Hit Them First- My Unpopular Opinion

Bullying is not okay.

No one should ever have to go through some of the hateful and hurtful things kids (and adults) say and do to each other.

Parents should not allow their children to bully other kids.

With all those, I agree but…

I’m gonna be the unpopular person- but here it goes… 

I disagree with parents who film their children after having been bullied and post it on social media. I don’t think you’re doing it to raise awareness- I feel like it’s a “let’s see how many shares and comments I can get on social media” stunt. There. I said it.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how holding your cell phone in your child’s face during his or her most vulnerable moments and asking them to “speak out” is really going to help anyone in the long run… and you can’t really think it’s going to stop the crap from continuing. Those bullies saw that post. You think they saw that and thought “Oh, I made him cry. I better stop!” More than likely- the answer is no. Kids are mean. People are mean. Sometimes, life in general is mean.

I’ll admit, I’m no parenting expert. In fact, most days I’m barely capable of handling my own affairs, let alone those of the tiny human I am also in charge of. But I just can’t see that if or when that day comes when my sweet boy comes home in tears with bruises on his back.. or his heart, because some boys in the locker room decided to pick on him or say mean things to him, that the first thing that comes to mind is “I’m gonna grab my camera and document this moment.” No. I, like to think that I will scoop him into a hug and let him talk about it… if he wants to… and then I’m going to give him the same advice my dad gave me.

“Don’t you dare go picking fights, but if it comes down to that; hit ’em firstest, hit ’em mostest, and hit ’em hardest.”  And then we are going to go to the school and inform the teachers and principal of the situation at hand and inform them that if nothing can be done about said bullies, my son has full permission to defend himself.

I’m not a violent person. I’m not a fighter. I never have been. But when I was in high school and was having some trouble with a group of girls constantly on a mission to ruin my life I remember that feeling of hopelessness. But I also remember the night it all came to a head and the first time I heard that little diddy from my dad.

My best friend was spending the night. My mom had taken my brother somewhere so my dad was charged with watching me. Around 10:30 the phone calls and texts from these girls started coming in. They wanted to fight. There were 5 of them and 2 of us. At first my friend and I were “preparing for battle” (putting boots on, and maybe some rings or something.. I mean whatever a 9th grader could think of to use as self protection.) Then I got a message on my phone (an unintentional recording on their part) talking about bringing rakes. *Nope. That’s it. I’m out. I don’t care how stupid I look, my dad is getting involved now.* By this time it was around midnight. The girls (driven by a college aged sister) showed up at my house but were met by my dad instead, who told them they needed to go on home.

I believe this was the first time my parents knew of any problems I was having at school. We filed a sheriff’s report (I had the texts and message recordings on my phone) and my parents talked to the school. But my parents are old fashioned in the sense that they believe the best way to solve a personal problem is to do it personally. During that time in my life I was meek and quiet for the most part, but my dad quoted the old book “Of Mice and Men” me time after time while the drama persisted. “Don’t start a fight, but if it’s coming to that, hit ’em firstest, hit ’em mostest, and hit ’em hardest.” (no my dad doesn’t have that terrible of grammar.) The teachers and principal were given a heads up of that permission I was given.

Nothing ever actually came of that couple months of girl drama. But the fact that my parents stood back on the sidelines but were there to listen to me- and also gave me the permission to stand up for myself has stuck with me since. As I’ve grown older I hold that little quote close to me. Not in the sense that I actually think I’m going to go hit someone because they made me mad- but I have that permission to stand up for myself. Verbally or physically. I don’t have to go through life scared of others- scared of the “mean” people. I don’t have to put up with crap I truly don’t deserve. I have permission and the capability to demand better.

Now, with that permission and realization comes responsibility. You can’t turn into the bully. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you believe in. Live an honest life. Know when to defend yourself and when to let the rain roll off your back and move on down the road. Not every action requires a reaction- but know the ones that do. Teach your kids the same.

Give your child permission to defend his or herself. Don’t just shove a phone in his face and record him in his vulnerability. Accept and harbor that vulnerable side, but encourage that strength- because like I said above. Life is mean.

Life is rough and if a man’s gonna make it he’s gotta be tough.

-Johnny Cash

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Urgent Care Revelations

So, last Friday I had to take my sick kiddo to Urgent Care. I HATE Urgent Care- but I won’t rant about that today. I tend to pride myself on being a nice person- but I had a real truth bomb hit me that day sitting in the waiting room. (for 4 freaking hours, but we won’t get into that.)

I marched into that clinic in my typical (though I didn’t realize it until that day) snotty fashion. (Opening the door with a Wet Ones wipe) then proceeding to sanitize my hands and Gage’s hands after signing in- finding the least populated and cleanest looking area to sit… not letting Gage or myself touch A N Y T H I N G other than our rears to the seat. (quite a tough task for a two year old) The place looks dirty… and it’s full of sick people. It’s gross and I hate being there. While I was submersed in my discontent for having to be there, of course I was people watching. One of my favorite activities.

There was a couple sitting a few seats away from me that particularly caught my interest. They had sat nearest the outlet so they could charge their cell phones. They were both submersed in facebook videos (and playing them much too loudly for a public waiting room) They were shabbily dressed and just over all didn’t look well kept. I couldn’t help but listen to their conversation when it turned to having children.

“I wouldn’t mind trying again and having a boy this time.” the woman said and the man agreed… after they were talking about living with one of them’s parents.

OH LAWD, no, no you do not need more kids! Where is your child now? Probably in state custody by the looks and sounds of you two. 

I couldn’t help it. My internal dialogue went nuts… and not in a good way.

Pretty soon a cute little girl comes out of the little playroom where there was a T.V., probably 10 or 11 years old, and hugged both of them. They were asking how she was feeling, and promising they would be seeing the doctor soon. She asked the dad to braid her hair and he gave it a shot- the mom then had to step in and try to show him (for the millionth time, by the sounds of it) They were working on times tables with the little girl and there was genuine love and concern there.

They were happy.

The child was happy.

…and clean and well taken care of.  She wasn’t dressed in the trendiest or nicest clothing, but it was appropriate for the weather, her size, etc…and she was comfortable.

She was loved, she was wanted, and she loved and wanted those two people as well.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those people all weekend. As I said earlier, I tend to take pride in the fact that I am a genuinely nice and caring person. Apparently I’m not as nice as I like to think I am. As the old adage goes “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I’ve started paying closer attention to what I allow myself to think, and I’m not nearly as kind as I once thought.

I’m working on that. I’m praying for eyes of Jesus and not eyes of my own, torn and sinful nature. I’m praying for more compassion.

I encourage you to take a look at yourself. to slow down and listen and actually pay attention to your thoughts sometime. You may find you need to do the same.

 

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 

Colossians 3:12

 

 

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

 

Mama’s, It’s Time to Get it Together.

Since the moment I found out I was pregnant I have realized how fierce and downright hateful mothers can be to each other based solely the differences in decisions and lifestyles chosen. By differences, I don’t mean neglectful- I mean the decisions each mother is faced with from the point of conception. To have an all natural birth or to be medicated, between vaccinating or not, breastfeeding or formula feeding, to be a working mom or a stay at home mom, – the decisions that each of us has a fundamental and almost moral feeling either for or against, the decisions that divide us.

Personally, I was induced and had an epidural, my little Gage has been in daycare since he was 2 months old, has been (and will continue to be) vaccinated on the CDC’s recommended schedule, and was formula fed. I personally know people who have done everything from the get go exactly the opposite of me- natural births, no vaccines, breastfed, and have never spent a minute in a full time child care facility. I know others who are somewhere in between those two extremes. Our children are all beautiful, wonderfully smart little beings who are developing right on schedule.

The point is, While I may adamantly disagree with people who do not vaccinate their babies, others will adamantly disagree with my choice to formula feed or send my child to daycare from the get go- and we each will defend our decisions with passion. We each made every decision (I assume) based on hours upon hours of on our own research- be it by parenting books, Pinterest or internet searches, etc. –  advice from families and friends, questions to our doctors or midwives, financial reasons, or based off of personal experiences. We toiled for months on how we were going to make every aspect of our baby’s life the healthiest and safest we possibly could. And when it comes right down to it, each of us made the decisions we felt in our heart was the absolute best for our child as well as our family.

By all means, advocate for what you believe to be true and right, share the information you have and the experiences you’ve had. Just, do so with the understanding that we’re all doing our best- we’re all in this together. As long as your child is well fed, appropriately clothed, and most importantly well loved- everything else can be worried about later. We are raising our future together. Lift each other up, love each other, encourage each other.