The new me

In the last year or so, I’ve tried to make some changes in my life. I’ve been working on a healthier, better-feeling me. I’ve been working on feeling more in control of my life. I’ve been working on finishing projects that I started long ago.

Here’s exhibit A, the photo I used for my article in local papers:

This is me...two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

This is me…two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

Well, just this week I posted a new profile pic, as well as submitted it for publication:

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

The response was a little daunting, and a lot unnerving. But it made me realize one important fact: how I feel about myself clearly reflects in how I carry myself. (Yeah, I know, not rocket science.)

And so earlier this week I started on another challenge (this all started with a challenge a year ago). I’m working on a healthier me by Mother’s Day. Seems appropriate, since most of what I do is pretty well driven by how my choices will affect those four amazing men in my life.

But here’s a few things I’ve quickly picked up on in the few short days I’ve kicked my exercise into gear again:

  1. I’m not sure who invented jump squats and burpees, but I’m pretty certain that they would have failed psychological evaluation.
  2. Never do an intense leg workout prior to checking cows. And if you do, make sure you have a back up plan to get back to the house. Like a motorized scooter, or someone willing to carry you. I’m not saying I had to resort to crawling, but let’s just say that if I did, it was only because the other option was sleeping in the barn.
  3. Doing above leg workout and then sitting at a desk the next day for several hours is not such a great idea. It’s a good thing I was alone in the office today. I may or may not have used my rolling office chair to get from area to area.
  4. You know it was a good workout when you drop a sugar snap pea on the floor and decide to leave it. And hey, if it sprouts, that’s just more veggies for me later. Right?
  5. Tonight was arms and abs. By Friday I will be comatose and unable to move on my own accord.
  6. Why do these videos have to show a 5’9″ 130-pound fitness expert who tells you how much they’re “feeling the burn?” All while looking cute and put together. Why can’t it be someone who looks like me, who tells you the truth? Like, “I know you think you might die, and I can’t promise that you won’t, but you just burned off two slices of bacon.”
  7. The pain is worth the gain…I know that. In my head, it all makes sense. I just have to convince my body to follow through. And not fall apart. 🙂
  8. You know it was a good workout when using the bathroom requires a walker, the use of safety bars and a call-button, in case you’re incapable of getting back up. Seriously. I considered getting a catheter. (Just kidding. Just kidding. Kinda.)
  9. The best part of all? I’m not on any diet. Just being sensible, letting my body dictate what I need and paying attention to needs/wants. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?
  10. SOFTBALL! The 2014 season should start in about two months. My goal is to be able to get one over the fence this year. I’ve been close. Let’s see if I can do it!

    I've been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That's a long time. But no plans to quit...until I can't.

    I’ve been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That’s a long time. But no plans to quit…until I can’t.

Don’t worry, it really hasn’t been THAT bad. Although, I really am really sore. It’ll get better, I know it. And it’ll be worth it, I know it.

And when it’s all said and done, I’ll post another picture. 🙂


Why I put myself out there…

It was brought to my attention recently that perhaps I don’t spend nearly enough time explaining to people why it is that I’m involved so passionately about advocating for agriculture. It does seem to take a lot of time away from other things that I should be doing.

Yet, without someone willing to stand up and speak out about those issues that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, where would we be? Could someone else do it? Sure. In fact, I know that there are people all over the area that could be doing what I’m doing. And I would love to see them become more active.

My question is: Will they? Will you?

And if not, then I need to keep moving forward, until those of us that are willing to show our operations, willing to answer those questions, willing to explain why we do what we do are much higher in numbers and much louder in volume.

It’s a simple case of mathematics. Those actively involved in agriculture are way lower in numbers than those that are not. Which means that laws that are passed, advertising that is created and articles that are written are disconnected from the one place that everyone should be connected to…our food.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to “open your barn doors,” so to speak. It’s not easy to let people in and open yourself to questions and observations. Yet it’s necessary. We are no longer in a society that is alright with the answer, “I know what I am doing.” They want to see, they want to understand, they want to know that what they are putting on the table is okay.

Let's celebrate food...and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

Let’s celebrate food…and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.


And it is. No matter how you raise your crops, what type of operation you have. The United States has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. Yet those that are responsible for providing that staple are the ones quietest about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

We can’t sit back and watch as the world is shaped around us. We have to be actively involved. And it’s not for our benefit.

I have four young boys. And I have hopes and dreams that perhaps one day, if I am lucky, and if our world is lucky, one of them will want to be involved in agriculture. It’s up to me to make sure that their future is secure.

And I cannot do that by sitting quietly by while other people are out there trying to explain how I’m not doing my job right.

Farms are ever-changing operations. They are not the farms from yesterday, and we’re not yet a farm of tomorrow. But we’re doing the best that we can and we’re doing it, not for ourselves, but for the future.

I put myself out there for them.

The future of our farm...the future of your food...lies here.

The future of our farm…the future of your food…lies here.


But I’m here to answer questions from you.

My first final

I took my first final today…well, my first final in a decade or more (let’s not really count, ‘k?).

Wonder why I haven’t been blogging as much? Why I seem preoccupied? Well, part of it is that I’m currently a college student. Full time. Yes, I may have lost my mind.

My advice to this girl, could I go back in time, finish it the first time. But what a ride.

My advice to this girl, could I go back in time, finish it the first time. But what a ride.

I am a full-time mom, a most-time employee and a full-time student. I just finished my first four credits out of 16 this quarter…with three quarters left to go. When I am complete with my year of study, I will be a certified paralegal…or certifiable, I’m not sure which yet.

In order to be a full-time student and receive a better tuition rate, I had to re-take some of the credits that I had already transferred. (Someone, please explain to me the whole “you need to spend more money to save more money” deal…I still don’t understand.) I could have chosen any class, and I was tempted to cheese out and take algebra or English 101. But I went with Critical Thinking.

Oy vey.

The class itself is helpful, and a great learning tool, and all those things that I expected. Except one…my professor is a vegan. And an animal lover. And about as opposite of me as you could possibly get.

Oy vey.

It’s been one heck of an experience, though. And I’ve definitely stretched my wings a bit. Now I just need to face the final and see where the chips may fall. I’m not too concerned, but I write much better than I test out. Give me an essay any day! 🙂

But I have one class completed. Final in, grades are out…I finished with a 97%. Not too shabby for an OTA student in an online course.

There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home

There’s no place like home.

Dang. Said it three times and it still didn’t work. I’m still sitting here, at my impromptu desk on third floor of the hospital. I remember not-so-long ago when this seemed like home. But it’s been a long time since then, almost two years, I think.

For those new to the blog, my youngest son (he’s referred to as “George” on here) has a metabolic disorder. It’s called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, and if you want to read up about it, and George, knock yourself out. There’s a whole tab up on the top there. (And yes, spell check, I have spelled it right. Trust me.)

George’s condition makes him more susceptible to illness. But we have had a long run of good luck, and his immune system has bounced back amazingly. We haven’t had to deal with a hospital-stay-inducing illness in quite some time.

That was, until about midnight last night.

It started with a cough, followed by a sound that would wake the most sound sleeper from the deepest of sleeps…the sound of a child projectile vomiting down a flight of stairs.

George after getting settled in for what was supposed to be a simple bolus of fluids. Someday I'll learn. ;)

George after getting settled in for what was supposed to be a simple bolus of fluids. Someday I’ll learn. 😉

Needless to say, my night was short, and I ended up bringing George down to his pediatrician after the other boys got on the bus. We stopped up at the hospital for a round of fluids, and were about to disconnect the IV to head home when I noticed a change.

George’s cheeks were flush, he was no longer talking or playing and he started to get “that” look. He was now running a fever.

When he gives me this face, he could ask for the world and I would readily give it to him. (As if I wouldn't anyway.)

When he gives me this face, he could ask for the world and I would readily give it to him. (As if I wouldn’t anyway.)

I was given the option to stick around for the evening, or take him home and see how the night went. I thought about it for a few minutes, and then when George asked to go to the bathroom, he had a dizzy spell coming back to bed. My mind was decided for me, we were sticking it out.

And so, here I am, after midnight. I’ve been awake about 24 hours, give or take a few minutes here or there…and yet, I cannot sleep. I watch him like a hawk, listen for his IV pump, hold my breath when he coughs, all those things that a parent does for their child.

Yet, as tired as I am, I know one thing: I am blessed.

And that’s all I need to know.

This is the George that I can't wait to get back.

This is the George that I can’t wait to get back.

I’ll update in the morning about George’s progress and our (hopeful) discharge home. Fingers crossed for a peaceful night…well, what’s left of it.

3:46 p.m. – Heading home! YAY!

Flashback to the future

A what?

No, I haven’t fallen and hit my head. I actually have a funny little hypothetical situation to share with all of you. (And greetings to all the new readers! Welcome, pull up a pillow and make yourself at home!)

We all know that when I say “hypothetical” I actually mean something that has happened, but I’m protecting the guilty…right? 😉

Anyway, let’s say something happened kinda like this:

Imagine, if you would, a young lady in high school. She’s full of energy, a head full of ideas and can’t imagine anything stopping her from reaching her goals. She has decided to become a lawyer. Politics are in her future and when asked during a government class, she quickly raises her hand and lets the class know that she has every intention of being the first female President of the United States.

"Hypothetically," the gal on the right (at her junior prom) may have had some lofty goals. The goals are still lofty, it's just the focus is better!

“Hypothetically,” the gal on the right (at her junior prom) may have had some lofty goals. The goals are still lofty, it’s just the focus is better! (And nice gloves, by the way…nice gloves.)

And then life throws a few curveballs: family illnesses, career distractions, four children, a roadtrip through Mayo.

But fast-forward a few decades, and this young lady has found her energy again. But she’s discovered that the real power isn’t found at an address in Washington, D.C. The real power can be found right at your doorstep. Grassroots at its finest.

Rumor has it that someone's photo graces Morrill Hall at NDSU. The honor of being named Sigma Alpha's Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2012 for NDSU. I still am in shock and  absolutely blown away.

Rumor has it that someone’s photo graces Morrill Hall at NDSU. The honor of being named Sigma Alpha’s Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2012 for NDSU. I still am in shock and absolutely blown away.

Idealistic? Perhaps. Realistic? Most definitely.

It’s all about making a difference, and you MUST start locally. Where you go from there is up to you!

Oh, and just to clarify…the young lady in our story isn’t eligible to run for President until the next election…just FYI, Mr. H! 😉

An apology…of sorts

So, the other day I wrote a blog about playing “farm ball” (or “barn ball” as was also pointed out). And looking back on it, it sounded almost like a little bit of complaining. And I really don’t like that, so I’m going to start by saying, “I’m sorry.”

Here’s the scoop: I’m busy. But I’m busy because I want to be busy. I could easily quit with the extra stuff, drop a few boards, scratch a few projects and eliminate a hobby or two. But I won’t. Not yet.


I couldn't imagine not taking the opportunities that are presented to me, like meeting Dr. Bill Danforth, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

I couldn’t imagine not taking the opportunities that are presented to me, like meeting Dr. Bill Danforth, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.


Why? Because the world isn’t run by people who have time to do all the things that need to be done, the world is run by people who take the time to do all the things that need to be done.

And a little secret, since we’re such good friends…I thrive on it.

Give me two weeks to finish a project, and I’ll work on it. I’ll do a little here and there, and eventually it will take shape. Give me 10 minutes and it will be a masterpiece. Well, at least as close as I can get it. It’s as if my body shuts down, my mind takes over and I’m just as surprised as the next guy as to what is on the screen. Seriously.

For example, I write for several papers and publications. Since some of them have the same general readership, I write different articles, so no one gets bored with what I’m writing. Sometimes I spend 2-3 hours per article – which actually should tell me that I need to scrap it. The stuff that people like? The words that ring the most true? Those are the articles that take me less than 10 minutes to put together.

I don’t get it. I’m sure there’s some psycho-analysis that could be done. Perhaps it’s due to the cold, harsh winters in the great north…or spending too many hours ice fishing…or too many shells through my .270…or one too many concussions during softball. Whatever it is, I don’t take it for granted. It helps me immensely.

Yes, I’m busy. No, I’m not complaining. Yes, it’s stressful. No, I don’t need an intervention…yet. But I thank you for noticing, for expressing concern and for asking if you can help out. If there is anything that last weekend’s blizzard taught me, it’s the fact that it’s better to be too busy, than suddenly finding yourself with nothing to do.

Lesson learned. No more complaining. I promise.

Just a glimpse

After a post that I wrote two years ago went viral, I’ve had a slug of comments from people across the globe. Most are encouraging and supportive, some are people with genuine interest in learning more, and a few are down right hilarious!

But then there’s the detractors.

You know what I mean, right? They point out inadequacies and make you feel guilty for not including everything. So here goes nothing…

A few have chastised me for complaining about my farm life, and have encouraged me to spend more time outdoors, standing next to my hubby than at the keyboard, lamenting about my spot in life. To those people, I must apologize.

I didn’t mean for it to sound as if I’m ungrateful or bitter or pining away at my kitchen table, dreaming of a moment stolen with my spouse (although, that does sound a tad bit more romantic than real life). My post was merely a moments entertainment, that somehow struck a chord with a few hundred thousand people, give or take.

And my moments spent with Boss Man? Well, I don’t usually publicize them. You see, those are my special memories, that I keep close to my heart and they keep me going when our worlds seem so crazy. But just to give you proof, here’s a little glimpse:

I'm on the cutting edge of blizzard fashion, I know.

I check cows…usually at night, mostly in the winter. He must love me, when I go out looking like this, right???

My husband's comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? "If I take the picture of you, won't they wonder why I'm not working too?"

My husband’s comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? “If I take the picture of you, won’t they wonder why I’m not working too?”

Cleaned up and off the farm...hardly recognize us!

Cleaned up and off the farm…hardly recognize us!

Pitching fresh hay in calf shelters. It’s more fun when you work together!

teamwork, farmwork

Working together…these moments mean the most.


The power of Grandmothers

An amazing woman recently passed away. She was not only a caring wife, mother, neighbor…she was, by all accounts, an exceptional grandmother. And although I know that she is now without pain, and no longer trapped by a crippled body, my heart aches for those left behind.
Her passing hit close to home for me; not only because she was a neighbor, but my own grandmother passed away Aug. 11, just a short three years ago. I still miss her so much, and I still catch myself dialing her number when something is going on and I need to talk to her.

Valerie Lynn Brandenburger and Vivian Lorraine Brandenburger - peas in a pod.

Valerie Lynn Brandenburger and Vivian Lorraine Brandenburger – peas in a pod.

And so, today, I’m writing a list of things that only Grandmothers know how to do…at least mine, anyway.
1) Grandmas know how to make the world go away. It may take a homemade cookie, a walk in the garden or a “job” that needs to be completed. (Sweeping out gutters, anyone?) She knows that sometimes we just need a mundane task to work out our aggressions, or a simple snack to give us a second to think. Somehow she just knows.
2) Grandmas know how to keep secrets. Whether it’s a cookie too close to meal time, staying up too late, or the name of a crush that’s been on your mind…when you tell Grandma not to tell anyone, you know her lips are sealed.
3) Grandmas make special moments even more amazing. Going shopping? Take Grandma with, and it’s always good for a few amazing memories. Especially if your Grandma is anything like mine. She loved clothes. LOVED. In fact, for her 80th birthday she wanted a pair of leather pants. It was my mission to find some for her, and to this day, one of my favorite pictures of her is her standing in her yard, all decked out and ready to rock bingo. That lady had an amazing sense of fashion.
4) Grandmas know how to be brutally honest, all while having your best interest at heart and making off-handed compliments that could be taken in several ways. For example, my husband would always chuckle over stuff my Grandmother would say, that would probably land him in the doghouse for a few days. Such as, “That outfit looks much better than the one you wore yesterday,” or “Do you have a recipe for this? If not, don’t bother writing one down.”
5) There isn’t a problem in the world that doesn’t seem less daunting when you’re holding Grandma’s hand. Whether it is crossing the street for the first time, healing your first broken heart or saying good-bye…there is powerful medicine in those fingers. It’s the one thing that I miss the most.
I’ve heard many people comment that the reward for having children is getting to be a grandparent one day. I look forward to that opportunity (many, many, many years from now!), and hope in my heart that I am at least half as good at being a grandmother as mine. Although, I’m pretty sure I won’t go through a leather stage…
Or maybe I will.

WW – 50 years together

My Mom and Dad celebrated 50 years together on Saturday. We had a somewhat small celebration, mostly because we didn’t know how Dad would be feeling in his recovery process (he had a portion of his lung removed due to having an aggressive form of lung cancer about 2 months ago).

Here’s a few snapshots from the day…it was a great evening!

The beautiful bride and Mom and Dad!

The beautiful bride and groom…my Mom and Dad!

Mom and Dad’s wedding party. Love this pic!

It was a great evening of visiting, catching up and sharing time together…the way summer is meant to be spent!

Hard to believe that they have been married for 50 years!

Cousins, yes…but friends as well!


Twenty years ago…

Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most changing moments of my life. And no, it wasn’t the day I met Boss Man…although, oddly enough, it would play into it. Eventually.

It was 10 days before my 16th birthday. I had big plans. I was “going out” with someone that was my other half, we had connected from the first moment we had met. Even though I couldn’t see him, (I had broke my glasses prior to a wrestling tournament. I was a cheerleader, he was a wrestler. I was blind as a bat, and needed help making sure I was where I was supposed to be. Who wouldn’t find that cute? Ha!) I knew that he was someone that I could easily fall for…and I did. Hard.

But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not for long. Derek was hit by a car while running on the highway for track practice. I never had the chance to say goodbye, to tell him how much he meant, how much he would always mean…but I don’t know what I would have said back then. I was only 15. I didn’t realize how important he was…and always has been.

It’s hard to explain it, but the days following Derek’s accident, I don’t really remember. I know that I went through the motions. I went to school. Went to the funeral. Had a TON of support from my friends and family. But it’s all kind of blank for me.

All I can tell you is that my life was changed. I knew that the person I wanted to be with for the rest of my life would be someone like him. Someone that I could be myself with, that I didn’t have to pretend with, that I wouldn’t even need to talk to communicate with…just be.

It’s been 20 years, but there are days when it seems like just yesterday.

Some days the road down memory lane just takes a little longer.

Sorry for the melancholy, but the tragedy that occurred in Boston yesterday triggered some familiar feelings. And for those dealing with pain and loss, I give you this advice: You can take that pain, and use it as a crutch. Blame the world for your problems and let it hold you back. Or you can take that pain, and use it as a tool to get through difficult situations. Remember the lessons that you’ve learned, use them to make yourself better…and know that there’s always an angel rooting you on.

Crutch or tool? The choice is yours, and yours only. Use it wisely.