Inside: We could really use some rain, when farm supply goes suburban, and a tale of two counties.
We Could Really Use Some Rain
If you reside in a rural area and you’re in the vicinity of farm people, during dry periods you’re likely to hear, “We could use some rain.” In my neck of the woods it’s been dry. Not drought dry, mind you, but dry enough. So imagine my delight when Mom and I were disassembling the Hillbilly Christmas Wreath (not to worry–like Frosty, it will be back for Christmas) and I stepped in mud. Yes, mud. I delighted in it, actually. Enough rain to make some slippery brown spots–if only on the surface. Still, I’ll take what I can get.
What’s interesting about rain is there usually isn’t a mediocre position concerning whether you are for or against it. Really depends on the steady diet of either too much or too little. So some years–take 1993, for example–you were just as likely to hear “I really wish it would stop raining.” Granted, rain can mess up some lovely outdoor events, like weddings and picnics and baseball games, so it’s always wise to have a plan B. Or it can delay planting season for both the home gardener and the farmer who depends on the timeliness of rain to make a living. My family has dealt with these circumstances for years.
At any rate, the word on the county road (as opposed to street) is “We could still really use some rain.”
When Farm Supply Goes Suburban
So we forgot to pick up some cracked corn from town the other day, and I noticed we were getting woefully short. When the weather is especially cold, it’s good to feed the chickens cracked corn in their diet to help keep them warm. We generally feed it through the winter months and phase it out come spring.
Not wanting to make a special trip to town, coupled with the fact our normal Monday shopping and coffee excursion is likely to be interrupted by snow this week, I was trying to figure out a way to get some corn. In St. Charles County (heavily suburban), of all places. Because that’s where we head on Saturdays for church. All hope seemed lost (aside from going way off the beaten path to Rural King in Wentzville) that we’d find such a place until Hubmeister mentioned there was a new Farm and Home Supply in St. Peters. Cottleville proper, actually.
Why not, I thought. I was in the mood for a mini adventure. So we headed there and entered the building to the irritating beat of pop music from the 90s. Not exactly the proper mood music for farm supply stores, which really should have something twangy playing in the background. Not that I’m a fan of country music, either, but it’s all about what’s fitting and appropriate for the customer. Except that nearly half of those in said store were of the suburban variety. So maybe irritating pop music from the 90s is fitting here? And, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t exactly dressed very rural at the moment, either. Looks can sometimes be deceiving.
The inside of the store reminded me of a cross between Cabella’s and Orscheln, and only time will tell if they’ll survive in this environment.
Most importantly, we were able to find the cracked corn.
A Tale of Two Counties
But all that brings me to something that’s been a recurring issue in my life–feeling like I live in two counties. Grade school and much of life in those days was spent in Lincoln County, (much more rural) with the occasional jaunt to St. Charles. But at some point we switched churches, heading into the county below us (St. Chas). High school was also south over the river–we actually live on the border, determined in part by the path of the Cuivre River.
Then I met my one and only love of my life who also lived–you guessed it–in St. Charles County. The church we’ve been attending for thirty plus years (and where Hubs works) is there as well. So while I am rural to the core and dwell in rural Lincoln County, those who meet me in St. Charles are often surprised to discover I live on a farm. Not that I’m trying to be something I’m not. Just that I’ve been around the people of the burbs so often that I can speak like a native. And, admittedly, the stubborn opposition to change, such as continually voting down a county-wide library system is annoying in my home county. Across the river is one of the best county library systems in the nation, I’ve been told.
Yet thirteen years ago I was adamantly against paving the then gravel Sycamore Bend Road. And I’m still not happy about it. So now who is being stubborn?
Truth is I do a good bit of living in each place, meeting folks both alike and different than I am. Makes for a more interesting life, and for that and many more reasons I am thankful.
Make no mistake, though. This girl is rural through and through.
What’s going on in your neck of the woods? Tell me about it in the comments.
Inside: Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, derailing our well-drawn plans for the new year.
Note: This article was first posted a year ago on my writing website, but it resonated with many readers there and has become one of the most widely read posts. For that reason I wanted to repost “When Your New Year Didn’t Go as Planned” here in the hopes of helping those who have started the year off in hard places. If you know of anyone going through a difficult time, please pass the link along.
I had high hopes for 2017. By December I had gotten my word for the next year—“accelerate,” and I was excited. I took a class in goal setting, watched videos, filled out worksheets, and listened to podcasts. I carefully penned my actionable steps in my brand spanking new calendar. And I dreamed.
Then my dad passed away.
Barely into the second week of January, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. Priorities changed overnight. Suddenly all of those goals didn’t amount to a hill of beans. I was knee-deep in the Kubler-Ross school of hard knocks, working on my five stages of grief.
Maybe your new year didn’t go as planned, either. Maybe you lost your job or received a bad report from the doctor or recently signed divorce papers. Maybe someone you love passed away.
So now what?
Here are my five observations from the trenches:
Give yourself time to process. Whether the death of a loved one or a diagnosis of cancer, take the time to grieve the tragedy. Stuffing feelings only delays forward movement because sometime, somewhere, those feelings will surface—maybe at the wrong time. Better to take a long walk on a deserted park trail to cry rather than breaking down at the office.
Allow for changes to your schedule. This will look different for every person. Maybe you need to cut back on your busyness, drop the weekly book club meeting. On the other hand, adding in some time at the gym might be a good stress reliever. However it looks to you, respect the change in priorities. For the rest of January, I cut all of the nonessentials from my work and personal schedule. I also swapped my every three weeks grocery shopping marathon with elaborate meal plan system for a less intensive weekly shopping trip and winging the food thing. Mondays Mom and I have been spending leisurely afternoons at the Roasted Bean, sipping coffee and making sense of our lives without Dad. It’s been healing.
Take care of yourself. Dress warmly. Take your vitamins. Journal. Watch a funny movie. Read a mystery. Eat healthy, but give yourself grace for a chocolate bar, if that fits your lifestyle. January visits to The Bean included custard-filled donuts for Mom and me. Giving yourself that extra TLC is imperative.
Reach out to others. Again, this will differ depending on the individual. Maybe you are an extrovert and joining a support group makes sense. Or maybe a standing dinner date with a friend is more your speed. For me, a confirmed introvert, spending time with Mom, texting my brothers, and emailing my daughter are avenues of communication that work well.
Plan a New Year reset. So you’ve been through some pretty traumatic events, but slowly you’re starting to feel like it’s time to return to some semblance of normal. Life is calling you back. Maybe you want to tackle some of those goals you were once so excited about. It’s time for a New Year reset. This could be the first day of spring or maybe your birthday or some other milestone. Maybe you need six months to process what happened. After some prayerful consideration, I knew that February 1 would be my reset.
Regardless of your timetable, the way forward begins with you.
Ever had a rough start to the new year? How did you cope? Tell us about it in comments.
Inside: Making goals for the new year need not be complicated. Here is one simple method.
Have you noticed how the subject of making goals brings out so many different reactions? You have the people who love the idea and are completely energized at the thought of a blank slate. A fresh new year to make good on all of those promises we’ve made to ourselves. (I’m definitely in that group.)
Then there are those folks who drag their feet and decide they really do need change, but motivation is lacking, particularly since they’ve not seen a lot of progress. They revive the same goals every year and drop out about the time Walmart moves the Slimfast display from the center aisle. (That used to be me.)
And when you mention making goals to some people, they give you a dirty look and say they don’t believe in them or bring out their long list of excuses why they won’t be participating. (I did that one year and, oddly, ended up accomplishing some things anyway. Go figure.)
Maybe you can identify. But, really, the bottom line is to make the most of the next twelve months we have on this good green Earth we share. Let’s see if we can simplify the process.
I wrote a post last week about taking a look at the past year and asking some questions, but it can be boiled down to two: What worked last year? What didn’t? Taking a moment to either jot some thoughts down or simply thinking on those questions can bring clarity to the task ahead–asking another simple question. Where do I want to be at the end of this year?
Do a Brain Dump
This year I had so many ideas for goals that I decided to write down everything that occurred to me. I didn’t limit myself. I’ve got such items on this list as “write a screenplay” and “buy a well for needy community in a third world country” (yeah, that’s huge) to “read 12 books off my bookshelf” and “go on more dates with Mike” (much easier objectives).
You might write down “take a vacation to the mountains” or “get out of debt”–whatever comes to mind. To make it fun, you can try setting a timer and seeing what you come up with after ten minutes or longer. Some people work well under the pressure of a timed exercise, and the timer acts as a mini deadline. Or maybe you’re more the type to sit down with a cup of coffee and leisurely mull over the topic, jotting ideas as they come to you. (Definitely me.)
The point is to give yourself permission to dream big and small. Often it’s the little things in life that bring you joy, so these, too, should make the list.
Let’s face it. We’re probably not going to get everything accomplished off that list. And that’s perfectly fine. The point is to capture the ideas down on paper. I actually have two lists–my goals for the year, and my “I would like” list. My goals consist of what I really want to spend the next several months working on and what’s most important for me to accomplish. But the neat thing is that I transfer all of those other ideas–typically 20 to 25 things, though I don’t limit myself–onto my “I would like” list for revisiting. What I have found is that of those items a handful of them end up happening anyway, often without any effort on my part. (We serve a good God!) There is power in writing down heart desires and dreams. Those who do are 42 percent more likely to accomplish their goals.
One more thing about making goals–make them specific. Saying “I want to lose weight” is vague whereas “lose 20 pounds by class reunion through exercising three times per week and eating a whole foods diet” brings clarity and action to the goal.
Break it Down
Finally, break the goal into smaller pieces. Take the above weight loss example. Planning a menu could be step one. Step two might be finding an exercise buddy to motivate and keep you accountable. Or maybe you decided to clean out your closet and organize it. Step one might be going through the clothes you want to give away. Step two could be buying storage bins. Make the steps as easy as you can. It feels good to check these steps–mini goals–off the list. In time all of these steps add up to accomplished goals.
Review Your List Often
It’s remarkable how many people make goals and then never look at them again the rest of the year! That would be like printing off directions for a car trip and then leaving them at home on purpose. If these goals were important enough to thoughtfully write them out, then they’re important enough to review often. If you fall behind on where you’d like to be, don’t beat yourself up! Just keep moving ahead. (I’m talking to myself, too!)
Truthfully, I had seven goals last year, and of those seven, I crushed three of them–grew my business, started a new writing project, and bought a heifer for a needy family. What I didn’t accomplish–declutter bedrooms, read 17 books, revise and publish my novel, and lose 25 pounds–I made progress toward. I feel good about that!
And I feel excited about 2018!
Did you make any goals for 2018? Tell us about it in the comments.
Note: I’ll be sharing my goals for 2018 in the next newsletter, so if you’re not already signed up, check out the side bar at the top of the page and join.
Inside: A word for the new year is like a compass, guiding you where you need to go for the next twelve months. Here is the story behind choosing my word for 2018.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Word
I have been doing the word for the year habit since 2005, although for probably the first dozen years I’d get a phrase–a command of sorts–instead of one word. The first phrase I ever got was “Don’t compare yourself to others,” to which I literally answered, “Do I compare myself to others more than other people compare themselves to others, God?”
Then the irony hit me. Obviously!
Since then I’ve had good years, bad years, and many in between, but the word for the year has been like a compass, helping navigate both the still waters and Tsunamis of life.
Normally I get my word the end of December, though last year it came in November. Sometimes it’s been as late as the first week in January. Or, rather, what I consider late, which is my own perception. God is never late. Last year’s word was the first actual single word, and it was “accelerate.” Frankly, I thought maybe I had made a mistake because after losing Dad, I couldn’t fathom how I could have such an exciting direction for my life and at the same time be faced with grieving. But our heavenly Father is amazing, and the word “accelerate” categorized so many facets of my life in 2017.
So then comes late fall, and, of course, I’m starting to wonder what’s in store for the next year. The word “prolific” came at me one day with such a vengeance that I thought maybe I’d gotten my word very early. It was still October, after all. But I filed it away. Too soon. About a month later I’m thinking how I needed more consistency in my life, and I had a subtle stirring, enough to wonder if maybe that could be my word. But I was rooting for prolific.
Fast forward to a week ago, and in my dreams that night the word “trailblazer” appeared. I was completely captivated by the word. How cool! I thought. Except that anyone who knows me is making a squinty-eyed face about now. Not exactly a term that has ever fit me. But you never know.
Thoroughly confused, we headed off to church, and I told the Lord how confused I was about what my word should be. So I asked Him if He would have someone use one of those three words from the pulpit that night, so I’d know which one was my word for 2018. Our pastor was teaching on prayer, a subject I’m pretty jazzed up about anyway, when all of a sudden he was comparing being consistent in prayer with being inconsistent. He said the word about four times.
My reaction? “Dang it!” (Pause.) “Darn. Darn it, darn it, dang it!”
In life what we need is not always what we want. So I’ve asked God to help me embrace my word for 2018. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Yeah, you probably already figured that.
Until next post, I’ll be practicing consistently being consistent.
Do you do the word for the year? If so, what’s yours? Tell us about it in the comments.