Exhausted . . .

This is not a word I use very often because I rarely feel this way. I am sometimes tired, like when I don’t sleep well or when I move supplies to and from storage and rack up several thousand steps and flights of stairs.

But exhausted has an emotional component. Today, I feel a weariness of my soul and a bit of defeat in my spirit.

When I think of all this week has entailed, it is no wonder this is my state of mind.

So many struggles and emotions pertaining to our school and students, my work, and how this virus is controlling so much of my life.

The uncertainty is draining. I never considered myself a huge planner, but the lack of control on even what next week may bring is so unsettling.

I thought I would enjoy the additional time with my own sons, who I dearly love, but who are made to roam outdoors. When weather forces us inside, we all seem to have no patience with each other.

The distance we must keep from our loved ones. We must stay at Grandma’s door instead of sitting at her side.

Even in our grief, we must keep the distance. I have two funerals in the next three days, and I don’t know if I will be able to attend either due to limiting numbers allowed together. I feel so bad for the loved ones left to mourn without friends and loved ones physically there to support them.

Yes, exhausted is the word. I don’t have a silver lining and the sun is not shining in any way today.

Here is hoping tomorrow will feel like a new day.

The Bearer of Bad News

I felt like everyone around the table had a grasp on the seriousness of the situation.

Only two days ago, we agreed we would stay open as long as we could-as long as there were no cases in our immediate area. That had now changed as a case was confirmed thirty miles away.

The conversation circled multiple times and included important concerns like the constitution test and postponing prom and graduation. No students should have these experiences denied. But then again, this is a global pandemic. There are many experiences people are missing out on right now.

I thought the conversation was winding down when the topic of the room cleaning came up. I finally understood that we were not on the same page.

“Yes, we need to make sure kids get all their stuff out of the lockers and their desks.”

The gasp was not quite audible, but the silence was. It was like sound did not travel at the same speed on my last comment.

Suddenly, everyone was buzzing with questions. It was obvious that no one else had any thought that the next two days might just be the last two days of the school year. And even if we do get to return to school, there is a lot of cleaning that needs to be done without a bunch of stuff to deal with.

Today, we said our good-byes just in case. I am positive that I hope it won’t be the last day but also realistic that it might.

And I am positive all the uncertainty may also be deadly with all the stress it is causing.

Love-Hate with Lots of Laughs

Most people who know me would not believe that I watch the show Impractical Jokers. But in my house of four boys (three sons and my husband) farting and other stupid humor just seems to be a given.

On some hotel trip, one of the only channels we could watch was Impractical Jokers. This is a show where four lifetime friends dare each other to do embarrassing and often stupid activities.

Even though it is so stupid, and try as I may to not laugh, I can barely make it through an episode without laughing until I am almost crying.

I fear I am actually regressing in maturity. I used to feel like I had a sophomore boy in my head when I taught that age group. Now these ridiculous, immature pranks, crack me up.

Then again, on days like today, laughter for any reason is welcome . . .

Remembering Father Pat

For me, St. Patrick’s Day is about much more than leprechauns and the color green. It always makes me think of a great mentor and spiritual leader in my life, Father Pat Shortt.

Father Pat grew up in Ireland and rode his bike to school many miles to and from school. As a young man, he was called into the priesthood and soon would be called ‘across the big water’ to a budding diocese in the middle of Missouri.

Father Pat was a ‘man’s man’. He enjoyed the outdoors hunting and fishing. He could create many masterpieces out of wood as an excellent carpenter.

Father Pat was a large man and had an equally large laugh, which he used often. He was easy to love.

I first knew of Father Pat as a priest in the diocese and met him when he married my aunt and then when he served as my confirmation priest. But I had no idea how years down the road, this man would be such a pivotal part of my life.

As my husband and I prepared for our wedding and married life, Father Pat was assigned to our parish. We were one of the first couples he married. He was a great support for my husband to make it through the ceremony without fainting (Chad would have much rather gone to Tennessee to the drive through chapel! He greatly dislikes being in front of people).

From there, Father Pat taught us how important our role of parents would be, as we awaited the arrival of our first son. I heard Father Pat tell parents many times, “Kids learn more from what is caught, than what is taught.” This was a challenge to live like Christ in our daily lives and not only lecture kids on how they should behave. He encouraged all church gatherings in order for the youth and young families to engage with older members of the congregation.

Father Pat loved babies. He would take a newly baptized babe from the arms of the parents and walk the center aisle introducing the little one to his or her new faith family. This was a bit discerning as a new mom-this giant man holding my little baby, but then Father Pat’s gentle and kind spirit was something even a very small child could feel.

Father Pat has been gone almost two years now, but his teaching and shepherding can still be felt. And there are reminders like the line from this Irish prayer, which he often blessed us with. It was the reminder that you could take the boy out of Ireland, but Ireland would never be out of the boy. As we face many unknown trials in the near future, this is my prayer for each of you today:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Author Unknown, but often attributed to St. Patrick.

Even the cows . . .

Yesterday was a day in which I hate living on a farm. This rain every other day with cold cloudy days in between is almost worse than the bitter cold of winter. When the ground is saturated, each new rainfall has nowhere to go, and everything becomes a muddy mess.

On top of the mess, this is ideal weather for disease to flourish, not unlike what we are seeing in our human world. The cows huddle together causing even more nose to nose contact. We have new spring calves in with fall calves, also not ideal, but necessary for another week or two until the grass is back and the lower pasture dries up. We are feeding hay, which causes the cows to congregate at the feed source instead of being spread out across the pasture.

This is also the only time when I hate seeing a bald eagle. Any other time, I love seeing this majestic bird soar or sit in a dead tree above our creek. But when an eagle is in our pasture, it is either a killer or a scavenger. On this day, it was scavenging. One of our fall calves was dead. My husband checked it for blackleg (a disease that our calves are vaccinated against, but that can occur if the calf was vaccinated when it was too young and before its second dose). Not blackleg. He examined the carcass and the location and then uttered words I did not want to hear:

“I think it is pneumonia.”

With another week of off and on rain and cooler temperatures a couple of days, now we need to worry about keeping the rest of the herd healthy. We scouted for any signs – coughing, nasal or eye discharge, lethargy – but did not see anything alarming.

I doubt the cattle will be any easier to convince than the general population that social distancing would be the best moo-ve on their part to stopping the spread of yet another respiratory virus.

A Sunday Nap, Only a Dream

If the dog will stop barking,

if the boys will stop fighting,

if my husband will stop snoring as he naps on the couch . . .

If the laundry can wait,

if dinner can be just a bit late,

if the phone will just not ring . . .

If my eye mask will work,

if I can find my fuzzy socks,

if I can close my eyes for just a moment.

Oh well, maybe next Sunday.

I saw a cardinal today

I don’t really believe in coincidences. I instead believe there is reason or purpose in so much that we experience, even if we can’t see it in that moment. I have heard or read somewhere that coincidences are moments God winks at us. I have found many of these types of moments as times God is speaking to me.

One of my latest winks was around the death of my Uncle Bob. Bob was a man who laughed often and who really hugged you. He was a friend to many and loved watching the hometown high school Cardinal teams through good seasons and bad. He is very missed by many.

Shortly after Bob’s passing, just before Christmas, I started seeing this sign stating that when you see a cardinal, it is your loved one letting you know he or she is still there. First it was on a Christmas ornament, then a sign on Amazon, and then it was there at my local Hy-Vee. Were these signs there all along, and I just never paid attention?

This morning as I washed up the breakfast dishes, I looked out the window to see a pair of Cardinals sitting on the old stump in my yard. I could swear they were looking right at me. The male was exploring, his bright red plumage easy to see. The female, also beautiful, all but blended in except for her orange beak. I paused and watched them for a few minutes but then worried our momma cat would find them, I opened the door and away they flew. The female immediately, but the male paused for just a moment to look my way. No matter what the sign, this bright little bird brought my beloved Uncle Bob back to my mind and gave me a moment of pause, comfort, and peace that I know I needed this morning.

PS. After a bit of Google ‘research’, it seems there are traditions in Native American lore about the spiritual significance of cardinals. Also a reference in the Church as Cardinals are dressed in red robes. Another reference to the origin of the word that means ‘hinge’ or a connection from heaven to earth. Hope this makes you think of a loved one the next time you see a cardinal.

A perfectly made bed

With so much not quite right with the world, I have to focus on what I can control.

I learned from Gretchen Rubin, one of my most helpful authors, something that can really start my day with a moment of happiness is my bed well made. This also helps to put everything on a positive path before I leave my room.

To help make this even better, I got a new spread and shams and even a couple of throw pillows for Christmas from my mother-in-law.

So even though I did not know what all this day would bring, I started with a moment of order and happiness. In the days to come, these moments may be harder to find so I will choose to make at least this one before I leave my room each morning.

A pleasant surprise

“Mom, you just can’t kill Oreo!” my middle son gasped.

“I didn’t say I was going to kill her,” I calmly replied.

“You said that if she didn’t start producing, she would be gone,” my son stated barely above a whisper.

I didn’t know he overheard his dad and me or knew what I was talking about, but then again he has grown up on our farm and knows what happens when animals stop producing. He has even helped butcher meat birds, but they were not our beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock hen, aptly named Oreo for her black and white plumage.

“Ok, you are right. I would need to butcher her. But a laying hen that does not lay is only a waste of feed,” I countered. “And we could make some incredible flys with her feathers.”

W is such a fishing fanatic, I can only hope to divert this conversation.

“We can buy the feathers and keep Oreo.”

“We will see what happens, but can’t keep feeding a bird that is not laying.”

I can tell I have struck a nerve as he starts to get sassy. “How do you know Oreo is the one not laying? Are you at the coop 24/7?” He challenges.

“Don’t get sassy. I know she is not laying because she is the only one with perfect feathers and no signs the rooster is trying to breed. Roosters always try to breed unless the hen is not laying.”

“Oreo, please start laying.” He has decided he has more of a chance convincing the chicken to lay than to change my mind.

I end the conversation with, “we‘ll see what happens.”

The next day, I see an egg not in the boxes, but in the mud as I move the chicken tractor to a new location. As lifted the egg out of the mud, I am surprised it is not cracked. As I wiped it in the grass, I have to smile. W’s wish is granted – Oreo has started to lay.

PS. This is a rendition of how the conversation with my chicken loving boy went over the period of about a week. These are the eggs I got from our chicken tractor coop that is a part of our afterschool program and a favorite spot at our elementary schools. What I learned when completing this post is that I was wrong about barred rock’s egg color. Oreo has likely been laying all along as we have had brown with darker spots eggs for sometime. The mystery is where this almost white egg came from because all of my chickens produce browns! More slices on our chickens to follow!

Eggs from our school chicken coop and our first white one.

Come for a Visit to Our Farm

When you visit our farm, we will start the morning with a fresh pot of coffee. I hope it is an easy day so we can sit on the front porch and just enjoy the coffee and watch the fog disappear from the hills.

When you visit our farm, you will eat fresh from the farm. For breakfast, maybe some home cured bacon and fresh eggs from the hens.

When you visit our farm, we will need to do the chores. Some chores are fun and some are not, but all must be done, even on the easy days.

When you visit our farm, we will feed the animals. The show steers and the butcher calves get feed and grain and hay and don’t forget to check the water. Judd will show you how to make the bottle for his calf, Brownie, and you can give him his bottle.

When you visit our farm, you will feed the geldings while I hold the mares – who are already fat as ticks and don’t need more finish. They will be just fine with hay.

When you visit our farm, you can try to catch a kitten, but they will likely be too wild. Their momma, Sparkle, will make a nuisance of herself and constantly be underfoot or jump on your lap if you sit still for a moment.

When you visit our farm, Bridget will have her new pups. They will be cute little furballs looking like miniatures of Bridget and Buck. We will have to wait and see if they will all be brown or have blacks mixed in.

When you visit our farm, we will load the buckets of feed in the bed of the truck and start the tractor. Today is another day of feed and hay for the cows. The grass is getting greener, but not quite there yet.

When you visit our farm, I will say a prayer of thanks again for last spring’s rains that produced abundant and high quality hay. I will explain to you how important thanksgiving and faith are in all of life, but especially in farming and ranching.

When you visit our farm, you will comment on the rough ride on the gravel road. I will tell you this is the smooth part and to hold on to your hat. The boys will be in the back of the truck. I know you will be nervous, and I will reassure you they are safe and have done this hundreds of times before. And I will remind you that fresh air and adventure help boys to grow strong.

When you visit our farm, we may see some juvenile eagles in the dead tree by the creek. I love these majestic birds, but not when they feast on young calves. The circle of life is evident on the farm, but is still not always easy to accept.

When you visit our farm, you will ask how old the barn is, and I will tell you we need to ask Grandma Kathryn. She has many stories to share of life on the farm and of our family. If she feels up to it, she will join us for some fun after the chores are done.

When you visit our farm, we will check the cows. If you are lucky, we will see a newborn calf. The calves are so cute this time of year. And this new bull is making the cutest calves with various spots of white on their heads, feet, and tails. The calves are so fun to watch as they frolic along.

When you visit our farm, we will likely eat at my mother-in-law, Linda’s house. She is an incredible cook and baker and will not take no for an answer.

When you visit our farm, we will try to include some fun. We may take Grandma Kathryn fishing on the river or catch crawdads in the creek. The fish we will keep, but will always throw back the crawdads. We will look for interesting rocks for you to take home to remember our fun day. And we will end the day, after watching the sun set in a truly artistic experience, spending time around the bonfire and making smores. The boys will serenade us with country classics as we enjoy the evening under the stars and plan your next visit to our farm.