My retreat

It’s funny how a personal possession can become part of your identity. Sure I know this is just a horse trailer that I’m writing about, but to me it was really something more.

I was a little fish out in the big world with my first real job following college graduation. Mom and Dad had provided my sister and I a lot growing up. From horses to saddles and pickups and trailers. When I graduated from college, slowly they wanted me to find my own way and pay for my own stuff. I wasn’t spoiled by any means, but this was a tough pill to swallow. During college we had a nice Cherokee 3 horse trailer which we both loved and shared. We’d sold our previous trailer and put a down payment on the Cherokee. A decision had to be made at one point, and my sister was able to take the trailer and continue paying on it. So I was left to find something of my own.

I borrowed a trailer for a while and caught rides with other people. Lucky for me I had a friend who was selling trailers at the time in Tulsa when I was living in Woodward, Oklahoma. My then boyfriend, now husband and I decided to partner on buying a trailer in 2003. Ideally, this trailer was just what we were looking for, but my only hangup was it was red. GMC red to match the previous owners vehicle. No where near my favorite color.

What we bought was a S&H 3 horse gooseneck trailer with a small dressing room. If it could talk, it might just tell you all the miles and places it went once we pulled it home from Tulsa in March 2003. From barrel races to ropings to moving us from Oklahoma back to Kansas. Just too many to keep track of.

It very well may have been the ugliest trailer at the rodeos or barrel races, but in reality, it’s not what you pull up at in, instead what you lead out of the trailer. That red trailer many times only had one horse in it but it helped me qualify for the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association finals several years.

More than once that red trailer gave me a place to reflect after a bad run or rejoice after a great one. A number of times I sat on the fender and cried because my mare was hurt or needed doctored. Several times we made the trip to Oklahoma State University’s vet school for colic. One of my most vivid memories is getting to O’Keene, Oklahoma and being pulled over by the highway patrol because I was speeding through town during the middle of the night to get her to the hospital. The return trip from her colic surgery was almost as terrifying because I was so worried about her getting so sick weeks before. But we made it home in one piece. Like we did hundreds of times following.

Another time we’d went to a February barrel race in Chickasha, Oklahoma and when it started snowing on the way home we had to find some where to stay the night. Praise the Lord for friends who let you crash at their place and put your horses up for the night. Mike successfully unfroze the dressing room door so we could get our bags out.

In the weeks after I had my first child I often needed a break and a reprieve from the smothering times of early motherhood. I’d sneak out of the house at nap time and sit on the fender and ponder my existence or bawl, which ever came first.

I could go on and on about the trips I drug that trailer down the highway but I’ll spare you. Getting rid of this trailer is like losing a piece of my being. Since having kids and not running barrels for the past few years it feels as though pieces of what used to make up me are leaving one by one.

So last night after I cleaned out the ugly red trailer and packed all my belongings away I sat on the fender and had one more good cry and reflection. I’m still not ok with this piece of the old me leaving but I guess it leaves a spot for something new.

Innocently enough

Last night while changing the youngest boy’s diaper, my oldest came in and asked, “Mom, why don’t you go to rodeos any more.” I’m sure the expression on my face told it all, but I said to him, “I don’t have a horse to ride.” He cocked his head and looked at me in disbelief. Then went on to tell me matter of factly, “You have a horse out in the pen.” He didn’t look like he believed me when I told him she was too old.

The rest of the evening I thought about what he’d said. After I had him my riding and barrel racing slowed way down. I went to a few races and rodeos for a couple of years, but injuries to my mare kept us on the sidelines more than I cared to admit. My horse was aging and I feared the day where I’d have to retire her. Fast forward nearly 5 years later and my horse is basically retired (and seemingly enjoying it) and I’ve gotten over (depending on what day it is) not getting to ride as much or go to a barrel race and enjoying my boys while they are still little.

After our conversation I told my oldest boy, some day I will have another horse and will go to some more barrel races. And no, it’s not something I am telling myself to keep me sane. When they reach an age where I won’t have to worry as much about sending them with their dad to the farm (which they kind of do already now) I will have a horse of my own again. When I gather enough pennies to buy a horse of my own again, I will. It’s just going to take time. And I have to be patient and have a plan.

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Have a plan

I heard someone say the other day, “If you have money, have more than a plan to spend it.” It stuck with me enough for me to write it down, and now write this blog post.

My husband told our son Sunday that he has two kinds of money, spending money and saving money. Shaun was convinced he could use his “saving” money in his piggy bank to buy himself a bull truck (a semi with a cattle trailer). It was a cute conversation and one that I’m glad my husband handled. He’s much better with saving than I am.

When I was a kid I had a collection of pennies and didn’t really have a savings account. I spent birthday and Christmas money about as fast as I got it. I didn’t get a checking account until I was a senior in high school and heading off to college. (Admittedly I didn’t get a savings account until I was well out of college.) When I was in college I enjoyed life and didn’t have a job besides my school work. I’m glad I had it that way because my grades never suffered.

But, and I’ve written about it before, I’m still paying for that $7 taco from college. I was lucky enough to have a couple of grants and scholarships that helped pay for my tuition, but I did have to take out some school loans to pay for my education and the remainder of my loans is what I lived on. That and credit cards.

I’m only about half way through paying my student loans off and I completely envy my college classmates announcing on social media they’ve paid theirs off. I chose to go out of state and value my education. I do not mind paying every month for my education.

Now, for the first time in six years of marriage, my husband and I got a decent sized tax return. While it’s not enough to pay off our bills, it is enough to get my brain working. I’m dreaming of a garage or a new set of tires on the vehicles and doing appropriate research. Meanwhile, it sits in the bank. I’ve got to have more than a plan on how to spend it.

Dozens of name badges

In the nearly 12 years I have been at my current job, I’ve hardly thrown out a name badge from various meetings, conventions and functions I have attended representing my place of employment. Partly because they have my name on them, but mostly because they show where I’ve been.

On nearly every one of those badges is a ribbon with MEDIA on it. I take pride in my job, but at times it can get pretty repetitive telling someone what I do and who I work for if they are outside the agriculture industry. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful we have all the news and information we cram in each issue for our readers; and that I can travel then consequently write about all I learned. What I get tired of is the misconception of what media in agriculture means.

I have a bachelors degree in agricultural communications from Oklahoma State. What does that mean? Well, I took journalism classes to teach me how to interview, write and take photographs. I also took classes ranging from agronomy to animal science. I even took an agricultural law class. The aim was to have knowledge of both sides – journalism and agriculture. When I graduated and left college, I felt as though I had a great mix of both subjects and in my first job as a general assignment reporter at a daily newspaper I was equally prepared enough to write about the school board as I was an agricultural meeting I was sent to cover.

In the last month I have questioned my chosen career path because of frustrations stemming from the most basic part of my job. Calling a farmer or rancher. I fear my luck has run out because of a couple of guys who just won’t call me back. It’s hard to say if they don’t like the subject, my publication or even what I’m writing about.

There’s a saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Well, I’m not a teacher or downgrading the importance of what teachers do. But I often feel as though it would be nice to be working on the farm or ranch every day, but I don’t think I have the skills and my husband doesn’t have the time or patience to teach me (he might though), so I write about it and photograph the beautiful things all around me.

I don’t expect everyone to understand the media, or what agricultural journalism is all about. What I do expect is for someone to take me at face value. Let my actions and not assumptions define who I am as a writer.

phonto

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.

 

Shopping around

Whenever I’m in a parking lot or driving down the highway, I notice the license tags on cars. It’s interesting to me to see where someone is from. At a couple of stores in my town I tend to pay particular attention to the counties on the tags.

A bigger town west of here just got their very own Hobby Lobby (among other stores) and the grumblings going on here in Dodge City are that our store is likely to close. Someone even said the employees are “trained” to say ours will remain open. Today when I stopped in HL for some sewing supplies, I noticed an older lady with a Grant County tag on her car. Garden City is a lot closer to Grant County than we are I thought to myself. Wonder why she’s shopping here? While walking up to the doors, I thought maybe she doesn’t like crowds, or she doesn’t like driving in Garden City. I’m with you there ma’am. The added traffic and people in the stores can be a little overwhelming.

As I started down the main aisle to find the velcro I was looking for, it occurred to me if those same people doing the grumbling would SHOP in our town, maybe our stores could stay open. Your pennies spent in our HL will help keep it open. Maybe if they supported the community we would get some of the stores Garden City has. It doesn’t have to be every time you are shopping for something, but make a point to buy something local. On the other hand, do we want the added development that Garden City has experienced? I’ve heard property taxes are going up in Finney County among other things.

I’ve also heard our city and county commissioners are out to sabotage progress in Dodge City. I’m not exactly sure if this is true, but the only way to change how something is run in a city is to get involved, go vote and participate in local government. Only the commissioners know their agenda and what the future is for our town. They have no idea what the locals think and want unless the voices are heard. If you want something to change (as the morning radio DJ I listen to says) – stop complaining and  change it.

I’ve always believed the notion that those who complain the loudest do the least amount of work. I feel like this applies to people and businesses in this town. You didn’t like the service at ____ restaurant. Did you speak with a manager? Did you file a complaint with corporate? Boycotting a restaurant may or may not help the situation, but is it a solution? What is the solution to bad customer service?

I tend to shop in my town or in towns I am traveling through. If there’s not XYZ store in my town, but in another, I will likely stop if I’m in the area and occasionally buy if the price is right. If the neighboring town happens to have the same store we do, I will shop in my town (even though the sales tax is cheaper else where). While I do like looking online for purchases and use it as a comparison tool, often times in the end shipping always seems to cost entirely too much and the mail carriers not being able to find my house or they won’t ship to a P.O. box make it not worth the hassle.

In the end, shop where you want, but if you have something to complain about, take it somewhere else. I get enough whining from my two boys. I find myself telling my three-year-old if you’re going to whine, go in your room, I don’t want to hear it. Stores can’t survive if you don’t spend money there and shop somewhere else. Communities can’t survive if it’s residents don’t support it.

Chance the rock star

I’ve heard siblings’ personalities can be like night and day, and with my boys I believe it. My second son is one of the easiest going, happiest kids I have ever been around. I’m pretty partial, but every where we have taken him he’s been great. He only cries when he’s hungry or annoyed and shares a lot of smiles. Tuesday was no different.

In the last month of my pregnancy with Chance I remember feeling as though he was stuck in a weird position and my right side always seemed to have some sort of ache or pain. I didn’t think much about it as Shaun was wedged in a similar position. There’s not much room to go in my 5-foot something frame. When Chance was born on his scheduled birthday, I was brought to tears because he was “so small” (as small as an 8 pounder could be) and I got to hear him cry. I didn’t get to see my first son or hear him cry due to complications with my cesarean so it was a little overwhelming.

After we got settled into a routine at home, I noticed Chance liked to sleep a lot and normally kept his head turned right. By his two month appointment we questioned our doctor about the flat spot forming on the back of his head. He suggested several positioning techniques and more tummy time. We tried what he suggested, but the flatness stayed. By his four-month appointment the “funny shaped” head was pretty prominent. I again expressed my concerns to the doctor and he felt the same as me. After some investigation he sent us to an occupational therapist in Wichita and we had an appointment with a helmet company.

As the days approached for the appointment I felt anxious. What would they do or say? Internally I was blaming myself for not giving him the room he needed in utero or not putting him to sleep in another position. I just wanted sleep and the way he went to sleep and stayed asleep was fine with me so I could get some rest. I am his mother, so it’s my job to do whats best for him and I’ve felt like I’ve failed.

After the appointment with the occupational therapist they told us he has torticollis. Basically his neck muscles are tight on his left side and thus the flat spot on his head. Also, due to his cranial measurements they suggested he get fitted for a helmet. Although i knew it was a possibility, I was still disheartened.

But after catching glimpses of the other kids in the occupational therapy clinic, my thoughts of worry and failure didn’t seem very important. We are blessed to have him and will work through what ever is thrown our way.

See Mom, I can sit up all by myself.

See Mom, I can sit up all by myself.

Something for nothing

There’s always someone wanting something for nothing was a text I sent to my sister recently.  She had a horse for sale, and after reading some of the comments on her picture on Facebook, the next thought that came to mind is how can people be so dumb.  There are people who know horses and there are people who think they know horses. But that’s not the point of this blog post.

In recent years, I have tried to become a bargain hunter, and like the challenge of the hunt. The last two Saturdays my Mom or sister, along with me and my kids stopped at a few garage sales. Mom will talk to the people with the item she is wanting and often gets the item for cheaper. Me, I won’t buy it if it isn’t in my price range. I don’t like asking for a cheaper price, but if it’s reasonable I will buy. I’ve had garage sales, and know how much work they are and what a relief it is to get something cleared out of your house. I also find it annoying for people to give a ridiculous price offer for something you know is worth way more.

I had a good childhood. I worked on the family farm, and didn’t have a job until I was in college, and that was mostly during the summers between semesters. I admit I was spoiled. I had a nice pickup to drive, a fuel card and a trailer. My folks gave me a lot. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college and started my first “real world” job that I knew all the sacrifices my folks had to do to give us what we wanted. Now that I am a parent, I want the best for my boys, and if it requires me to sacrifice I will.

There are people in this world who want to take the credit for hard work done. There are also the ones who want to get “their share” even though they didn’t do any of the hard work. I’ve encountered both in my short lifetime, and each and every time it has left a sour taste in my mouth. The most recent comment got me to thinking and researching a way for one aspect of my life to change and hopefully prosper. What this person said was probably thoughtless on her part, but it helped me open my eyes and see what’s really important in life.

Struggling

Maybe you could call it a mid-life crisis, or maybe it’s an identity crisis. Not sure what I want to call it, but lately I’ve been struggling. Struggling with who I am and what I want to be. Work is the same, and I enjoy going to work every day. At home, it’s harder. I have a 3-year-old and a 3 month old. It can be a challenge since my husband works 40 miles away and has farm chores down south after he finishes at his full-time job. Quite a bit of the time, it’s just me and the boys.

Flash back 5, 10 or even 15 years ago, and you would find me a lot more selfish than I am now. I was concerned with was what rodeo or barrel race was next and how I’d spend my next paycheck. As much as I hate to admit it, my horse was my number one priority. I can think of a dozen or more times where I spent my last dime to buy feed, a needed supplement or pay an entry fee. There was more than one occasion where I skipped a family function to go to a barrel race or a rodeo. There was more than one time when I went by myself because no one else wanted to go with me.

Now I’m lucky if I get to ride my horse once a week. Twice is a stretch sometimes. I sometimes have a willing babysitter, but I don’t always want to extend her too much. Other times I just don’t have the motivation to line up the babysitter, distract the 3-year-old and take the half our to ride and enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy riding and competing. You can bet your sweet ass I miss the adrenaline rush. I guess that’s part of my problem. For so long, barrel racing defined me. And now I’m not that person. Sometimes I don’t like it. I haven’t competed since September and I’m missing it. Bad.

Back when my horse was ten years younger it killed me to miss a race. I absolutely hated sitting at home. Now, I live vicariously through those who still get to go. My mare’s 22 and she’s got bad knees and ankles. Sure I’d like to run her again, but at the rate I’m going she’ll be 23 before we go to another barrel race. That is if I ever get off my ass and ride.

I ran across this on a friend’s Facebook today, and found it way too appropriate. I need to stop waiting and just do it.

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Work

I ran across a tweet on Twitter this morning, that said, “I don’t want a job, I just want money.” Oh how perfect life would be if one didn’t have to work for their money. At least that’s what I am feeling this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, but it would be nice to be able to do every single thing my mind wanders to and wishes for. It would be nice to have a workshop and I could sand, paint, stain and create to my heart’s content. It would be nice to have a fully stocked office with a super fast computer and a bag full of awesome lenses that way I could edit the many magnificent photos I know I can find and take. It would be nice to have a way to make money at creating things and capturing images. I know many people do the things I am wishing for each day and are very successful at them. What is holding me back? Heck, I don’t know. Maybe its fear of failure. Maybe its lack of desire. Maybe it’s lack of time.

My very first job out of college started a week after graduation. In that week, I moved into my apartment, tucked away all of my things, and sent the rest of my stuff back home with my dad. One of my most prized possessions would have to remain there too, my horse. But it wasn’t long before I found a place for her to live and she joined me back in Oklahoma. At my job as a general assignment reporter I covered anything that was thrown at me – education issues, agriculture issues, news stories, and even features. It was a fun time, and one that I won’t forget and one that taught me so much, but I wanted to be directly involved in writing about agriculture.

Nearly 10 years ago I started at my current job. My title at the time was copy editor. My days were filled with editing stories and sending them to the right edition. I occasionally got to write stories and take photos. Then web editor was added to my resume. I did a lot of the same things, but with more of a web-influenced track. Then in 2012 I was promoted to associate editor. With more of a focus on stories, covering events, photos and other duties my job sure has evolved from what it did when I started in 2003. But I do like to write, really enjoy taking photos and traveling.

So, why then does the thought of changing my path creep into my brain? Am I getting a seven-year itch three years too late? Who knows. But what I do know is I need a steady job to pay the bills to survive. We have a house to maintain, horses to feed and Shaun to feed and clothe. Those things aren’t cheap, not to mention the bills that seem to always make their way to our mailbox.

When telling my husband about my thoughts on the subject of work last night, he asked, “what would you do if you didn’t work there?” Honestly, I said, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I will keep on keeping on. I’m not a quitter and will get the job done, no matter how unpleasant or unhappy I am. Then, as I was trolling Twitter again, thinking of how to finish up this post, I ran across this – Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. -Unknown