Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I miss Elder-Beerman, as I knew I would. My bank account, however, is much better because of the closure. 

One thing I always bought there were jeans. Elder-Beerman didn’t put Calvin Klein jeans on sale often, but when they did, I usually bought a few pair. There was something special – magical, even – about the Calvin Klein jeans sold at Elder-Beerman. Though I was nowhere near the size in real life, I could somehow always fit into size 6 Calvin Klein jeans from the downtown department store. I know well that there was something mismarked about this dreamy denim, but it was the only place in town where size 6 actually suited me. 

This is also likely why they were the ones on super sale: they were flawed.  

Last week I had to work with a tent rental company to set up for an approaching field day. I had both children with me, and together we walked the field test plot with map in hand and marked the areas where certain size tents should go, what grass walkways should be left free, and how many tables and chairs to set up at each location. I thought this would be a fun day for the kids to join me, out in the middle of a corn/soybean maze on a beautiful July day. They were certain to burn some energy. 

I waved the three large trucks into the test plot field and parked them. Three men unloaded out of each one. I imagine the rental company has a high turnover rate, as I never work with the same group annually. The men that unloaded from the trucks were as different as they come: one was clean-cut, shirt tucked in and a belt, while the vast majority of the others looked as though they just rolled out of bed. Dreadlocks, tattoos, ripped jean shorts, cut off shirts, piercings, this small group had it all. Because I’ve been in this situation before (standing in the middle of a field, with no one around but truckloads of strange men I’ve never seen before), I thought nothing of it. 

But then there was Caroline.

“Mommy. What wrong wit dat guy?” she asked me in her outside voice while she pointed very directly. I wanted to cover her mouth and stick her back in the car, but instead, I squatted down beside her, getting on her level. Quietly, but firmly I responded, “Honey these are mommy’s friends. They are here to help me set up all these tents and all these tables and all these chairs. There is nothing wrong with him. He just doesn’t look like you.” 

She studied the group intensely as they began unloading supplies. I’m certain she was thinking, “Mommy sure has some shady friends,” but she never said another word about it. 

That afternoon lasted longer than it should have. My map was off by about ten feet so we had to change tent size for one location. They brought the wrong tent for one stop, so their manager had to drive another down from an hour away. But the team I worked with was very kind. They were precise and calculated, measuring everything twice before setting a single stake. They were efficient, like worker bees zipping around and wasting no time to raise the big white tops. They were respectful to myself and my kids as we walked every bit of that field with them as I described my needs for the event. 

I drove home that evening thinking about Caroline’s comment and her concern. The man didn’t look like anyone she’d been around before, with gauged ears, dirty clothes, few teeth and covered in tattoos. His lifestyle was obviously different from ours. However, his specific and special talents lie in working quickly and doing all the heavy lifting to help other people. That is not something I do on a daily basis. This man does. 

Then Sunday rolled around and things seemed much clearer. 

Sunday’s sermon was about how God has irregulars that play a special part in meaningful moments. In fact, God often chooses insignificant people to teach us some tremendous lessons. 

A quote from the sermon, by David Jackman, 
“The apparent unsuitability of the great men of God in Scripture is a recurrent theme which finds its peak in the selection of the twelve by Jesus...They had none of the pedigree or accomplishments which today would be considered absolute necessities.”

I believe that the blonde man that helped us set up for our event last Monday was one of those irregulars. He didn’t say much, he simply took instruction and got to work. I don’t know how long he’d been setting tents, what the row of bullets tattooed on his calf means about his life experiences or if he has any little ones at home, keeping him on his toes. 

I do know that he served as a wonderful vessel to have a brief, but meaningful conversation with our 3-year-old about not judging others who look different than us. 

Especially if they have a bleeding skull and inmate number tattooed on their forearm and they're holding a 12-inch steel stake. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Make Time for a Visit

Last week I told you about the farm auction we attended and the perspective it brought to my life. But I wanted to share something more. 

My Grandma Jean spent some time at The Springs, an extended care facility in Richmond, over the winter and early spring. We made regular visits when Grandma was moved to The Springs, usually on Mondays and Fridays, after breakfast but before lunch. When you have a toddler and a baby, you avoid any opportunity to eat a meal in public; I planned our trips to see grandma so that we avoided the community dining room.

And we always packed horses. 

We were in one day and my mother stopped by to check on Grandma Jean. 

“Did you know Dick Kinsinger is here?”

“No kidding? Who is he visiting?” I asked. The last time I saw Dick he was mowing yard. 

“No, he’s a patient.”

“Oh no, I hate to hear that.” Though The Springs is a nice facility, you always want your kind of people to be back where they belong – on the farm. 

“You should go see him. Go down the hall, take a left. You’ll see his name on the room,” Mom said. 

I looked at her like a dog looking at a high-pitched sound: head cocked to one side and slightly confused. I have yet to meet a person who enjoys going to hospitals, nursing homes or care facilities, myself included. You are only there because to have to be; someone you love or care about is within the walls. No one comes to The Springs to pass the time. So when Mom suggested I go visit Dick, I made every excuse in the world. 

He probably doesn’t want visitors. 
He wouldn’t know who I am. 
I have the kids, and they are chaos. 
I hate to leave grandma, she looks so lonely (yeah right – I think she was ready for a nap after the Sankey kids).

My mother gave me a look that I haven’t seen in a while. She expected more. She even offered to keep baby Cyrus. 

Moments later, I grabbed Caroline’s tiny paw, told her we’re going somewhere where she needs to sit and be quiet, and together we marched to Dick Kinsinger’s room. 

Dick was in a big comfy chair, looking out the window. His daughter, Carol, was in another chair visiting with him. She was happy to see us and as I predicted, Dick wasn’t quite sure who I was. In his defense, he often saw me in cut-off shorts, gum boots, a tank top, absolutely losing my temper and herding Shorthorn heifers off a road of which we’d not yet replaced the fence. Looking back, we were probably his entertainment for 25 years, as he saw our family begin a herd of Shorthorn cattle with bad fences early in the game.  

Dick Kinsinger and county fair beef show judge Tom Younts reminisce about a 1960's county fair, where Dick awarded Tom the Grand Champion Steer title.

Once he realized I was the neighbor kid, he seemed almost proud to see that I had a little girl with me, a job in agriculture and that I would stop by to see him. He told me he was ready to get back home to sit in his lift chair and watch Purdue basketball. I told him I couldn’t blame him one bit. Dick had aged greatly since I last visited with him. His eyes longed for home. I am a firm believer that when you take the farmer (or farm wife) off the farm, they age at least a decade. There is something therapeutic for those raised on the land to remain there.

But Caroline was restless, unsure about who we were with and why she didn’t recognize him. She adores Great-Grandma Jean; she was ready to get back to her room. Our stay with Mr. Kinsinger only lasted seven minutes.

That day was February 7, 2019. Mom called me on February 13 letting me know that Dick was gone. 

If Dick Kinsinger taught me anything in the 34 years that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him, it wasn’t anything about raising beautiful Angus cattle, or kids (and grandkids) with strong work ethic, or even caring for your homestead so much that the neighbors feel compelled to keep up.

When I remember Dick Kinsinger, I’ll remember the power in making time for a visit.

I don’t know a single person who looks forward to hospital, nursing home or care facility visits. There is something so terminal about leaving such a place. You often wonder if this was this our first goodbye or our last?

Life offers us so many situations where we will feel comfortable. Pleasure, happiness, laughter, comfort and safety. Don’t we love them, all? But I believe it is in the moments when we are not in our comfortable lift chairs that we learn the most. 

Dick taught me that, when I feel uncomfortable in a situation, I should remember that it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my comfort, schedule, awkwardness, convenience or need. It is about the person who won’t sleep in their own bed tonight. Dick taught me that bedside visits are the best opportunities to pay respect. My goodness, how those away from home long for it. Sure, I went to his visitation, but our final visit at The Springs was one where I could show him that I turned out ok, despite my 13-year-old temper.  

Go to the nursing home. The bedside. The facility. 
Go to the home. The farm. The hospital. The apartment. 
Give 30 minutes of your life to make 36 hours of theirs.
Cry in your truck before and after if you have to. That’s why God made truck consoles and McDonald’s napkins. 

Bedsides and funeral homes are places of which I’ll never regret visiting. 

They say when an old man dies, it is as if a library burns down. I know that another fell to ash when Dick Kinsinger left us in February. Thank goodness he was one heck of a teacher while he was here.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Farm Auction

On Saturday the kids and I went to a farm auction. It was just south of where I laid my head for 18 years, at a farm that I closely associate with my childhood, as I spent many days there playing with the granddaughter of the occupants. 

I paused while pushing the double stroller up the winding driveway, and stood in awe of the home itself. The place was a mansion when I was eight years old, and in my mid-thirties it was still as big and beautiful. I wondered if the main stairwell banister was still sturdy as a rock and polished perfectly. I wondered if the light switches upstairs were still the push-button kind. It was my dream home growing up, and that has never changed. 

I reached the auction site and navigated through the barn lot, looking at the many (I mean, tons) of things laid out for the public to view then eventually bid on. Vases, sewing machines, Pyrex bowls, quilts, washing machines, wagons, cars, lamps, cowboy boots and hats, framed art, mixed tapes, tools…the variety of things for sale on Saturday was endless. I was drawn to the Angus memorabilia. 

Dick and Ruthanna Kinsinger were avid Angus breeders and Dick’s love for the breed dated back to 1941 when he bought his first heifer. Ruthanna, if you can believe it, was a Shorthorn gal from Union County. At the auction was a table of trophies, plaques and ribbons, all relics of the success the Kinsinger family had in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. A sadness came over me to see them all for sale. I can only imagine the years of blood, sweat and tears that went into winning those grand prizes. I stood in front of the table considered the pride behind each one and the animals that rested in the barn along Washington Road. And on this day, generations later, the awards would go home with the highest bidder. It was at that moment that I became certain that I don’t have the emotional stability to attend farm auctions.

Farm auctions are interesting things. A person passes away all of their things are moved to the yard and then sorted through by strangers and sent to new homes. Things that once filled a single-family home are dispersed throughout the land, to unrecognizable people and places. I truly understand that the family can't keep everything; and I think that is what makes it so tough. What do you choose to pass on to someone else? There were a few times that during the auction I stood by members of the Kinsinger family. I heard phrases such as, “We played with that when I was a child” or “Do you remember that from Christmas?”

Those are emotional triggers for a walking time capsule such as myself. I heard the detail about Christmas and I almost bought everything on the table simply because I think I would have really loved Christmas in 1965. I saw a lift chair for sale and considered buying it, not because I needed it or had space for it, but because I knew that is where Dick loved to watch Purdue basketball…I went to Purdue for four years…and went to one basketball game during that time…I would only be pure destiny that I buy the lift chair. 

I have got to quit going to farm auctions. 

Old cattle clippers, show boxes, show halters, boots. There were so many things at the farm auction that I would love to own, simply because I admire so the much people that once wore, used or held them. But I kept my checkbook close and memories of Dick and Ruthanna closer. I’m so fortunate to have grown up with such neighbors. Let me put it this way: In the 1980’s they gave out Halloween treat bags with our names on them. Before Pinterest. That’s all I need to say. 

I left the farm auction with an antique metal Tonka Truck livestock hauler that I’ll clean up and give to Cyrus on his first birthday next month. I am also now the proud owner of a hand-tooled wallet with an Angus bull painted on it. I’m thankful to have a bit of the Kinsinger family in our home. I also left with two exhausted, hungry, sweaty kids. Which is very normal anytime past 10:00 AM, daily.

I didn’t buy a single Angus trophy, ribbon or plaque, and I’m kicking myself now. Cody asked me where we would have put them, and I didn’t have an answer. It would have been odd to display the prizes from someone else’s work. We aren’t the kind of people who believe in participation trophies. But dang, I love a blue ribbon (say’s the gal who never got many growing up). 

Dick and Ruthanna Kinsinger were incredible neighbors during my formative years. Ruthanna could cook and sew far beyond anyone I knew, and Dick mowed the yard and barn lot three times a week, which kept my competitive mother busy. 

And in the last six months, 
Dick taught me a lesson far beyond farm auctions. 
But that is a story for another week.    

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Camel Ride at the County Fair

It's been a while since I've sat down to write. But I'm back in the saddle, now...

I took our two small children to the Wayne County Fair last week. The county fair always feels like going home. Except we don’t keep our fat rabbits in cages; ours apparently like to set up camp in the garden. 

When I was in 4-H, a week at the fair was spent exhibiting our livestock and drinking approximately ten Mt. Dews a day from a cooler which we packed from home. We only knew there was a carnival side to the event because we could see the bright lights as we left every night; I always thought the place was on fire. But nope, we’d return at 5:30 the next morning to find everything intact. Very confusing for a 10-year-old. We always stayed in the cattle barn and tended to our stock. 

With this in mind, it becomes fuzzy about how I got to this stage of parenting. 

We arrived at the fair Monday evening to watch the hog show and the first thing I fed my children was chocolate ice cream from the Dairy Bar. That was never my intention as I walked into the situation, but I saw someone I knew, we began visiting, and the next thing you know I’m at the window and Caroline requests a chocolate cone. At this point, I’ve lost all sense of my surroundings and I hand over a sweaty dollar bill. 

Seven minutes later, Caroline is handing me a soggy cone, Cyrus is crying because he is eating a veggie straw, realizing he is the obvious second child and I’m trying to get chocolate ice cream that I didn’t even consume out of my white t-shirt. 

That’s right. 

I wore a white t-shirt to the county fair, which is a sure sign that I’ve lost all ability to think critically in the last three years. Everyone knows that the only justifiable reason to wear white to the county fair is if you have a Holstein heifer at the end of a halter. 

Moments later, Caroline spotted the camel in a small pen over near the antique tractors. We were there to watch the hogs; camels weren’t even on my radar. But there we went, over to the camel pen. Moments later I found myself on the said camel, with Caroline sitting in front of me, waving like she was a queen riding through the desert. I must say, she is a real natural at camel riding. Let us hope this is not indicative of a future with the circus.

I’ve played many roles throughout the years at the county fair, including first-year exhibitor who cried in the show ring, fair queen, post-4-H-age-show-ring-poop-scooper and Wayne County Cattleman’s ribeye booth order taker. I had no idea I’d eventually become a camel riding mother who broke her last five-dollar bill to saddle up on a single hump. 

From somewhere in the distance Tim McGraw’s song, “Something Like That” began playing. This song is about a guy who goes to the county fair, falls in love and eventually gets a barbeque stain on his white t-shirt. Bump…Bump…Bump…Bump. While still riding the camel and wondering if my hips were now disjointed, I thought back to when that song came out on KICKS 96. I was a freshman in high school and didn’t have a care in the world. I sure didn’t know then that I’d hear it again twenty years later ironically at the county fair, wearing a white t-shirt with chocolate ice cream down the front. Motherhood is so humbling. 

We dismounted the camel and Caroline was quite happy, so that made the shaggy, shedding camel hair stuck to the inside of my legs almost worth it. She asked for another ice cream cone, but I told her I wasn’t falling for that trick again. She wasn’t having anymore ice cream until she got something healthy in her belly, like a Sugar Grove Church lemonade shake-up. She obliged. 

By the end of fair week, we’d had our share of ice cream, lemonade shake-ups, walking tacos, tenderloins, ribeyes, french fries, camels, and even Ferris wheels. In (another) moment of weakness I said yes to a single ride on the Ferris wheel, despite being absolutely terrified of heights. Caroline was only tall enough to board the ride because of the extra three inches her giant hair bow added. Safety first!

I think we spent more money on fun displays as a visiting family this year than we ever did growing up as 4-H exhibitors. I look forward to the days when we have livestock at the county fair and I can instruct my children to not leave the show box unless they need to go the restroom, and if they’re hungry or thirsty they can eat what I packed in the cooler. 

Ahhh, the good old days in the 1990’s when the county fair didn’t rob me of all my cash or leave camel hair in my dryer vent.