Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I Think We Should Quit- a Lesson from Livestock

Saturday morning, at 6am, right before heading off to the state fair, Reid and I had the chance to catch a cup of coffee, alone! Did I mention that we had no kids with us while drinking our cup of coffee?? It was a miracle.

And as anyone with little kids know, when they are around you have to watch every single word you say. A carelessly spoken word about someone gets repeated at an inopportune moment. A slip of the tongue, and soon your 6 year old is saying "That's total crap!" at anyone within 50 feet. So while we were alone for this cup of coffee, I really took off the filter.

"Why don't we just quit showing sheep? This is total insanity. We can't win against people that have been raising sheep for 40 years! Think of how much money it will take to ever really be an established breeder! I think we should get out now."

(Yes, this is an embarassing look into the mind of someone who has quit every hard thing that has ever come my way.)

Unfortunately for me, the judge of *Our* breeding sheep show was sitting at the table next to us. And overheard every word. And laughed. Not the best first impression. #ShootMe

But, Reid is shockingly patient with me. And he perseveres through anything. In 11 years, I have not ever seen him quit anything. Including our marriage, which trust me, is no walk in the park when you are married to a habitual quitter.

He didn't laugh at me, he didn't tell me that my frustrations were unfounded, and the next day when we competed (and did not win! and I don't mean, almost won, I mean he didn't try to make me feel better while I went on and on about why we should probably just quit because losing is so painful.

Instead, he just got back to work. He made plans to change up how we are feeding them. He planned out his breeding schedule with our new rams the day that we got home. 

Somehow, adversity makes him better. Competition makes him more determined. Losing makes him more diligent.

On our drive home, he told the kids how proud of them he was. They worked hard. They did their best. They didn't complain when our sheep didn't win. They didn't blame the judge. They didn't wonder if other people had cheated by dating their lambs incorrectly. They didn't grumble or whine at all.

It's a humbling moment when you see that your spouse has managed to teach your kids something that you have been incapable of learning or teaching them yourself. 

Livestock showing really, truly, isn't about winning.... although, I bet winning is awful nice... But it's about the humility that comes when you don't win. And most importantly, it's about what happens AFTER the show is over. It's about the passion to do better. To be better. To work harder. 

I know that perseverance is learned. And like all things that are ever mastered, they are learned over time through practice. It's ironic that you can only learn to not give up by continuing to have failures and practicing the art of not quitting. And yet, in only one year, I can see how far my kids have come. 

And I know that in their spiritual life, waiting for God to answer a prayer that seems impossible or unheard, or persevering in their marriages during the hard days that come, or in their careers when encountering difficult tasks... this is the lesson that I want them to learn the most. More than filling them up with math facts. More than mastering geography or writing clearly, I want them to learn the art of not quitting.

I know that livestock is only one way to accomplish this, but in a generation of young adults and children afraid to try and to fail, and even more afraid to let their children try and fail, I am so grateful that we found our way.

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bravery despite Imperfection

I love the farm. And I love my husband, but...

Today, the weather in Wisconsin is cold. Icy rain cold with gusts of winds strong enough to knock my youngest off his feet and into the muddy freezing puddles. A few of our sheep are unlucky enough to be stuck outside without shelter temporarily, as we assumed Spring was on its way (no lambs, no pregnant ewes, don't report me to some animal welfare agency!)

My lovely husband sort of halfheartedly mentioned on his way out the door this morning that he thought we should find a way to get them in the barn today, but didn't have time to worry about it before work. And off he went. And left me here with freezing cold sheep AND children I am in charge of tending. I put my battle gear on before his truck even left the driveway. 

On my own, I went up to the barn to attempt a pen rearrangement. Knowing that I would obviously not excel at this task. I am no farm woman! This involves moving gates, water, feed, but worst of all jobs....It involves literally moving sheep around. I'm talking about CATCHING the sheep. With your arms!

One pen has a couple of lambs that we are weaning from their mamas. So they're not the happiest lambs. And we haven't really worked with them at all yet, so they are not friendliest lambs either. Cold, tired, and grumpy already, I begin my attempts at catching said lambs. By myself. Children I'm supposed to be tending are down in the house. One lamb literally leaps over my head, through one of the gates into the water pail. I can't make this stuff up. It's freezing and she JUMPS INTO THE WATER TUB! This is not a heated jacuzzi, this is freezing cold 2 feet deep water. 

Don't worry, I finally do catch this lamb (incidentally, her name is actually trouble. How apt!)

The next lamb I'm up against is a large ram lamb. I don't know how he got this big already. His mom is a crazy milk machine. And he is wild. I'm doing all of the things the man has told me to do... don't look directly at them. Wait until they are facing the corner of the pen. Move slowly. Grab a leg. Ugh. I won't go into details but this story ends with me on the ground with the buck in the arms, barely. So now I'm not just covered in icy rain or snow, I also have manure and hay stuck everywhere. I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but suffice to say that I am dirty, smelly, cold and I have a huge cut above my knee that's bleeding.

But, I did it! By myself! ALL by myself! And everyone is in the barn, warm(ish) and with shelter.

I didn't even get out of the barn before I start hearing in my head all of the things that my husband will say.  I got the lambs too worked up. Too much stress on the ewes. I shouldn't have put the weaned lambs where I put them. I forgot some important piece of the puzzle that will destroy the livestock. But do you know what he said??? He said, "Good job. That's what I would have done."

Besides amusing my family with tales of the woes of farming, which they are always asking for, I have been mulling over this all day. The way I went into the conversation with my husband looking for a fight. The way I went up and did a job that I felt under qualified for. 

A lovely friend of mine today said we should be teaching our daughters to be brave, not perfect. Brave.... Not Perfect. My fear of failure was almost big enough that I would have left sheep out in the freezing rain, for fear that I wouldn't get them in the barn the right way. My fear of failure has been so large that I have quit things, so many things. Gymnastics, piano, computer science, volleyball... if I couldn't be perfect, I didn't want to try.

What a sad legacy to pass on to our children. So whether you live on a farm or live in a big ol' city, let's find ways to teach our children to be brave tomorrow! After all, the worst that can happen is you end up covered in poop.