Life is Like Uncle Ted

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My Uncle Ted. What a guy!

Growing up as kids, us cousins, would spend a few weeks of our summers up north at the cottage. There was nor will be anything better than those summer weeks.

One of our treats was to visit the sand dunes. Back then it was much less commercial and easier to do what we wanted where we wanted.

The wheels of the car could barely stop turning before the doors flung open and we leaped out (no seat belts to hinder us then) and started our crab scramble up the hill. We all knew we had a short window to get a start before Uncle Ted released his torture.

We didn’t enjoy the climb, take in the scenery and never looked back. We knew at any minute Uncle Ted would strike.

We could be 10 feet up the hill or one third up the hill when “Got cha!” he would yell as he grabbed our ankles and pulled us down.

We would holler, complain and laugh all at the same time.

Then we would start again. We hoped he would be distracted by something else and not notice our movement forwarded.

Again, out of nowhere the ankle grab and his laughter pulled us back down. Sometimes all the way back, sometimes not too far.

Again, and again this happened until he either got tired, or our laughter started to subside or it was getting closer to leaving.

Eventually, finally, after all the torture and travails of Uncle Ted we cleared the top.

We knew every year it would be the same, yet we looked forward to it and would never want it any other way.

As, I was assessing a negative turn in my life I thought “life is just like Uncle Ted. We are climbing up and moving forward and at any given time something will grab our ankle and pull us down.” It could be conflict, sickness, economics, stress, family issues, strife, you name it. There is plenty out there to pull us down.

We can sit in the spot where life pulled us down and not try to move forward because it’s too hard, too sad, too tough, too alone or we can move up, dig in and climb again.

Each time we get pulled down we know we have a choice. Each time we get pulled down we see we’ve survived the last set back – as long as we chose to move forward.

I don’t know what your Uncle Ted is. We all have them. I’m dealing with a whole family of Uncle Ted’s right now but the problems will not define me nor change my course.

I choose to scramble ahead keeping just ahead of Uncle Ted. If he grabs me I know I will sit a minute, pray a bit, catch my breath and then I can choose. Sit there while the rest of the world climbs ahead or I can dig in, crab crawl and enjoy the time I’m ahead of Uncle Ted.

One day when we get to the top we will look back at Uncle Ted and laugh about the fact that we gave him so much power over our lives.

Who’s your Uncle Ted?

An Island in the Swamp

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They say, “Drain the swamp”. I agree.

Even in the swamp there is an island. And island of wonderful, beautiful, caring, Godly people.

My niece was killed in an auto accident in Virginia just outside of Washington DC. We made the long 10+ hour trip down there. Our concern was for our nephew being so far from his childhood home of Michigan. “How will he do alone without his Leah? Who will help him through this?”

Our concerns were pointless as we soon found out – even before we left to travel south.

My brother and sister-in-law made the all-night trip immediately after hearing of the accident. They were brought into a home of one of the families that attended church with my nephew and niece. He called to let us know there were many families offering their home for others to stay if wanted.

Another family hosted eight other family members for a few days.

When you think about bringing in a grieving family to take care of them, there is a lot of work. And these people did it with so much love. There’s food to prepare, beds to be changed, beds to set up, towels to wash, extra work in the kitchen. Add to that being cordial and inter acting. And there were small children to entertain too.

Others came along side and walked through the funeral arrangements. They put together the photos, videos, helped plan the service. And, what a service we had.

When we arrived for the visitation the evening before the funeral, my brother brought us around to introduce us to those who had been and was still helping my nephew. Over and over we were introduced to loving, caring, grieving friends.

And they all were there due to the love of Leah. She was a special woman who planted seeds of love. Hearing everyone share their life they had with her encourages us to be better. That’s what she did when she was there – she made life better.

We have no doubt that there will be many who will keep their promise of “Keeping charge over Michael” for us as the family travels back to Michigan.

Our hearts were lightened by the outreach of love by our new extended family members.

When God is in the midst he is able to create islands in any kind of swamps.

As you travel through this life, look for the islands. Better yet, be the island.

 

 

CAFO Farm Guilty! Accusations Are True.

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Well, it happened again.

It’s happened before and I didn’t want it out in the open.

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We’ve been accused of having a beautiful farm.

They say our CAFO farm doesn’t look like a factory at all. They checked out the back rooms, watched from a distance and never saw a board, a poking stick or pitch fork used on the cows on the place.

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Another claim that was issued is that the farm is clean and the animals are well cared for. They were shocked when they saw a nutritionist and our herdsman colluding together about the best recipe to feed the cows. They were concerned that the alleys were cleaned more than once a day – thought that may be an inconvenience to the cows.

And when they saw the freshly trimmed hooves they were aghast. How can this be?

They all just stood there with their mouth slack jawed while watching the milkers whistle and cajole our cows into the parlor.

And the fact that there was laughter coming from the farm in different locations was a hard concept for them to comprehend.

The kicker that just about sent them over the edge was when they saw us working WITH the employees. The blood drained from their faces when finding the crock pot of chili in the work room.

One of the employees had the audacity to pull them aside and tell that periodically they find gift cards in their check – for no reason!

Once that first employee spoke others did too. They told of the personal loans, of getting help fixing their cars, helping the kids in school. It was embarrassing to us.

The shame has just overcome us to the point that me must speak up and admit it.

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We are a CAFO farm that cares for our employees, our critters and our land. We work long exhausting hours to accomplish this and do a great job.

We would apologize for the disappointment to the critics of large farms but we’re too busy dropping off donuts to the night crew.

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These Boys . . . These Men

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I partially own them.

This group of good looking guys have a lot of my love.

This is a unique group because most of them have been together since school began. They have been in and out of my life and home for many years. There are three sets of brothers who are best friends with each other – two of those are my sons. My furniture has been draped by their clothes, the floor piled with shoes and their bodies strewn all over anywhere for a night or two at a time. I’ve had random pair of socks, stray pairs of underwear (makes you wonder how they missed that), and T-shirts that no one claims as theirs.

My kitchen table has been surrounded, my grocery bill has been pinned to the wall of fame at the grocery store for the longest running receipt, and there have been more chocolate chips cookies leave my home than butterflies heading to Florida.

And I loved every minute of it.

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When I look at this picture I see a pile of spaghetti all tangled together, covered in love. That is my favorite dish.

One of my boys (not son) got married last night and all the rest of the mangy crew arrived – most of them.

As I made my rounds hugging necks so many times I heard “Hi Mom!” I was superb at controlling my emotions because I couldn’t let my make-up be ruined. Music to my ears. Two words became a symphony for me.

This group of guys get together at least two times a year. They come from all corners like robins returning in the spring. They purpose to have this relationship.

There are many reasons why this group is so special. Over the years, they have held each other up, called each other out and were the best and worst for each other. They have survived themselves. Through the years there have been mothers and fathers who have passed. There have been good choices, bad choices and horrible choices made by this group, but the best choice was and is, is to be better. Be better together, be better as a person, husband, father, son, friend.

I’ve always known this group was extraordinary but got to see it in a different light last night – a brighter light.

My son brought a friend from Turkey to the wedding and he had been telling her all about the guys and their history.

She told me he had nothing but good to say about all of them and she thought “that’s nice.” It wasn’t until she saw them all together that she started to see the whole picture. And, to ad blessing onto blessing, the boys who are married have the most wonderful wives and they all seem to get along too. She felt very welcomed and included in the group. She categorized this group as a culture of their own.

I guess I’m blogging about this to show my love for them and appreciation that I get to have them in my life.

I also want to encourage parents who still have kids at home – open your doors and open your heart. Set another plate at the table and throw another pillow on the floor.

Cookies and milk around the kitchen table is excellent ground for sowing seeds – sowing seeds of love, grace, mercy, understanding and the reality of Jesus Christ and eternity. No Bible is necessary to share the love of God.

While I would never impose, I have no doubt that just about any of these would come to help me if called.

There are a lot of wonderful young people out there that just might turn into something wonderful if they have a landing place to be loved on. Not that home loving is bad or was lack in this group but there is something about someone who doesn’t “have to” love you that does.

This group is amazing. We have IT guys, designers for international companies, lawyers, occupational therapists, veterans, security, business owners – amazing young men.

I’m so proud of these men and the journey they’ve traveled thus far. I pray you all have a group in your lives – you may have to look for them but there are those guys out there.

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We're a Farm, Not a Responsiblity Training Camp

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“You’re so lucky you could raise your kids on the farm. What a blessing. They got to learn how to work and be responsible.”

“Is there anything my kids can do on the farm for you? I want them to become responsible and have good work ethics.”

“Can my kids live with you this summer? I think it would be good for them to see how to live and have to work.”

Seriously, all three have been spoken to me. While I appreciate people associate farming with hard work – which is an understatement, I just don’t get the disconnect with working and home life.

“If my kid is hanging around with whichever son they were referring to, then I know they will make good choices and be responsible.”

Heard that one a few times too. I consider it a complement and a blessing but my sons shouldn’t have to be the “good choice” meter.

Since I am running a dairy farm and not a responsibility training camp, I thought I might share a few ideas to help the “non-farm” population grow their kids into responsible, hard working, appreciative adults.

Do you eat?
            Kids can shop with you – carry in the groceries, put them away, set the table, clean the table, do the dishes, load the dishwasher, carry out the trash.

Do you wear clothing?
            Kids can do the laundry which includes sorting, folding and putting away.

Does your house self-clean?
            Kids can dust, vacuum, wash windows, re-arrange furniture, clean out the garage, clean out the basement.

Do you live on land?
            Kids can weed, plant flowers, mow lawn, plant, weed and harvest a garden. They can clean the driveway, front porch, etc.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Do you own pets?
            Kids can feed them, water them, brush them, check them for ticks, treat them for fleas, go to the vet with them, clean out their pens, litter boxes or cages.

Do you own a vehicle?
            Kids can wash it, and vacuum it. They can help change the oil, check the tires, etc.

I could continue. Everything listed here can be done in their own home. Bonus – they can do this for other people and make a little money or just be kind and bless others.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Farm kids do work hard. They are responsible – they must finish the job. There’s no quitting at 5:00. Holiday weekends aren’t on the farm calendar. Bad weather doesn’t stop the job for some things. There’s no time or space to lay the blame for something – just get the job done, do it well and move on to the next one.

I’m proud of my sons and their ability to work efficiently, honorably, responsibly and do a great job.

Also, we love having outside kids come work for us. Some have been with us for years, became full time and some have moved on to great opportunities.

We enjoy sharing our work with others when possible but I personally have a hard time knowing there are neighborhoods filled with kids sitting on couches injuring their neck muscles because of phones, and other devices.

I also see too many kids that need “intervention” from someone when things go wrong. They haven’t had enough real-world reality to deal with things. Learning that as a breathing member of this earth comes responsibilities, hard work, some hard times and there will be things that make you uncomfortable but you will survive. 

None of my kids liked hauling poop, missing an outing or smelling like spoiled silage. We didn’t take the hard or uncomfortable things away – which probably had a little to do with them becoming good, responsible adults. That and a lot of prayer.

 

 

 

 

'Ello Gov'na

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Out of the blue we received a call asking to use our farm for a commercial for Dr. Jim Hines. We had never heard of Dr. Hines before this. After speaking to him and checking out his website, his views and beliefs we eagerly and willingly jumped on board. Here is his website: https://hines4michigan.wordpress.com/

Following are pictures of how the day went.

Setting up to shoot our farm across the road.

Setting up to shoot our farm across the road.

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Trimming some leaves off the tree to get the best shot.

Trimming some leaves off the tree to get the best shot.

He has nothing to do with the commercial, but isn't he beautiful?

He has nothing to do with the commercial, but isn't he beautiful?

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Notice Son #2 on the chopper spout fixing the flag.

Notice Son #2 on the chopper spout fixing the flag.

This is why mama's have gray hairs.

This is why mama's have gray hairs.

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Meanwhile 110 feet up - this is why Grama's pray.

Meanwhile 110 feet up - this is why Grama's pray.

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Dr. Jim Hines, Son #2 and Chloe.

Dr. Jim Hines, Son #2 and Chloe.

Getting set up for a shot with Dr. Jim Hines and Farmer.

Getting set up for a shot with Dr. Jim Hines and Farmer.

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Our over night guest's dwelling.

Our over night guest's dwelling.

I had the privilege of making supper for Dr. Jim Hines, his wife Martha and their driver Matt. After dinner the rest of the family came for dessert and a time of chatting with Dr. Hines - asking questions and sharing concerns.

I had the privilege of making supper for Dr. Jim Hines, his wife Martha and their driver Matt. After dinner the rest of the family came for dessert and a time of chatting with Dr. Hines - asking questions and sharing concerns.

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Martha and the girls chatting.

Martha and the girls chatting.

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Our new extended family - Dr. Jim and Martha are now part of our family!

Our new extended family - Dr. Jim and Martha are now part of our family!

Two Scores and Six Years . . .

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Forty-six years ago, I married my best friend, no . . . soul mate, no . . . OK – I married Farmer.

Forty-six years ago, I married Farmer and we lived happily ever after, no. . . committedly and determinedly ever after.

Never, as a young girl, in a million years would I have thought I’d be sitting here at my dining room table looking out at a hayfield, surrounded on the other 3 sides by corn. And, loving it.

Has married life been all I thought? Nope, not by a long shot.

The dreamy eyed 18-year-old that got married had grand delusions. Then, reality happened.

Many disappointments and sorrows have been my traveling companion.

Happiness, joy and blessings have journeyed also.

There were too many times that I felt like giving up. There were too many times when we both had reasons to leave. Never from infidelity but other legitimate reasons as far as the world is concerned.

Yet, for me, those reasons were just trials to get through. And, honestly, I caused many of those problems myself – not all but many.

Would I do it again?

Yes, I would. My kids and grandkids are enough reason to pick this life again.

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Would I do things differently?

Yes, I would. I think different choices definitely would have resulted in a better life in some areas.

I’m grateful Farmer didn’t quit. I also wish Farmer would change in a few areas but I doubt that will ever happen. And I know Farmer would give his left arm for me to change some things – that I doubt I will. See – it’s a two-way street marriage is.

It’s way too easy to quit. Not just marriage, but a lot of things. There is value in sticking with it and working things out. Sometimes what you feel is a hindrance becomes most valuable. When your spouse is as irritating as sand paper it may be because of you and the work needed to smooth out your rough edges.

Lest you think my life is unhappy and miserable, it’s not. My life is busy, joyful, loud, and messy at times. I am blessed more that 99% of the population I believe and thank God for my spot here on this ball of mud daily.

I pray my children have better lives and marriages – who doesn’t? My kids haven’t seen a perfect marriage, but they have seen commitment and determination to work through and make better.

Back to School Woes

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What do you think when you read the title Back to School Woes?

All the moans and groans of the kids who are trying to hang on to their summer like a dog with his bone?

Well, that’s one scenario.

What I’m referring to are the parents, especially moms, who are taking their babies to college. Or for the mom (I speak what I know, so you’re getting a mom’s point of view) who has no one left at home to send to school. Her youngest graduated last year and this is her first year without school.

It’s hard. It’s dang hard.

When my youngest left the nearby elementary school, I avoided driving by it for many months. And, it’s right on my way home from just about everywhere. Considering I had put in 18 continuous years there with all the boys it was emotionally hard.

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After raising four sons and sitting through countless basketball games, wrestling matches, track meets, and football games I was invested. I was at home on the bleachers as much as I was in my living room. In fact, I think if I sat on one of those spots on the bleachers now it would recognize my hiney!

And, football was my favorite. So, along with back to school in the fall comes football.

So, not only do I miss the whole school thing, I long to go back to the football field as one of the moms. There were a few of us football moms that coordinated Thursday night supper for the team. The years before we were in charge, it would be pizza or another type of take out. Not us! We had meals. And I mean meals! Steak on the grill, lasagna, spaghetti, and more. Many other moms helped with the desserts. We loved on those kids through their stomachs.

To say Friday nights were my favorite is an understatement.

It’s been 14 years and I still desire to go back. I have a hard time watching the sport’s highlights of the local school’s football games – yes, I need counseling.

But, I’m baring my soul here for a reason.

Especially for you moms who are having a hard time this fall. Whether or not it's football, cheerleading or just plain school.

It’s just plain going to be difficult. Your heart will ache and you will cry tears for a while. There is nothing to take it away. Time will chase away your sorrow.

And, when someone who is trying to help tells you “You’ll always be a mom”, please don’t smack them. They have no clue or they wouldn’t say that. We all know we will always be a mom but it will be different.

What you had cannot be repeated. You can’t go back. It’s done and finished.

So, feel bad, cry and be upset. It’s OK.

Eventually, you will find a new rhythm and dance a new step.

But in the meantime, I’m offering my shoulder.