| TSLN.com

Day Writing: What’s her deal?

Perhaps you work with one, perhaps you're married to one. Maybe you see her in the grocery store, sporting muddy shoes, dark circles under her eyes and a heaping cart continuously being reorganized by a toddler or two. She may have blown by you on the Interstate in her dusty pickup and trailer, or she might look back when you get the occasional second to glance in a mirror.

And, you may have wondered why she is so scatter brained/frazzled/irritable/down right grumpy. I mean, what is the deal with that woman?

Allow me to explain. She is the ranch mom at springtime. She has sick kids and sick calves. The feed store is out of scour boluses and colostrum. Her house looks like an episode of hoarders, but nothing will move easily because it is stuck down with mud, afterbirth and calf scours…maybe flu-induced kid scours as well.

Her trip to town is not the post-baby goal of, "getting self and baby out of the house," with a single stop at Target, the mall, or maybe the coffee shop. No, she has 10-plus stops to make in a pre-mapped route she calculated down the minute in order to get home as fast as possible with the necessary items to fix whatever broke that morning. Everything is timed to ensure she is at the stores with bathroom plug-ins at evenly spaced intervals so she can warm up bottles and change diapers.

She has a part or full-time job to provide cash flow she never sees, insurance for the dental appointment she is six months behind on scheduling and/or for her own peace of mind. On top of that job she is also her husband's hired man, which is a taller than normal order from a week before the first calf arrives until a week after it's weaned. She chauffers her children and operates a midnight maid service within her own home, just as soon as she finishes the secretary work for the week. She most likely isn't dumb, regardless of how she may come across from February through the second week in June.

She has a branding meal to plan for somewhere between 20 and 80 people, on a day that will either be 20 or 95 degrees. This year she thought she would be smart and order much of it online so it was delivered to her door. She has lost sleep wondering if someone was truly dumb enough to ship her potato chips and Gatorade together.

Her husband goes entire days muttering to himself. He's mentally taxed from overthinking the weather, the markets, the cost of diesel fuel and hay, the cow that won't take her calf, the new rattle in the feed pickup and why the battery in his impact wrench he is packing with him and unconsciously clicking on and off all day keeps going dead. He has had to do all the heifer checks this year, meaning he is up the same amount each night as she is with the baby. No one is very "cheery" in the mornings right now. Except the kids.

Ninety-five percent of her communication is done with little humans or cows, both of whom have a tendency to get right in her face yelling and slobbering. Her laundry pile outweighs you and she's had eight hours of sleep in the last week. Her husband has chewed her out for something she didn't do, and she's yelled at him for forgetting something she later recalled she was actually responsible for. She is still wondering if she needs to get more potato chips for branding.

When she gets ready for bed tonight she will realize her shirt was on backwards.

Here's another little secret about her, she loves her life, despite how it may look at moments. It's always "a little hectic" in the spring. But, that crazy woman running all over the place with her unstyled hair and nails; she lives the good life. She has a strong faith and is on a constant direct line with Jesus this time of year as she mutters prayers for man and beast. Her kids spend their days at home with her, where she takes them outside, lets them get dirty, teaches them her faith and countless other life skills, all while watching them become best friends and impressive help. She and her husband are building just the life they imagined, although occasionally they have to remind one another of that fact. Her money-focused city dwelling friends and family would be stunned at her net worth, and the fact that it's not for sale.

She watches the miracle of life unfold daily, sometimes saving it. She enjoys mud when it's outside. She's impressively ingenuitive when fixing water gaps, gathering cattle with the kids and driving a pickup without brakes or four-wheel drive.

When it finally slips into summer, the cow takes the calf and the whole works is out to grass, the mud turns into hay and the kids aren't cooped up inside every cold day, then she's going to pause, and breathe a sigh of relief while recalling fondly the season of spring.

Billy and the Butcher Hog

A few days back, one of our butcher hogs made her way to the neighbors. Thankfully we have good neighbors and they chuckled about the situation before helping us load her. It made me recall the last time this happened…

A few years back we had a quirky hog, who planned and executed the great escape by digging out under the shed wall with a friend. She headed out to pasture, and immediately fell in love with the bovine way of life. After attempting to capture her a couple times, it became apparent she had no intention of going back to porcine living. We decided to let her be as we had cattle right by the yard at the time, thinking at some point she would wander in to the corral and we could capture her.

One day we went to town, and noticed our drys had escaped and were in our neighbor's pasture that borders us, the Cheyenne River and the highway. Plans were made to gather them the following morning as we could not turn around then. That night we returned home to a message from the guy that worked for the neighboring ranch –

"Hi Charles, this is Billy from across the road. I just wanted to let you know that you have…" and he went on to provide an exact headcount and perfect description of our cows that were out, down to the freeze brand numbers. Then there was a long pause on the machine.

"And….uh……well…..I have a pig! A big pig. In my yard! The cows are fine where they are until you can get to them. But….will you give me a call back about this pig. I am worried she may be going to have babies."

Oh, how we laughed at his message – I apologize that it was at your expense if you read this, Billy. We saved it and listened to it several times over the months. Only a cowboy could have such concern and exasperation in his tone over a hog showing up in his yard.

Our guess is that the pig was hooked up with the drys, then made the rather impressive trek off the Cheyenne River breaks to the neighbors with them. She continued on under the Cheyenne River bridge and made her way into Billy's yard, where she took up residence in what I assume was the round bale he had set out for his horses.

I suggested Charles tell Billy that if she did farrow, we would not be able to disturb her for a couple weeks, let alone move her home, because it would be dangerous and could cause her to not mother her pigs. Charles, being himself, was nice enough to not pull Billy's leg, and instead called him back the following morning and offered to come get her later in the day, after he gathered and hooked up a horse trailer.

Billy immediately offered his own trailer, so Charles headed across the highway to gather up our pig that thought she was half pet, half cow. He found her quite unconcerned, watching and occasionally grunting at the excited cowboy as he prepared for her departure.

After getting the trailer into position, Charles searched for something to plug a hole/use as a wing. Billy grabbed his spare tire. He held it in the hole, and Charles noticed that as he went to evict the pig, Billy slowly and carefully slid his fingers off the top of the tire to the back side, out of harm's way.

From what I know of him, Billy was a pretty handy guy with a horse and rope. A rodeo guy who also did well with cowboying on the ranch. He was lean and looked anything but a wimp. So, to see his level of concern over a 250-pound pig that, while he didn't know it, was half tame, was funny to say the least.

The pig felt accommodating, and jumped right in. Billy breathed an audible sigh of relief when the trailer door shut. He happily returned her home, and bought half a hog from us, cut, wrapped and frozen. Our "cow pig," was returned to her reinforced pen, where she lived the remainder of her days as a legend.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: International Women’s Day

I'm not much a modern feminist, but as we celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, I can't help but admire the many unique traits of women in ag. Not many women can:

Recite the dosage instructions of the vast majority of both general child and cattle drugs by memory, eye a fairly accurate weight on either, and administer the necessary medicine based on symptoms.

Create a meal for 10 that was planned for four in 30 minutes or less after helping with the morning work.

Negotiate a six-figure deal with the cattle buyer, line up the trucks and have everything waiting in the corral when they pull up.

Clean blood and feces out of carpets, clothes and upholstery of both livestock and human origin.

Climb on a horse that would never be considered, "wife and kid friendly," without batting an eye.

Start the "custom" piece of machinery without brakes or functioning 4-wheel drive and get the cows fed before the frost goes out, with the kids along.

Remember how the bull bought last year was bred and what his birthweight EPD was. No, make that the bull from the year before.

Have a working understanding of figuring shrink, running a quick and accurate estimate of total cost with interest on a 30-year note, or determine what the wheat check will be based on estimated yield and local basis.

Keep her composure when told she knows nothing about figuring shrink, calculating a payment on a 30-year note or determining a crop's local market value.

Determine when the hay is ready to bale, know how to adjust the tensioner on the square baler to the weight her husband likes, as well as how to adjust it to exactly the weight she prefers.

Hook up a stock trailer and back it anywhere she wants.

Keep countless cogs turning on a vast operation and a family out of a house she is routinely reminded does not generate any income. Or, does it?

Own and expertly operate her own set of hand tools.

"Fill in" on the planter in the spring and the combine and/or grain truck at harvest.

Decide which variety to plant, what heifers to keep, when to spray for weevils and what brand of implant to put in the steers.

And, not many women have experienced enough equal work for equal pay days to know that such opportunities exist, let alone how they feel about them based on personal experience.

They haven't seen a man's strength spike with adrenaline in crucial moments.

Paired their thoughts with his rational, level headed thinking when making a major decision.

Stayed in the house with the kids and a mixture of guilt and gratitude while he goes out to face a long day in bad weather alone.

Fostered a faith that enlightens them to the fact that men and women are not equal, and that through her faith and conduct a woman can have great impact.

Which is perhaps why most women in ag are equally fine with their feminity and a man's masculinity. Both on the days a celebration of one or the other is held, and every day in between.

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that a man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." Genesis 2:18

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Ag Olympic Glory

"Welcome to the 250th anniversary of the U.S. Ag Olympics! I am Don, and my cohost Chris and I are very excited to bring you an unprecedented day of foot events, made all the more interesting by the cold, snow and ice across much of our competition area.

"Absolutely! As we begin, Don, just a quick reminder that many of our events are muted, as our network cannot be held liable for certain words before 10 p.m.

"Even without language, I think the athletic prowess of these men is unmatched, Chris. It is obvious why each one is in medal contention.

"Oh yes. Take Nate, our returning champion in the matched bluffing heifer race. Now, he drew a particularly fast looking Angus/Salers heifer bred to keep her calf alive in western Wyo. She can take on wolves without issue, so Nate better stretch, that calf is only 30 minutes old but he already looks tricky to catch as he stands under his mom…. Oh, look at him go, the tag appears to be staying in the calf's ear, so all is well there. Wow, look at him scale that fence! Note how he perfectly plants his foot on the heifer's forehead and uses her upward momentum to gain extra velocity. It's skills like those you don't see very often, and a key reason why he is our returning gold medalist. And what a landing; that's as close as anyone can come to sticking it when the ground is frozen! He will be there until the spring thaw!"

"Up next is Corey, who is a fan favorite in taking frozen netwrap off six bales while his wife's pet cow repeatedly gets in his personal space. This event has changed in recent years, and now features three sub-categories; buck knife, razor blade knife and custom/other method of cutting. Men may stop to sharpen their knives, and those using razors are allowed two. It's each man's choice if they take the time to stop and sharpen or switch blades, or simply power through. My gosh! Our secondary sources have confirmed his time of one hour, 12 minutes and 18 seconds. That is both a new Olympic and World Record! That will be a hard one to top.

"It should also be mentioned, Don, that these men are all wearing a highly customized and personalized uniform, top to bottom. While necessary for battling the elements they compete it, the often-cumbersome layers with the outermost consisting of Carhartt bib overalls and coat, ear flap hat and muck boots can make some of these events all the more difficult.

"That's right, Chris. We should also thank Carhartt, Muck Boots, Bogs and Duct Tape for their top tier sponsorship this year.

"Then there is the interpretive bull bidding and buying, which is so subjective anymore. Lots of controversy in that event yet again. Some judges like the obvious hand wave or head nod, while others prefer the eyebrow raise or slight finger tap. For the last three Olympics, Jim out of Idaho was unstoppable with his ability to get a single hair on his mustache to stand up and wave at the auctioneer. Tragic accident last spring at his neighbor's branding. But, while Jim continues to recover, the door is open to a lot of new talent.

"Now we are going to head over to Abby, who has a special report from a rancher who has done the nearly impossible; calved a 100 percent calf crop in his first-calf heifers, 83 head, with zero calf or cow issues. Is this for real, Abby?

"Yes, Don, it sure is. I am here with Will, who has had quite a year. He said he can hardly believe it himself that every heifer calved without issue, claimed her calf, was never confused by another calf and never let a calf that was not hers suck. The calves were all born healthy, and also required zero assistance. He said his family has been raising their own replacement heifers for 45 years, but even with that history, he has never heard of such a thing. He is concerned about them breeding back with the drought conditions, and is considering additional supplementation to better their odds.

"Wow, thanks Abby. Man, Chris, I bet there is a lot of envy among our viewers as they watch that special report.

"No doubt, Don. Well, we are now heading into our after dark events. Always a crowd favorite is the muck boot pack and skate, where the men take everything necessary to sew up a prolapse and head across a yard with only one working yard light. Every trip back to the house for additional supplies forgotten on the first trip is a deduction. Spinal and stitch technique are also a big part of this event. If the cow rips out the stitches within 24 hours, it is an automatic disqualification. There are strategic patches of ice covered by a new dusting of snow. Here comes Charles, wow, look at that spin, what a beautiful spray of water; let's hope he doesn't lose it all as that is a deduction – No! He has somehow managed to set the bucket down, still full, as he finishes what he is calling…oh wait, our mute is still working, right? Okay, Charles just completed a move the figure skaters will no doubt be attempting next year. He is down, searching for his needles, repeatedly patting his own backside. Don't worry man, they aren't there.

"Well Chris, as Charles finds his needles and heads carefully to the calving shed, why don't we take a minute to go over tomorrow's line up?

"Excellent idea, Don. Tomorrow is all about the ladies. We start with the always popular event of reading male hand signals, which is split into quarter and half mile distance rounds. That is also muted. There is also gate guarding, toddler dressing for winter conditions while the cows get out, and the cold calf defrost. We will finish prelims later in the week with the husband and wife events of calf, yearling, and cow roping and doctoring, fixing a well in sub-zero temps, pulling out a stuck tractor and the endurance blizzard boot camp while calving and lambing – hard to beat the always tough North Dakotans in that one.

"Never a dull moment. Back to Charles and that prolapse. Oh my, here comes his wife. Always a calculated risk waking the wife up to help. They appear to be working well together. Opted for three stitches, doubt those come out. As they release the head gate, we are going to call time. That is a wrap on our coverage for today. Be sure to tune in again tomorrow.

"Thanks, Don. We would also like to remind everyone that these people are not just athletes. They have all dedicated their lives to their occupation. Most began as small children with their parents as instructors. It is truly amazing to consider the skillset they possess, the work ethic they pass to each subsequent generation, and the grit they find to work through a variety of unpredictable situations.

"Well put, Chris. That's all for us. Eat beef, wear wool and support America's agriculture athletes!"

Day Writing: New Babies

What an exciting time as we look around at all our friends who are expecting their first, or adding another, child. While we certainly haven't learned it all, here are a few things we've picked up on that may make it easier for others as their family grows.

Just because she is now mom doesn't mean the lady of the operation no longer wants to help outside. One of the toughest aspects of motherhood for many ranch gals is feeling banned to the confines of the house during those early months of a baby's life. It's also eye-opening for a husband to pop his head in the door asking for, 'a few minutes' of help, and be turned down. However, we've learned that if we can set out a rough plan of the next day – yes, I do know that is 12-24 hours out, it really helps. When the kids go down for naps at the same time, I switch that baby monitor on and run for the door. Running is a relative term. My husband has learned to leave the jobs he needs a few minutes of help with in linbo for nap time, or those few precious moments when we get home from feeding when both kids are content or asleep in their carseats.

Speaking of feeding, another thing about parenthood, especially for moms, is that tasks that once brought calm and enjoyment may now cause frazzlement. Over the winter months I typically take both kids to feed cows cake every other day. I've always loved feeding cows. But this year, I average around ten minutes when one or the other isn't whining/crying/screaming/blubbering about something. Nearly every day the toddler manages to spill my coffee, and the baby pitches a royal fit if she can't be up front looking out the window while we actually feed. With a finicky cake feeder, that doesn't always happen to her standards. I love them both dearly, and I treasure the time with them doing what we all love, but there have been days feeding with them has nearly given me an eye twitch. I'm told by various sources I will miss it. This stage of life, not the eye twitch.

But, should they both fall asleep on the way home, another parenthood lesson kicks in. That is the burning of diesel fuel to extend nap time. It does not take that many attempts of packing a sleeping baby or toddler to the house from the pickup to realize, in our case at least, that they will wake up around 90 percent of the time. Typically, with a bad attitude. So, if the kids are sleeping, the vehicle stays running.

Something's going to give when a beloved little person, or second, or third enters the family equation. For many, the house is what gives, and it's going to be a mess if mom does anything else with her day aside from cleaning it. The mess likely bothers her, too. She has also picked up every single thing strewn about more times than she can count. How is it even possible to evenly space dozens of toys throughout an entire house, pokey side up every time, at one or two years of age? I've lost a fair amount of sleep pondering that while waiting for my foot to stop stinging. On the plus side, the odds of being robbed go down significantly during this phase.

Not all pediatricians understand the agriculture lifestyle. It's best to play it cool and simply answer questions versus supplying a lot of additional information on your child until you know where your doc falls on the subject. When they ask if your one year old's hand eye coordination is good enough to stack blocks yet, simply answer yes or no. Enthusiastically telling them that he was stacking dried out cow pies six high while waiting for the cows to string in to feed isn't what most are expecting to hear. Or, when asking if your child eats a balanced diet, listing the various grains regularly consumed and whether the child in question prefers them straight out of the grain bin or run through the grinder mixer is also not what they want to hear. Adding that any bugs consumed are counted as added protein may send them over the edge. No need to overwhelm them before writing a check for an amount you wish you could get for taking a weight on a baby and asking a few questions of its mother.

Certain foods and drinks become areas of magnified significance during pregnancy and nursing. Take coffee, for instance. Some say you should not touch the stuff. Well, I drank a small cup while pregnant and nursing, and I can attest that my children only act like they just inhaled a triple-shot espresso for 10 hours most days.

On the craziest of days, keep in mind that if a man won't shoot his dog for standing in the gate repeatedly, your child will live to tell the tale as well. He or she will also be a darn good hand, custom raised to your operation, quirks and personal preferences within a few years. Along with that will come the ability to frustrate you as only someone with your DNA is capable of.

And, even on those days, this life is all the more worthwhile because of kids. Enjoy them. As the older generations remind us, they pass quickly and there are never any regrets for taking the time to raise your children.

Day Writing: A Holiday Recap

I am holding onto the holiday mindset a little longer than usual this year. This could be the result of having a toddler and enjoying all that entails over Christmas, or the fact that all my decorations are boxed, but still sitting in the middle of the kitchen. Or it could be that we just literally kicked the tree out the door a couple days ago.

Here are a few tidbits I've taken away from Christmas, 2017.

I am that parent. The one who, upon seeing her little boy play with his cousin's train set for hours on end following his inaugural 1880 Train Polar Express ride, did a last-minute swap on his big Christmas present. Yep, the toy I had purchased before Thanksgiving is still sitting in the closet, benched until his birthday. A wooden "choo choo" took main stage at the very last minute. Next year I will wait until closer to Christmas to make my major kid purchases, assuming he has moved on from trains by that time.

Hanging half a windmill (the wheel/fins) on your wall will completely short circuit every man you know. Now, if you're a woman of discerning taste and would like a windmill on your wall, I have learned how to accomplish this. The keys are to first find a windmill in another man's junk pile, that he considers junk, and ask if you can have it. Asking your husband if you can hang "another piece of junk" on the wall will get you nowhere. Then set a delivery date, such as over the holidays. Upon delivery, ask the men to pack it in and set it an as "in the way" of a location as you can find. Then sweetly ask about hanging it after they have gawked and asked if you are certain you want the monstrosity in your house at all. Having fed them well and choosing a day with subzero temperatures helps. I assume this technique will also work for any similar item you want to put in your house.

Every baby will grow twice as fast as normal after you've given out their size to friends and family for Christmas gifts.

Not all kids destroy Christmas trees. I've heard the horror stories, and I have a very busy boy who loves to help and considers roughhousing an hourly ritual, so I was a little leery going into tree decorating. But, the little guy was stoked about helping, and after getting the lights on the tree where they weren't a temptation to streak through the house dragging, he helped carefully hang all the ornaments. From completion on, he would occasionally take off a single ornament to show someone, then attempt to rehang it. Every morning he would plug in the tree lights (can't all two-and-a-half year olds plug things in correctly…), and he never tried to destroy it in any way. I'm hoping this does not lull me into complacency only to have his sister think the tree is a jungle gym next year.

Taking your children's Christmas card picture is never a good idea. Trust me. Never again. Take them mid-fall or use candid's if you don't or can't get a professional family session in before the holidays.

Tractor supply stores cannot be trusted to keep your husband's gift a surprise. I was happy to hear they could ship the items in plain box and put the packing slip inside. Perfect. My husband can sniff out John Deere green paint or tractor accessories a quarter mile away. Said box arrived half destroyed, and as my husband sat it down in the house he asked what it was, then, "Oh, never mind, it says right here on top. Tractor mirrors!"

Upon opening his known gift Christmas morning, he took out the packing slip. On the bottom was the note, "Plain box, put packing slip inside. Christmas gift for husband. Surprise."

Leftovers from your mother's Christmas dinner make perfect side dishes at your holiday meal.

When you have kids, New Year's Resolutions take on a new meaning. Mine was uttered shortly after "ringing in" the new year at 2 a.m., to the tune of, "I resolve that my children will sleep better in 2018." I'll have to let you know how that turns out.

Have a blessed 2018!

Day Writing: There will be problems

"There will be problems," the pastor on the tv said last Sunday. "You'll likely want this information to share with someone between now and Christmas," he continued.

This was stated toward the end of his sermon, but it struck me how true those words are in the present for us. It seems that all around us people we know and love are struggling. They are facing issues in business, in relationships, with drought, fire or both, with their health, and the list goes on. Big issues. Life changing, time consuming, make it or break it decisions. Our personal "problems" have been put in perspective multiple times over the past year as we've looked around at those close to us.

What the pastor said next was paramount. He explained that Jesus knowingly lowered himself to the human experience, starting with his humble birth at Christmas, out of His love for us. From that time until his death he experienced every single thing we will face in life, as a human, and He went through it perfectly. There is no feeling or situation where we cannot look to Jesus and the Bible for a perfect example, including how to help others when they are suffering. Upon the end of his days on earth, Jesus died on the cross for all the times we will each fall short. Because of his sacrifice, we will be raised to the level of angels, if we repent and turn our lives over to him.

What a miraculous and perfect message for the Christmas time of year.

But, what about the meantime, as we see others facing problems? There are two choices in every situation; To work for God or for the devil. I think when asked whose work we are doing, most, or at least my, knee jerk reaction is to say that of course I am doing God's work within the lives of those around me. But, if I'm being honest with myself, I slip over to the devil's side more often than I like to admit when I am presented with someone else's problem.

It's easy to do the devil's work; Work that is like the roaring of a lion, prowling around looking for what it may devour as Peter put it. It's self-serving, gossipy, pot-stirring work that often has a hum of excitement and potential reaction to it. It's buying into society's self-centered mindset, giving up for no legitimate reason, or encouraging others to do the same. It's shrugging your shoulders and not caring in situations when you ought to care a whole lot. Turning minor things into massive problems, or vice versa. It is tearing down what is good and/or building up what is false. Oftentimes it's laziness. No, his work is not always what we, or at least I, consider the "big" bad things – obvious lying, cheating, promiscuity and stealing. He does a lot more work in subtle undertones, through people who are indifferent or even well meaning but not girding their minds and mouths.

Christ's birth is the perfect time to consider that while He allows us the choice, he lowered himself to the human experience so we can be saved in addition to continuing His work during our time on earth. One of the best gifts we can give this holiday season is to set our hearts and minds on filling other's lives with God's light and loving kindness while striving to eliminate being a personal deliverer of the devil's darkness. As we have been told, there will be problems, even at Christmastime. But, we are called to be of good cheer, because our problems are in the world, and Jesus overcame the world, starting with his birth in a manger on Christmas day.

Day Writing: Fashion trends

I was surprised while Christmas shopping this year to discover a fashion big trend of work boots, leggings, plaid tops over a graphic t-shirt, and casual winter hats. Pondering how such a combination came to be lead to the following fictitious explanation.

A ranch wife, we'll call her Emily, had been helping her husband one morning. She came inside, stripped off her dirty jeans in a mostly useless attempt to prevent additional dirt from spreading throughout her home, and padded to the kitchen in her long johns to start the dishes. She was nearly done and eyeing the stack of bills and sleeping baby who had been up twice in the night, when her husband burst in. The feeding tractor broke down. The small town nearby didn't have the right part, but the larger town two hours away had it in stock with, you guessed it, Emily's name written on it.

Time was of the essence her husband unnecessarily explained, as the pair hurriedly checked the diaper bag and loaded a car seat, toys, snacks, coffee and her purse into the only pickup with a working heater. Within a half hour she and a fussy baby were on their way while the toddler gave a thumbs up at being left home with dad.

An hour into the trip the baby settled down to sleep, and Emily began running over her grocery list in her mind, praying she didn't forget anything in light of the actual list being left hanging on the fridge. After convincing herself she had all the major items memorized in order of their location in the store, she relaxed and determined to enjoy her unexpected change in plans for the day.

It was about 15 miles out of town that her phone rang. She reached for her back pocket to grab it, only to realize it wasn't there, and she had no back pocket. Emily looked down in horror at her long john clad legs and newer pair of work boots. The phone's continued ringing eventually pierced her brain, and she answered, told her husband that yes, she would swing by the feed store to get the implants, but to call ahead so they were ready for her, then hung up.

What to do. She wasn't the sort of gal to run around in pants that left nothing to the imagination, especially after two kids. She looked around frantically for a solution as she hit the suburbs. The only option was her husband's flannel shirt/jacket that he wore during that odd season between fall and winter. She wrestled it away from a clingy pile of twine on the passenger floorboard and got it yanked on over the electric company t-shirt she won at the annual meeting last year, silently thanking God it had been recently washed.

At her first stop, the post office, she got the front of the plaid shirt/jacket tucked in a little, and left the back long because it at least left something to the imagine from mid-thigh up. Opening a package from her college roommate revealed a cute, name brand winter hat as a late birthday present. Figuring it was an improvement over her current hair-do, she shoved it on and silently praised her friend for her ability to still help out in a pickle with something practical and cute.

As the last of her pre-mom/wife composure and fashion sense faded into oblivion, she opted not to drive past all her stops to the far side of town for a new pair of pants, and instead turned into the first business on her list. At least, she thought, if she had to come to town in her underwear, she hadn't chosen July.

Emily blew through the grocery store in her unlikely get-up, thankful the cooler weather also meant she didn't have to leave this stop until last, and for the fact that she had worn her new, black long johns that day. It could have been much worse.

She argued with the parts guy, who gave her an odder look than normal – the man already thought she was half crazy and would probably never be convinced otherwise after seeing her that day. After showing him the broken part she had insisted her husband send along – this wasn't her first parts run – Emily left with the right piece plus filters because they were on sale. She may have redeemed herself slightly in his eyes at being able to rattle off the filter numbers for two tractors and three pickups. Four more "quick" stops, two diaper changes and baby feedings, one conversation with herself at the hardware store that garnered a few more looks and she was grateful to be headed back to the peace and quiet of home at seven miles per hour over the speed limit. There had been a few raised eyebrows, but she had survived, and even remembered before dropping out of cell service that she forgot to stop at the feed store, called, and had the implants shipped.

All in all a successful day, if humbling. Imagine her surprise when, on her next trip to town, she saw several women dressed as she had been. Seemingly on purpose. When she mentioned it to her husband, he simply asked, "You went to town in your long johns?!"

Day Writing: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to gather together, to break bread, and to enjoy the company of family for both my and my husband's families.

On my side, everyone brings whatever the host asks, and I am typing this while my pumpkin pies bake and before starting my rhubarb desserts. The meal is scheduled for 1-2:00 pm., because my cousin Brittany, who is hosting this year, knows as well as the rest of us that running early is an extreme rarity in our family. Plus, getting chores done and driving the 2-3 hours we all have to travel would make noon tough even if we weren't all perpetually behind schedule.

The food itself is an homage to my grandmother's ability to cook. Half or more of the dishes will either be hers, or an updated version of what she once made for the holiday. It is rare for the meat of the day to be solely turkey, largely because my dad does not like, "dead bird," much. Ham, or in recent years' prime rib, has been served as either the only meat or in addition to turkey. If it is just turkey, my dad, "suffers through," as he puts it.

Most will eat too much to have dessert immediately after the meal. Coffee and discussion of the cattle market, hay prices, travel stories and other general catching up will pass the time. Hilarious recollections and booming laughter will fill the air. Touring the new house, showing off new guns, possibly shooting guns, checking out vehicle customizations and a number of other things will pass the afternoon in between each person's trip, or trips, back the kitchen for dessert.

Before heading home, an early dinner of leftovers, often a ham sandwich using a homemade dinner roll, is consumed. The leftovers are divvied up, and everyone slowly trickles out.

Later we will gather with my husband's family, which is at his mom's house on whatever day works for all her children and grandchildren to make it. The meal is at noon, and everyone is there well before then. We are usually the last to show up, but not late thanks to my husband. Turkey is on the menu, but the ladies do all kinds of different things with it. We've had it smoked in the recent past, and this year the plan is to have deep fried turkey breast. Everyone brings something to contribute to the meal, and that's what that second pie and dessert are destined for.

The really fun part, in my opinion, are the seven kids. They will rip and roar, making the circle in my mother-in-law's house countless times at breakneck speed on foot, with a wheeled toy, crawling, etc…, until someone tells them to tone it down. Most likely twice. They show off lost teeth, new skills, and scholastic achievements. Following the meal and in the middle of all this chaos, my brother-in-law Luke will fall dead asleep in an easy chair.

Butchering the fat steers, the fall run and horses will all make their way into the conversation between child requests as the hours pass. At some point the Black Friday flyers are usually studied and discussed.

Once again, at the end of the day, everyone will load up with copious amounts of food, extra of their personal favorites, and head for home.

It isn't lost on me what treasure these gatherings are. The ability to meet with family, share a home cooked meal that could easily feed twice the number in attendance, and spend a day simply enjoying the company of those nearest and dearest to us is a blessing.

May each of you fully enjoy and embrace Thanksgiving with your loved ones, and use the time to counterbalance all the things a year brings that distract from how truly thankful we should be for the Lord's abundance in our lives.

Day Writing: Word of the Year

"…Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

Thankful November is a wonderful concept of purposefully identifying one thing you are thankful for each day of the month. But, it can also be a nice lead in to focusing your life on a biblical principal for an entire year.

I first heard what I'll call the word of the year idea while listening to the Christian radio station, K-LOVE, several years back. The DJs discussed identifying a word encompassing a biblical concept or principal to focus on for an entire year. Suggestions ranged from joy to humility and grace to truth.

They continued, encouraging listeners to take the time to pray and read the Bible, asking God to identify what word they needed to select. After all, God is the only one who knows what the year ahead will entail, and what each of us will need to successfully maneuver through its earthly ups and downs.

Once a word is selected, it's time to really dig in. Study up on it, write it on sticky notes and plaster it throughout your life. Concentrate on coating your world with patience, strength, love, etc… Whatever word you have chosen. This is also an excellent lesson in training the mind to seek God and reflect him in all ways, they noted. To work at improving a specific component of your faith and self instead of cruising through the big picture. The DJs added the word should be used in an all-encompassing fashion; toward others, in every situation, and with yourself.

As I sat at a red light on CY Avenue in Casper, Wyo., the word I needed for the upcoming year hit me dead on, and I committed to focusing on the word grace for 12 whole months. And, it worked. Through quitting a job, moving home, renting my house to a less than desirable tenant, starting my own business and countless other roller coaster highs and lows, focusing on having grace and extending grace made the whirlwind of life changes not only manageable but far more enjoyable than they would have been otherwise. God would give me a reminding nudge countless times that caused me to recollect scripture, or pause and consider my words or actions, and it made all the difference. Even chasing cows goes better when you make an effort to have grace.

I was by no means perfect in my efforts, and you won't be either if you decide to take this on. But, I grew as both a person and Christian as a result of participating in the word of the year endeavor, and that is never time wasted.

As we head into the second half of Thankful November, I encourage you to at least think about finding a word to commit to for 2018. And, don't take the easy route. Dig deep and take some time to really think and pray about what you need to make your internal focus for year ahead. I'm planning to do it again, and must admit that my next word has not been obvious like it was the first time. But, when it becomes clear to me, I'm sure it will have been worth the wait.