agriculture, FFA, rural life, Uncategorized, writing

Why the Anti-Ag Movement Will Not Win

FFA jacket front

Dear Unnamed Animal Rights Organization,

This is in response to your recent blog post bashing the National FFA Organization and animal agriculture.  You’ve done more than just anger a stay-at-home mom blogger in Wyoming.  With one misguided and misinformed blog post, you’ve managed to raise the ire of more than 550,000 FFA members, millions of alumni and an entire agriculture industry.  And for that I say, thank you.  A hearty, beautiful thank you.

You see, this week, Wyoming FFA members are celebrating the second annual Wyoming Agriculture Advocacy Week.  AGvocacy Week, as they call it, was a celebration dreamt up by nine college students in Wyoming a little over a year ago.  Their dream was for one week of the year, to have 2,600 Wyoming FFA members focused and working together to advocate for the agriculture industry.  They wanted members to share their own personal beliefs in agriculture.  They wanted members to share ag facts.  They wanted members to raise awareness of the importance agriculture plays in our economy, culture and natural resources.

It’s an important mission, and one our FFA members take seriously.  But then you went and wrote your blog post and upped the stakes.  You tried to take the National FFA Organization to task for it’s commitment to agriculture and the personal growth of its members.  You tried to hit us where it would hurt the most – right in our beloved blue and gold jacket.

But. You. Failed.

You failed to present logical arguments.  You failed to back up your rhetoric with science based facts.  You failed to trick the FFA into spreading your propaganda.  You failed to divide the organization or cast them in any kind of negative light.  You tried to drag them down to your level of fighting dirty and spreading lies and propaganda.  You failed.

Instead, you’ve given the Wyoming FFA members, and members nationwide, a very real example of why they need to stand up for their industry.  You’ve demonstrated to them the importance of advocating for agriculture.  You’ve given anyone who loves the FFA and supports the agriculture industry a reason to engage in the #AgistheAnswer and #FFAProud campaign.  You’ve managed to rally the troops and you don’t even know it.

You see, I read your blog last night.  And it made me so mad, I started to formulate a response in defense of the organization and industry that helped me become who I am today.  But then the most amazing thing happened.

Before I could get my thoughts together, FFA went on the offensive. The entire organization came together.  Members stopped talking about how angry the blog made them.  They deleted their posts linking to your derogatory propaganda.

Instead, in Wyoming and across the country, FFA members and industry supporters began sharing their positive agriculture experiences on social media.  They are talking about agriculture and livestock production with their friends and family.  They are blogging, tweeting, speaking on the radio and appearing on TV in response to your attack.  They are engaging with anyone and everyone who will listen about the benefits of FFA.  You are not getting the press.  The articulate and charismatic FFA members are.  And they are making the most of it.

FFA members are discussing how #AgistheAnswer to feeding and clothing an ever-expanding world.  They are sharing how #AgistheAnswer to keeping open spaces.  They are discussing how #AgistheAnswer in support of other vital industries like conservation, transportation, textiles, floriculture, horticulture and medicine.

So thank you.  Thank you solidifying their purpose.  Thank you for strengthening their resolve.  Thank you for giving them the perfect example of just what is at stake for the FFA and agriculture if we ALL don’t tell the real ag story.  Thank you for giving all of agriculture the swift kick in the butt we needed to move beyond complacency and into our own version of attack mode.  No longer will we let you misrepresent facts and spew hatred.  We will not sit idly by while you tarnish our blue jackets, industry or our way of life.

Research shows that people were hunting animals for their meat as long as 2 million years ago.  By most accounts, agriculture started around 7,000 B.C. in the fertile lands of the Middle East.  The domestication of animals dates to around 6,000 B.C., depending on the species.  Goats were domesticated for their meat, wool and milk as early as 8,000 B.C.  The National FFA Organization has been around since 1928.  Your organization has only been around since 1980.

By all means, try to sully the National FFA Organization again.  Come at them, at us, with everything you’ve got.  But if you’re going to take us down, you’ll need more than scare tactics and half-truths.  We have time on our side.  We have history on our side.  We have a highly-educated, well-spoken, compassionate, honest and determined legion of blue-jacketed agriculture advocates on our side.  And I couldn’t be more #FFAproud.

Teresa

P.S.  If this resonates with you, drop me a line and share your own ag story or FFA moment at teresahmilner@gmail.com.  Tell me, or the world, why you are #FFAProud or why you believe #AgistheAnswer.  I’d love to hear from you!

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books, Uncategorized, writing

50 Book Challenge – Part Deux

book_open_pagesLast fall, I challenged myself to read 50 books in a year.  It was fun, educational and a better use of my time than slaughtering a craft I was tricked into attempting from too much time on Pinterest.  It even earned me a night on the town and a steak dinner from Outdoor Guy in recognition of my accomplishment (he’s not a big reader, so he was suitably impressed).

But the benefits of reading go beyond dinner at a fancy restaurant.  Studies show that reading can be to your brain what jogging is to your body…good exercise.  Reading keeps your brain stimulated and can help ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimers.  Reading is also a great stress reliever, knowledge builder and memory builder.  For me, there’s the added benefit of improving my writing.  It will help build my vocabulary, and expose me to different writing styles and ideas.  And reading is one of the best bargains out there when it comes to value for your entertainment dollar.  Grab yourself a library card and you have a passport to the world for free!

I had so much fun with my 50 book challenge last year, I decided to complete another 50 books this year.  I began my quest this year on October 1, 2015, and I am currently halfway through.  So what am I reading?  You can see for yourself with my list below.

I thoroughly enjoyed most of these books.  If you only read one book about the great Abraham Lincoln make it Team of Rivals.  And if you love Wyoming, don’t miss out on anything by Craig Johnson.  His prose is really wonderful.  I could write a full review on each book, but instead I’ll hit the highlight and the disappointment of the first half of my campaign.

The title of favorite thus far belongs to Year of Biblical Womanhood.  It was touching, thought-provoking and positively hysterical.  It’s a biography, of sorts, of a woman who tries to live her life for one year according to the ancient laws of the bible, or at least as practically as one can several thousand years later.  The bible is certainly part of this book, and I got some great lessons in biblical history and application.  But it goes beyond that.  Rachel Held Evans opens up a discussion about justice, compassion and charity.  It made me look at the bible in a different way.  Her material isn’t really groundbreaking, but the way she presented it resonated with me.  Interspersed throughout the book are journal entries from her husband, giving his perspective on her quest.  I especially loved these insights and it helped me to remember how much my own actions and adventures affect Outdoor Guy.

If there was a miss in these first 25 books, it was American Hunter by Willie Robertson and William Doyle.  The book is written as an homage to the early men and women hunters of America and describing how they’ve contributed to the hunting culture we know today.  Willie Robertson is the Willie of Duck Dynasty fame.  I like the show.  I like Willie on the show.  Willie’s book, however, fell flat for me.  Maybe I had too high of expectations after reading books like Team of Rivals.  The writing isn’t anything special and the the accounts of important historical hunters lacked depth.  I especially disliked his few examples of women hunters.  They seemed especially shallow and thrown in there as an afterthought.  I like to hunt and love the outdoors, but am not a gun nut, so his many references to the nuances of guns were lost on me.  The accounts of presidents that like to hunt seem to be a big stretch.  And the book completely glossed over the role hunters played in the almost total elimination of species like bison and elk in the late 1800s.  But I recommend skipping this one altogether.

As for the rest, well, I might save those for future blog posts.  Now go fire up those neurons and start reading!

  1. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
  2. Cold Betrayal by JJ Jance
  3. Deceived by Randy Wayne White
  4. Front Runner by Felix Francis
  5. Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
  6. Billion Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football by Gilbert M. Gaul
  7. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  8. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  9. Go, Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  10. Devils Bridge by Linda Fairstein
  11. Dry Bones by Craig Johnson
  12. Inherit the Dead by Lee Child, et. al.
  13. Haunted by Randy Wayne White
  14. Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden by Carlo Devito
  15. Dead Man’s Fancy by Keith McCafferty
  16. All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
  17. Foreign Affairs by Stuart Woods
  18. Devoted in Death by JD Robb
  19. Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson
  20. Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans
  21. Blizzard 1949 by Roy Alleman
  22. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  23. Bones to Pick by Carolyn Haines
  24. Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman
  25. American Hunter by Willie Robertson and William Doyle

Teresa

 

recipes, Uncategorized

Lip Smackin’ Good Kiss Cookies

Kiss Cookies.jpg

I’ve been seriously slacking on my Monday Morning Yumminess posts.  So I thought I’d get back in the swing of it with my most favorite cookie ever.  Ever.

Chocolate and peanut butter, together, in an easy, quick cooking cookie.  It’s like the Gods smiled on me when this recipe was created.  Or maybe it was the Devil who smiled because he knew I could never resist.  Either way, these cookies are just about perfect in every way.  They should really be called “This is why I get fat at Christmas Time” cookies, but then no one would make them and the world would be a sadder place.  Skinny, but sad.

These cookies are my favorite because as I mentioned above, they are easy to make and are oh so yummy.  You might see them a lot around the holidays, but I would argue that the flavor combination makes them perfect for just about any time of year.  The most tedious part is unwrapping all of the kisses.  But now I have Wyokiddo and she does that part.  Delicious cookies for Mama, all important fine-motor skill development for the tyke.  Win-win!

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
18-24 milk chocolate candy kisses

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine sugar, peanut butter, and egg.
  3. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. If dough is too sticky, refrigerate 1/2 hour or until easy to handle.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until tops are slightly cracked. Remove cookies from oven. Press a chocolate kiss into the center of each warm cookie.  This makes 18-24 cookies, depending on the size of your dough balls.

I must warn you, these cookies do not last long.  If you ever make them and invite me to your house, hide them or you won’t have any left when I leave.

Teresa

humor, Uncategorized, weather, writing

Of frost and hoars

 

Frosty morningeAre you ready for a quick meteorological lesson?

I recently joined a few Wyoming photography groups on Facebook.  They are a fun place to view and share photos of a state I love.  With the recent weather that’s been moving across the state, people have been posting lots of sunset and frost photos.

Most of the time, I keep my comments about photo quality or grammar to myself.  I’m no troll.  But with the sheer volume of people incorrectly spelling the term to describe the thick white frost we see on trees and fences around our state, I felt compelled to take action.

The term is spelled hoar frost.  Hoar comes from hoary, an Old English term that means showing signs of old age. In the context of frost, it is the kind of frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.  The image above, taken when we lived in Boulder, Wyoming, is an example of hoar frost.

There are other kinds of frost, like window frost, white frost, advection frost, rime and black frost (we call it black ice around here).  Oh and Jack Frost.  He’s a cool cat.  There are subtle differences between each kind of frost, most of which are lost on me.  When in doubt, just call it frost.  If you have someone that presses you on further identifying EXACTLY what kind of frost it is, drop them as a friend.  You don’t need that kind of pressure in your life.

But, if you insist on categorizing your frost, remember it’s h-o-a-r.

Not

W-H-O-R-E.  I really don’t want to see what could be rightly described as whore frost.

If you are sharing photos or writing about weather phenomena, remember, h-o-a-r.  You’ll thank me later.

Teresa

dogs, Uncategorized, writing

Archie

 

ArchieYesterday was a rough day.  The last few weeks have all been rough, actually.  Our border collie, Archie, had surgery last week to remove a sarcoma, a kind of cancerous tumor, from his hock.  It didn’t go well.  The tumor was more extensive than the vet originally believed and she had to cut out much more muscle and tissue.  He came home with his entire back leg in a splint, looking considerably worse for wear.

We hoped for the best.  We loved on him, dutifully kept his bandages dry and tried to keep him comfortable.  But as the days drug on, Outdoor Guy and I could clearly see he wasn’t getting better.

Archie had always been energetic.  Or “spaztastic,” as I liked to call it.  Even at 12 years old, he was a dog of constant motion.  He had a zest for life and being on the go.  Outdoor Guy often described him, however un-poetically, as a fart on a skillet.  So we knew when he wanted only to be prone on the kitchen floor for hours on end, it wasn’t a good sign.

The vet discussed a complete amputation with Outdoor Guy.  But the last thing we wanted to do was force Archie to endure another difficult surgery and long, painful recovery time that might or might not work.  It wouldn’t be fair, we said.  So in the few quiet moments we have around here between the birds and our three year old, we decided if there was no new tissue growth or improvement to his leg yesterday, we would have him euthanized.

Outdoor Guy made the trip to the vet’s office alone.  I hoped against hope that we would be blessed with our own little miracle and he would bring Arch dog home with happy news of a leg that was finally healing.  But when I heard the pickup in the drive and saw Outdoor Guy turn into the garage instead of dropping Archie off at the house, my heart broke.  I burst into tears because I knew our sweet dog was really gone.

Ugh.  Just typing the word euthanize makes me cringe.  It’s such a cold, lonely word to describe what in this case is truly an act of kindness and mercy.  It is the best gift that Outdoor Guy could have given his best dog – an end to the pain and suffering.

I am proud of my husband for this decision, because I know he makes it from an incredibly selfless place in his soul.  I believe that when you adopt a pet or raise any kind of animal, you are making a pact with that creature.  You are giving them your word that you will provide for their needs in the best way you know how.  That you will give them love and kindness as well as meet their physical needs.  And when they no longer have a quality of life, when they must endure long-term pain, that you will give them one last act of kindness and love.  Even if it rips your heart out.

I’ve always described Archie as Outdoor Guy’s dog.  He got Archie when he was a puppy.  Archie came into my life as part of the package when Outdoor Guy and I got married.  But he’s been a part of my family for more than eight years now.  It didn’t really hit me until I hugged him goodbye and wept in his scruff that Archie was my dog, too.  And had been all along.

Oh he drove me nuts, with the incessant barking and his uncanny ability to be in my way at all times.  But he was sweet and loving and smart as a whip.  We used to joke that if he had opposable thumbs, there was no telling what the dog could accomplish.  At the very least, he would have typed his a scandalous tell-all and made millions.

I found new appreciation for Archie when me moved to the bird farm.  Border collies are working dogs, and ours was finally employed.  Outdoor Guy began taking him out to work the birds.  Archie would help herd the pheasants, some just a few weeks old, into their barns at night.  As the birds grew, Archie would help herd them from one pen to another.  My husband never had to teach him any of it.  He just knew what to do.  Hundreds of years of genetics led Archie to his moment to shine as our “bird dog.”

I loved watching him work birds, especially the chicks.  Archie would lock onto a single chick, determined not to let that individual double back past him.  Two dozen other birds could crawl under his legs and sweep past him, but Archie never failed to hold the line for that single chick.  They might have had beaks and feathers, but they were Archie’s flock and he was on the job.  After his time in the pens, Archie would come home, lap up half a bucket of water, then collapse in a heap on the cool wood floor of our kitchen.  Within minutes, he would be sound asleep, snoring, with his eyes open.

Archie was a one-man dog.  He liked me, tolerated Wyokiddo and lived under a tentative peace treaty with the other two mutts.  But he LOVED Outdoor Guy.  Archie was loyal to a fault. If he was inside the house, he was always waiting within sight of the back door for his boy to come home.  I know his loss is even harder on Outdoor Guy.  And for that, I ache even more.  Just now, Wyokiddo came and nestled in my lap and told me she missed her Archie bug.  There is a hole in our lives now that is bigger than the space on the floor where his dog bed was.

We will all miss Archie.  I will miss his sweet face and sneaky kisses.  I will miss the way the white on his nose would turn pink in the summer sun.  I will miss the shrill bark he greeted me with each morning and the silly bug-eyed face he made when he licked an ice cream bowl.  I will miss seeing him work the birds, racing around with his tongue lolling out to one side.  I will miss his weird old-man snoring at night and the efficiency and zeal with which he snuffled up even the smallest crumbs on the floor.  But most of all, I will miss seeing him scrunched on the couch next to Outdoor Guy with a look of  pure bliss and contentment on his face.

Rest easy, my black-and-white friend.  And know you were loved.

humor, Uncategorized, writing

Finding my spirit animal

The cyber world has been abuzz with discussions of “spirit animals.”  Spirit animals, as I understand them, are an animal or totem meant to be a representation of you and your skills.  I see lots of people posting about wolves, bears, tigers or other charismatic mega fauna.  When a highly visible lion in Africa was killed by an American hunter, people from across the world claimed the lion as their spirit animal.

Do you have a spirit animal?  If not, you can always find one via the web.  There are dozens of quizzes you can take on Facebook to determine your own special creature that you are mystically connected through via time and space.

I sort of liked the idea of a spirit animal.  The American Indians have long seen spirit guides or animals as powerful guardians of the land or spirits of living animals.  And maybe adapting the characteristics of some amazing creatures from nature would help me transcend my daily routine.  Or maybe my spirit animal would show up at just the right moment to help guide my life.  A big black crow calling out winning lottery numbers would have been helpful yesterday.

But none of those so called “authentic” Facebook Find Your Spirit Animal quizzes ever worked for me.  One would say my spirit animal is a butterfly (speaks of transcendent destiny), while another would claim it was a Scarab beetle (guide to the cosmic universe.)  Really?  A Scarab beetle?  Maybe I should just be happy it wasn’t a dung beetle.  I was beginning to doubt the authenticity and reliability of the ‘net in my quest for my spirit animal.  Maybe these quizzes weren’t really written by trustworthy medicine men or  ancient Tibetan shamans.  Surely such a powerful and metaphysical concept wasn’t just a bunch of New Ag New Age poppy-cock written to entertain the masses?

So I consulted the oracles.  Except I don’t really have access to the oracles, so I chose the next best thing…the hipster beatnik who stands outside the gas station in his colorful authentic Etsy serape pancho.  He told me one doesn’t really get to pick one’s spirit animal.  It chooses you.  So disappointing.  If the Internet can’t rightly pick it and I can’t pick it, how would I ever know my true spirit animal?

I thought I was destined to wander through life alone and unguided.  Until today.  There on my news feed, in all his splendid glory, was my spirit animal.  I immediately identified with him on a visceral level.  My connection to him was positively existential.  I knew in my heart we had found each other.  Here he is…

My life is complete.

Teresa

Posted by Best Vine Videos on Monday, January 11, 2016

By Joey, Uncategorized, writing

No more tired resolutions…

We’ve all done it.  We do it under the influence of too much champagne.  We do it in a moment of weakness.  We do it because of pressure from those around us.  What have we done?  We’ve made New Year’s resolutions that we simply don’t keep.  Raise your hand if you agree with me.  Yep, that’s you.  And if you’re anything like me, maybe your resolutions have been solely based on appearance.  So this year, instead of making a tired, repetitive resolution, I aim to do the following:

Get rid of stuff.  If I haven’t worn it in the past month (save for my ‘funeral’ dress), it’s leaving my house.  If I haven’t used it, it’s leaving my house.

Paint our laundry room/brewing room.  Four years ago I fell in love with a paint sample from Laura Ashley called Vintage Ribbon.  I painted a small area of my laundry room to see if I like d it.  It’s still there.  Obviously I didn’t like it.  My husband says it looks like a California Raisin (remember those guys?) threw up on the wall.  So I think this year I’ll paint over it.

Resist the urge to compare someone’s best with my worst.  Or how about I just refrain from comparing myself to others at all?  I’m an individual.  My maker created me to be special and different.  I’m going to celebrate those differences instead of trying to fit into a mold that I was never intended to fit  in the first place.

Learn how to change a tire.  Yes, I do not know how to change a tire.  I also can’t drive a manual, but that’s for another year.  You see, in my previous life living in metropolitan areas, I never had to worry about it.  I had OnStar and they could send someone to come and fix a flat.  But I sold that fancy SUV when I moved to live at the end of dirt road.  And it wouldn’t do any good if I still had that fancy SUV because when I’m 1 ½ hours from a grocery store, the Calvary is not coming to save my backside.  And if I had a cell phone (which I don’t, by the way) to call in the Calvary, there is no service where I live.  So maybe I should be self-sufficient and figure out how to do it myself.

Now, my last resolution is going to be the most difficult.  But here it is:  I resolve to wash dishes every night.  Gulp.  There, I’ve said it.  And now I’m going to explain it.  I HATE to wash dishes.  I would rather scrub a dirty truck stop/strip joint toilet with my own toothbrush that I will later have to use on my own teeth than wash dishes. I am not exaggerating.   I hate it that much.  I postpone the choir for as long as possible, which usually means that I’m washing the dishes from our last meal, while I’m cooking our next meal.  I know that some women want dream homes with granite and stainless steel.  Not me, nope. I want a dishwasher.

Joey

Uncategorized, writing

Resolve

 

Ten Sleep Creek

As each new year unfolds before me, I like to take some time to reflect on the past 365 days and compose some resolutions for the next trip around the sun.

As I mentioned in my post “Unyoke,” the word resolution has it roots in the Latin word resolvere, meaning to loosen or release, to unyoke.  It felt like I was carrying a lot of baggage at the end of 2015.  So I focused my resolutions for 2016 on the literal – releasing myself from the burdens I’ve been carrying.

I know many people scoff at New Year’s Resolutions.  As well they might, because statistics show that less than 20 percent of people actually keep their resolutions.  But I find it helps me to refocus and reframe my life.

Resolutions aren’t my to-do list or a catalog of all the things I dislike about myself and want to change.  They aren’t SMART goals, either.  I find goals too…constricting.  Burdensome.  Take for instance my first resolution – Write.  If I wrote it as a SMART goal, it would look something like “Goal #1.  To complete the first draft of my novel by March 1, 2016.  To accomplish this, I will write at least 1,000 words a day for the next 35 days.”

Goals, clearly written and well-defined, are great tools.  I grew up with just such goals written on a note card that I kept in my dresser drawer.  I would read them daily to motivate myself.  But sometimes, SMART goals just don’t work.  My husband and daughter are my main focus in life these days.  So my life needs to be flexible.  The first time I miss a self-imposed deadline, I feel I’ve failed.  If I only write 300 words a day for a week because I am busy taking care of a sick kid, I feel like a slacker.  And these resolutions are about unyoking, remember, not burdening myself with arbitrary deadlines and constraints.

So instead, I treat my resolutions as a gift I am giving to myself and those I love.  They are my secret promise to myself to grow and change into the best me I can be.  A treat to be cherished not a box to check off.

So how do I plan to unyoke and set myself free in 2016?

Write.  Write.  Then write some more.
Writing is a release in and of itself for me.  It helps me work through problems and clarify my feelings on a subject.  There is something incredibly cathartic about distilling my thoughts into coherent words and arguments.  And I enjoy using social media to share my adventures with friends and family.  So I plan to use writing as a way to help me deal with the grief of the death of my father, and to stay connected to my support network.

But writing sets me free in other ways.  It gives me a creative outlet and challenges my mind.   It lets me sort out my own world, or create new ones.  And so, write I shall.

Explore Spirituality.  Without Guilt.
I was raised Catholic.  My parents were Catholic.  Their parents were Catholic.  My ancestors who came over on the boat from Ireland at the turn of the last century were Catholic.  I come from a long, long line of meat, potatoes and guilt.

While I appreciate many things about Catholicism, there are some things about the religion that I just can’t wrap my heart around.  So off and on, since high school, I’ve been searching for a religion that speaks to me.  Not spirituality.  Not faith.  I have that in spades.  But a religion.  A church.  A brick and mortar place of mortals that I can feel comfortable in and draw comfort from.

Until this point in my existence, I’ve been perfectly content to be a spiritual nomad.  I have no problem wandering in and out of religions like the wind across the desert.  I drift among the many beliefs in the world, picking up ideas here, depositing unnecessary burdens there.  Catholicism, Buddhism, Evangelicalism.  There are good things to draw on from most faiths.  I need only look to the night sky or the mountains or at my child to help cultivate God’s presence in my life.  But now I have a kid, and she’s old enough to start understanding spirituality, at least on a basic level.  So I’d like to find a place to help begin cultivating her love for God and his wonders.  I’d like for her to learn the bible and share a faith with a community broader than Outdoor Guy and I.

So this year, I’m committing to seeking out a church that feels comfortable to me, and one that I am comfortable raising my own daughter in.  I am releasing myself from a sense of obligation to the Catholic church and only Catholic church, from the guilt of going against my upbringing.  I will confidently explore options that make sense for my family and our world view.

(And now I’ll go say twelve Hail Marys for the blasphemy of it all.)

She’s Still Little
Wyokiddo is an incredible kid.  She is silly and fun, smart and joyful.  She is also still just three years old.  Which means she will be silly at inappropriate times.  Make mistakes.  Kick the back of my chair in the car.  Lollygag.  Get sidetracked.  Lie.  Disobey.  Act out.  Sometimes, I forget that.  I forget she is still relatively new to this planet and learning how to act, how to control herself.  And so, my gift to Wyokiddo is an ongoing one…to continue to grant her acceptance and love, even during those times when I don’t especially feel graceful.  Especially during those times.  I resolve to keep my expectations and my needs in check so she remains a silly, fun and joyful child.

Practice Random Acts of Consideration and Kindness
This year, I am going to set Outdoor Guy free from some of his burdens by what I’m calling Random Acts of Consideration.  We have our division of labor in the house, and it works well for us.  But that doesn’t mean that we each enjoy all our chores.  I mean sometimes I really, really, REALLY hate doing laundry.  And I’d imagine that Outdoor Guy feels the same way about starting the coffee in the morning.  Or shoveling.

So my resolution is to do nice things for my husband for no reason at all, other than I love him.  I will unburden him, sometimes, of his familial obligations.  And for good measure, I’ll bake him more chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies are what makes his soul sing.  And let’s face it…when Outdoor Guy is happy, there’s a chance I won’t have to do the laundry after all…:-)

Teresa

 

 

Uncategorized, writing

Unyoke

Unyoke

Since New Year’s Day, several of my friends have been passing around a blog post from a popular mommy blog and related Facebook page.  It’s a post about New Year’s Resolutions, or lack thereof, and all of my friends were loving it.  They shared it with me and with each other with comments like “Finally, someone gets it!” And “This is the one resolution I can keep.”

So it was with some interest that I clicked on link and read the post.  The author talked about how her entire family was sick on New Year’s Eve.  I found myself nodding along, thinking of how awful Thanksgiving was when my family and I were sick and how guilty I felt when Wyokiddo got her Nana, cousin and uncle puking sick, too, just in time for my dad’s funeral.  Typhoid Mary, anyone?

The second part of the post began with a Tweet that I loved.

“I don’t want a new, better life in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that
my life is already staggeringly beautiful.”

I almost stood up and cheered.  “Yes!” I thought.  “Yes,  I needed this.  I need to print this out and tape it everywhere in my house and recite it every day as a reminder of how blessed my life is.”

Then I got to her discussion of resolutions.  The post in part, read (caps are her emphasis, not mine)…

“And I don’t want to be a BETTER ME in 2016. Screw that. I don’t want to chase after some imaginary more fabulous version of myself. I AM what the people I love need. I already AM. And when we are always BECOMING we have no room to BE. So I’m done striving. I’m fine, thanks. I’m showing up to love my people and you and the world this year JUST AS I AM.”

And

“Self-improvement is just another hiding place. DON’T TRY TO BE BETTER. JUST NOTICE THAT IT’S ALL GOOD ENOUGH ALREADY.”

Hmmmmm.

I don’t know why, but this really irritated me.  And it’s been irritating me ever since.  I agree that we need to notice all that we have that is good and beautiful.  But the rest, for me, is a cop out.  This is the easy way out.  This is a way of making the problems in life someone else’s fault.  As I re-read it a second time, all I could picture was Cartman, the fat little kid from Southpark shouting “Whatever! I do what I want!”

Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe that we as moms and dads and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters put a ton of unnecessary pressure on ourselves.  We burden our souls with guilt that erodes our self-confidence.  We create unreasonable expectations for ourselves and others and resort to anger when those expectations aren’t met.

I also believe that we’d all be a little better off if we could find peace and happiness with what we have instead of always wanting more or different.  More money.  More stuff.  A bigger house.  A nicer car.  A spouse that understood us more.  A friend who stopped being 30 minutes late every time we agree to meet.

But to call self-improvement a hiding place?  To resolve not to grow, not to improve as a person?  That seems extreme.  And incredibly egocentric.

I mean, why wouldn’t you strive to be a better person?  Why wouldn’t you want to improve?  Grow?  Isn’t that something we ask of our kids?  Of our spouses?  Our friends and family?  The world?  Isn’t the best gift we can give each other is to strive to be the best version of ourselves?

I don’t think the New Year should be a time to catalog all our faults and make false promises to ourselves about correcting those behaviors.  But I do believe in the power of positive thinking and that each of us can find room to improve, to grow.

The word resolution has it roots in the Latin word resolvere, meaning to loosen or release, to unyoke.  So maybe that’s a better way to look at resolutions.  What decisions can we make in our lives to release ourselves?  To unyoke those around us?

Instead of packing it all in and saying “Oh to hell with it, when it comes to me, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” maybe a more helpful attitude would look something like this  (entirely my emphasis!)…

In 2016, resolve to RELEASE yourself from unrealistic expectations.  Love yourself more and judge others less.  Let go of guilt, or make positive changes in your life to fix those things that weigh heavy on your heart.

Resolve to UNYOKE those you love from your own unrealistic expectations.  Free them from the obligation of your happiness or sadness.

Resolve to let love and grace and compassion FLOW FREELY to yourself, your family and your friends.

KNOW that your are fabulous and good enough.  But be RESOLUTE in an attitude of personal growth and improvement, for it is through our own growth and betterment that our world grows and improves.

 

Be FIRM in your knowledge  that, as Rick Warren wrote, “It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.”

So unyoke your soul and hurl some love into 2016.  For yourself.  Your family.  This world.  You might just be surprised at how much we’re all improved for the effort.

Teresa

 

Uncategorized

Just…Write…

photo (18)As I sat down to write my New Year’s Resolutions (more on that tomorrow), I decided one of my resolutions was to come up with a personal way to honor my late father, John Cole.  He passed away right before Thanksgiving after a prolonged health battle.  Thanksgiving, the funeral, my birthday and everyday life followed in rapid succession.  And in between all that,  Wyokiddo, Outdoor Guy and I all caught a wicked stomach bug.  I didn’t have time to think, much less really deal with my grief.

I’m doing okay.  Mostly.  Sometimes, I will think of Dad and one of the thousand wonderful memories we shared and it makes me smile.  Like the time, when I was nine, that he bought me a Michael Jackson doll as a Blue Light Special in K-Mart on Christmas Eve.  The man did love a bargain.

Other times, something more poignant comes to mind and I am filled with such a tremendous sense of loss that I can’t help but cry.  I still can’t fathom living the rest of my life and never seeing or speaking with or hugging my dad again.  Grief is a journey, I suppose, and I’m just starting the trip.  I have many more miles ahead of me.

But one thing I decided to do for myself was to find some way, my way, to honor my dad.  I wanted some act that would speak to the man he was, but also honor what he meant to me.  I considered donating money in his name to one of his favorite charities.  I thought about joining a civic organization and following his example of servant leadership.  These ideas and a few others rattled around in my head all through December, but none felt right.

But the other night, I tried to think of the most inspirational, wonderful thing my father ever told me.  And without even spending ten seconds considering it, I had my answer.

“I love to read what you write.”

I raised my head from the dining room table.  I was puttering on my laptop, trying to ignore the television across the room blaring at maximum volume.

“What?”

My dad smiled at me over a copy of Wild Times, a publication for fourth graders about Wyoming’s wildlife.  It was a freelance writing job that I had picked up recently.  At his request, I’d brought him a few copies.  He held up the pages, a small salute from his over-sized green recliner.

“I love to read what you write.”

“It’s just a kids’ magazine, Dad.  It doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things,” I told him.

“You wrote it.  That means something to me,” he replied.  ” I love to read what you write.  Always have.  Always will.”

Then he bent back over the glossy pages and finished reading.

Those words, shared by my dad sitting in his ugly chair while Vanna turned letters on the Wheel, were the most wonderful praise and inspiration he could have ever given me.

Dad wasn’t filling me full of empty praise, or bragging up what was definitely not Pulitzer winning material.  He was just telling me what my writing meant to him.

“I love to read what you write.”

They are words that I now understand will help me start on my path to healing.  Until tonight, I hadn’t written anything in over six weeks.  No news releases, no blog posts, no pages in my manuscript.  Any topic that I contemplated seemed so trivial and silly in light of what was going on in my life.  I felt like if I was going to write, it better be something epic.  And I have been severely lacking in epic.

But now I realize, the power is in the journey, not the destination, to borrow from Arthur Ashe.  It doesn’t matter what I write.  I should just…write.  It is the act itself that can bring happiness.  Healing.  Hope.

So I’ve decided, my way to honor my father is to write.  I will journal, blog, finish that short story about two boys and a duck, work on my novel or pick up freelance writing gigs as the time allows.  And I will share what I write.  Because maybe what I write will mean something to someone else.  But even if that doesn’t happen, I know it will mean something to me.

And it would mean something to Dad.  Wherever he may be.

Teresa