4-H, Where You Work Your Ass Off for “Nothing”

That title got your attention, didn’t it?  Now before you come at me with pitchforks and torches, hear me out.

If you have read  my bio you will know that I work in Extension and even if I didn’t, I would still have a deep passion for 4-H in my heart. I love all of the opportunities that present themselves through 4-H. I love spending time with kids teaching them life skills and sharing passions that have been and still are very, very much a part of my life. I love seeing youth grow into productive, responsible, hardworking, caring, and community minded adults.

The title of this blog post is an actually paraphrased from a quote from a 4-H mother made to me as we were walking out of our trophy auction and donor’s lunch where several companies and individuals had literally just spent thousands of dollars supporting our organization. “That’s what 4-H is all about, working your ass off and getting nothing in return, huh, Amber.” The anger came instantly. How dare someone make comments like that as we are walking out of especially that event. How dare someone say something like that to people who spend countless hours both paid and unpaid making sure programs are organized, newsletters set, putting on project meetings, buying supplies for those meetings-often out of pocket, spending countless unpaid hours away from family. How. Dare. You.  But as the evening went on I began to feel sadness for the individual who said that and her kids participating in our organization. Somewhere along the way for them 4-H became about the money being made rather than the experiences, lessons, and memories.

All I can say is that- If in 4-H you are “working your ass off” and getting nothing in return… you’re doing it wrong.

You will never “get rich” in 4-H

Sure that extra premium money you get from the livestock sale or the little extra ribbon money you get for a job well done is nice. Who wouldn’t agree. But that’s not the point of anything that you’re doing. The money you get for livestock is intended to help with cost associated with showing them, to help you to be able to continue your project- not give you a free ride. That’s part of the lessons you learn in 4-H. Life costs money.

You have options

4-H is a youth organization focused on providing participants with skills to last for a lifetime. Opportunities for classes in food and nutrition, woodworking, sewing, photography, entomology, rocketry, electricity, arts and crafts, livestock, and so, so much more which volunteers spend their time and money to put on for the youth is just the tip of the iceberg. Through each project offered a certain set of skills is obtained, you may choose to participate in everything offered or just a few that interest you.

Life skills are obtained

be it the actual skills you are learning in the different project, the tips, tricks and ideas you take home from leadership camps and events, or the subconscious things like being on time, speaking to adults, networking with others, respect, “practice makes perfect” etc. You learn things like dressing appropriately for certain occasions, volunteerism, speaking to people you don’t know, community development, interview skills, the impact of a good, strong handshake… I could go on and on.

Lifetime friends are made

Honestly, if you had told me when I was younger that I would have gone to college and knew a ton of people once I got there I would have told you that you were lying. My freshman year when I got to school I was honestly so surprised at how many people I knew because of 4-H and FFA events that I had been to. For a rather shy person who generally wouldn’t take initiative to go meet people, it was such a help to have people I was already at least a little familiar with. Even as we have all grown and gone on to our careers, families, and new places, we still keep up via social media. They are people with whom I share memories- not just in college, but youthful memories from 4-H and FFA with and people who I will always enjoy keeping up with and being friends with.

Memories

The memories made with family, schoolmates, and friends from across my county and state are memories that I will cherish for as long as I live. From late nights spent in the barn the night before the show washing, clipping, feeding, and honestly just horsing around. To show day shenanigans and sale night primping. From trips 5 miles out of town, across the state, or across the country for camps, conventions, retreats, or trainings. The laughs, the tears, the jokes, the heart to hearts and the obnoxious roadtrip karaoke sessions.  In the moment I never would have guessed how all of those little snapshots of time were forming me into the person that I am today. Be it with my family or with the various groups I would have traveled with- they helped me grow into the woman I am today.

I credit 4-H (and FFA) to my successes to date. I can walk into an interview with confidence, I can look a potential employer in the eye and give a firm handshake. I am comfortable with speaking to groups. I learned how to manage money, how to pay bills, how and when to jump in and help where it is needed, I learned how to volunteer and the importance of volunteerism. I am more community minded. I have networking resources. I can participate in an organized meeting.

Sure, 4-H is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too (If you’re taking full advantage of it)… and if “nothing” is what you are getting in return… you’re doing it all wrong.

 

love and peace,
Amber

Right, Left, or American?

Okay… So I’m going to get a little political on this post. Not in the “if you’re not republican/democrat you’re wrong” way- don’t worry. It’s just that I just can’t help but be frustrated and disheartened by the mere fact of turning on my TV or opening up a social media platform. The negativity on both sides of the aisle is just overwhelming! (Amiright?)

Regardless of who holds the office of the presidency- he or she deserves respect. I’m not saying you have to agree with all of their policies or clap and cheer every time he opens his mouth to speak. No, I’m saying that be it Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Tommy-Joe from down the street- we, as Americans, should have the decency to show basic human respect. To defend our causes relentlessly- but in a way that understands that not everyone in the world has the same opinions or holds the same causes as dearly as we- and that includes the President of the United States. Defend your causes, but do so with the understanding that the person in the office of the presidency has taken on the most difficult job in our nation. Not only are they responsible for the social and economic well-being within the borders of the U.S., but they are responsible for diplomatic relations with every other country in the world. The president has never been a president before- he or she has never held such an important role, regardless of whether they have been in politics previously or not. Defend your causes, but do so respectfully and with understanding.

I will be the first person to admit- “President Trump” was not exactly the outcome I was hoping for in this last election cycle. (Just to clear the record, President Clinton was pretty bottom of the barrel for me.) But President Trump is who we got. He’s loud, he’s rude, he can be vulgar, he’s certainly not politically correct, he could be more careful about what he’s putting on social media- with all of those, I agree; but I believe the man is trying. He’s honestly trying to make good on the promises he made on the campaign trail. He’s trying to find a way to fit into a world of proper politics instead of his Hollywood lifestyle. Unfortunately our media and career politicians on either side of the aisle don’t want to give him a chance.

Instead of uniting and using their national platforms to spread messages of hope and unity, our politicians and media are so focused on proving who’s right or wrong- so focused on getting a one-up on their oppositions- that they are causing hysteria on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s wrong. It’s wrong on so many levels. Are we not all Americans? Should we not be standing united as one? What difference does it make who your neighbor voted for? The mass media as well as national and local politicians should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for, directly or indirectly- depending on who you talk to, causing this mess, this dysfunction, this complete rift between the American people. And to be honest- we, the American people should be ashamed of ourselves for letting such a small group of people influence our relationships and sense of “togetherness” the way they have. We know better. Deep down, I think we all want better. We deserve better. Our children deserve better.

It’s not about being democrat or republican or anything in between… It’s about being human and showing respect, love, and tolerance for our neighbors, families, and ourselves. First and foremost we are children of God, then we are husbands/wives/parents/grandparents/children/friends the list is endless… who we voted for the last election cycle should be the least of what makes up our identities. We are all humans. We are all Americans. Let’s act like it.

“There is more strength in unity than in division.”  Emanuel Cleaver

X’s & O’s

Amber

Eat the Damn Cake

So, as a relatively new mother I find myself noticing more and more Facebook posts, blogs, Tweets, Pins, etc on “fit pregnancy” or “How to Loose the Baby Weight” “How to Have A Healthy Pregnancy” “Beach Body After Baby” and the list could go on. Absolutely nothing  is wrong with any of those- But I’m here to tell you, don’t stress, it is okay! 

It’s okay if you’re not a fitness guru:

It’s okay if you don’t do crossfit, run 15 miles a day, and lift weights while you’re pregnant… or even if you’re not pregnant, honestly. While I would suggest not completely nixing physical activity- you don’t have to force yourself into some crap that you hate every single day because you don’t want to become a whale. You don’t. Find something you enjoy (zumba, riding a bike, yoga, etc..) clear it with your doctor and go for it. I’m not saying you can’t be a fitness junky while you’re pregnant either. Some people truly do enjoy torturing themselves for 2 hours at 5:00 every single morning- power to you. Just don’t ever forget- it is okay to not fit the mold, to not follow the trends, do what feels good to you. 

Let yourself have that piece of cake!

When I first found out I was pregnant I had the worst fear of becoming “that girl” who “pregnancy did not treat well.” I read blog after blog and read tips on top of tips on top of tips on how to eat while pregnant. Articles like “How to Gain only 10 or less Pounds During Pregnancy” and other ridiculous articles similar. I forced myself to ignore my hunger and pretty much survive off of lettuce and water. Guess what. I felt like crap and on top of all of that… after two glucose testing appointments- because there’s no way that first one was right, I still was gestational diabetic. It didn’t matter that I had eaten the most healthy I ever have in my life this past 4 months. It didn’t matter that I was on the lower end of “normal” gestational weight gain. It didn’t matter. And you want to know what my doctor told me? She said “You have got to stop worry about this. Don’t deprive yourself! If you want that chocolate cupcake have one- just one, but allow yourself to have it. Eat your protein and veggies, drink your water, but allow yourself your cravings. You will feel so much better.” She was right. Be healthy- don’t gorge yourself on crap. But allow yourself to indulge. Moderation is key. After we had that talk I let go a little, I allowed myself to eat until I was satisfied, I allowed myself a cup of coffee and a sweet tea here and there- and I felt- and feel so much better.

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Who cares what “they” think.

Seriously. Who. Freaking. Cares? Whether you only gained 7 pounds and had the most fit pregnancy anyone has ever had and bounced back to your post pregnancy body almost instantly or if you gained 50 pounds and are still trying to shed the pounds 3 years later. Who. Cares. As long as you are healthy (key word here) and happy, what everyone else thinks is irrelevant. If the people who are important in your life won’t accept you either way- it’s time to evaluate the people you are surrounding yourself with and weed some out.

Loving yourself is a daily decision.

The ticket to loving yourself and your body is a decision you make every single day. If we’re being honest, more days than not I struggle to love myself. I struggle to love the way I look. I struggle to believe I am good enough for my husband or my child. It’s a struggle for me to ignore the little extra around my mid-section or the stretch marks on my thighs. It is hard not to doubt yourself- believe me, I know. But as long as you are either working to be better or doing the best you absolutely can do with the situation you are given. Wake up, look in the mirror, find that one positive thing about yourself that you just love- be it your eyes, hair, how freaking awesome you are at doing makeup- whatever it is. Find it. Focus on it. Let that confidence radiate through you all day. Decide to be happy. Decided to love yourself- and love the process, whatever that may be.

 

You are beautiful. You are enough…. and eat the damn cake.

 

 

 

 

Ice Storms, Fires, Blizzards, and Hail- Heartbreak in the Heartland

This first 5 months of 2017 has taken its toll on the 5-State area surrounding the Oklahoma Panhandle. With a devastating ice storm hitting right in the thick of calving season. “Dark Monday” and it’s 1 million (+ or -) acres burned across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Southwestern Kansas, and Eastern New Mexico and Colorado- which destroyed thousands of acres of grazing lands, scorched hundreds of miles of fence, multiple homes, stole 6 human’s lives and burned thousands of head of cattle and wildlife alive. A crippling April 30th blizzard which left hundreds more cattle dead in Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The most recent a hail storm which carried with it baseball-softball sized hail that tore through the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma killing calves, destroying crops which were only a few weeks shy of being harvested, as well as countless homes, vehicles, and other buildings.

But you won’t hear much about this on the news. 

The recovery process is still taking place- and will continue to take place for months. Our hearts are so full for the help and love we have received from so many agriculturist across the nation. But I would be lying if I said that each day isn’t still a challenge to keep our heads up. It’s hard to watch your life’s work go up in smoke-literally. Or watch the wheat that you have tended to and prayed would come out of damages caused by ice and and snow coupled with 60 mph winds survive just to be pounded into the ground by hail just before harvest. It’s so hard not knowing how you are going to make the equipment payment. It’s hard to have to walk through your pastures and see and even have to put down suffering animals who couldn’t escape the flames, or to pull up to your pasture ground to find your cows and calves had looked for shelter in a draw which is now covered in snow- and those mamas and babies have all suffocated- or the babies who couldn’t weather the baseball sized hail who had been literally beat to death in the night. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking- loss of profits aside.

So today, while you go about your life- while you go to your 8-5 job with a guaranteed paycheck and little risk to your livelihood, when you go to the grocery store and notice the price of food slightly higher, remember, the places where your food comes from has been ravaged this past year. There will be a shortage- not in the “oh my gosh we can’t feed everyone and we have to ration” sense, but as compared to years past. The ranchers and farmers will struggle harder than usual to make their payments this year.

We are strong, we will rebuild, we will continue to raise our cattle, we will continue to plant our crops. We will wake up every day and continue to go to work- just like you. But our hearts and our land will take some time to heal. Remember us in your day to day activities too. 



“A farmer has to be an optimist- or he wouldn’t still be a farmer” 

Will Rogers

 

A Pinterest Recipe Review (or fail)

Okay, ya’ll, I apologize for the lack of photos- I just couldn’t with this one.

Chicken and broccoli spaghetti squash.

SO… Here goes. Yesterday evening I decided to try out a new recipe I found on Pinterest a couple weeks ago-Chicken and Broccoli with spaghetti squash (instead of rice.) I have been so excited to try this out, so, so excited. That excitement slowly died through the evening as I was preparing my meal. To be clear, I rarely follow recipes just exactly to the tee- as such was the case on this fateful evening. (don’t judge-usually it works for me.)

I have had spaghetti squash in the past and remembered really liking it, and I love chicken and broccoli- so what could possibly go wrong? A lot, that’s what.

To begin with- I cut my squash in half longways- just like the instructions said. I scraped out the seeds and rubbed the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper (I also added a bit of garlic) placed the halves face down on a baking sheet and set the timer for 45 minutes- as the instructions read. about 15 minutes in I started to smell an odd scent- I thought “surely it will get better as this cooks”  and continued on to prepare my chicken and broccoli- as I always do- and just the way I like it. As the squash is roasting, the smell keeps getting stronger and stronger. I kept hoping it was just my nose having been stuffed up for days due to allergies that my sense of smell was off.

I pulled the squash out of the oven and let it cool enough that I could handle it then scraped the meat of it out (hey, that was sort of a fun little task) mixed the chicken, broccoli, and squash into a baking dish along with cheese, cream cheese, and heavy cream and put in oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

By this time the smell was that of dirty feet- but I thought to myself “it can’t be that bad” and “you have spent a little over an hour preparing this food, you are going to eat it, and you are going to like it!” so, I persevered. I fixed a bowl of this concoction for myself, my son, and my husband. I got my son and myself situated at the table and watched as Gage delved into this like it was the most delicious thing he has ever had in his life and thought “dang, it must be pretty good- I’ve barely got our drinks to the table and he’s finished half of what I gave him” so I get myself a generous bite on my fork and take the bite. WORST. TASTE. EVER. Ya’ll, I’m not a picky eater, I never have been, but this? This monstrosity of a supper? I couldn’t handle. Before my husband even got the chance to take a bite I took his bowl along with mine and dumped it back into the dish which I then carried out to the dogs.

Guys, the dogs wouldn’t even eat it. When I went to work this morning, there lay an untouched pile of spaghetti squash nastiness by the corner of the house- and my dogs eat dead rats and donkey poop and lord knows what else. I don’t know how my son seemed to enjoy it so much,  I really think he was just that hungry from his long day of play. Has to be.

So, moral of the story I guess- when you’re making chicken and broccoli casserole- just stick to rice as your filler. Spaghetti squash is not “where it’s at.”

It’s “That Time” of Year Again…

This morning as I was getting ready for work, my husband says to me “I’m probably going to be late tonight… and tomorrow night… probably the next night too.” I knew it was coming. It’s “that time of year.” But it never fails- I always get just a slight sense of disappointment- and annoyance.

I know- and knew coming in to this marriage that there would be a lot of late nights and early mornings. A lot of times he would go to work before I was out of bed for the day and wouldn’t be home until long after I had gone to sleep. Deep down I know that’s just part of it- part of this glorious life we live as farmer’s and rancher’s wives. It’s hard sometimes.

As a farmer’s wife with a town job, it’s easy for me to forget just how hard my husband works to make everything work. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to feel like I’m doing more or that my workload is somehow unfair. It’s not. When I’m running late in the morning because I had to get myself and my child clothed and fed and out the door by 7:30 (that rarely happens) to be to work by 8 it’s so easy for me to complain in my head about how if someone would just help like put clothes on the tiny human or something, how I wouldn’t be running this late. Or when I get home from work and there are piles of laundry to be done, a floor that needs swept, mopped, or vacuumed, supper to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned, trash that needs taken out, pets that need fed, a kid that needs bathed, teeth brushed, and put to bed. And not always willingly- do any one year olds actually purposefully fall asleep?  And a million other things that really need to be done- my “poor me” attitude always shows itself. When I fall into bed and shoot him a quick goodnight text and he doesn’t respond before I am ready to go to sleep, it’s so easy for me to take on my bratty self and think to myself “well if I’m not important enough…”

It’s easy for me to forget he’s busy too. While there are days he spends the morning getting the coffee shop gossip- he makes up for it with the days he’s out on the sprayer long before dawn or on the tractor long after sunset. He spends days running here, there, and everywhere because- let’s be honest- if ever a day comes that everything goes exactly as planned on the farm…what witchcraft are you doing, and can you share? He’s planting, or spraying, or checking fields, or working on equipment, or making sales calls, or delivering product, or hauling water, or tending to cattle, or building fence, the list could go forever. It’s easy to picture a farmer as some old guy who just sits on the tractor all day going back and forth, back and forth across the fields or just sitting in their pickup gawking at their cow. It’s easy to forget that as much as farming is something they (usually) enjoy, it’s also their job.

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man”

-George Washington

So, while I may slip from time to time more often than I’d like to admit I’m doing my best to remember- and be grateful for just how hard my farmer works

Good Friday Ponderings

This morning I grumbled as I got up to come to work- on a holiday. I cussed the county offices for being open on a holy day. I’ve grumbled since I’ve been here about various things that just hacked me off. grumbled about parents who just can’t seem to get it together and about the lady at the bank who didn’t even double check the rather large fundraiser deposit I took today. Grumpy because my husband went on down to my grandparents’ this afternoon and I’ll have to drive there all by myself at 5. It just hit me that today- of all days I am grumpy about everything- I’ve complained at almost every single turn. But if 2000 years ago this day didn’t happen- I might not even be here. The course of the world would have been so much different than it is now. 2000 years ago- My Jesus was beat and tortured and hung on a cross so that I could have eternal life.

It took nearly all day for it to hit me- I’ve been so caught up in my own selfish feelings that I have forgot what today even is. Furthermore, I have let my contempt get in the way of showing basic kindness to those I come across. I’ve been terrible today.

The beauty of all of this, though, is that because of what Jesus Christ went through on this day- I am forgiven. No matter how terrible I have been- how much I have complained, how hateful I have been to those I’ve been in contact with- I am forgiven. Jesus carried every sin I have ever committed and  every sin I ever will commit to the cross with him. He suffered unimaginable anguish- not because he couldn’t escape it- but because he loved me and you so much that he wanted us to someday be with him in Heaven. Wow. That is love.

“My God, My Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood his mercy rains- Unending love, Amazing Grace” 

I can’t change my behavior earlier in the day- but I can for the rest.

Have a safe and Happy Easter, all.

Jesus loves you.

Amber