Light in the Darkness

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Right now, it’s so easy to write about what’s wrong with farming.

Never ever have I felt so much distress and dismay about my life I live.

Never ever have we been working so physically hard with no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel gets longer and darker as the days go by. And, the tunnel is getting crowded.

Work hard and success will follow is what I’ve been taught. Well, if that’s the case then Farmer would be a multi-millionaire.

Just about every time I open face book to any of my farm pages there is one more dairy farmer selling out. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year according to USA Today.

Some will read this and think that’s too bad and never give it another thought. It’s not just losing a job. Losing your dairy farm that has been in the family for 100+ years is losing part of who you are. You feel like you are disappointing those who worked so hard to build it to this point and totally failing those coming after you who want nothing more than to continue the legacy.

When I first came to the farm I watched Farmer work alongside his father. Our sons have worked with Farmer and now a Grandson is working with his dad. There are times when we have three generations in the fields together.

4th and 5th generation

4th and 5th generation

When people glibly suggest just sell out and take all that money and start something else they don’t have a clue. First of all there won’t be all that money. Some will be lucky to break even. Secondly, you can’t change the DNA of your dreams that easily or quickly.

Others have suggested building a bottling plant so we can have more control over the finished product. Well, I’d like to suggest that if the money was available to build a plant then we wouldn’t be in this position.

Everything in dairy farming takes time. It takes at least 9 months for a cow to be able to give milk once she has reached the age of breeding. You can’t turn on and off your milk productions quickly. There is no quick fix.

Part of the problem is some farmers are increasing their herd size to have a better cash flow. That is doing nothing but making things worse for the whole. Yet, I can’t fault someone for doing what they think is best for themselves.

The hopelessness for farmers has become deadly. According to Kansas Wheat, from 2014 to 2015, farm income dropped 95% and farm debt levels have increased by 25%. The farmers’ rate of suicide is 84.5 suicide deaths out of 100,000.

In an article in Civil Eats - Over the past year, media reports in Newsweek, the New York Times, and an in-depth piece in The Guardian have called attention to alarming rates of suicide among farmers and farmworkers, from grain growers in the Midwest to dairy farmers in the Northeast.

Basically, right now doing what we feel we were created to do is exhausting, depressing and is wrapped in hopelessness. So, it is really easy to write about what is wrong with being a dairy farmer.

I am challenging myself to find some light in all the darkness and share what is good about farming.

Here we go:

            Every day we get to enjoy the fresh air. We aren’t cooped up inside a building in front of a computer screen or repetitively doing the same thing.

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            Animals! There is something special about walking through the barns with cattle on both sides. It’s a calming effect. And, to help bring a new calf into the world is nothing short of miraculous.

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            The smells are heavenly – for the most part. The smell of fresh earth turned over in the spring and of course newly mown alfalfa is God’s perfume. Even the smell of manure is comforting at times.

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            Working side by side with your husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids is wonderful – especially when everyone is in a good place.

            Having employees that work with you and being able to pass blessings back and forth between each other is rewarding.

            Bringing guests to the farm to show and tell how God works is gratifying.

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I have been told more times than I can count that “God is in control”. I believe that. It’s just hard at times to trust that. Oh my, did I actually admit that? Yep, at times my trust muscle isn’t as strong as I wish.

How long will this last? How long will we be able to continue? Only God knows. I just wish he’d let me know.

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Transparently Tired

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Transparent. That’s what I keep saying – we need to be transparent. How can we help each other if we are living behind a façade?

So, here we go.

I’m real close to losing it. Not quite sure what it is, but it’s about ready to frazzle.

There has been stressful stress happening in the world I live in. Financial struggles due to horrible milk prices, concerns about the crops because of weather, short-handed at the farm and just plain normal wear and tear of life.

Then you add to that my inerrant desire to help and fix. I see my husband working way too hard and long hours. I’m concerned for his health. My son who is on the farm has back issues and he and his family are spent from doing “whatever” needs to be done. I move from feeding people, delivering people and parts, to merging hay, all the office work and now we are refurbishing one of our houses for a new employee. I’m taking care of most of that too. The list of things needing to be done is endless.

Then there are peripheral things. We had to tear out our old gas grill because it was 30+ years and crumbling. In order to get a new one and put it in, the brick around the old one had to be removed and new brick put down, etc. And, of course, only Farmer could do this. There is a mess on the back porch, a hole in the brick and a new gas grill perched on a table. Cement dust, tools and mortar bags litter my back-porch oasis.

The yard has more moles than a “whack a mole” factory. I finally called a service – even though Farmer said no. The service is great – should be for the price. We’re killing moles left and right.

Trimming bushes, weed whacking, mowing lawn, any landscaping, getting the oil changed in the car is on my to do list. There are so many other little issues that need fixing. I just can’t ask Farmer when he is so over burdened with everything at the farm right now. So, things get left undone. Undone “stuff” is noise to me. I need some quiet.

I have four sons – very busy and limited due to back issues. That’s something else I can’t fix. I pray for their healing and it hasn’t quite arrived yet. It’s not easy being a mama when your kids are hurting. If I ask, they will help but I know every time they help me I am pulling them away from their family and their things that need to be take care of.

I’m volunteering my time to help people discover Dr. Jim Hines – he is running for governor and I think he’s the best choice.

I could list other things but you get the idea.

And, I’ve always been the one to help others. I’m the answer to struggles. Need something? I’ll be right there.

I am tired.

I was feeling sorry for myself and was watching something on TV and the character was so happy and joyful. I found myself “wishing” I had a normal life that I could relax and enjoy. Right now, everything feels like work. Now, I know that my life is far superior in blessings than most people, so I really have absolutely nothing to legitimately complain about.

Why am I writing this? Trying to garner sympathy? Nope. Not at all.

Two reasons.

One reason I’m writing this is to show someone who doubts God’s participation in your life that he is there.

I sat down and grabbed my “Jesus Calling” devotional and this is what I read.

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“Striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle” – exactly what I long for.

The second reason for baring my faults here is to encourage someone else to know you’re not the only one who feels like life is spinning out of control. I want to encourage you to see there is no “wonder woman” or “super hero” in the flesh.

I think we are ALL over worked and tired. We are ALL busy. And, I really think we ALL “pretend” a little. After all, if you ask someone “How are you”? Do you really want to hear “I’m pooped, close to tears, can’t sleep and anxious”?

I know my exhaustion is self-imposed and can only be fixed by self-regulation. And, I’m working on it – once I get this list of to dos finished – HA!!!

Take heart, take a break and know that God cares and wants you to trust in Him and expectantly wait for what he has for you.

Now, go take a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Blinker, No Problem

Don't be jealous of my wooden bumper.

Don't be jealous of my wooden bumper.

After merging for over an hour looking through dirty windows I drove the tractor up to the shop to wash them. While I was hanging off the steps and draped over the hood of the tractor Farmer called me.

Farmer: “Hey, I need you to bring me some fuel. Check the tank and make sure there is enough. Just call me back when you get to the truck.”

Me: “Where is the truck?”

F: "Halfway down the driveway."

M: I dropped everything and dismounted the tractor hood with nary a broken bone and walked over to the truck. And then called Farmer.

F: “Can you see how full the tank is?”

M: “Yep, ¾ full.”

F: “K Bring it out to the field for me. Drive careful. There are no blinkers.”

M: “OK, but I have to run home and go pee first.”

F: “Can’t you just pee behind the truck?”

M: This is where I would have slammed the phone down if the option was available. With the cell phones it’s so unrewarding to hang up on someone.

After the bladder was emptied and I was on the way with the truck I was concentrating on staying below the speed limit. I’ve watched enough Live PD to know that you can be pulled over for any small thing and going 10 miles over the speed limit would probably qualify. Having no working blinkers, a wooden bumper and no driver’s license I was trying to be the perfect citizen.

I made it to the other farm with no problem.

 

Farmer's best side.

Farmer's best side.

Once I parked it and Farmer was fueling the tractor I realized the plate on the truck was missing.

M: “No license plate?”

F: “Yes, there are 2 up on the dash. If you get stopped show them one and if they don’t like it, you have another one to try.”

M: Blank stare

F: “Be careful going home, I was already stopped once, so they may be looking for you.”

You can see the silos on the main farm 2 miles north.

You can see the silos on the main farm 2 miles north.

Farm Life Preservation 101

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What part of farm life am I referring too?

Anyone who comes in contact with the farmer this time of year.

For us with late April snow and never-ending May showers started us off behind. Now, add a broken-down hay mower and the chopper which has been in the dealership shop since April and no delivery back to the farm date and you have created the perfect storm for needing to know about farm life protection. This is what we call the “Angry Bear” stage of farming.

Here are the 10 guidelines of Farm Life Preservation 101.

1.     When approaching the farmer during this stressful time give him wide berth. Stay at least 10 feet away. That way you’ll have a better chance to duck flying tools.

2.     When approaching the farmer, make no quick movements and avoid eye contact.

3.     When leaving the farmer, back away slowly.

4.     While in the presence of the farmer, only speak when spoken to and speak in soft hushed tones unless machinery is running and then you must be able to lip read and shout louder than a jet engine revving up. Always agree with what they are saying.

5.     Never ask any questions.

6.     When feeding time comes push the food under the equipment with a long stick.

7.     Unless bellowed to enter, only go into the shop if it is necessary and when doing so, be stealthy and quiet so as not to rile the farmer.

8.     If he asks you to help him for just a minute, quietly text your doctor and let him know you can’t make it in for your liver transplant scheduled for later in the day.

9.     Always be on guard and ready to jump. The expectancy level is high, and you never know what will trigger it.

10.  If for any reason the farmer has fallen asleep, NEVER EVER wake him up unless you have had training.

All nonsense aside, it is a very stressful time of the year and all prayers for all farmers would be welcomed.

But, hey, I can’t fix any of the problems so why not have a little fun. The good thing is Farmer is so busy he won’t read this for several weeks and by then hopefully the “Angry Bear” syndrome will have past.

Multiply Your Greatness

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I hung the phone up on the kitchen wall, looked around me and wondered if I would ever find myself again. Would I ever be in a position to create a difference? The yellow fruit and flowered wall paper stared back at me. Out the kitchen window I could see Son #1 and #2 playing in the yard. Son #3 was watching cartoons and Son #4 was crawling on the floor by my feet.

I must have been extremely tired that day because normally my thoughts didn’t wander there.

I had the privilege of being a stay at home mom. I was a semi-single stay at home mom. I never want to insinuate my singleness of raising my sons is compared in the least to a true single mom. But, Farmer was rarely home. Most of the daily operations of the home and parenting was my responsibility.

In the midst of wiping noses, butts and dirty mouths, I, at times, wondered if there would be anything left in me when the time came to give me a whirl.

At this point in my life I was Farmer’s wife, or someone’s mom. And that continued for many years. My identity was always combined.

And, consider there was no face book back then to garner support, chatting with others or surfing the web. Our means of connection was church gatherings and phone calls when we weren’t chasing one of the kids or putting food on the table. There was no pre-school, mom’s groups or gyms to attend.

For the most part, I loved my life. I gained much satisfaction and was thrilled to take care of my family. I enjoyed just about every aspect.

Once, in a while, and it must have hit that day, I would think about “successful women in the work force.” They did a job, got thanked and even was paid for their time and effort.

And therefore, once in a while I would wander with my wonderings.

I’m writing this to encourage any moms who are in the middle of their best years – especially if you are staying home and get overwhelmed at times. While I wasn’t distressed over not having a career or felt trapped at home, the desire to make a difference was there.

While I may not have wrote a best seller, argued a high-profile court case, or did open heart surgery saving lives, I have made a huge difference.

By staying home, I made a difference times four.

I have raised four amazing men that daily touch lives, create opportunities for others, and contribute greatly to this world. These four men are good, quality, excellent driven men who are now raising their sons and daughters to change the world.

Never under estimate where you are in life and the reason God designated this special spot for you.

Anyone can become a doctor, lawyer, clerk, teacher or whatever profession.

No one can be your child’s mother.

Enjoy your best years with your kids. Realize the amazing responsibility God has entrusted to you.

Multiply your greatness through your kids.

 

 

 

 

A Man Who Changed the World

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There is a man who changed the world.

Most of you won’t know him.

He built a house for his family with his own hands.

He’s been faithful to his one and only wife for 66 years.

He put food on the table for them year after year.

He taught them to plant a garden – to till, plant and harvest.

He taught his family to hunt wisely and respectfully of the prey and the weapon.

He built a building where people learned about Jesus.

He brought all of his kids to the place where they wanted Jesus as their own.

He has read his Bible daily for years.

He prays daily for his kids, grand-kids, great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids.

He gives freely when a need arises.

He instilled a great work ethic into each of his kids.

He is revered in his circle of influence.

He has changed the world.

Maybe not your world.

But he has changed my world daily for the better.

My dad.

 

Happy 88th Birthday Daddy!

 

 

Somewhere Along the Way . . .

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When you go to the hardware store to purchase a drill you really don’t want the drill, you want the hole that the drill will create.

When you go to the grocery store to purchase a gallon of milk you don’t really want a gallon of milk, you want your thirst satisfied.

When you go to the pharmacy you don’t want the drug, you want your illness/pain relieved.

With all and the latest school shootings we say we want to keep the violence out of our schools. What we really want is responsible kids that value life; co-exist together with respect, kindness and compassion.

Somewhere in the past, along the way in life we learned about the drill, milk and medicine.

Somewhere along the way the value of life has been left behind – lost on life’s journey.

Somewhere along the way we have determined that respect must be earned. It seems the effort to receive respect has gotten harder and more arduous through the years.

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Somewhere along the way kindness has been forgotten. It was laid down when our hands were full and busy and forgotten to be picked back up.

Somewhere along the way compassion was passed to organizations that went overseas or fed the local homeless.

If our hands are full and busy showing value, respect, kindness and compassion to others there will be no room for devices that kill. Let’s start filling hearts and hands.

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To Whom It May Concern

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To Whom It Concerns,

There’s a crisis going on right under our noses and many people have no idea.

Farms are selling out; farmer’s dreams are being auctioned off and livelihoods are washing away with the tears of generational farmers.

I’m not sure who will be reading this or what I really expect to happen but I need to pour out my heart so I can see straight.

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We are dairy farmers. My husband is 3rd generation and one of our four sons is hoping to continue. Hoping is the key word here.

The price we receive for our milk has been cut drastically over the last few years. It has come back a bit but well under the amount we need to break even let alone make a profit. The experts are predicting at least one more year of these farm-breaking prices.

As dairy farmers, we are used to the roller coaster prices but this dip has been deeper and longer than ever before with no relief in sight.

While our income has been slashed our production, costs are the same or more. We’ve trimmed down and cut back on everything possible.

Some reading this think “oh, that’s too bad” and never give it another thought. Some think “sell out and find another job, no big deal”.

That is comparable to telling a pro-golfer he can never pick up a golf club again, or a race car driver that he will never sit in a car seat again or a mother that she isn’t allowed to care for her children ever again.

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I truly believe a farmer is created. There is a seed dropped into the heart of a farmer at the time of conception that God puts there. We were created to care for his critters and tend his land.

Who else will work from before sunup to well past sundown? How many would be willing to work in a cloud of dust and dirt all day? How many professions require being covered in manure, silage juice and cow slime?

Farmers put their animals and farm first. Vacations are what we read about and hear from others. A half day’s work is done before church on Sundays. Ball games, drives in the country, leisurely strolls in the park are foreign to farmers. Oh, there may be a rare event that just happens to fall in between making hay and harvesting corn that can be attended.

Get togethers are always worked around milking times, planting and harvest. And many a supper out has been canceled due to something breaking down at the farm.

Knuckles are bloodied from slipping wrenches, shins are bruised from a well-placed cow hoof, and stitches are the norm when working on that one dang piece of machinery that you are trying to hold together because there just isn’t enough money to replace it.

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Add freezing cold temperatures and blowing snow that clogs the road before you can even get one pass done to the mix to make taking care of the farm even harder.

Everything waits for chores – Christmas morning, birthday celebrations are a couple that are put on hold until the last cow is fed or milked.

I have seen three of my four sons eat dirt, clean pieces of hay out of their eyes, cough up dust, and have disks in their backs blown. I have jumped in tractors and choppers to help keep them awake so the field can be done before the rain hits.

Months and months of work and money can be put in the ground only to not receive enough rain or too much rain and lose the whole thing.

Why are prices so low and farming so tough? What’s causing it? Personally, I’m not sure. I’ve heard that the European nations lifting their quota system and too much milk on the market are a couple.

Then let’s add in the fear mongering companies that try to scare the consumer into purchasing their high-priced products. A certain company is slapping their non-GMO sticker on everything that is placed in the grocery store whether or not it could possibly be a GMO product. And there is absolutely no scientific or medical proof that there is anything wrong with GMO foods.

Here we farmers have learned to grow food on less ground, with a smaller footprint, with higher yields and we are getting punished because someone is creating a false premise just to forward their own agenda.

Milk alternatives are slickly packaged and placed side by side with dairy. Some consumers have no idea there is no dairy in these products. I have NO problem with using other food sources for another drink but please don’t piggy back on our dairy. Don’t market that the alternative to dairy is healthier. It’s different.

We are coming from a place of discouragement, exhaustion, and depression. There is a thought that if you are honest and work hard you will be rewarded for your efforts. This is not and has not been happening for farmers in a long time.

We’re tired, sore and quite frankly some of us are scared spit less because we have no answer to the problem. We aren’t even sure what caused the problem and have no idea how to fix it.

We are praying for wisdom and guidance and some feel their prayers are falling on deaf ears.

At a time in our lives when we should be pulling back and slowing down we are working as hard as ever to fill the void that unaffordable employees could fill.

Part of me wants to do everything possible for my son to succeed as the fourth generation. Part of me wants to tell him to run – as fast and as far as he can from the farm.

But then, I realize that seed that started in his great grandfather and before has sprouted and is growing inside him.

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Trusting God, seeking wisdom is our first and last hope.

If you eat, wear clothing, sit on furniture, take medicine then you have farmers to thank for that. Considering life without farmers would be non-existent, please take some time to pray for us.

If anyone reading this has any constructive, credible suggestions, please share.

While I have gotten this off my chest it is still in my heart.

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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.

 

 

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.

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.