Choose Joy!

Our idea of beautiful color, celebrating Independence Day.
Our idea of beautiful color, celebrating Independence Day

Isn’t the internet amazing? Just the other day, I was using my phone to google “Quest protein bars” and now, every time I get on Facebook, there are advertisements for… you guessed it… Quest protein bars. How does that work, anyway? Maybe if my phone is tracking my shopping searches that may be why as the calendar approached July 4, my Facebook, and emails were FLOODED with new Independence Day apparel. Was it just me, or did America’s birthday get extremely popular this year? Constant red, white, and blue clothing on the racks, email blasts, and Facebook ads. Firework stands on every corner. Every business I went into, the salesperson asked me the same question…. “Have big July 4 plans?” I felt like they all seemed to look at me like I was a crazy woman when I would reply…. “Well, no. Waiting to see if it is raining.” Did every American make some huge July 4 plans, and if so, why wasn’t I invited?

July 3, the eve of Independence Day, we had not had a rain since June 30, three WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT RAIN! That itself warranted a celebration, but any guesses where I was? In a tractor, mowing pastures with Brock. Yup, that was our date night. We were bouncing across the field beside the house, when I could not help but notice all the traffic along Highway 54 traveling to the river or the lake…. boat after boat. Brock must have noticed me observing and turned to me and asked, “What would you rather be doing, right now?” My answer, “Nothing.” While it seemed that every other American was preparing to celebrate the holiday weekend in their new bikini. Me? I was perfectly happy bouncing in the Kabota across the field with the only person I really wanted to spend time with anyway.  As it turned out, my Friday date night was a preview of how I was going to spend my July 4. As the dog and I made round after round in the tractor on the fourth day in a row we had had no rain, I thought about how most people were spending their Independence day. Cookouts, drinking beer, boats, jet skis, and fireworks ran through my mind. Does our society thrive on always having a plan, always having excitement, always having some sort of drama (good or bad) in their life. Was I absolutely crazy that I was enjoying the dog and I alone in the tractor, and that I would rather be there than at some big celebration? Maybe I am just an introvert, but what ever happened to enjoying the simple things in life?

I am a blessed woman. I have a beautiful and intelligent daughter, have found the love of my life, go to work daily to a job that I love, and come home every night to my loving family, cows and farm. In my daily travels, I interact with all sorts of folks. Some that have become some dear friends, and some that have taught be about the kind of person I aspire to become. As I watch those people that are in such a hurry they almost have road rage, or just the opposite; go so slow, that when you pass them they are so mad that they develop road rage, because you obviously shouldn’t be passing them… I mean, the audacity! It makes me wonder, why are they so unhappy? What about the people in line at Panara Bread? They are so self involved and inpatient that sometimes, if you listen to them order or try to pay, they actually don’t communicate their order clearly in the first place, yet they get frustrated at the order taker. Or when that person is eating their meal while complaining to someone about their misfortunes. Why is everything in their life so wrong? I am sure you all have that one girlfriend that insists you have some big event and it is all planned out how it “should go” in her head, but when it doesn’t go that way…. well she’s not a happy camper. Consequently, no one can have a good time. What is it about some people that they cannot choose to be joyful? I admit, I once was not the person I am now. As I look back, I think, wow…. Thank God I am not her ANYMORE! Its amazing how the circumstances in your life put blinders over your eyes to what this world is about and what the “Secret to Happiness” really is. There is no doubt, not everyday are we all happy 100% of the time. That is just not realistic. But even on the days when you have things on your mind, or someone has really pushed the button that makes you want to explode, it is how you deal with the adversity that makes the difference. When life presents challenges, here are some of my tips to Choosing Joy:

1. Smile. Smiling shows the people around you that you care about them and their feelings. Oh, and it just makes you feel good. Try it. I bet if you smile, it will be reciprocated.

2. Show gratitude for all the blessings in your life. Appreciate what you are given. But don’t forget to set goals for the next steps of your life.

3. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Its amazing what oxygen to your brain does to clear your head…. right when you are about to explode.

4. Always take the high road. Even when someone may be insulting you, it is hard, but do not react to those insults. Collect your thoughts, take a deep breath, and remember that God, not evil, should rule our lives.

5. Pray. Even when things are really bad. God will not leave you alone. It does not mean that we will always be happy with God’s plan, but he WILL support us.

6. Read the Bible. You do not have to follow the Bible to get to heaven, but it IS the recipe to happiness.

Choosing Joy has been hard for many Missouri and Kansas farmers, including my farmer. This year, we are farming 1000 acres in addition to our cattle. It is a new adventure for Brock and I. What a year to start. Over the course of the spring planting season, we have had 28 inches of rain. June alone was a record for us with rain totaling 11.85 inches, according to Farmers were forced to simply quit planting. Missouri is estimated to have only 62% of the total soybean acres planted, leaving over .75 million acres in Missouri unplanted. For a farmer who is already facing low commodity prices but also has to pay for input costs of weed control, seed, equipment, and cash rents on unplanted acres, this becomes not only a stress point, but a constant worry.  Do we or my farmers that I sell seed to, talk daily about the struggle? Admittedly, yes. But most everyone recognizes the need to “Choose Joy.” For Brock, myself, and most all of my growers across the state, July 4 was one of the only stretches of dry weather we had seen in quite sometime. Combines were running cutting wheat, planters were planting beans, and balers were baling wheat straw. We ended the evening driving to Dairy Queen for supper and watching the neighboring fireworks from the truck cab.

Many farmers were celebrating Americas Independence Day in a similar way, unsure of what the yields were going to be, or even if they would make money on the crop. Most business people will respond with, “Then why do it? What is the point if your not going to make money.”  For us farmers, it is because it is what we know, its our life, its our passion. Don’t get me wrong. When Brock asked me if there is any where else, I would rather be, I would have loved to be on the lake with my friends, Brett and Terri, or in Ireland with my friend Katie, and I have even blogged about the importance of a vacation. But priorities always come first. The farm is the choice Brock and I have made for our life. It is our reminder from God on what is important in this life. It is not just a career, it is our values, our hope, and our joy.

Peony helping mow pastures.
Peony helping mow pastures.
Fourth of July for this MO Farm Girl.
Fourth of July for this MO Farm Girl.

Without A Passion

AGR Photo
Lexi earned Third Overall heifer at the Missouri AGR Show. EXAR Princess 4968.

Lexi: “Hey Mom?”

Me: “Yes, Lexi.”

Lexi: “So how do you think we are going to do tomorrow?”

Me: “Well, I don’t know. Its a big show, but she looks good.”

Lexi: “I think she looks really good… Good night mom.”

a few minutes later….

Lexi: “Hey Mom?”

Me: “Yes, Lexi.”

Lexi: “Can we go over the plan, just one more time?”

Me: “Yup, we are going to get there at 5 am, clean her up, work hair, feed, and start fitting at 7 am.” “Lexi, we have to get     some sleep.”

Lexi: “I know. I just wanted to know the plan again. Good night mom.”

Me: “Good night Lexi.”

a few minutes later….

Lexi: “Hey Mom?”

Me: “Lexi we have to get some sleep….”

Lexi: “I know, but Deb and Shelby know when to be there to help fit, right?”

Me: “Yes. I just talked to Shelby.” “You really want this don’t you?”

Lexi: “Yes Mom, its my Princess!”

Me: “Good night baby, girl.”

It was the night before the Missouri AGR Show, and Lexi and I were attempting to get some sleep. All the excitement of this big show, all the snapchats and text messages from Lexi’s show friends, the anticipation of the possible outcome of the show, coupled with the overnight hotel stay, made my 10 year old girl restless. When I finally got her into bed and quiet, the above dialogue of questions began. This is pretty routine for Lexi. She talks non-stop about the most random things. Brock and I laugh quite often, as she randomly talks about her friends, Maggie and Josie, or tells some off the wall story that Charm or Princess did. We fondly refer to her being in “Lexi Land”. But when she gets alone and quiet, the real questions, thoughts, or conversations begin. Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind, indicates that since 1986, we now take in 5 times the amount of data a day! This is the equivalent of reading 7 newspapers cover to cover. Thats a lot of information for our brain! Therefore, when we are alone without distractions of our cell phone and life, we begin to actually think and process. I admit, I am the same way. Just ask my mom. When I was a kid, my best time to think (and still is) is when I am in the shower. My poor mom would be called to the bathroom while I was showering with the “Hey Mom!” just like my Lexi does to me…. apple don’t fall far from the tree. Now that I don’t live with my mom anymore, Lexi and Brock randomly get called to the shower so I can share with them, my ideas. Those ideas expressed and the conversations, are all fueled by our desire to advance in something. Its our drive. Our Passions.

Passion is a flame that burns within each of us with such an intense heat that it glows. That passion cannot be altered by discouragement, sickness, or just plain bad luck. In fact, passion  is what drives your enthusiasm, and gives you the want and need to get out of bed every morning. Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to always get more done, have more success, and always seem to surface to the top? Whats more, is they make it look so easy… Some people say, “Well, they are just lucky.” To be truthful, it is not luck. But it is passion. We are not talking about finding the random heads up quarter.  In my perspective, passion gives you energy, excitement, and motivation. When all those are occurring in harmony with each other, this is when opportunities arise. Those people that “Seem lucky” probably aren’t as lucky as they appear. If we were to follow their daily routines, I bet we would find a solid daily regimen that “sets the stage” for the success that we see. Like my family always reminds each other, when the going gets tough, “You work for what you have.”

Success does NOT equal passion. No doubt, success is the end goal and we all define success in different ways. However, passion is the joy of the journey to reaching success. In the case of showing cattle, many kids love to “show”. They love to grab the show halter and lead the heifer into the ring, smile at the judge, and pull into the first place position and ultimately stand at the champion picture backdrop. What many kids lack is the passion to do the work to get the heifer to that level, and then take the heifer home and go back to work just like they never won the show, and prepare for the next one.  Many of these kids love to show, but they fail to learn the key life lesson that showing cattle teaches our kiddos. The goal setting and work ethic components among many others are two of the key lessons showing cattle teaches that are needed to be a successful adult. Young or old, everyone should have goals. Once one goal is achieved, the next one should already be established and steps to achieving that goal outlined. A roadmap made. After my family and I earned the National Champion Shorthorn Bull honors, I was already working on my next goal. I was asked, “When is enough ever going to be enough for you, Michele?” I looked at this person like they were INSANE. I don’t understand that language. Without goals, how do you continue to prosper throughout your life? You don’t. You become stagnant. This is a mistake many people have. It is like they set a goal, achieve it, and then decide they are the best. They have done enough to get to the top and they will always be at the top. That one banner has proven themselves to be the best and everyone should see how good they are. Ride the gravy train of success. This is not passion. They may enjoy what they are doing, but it is not passion.FullSizeRender

For many, an individuals passion is the avenue taken to achieve a stronger, internal goal. It is the avenue to make a living and a solid life for their family. For some, their jobs and careers are their passions. For others, their passion may not be their job, but an activity that couples as relationship building time for their family. Whatever the case, passion should give each person a sense of happiness and fulfillment. It should be something they love and spend time researching and become an expert in that area.  When watching Lexi with her cattle, there is no doubt, she loves to show. If you ever have the chance to watch her, you can tell it is her passion. On the morning of the Missouri AGR Show, she was up at 4 am. packed and ready for the day and set her alarm for 4:50 am, because she knew it would take 10 minutes to get from the hotel to the fairgrounds. She worked hair, helped feed, and had the supplies organized so we had everything we needed to get her heifer ready.  She doesn’t just do this at the show, she works daily before and after school on her cattle. But when you ask Lexi what her life goals are, she will be quick to tell you that she is not going to show cattle her entire life and she will attend Oklahoma State University, judge livestock and get a degree in Agriculture Business and work as an agricultural engineer. Yup, she has a plan. I am sure it may change, but as a mother, you always ask yourself, am I raising my child right?   The good Lord knows, I have made my share of mistakes and I will make more. But I am confident that I am doing one thing right. Lexi shows me daily that she understands the value of hardwork and following her heart and her passion. Passion drives each member of my family. Its the spark in each of our eyes, the source of our ambition, and our key to happiness. Whats yours?