Life Lessons, Photography, Ranch Life

“I do it”

We are moving out of the “No” phase and into the “I do it!” or “Me Too!” When you are two years old, there is nothing in the world to fear and everything to explore and discovery. Nothing is too heavy, too hard, too much… If I could bottle a toddler’s tenacity and will and take a swig at 3pm when the day is just getting too long I too may confidently say “I do it!”

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I love that I have photos of both of my boys side-by-side with their dad feeding, learning, observing. The biggest lessons and memories they remember are often from the smallest events whether graining sheep, feeding hay to the cows, or picking eggs from the coop.

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Where there is independence there is frustration when our little 2 year old just isn’t strong enough, big enough, fast enough, or coordinated enough. But he tries and that is a great lesson from his 2 year old self to this grown up.

“Practicing his ranching skills on the living room floor.”

The promise of spring is upon us and we are eagerly and anxiously awaiting the start of lambing next week. I mentioned to my Hubby that he seems more excited and anxious for the delivery of these babies than our own human babies. His response, “I didn’t have to build the hospital before their arrival.” There is much to do and prepare before lambs arrive…the barn is ready with fresh straw. The lambing jugs where the newborns will spend their first few days are warm and cozy. Medications and supplies are stocked. The ewes will get sheared in anticipation for a cleaner lambing experience.

It is all hands on deck for this family to ready for what I think is second only to Christmas as the “best time of the year”.

Life as a Veterinarian, Life Lessons

So striking…so stunning the transformation

It is always with deep consideration what I decide to share outside the walls of the exam room. I fully realize I am invited into an often very personal relationship with sensitive topics, emotions, and sharing. If you see yourself in my stories or writing, please know that you, your pet, and/or our experience together affected me such that I desired to reflect and share. So it was with hesitation that I share this, but I was so touched, so taken and found such tragic beauty in this experience I felt it was worth sharing.

The call came, a very sick young Chameleon needed medical attention. My experience with Chameleons is limited but thankfully though true exotic veterinarians are more rare than plentiful, most are very helpful in sharing their knowledge.

I found a frail, faded young Chameleon with a young boy and his mother behind the exam room door. The Chameleon was young, a faded tan with stripes of muted green with hints of gray. Chameleons are well know for “changing” their skin color but in fact have four layers of skin with different pigmentations. It is the blending of these layers that create their color. Her entire body fit in the palm of a hand. She was so small and light, the wash cloth she was wrapped in provided the only real substance registered when she was held. Their concern for this little creature was great but she was clearly very sick.

After diagnostics and discussions of treatment options and prognosis.  The prognosis looked so poor and so the boy stoically agreed with his mother by his side and tears streaming down his cheeks to say goodbye to his little friend.

Admittedly, I have never euthanized a Chameleon before. I gave the sedation to make her sleep with the smallest gauge needle into her tiny muscle. The green and tan were replaced by a deep muddy brown, as if a flower wilted and died so suddenly before my eyes in such a profound transformation. While this is known to occur, I was so taken by this transformation I had to fight the tears. I finished her goodbye and handed this frail, wilted dead flower of a creature back to her grieving boy.

It was such a profound change, so beautiful yet so tragic. That outward bodily change to physically darken was so encompassing of the grief in that moment. When our hearts feel the darkness of grief and sadness, how awe-inspiring is nature to allow this little Chameleon to transform, for Nature to choose her color of death. Where once there was vibrance, now lie the physical picture of darkness in death and grief.

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“The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”
C. JoyBell C.

 

Community, Life Lessons

Quirky Vehicles and the Love We Have For Them

*We have been very distracted by Christmas happenings in our family. I had wrote this blog waiting to take some photos to fit the theme. Since I haven’t posted in a while I thought I would share as is. *

 

I have never driven a brand new car or enjoyed the odor of a new car besides sniffing those little Christmas tree air fresheners labeled “New Car Smell”.  I feel like I have earned a badge of honor for driving my vehicles until they literally become clunkers.

Thru vet school I drove a dark blue Dodge Stratus with a chewed up back seat arm rest (thanks to a bored Brody Lab puppy in the backseat on a 12 hour car ride from Iowa to North Dakota).  We packed on the miles driving back and forth and I swore I would drive that car “until the wheels came off” and that they did. I remember the day I called Brad telling him my right hind wheel was displaced craniomedially and things seemed “broken”. My vet school classmate that happened to be with him to translated  that the rear passenger wheel was broken and the top of the wheel was angled towards the car frame.

So I am no stranger to quirky vehicles. My current ride is an Expedition pushing 200,000 miles and I am proud of how well it has handled our crazy crew of kids and critters. I eagerly wait for the number to roll over to 200,000 so I can Instagram it, as a mother would document a proud moment in her kid’s life! Then one day it didn’t start. My flaking paint, mud coated Expedition was trailered to the shop to await someone to figure out it’s woes and return it to function.

In the mean time, I needed a ride so was lent my dad’s old Explorer..or Exploder with “tinker toy suspension” as my hubby refers. This wasn’t just a turn the key and go sort of vehicle.  It had rules…quirks to tend to for it to function in any sort of way. My dad is a mechanic and the seats are evident of such, black as oil and grease with the matching odor.

The quirks were simple enough:

  1. Most importantly…Don’t lock the doors or they may never open again. A new locking mechanism was worth more than the vehicle or its contents. Do you know how habitual it is to hit that lock button…and so muscle memory took over and I locked the doors…oops.  Rule #1 already broken.
  2. The heater only blows on high or off. If you get too hot just turn it off or open the window.
  3. But the window may or may not close and if it does will take forever to roll back up if you do get it down.
  4. It will shimmy and shake if you go over 65mph but sometimes you can push thru the shimmy if you get it up to 75.
  5. There is no working car charger for your phone so make sure you have a fully charged phone to use when you call for help when it breaks down!

 

Though the loan of the quirky Explorer was kind we  rented a new Silverado to be our ride while our vehicle was in the shop…I even took a picture of the mileage because the number was so small…if my Expedition was nearing its retirement celebration here was a new baby vehicle making its way in the world. It even had that new car smell and not thanks to some little tree shaped freshener. As is our way, we quickly broke it in with a rock chip and red dust covering the dash.  I watched the miles click higher and higher in just our short time with a new realization for just how many miles we log back and forth, up and down the road.

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For me these vehicles that safely get us from point A to B become a part of our family’s story and memories, a familiarity and comfort (I can still remember crying in the bathroom of the dealer as we said goodbye to our family’s Jeep).

I liked the new vehicle…with its fancy back up camera and “newness”. But when I got my old rusty Expedition back I admit it felt right and familiar.  We had picked it up fixed and the roads home were slick and snow packed, but I knew just how it would respond, how the 4 wheel drive would kick in and how it would handle the road ahead . The worn indent in the seat seems almost sculpted to my butt from all our miles together and the wheel is positioned just how I like it. The rear passenger door inner door handle is broke off and the lights of the dash clock flicker on and off in a most unreliable fashion. It has its own quirks!

 

My morning view driving out of the yard.  I have seen some of the most fantastic sunrises and sunsets while driving. 

 

The discussion of whether we should get a new vehicle came up when our old Expedition was in the shop but I don’t think I am quite ready to say goodbye.

So for those hitting the roads this holiday weekend…enjoy your ride! Some of my best childhood memories occurred while sitting in the backseat of a Jeep Cherokee with my sisters traveling down the road. Not to mention all the miles and memories the Hubby and I logged driving back and forth, with music and words to pass the time.

Life Lessons, Motherhood

No means No…or Does It?

*I wrote this one weekend a while back and just let it sit… but I wanted to revisit the topic as we move into the holiday season.*

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My toddler is far less verbal than my first kiddo but one thing that seems perfectly clear is “No”.  He has always been interactive and communicative in his own way and understood everything you say but words haven’t been his strong suite. The toddler just turned two in August and has really come into his own at expressing his clear disagreement with “No” clear as a bell.  In fact he has multiple “No-s”.

There is “NOOOO” with a angry vibrato and deep conviction. “Hey buddy we will need to finish up playing so we can go home soon.” With frustration and anger his whole body will growl “NOOOOO!”.

Then there is the annoyed, how dare you ask “No- aah” with a little toddler sas. “Did you want to play with this toy?” Then the clearly “you don’t understand my preferences and desires Mother” response of “Noo-ah”. This is also a popular response when the suggestion of a nap  is made.

The final most distinct variations is the quick, sharp “No” or “Nope” which is done when he is just too busy and needs to get us out of his hair. While he is busy running around outside, we might ask “Do you want some water?” and without much acknowledgement as he sprints by “No” and he is gone.

That is in stark contrast to my “No-s”?

“Well maybe?”

“We will see.”

“If I have time.”

“I will think about it”

“Probably not”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.”

“I am not sure…we might have…bla…bla”

There is the “Well actually, umm…”

Or the ignore the request until it hopefully just magically disappears or they forget to ask again…

I was wisely told “Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”.

Simple enough but it really isn’t. I had to really reflect on how many times my brain and body are screaming “no” but out of my mouth comes some wishy washy answer that implies there might be a chance.

This is pretty evident with my kiddos. The question goes “Can we do X after supper?”. By all accounts there is no way on Earth we are going out after dark to hunt coyotes while sleeping under the sheet they fashioned as a tent when the temperature is 32 degrees. So instead of a “No, let’s do this instead” I say “We will see….” See about what Jessie, about the temperature suddenly warming 40 degrees or the spring equinox coming back around to extend the day light.

Saying “no” is hard because it makes me realize in saying no I might disappoint someone or create conflict that would be easier to push aside.

Saying no is really an art to balance your own personal happiness and joy and the requests that seem to never stop some days.

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I am not an expert (far from it) at saying “No” but here is what I am working on:

  1. Priorities: What do I value? They say you make time for what matters so instead of pushing off requests and invites either they matter enough to say yes or the honest truth is I have other priorities. I realized that the only person I am truly not replaceable to is my family. A client may say they adore me but the reality is they will get their needs served elsewhere if I should drop off the Earth or even just be unavailable for a simple day here and there.
  2. Am I just being nice so I get praise and attention? What is the reason I am saying yes. Will it really bring joy or am I doing it for someone’s else’s approval and attention.
  3. Will saying yes now create a precedence for the future that I am not prepared for. This happens with my kiddos a lot…but yesterday you said we could have ice cream at 11pm
  4. I can say “No” and that be OK. I don’t have guard anyone against the disappointment or emotion that may come with that sacrificing my own feelings.

….How do you say “No”? Are you a “No” means “No” person?

Life Lessons, Ranch Life

Following the Cow Paths

The height of summer when pastures are supposed to be green and lush, instead brought brown and stunted. The growing season was marked by drought. Day after day went by without a cloud in the sky until August. The pasture grasses are shorter than usually this fall, as cows were shifted and moved, moved and shifted from one smaller pasture to another in an effort to best utilize the grass available.

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Highlighted across the short grass pastures are trails, meandering dirt paths taking cows from one desired location to another. From shelter behind the trees to the water tank. From one gait to the next. It got me thinking….why is the path in this location? Our main pastures are fairly level with little terrain to re-route a developing trail. Why does every single cow and calf follow this exact path enough to wear it down to dirt and then a rut, forming a narrow foot wide path?  Why do they meandor like they do? Is not the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B to follow a straight line?

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Turns out a lot of other people have spent some time thinking about cow paths. In fact there is a myth that the aimlessly meandoring streets of Boston were simply paved cowpaths. This myth has been debunked and shifted more towards the failure of human’s in their city’s planning. But interesting none the less to think of cow paths forming our major transport system.

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Researchers (Ganskopp, Oregon State University) have used GPS and GIS to investigate cow paths even further. They found that in areas of concentration, say around a water source, the paths actually braided together. Two or three intersecting trails with a common destination would occur within yards of each other as groups of cattle moved to and from. Cattle prefer to follow major drainages within a pasture. It makes sense they would parallel them but not travel the lowest point where the ground may be rockier and more rugged. They preferred lower elevations and just like us, most didn’t like to hoof it straight up and down a hill but would transverse at an angle across it. Cattle may take a steeper, more rugged approach to a desired destination but prefer a gentler incline and path away. Turns out is rarely the same path to and from the desired destination.

When you see a horse lope or run across a pasture it is this awe-inspiring marvel at nature’s grandeur. When you see a cow or sheep run across a pasture it is a much more utilitarian image. Sheep and cows are prey animals so flight seems a nature response so while utilitarian in appearance it is quite effective. If the need arises, it is amazing how quickly and athletically a cow can transverse rough terrain. Without threat or encouragement they are more content to put their head down and follow.

In business, there is the “Cow Path Theory”. The idea that one cow has created this path and each and every cow thereafter follows mindlessly, without thought of threats or the potential for a more efficient pathway. There is no challenge of the winding path as the cow plods along with its head down.  The idea translates to the business where the original management creates a pathway for business efficiency and management and employers to follow mindlessly follow with failure to evolve.

Sam Walter Foss paints a picture of pastoral life but challenges us to move off the path of repitition and familiarity. Do we accept our path without challenge because it was set forth for us? Do we do things “that way” because “that is always how it has been done”. Do we problem-solve, question, challenge, find new solutions to old problems or challenge our every day hum-drum, the head down “cow path” of our every day.

For men are prone to go blind

Along the cow paths of the mind.

~Sam Walter Foss

The Calf-Path

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

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….

 

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