The good Lord is watching

The pens are now empty. There’s no more bawling calves or cows looking after their babies. The leftover bales of hay sit in the farm yard. The round top shed is a little emptier. Our souls are a little emptier too.

If you would have told me five and a half years ago this is how it’d end up I wouldn’t have believed you. But this is what it’s came down to. The cowherd is at the livestock auction as I type this. Some probably have already been sold.

There’s been an agreement reached and now we have to move on. We have to depend on ourselves more than we ever have. I took some photos on Sunday because the light was so very beautiful and I wanted one last reminder of the day. I posted them on social media and had more than a few people reach out with encouragement. One comment from a dear friend read, “This may not be the day you want, but the good Lord is watching.” She is so right. We have to pick ourselves up and do the right thing. We have to do what is right for us.

Nearly 3 months ago the ugly wildfires on the day I buried my Dad was the worst thing I’d been through in my 38 years on earth. Sunday when we hauled those cows, calves, bulls and heifers to town is squarely situated in second place for worst experiences of my life. I’ve hauled cattle to town before because of the drought, not knowing if Dad’s pasture would ever have momma cows and scampering babies in it. It did.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago covering it for my day job. The speaker helped attendees gather the tools they needed to make hard decisions and remain profitable in ranching. One thing he said was, “those cows will be dead in 15 years, but that land will be there forever.” How true and it really struck a chord with me. It’s hard to look at life that way when the cattle who have been the center of my husband’s universe since 2012 are being loaded into a truck to be sold.

As we prepare to move on and become the people we want to be, I look toward the future. I can’t help but wonder how things will eventually turn out. Another good friend told me yesterday if this door you’re seeking doesn’t open, then maybe there’s something better coming. I sure hope so. I’ve had enough of the bad.

Dad would know

In the month plus since my Dad has died, I’ve had more than a few instances where I desperately wanted to pickup the phone and ask him something. Car is making a funny noise, ask Dad. Tires are wearing funny, ask Dad. The neighbor has a new pickup, ask Dad where it came from. He’d know.

My husband and I were coming back from the dentist office and noticed a shed along the highway getting new metal siding. I thought the property was owned by someone else, he thought the guy using it owned it. Without even missing a beat, I said, I bet Dad would know. Then I sighed. My Dad was a bit of a gossip and loved to find information out before anyone else.

The other day a coworker asked where my Dad’s name Valere came from. I don’t recall any conversation besides the one where we were told his mother came up with it. So off to Google it I go. Valere is Latin and means to be strong or be well. In French it means brave. I like the second meaning better. Dad was brave. He wasn’t always right, but he did what he wanted and lived life his way. To me that’s brave.

Lately I’ve been going through some issues in my personal life and they’ve all seemed to heap on me at once. I was looking for verses, quotes and sayings on Pinterest and the Be Brave ones just really struck me. I even created a cover photo for my Facebook page that says just that. I don’t like change. I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone. I also don’t like people who are mean and do things to hurt others. I’m trying really hard to forgive a couple of those people, but it’s just easier to forget them. I have to be brave to do that.

I’d also been sitting on a couple of voice mail messages that I couldn’t make myself listen to. Mostly because they were from my Dad. My phone has been giving me the dreaded “storage is full” and I’ve been trying to clean it up since I’m too cheap to get a new phone right now and don’t want to lose any of the 4,000-some odd photos I have on there. So one night when I was feeling particularly down, I was brave and listened to them. Same old Dad message, “Kylene, this is your Dad. Call me back.” But this time I could hear the age in his voice. I could hear the sickness. I could hear all the things I never wanted him to be. Especially gone.

Those phone messages are still there. I was brave enough to listen to them again, but I’m not brave enough to delete them. They just might migrate to a new phone when I decide to purchase another. I’ve got plenty of room for the next photos for now. I don’t have to be brave all at once.

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Dad and I during the Father-Daughter dance at my wedding, July 18, 2009.

BeBrave

The Lord will provide

I haven’t written in some time. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. I now have a tiny bit of time so I’m going to take it to write something about what we’ve been doing, and what has been on my mind.

My Dad, Valere Orebaugh passed away early on March 1. He’d been in and out of the hospital and was moved to a nursing home where he was supposed to get better and go home. He had days where he was better, but the bad days started out numbering the better ones. The day before he died Mom called us all in and I secretly hoped my boys being there would snap him out of it. But it really didn’t. I do know he knew we were there and he was surrounded by his family at least for a few hours.

This morning I was helping Chance get dressed and he said, “that smells like Poppa.” I’m not real sure what he smelled, but I didn’t catch a whiff of it, so I wasn’t for sure. I was telling an acquaintance at lunchtime about what he’d said and she shared her own wisdom on the subject. Chance and my Dad spent a lot of time together the past 2 years, and I’m not real sure how much a 3-year-old can grasp about death, but I do know he misses his grandpa.

When I was coming into the office this morning, I paused to gather my things and make sure I had everything and realized the song I heard the morning my dad died was again on the radio. I don’t know if I’d heard it since the day he died on the station, but there it was My Old Man by the Zac Brown Band.

And while I was working on pages this morning, I had my normal Pandora radio station playing and it was Stoney Larue’s “Forever Young.” That was the song I had played at my wedding for the Father/Daughter dance. When it was time to choose a song for the dance, I really couldn’t decide on one. A friend suggested one to me, and at the time it just fit. It still does. I think I chose it because I always wanted him to be forever young.

For as long as I can remember I thought of my dad as young, even though he was one of the older parents of my classmates. Maybe it was because he was tanned and strong, spending his days on the tractor or outdoors. Maybe it was because he liked new things. More than once I remember Mom cussing him because he came home with a new pickup or a new pair of boots.

But these last few years have been hard with his health. In 2007 he had a quadruple bypass surgery and even then they told him his time was limited. His heart was pretty badly damaged and they told him he wasn’t a candidate for the transplant list because of his age and health. Admittedly I was shocked we had him for 10 more years. I’m thankful for those extra years. He got to meet my two boys and become a part of their lives.

While planning Dad’s funeral we came across his wishes for the memorial and he wanted to be buried in a small country cemetery. The land around it was farm ground he used to rent and farm when we were kids. I remember helping him switch out anhydrous tanks at this particular place and watching the hose come off, spraying the noxious gas everywhere. He yelled at me, “get in the pickup!” It was a pretty scary situation, but we were both lucky to come out unscathed.

On the day of his funeral it was terribly windy. Gusty, nasty wind. But it was also nearly 80 degrees so it was almost tolerable during the graveside service. Once we’d returned to the church we all noticed heavy smoke clouds in the south part of town. It was not a good situation. After we’d returned home my husband’s phone rang. A family friend alerted him to a fire very near the Scott farm. It wasn’t good. In fact it was awful. The farmhouse, the barn, hay stockpile and grass all burned. The cows and calves managed to survive, but there have been a few that had to be culled because they weren’t going to have the quality of life they deserve.

I work for an agricultural publication and was asked to write about my experience. You can read my post titled, “The worst day of my life” on the High Plains Journal website. After I’d returned home after seeing the devastation with my own eyes, I called my mom and said, “I don’t know if I can even write it.” She said just do it.

This past week its been read and shared a number of times. I got to speak with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts about my experience and he even read my words on the floor of the Senate in Washington DC. Yesterday, I received a letter from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. Both were moved by the strength in my words. I’m not real sure how much strength I do have, as it’s really a trying situation. But one thing I do know is farmers and ranchers are some of the best people on the planet. We’ve gotten truckloads of hay. Offers to help us pick up the pieces. All of it, we are so grateful for. Words cannot express how much we are thankful for these people. I thanked a few of them in my second blog for work, “Only thing I know.”

At the Roberts fire tour, I overheard a woman from Englewood, Kansas who lost her home and all her belongings. She told the senator, “the Lord will provide.” And I believe her. Ask, and He will provide.

 

January 21

Amidst the music, people talking and the normal sounds of a Friday night concert at a local bar I heard my husband say to a friend he hadn’t seen in quite a while, “everything I’ve done in the last four years hasn’t been by my choice.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, and have to agree with him.

Four years ago today his dad, Steve, died. Our lives were forever changed. I’ve started to dread this day simply because it’s such a hard day for me to deal with.

I’d known Steve while my husband and I were dating in high school and later when I was in college. After graduated college my husband and I got back together after being on again and off again. We lived together for 7 years before we got married in 2009. So it’s easy to say I spent a lot of time around my father-in-law. Probably more time than around my own parents just because we lived close together.

He helped cultivate my love for red beer and sitting in the shed shooting the breeze. I’d like to believe he understood my horse obsession more than my own husband because he’d go watch me run when he had time and he cried right there with me when she tried to cut her foot off and had to make a trip to the vet with his pickup since my new-to-me pickup hadn’t gotten fitted with a gooseneck hitch yet. (He later bought me a B&W turnover ball and helped install it.) A few years later her rescued my sister and I when we’d broken down in Ashland and needed some diesel fuel and help getting my sisters truck started. There wasn’t a time when he was not around. Hell, I still have his cell phone number saved in my phone and I’ve had two different phones since he’s been gone.

Even though I still miss him every single day, there are good things that have come from him being gone. My husband has had the opportunity to have a cowherd, managed the way he wants to and have produced some pretty nice heifers and steers. He’s also got to raise a wheat crop that was one of the best the Scott Farm has ever been able to – even after three years of ugly drought. He’s also gotten to show his boys what it’s like to be a part of a farm – both the good and the bad. And for that, I’m proud. It may not have been our choices to live without him, but we’ve been able to deal.

This quote popped up on my social media feed this morning and it helped get the tears out of my eyes and the lump in my throat. “If you don’t leave your past in the past, it will destroy your future. Live for what today has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.” As much as I don’t want to leave him in the past, I have to.

Until we meet again, you old fart.

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Steve at the farm with his dog Dolly.

I feel your pain

Recently I read a comment from someone on a blog post. The person said they’d never lost someone close to them. I thought, how is that even possible? They must be incredibly lucky.

I remember from a very young age the loss of family members and friends. I was never lucky enough not to know hurt. To this day, I can’t hear Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art without tearing up. Both were sung/played at great grandparents and grandparent’s funerals among others.

Even when I was a tender 10 years old, I knew what death meant and what it did to people. My grandparents were killed in a car accident in February 1989 and it’s the little things I remember about that day and the days following that still have an impact on me. Grandpa Roy’s glasses folded on the console of the car. Grandmother’s personal effects. It was tough. I felt like I never got to know them.

I have the app Timehop on my phone and on April 3 it showed a photo of my grandparents. I stopped in my tracks and thought about that day with Mom and her sisters. Grandma Wetzel has been gone for 4 years now and never got to meet both of my children. I was pregnant with my first when she passed away. I shared the photo, but didn’t feel like explaining myself.

Just this week there have been deaths effecting both family and friends, while I’d only met one, it’s still sad to hear the passing of people who have had such an effect on others. I never know what to say, and despise the term, “They are in a better place,” or “They are with their maker.” While I know both of those things are true, the person saying them can do more by not saying them (at least to me). I have flashes to the scene in Steel Magnolias after the funeral and Daryl Hannah’s character Annelle told M’Lynn that Shelby is with her Father now. Every time I watch that scene I want to smack Annelle. The best thing I know to say is, “I’m thinking about you.”

My father-in-law has been gone for a couple of years now and I’ve posted about him before, but this year, I couldn’t remember his death again. I didn’t want to. Then, last week my oldest son said out of the blue, “Dad misses his dad.” I said, “I know, I do too.” He continued, “I wish my grandpa that died was still here. I miss him.” Out of the mouth of an almost 4-year-old, and he spoke the truth. I about cried. It’s hard, and it’s even harder when the young ones don’t understand.

Best we can do is remember them, and for me, photos are it.

Carol and Erna Wetzel on their wedding day, June 2, 1948.

Carol and Erna Wetzel on their wedding day, June 2, 1948.

My husband said I’m easily annoyed

On Nov. 1 I was sitting watching TV while the boys napped. Scrolling through Facebook most friends were sharing photos of their kids on Halloween. I had done the same. My ears perked when I heard jingle bells ringing on a commercial for some store. Seriously, I thought. Halloween was JUST yesterday.

Later in the evening we were watching a football game, and the same commercial I had watched earlier in the day was on, and I made the comment rather sarcastically, “And so it starts..” What starts? My husband asked. The barrage of Christmas commercials. “Oh you’re annoyed by everything,” he said. I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him.

But it’s true. Christmas commercials before Halloween annoy me. Christmas commercials after Halloween annoy me. Christmas commercials before thanksgiving annoy me. But yet, I’m planning my assault on buying Christmas gifts for the boys and family. I haven’t bought anything yet, but it’s always good to have a plan.

As a kid I don’t remember being barraged by Christmas. I do remember the excited girls who marked pages in the JC Penney and Sears catalogs with the items they wanted. I do remember participating and going to practice for the annual Christmas Eve program at church (I was always an angel). I do remember bundling up for the ride to Grandma and Grandpa Wetzel’s for a day of packages, food and fun on Christmas day. There was no telling what could happen when all my mom’s siblings got together for a day. I remember one impromptu snowball fight that ended up in wet clothes and a lot of laughter.

Now that I have kids of my own I try to make their Christmas experiences memorable. Last year we took Shaun around to look at the lights and he still asks if we could go drive through those neighborhoods in town to see the decorations. At the little country church we attend on Christmas Eve, members circle the church at the end of the service and hold candles while singing Silent Night. Last Sunday at church Shaun asked if we could blow out the candles again. I told him at Christmas time we will.

It’s really not about the packages or the commercialization of the holiday. The point of Christmas is to remember the real reason it is celebrated, and to spend time with friends and family.

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The aftermath of Christmas 2013 at our house.

 

The things little boys say

My oldest son will be 3 tomorrow. Hard to believe it’s been 3 years already, but don’t all parents say that? Heck, our youngest turned 3 months old on the sixth. Now that is hard to believe! Where have the last 3 months gone? But, that’s not the point of my post today.

I believe my oldest boy has the vocabulary he does is because he is around adults 80 percent of the time. And the fact the talks ALL the time could be part of it too. I swear that kid has been stringing complete sentences together since he started talking. I really should start writing down some of the things he says, but I never do, and when I do want to write them down, I have forgotten.

Last night it was getting late, and I hadn’t made any supper yet. My husband and I were trying to figure out what to make with what we had in the house and were to the point of giving up. Shaun was playing with an old cell phone and eventually brought the phone to his dad. What he asked next about melted my heart. He asked his Dad to call his Dad because he wanted to talk to him. For those of you who don’t know about Steve, I’ve written about him a few times and he holds a very special place in our hearts. My husband flashed me a look and played along, pretending that he was talking to his Dad on the phone. It was pretty cute and I about had to leave the room for a good cry. But I smiled and thought how good it was of an almost three-year-old boy to ask about his Grandpa that he really never got to know.

This morning Shaun told me to put both of my hands on the steering wheel. I turned and looked at him and asked why? His reply, Because! I asked, “Am I scaring you?” Yes.. Oh boy.. I think I’m in for it!

Shaun with his Grandpa Scott in August 2011.

Shaun with his Grandpa Scott in August 2011.

Happy anniversary to my blog!

Apparently today is the second anniversary for my blog. I have been feeling bad for not being a very good blogger. My last post was in November 2013, and when I went today to make a short post and found a neat little reminder that it’s my anniversary with the blog. How coincidental!

I started this blog when I was still working from home and needed an outlet while staying home two days a week with my then 8-month-old son. I blogged quite often, and got a lot of feedback. Seems as though the days are busier now, and may get even busier with the arrival of our second son in early February. I’m hoping with one in daycare and the second one at home with me for 6 to 8 weeks, I can get back to blogging more, but don’t count on it. I’m positive I will need a creative outlet while at home.

I’ve come to dread January, mainly because of the weather and cold, but also because of a certain date. Jan. 21. It’s been two years since my father-in-law died on that day. On Jan. 14, 2012 we spent most of the day with my FIL and his mom at a family function and then they came and spent some time at our house with us. On this Jan. 14, I was at work and happened to glance back at some photos of my son and noticed the date. They were taken the day Steve died, but in the morning. If we had only known how our lives would change so much that Saturday, I would have done a lot of things differently. Not much we can change now, but it’s a thought I have often. I sure miss the guy.

I do think Steve would be proud of all the work Spence has put in at the farm. He’s made a lot of improvements to the facilities, particularly the pens and working chutes. He’s built the cowherd up and has continued to keep all the leases on the crop land his dad once had. I’m pretty proud of him for doing what he has with what little he has had to work with and doing most of it himself. I’m sure he’d have all the help he could ask for if he’d just ask, but that’s just not him. He puts his head down and gets the job done, no matter how long it takes. There are some nights where he doesn’t make it home until well past dark, but (even though it doesn’t seem like it now) it’s worth it. It’s worth it to keep the farm in the family.

I also think Steve would get a kick out of his grandson. For being only two and a half, the little stinker surprises me every day. Whether it’s something he has said or asks about, I’m continually amazed. I think he’s gained his grandpa’s love for that farm, and I hope it continues to be a place where he can have fun and grow up.

Shaun's favorite place in the whole world - the Scott family farm on the tractor.

Shaun’s favorite place in the whole world – the Scott family farm on the tractor.

Remembering

Sometimes there are people in your life that you expect to always be there. You never expect something to happen to them and for them to not be there. Especially if that someone is somebody you don’t see everyday.

When my father-in-law died last year, the thought, “never in a million years did I expect him to die,” kept running through my brain. I know I said it more than once at the time. In all honesty I never expected Steve to be gone before my own dad simply because my dad is diabetic and has had heart surgery in the past. Steve was relatively healthy to me.

Last week, my sister texted me and asked if I had heard anything about Bertis. “Nope, why?” was my reply. Bertis was Steve’s best friend and for many years a great family friend. Bertis helped look for Steve when my mother-in-law couldn’t get a hold of him. He and Fletch were the ones who found Steve. Never in a million years did I expect Bertis to die. But he did.

So many emotions came back to me because it’s only been a year and a few months since Steve died. It was just all too familiar. My first thought was of Bertis and Steve meeting in heaven. I thought, I sure hope they are having a cold beer and catching up.

Then I thought back to my wedding day when he handed me a $100 bill and made some joke. Wish I could remember what it was. Then I thought of his own daughter who is getting married this Saturday and how she won’t have her dad to walk her down the aisle and that he will never meet his future grand kids. I remember Bertis giving me my first beer after I had Shaun and shooting the breeze in his farm shop.

For the life of me I can’t remember when the last time I saw him was. It’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things, but my mind wants to focus on it. I thought I had a photo of him, but the only one I can find is from my wedding of him carrying ice. But it’s how I most remember Bertis – at the farm with a short-sleeved shirt, an East Kansas Chemical hat and his Wranglers. Only thing missing was the cold beverage in his hand.

Lois and Bertis at our wedding reception in 2009.

Lois and Bertis at our wedding reception in 2009.