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?

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Blessings in the Form of Employees

 This beautiful basket was dropped off by one of our employees today.

This beautiful basket was dropped off by one of our employees today.

I walked over to the farm the other day and passed by a few of our barns. In the two I passed there were employees – they waved. Someone was hauling manure and drove past and waved. When I got to the parlor I was greeted with smiles and nods. I realized how I take their kindness, courtesy and hard work for granted.

We are very fortunate that several of our employees have been with us long term – 15, 12, 10, years. Our success belongs to them too. In fact, due to them. We could never do this without our team.

I’ve heard other farmers complain for lack of good help. Crazy amounts of turnover. We did go through a spell of that ourselves but have landed on some great people.

I began to ponder how this has all come about. And, I think I might have a few reasons for our loyal employees and if you’re so inclined I’ll share them with you.

1.     Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Respectfully and kindly. We don’t put up with anything less and we practice what we preach.

2.     We go out of our way to help if we can. We’ve given loans, found housing, helped with school, took care of kids and any other thing we could do.

3.     We don’t ask anything from our guys that we won’t or don’t do ourselves. We work side by side many days.

4.     As a Christian, we share our faith – by our daily activities. I have had a small library of Christian literature and DVDs for their kids. We post activities happening at our church. But it is never demanded that anyone follow us nor are they preached to. We think a relationship with Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance – but it is their choice. We try to share and show. We took kids to church with us for a time until they chose to attend a church of their choice.

5.     I’ve taught some of the wives how to can tomatoes, bake pies, etc. In turn I’ve watched how to make Mexican rice and learned of some amazing home remedies.

6.     We pray daily for our help. We pray health, protection and prosperity over each one.

7.     I bring crock pots full of food, drop off pizzas, leave cookies and other baked goods.

8.     We love on them as much as we can.

In turn we are greeted with smiles, waves and have treasures dropped off. Garden produce, specialty foods, are a few.

We are invited and attend birthday parties, anniversary parties, and quinceanera. We are honored to be included.

When out of town family visit, they stop by to introduce us to them. We love bragging to moms, sisters and whoever we can about their son or brother.

 

We are blessed tremendously and I just wanted to share and brag on our guys a bit.

 

I hope any of you who have employees that are reading this share in this joy and blessing. And, we all need to take a moment now and then and pay attention to the goodness we have.

 

 

Stop, Look, Listen and Pray

The other day Farmer was out merging hay across the road from us. I went out to hang sheets on the line and I could see the merger on the far side of the hill – just the top of the tractor. And it wasn’t moving.

So, I stopped and listened to see if I could hear anything. Watching for movement and listening to the machinery have become second nature. I couldn’t hear the tractor running because it was too far away, but then I saw the chopper come over the rise so I knew he wasn’t alone in the field.

It brought me back many years ago before cell phones when Farmer would be out – especially late at night in the dark.

I would go to bed and wake up every 20-30 minutes or so, walk to the window where I could see him and wait to make sure the tractor was moving. My greatest fear was that something would happen to him while he was out there alone.

Through the years, I’ve done this many times. Step outside and listen if I couldn’t see the lights. You soon learn to hear the “correct” sound of the machinery.

One time he was in a field about a mile away, around midnight and I just had to know if he was OK. Then I had another dilemma. Do I wake a sleeping baby to drive over and check or can I risk leaving the baby in bed while I quick run?

The second option won out. It was a record breaking mile run to see the lights moving back and forth in the field.

Now, with technology, it is so simple to just give a call.

Back then I think there was a lot more praying happening. Now, sadly, we depend on the phone for our answers – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when our first thoughts of help are a phone, google or Facebook I think our faith legs are weakening.

I recall hearing someone say, “I wish there was an app to help find lost things.”

I can’t count the times I’ve misplaced something and asked God to help me find it. Usually in a short period of time the item shows up.

We google every ache and pain and self-diagnose. Then we look for an alternative remedy when God is standing there watching (and probably having a laugh or two) and available to help and heal if we would just ask.

Waiting for someone to “like” or comment has become a measure of self-worth for some. There “ain’t no nothing” you can do raise your self worth. Your worth is found in the blood of Jesus. You are valuable because of him, his love of you and his death for you.

Am I suggesting we toss the phones and pack up technology?

By no means. Farming has improved leaps and bounds because of technology. We are feeding more people with less.

How about taking a break now and then? Instead of checking your social media of choice or email, check in with Jesus.

To Non-Farm Friends, Neighbors and Strangers

Just a few things that I thought I’d go over to make co-habitation easier for all of us. After all we’re in this, together right?

1.      Please don’t drop off your stray pets you no longer want or can keep. Just because we “professionally” have animals doesn’t mean we are a drop off location for unwanted critters. The local critters don’t take kindly to new arrivals and there can be a showdown at the corral that doesn’t end pretty for the newbies.

2.      Just because there is a field on a back road doesn’t mean it’s open for recreational use – whether it be driving, dirt biking, making whoopy, or sleeping off a drunken stupor. And while we’re at it – it isn’t a free garbage dump either. We don’t want your tree trimmings, old furniture, TVs or any other manner of junk.

3.    Those big open fields that you like to look at are food for our animals. Animals eat, then they poop and then the flies come. So, there will probably be more flies out here than in the city. We don’t like them either but it comes with the territory. Also, we have become pretty good at recycling and respecting the earth. We spread that poop as fertilizer so there will be times it smells pretty bad. We don’t like that either but once again, it comes with the territory. 

4.     We really want to get along and enjoy each other’s company so if you’re having a special picnic, birthday party or gathering please let us know ahead of time and if we possible can we will change our course of spreading, planting or harvesting – if we can. There will be times when we just can’t. But, we really want a good relationship and we will definitely try hard to make it work for all of us.

5.     We are not a temporary hiring business. So many will ask if their kid can help during the summer. And, there have been a few who did and stuck with us. At this farm, we don’t shovel out a few pens, ride on a wagon collecting some bales of hay, gather eggs, throw grain out to chickens or any other easily learned jobs. And, we have a few busy times of the year where we need help – but it usually involves heavy machinery or other abilities a 13-year-old can’t handle. At best, we can occasionally offer a random few weeks sporadically depending on the weather. We always feel bad saying no.

6.  No, we are not rich because we have all those silos, tractors, cows (insert your own item) land or whatever. All those things are tools for us to do our job. They are expensive and necessary. Many times, they breakdown causing more expense. And the weather is either our best friend or worst enemy when it comes to our crops. Our purchasing prices of materials is set for us – not by us. And then our selling price is set by others, not by us. So, things can be and right now are pretty dicey.

7.  Farming is not “what’s left” in the occupational bowl you draw from. New technologies and new advancements are helping us feed more people with less. And, we must continue to expand our knowledge and ability to do better. My son plants corn using 4 display screens connected to GPS. And there are many other advancements in the industry. Continuing education is part of farming like any other business.

8.  For the most part, we farmers prefer you would get your information from us instead of celebrities or non-farmers who have no clue. We would rather show and tell than correct and fix false information spread by specialty groups. If you want to know how, why or what for, ask us.

9.  Dairy specific – cows are not hooked to milking machines 24 hours a day and they do not die when they give milk. It takes about 2 years to raise a cow to have a calf. Once the calf is born the cow gives milk. The two years prior the cow is being cared for daily – inputting feed, water, nutrients and care. Once the cow has the calf she is milked. She is bred again after about two months and we will stop milking her the last two months of her pregnancy so all her energy goes into her well-being and the calf’s.

10. On a fun note we bathe or shower more often than Saturday night. We can even get the dirt out from under our fingernails – grease stains, not so much. But we know how to “pretty up” and smell good. And, there is no better person to receive help from than a farmer who isn’t afraid of hard things and knows how to stick with it until the job is done.

Where Has All the Kindness Gone, Long Time Passing?

There seems to be a lot of conversations about bullying these days. We are telling our kids we must be aware of other’s feelings. We tell them it isn’t acceptable to be mean and hurtful. There are also some well-known celebrities that are spokes persons for this – which is great.

But, you don’t have to look or listen too far to hear and see total disrespect and verbal bashing from adults about our President or other government officials. Let’s not stop there though. I can listen to some awful commentary on gays, Christians, immigrants and just about any other group of people.

Why is it so hard for people to be decent?

What happened to kindness?

When did having a different opinion become permission to annihilate another human being?

A well-known vulgar comedian – whom I will not give space to here has stooped to an all-time low by using her creativity to bash the President by holding up a likeness of his head covered in blood. Tell me how this can be funny on any level.

Back to the “rules” at school. My grandson had to remove a T-shirt that had Michigan on it with a likeness of a gun. It offended a teacher.

A nearby township was fighting to keep a Christmas crèche because of a complaint from one person.

We teach it at schools and preach it at church to be kind and respectful. Why in the world are we not living it as adults?

Hypocrisy at its finest. Any kid can turn on the television to any station and hear someone bashing someone within a very short period of time.

Elementary children are reciting dialogue heard at home that would never ever come into their thoughts let alone out of their mouths.

It’s time to grow up, stand up, clean up and follow the expectations we put on children. There are school aged kids who are more courteous and civil in their conversations than well-educated adults in high places.

One small act of kindness could be the first step on a bridge to bringing two opposing ideas together. We can co-exist with various opinions. Kindness can thrive in differences.

Different isn’t bad, it’s . . . just different. Are we so fearful of new avenues of thinking that we have to defend our view to the point of massacring the views of others?

If you peel back the layer of skin on every person you will find a likeness.  We all pump blood from our hearts. We all feel pain. We all have a brain to use.

Let’s purpose to use our brain to create a space that opens our hearts to stop the pain.

Let’s make our kids proud of us.

 

This Didn’t Have to Happen . . . But It Did . . . Now What?

Ever notice how sometimes your life has to adjust to other people’s actions? Dreams are ripped apart, family bonds break and friendships dissolve over what usually is a selfish act that didn’t need to happen.

A wife who was in a mix of friends who happened to be wealthy and “had their life all together” watched as one by one the friends were tweaked, nipped and tucked into perfection. Over and over her husband verbally admired her, loved on her and tried to reassure her insecurities of worth that was related to body image. On the guise of a girl’s week, she drained their bank account, headed south and had major plastic surgery performed. Meanwhile back home the automatic payment of their house and auto was denied. As the husband discovered the lack of funds, his health insurance called to say they hadn’t received their monthly payment for four months.

When the wife returned home later in the week she was physically miserable and didn’t see the results she had hoped for. Her husband who had been blindsided by the whole deal was trying to keep his balance.

A friend who farms with their sons had seen one by one the sons leave for other professions.  As she and her husband approached the later years where retirement needed to be planned for, one of their sons came back to the family farm to help. She was filled with joy that the family farm that started with her husband’s father would continue on another generation. Four years before this, her father-in-law passed and did not have an updated will. What they didn’t know was that a sister-in-law had a will drawn up naming her as the only person inheriting. That sister basically is holding them hostage by demanding a higher than fair price for the farm. Yes, they can walk away, but it’s not just a farm, it’s their life.

A mother took one last look and walked away from the cemetery. She left behind her daughter and unborn grandchild. She didn’t know if it was a granddaughter or grandson. “What difference does it make now?” she thought.

A teenager six miles away lay in bed unable to sleep for four days. She never wants to pick up a phone again.

We all have those “this didn’t have to happen . . . but did” moments. They suck. They hurt and many times they are life changing. There is one thing all the moments have. A choice. All these moments are faced with a choice of “what now.”

The “what now” moments can be a turning point – it can pivot us to the dark side and give up or to the dig in side. Stand up and move forward.

I’ve stood at the “what now” mark in life more times than I wanted and will probably again some time. After going through a few, I am determining ahead of time that my move will be forward. Some of our “didn’t have to happen” events take a lot to get over. It sucks our live right out of us, knocks our knees out from under us and hangs a heavy cloud over us. Even then, we have a choice.

What has worked for me is to find a place to grieve. Be it crying your eyes out, screaming into a pillow, writing a letter to the offender and then ripping it up – just let the pain out.  Then wait. Your emotions are raw, your body is tired and your brain is swollen with facts, emotions, dreams, truths – all mixed together to the point you may not be able to divide.

If you believe in the power of prayer, then use it. There are times when you need to call in reinforcements to pray for you and over you. Reach out and ask for help.

If the offending person is in your life and you have no choice of removing that person from your day to day experiences then distance yourself for a time. You need time to forgive that person. You don’t have to forget. In fact, if it’s a repeating offender it is wise to remember and move forward with protection in place for another “event” to take place. But, you HAVE to forgive them. Jesus said “Seventy times seven.”

So, if you are in a “what now” place of life, make the choice.

Praise God anyway.

One step at a time.

Move forward.

Don’t stop now.

Do the next thing.

Purpose to overcome.

Don’t let ANYONE take hostage of your life.