Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lessons Learned From a Puppy

Life at our house has become even more chaotic, but it is good chaos. Last week we got a new puppy. It’s been about eight years since our last puppy. Nothing in this world is cuter or more fun than a puppy. While puppies are fun, I guess eight years is enough time to forget about how destructive a puppy can be. No object, animal or human is safe.
For those of you who might be worried, Killer, the cow dog, is in good health. He seems to be less than impressed with his promotion to senior cow dog and puppy trainer. This could be because his tail has also become a puppy chew toy just like our shoes or it could be because he has to share ear rubbing and chin scratching. He spends most of his time staying out of reach and casting disdainful glances at the newest addition.
We welcomed Ida, junior cow dog in training, and I have a feeling that life will never be the same. While I grumble about the chewed shoes (which I am reminded that I can put them up away from puppy teeth) and the surprise land mines left on the deck (which I am also reminded that I could walk the puppy more often) I had forgotten how much fun a puppy can be. Ida has also reminded me of lessons we can learn from a puppy.
The first thing I have learned from Ida is to tackle anything without fear. Never mind that the cat is bigger than you are, you can take him down with one leap. Sure those sheep are ten times your size but a fierce bark and growl will show them who the boss is. How often do we let a big obstacle stop us in our tracks, when if we would meet it head on and show no fear, it would turn and run.
Play hard and nap even harder. Wrestling cats, chasing sheep and chewing on anything that doesn’t move requires a lot of energy. It is necessary to find a good shady, cool spot for a long mid morning, early afternoon, late afternoon and evening nap. Too often we forget that we too need to rest and re-energize. We push ourselves to the limit chasing our tail (now I am talking about us and not Ida) without ever finding that shady spot to recharge our batteries.
Always show your appreciation and admiration for the people in your life. No matter where they have been or how long they have been gone greet them at the top of the stairs with a wagging tail and enthusiasm. Who knows they might even feed you. Just think about it, if we met our family with the same joy and excitement your dog does how much happier we would all be. No talking about bad days or chores that need to be done; just excitement and happiness because they are there.
Finally, approach everything like it is new. Be excited about the world around you, look at everything like it is the first time you have ever seen it. Chase everything that moves and bark at anything that doesn’t. Make sure you look at all that is around you like it is new. How much more fulfilling would our lives be if we looked at the world around us with the excitement of seeing it for the first time.
OK, so I know that living life like a puppy may not be an option or even socially acceptable. However, I wonder just how much happier we would all be if we would try to apply some of these traits to our lives. Too often I think we get too caught up our hectic lives when we would all be happier if we would just play harder and make more time for naps. Now if only I could listen to my own advice.
In the meantime I will try to spend more time with Ida. I don’t know what it is about a puppy that makes stress melt away, but just try to be stressed when you are around one. As for Ida, I am sure she is chewing on a shoe, chasing a cat or harassing Killer or taking a nap. It is such a hard life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's Fair Time

This summer has absolutely flown by and it is that time of the year when the four letter f word enters our vocabulary. I don’t know what four letter f word comes to your mind right away, but at our house the word fair come up in almost every sentence. Yes, we are in the home stretch leading down to fair time. Fair preparation has reached a fever pitch at our house.
I don’t care how hard you work at getting ready for the fair, there is always more to be done. It’s a good thing the date is set because if we could determine the date ourselves, I don’t think we would ever be ready. The animals always need more time, the clothing needs more stitches, woodworking needs more sanding and foods need more practice (that is my favorite fair preparation). The kids work harder and harder as the fair gets closer and suddenly it is here.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the fair. I don’t think you can find anything better to do than to go to a county fair. I have had the privilege of attending more than half of the fairs in Kansas. Over this time I have made the observation that big or small many things are the same no matter what fair you go to. Sure each place has its unique twists and wrinkles but all in all they are fairly (pardon the pun) similar.
Those similarities are what make county fairs a great place to be. OK, I know we all think our county fair is one of a kind, and it is. However, at the core every county fair, many things are the same. I wish there was a way to bring more people out to our county fairs so they could experience these similarities that most of us have grown so accustomed to.
For instance, at every county fair I have every attended I have found some great 4-Hers and FFA members learning real world lessons. The exhibits you see at the fair are the culmination of hours and hours of hard work. The projects on display represent a life skills learned, risks taken and experience gained. The exhibitors represent the best and the brightest and some day they will be the leaders in whatever field they choose.
Just take the time to talk to some of them as you walk around the fair. They will be the ones carrying the water buckets, feeding the animals, sweeping the exhibit halls, or waiting in line for the judge. Ask them about their projects and you will see the pride and I bet you will learn a little. Each year I have the privilege of judging several fairs and each year my faith in the next generation is restored. Every fair I judge I meet great kids, that is one of the similarities.
Fairs are also a place to renew old friendships, slow down, relax and talk to the neighbors we rush past every day. Just take a minute to sit in the grandstands, on the benches or near the food stands and listen to the conversations around you. You will hear updates about families, crops, weather, sports and just about everything else. It doesn’t matter where you go, the conversations  are all eerily similar,
The smells and sounds are even similar in most places. The smell of great food in the concession stand, funnel cakes on the midway and wood chips in the arena. The sounds of carnivals and games mingled with barnyard sounds. In the background is the hustle and bustle of people coming and going, music being played and lots and lots of people talking.
I can’t think of a better place to spend a day or an evening (or in our case four days) then the county fair. I hope you will take time from your busy summer schedule to attend a fair or two in your area. If you are lucky enough to take in more than one fair, take a moment and check out just how similar they are.
Well, back to reality for me. My kids have sheep and cattle to practice with, projects to finish and if I am lucky, cakes, muffins and breads to perfect. I am sure it will be a sprint right up to the last night complete with forgotten supplies and tacky paint. That too is similar no matter what fair you go to.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Life is Good

We finished wheat harvest on July 2, that evening I hauled one of the last loads to the elevator. The past couple of weeks had been very hectic and quite frankly things had not gone very good. I was in the middle of wondering what I was doing and probably feeling sorry for myself. That was until I took this load of wheat to town.
It was that time of day when the wind switches from hot to cool and refreshing. I had the windows down and my arm out the window, the soothing cool of evening seeped in. Acres of corn and beans moved past my window with the unmistakable smell of growing plants. The crops were lush and green with the odd golden wheat field thrown in for contrast. The deep green rows set against the blue horizon made for quite a panorama.
As I neared Wamego the crop fields melted away into houses and town. Fireworks stands dotted the outskirts and they were bustling with activity. There is something about the 4th of July and wheat harvest that go together. As a kid I remember the two going hand in hand just like they are this year. Dad’s goal each year was to finish with harvest by the 4th.
Driving down Main Street I noticed the red, white and blue banners lining the street. Flags were flying and firecrackers were going off everywhere. I navigated the crowds of people crossing the street as they migrated to the carnival. An old friend gave me a big wave as we drove past each other. The smell of corndogs and popcorn were in the air.
I joined the line of trucks waiting to be weighed and dumped at the elevator. Finally it was my turn to unload. The Ferris wheel jutted above the buildings of Main Street among the trees lining the park. People moved up and down the sidewalks, the scene was truly something from a Norman Rockwell painting.
I started home again navigating the families making their way to the carnival, past people mowing their lawns and others simply enjoying the evening. On my way home I drove past other farmers, one baling hay and another harvesting wheat. I watched as the big green combine slowly made its way through the field with a cloud of dust tailing it.
Suddenly the past month with its hectic pace and disappointments melted away. I suspect it is always easy to focus on what is not going right and to worry about what needs to be done. We spend too much time thinking about what is ahead or things that happened yesterday that we don’t take time to enjoy what is right now.
We tend to dwell on what is not going good in our lives and in the world around us. The negative seems to be our focus and we lose sight of all the good things in our lives. I know I worry about what I don’t have instead of being thankful for the blessings I have been given. This particular evening was a great reminder of all that I do have and everything that is right in my life.
My drive through the countryside reminded me that I am blessed to live in the heartland. A place where God’s great creation and beauty are all around me, where I know my neighbors and where I can live in peace and quiet. I am so lucky to have a small part in feeding the world.
In town, the 4th of July decorations remind me of why I have the freedoms I so cherish. I live in a nation where I can worship where I want, say what I believe and I have the opportunity to choose my own course. We each need to take a minute and think about why our nation is so great and to take time to thank God for allowing us to live here. We are truly blessed.
I pulled the truck into the shed that night with a new perspective on life. Life is good. I am blessed with a great family, many friends, the ability to farm, a roof over my head and plenty to eat. I am sure that the very near future will hold more stress, disappointments, problems and obstacles. I also know that life will remain hectic. However, I also know that no matter what, I have it pretty good. For that, I am thankful.