Where popcorn leads me…

Today was a rough day. It began pretty decent, work was a little stressful, some funny stuff regarding pork roasts on a sidewalk happened in between, then it was home for supper, a couple-mile run, canning salsa and getting my discussion ready for tomorrow night’s first “Led by the Spirit” meeting at our church…also led by me, funnily enough.

I decided to get going on George’s Cub Scout popcorn sales, because the deadline for signing up for the website is tomorrow. (Yeah, I plan ahead like that.)

I was perusing the site when I stumbled across a few cool things – like Cub Scouts that sell enough popcorn can earn a scholarship! And that popcorn sales online get shipped directly to the customer. And a large chunk of the money from the sales go to local programming. All very cool.

And then it hit me – scholarship. College. Life.

George, summer 2010...we've come a long way, baby!

George, summer 2010…we’ve come a long way, baby!

I’ve been so busy worrying about today, that I’ve somehow forgotten that I need to plan for George’s tomorrow. And then other thoughts started invading my head. Like do we give back the money if George doesn’t make it? Does it qualify for any further education? Even if it’s special needs? How do you even deal with that?

The point being that I used to get involved in these types of things and not even think twice about the meaning behind them. I would plan every day as if they were the same. Yet, nothing is further from the truth.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

George is here. He’s making a splash in first grade and we’ll have check-ups at Mayo in November. And I’m going to let him grow up, and make plans – and sell Cub Scout popcorn. And we’ll aim for the scholarship. And wait for the future. And plan. Including a plan for Christmas that will knock his socks off! (Can’t wait to share, but it’s a surprise!)

So I ended the night with a few tears – because my baby is growing up, even when they told me he probably wouldn’t.

What will his Eagle Scout project be? How about living?

If you’d like some Cub Scout popcorn, here’s George’s link – don’t worry if it says “Eli”…that’s his real name. George is just my nickname for him on here, and his dad’s nickname for him all the time. And if you do order, I’ll have George send you a real life thank-you. 

Dust yourself off…

I’ve been MIA, but the last few weeks have been like watching a video on fastforward while taking speed. Not that I really have a lot of experience with that, but I think I have a good idea as to what it may be like.

I’ve put an insane number of hours into my weeks, and have literally felt myself at the end of my rope several times – so I guess it’s time for a revamp.

It’s crazy to think about how life can work out. I think my biggest struggle lately has been coming to terms with who I am, and realizing when what I’m doing is just not enough – and maybe it never will be. I remember the first few times I thought I was in love, yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t make them love me back. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it wasn’t anything I could do, you can’t force someone to love you any more than you can force someone to communicate with you.

As I get older, the same lessons occur, just in different themes. But maybe I’m finally making headway.

I can’t make people understand where I come from, but I can still do my best to communicate what I can, and take it from there. I just need a little brush up on that communication part. A work in progress, I guess.

But aren’t we all?

Tomorrow on the blog I have a few cool projects to share – they made our fall spectacular!

And a few cool stories, because that’s what this is all about.

Catch ya on the flip side.

When the picture starts to sharpen…

I would apologize for my lack of writing, but I’ll just chalk it up to life occurring – which is kind of a funny way to put it, with where my thoughts are right now.

Sometimes we think we have life figured out, and we’re going along at a pretty good clip, and then the rug gets pulled out from under us and we realize that everything that we were pretty sure wouldn’t matter…well, we find out deep inside that it does.

Sometimes it’s not that we’re looking for answers or some magic spell to make it all better. We’re just looking for reassurance that our efforts aren’t in vain. That there’s a reason for the madness and that one day it’ll all make sense.

Yeah, I’m being a bit vague and general. Because it’s very hard for me to be open – well, to most people.

It’s been a crazy summer already, and the Fourth is upon us. I haven’t been fishing with my boys, we have projects that haven’t been completed, we haven’t been to the camper yet, we’ve not roasted marshmallows – the list goes on and on. But as of right now, it doesn’t matter.

This week I have walked pigs with them, watched them play baseball, listened to them argue, and have taken what I can only imagine will be amazing photos. And I cannot wait for the morning, so we can do it all again.

Yes, sometimes the reminders that we’re getting wrapped up in the wrong details come pounding on your door, and other times they are as light a feeling a butterfly land on your cheek.

And as I rest my head tonight, I will remember those that don’t have that chance to share their thoughts with the ones they love, with the world, with their friends and family – and I will enjoy more, and take for granted less.

And I will write.

My beef: It’s worth a buck

Lately the beef checkoff has become a topic of heated debate. And I have to admit, I find the arguments surrounding it telling of our current society.

It seems to me that there is a loud group of a few people proclaiming that they want results, they want it free, they want someone else to do it…but not on their dime.

Sounds all too familiar.

Let me first of all explain a little bit about the checkoff. When we take our cattle to market, for every head of cattle we sell, the checkoff collects $1. Yes – $1 per cow, calf, bull, etc. that we sell. That dollar goes to the North Dakota Beef Commission, which half goes to a national organization, and half stays in state, where the commission determines where that dollar is best spent, including research, advertising, consumer surveys – just to name a few things that come to mind. (Imagine Sam Elliot reading that last bit…it’s more meaningful that way.)

It's time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

It’s time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

Recently, in the state of North Dakota, it was debated in the legislature whether or not that $1 per head should be raised – to a staggering $2 per head. The extra $1 per head is also refundable, if the rancher decides that he/she doesn’t want to participate.

The beef checkoff has been behind the scenes for some pretty remarkable advertising campaigns that has definitely hit home with those in the grocery store. (I seriously sometimes pretend that Sam Elliot is reading to me when I’m reading in bed.) As well as assisting in funding research that has added new cuts of meat for those looking for a great way to put beef on the table, while saving a few dollars in the marketplace.

It's easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there's someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

It’s easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there’s someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

An increase of $1 for advertising, research and education throughout a 30-year time frame? I wish more areas of my life grew at that rate.

Instead of muddying the waters and creating a bigger black-eye for a product trying to create positive energy and excitement around what we can offer the average grocery-buyer, why don’t those that don’t believe in the power of the $1 ask for their refund and stand back and let the rest of us get to work. If the ranchers of North Dakota truly don’t believe in the work that’s accomplished through the checkoff, then they will all request their extra $1 back per head and the fund will have no extra money. Simple enough.

But remember, those funds go to activities and opportunities that the average person doesn’t have at their disposal. Scientific research, research at the market, advertising campaigns – activities at the state and local level that are beyond a single rancher’s pocketbook. Which is why pooling money across the board is the easiest way to accomplish big things.

The world is made up of talkers and doers. Unfortunately, those working on accomplishing true gains are usually too busy to worry about defending their work.

As someone actively involved in promoting agriculture and championing a way of life that I love, I understand the amount of time and funds it can take to create, hone and share a successful message. If we want to be successful, we need to work together – not tear each other apart.

And that’s worth a buck in my book.

Disclaimer: My spouse currently serves on the North Dakota Beef Commission. But the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Trust me, we don’t always agree. And I’m more than willing to tell him what I think…just ask him. :) 

When a calf is born in cold weather

After I came home from church today, Boss Man called and told me he had to be out of the yard for awhile. In Boss Man terms, that can mean anything from 30 minutes until sometime later in the week. What he was getting at was that I was going to be responsible for keeping an eye on our herd, which happens to be smack dab in the middle of having calves.

No biggie. I’ve watched the cows before. I can handle it. And then he gave me a little reminder, “Keep an eye on 176. She’s off by herself to the east.” In cattleman terms, a heifer off on her own is a sign that she’s probably getting ready to have her first calf.

So I watched our cow cameras diligently. And after an hour or two, decided I should walk down and check things out in person. (You see, much like most of technology, the cameras only work in the right circumstances…cows facing the right direction, right lighting, right angle, etc.)

I put my wraps on (long underwear, jeans, heavy socks, t-shirt, sweatshirt, coveralls, jacket, scarf, hat, gloves, Bogs), grabbed my phone and headed out. And quickly realized my mistake.

The cow I thought I was watching wasn’t the cow that needed watching. The cow on the west end of the straw, in the midst of all the other cows, was actually the one calving. And by calving, I mean the birth was imminent and I had no time to get her to the barn.

So I stood and watched the miracle of birth, and called Boss Man to let him know that I hadn’t exactly succeeded in my duties. (Ideally, all calves would be born in the warmth of the barn, not out in the cold…but you must make due with the cards you’re dealt. I can’t turn back time – yet.)

This heifer (which means this was her first calf) ended up having her calf outside. Not ideal with the temps below freezing.

This heifer (which means this was her first calf) ended up having her calf outside. Not ideal with the temps below freezing.

This meant I needed to get the new calf to the barn – and the quicker the better.

The trick is that sometimes cows don’t want you to take their calves to the barn. And since this was her first calf, I wasn’t sure how she was going to take the news I was about to break to her.

She's a good mama, which means that she's protective of her calf. Not always an easy task to get them to the barn.

She’s a good mama, which means that she’s protective of her calf. Not always an easy task to get them to the barn.

To begin with, she wasn’t too sure what this thing was on the ground next to her. But she figured it out pretty quickly. And then she was pretty certain that I wasn’t supposed to be there. And she let me know. (A cow can easily injure, or even kill, someone not paying attention and respecting the power of the animal.)

But when it’s only a few degrees outside, you don’t have luxury of time before the calf is at risk for frozen ears or worse.

So we compromised.

I finally got the calf in the sled. (Thank goodness I’ve dropped a few pounds.) And to the barn. Usually the cow would follow, but this new mama was a bit confused about all the action. So I brought her down once the calf was given a ride to the barn.

Thank goodness this little one cooperated...mostly. Imagine dragging a 100-pound child in a sled while they're trying to stand up. It's a workout, to say the least.

Thank goodness this little one cooperated…mostly. Imagine dragging a 100-pound child in a sled while they’re trying to stand up. It’s a workout, to say the least.

My next job was to bring the heifer down to the barn. Thankfully, she was pretty easy to bring in.

My next job was to bring the heifer down to the barn. Thankfully, she was pretty easy to bring in.

And the reunion was a sweet one.

Success. Both in the barn, no injuries, no cold calf, and everyone happy.

Success. Both in the barn, no injuries, no cold calf, and everyone happy.

Last week I was in DC in a suit, I’ll be dressed up tomorrow for work – but today was one of my favorite outfits of all.

Purple coveralls and blue polka-dot Bogs. I don't have to worry about one of my boys stealing my cold-weather gear.

Purple coveralls and blue polka-dot Bogs. I don’t have to worry about one of my boys stealing my cold-weather gear.

Are laws good or bad?

Yesterday I received a letter in the mail that I’ve been dreading for years. I was notified that our insurance will be discontinued on June 30. But I’m not supposed to worry, because they have a plan that’s “comparable,” that can start July 1.

Our insurance is being discontinued, like so many others...but don't simply blame a law and call it quits. Work for solutions. It's why we live where we live.

Our insurance is being discontinued, like so many others…but don’t simply blame a law and call it quits. Work for solutions. It’s why we live where we live.

Except I don’t trust that it is.

It’s not that I’m always this distrustful. But George doesn’t rely on me taking someone else’s word for it. We live in North Dakota. His pediatrician is in South Dakota. His specialists are in Minnesota. Right now, I don’t have to worry about things like “networks” and “preferred providers” and whatever other words they throw in the way of the search for medicine.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than "failure to thrive." This is the picture that I look at when I wonder if I'm pushing too hard...and then I push harder.

George, summer 2010, (about 16-months old, wearing 6-9 month clothing) before we had a diagnosis more than “failure to thrive.” This is the picture that I look at when I wonder if I’m pushing too hard…and then I push harder.

But I digress.

So, I posted last night that I received the dreaded letter, and the response was pretty much what I figured it would be – people blamed the law.

Is it the law’s fault? Did the law write itself? Did it pass on its own? Has it not had a chance to be corrected? The flaws less flawed? The problems less problematic? The promises more promissory?

And yet, we’re so quick to blame the legislation. Blame the party. Blame whatever inanimate object, thing or idea that cannot possibly take the blame. So where does the blame lie? (Here’s where I probably lose a little popularity…) It lies with legislators, lawmakers, elected officials…and us.

That’s right. I take partial responsibility. Do you? I voted. And have, in every election since I turned 18. Which means I’m partially to blame. Not because I didn’t vote “right,” but because I haven’t done enough to make sure that my lawmakers understand who I am, where I’m coming from and what it is that I need from the laws they are passing.

I cannot blame the law, when I haven’t done as much as I could do to ensure that the changes I need are being made. And that doesn’t begin and end with complaining – it includes constructive criticism, yes, but also solutions – real ones.

Let me be clear, I know of several families (real ones), that have been helped by the Affordable Care Act. I do not deny that we truly need access for all to health care, and health insurance, as well.

I guess it’s time I get to working on my suggestions for solutions, because I definitely have a problem.

What keeps me away?

Yikes…a little more than two months. I’ve missed you all. Really and truly. And I know you have a ton of questions, so ask away, and I promise I’ll answer them…all of them.

But before you start rambling them off, let me give you a quick run down of what’s been going on, so you can get a brief picture of what’s been happening, and what’s been keeping me busy…here’s my top 10 list:

  1. I finished my paralegal education. Finished. Done. Complete. That’s right, 18 months of education, finished with honors. My advice? Do it when younger. Yes, I was more focused, but my energy levels were lacking. And staying up until 3 finishing projects is not for someone on this side of 35.
  2. I was bit by a spider…or some sort of bug…at the end of November, which led to an infection and a whole mess of doctor’s appointments. And medicines. And not feeling so hot. Yep, I was a hot mess.
    The "tattooed" marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The “tattooed” marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The doc sliced an "X" in the wound to get it to drain...and although I have a scar still, I'm grateful for how well it healed now.

    The doc sliced an “X” in the wound to get it to drain…and although I have a scar still, I’m grateful for how well it healed now.

  3. My oldest son tackled his first set of semester tests as a seventh-grade student. And neither one of us required therapy. I’m making no comments about the number of glasses of wine I may have consumed.
  4. We all own a calendar and realize there were approximately three holidays in there, right?
  5. Since I was already seeing the doctor so often, I decided to do something drastic about this extra weight I’ve been carrying. It’s a work in progress, but it’s been a pretty successful one so far. I consider that a win. (And see #4 for the difficulty factor in this.)
  6. Science fair finished last night. I don’t think I need to explain any more.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy "milk" on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy “milk” on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

  7. We lost a very close neighbor and had a close friend have two children involved in a tragic bus/train accident. One child did not survive. It’s hard enough understanding these events as an adult – trying to work through them with a pre-teen takes skills that I did not possess as a mother. But I have some amazing friends that can pull some amazing resources from out of thin air. And provide support for me as well. I owe them more than I could ever repay.
  8. Meetings. Winter is meeting season. And it’s not slowing down through February. But I’m going to do a better job of writing and scheduling.
  9. I took a time-out to spend some needed time with my kiddos. We spent Christmas break doing a whole lot of nothing – and it was the best schedule ever.
  10. Leaning in. I’ve been working on leaning in. Leaning in to my church. Leaning in to my boys’ schedules. Leaning in to my health. Leaning in to my hobbies. Everything has its season and time. And the last few weeks have been my time to reconnect – to real life.

But I must admit, I miss blogging. And I have no intentions of staying away. It’s a great tool, and one that I use as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

So here’s to a great 2015. One more engaged.