to contact truckers passing by...under the condition, of course, that we never told the truckers where we were located. We'd often ask the drivers where they were heading to, coming from or hauling. If really feeling ornery (quite often), we'd taunt them and tell them we heard truck driver wore pantyhose. This is the exact reason why we couldn't reveal our location: I guess mom didn't want a fleet of semi's lining our road, trying to track down mouthy kids. 

Because let's face it:
We weren't talking to Teddy Bear. 

Time seems to repeat itself. Thirty years later, Caroline is spending her early years in a house that sits on a busy highway. A portion of nearly every day is spent in our yard, trying to get semis to honk at us. I've taught her how to move her arm up and down and yell, "HONK! HONK!", and though she's small, every once in a while, she's able to garner enough attention that a driver actually does honk at her. It becomes the highlight of her day. 

But as soon as the truck is out of sight, without fail, her response is the exact same, "Mommy, I want more!" She even signs "more, please" to reiterate her wishes. 

It didn't take long for me to notice the trend. She'd work her arm up and down for five trucks until one finally took notice. Then, as soon as the one or two honks were done, she instantly wanted more. And guess what ol’ mom did to make sure that happened? I took part in the charade – darn near throwing out my back to get the attention of a Red Gold rig. 

One or two honks more honks, then she instantly wanted more and more. 
But isn't that the world we live in? 
We get a little bit of something that we like, and immediately we want more. 

We want our kids in more activities so their time is packed with social events, constant stimulation and activity so they don't miss out on anything. 

We get numerous "likes" or reactions on Facebook and we feel the urge to post more often to get positive attention from a random sample of people. (This is where regular selfie offenders about wear me out.)

We continue to say "yes" to volunteer projects, group involvement, giving feedback, youth activities and more because someone told us five years we were good at it. Now we're edgy, can't remember the last time the entire family was around the dinner table for a prepared meal and actually quite exhausted because we're pulled in one hundred different directions because someone else wanted more. 

Sometimes too much of a good thing is not in fact, good. We deplete our resources of time, energy and attention to the point where the things that need them most (our children, marriages and families) are getting the short end of the stick. We run our bodies and minds into the ground trying to get everything done because someone wanted more of us. We forget to take care of ourselves because we’re taking care of something else less important, often forgetting:

“But we held up our end of the deal!” we tell ourselves, when the season is over or the project is done or the event has successfully passed. 
Sure – but at what expense?  

“The things that matter most should never be 
at the mercy of the things that matter least.” 
- Goethe 

At what point is what we have before us, or on our plate, enough? 

This is an area where I struggle as a parent: teaching an almost two-year-old that we can't always get more when we want it, even if we say please. Moderation in all areas in life is a positive thing, and that is a lesson I’m learning myself in my mid-thirties. 

There are several groups I’m learning to engage in less often (this means learning to say no to a commitment or not volunteering simply because no one else will) during this stage of life. They’re each wonderful groups which have a special place in our livelihood, but right now they’re just not at the top of my priority list when it comes to time, energy or attention. It is a tough lesson to learn by someone who has always been involved in so much, but the choice has afforded me more slowed, intentional, quality time with the brown eyed brunette that I live with. Actually, both of them.  

Tomorrow will roll around and we’ll continue to “HONK! HONK!” at truckers in hopes that they respond to the little girl in a big yard on the busy highway. I’ll quit putting in a lot of effort to garner “More!” results from semis, partly to teach Caroline a lesson and partly to keep my back in working order. And, I’ll continue to find ways to show Caroline that saying “I want more” won’t always yield the best results in life. 

Sometimes we have to step back and say, 
“I have enough.”

Parenting is serious business isn’t it? 
Especially when you can’t tell who is teaching whom more. 

Friendly reminder: