Community, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Ranch Life

I Go To Nature

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”.
~John Burroughs

I love sensory bins and experiences…I have Pinterest boards full of bins with beans and rice or water beads…I follow Instagram slime enthusiasts! I do what today’s modern good mother does and sensitize my kiddos!

Yet, the ultimate sensory experience though remains out our front door…in nature!  A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning, our little family dressed and hit the dirt road before the sun rose in search of deer sightings.

 

The fall brings warm days but brisk nights. The moon was still in the sky and the air cool as we drove thru neighborhood. The dawn is a perfect time to spot wildlife as they are busy feeding and moving before the heat of the day and bright sun drives them to their beds.

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While Hubby and the oldest headed out to scout and glass along the horizon of the Badlands, the Little One and I headed out on a nature walk.

Sharing nature with a child, allows me to see what my eyes and senses have been blinded to.

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The Little One is always searching for birds in the sky or bugs on the ground. Finding the littlest of ants is cause for the biggest of celebrations.  While the eyes are searching, the feet are exploring the terrain. I have seen the uneven plastic stepping stones to encourage balance offered for sale on Amazon. In the cow pasture, dried cow pies serve a similar purpose as the Little One jumped from one to the next as he balanced on top of the irregular circle of undigested fiber.

 

Sticks, moss, and bark stimilate the developing nervous system as we touch and feel. My favorite grass is Little Bluestem and the hill sides come alive in its vibrant red this time of year. As we walk by and rub the sage with our pant legs, our noses are filled with the pungent earthy odor.

We crawl under and over and thru branches and brush. The Little One tests his strength and balance as he finds his limits.

Being in nature truly engages all one’s senses as we listen to birds sing and the hum of the oil pumper melodically pumping up and down, up and down.

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We went to a new location to scout and as we rounded the road tens of butterflies were disturbed from their feeding on golden rod. As we walked amongst them it was like being in our own private butterfly conservatory.

There is so much nature all around us to enjoy. Here are some things we have cultivated amongst our kids.

1) Encourage quiet observation. In our busy world, slow those little minds and have them truly observe their surroundings. Do you see wildlife? How many rocks are on that hillside?

2) Touch it… why not! Unless it is poisonous or going to bite feel the textures of nature.

3) Don’t forget the sounds… animal calls are big in our house. Beyond “what does a cow say?”  we do turkeys, moose, squirrels, etc.

4) Be careful but not too careful! Explore! Test limits but don’t fall down the ravine.

5) Fresh air is good for the body and mind! Get that heart rate up climbing hills or hiking those trails!

“The senses are a kind of reason. Taste, touch and smell, hearing and seeing, are not merely a means to sensation, enjoyable or otherwise, but they are also a means to knowledge – and are, indeed, your only actual means to knowledge.” 
~St. Thomas Aquinas

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Community, Life as a Veterinarian, Life Lessons, Ranch Life

Windshield Wiper Installation for Dummies

I had politely suggested to my hubby that my rear windshield wiper needed to be replaced. After a number of “suggestions” I decided surely I could handle purchasing and installing a wiper. So I stopped at the local parts store and walked to the counter declaring my needs…. then they asked if I would like help with installation.

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I wanted to DIY this and show my self-reliance but thoughts of  the possible complications that could arise…looking like a defeated fool if I should fail at this, breaking the wiper right off the vehicle, or worse yet flipping the wiper switch while driving down the road only to watch it fly off, hit a passing car, and result in an epic interstate collision. So I said, “Sure” like of course I know how to put a simple little wiper on but why not utilize such a convenience service, hiding my fear and insecurity.

Here’s the thing… I am not a DIYer unless I have been properly educated and received the necessary instructions, certifications, etc. to declare myself “trained”!

Blame it on my decades of life in the educational system. I can remove the ovaries and uterus of a two pound living, breathing creature with ease but replacing my wiper without proper training…well that just seemed dangerous and complicated!

My hubby on the other hand is a very confident DIYer and to suggest we hire someone to roof our house or change our oil is an insult at the core of his manhood. About the only thing he admittedly refused to DIY was the birth of our kids, though he had plenty of experience as a ruminant midwife.

I remember as excited new homeowners we had decided to put up crown molding in the dining room our 1890 “corn crib” of an Iowa home. I was frantically reading the how-to books in the aisle of the Lowes determining what supplies we needed and how this project should be done “properly” while my hubby was randomly throwing supplies onto the flatbed cart.

He is definitely a “Learn by Doing” and I am a “Learn then Do”. 

He even laughs at our veterinary “cook books” he calls them, with detailed pictures and guidance for surgeries and procedures. Turns out the living body is pretty complicated and while you could probably just dive right into a adrenalectomy there could be some serious complications without the correct game plan and knowledge base prior. Many hours are spent “learning and training” with mentorship prior to being set free as a full fledged veterinarian. Of course there is plenty of learn by doing but it rides on the back of a pretty solid education in physiology, anatomy, and pharmacology.

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My favorite “cookbook” as my hubby calls them!

So I carefully watched the parts store woman put my wiper blade on and thought about asking for detailed how-to instructions but settled for the mental how-to. I even thought about lying to my husband, declaring “I did this all by myself!” but he knows me too well and would see right thru the lie. Now if the purchase of “How to Install a Rear Windshield Wiper in a 2010 Ford Expedition…for Dummies” book showed up on our debit card statement he might….

 

DIY

 

Community, Life Lessons, Ranch Life

When You Fall Off, Get Back On

My Little Cowboy adores his pony, Beauty. She is the perfect pony for the novice rider, with a few decades of life experience, a kind heart, and calm demeanor. Not to say she wasn’t a spunky naughty little pony in her younger years, but her first Little Cowgirl got that all straightened out.

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If you get aboard a horse there will likely be a time when you will exit unwillingly. I can remember my worst fall (though certainly the least dramatic and most unexpected), subsequent visit to the ER, and healing of a broken wrist.

I was walking ahead as we rode to the old corrals. Down the hill the Little Cowboy and his pony went, when Beauty spied some forbidden green (she is a laminitic pony after all) and her head went down. As her head went down, the saddle went up and forward, and the Little Cowboy summersaulted forward and to the ground.

It wasn’t his first fall and won’t be his last. But it got me thinking about that fall. He hit the ground, assessed his wounds…or lack there of. He determined himself not injured and got back on. In fact, I think his little chest puffed up a bit each time he shared the story of his cowboy adventure.

For myself, hitting the ground,while of course it scares me to death, really isn’t the worst part. Call me the opposite of an adrenaline junky, but for me the scariest moment is that time when all control is lost and there is that uncertainty. Will I break every bone, die, or simply bruise my ego? Skiing, horse back riding, roller blading…all the same… it is that fear of the moments of falling…not the fall itself.

In thinking on life, there are many times I have fallen, failed, or my idea hit the dirt. Many times there was relief when I had reached the “bottom”. My confidence may have  been shaken, but the end was present. The best I could do was brush off and ride on to the next adventure.

But what about that failing and falling…when you grab for the saddle horn of stability only to find none. The more I try to control this thing called life, the more I realize I have very little control….and so the saying goes…

“Just Enjoy the Ride”

I have just hoped for more blue sky, green grass trail rides.

That feeling of fear of that unknown landing and lack of control is often present for me. I suppose it my style to be cautious and reserved but sometimes you have to take risks for big rewards. So we all keep “getting back in the saddle and when the ride gets rough and the fall is coming, what’s a gal to do but hope for a soft cushioned landing and to want to reach out for stability or a pick-up man. So if the fall is coming, what if I take a deep breath and don’t fight the lack of control but embrace this bump in the plan. What if I reach for friends, family, or my religion to provide stability, to steady me thru the rough parts. I suppose that is the blessing, that none of us ride truly  alone.

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What builds resiliency for falls off ponies and falls in life?  Here are some that I see:

  1. Confidence… the ability to get back on ready for the adventure. As the Little Cowboy said “I fell but it didn’t hurt so I am not afraid!”.
  2. Competency…the more we practice and become proficient the less fear. Get back in that saddle.
  3. Comfort… when he fell the Little Cowboy turned to me to wipe his tears and brush the dust off his back. Do we have a support system we can turn to?

It was a little fall for the Little Cowboy, but a big reminder of my own fears. It was a little pause to resaddle and regroup, but also a pause for reflection.

How about you? How do you deal with the falls in life? Is there fear or thrill?

Community, Motherhood, Ranch Life

Mud Run Birthday Party

 

 

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Prepare  for a photo overshare! The little wild one turned 2 and we celebrated with a mud run…it was fantastic! Some vowed to stay clean but the temptation of mud was too strong. I was left with a 1″ layer of mud on the bottom of my tub, but priceless memories!

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Homemade ice cream and pizza were on the menu! Thanks to everyone that came and joined the fun. As it turns out many of us grew up in female dominated families but now we are over-run with boys…wild, loud, fun-loving boys!!! Being a boy mom definitely has its perks and mud runs are one of them.

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The obstacles included a rope swing over a pool, pallet climb, tires, spider web…and of course the mud part of the course. I think some of them made a dozen laps around!

The Wild One was a hose spraying maniac. He even got a little glint in his eyes and the entire spectator section also got a little water hose spray down!

 

So. Many. Photos!

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So. Many. Photos!

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“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” – Shanti

Community, Ranch Life

When the Sun Just Keeps Shining

I didn’t physically grow up on a farm or ranch but I wasn’t too far removed from the life. We are still very rural where small talk centers on the weather and cattle or wheat prices. So now I am a rancher’s wife and the world I thought I knew is the world I am learning.


Haying season is in full swing and it very much a goldilocks situation of too much…too little…and always hoping for just right. This year the July air is dry and hot, with record-setting heat in the triple digits this last week. The evening thunderstorms roll in bringing noise and lightening but no rain will let loose from the darkened clouds. We are in a drought.

The grass in the hay fields that was once green and lush, set to grow and be harvested for cattle feed when the winter snow fell, is brown and dormant. Crops that were meant to be harvested have just failed and instead are being hayed and salvaged for cattle feed. The pastures that were meant to last the season are dry and barren and producers are creatively scrambling to find feed and grass for the cattle. Many cattle been taken down the road to the sale barn with producers hoping to make due with a smaller herd forced by this new reality. The dry and crisp grass remaining on the prairies have served as kindle to area fires.


The work still needs done… even though the grass is 1/2 to a 1/3 of the what a normal year brings it still needs to be cut, raked, and baled. The equipment still costs what it costs, the fuel to run it no less, and the breakdowns no less infrequent. My husband sleeps in the tractor waiting for the heat of the day to subside and the nightly dew to come and condition the hay. While the yield is low, there is still a need to produce the best that can be made. Too dry and the hay shatters, too wet and it molds.


I get frustrated with his long hours, inconsistencies, and no guarantee of a paycheck let alone a break even. Though hard work has its place, some days it seems you are just about as guaranteed to become bankrupt as you are to become rich at this gig. Sometimes it just comes down to the goldilocks situation…just enough demand for the product produced ensuring a strong market… good weather….no major breakdowns or expenses…and a blessing from above.


In a world we try to control, farmers and ranchers are the ultimate believers…believers in a merciful God that provides, in neighbors to help, and that their hard work will be enough. I see my husband’s heart and soul poured into a career with no guarantee, no median annual salary, no paid vacation days all with the belief that his hard work will be enough to “make it”.

When training dogs they call it “jackpotting”. The idea of giving a large amount of a reward when the desired response is done…but not every time. There has to be anticipation for that jackpot. The theory is much the same for gamblers. They sit and wait for that one “hit” of the machine. Maybe farmers and ranchers are the same. I sit and worry, ponder a future I can’t predict while the older generation talks of the good years and the not-so-great years. They all talk of the great year…the market high, when there was “just enough” of all the resources they needed. That one great year carries them thru the not so great. They ride out the bad in the hopes of averages…that when it is all said and done and the book cover closes that they will be ahead.

I know it is just part of the cycle…these farmers and ranchers are very in tune to cycles…hopeful and optimistic for the ups and patient and tolerant of the downs. I have a lot to learn from this group of folks…to look at seasons and cycles and take it as a whole not a day. These ranchers gather, arms crossed and leaning around the back of a pickup box to shoot the breeze and discuss how to make it all work when the world seems against success. Yet there is a perpettual optimism. As humans, we all want control…to make our own decisions…be in control of our own destiny…yet here is this group of farmers and ranchers so OK to accept their fate, their hand dealt.


We can’t control the weather. I can’t make those ominious clouds that come and go finally let go of any moisture. But I can live and learn, take pride in the work my family has choosen to do. I can’t speak for my husband but I know he isn’t motivated by a paycheck or pride, but with the quiet purpose of a life well lived, enjoying and sharing a legacy, with reverence for the land and its history.

 

Community, Motherhood

Parade Time

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There was no raining on this parade. Though with our recent drought conditions a downpour would have likely been more celebratory than the parade itself. Yesterday we partook in our annual RoughRider Days Parade. Small town life is friendly waves and an enjoyment of days much the same as the last. But every year 4th of July brought a big celebration with rodeos, street dance, 4-H activities, fireworks, and parade.

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As was tradition, every year on that designated Saturday morning in July, we sat street side to see the local businesses parade down Villard, with hopes of filling our pockets with candy. Now I share that same tradition with my own kiddos.

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My sister and nephew. His 1st parade of many.

 

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Aunt Stephie time

 

 

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There is an excitement and nostalgia. No float is really that extravagant. The only requirement it seems is a business banner and maybe some streamers or balloons. If you have a unicycle, old car, or vintage tractor your are welcome too.

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Suckers were his favorite! He picked up each and every one!

 

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Look, more candy!

 

 

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It was quickly overflowing and they moved on to the next container.

 

For years I carried flags horse back in the parade and my sister painted her face and placed on her clown nose to take her part in the parade.  Those traditions continue.

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DSC_3939pIn the past, there was more of a celebration of our agriculture and western edge heritage. With the resurgence of oil in the area, the companies have brought prosperity and wealth to many in the area and they sponsor many local happenings. There addition to the parade demonstrates a changing time.

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It was a great Saturday enjoying our local community and celebrating with family! Happy 4th of July everyone! Anyone else take in a parade this year?

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Community, Life as a Veterinarian, Veterinary Health Topics

The Narrative of Veterinary Medicine

*Disclosure- I wrote this months ago and it sat…I was not quite ready for the world to read my thoughts. But I keep coming back to the purpose of story-telling in veterinary medicine. In our work, we gather and share hundreds of stories of our days working with patients and clients. *

Don’t we all just want to be heard?  I recently stumbled upon the topic of “Narrative Medicine”. It is a topic well recognized in human medicine and makings it entry into veterinary medicine. Narrative Medicine seeks to honor patient stories from a literary persepective. It goes beyond the medical interview and seeks to understand the psychosocial and spiritual perspective. In reviewing the whats and whys of Narrative Medicine I think it boils down to learning to listen…Doctor to Patient and Patient to Doctor.  In veterinary medicine it may be complicated by having a sentinent being with feelings of fear, pain, and happiness but no way to communicate in our language. So we rely on the stories of their caretakers.

Do you still remember the veterinarian you took your childhood pets to? You might still picture the waiting room or the smell of cleaning chemicals or pet odors. If you lived in a small town you likely had a relationship with your veterinary, pediatrician, and veterinarian. They knew our story and we knew theirs, for good or for bad. I still enjoy a small town feel and generally tight-knit community but veterinary medicine is changing as it evolves with increasing services and specialization. That connection and relationship has changed. The friendly, all knowing veterinarian down the street has changed.

Narrative medicine seeks to change that connection to a time of yesteryear where we knew each other beyond the exam room walls. So it goes that in our profession we complain about the numbness of repetition of vaccination after vaccination or the pain of compassion fatigue, the giving of yourself without thought for self-care and restoration. On an average full day I may talk to 20-30+ people in a day and some days I feel completely depleted and mentally gone.  My sanctuary is my home and my family and on those days of sanctuary I  prefer my days filled with casual togetherness and laughter, not words and demands. Those I converse with are carefully selected and the only outsider is the FedEx delivery man, delivering my mail order packages. The energy of the crowded stores, booming music, and bright lights can just be too much after a day of boisterous greetings, goodbyes, and the emotions of helping client’s pet thru disease and death. There is this balance of connection and relationship while maintaining a distance safe enough to prevent injury from the pains of the profession.


In our lives, we all seek meaning and to find our purpose. A wooden plaque with the words “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” sits on my shelf as a reminder of finding passion and purpose. But some days are hard…it is hard to give another round of bad news, to share textbook of knowledge regarding a diagnosis starting slow then gaining momentum as the words spill out of my mouth. I see the facial expressions, some empty, sad, upset, angry, or just plain empty as the news hits their minds.

We celebrate the human-animal bond but what a gradient of affections. For some this pet right here, right now is all they have, their companion in life and for others it is as replaceable as the tires on their car and they grumble about the expense of doing so. For me to find purpose and enjoyment in this profession, I find myself needing to look past the signalment. Buddy is more than just a 2 year old neutered male, Golden Retriever. Buddy may well be the best friend to a 4 year old autistic boy and the one to whom it speaks. We celebrate that bond, the specialness of animals in our lives.


With narrative medicine, they look for words or phrases and don’t start with the checklist but ask the question “Why are you here today?”. It is a request to be invited into our patients or clients stories. For some clients I know the story of their pet followed over years, with chapters read here or there. The time they ate the garbage and had explosive diarrhea, the adjustment to the family when the new baby came. Each chapter strengthens the bond of the family and the pet. The most intimate invitation is often at the end of life.

At the end of life there is no longer a race against death, a need to win but an acceptance. For some it is just a dog or just a cat but for others I am one of the few that has read the story of this pet’s life, to understand its meaning and the bond that was shared. In that story, I have seen men fold over weeping for a pet when they didn’t shed a tear for a parent or the woman that holds her beloved pet lost to cancer and in that moment a flood of memories of the loss of her own mother too lost to cancer. I hold that invitation with great reverence.

So when you think of your childhood vet what do you remember? I sometimes ask myself how I want to be remembered. I can give a vaccine, diagnosis diabetes, or spay a cat but there is this deeper psychosocial aspect of veterinary medicine; that call to narrative medicine, where we understand the story behind the medicine.

As a helper and caretaker it can bring great frustration and even anger when I perceive I care more than the actual owner of a pet. In these moments narrative medicine calls for a more mindful detached compassion. One can quickly drown under the tidal waves of poor life choices, painful lives, or just plain indifference that some bring to the exam room.

So I ask “What brings you in today?” and realize mankind is this diverse, never fully understood complexity. We all bring our stories of youth, growth, adversity, sadness or joy when we meet in that exam room.

Narrative, story-telling…we are all connected by our stories. Story-telling and narrative has survived the centuries and though our world has changed, it all comes back to the connection and sharing of our stories.