Sunday, August 9, 2015

Don't You Miss 4-H? Why I Left Being a 4-H Staffer

Today marks the opening day of the Goodhue County Fair, and it will be the first time since I was 5 years old that I haven’t had a major responsibility at a county fair.  I’ve been asked multiple times over the last few weeks if I like my new job and if I miss 4-H.  The answer to both questions is yes. And no.

You see, it’s complicated.  People don’t become 4-H Program Coordinators without having a deep love, passion, and understanding for the program.  It is because of those things they endure long days, little sleep, angry parents, and little appreciation, not just during the week of the fair, but all year long.  Not to mention the verbal abuse, having to enforce policies you had no say in and maybe don’t agree with, and the fact that you literally have 300 bosses in addition to the person who is your actual supervisor.  But for 9 years I endured all of that, because I LOVE 4-H.  I LOVE watching kids grow, and learn, and discover.  I love seeing kids be completely in their element – their happy place – whether that’s on stage, in the show ring, or goofing off with their friends in the barn.  I love listening to kids excitedly tell me about their projects.  I love the look on a kid’s face when I tell them they have earned that state fair trip.  I love that 4-H shapes the lives of so many young people.  They were all MY kids.  I LOVED my 4-H experience as a youth and wanted so badly to help other kids have that too.

But the reality is, life as a 4-H Program Coordinator is something no one truly understands until they have stood in those shoes.  No one realizes how much work it is, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It isn’t always purple ribbons and smiling faces.  Sometimes people screw up, and then the PC has to deal with the fall out.  It isn’t the PC’s fault that you didn’t get your paperwork in on time, or your calf died after the registration deadline, or the judge placed that other child’s project over yours.  There is no way to make everyone happy; if there was, believe me, I would do it.  Life also isn’t fair, again, if I could make it that way, I would. 

Once during the fair, I was talking with a 4-H parent and they made the comment, “isn’t it so awesome how the fair just “happens”?”  Um, excuse me?  The fair happens because a lot of people put in a lot of work, especially your 4-H PC.  The fact that there were judges, and ribbons, and clerks, and a place to display your project?  Thank your PC.  The fact there was a space for your animal, a sign for the stall, your name in the program, and volunteers to run the show?  Again, thank your PC.  When you got to the state fair, you had a bed, a stall, meal tickets, or your project was already there on display?  Yep, that was your PC too, as well as a tremendous group of volunteers and other staff.  A volunteer once told me that I was like the engine in the car – a car has lots of working pieces, but the engine is really the heart and soul, and a car won’t work without it.  That’s pretty much the jest of it – thank you for saying that.

Even with all that, I can’t say it enough - I love 4-H.  I love what it does for young people.  I love what it does for families.  I love what it does for agriculture.  So why did I leave?  I was burned out.  My kids missed me.  My husband missed me.  Leaving the county fair in 2014 in an ambulance caused me to start looking at some things in my life.  When my doctors asked me about my stress level, I didn’t even know how to respond.  How could I even explain what my job is?  What I do?  How much responsibility I have, how many people are counting on me?

The opportunity at Mayo really found me, and I took that as a sign that it was time to move on.  The decision to leave my role with 4-H was very difficult, as being a 4-H Program Coordinator had become so much of who I was.  I knew the 4-H program inside and out, it was as familiar to me as the back of my hand.  The world of medicine was foreign to me, and I had fears of being a fish out of water.  But the hours were regular and I had my weekends back.  My work didn’t always follow me home, and my work cellphone wasn’t ringing at 6:00pm as my family was sitting down to supper.  For the first time in a while, I could breath.  The work was challenging, but I felt myself growing professionally, and I enjoyed being part of a team.  I remembered that I love creating, and solving problems, and teaching people.  I looked forward to going to work. 

So yes, I miss 4-H.  But no, I don’t miss being a 4-H Program Coordinator.  I’m going to enjoy this summer of no responsibility because next summer I’ll be back – this time as a 4-H mom, one role in the 4-H world I have yet to play. 

My story is not unique – I could be describing any 4-H Program Coordinator in this post.  They aren’t 4-H Program Coordinators because the pay is great – they do it because they love 4-H, and they love your kids. 

4-H has taught me so much about myself, life, and brought wonderful relationships into my life, and for that I am so thankful.  Best of luck to all Goodhue County 4-Hers, parents and volunteers as you embark on this week ahead.  Know that I am thinking about you, and rooting for you. 

And that I am so proud of you. 


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fashion Friday - Getting Dressed Up

This week I’m featuring an outfit that I wore to a recent family funeral/visitation.  I bought the dress online using, which has been a bit hit or miss for me.  I find that a lot of the stuff I have purchased from them runs small, so I was hesitant, but I fell in love with this dress and prayed it would fit.  Thankfully, it did! 

I like it because it can be worn for so many different seasons depending on the shoes you put with it – boots in the Fall, flats in the Spring, a pair of heels for really dressy events or something more professional.  I paired it with gold jewelry, which I don’t own a ton of, but am starting to like for this summer. 

Dress:  Jessica Howard  purchased on

Shoes:  Brown Flat – old – I have no idea where they even came from!

 Family picture!  Clara was not enthused about taking picture.  
PS- definitely time to break out the self tanner - it's been a lllooonnngggg winter!

*usual disclaimer – I have not received anything from the companies listed above for including them in this post. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Little Girl and Some Pretty Flowers

Little Miss Hazel-Beans is a beauty with these early spring crocuses in our cousin's yard!  I love how red her hair looks in the sun!  These were also her first piggy-tails. 

Easter Weekend

The Easter weekend weather was beautiful here in SE Minnesota, so we took full advantage!  It was great to be outside!

Saturday morning, Hazel, Clara, and I headed to the Easter for Kids event at our church.  This included some fun songs and devotion and also an Easter egg hunt at the park next door.  Clara loved finding the eggs and discovering what was inside.  Lots of Oooos and Ahhhhs ensued.  It was a little windy, but definitely comfortable enough to be outside. 

From there we headed to my parents house for lunch and grandparent snuggles.  Dad, Clara, and I headed out on the 4-wheelers for a ride around the fields and through the woods.  Hazel hung back with grandma. 

On Easter morning, Clara FINALLY got to wear her new dress and shoes that she has been bugging me about since we bought them a few weeks ago!  She was so excited about her new dress, and her new “church sandals”.  It doesn’t take much to get her excited these days – just tell her something is “new” and she’s all over it.

Following a beautiful Easter service at our church, we headed to relatives for dinner.  Again, the weather was gorgeous, so Clara was outside playing with the other kids, basically the entire time we were there.  She even ate part of her lunch outside, then came in to tell us the dog had eaten her cookie… 

Soaking Clara's dress... Too much fun to be had to stay clean!

After some quick naps late in the afternoon, we were all outside again, cleaning up the yard and doing chores.  The baby chicks and ducks are getting so big already – it’s crazy how fast they grow.  Overall it was a great weekend – somewhat relaxing and the weather was more than we could ask for.  Yea for Spring! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Baby Lambs

Most people associate baby farm animals with spring, but in all actuality, babies are born on the farm all year long.  For us, that means baby lambs arrive in January and February.  These tend to be the coldest months of the year here in SE Minnesota, but it is the optimal time of year to have lambs ready to market as feeder lambs or as show prospects.  A feeder lamb is a young lamb sold at around 30lbs that another farmer will buy to feed until it is grown and can be marketed as a finished lamb.  A finished lamb  usually weighs between 120-140lbs will be butchered for meat.  It takes 5-6 months for a lamb to go from birth to finished weight.

Since we have to buy all the feed we give to our livestock, it makes sense to us to sell the lambs at a younger age.  At this point, the feed costs more than what we make by selling a finished lamb.

We allow our ewes to lamb in an open barn.  Once the lambs hit the ground, we move mom and babies to small pens we call “jugs”.  These small pens allow mom and babies to bond, keep mom from getting distracted by the other sheep, and helps keep babies warmer.  It also helps us keep a closer eye on the ewe and lambs to ensure they are eating well and see if the ewe is having any issues.  We use heat lamps in the jugs to keep everyone warmer.  After a few days, the ewe and lambs are let back into the big pen.

Before we release the sheep back into the bigger pen, we “process” the baby lambs.  “Processing” in this case means eartagging, giving shots, and banding the lamb’s tail. 

Eartagging:  This is a process by which we place a small plastic tag in the lamb’s ear to help us identify it.  The process is much like having a human ear piercing – the tag has a sharp metal post that goes through the skin of the ear and is attached to a “back”.  It’s not a pain-free process, but much like when you got your ears pierced, the skin soon heals and the eartag is not a bother to the animal.  We tag our lambs with 2 tags, 1 being our farm tag, and the other being a Scrapie tag.  By law, all sheep and goats in Minnesota must have a Scrapie tag.  This tag not only has the animal’s individual number, but also has a number assigned to our farm on it.  This forever links that lamb to us, no matter who we sell it to in the future.

Vaccinations:  We vaccinate our lambs against Clostridium Perfringens Type C& D Tetanus, or CDT for short.  This shot goes just under the skin and protects our sheep from tetanus. 

Tail Docking:  We dock our lambs’ tails using a rubber band that is placed high on the tail.  In time, the tail loses circulation and falls off.  Many people don’t realize that sheep are born with long tails.  We remove them because as they get older, the tails grow wool, which catches urine and feces.  This can lead to flies laying eggs around the back of the sheep and other infections.  In lambing ewes, it helps to maintain a clean area around the vulva and also the udder.  Docking the tails when the lambs are young is much less uncomfortable for them then if it is done when the lamb is older and the tails are larger.

Paul and I have quite the system down and can complete this process in a short amount of time.  These practices help us maintain a healthy flock!  Clara and Hazel joined us in the barn for these chores.  As they get older, they will help with this process as they are able.  It was a great day in the barn as a whole family! 

Fashion Friday - The Blues

 I’ve added to my wardrobe this last week because, well, I’ve had to.  Nothing fits – in a good way.  I’ve lost a little over 40 pounds in the last month, and more than 80 since December 2012 when I became pregnant with Hazel.  I wouldn’t say I look all that different, but my clothes definitely fit differently. 

The recent loss was due to all the medical things going on with me.  Want to lose 40 pounds in a month?  Acquire a thyroid and heart condition and there you go!  I’m about half way to what I really need to lose, so I’ve got a ways to go yet.  I think any loss though that makes your clothes feel different or puts you in a different size gives you confidence.  At least that’s how I feel these days!

I’ll be honest though – me being able to walk into any store and buy clothes is DANGEROUS for our budget… Have a mentioned I LOVE clothes?!?  I'm kinda excited that blue is such a big color this year - navy is my new obsession! 

Here’s the outfit I put together for today:


Shirt:  Old Navy  similar
Jeans:  Maurices  similar

Scarf:  Target
Boots:  Payless
Watch:  Lane Bryant similar

Earrings:  Forever21


**I have not been paid or received any gifts from the companies listed above. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life That's Good

So…yep…failed again in keeping this thing updated.  I think you’ll all give me a free pass though. I’ve had some major health issues the last 3 months – from what they tell me, I’m blessed to still be here.  It’s been rough, I’ve felt very icky, and I’ve spent some time in the ER and in the hospital.  I’ve had my heart restarted… twice.  I’ve seen some of the best cardiologists the Mayo Clinic has.  And thankfully, I’ve come through it all without any lasting problems.

That’s right.  All recent tests results have been positive, I’m starting to feel more like “me”, and it’s time to move on with life!  Yea!

I’ve learned a lot in the last 7 months since our beautiful Hazel joined our family.  I’ve learned that no matter how healthy you are, or think you are, stuff happens.  And it can happen quickly.  And it can be serious.  And it can happen when you least expect it.

The mom of a good friend told me that our good health is easy to take for granted, until it’s called into question.  That is so true.  I know I took for granted being able to go to work and take care of my family until I couldn’t do those things anymore. 

I’ve also learned how important it is to listen to your body.  If something feels off, get it checked out.  If you think you need a second opinion, get one.  You only get one body – don’t risk it because you’re too busy.

Thank you to everyone for the thoughts, prayers, messages, cards, offers to help, and words of encouragement.  They have meant the world to me. 

Thanks to my mom, for all her help – making supper, coming with me to appointments, and saying, “I think you need to go to the ER…” when I told her it was fine.  I guess a mother’s instinct is still intact when the child is 32 years old.

Thank you to Paul for stepping up when needed.

Thank you to Robin, Erica, and all my volunteers for filling in when I couldn’t be there.

This song came on my ipod tonight and I think it says volumes about how I’m feeling these days.  I’ve been blessed beyond measure.  I have a life that’s good!

 I have so much to catch up on!  Lambs are on the ground, baby chicks are here!  Come back soon for more posts about what's happening on the farm!