Tractor Ride

As a farmer’s wife I’ve learned to plan around the weather just as much as Kirn does. If it rains, I can count on him getting home at decent time to sit down and enjoy the new spaghetti recipe I tried from Prego, AKA brilliance in a jar.  But the typical day is one of mild temperature (varying between -10 and 101 degrees) and dry. These are the days I can almost bet that I’ll be the star of Kelly Clarkson’s early 2000 hit, “Miss Independent” until about 9 pm. 

Naturally, I make plans with all my girlfriends to meet at a local pub and get cute drinks in even cuter glasses.

 L-O-L.  

Oh, pardon me for trying to sound like I have a social life that can knock your socks off. What I really meant was I’ll go on a walk with my dog to get ice cream. After we get home and before I crawl into bed, I’ll put a plate of something that can be easily thrown in the microwave for kirn to turn his nose up at when he gets home.  

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t zap an already dried out steak in the microwave and enjoy it either. But if he says one word about it being average… 

Well, today started off as any other normal day does. We woke up and tried to talk about what’s to come for the day. All the while I’m getting ready and he’s drinking coffee with the news on 100% volume (I think Kirn’s soul is equivalent to that of an 80 year old). By 7 am we are both out the door again, with a kiss and a high five. 

 On my drive to work, I get a call from him asking if I had plans after work. I told him quite frankly, I had already committed to an ice cream cone and my favorite corgi but I could potentially move some things around in my schedule to make something work. Not certain if he picked up on my sarcasm and didn’t think it was funny (normal) or if he just wasn’t listening (familiar), but at any rate, he carried on about his where abouts for the day and how many acres he hoped to get through today. But at the end of our conversation he popped the million dollar question. 

“Want to come ride with me tonight?”

Does this mean I have to give up my ice cream? My 26 year old metabolism should be thankful. 

I always look forward to tractor rides. The only distractions are end rows and waterways and the view behind a CaseIH engine never fails to be the perfect place to enjoy each other’s company like a couple of young, married kids. 

I say enjoying lightly as Kirn sits in his air- ride throne and I’m literally sitting on an armrest that is finding it’s way to every bone in my behind. 

Now, I know this is going to be hard to imagine, but I am usually the one filling the tractor with witty humor, sporadic thoughts and singing that imitates Carrie Underwood so well, it’s scary. And while Kirn just sits there and smiles out of the corner of his mouth, I can see he’s enjoying my tractor karaoke too. 

…I won’t make you say it. I know he’s ready for me to sit still for at least a moment. 

I’ve always wondered why the tractor rides he invites me on are so far and few in between…until this very moment as I’m telling you…

Yes, perhaps his smile is because he’s trying to stay patient in the midst of 300 acres of unplanted beans and chatty Kathy in the buddy seat. But more than that, his smile shows the passion he has for the land and the hard work he puts in. He knows what he did yesterday, what he’s doing today and what is going to get done tomorrow, are all baby steps in the grand picture. He knows the hours spent in the cab of this red tractor is worth it. Not just for the pennies but for the legacy his grandpa started long ago, carried through his father and now in the eyes of him and his big brother. 

To me, a tractor ride is a tin foil dinner. To me, a tractor ride means uninterrupted conversation – a chance to tell him about the random shopping trip I took to Maurice’s last week that may have been a little more successful than he would appreciate. To me, a tractor ride is a date night.

To him, a tractor ride is long days. To him, a tractor ride means it’s dry, so let’s work until it’s done – an opportunity to finish more than he anticipated, Lord willing. To him, a tractor ride ride is corn in the ground, fields mowed and raked, hay made into bales, manure hauled and a day well spent. To him, a tractor ride is an occupation. 

To us, a tractor ride is contentment. 

To the Girl Who Thinks She’s Helping 

Why is the word “overthink” even a thing. The word “think” is so complex by itself, why is there any need to accentuate it? I mean the definition is literally “Thinking about too much, for too long.” And we have all heard that too much of anything can be a bad thing. But yet, it seems I’ve inherited this very word into my day to day like it’s second nature. 

I’d like to believe that every once in a great while we have all caught ourselves trying to avoid confrontation by saying nothing at all. By bottling up our thoughts and keeping them to ourselves because we think in some way we are helping the situation. In all my 26 years I can’t remember a time when keeping everything to myself has worked out completely perfect. And in those 26 years, you can probably bet that I have come across a few theories that I thought was in my best interest and in the end it was not. 

The “You Couldn’t be More Wrong” theory: Tested and failed…most times, but still a work in progress.

 I am notorious for jumping to conclusions. I will be unsure about something and instead of being patient, I start to think up my own scenarios. And usually they are the worst case scenarios possible. But once I’ve set my mind to it, I run with it. I take off with this crazy story and I’ll be damned if I look back. Pushing all logic aside, I’ll just let my mind get away from me. 

There are so many times when I’ll be in the car by myself and I come up with this ridiculous story of why I haven’t heard from my husband all day. 

Oh gosh, remember that one time I didn’t hear from him all morning and I find out he was in a semi accident. Luckily he was okay, but I know he is hauling corn today… holy crap… I bet the semi rolled… why hasn’t anyone called me? Did someone try and my reception was poor. I need to call the hospital. 

Then I finally get a hold of him and he’s sitting at McDonalds eating something that looks like a Double McHeartattack wondering why I’ve called the entire family tree. “Ashlee,” he says, “I was cleaning out a bin and didn’t have my phone with me.” Well that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? How was I so off? 

The “You’re Not Helping Anything” Theory:

 I have tested this theory most recently. I saw a situation that was clearly out of my hands and knew if I let myself, I would over analyze every little bit of life’s happenings so I tried to stay busy and started to take precautionary measures.

I chose to delve into things that (I thought) would make me feel better. I chose to focus on this unrealistic diet (I can’t even have peanut butter), train for a half marathon and attempted to be super woman at home. Doing everything I could to make sure my husband doesn’t feel like he has to do everything by himself. I planned meals out, bought snacks for his lunch box and kept reminding him I can do anything a paid farm hand can do. Note: I can’t lift over 70 lbs and I need that cup o’ Joe  before the day begins. 

I had carefully rearranged every aspect of my life to revolve around keeping my husband in check. And for awhile it seemed to be a flawless plan. Until it wasn’t…

Until the other day, I realized I was putting all of my energy into things that didn’t fulfill anything (not even my tummy.. stupid diet). I had completely lost site of what made actually me tick and Kirn and I had unknowingly deselected our marriage as a priority. 

It’s funny how our brains are wired. Thinking we can help a situation by completely forgetting about ourselves and focusing on things that really don’t matter in the big picture. Petty things that can’t and won’t fill anyone’s cup. And by shutting out our loved ones to keep them from thinking you can’t handle something. 

So, if you’ve made it this far through my ramble and you’re wondering if there are any theories that have worked for me. There is. One that has been tested time after time. It’s the “Always tell your husband what’s going through those two cerebral hemispheres” Theory. 

I admire the patience Kirn has with me. Bless his heart for making me talk when I don’t want to and then listening to me ramble through a lot of nonsense to get to the point. Because even though we may not realize it, talking can be harder than we think when life deals a more difficult hand than normal. But since life doesn’t let you fold and start over,  I pray you have the same situation in your world that I have in mine. A loving husband, a wonderful family and the best of friends to lend an ear when you need it. 

When the Dust Settles

9:08 on a Thursday evening in April. On any typical April evening I would be lying in bed by myself. Probably nodding off as I start in on a another Friends re-run that I’ve seen ten times already.  But tonight, my husband is home because rain doesn’t care about corn needing to be in the ground – it comes and goes as it pleases and if you ask any farmer, it never picks an opportune time. 

So, here I lay snuggled up safely to my sleepy farmer who is sawing some serious logs right now. Is it weird that I think it’s adorable… yeah okay… just going to give him a quick nudge… annnd now he’s rolling over….Yeah, I think we are safe for about fifteen minutes…I had better make this quick. 

9:10 on a Thursday evening and I can’t sleep. Typical me, my brain is turned all the way up to ten right before bed, but all week it seems my brain has been at a solid two and I’m being generous. Most nights when this happens, I can almost promise you it is some silly thought that can wait until tomorrow, but tonight, for some reason, it has my head spinning. Have you ever heard the saying, “Sleep on it.” or “Get some rest, you’ll feel better in the morning.”? What a ridiculous thing to tell a woman. Oh yes, let me just sleep on all of these thoughts (probably made up scenarios) and in the morning I’ll be completely fine. No dramatic notions here….

Disclaimer: My mom used to always say those exact words to me when I couldn’t fall asleep and guess what? It always seemed better in the morning. Those mom’s and their wisdom. 

But here I am tonight, trying to call my mom’s bluff, thinking of things I should really try to be more mindful of in the day light. 

 Speaking of dump trucks, my fifteen minutes has suddenly shrunk to four minutes and Kirn is sounding like a bad engine in a 1980s garbage truck…. 

Not. Cute. Anymore. 

Have you ever noticed our lives are built through moments? Whether that be big or small, good or bad… we live from moment to moment. Some we look forward to, some make us nervous and some we never see coming but could make the largest impact on us. Well last week, our family lived in a moment that I couldn’t even begin to describe to you through writing. It was a moment of fear, a moment of sympathy, a moment of pure love and support – it was a moment that came from a power larger than all of us. And even though this moment was very much so planned and anticipated by many, it was one of the most shocking yet humbling moments I’ve ever experienced. 

But how’d we get to this moment? I sit here tonight and think about every little moment Chasen and Justine have ever experienced (together as a couple or separately as individuals) leading up to this benefit. How those moments had to of impacted each person, who so graciously sat in that jam packed building with us on Friday night. God only knows what each one of those interactions looked like prior to the Seeds of Hope benefit, but nonetheless, what a testament to the incredible people they are today. To have touched so many lives in moments that may be unrecognizable to them, is something not to be reckoned with.  

Wow. Moments. Times in our lives where most days we don’t even realize it but we are creating a significant impact on our life as we know it. Doesn’t that make you sit back and check yourself? What moments do we take for granted? How many times have we passed up a conversation with someone because we were in a hurry or told someone we were too busy to lend a hand? Am I saying we should all self-reflect and then choose to never pass up the next opportunity to go talk to second-cousin Ned for six hours about his bunions because you can’t miss a moment? No… and who’s cousin Ned? And ew bunyons, Ashlee… sorry.. am I losing you? 

I am just saying there is always opportunity to make an impact on not only your life but also others around you. And I will be the first to throw my yellow flag in the air to admit I take things for granted more often than I should. 

So, at 9:35 pm I leave you with this, we all have some pretty incredible people in our lives. So, when the dust settles after a well planned and highly anticipated moment of your life, take a second to recognize what brought you to that point and rejoice in the smaller moments that got you there. 

Fixing Fence

Another quiet Thursday evening, because Kirn is busy preparing for a busy spring. So I am slaving away in the kitchen, whipping up what is promising to taste as good as it smells – chicken quesadilla. Look out, Top Chef, Ashlee’s got a microwave and she’s not afraid to use the express 1 minute option. Nights when he gets home late sometimes take me back to yesteryear, reminding me of college when my fridge could consist of tortilla shells, turkey and shredded cheese for two weeks and I’d never starve.

Finally around 9 pm, he strolls in the house, completely covered in Lord knows what, but it smells fresh. I can tell he’s had it, spent from a long day of putting miles on that old Case tractor that I swear came down the assembly line the same year his great grandpa was born. You ladies know the one. It’s the tractor where the speed controls are still between a tortoise and a hair, sort of resembles an old space ship inside that needs WD-40 and smells like coffee and musk.

After throwing his clothes ON the hamper… not IN because that extra motion is very taxing after a long day (insert half grin and excessive eye roll here)…but I won’t push it tonight. After a “Hi Honey, how was your day” with those adorable dimples, I can’t help but be thankful for such a hard working man. But then he says it. Those words that you love to hate.

“Will you help me fix fence this weekend?”

This question has become quite familiar in my book of “Questions from your Farmer”. So I am well aware it’s going to be a long afternoon in the cold on a four wheeler built for one and probably a few note worthy spats that go something like this…

Kirn- “Can you hand me the stretchers?”
Ashlee – “You got it dude.” Takes a shot in the dark and hands him the fencing pliers with way too much confidence
Kirn- “Honney, the STRETCHERS”
Yeah..like enunciating this word is going to help me find something that sounds extremely uncomfortable
Ashlee – “Sorry- this one?” Still not right
Kirn gets up and grabs it himself…then I get upset because I blew my shot at ever knowing what the stretchers were and he’s annoyed (so I think) that he could have done this job alone after all.

But, because I never want him to stop asking me to help, I oblige and start to think of a few good jokes to tell along the fence line on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning comes much too early and we can see our breath as we are loading up the four wheeler with all of the important supplies to make a fence look supreme…this includes coffee. Don’t be silly girls, just because you’re wearing enough layers to make it difficult to move in a normal manner doesn’t mean you can’t drink your favorite latte in the meantime. Plus, Kirn knows my coffee is like euphoria in a cup – I need it. 

As we take off into the field, the hectic noise of the farm starts to dim and a busy lifestyle seems to be behind us, if only for a few hours. The cold air suddenly seems quite refreshing and hanging on tight to stay warm feels kind of romantic. As I am typing this, I feel a bit ridiculous knowing he is definitely not thinking the same things as me. I imagine his thoughts go something like this…”So, I am fixing fence now, and if the rain holds off I can go get task 2, 3, 4 and 5 done today so tomorrow I have time to do 6 and 7. Hopefully there is enough fuel in the skid loader to clean the lots up next week…” You get it, man stuff.

But even though Kirn has probably not realized it yet, I am considering today a date. Because for three hours, we get the world to ourselves. We get to talk about all of life’s happenings with no distractions. (Who needs a dinner for two in the big city?) Without even realizing it, we will plan out the next twenty years of life.. our dreams, our goals, our worries and doubts. Without even knowing, we will not only be working on the fence that we came out here to fix, but we will also be mending a little bit of our distracted souls. Remembering exactly why we chose to tackle this journey of life together. Mending fences and hearts one barbed wire reel at a time.

 

 

Super Powers 

Invincible. The coolest super power to have would be invincibility. You could try all of these crazy things for the thrill and know you’d never get hurt.  Go skydiving, run marathons every weekend, cut up an onion without your eyes   welling up like a puddle during a heavy rain. (Am I the only one who fears cutting up onions?) Invincible super powers. Yeah…that would be the one I want.

It’s beyond me to think how big this world is and all of the things that are wrapped up in it. The good, the beautiful, the bad, the ugly. And even crazier to think the people living in it is what makes this world go round. Most folks are working hard to make a living and have a good life- some want fancy, some need simple and some don’t get the option to choose, but everyone is looking to live happy. No matter how that happiness is defined, it’s a simple fact of life. You want what you want, love who you love and at the end of the day if you’re lucky enough to have a family to come home to and warm place to lay your head at night, you’re right in the heart of happiness. 

Invincible. What if we could fulfill our wildest dreams because we knew nothing could stop us? What if your wildest dream is a farm at the end of the dirt road with your little brother. A farm made of a few acres and a couple cows to make a living and support your family? The only thing you’re asking in return is a meal at night and clean jeans at least once a week. (Sometimes for a good ol’ farmboy clean jeans can be optional.) Sounds like living on the edge doesn’t it?  But right in the middle of a dream…or maybe right at the start…something jolts you wide awake and you realize being invincible isn’t reality and you are facing something bigger than you could ever imagine. So you start the uphill battle to fight the world’s ugliest creation of all, cancer. Alongside your beautiful, loving wife and an 8 month baby boy who is in love with the same toy tractors you found a passion for 26 years before, you fight. 
Ever since I was a little girl, I understood the power of prayer. I knew from going to church and reading the Bible that there is no other plan in life but the one the good Lord has laid out for us. And so far He has really given me nothing to gripe about. Until about a month ago, I never doubted the path he would lead me down. But today, as I’m sitting here in my warm home with a cup of coffee on a rainy day, for the first time, I have doubt. I’m mad that there are not answers and I’m frustrated that I can’t make my husband’s heart feel better and I’m confused why there is no reason for all of it. Today is the first time I feel like I can’t say, “Everything is going to be just fine.”

Invincible. What would it be to not feel? To not have to feel pain or heartbreak? Would that be easier? Would that mean there would be no unanswered questions? No frustation. No anger.  I have no idea. Which would I prefer? And what  would I prefer for my loved ones? I’m just not sure. But even after all of these thoughts, I still pray. I still believe He has something planned and a part of me knows there has to be a miracle up there…right? Somewhere? 

Invincible. Maybe this whole time, I’ve been looking at this super power thing all wrong. Maybe we all have a little bit of invincibility inside of us. The ability to be too powerful to be defeated or overcome. Perhaps, that’s what our Faith is.  That’s the super power God has blessed us with. The tool inside of us to help us overcome the unthinkable and manage that through our devotion to prayer and believing. Yeah…that’s the super power I want. That’s the super power I hope you see in yourself. 

Working on Living 

I’m going to set a scene for you. You’re married. You’re 26 years old. You are over the moon about your job and this month you’re traveling to five different states. It’s going to be a crazy few weeks, but totally awesome because you’re doing what you love. Meanwhile, your husband is back home holding the fort down. Right now, he’s busier than a floral shop on Valentine’s Day with 120 calves destined to be on the ground before April 1. Does that sound familiar? Probably not. 

Let me start over and level with some of you a bit more. Your husband farms and his life is at home with the crops, the livestock and the constant maintenance of a farm. If it’s not Christmas, getting out of town for longer than 24 hours at a time is near impossible. You’re the wife who works full time in a job that gives a handful of opportunities to grow. What’s more, travel is involved and you get to see the world with a company that takes good care of you on the road. Starting to sound a little more familiar? 

When we got married, there were all of these glamorous thoughts that came to mind. Things like, “I am going cook supper in this cute apron that I got from Grandma because my Parmesan pork chops will taste way better if I look cute while I make them.” Or…”The house is always going to smell like cinnamon spice because I want all of my couple friends to enjoy nice evenings at mine and Kirn’s home with wine after a long week of working.” At one point I even thought pies were a normal thing to bake at least once a week. 

…pausing for a moment so you can take all of this in. 

Did you get your “throw your head back laughing” out of the way? After a year and some change of marriage, it’s crazy how different things are from what I thought they would be and we are still pretty fresh off the farm. There are probably many of you reading this that may have more to say than I would even know to talk about.
While I’m not a mom yet, I am a wife (Good start, Ashlee) and being just that can be a challenge when you have a career that you want to be so dedicated to. Meaning, sometimes work-life balance may not exist or maybe it simply never exists. This past week, I was in Orlando for a trade show. It was an amazing week with a ton of high points. But back home, I had a sleep deprived husband who had tended to 18 calves in a two day span. You can imagine between our crazy agendas, we had a few miscommunications. Furthermore, when you are 900 miles apart those miscommunications become rather magnified and to top that off, if you know me at all, I am much too stubborn to admit it was my fault. I’m here to tell you- this never works, ladies. Learn to go full Elsa on your attitude and “Let it Go.”

I had a friend tell me not too long ago, there is no such thing as work- life balance; it’s all about intermingling the two. I always knew that when I married Kirn, 90% of my dates would be a few beers in the barn on any given day talking about dreams of what someday will bring us and I was good with that. I had accepted my intermingling roles as the farm wife. But never in a million years could anyone have told us that the real challenge would be finding ways to involve Kirn into my world and career as well. “It’s all about give and take.” Wouldn’t you like a dollar for every time you’ve heard that? 

Finding ways to involve your significant other into a corporate world, can be difficult and at times probably feel like they don’t care much to hear about it. The stories have to be that much longer to explain why it took you all day to do one thing. (Try telling a farmer that it was a busy day of answering emails and I guarantee you lose their eyes in the back of their head). When you’re traveling, it seems like all of this wining and dining is just a lot of fun, but if only you could explain to them it’s also the prime time to network. Especially, when Kirn’s networking is a few cups of coffee at the co-op or lunch time at the local diner in town. The saving grace for life on the road…Technology. I am blessed to work with some really great folks and I watch moms/ dads close that gap with their spouses and kids each day they are gone, by a quick FaceTime every chance they get. Since Kirn is stuck is the Samsung life, texting to send an update and making calls before you start and end your day will have to do. 

I think the biggest take away here is to always share your day’s highs and lows with your honey buns. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they can at least understand the reasons you may feel overwhelmed, stressed, excited, anxious… whatever it is. That’s what a marriage is about, COMMUNICATION. Growing with one another as life gets busy…sometimes messy. It has nothing to do with Parmesan pork chops, cute aprons or cinnamon candles. What is going to get you from one good pie to the next are the moments shared in the living room talking about the crazy cow that almost broke Kirn’s knee cap or that I am on cloud 9 after a long but rewarding week at a trade show. 
Do these two rookies have it all figured out? Not even a little bit. But can we say we are working on love; buying on time, without somebody, lovin’ ain’t worth a dime? Still no, Alan Jackson would get your for copyright. What I think couples should really hang their hat on is knowing that you’re not always going to be walking in the same direction in all moments of your life together, and that’s okay. Those are the moments to truly embrace. 

To my Sister who is a Mother

I should have seen this coming. It was right in front of me for 25 years. You were annoyingly responsible. You never wanted to disappoint the people you cared about. You never let anyone hurt you, but if someone hurt me…look out. You gave 110% in whatever you did and no matter how hard I tried, I COULD NOT get you to tell a white lie to mom and dad.  You made growing up in your footsteps somewhat difficult. You set the bar SO high.

Now I sit here, 900 miles away from home and I am having flash backs of our childhood. Basketball practices where I would watch in awe, wishing I had half the ball handling skills you had. It was like you had three hands. The way you moved around people on the court with a basketball in your fingertips was impressive. It made me think of a high school heartbreak when I thought was the end of all love stories. You were right there like super woman, asking whose ass you had to kick. It brought back so many memories of playing make believe. Of course, you always got to be the boss, whether it was Mom, Teacher or Doctor. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many B’s I got on papers and had to stay in for “recess”. And don’t even get me started on how many “surgery tables” I had to lie on with whatever muscle I “broke”. I am still not sure how you break your tummy, but by golly I broke it twice according to the “doctor”. Basically I grew up as a B average student who is a total klutz. (Was my sister a psychic also?)

Here we are again. You have set a bar and I am going to have to do some jump training to reach it. I often wondered what my purpose was in your life, since you served such a big one in mine. I now know. I was your practice for parenting a spicy three year old and a one week old baby girl at the same time. I have watched you juggle many things in our lifetime, but seeing you calm down a toddler on a MAJOR sugar high and quiet a newborn with your free arm is one for the record books.

Lesson Learned: You really did have three arms this whole time.

Also… how in the world do you get any sleep?! I wasn’t even responsible for those two adorable beings, but I heard one of them up at least every 3 hours during the night. It was like clock-work, you finally finish feeding your newborn at 2 AM and suddenly your three year old is at the foot of your bed because she had a nightmare. She is hysterical. In my (groggy and half asleep) mind, I think, how in the world is she going to calm this girl down? Then, just like superwoman, you wrap her in your arms and she suddenly is at ease. It was like you brought out the bad guys in her dream and kicked their behinds. (As the little sister, I seriously felt bad for these bad guys. Though she be but little, she is fierce. ) And just like that, the house is peaceful again.

Lesson Learned: My sister really is superwoman.

I still can’t believe we are already at the stage of our lives to have kids. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were dressing up and pretending to be grown up. When did we stop playing make believe and become full blown, real life adults with houses, families and careers? Why didn’t life put up a road sign on your journey that said Adulthood: Next Right. *Road Construction Ahead* *Detour Ahead*.  We aren’t warned at all. We just wake up one day sitting in a real scene of “make believe”. But let me tell you, sister, you are killing it. It looks like you have been doing this your whole life. You’re a natural and have motherhood on lock.

Lesson Learned: Practice makes perfect.

I know as well as you do, as your girls get older, they will go through growing pains, look for road signs that don’t exist, bicker like it’s going out of style and most of all… they will hate sharing clothes. (One closet is better than two and one of these days you will agree with me.) But if their lucky they’ll build a friendship with each other. Day in and day out you get to be their mamma,  reader of books, hero of a nightmare and hug after they fall. But don’t forget, to me, you are also my sister, a woman of faith, role model and best friend.

Lesson Learned: This is why God made sisters.