Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Travel Journalist

I’ve had many aspirations over the years, and in my mid-twenties I loved the idea of being a travel journalist. At that time the only thing I had to spend money on was a mortgage for a small home in Greens Fork, dog food, gas to the airport and airline tickets. I traveled often during that phase of life, always with a Nikon camera and journal.

In my mid-thirties I travel with a lot of dry Cheerios, plastic grocery bags for any sort of urgent disposal and a smartphone that typically always runs at 23% battery. 

We went to Kansas last weekend, and I often get asked how long it takes us to travel to the family ranch. We’ve made it there in anywhere from 10 to 12 to 24 (the unbelievable Christmas trip of 2016) hours. This trip was fun because we made the voyage for a family wedding in which Caroline was a flower girl.

Facebook Caroline

Real Life Caroline

She cleans up pretty well for a tot who prefers mud over make-up. She did wonderfully in her dress and fancy shoes, but once we got back to the ranch she found mud and actually lost a shoe in the muck. It was good to have her back. 

Traveling with two under three has its own challenges, but nothing that prohibits me from suiting up to go again; we have airline tickets bought for June. This trip I introduced Caroline to the I Spy game and that was a big hit. Except she would tell me the color she wanted to find, already having her item spotted. It somewhat defeats the purpose of the game, but certainly doesn’t ruin the fun. We found the same orange ink pen clipped to Dad’s visor six times in thirty minutes.

Somewhere in Illinois we passed three school buses full of children and would you believe none of them were on electronics? They actually waved to us as we passed by and this was definitely a trip highlight for a toddler. She asked me where they were going and I told her probably a field trip. This started the “Why” game that lasted until St. Louis. I’ve never been so glad to see the arch. 

It was outside Columbia, Missouri that we stopped in the pouring rain for double diaper changes. I’ve mastered the art of in-truck changes for little Cyrus while he’s still small. Caroline is still curious about this process, but this particular change almost knocked both she and I out. So there I was: a belly-laughing, half-naked 9-month old across my lap, a 2 ½-year-old gagging out the window with the rain coming in our truck and a mess up to my elbows…literally. I wrapped it all up and asked Caroline to sit back so I could throw the mess out the window. Cody was still inside the truck stop, and I’d have him throw it in the trash upon his return. I tossed the 45-pound diaper out of the back seat window of our truck, and then looked across to see a man at pump five watching in disbelief. I wanted to explain myself and that I wasn’t littering, I was trying to save my daughter from throwing up on her brother, but I didn’t have the energy to do so. I just rolled up the window and hoped Cody would return before the judgy guy left. 

We stayed in a beautiful hotel in old town Wichita that was previously a cannery in the 1920s. Both kids slept well and filled up on all the junk food and toys that travel with grandparents they see four times a year. The grandparent’s room was like walking into the aftermath had a tornado hit a toy store and candy store in one swipe. There was a lot of candy wrappers and miscellaneous parts to toys we’ll probably never see again. 

I forgot my razor and had to get one at the front desk. Talk about a massacre. Despite my best efforts, I went to the wedding wearing a leopard print dress and my legs looked like I had to kill the actual animal I was wearing. 

The wedding was beautiful, the flower girls were cute as can be and the reception was a ball. We got a family photo that didn’t show my legs, both kids were well behaved and as I write this column, we’re sitting in traffic on the west side of St. Louis. We should hopefully be home by the time the blog goes live on Wednesday.  I consider all of these things signs of another good trip west. 

I don’t travel much with the Nikon anymore because it just won’t fit in the diaper bag. And I never did see my writing in the magazines they stuff in the airplane seat backs, but sometimes I get into the local Nettle Creek Gazette, so that is something. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Find Your Canna Lily

Caroline and I had a girls’ day on Saturday. We traded in our farm clothes for dressier attire and spent the day at the Indiana Angus Auxiliary annual meeting. It was a such a special day, just she and I, and other gals who are passionate about the Angus breed. The roll call question was simple: What is your favorite thing about spring?

Bright colors, fresh flowers, sweatshirts rather and bulky coats, new baby calves running around…these were all answers ladies and girls responded with. My answer: getting the kids outside without a 45-minute bundling process and also airing out the house. 

Spring is such a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, and new life. It’s no wonder so many call it their favorite season. Spring also offers boundless opportunities to learn from even the smallest teachers. 

A friend of mine gave me a box of canna lily bulbs a few weeks ago. On a warm day recently Caroline (the talker), Cyrus (the observer) and I (the worker) dug up an area around our beloved supper bell to finally plant the bulbs. I used a shovel and Caroline used her bare hands to dig the space. Would you care to guess which method was most productive? Nonetheless, we got all the bulbs in the ground and Caroline was ready for her first bath of the day by 9:30 AM. 

Since that day, we’ve worn a path to the dinner bell. Not to ring it, but rather to check on the flowers. Every day, we walk out and inspect the soil. It is still dark as night; no green to be seen. If you think a watched pot never boils, let me tell you about flower bulbs that never break through the soil and a curious 2 ½-year-old. Caroline insists they’re hungry or thirsty, so we fertilized with cow manure and I’ve convinced her we’ve gotten enough rain that I don’t need to carry a watering can to the bell. 

Still, we wait. 

It’s been a teaching process, for both of us. I’d like to think the whole process is teaching her patience as we wait, responsibility as she cares for something she started and persistence as we continue to monitor the progress with no signs of change. 

But it is teaching me a whole lot more. 

From Caroline and the canna lilies, I’m learning about being intentional with time and care. 

Her daily to-do list isn’t long. In fact, in a day she is only expected to brush her teeth, clean her plate and check on her little brother 659 times. But now that she planted something in the warm soil, she is quite committed to its care. And she makes a point to go out of her way to check on their progress, without fail. She has added this chore to her to-do list and has marked it off daily.

These are not our canna lilies, 
but I do hope they turn out this beautiful. 
Considering we planted ten bulbs, 
my expectations may be a bit out of whack. 
Story of my life. 

What if I, too, was that intentional with my time and care of something? What if I carved out mere minutes from every single day to check on a friend, send someone a kind note or offer encouragement? What if I cared enough about something's – or someone’s – success that I made it a priority in my daily routine? 

Sadly, I find my housekeeping falls to the wayside often because I don’t make it a priority. I sweep the kitchen floor daily but don’t ask the last time I dusted the mantle. 

I can get lost in marking off the next event, meeting or to-do in my work with Sankey Creative that I often lose sight of my objectives for the business I began. 

Finally, Cody and I pray together daily, but I don’t know the last time I asked my husband if there is something he’d like for me to pray about on his behalf. How sad that I don’t even know what that might be? 

What could be your canna lily? The one thing that you care so much about, that one thing that you want to see succeed, that you’re willing to check on it daily?

Growing your faith? Sustaining a marriage? Creating a space you enjoy coming home to? Your career aspirations? Your five-year plan? Your land? Your garden? Your store? What about your spirit?

I encourage you to find your canna lily. Plant it. Nurture it. Wait. Then watch it grow in great love and care. 

Sometimes children slow us down, make us late or complicate a simple task. 

But more often, children show us a better way to live.