Remembering the Greatest Generation – And Raising the Next

This week has been dedicated to the service and remembrance of President George H.W. Bush. And rightfully so, he was a great leader and great man.

I was in grade school when President Bush (#41)  was in the White House so my memory of him is faint. But when I think of President Bush I think of my grandpa, a fellow WWII veteran and passionate Republican, who discussed politics with my father frequently.

That passion for politics was passed on to me and I now get a front-row seat to Congress and the functions of D.C. – all from the comforts of my family farm.

But my thoughts while listening to President Bush’s funeral ceremony Wednesday were not on politics, but instead on the great service and impact President Bush and those of his generation had on our country and, more importantly, whether my generation and those that follow can match their heroism, strength and wisdom. As a millennial, I fear that we are failing to match the characteristics that made those generations before us great and parenting another generation even farther removed from those values and beliefs.

In his eulogy for his father, President George W. Bush included the following remarks:

“In his inaugural address, the 41st president of the United States said this, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.

“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us, or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment, there, to trade a word of friendship.”

This passage hit home for me and embodied what I believe is our greatest challenge as parents raising children in a new, different and often complex world.

 

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Owen, age 2, and Evan, age 5, before venturing out in the cold to help their data move cattle.

I work so my sons can have new shoes, hot meals and John Deere tractor toys. I want them to enjoy their childhood and say they lived full and interesting lives. But as we inch closer to Christmas, the urge to buy them “stuff” often overshadows the push to have them volunteer and do good. We’ve been taught that we “deserve” everything and that shouldn’t have to do what is hard or uncomfortable.

Granted my boys are young, currently 5 and 2 years old, but I hope that my early and often attention to volunteering, service, sacrifice and helping others will pay off. I want my boys to understand the love of Christ, the power of prayer, the feeling of empathy for those that have endured hardship and struggle and the willingness to give of their time and talents to help others. I need them to understand that their lives are filled with blessing but they can and should do what is hard and uncomfortable.

Some days I question if all of that can rise above the commercialism, me-first, this-is-too-much culture we’ve created. I like to think that growing up on a farm, with family close at hand, weekly church sermons and a little tough love, will allow my boys to grasp what this life is really all about.

My father tells the story of my grandfather reminding him that going to college at age 18 (the idea of which seemed overwhelming to my father) is nothing compared to boarding a ship and heading east into war – unsure if you will ever see your family again, a theme often referenced in President Bush’s services. My grandfather and those that served this country were giving their lives at the same age those of today’s generation are considering a gap year because they just can’t muster the mental endurance to tackle college after 13 years in school.

My grandpa served his country, worked to provide for his family and give his children every opportunity to better themselves. My father did the same and as I listened to the remarks of those speaking during President Bush’s funeral I realized that my single biggest challenge – and opportunity – is to raise the next generation to be as great as those my sons barely knew but owe everything too. They were the Greatest Generation and I work everyday in hopes that I raise two young men who follow President Bush’s advice and become become loyal friends, respectable neighbors and concerned citizens who take time to care and contribute. Men President George H.W. Bush would be proud of.

Why I Didn’t March

On Saturday, Jan. 21, women across the nation – and world – participated in a grassroots movement that caught the attention of people around the globe. Women traveled to D.C. to march on the National Mall, gathered in their hometowns or expressed their support via social media.

I had friends and family members participate, but I did not march. On Saturday morning, as everyone waved fancy signed and took selfies with matching pink beanie’s, I was sitting in a town hall meeting listening to my state legislators talk about proposals and bills being put before their committees and the governor. I was one of only four women at the event and the only participant under the age of 35. I attend these meetings whenever possible because from them I gain knowledge, understanding and a relationship with my congressman.

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My son, Owen, and I share some snuggles and selfies on the couch. Don’t let the smile fool you, this little guy wasn’t feel well this weekend.

After the meeting, I returned home to take care of my two little boys – ages 3 and 1 – who both were not feeling well and needed snuggles and hugs. I washed dirty clothes, made supper and played on the floor. That night I enjoyed a simple dinner with my family and lost a few hours of sleep rocking a baby with a fever. As a mother, I have an obligation to raise boys who respect women, who understand that things won’t always go their way and to show them unconditional love and support to allow them to chase their dreams. Nothing I did Saturday was Earth-shattering or life-changing but it made a difference in my family’s lives and those simple actions and routines will have a more substantial impact in my sons’ lives than any president or piece of legislation ever will.

Like any woman, daughter, mother and sister, I want to feel supported, included, equal and optimistic. I’ve had my failures and successes, my triumphs and tribulations. But I can’t blame any of it on the President nor will much of my everyday life be substantially impacted by the person residing in the White House. I control my destiny and I can chose to take challenges head on or stand on the side and blame others.

I work everyday to make my life, my family and my world a better place. But I don’t believe marching is the way to enact change. Instead I believe relationships with lawmakers, comments to proposed legislation and participation in any and every election possible is the most effective way to see your opinion heard and issues addressed.

I don’t want a president who gives handouts and protections. I want a president who helps grow our economy, which means more jobs and opportunities for women. I want a Congress that enacts legislation that allows small businesses to thrive and grow and a government that puts an emphasis on the safety of my life and my country.

For all of the women who chose to march, I encourage you to put that energy into getting to know your legislators, becoming active in your local and state political organizations and attending town hall meetings with law makers. Sure marches are fun and provide great photo ops but nothing is more powerful than consistent involvement and participation in the process.

A Year With Owen Douglas

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Owen plays with his Little Blue Truck and farm animals after bath

Today we celebrated the first birthday of our youngest son, Owen Douglas Sawyer. The past year has flown by – although there were days time seemed to grind to a halt. We had our good days and our bad. We survived a whole lot and spent many a late nights cuddling and rocking. Owen may share his brother’s blue eyes and blondish-red hair but he and Evan John are nothing alike. I never realized how two very different little boys could come from the same parents and upbringing.

Owen has proven to be a spirited, spunky and noisy little guy. He’s assertive, opinionated and spirited. His patience are few but his kisses are many. He has a smile that will melt your heart and scream that could break eardrums. He is everything I was as a baby and a constant reminder of my impatience, stubbornness and hard-headed ways.

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The result of my attempted 1 year photo session

I have learned a lot from Owen this past year – mainly that I can survive on a whole lot less sleep than previously thought and that despite what the parenting books will say, you cannot train all children. Some children will sleep, others simply will not. Owen sleeps, but on his own schedule and under his own terms.

He celebrates his first birthday with only four teeth, a head full of hair and the ability to walk – just not the desire. He is a crawling machine and climbs anything he’s tall enough to reach. He is a one-man tornado capable of destroying nearly anything left in his path.

Owen wakes up before the sun every morning but could not be happier about starting the day. He loves playing with his big brother and dad and still finds a moment or two to cuddle with me each day. He enjoys his time on the farm – seeing the cattle and riding in the tractor and combine. I hope he develops the same passion and love for the land as his father and grandfather. And if farming is not his dream, I hope he carries a passion for serving people and carrying for animals with him where ever he goes.

Our little man will do big things one day. I joke to many that I pray he uses his powers and personality for good, as it will be mighty. This child will be the source of my first grey hair but will also accomplish so much. We love you Owen Douglas now please just sleep!

 

On Being A Farm Wife

I never aspired to be a farm wife. I just wanted to live in the city, raise my 2.5 kids and navigate a successful yet fulfilling career in the public relation industry with a husband that wore a suit and was home at 5:15 every evening. Then I met my farmer — now my husband — and that all went out the window.

I am now a mother of two, a farm wife, a full-time professional and passionate advocate for an industry I knew nothing about a decade ago. I live miles outside of town, have no idea what time my husband will be home from work tonight and have seen a cow give birth.

I was recently asked to speak to a group of livestock owners about the role of women in agriculture and as I pondered what that looked like I realized just how much a farm wife contributes to the success of the industry.

Farm wives must be the cooks (or in my case the fast food picker-up-ers), the laundry attendants, the house cleaners, the nanny, the chauffeur (for the hubby, his farm help and the kids) and the office manager. On top of that, when the hubs is busy — be it a Tuesday evening or a Saturday afternoon — this all must get done with no help or second parent. Farming is more than a full-time job, it’s a full-time lifestyle that doesn’t take weekends, holidays or sick days. That means farm wives must always be at the ready to help out, alter plans and lend a hand on the farm — while taking care of the kids.

For those women, like myself, who work in town, balancing the corporate world with the farm can be a challenge of epic proportions. Schedules clash, the tractor breaks down minutes before a meeting and the hubby might not make it back from the field in time to get the kids from daycare if the wife is away for business. That’s where family and forgiving babysitters come in handy.

Farm wives are strong women, they have to be. They wear a million different hats. They know a paycheck isn’t a guarantee and their date nights, free time and family vacations are at the mercy of mother nature or a few stubborn cows. They might go days without seeing their husbands and can fix a wonderful, wholesome meal only to have to save a plate because her husband can’t make it home in time to eat with her and the kids.

It’s a blessing to be a farm wife but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Race Wrap Up: Working Moms On The Run

Long before I was a farmer’s wife, took my first selfie or logged onto Facebook, I was running. I am not a “natural” runner. It’s not in my family and I don’t look the part.

In seventh grade I decided I wanted to run track. My parents were speechless and I was simply hoping to stay in shape for swim season. But the “trial run” quickly became a habit I still cling to.

I ran through middle school, high school and into college. I am no longer part of a team but most mornings you can find me on the treadmill or dirt road, listening to my Sirius XM radio and logging the miles. It takes an early bedtime and rising before the sun but it keeps me sane and at a healthy weight. 

Racing has always been a part of my running habit. I’m not a marathoner – never have been and probably never will be. But I will glady hop into any 5K or 10K. Having a full-time job, a 2-year-old and a super busy hubby limits my ability to both train and compete but I manage to squeeze in a race every now and then.

The recent rains kept my farmer hubby from planting corn Saturday so I made a very last minute decision, less than two hours prior to the start of the race,  to complete in a women-only 5K just down the road about 20 minutes. I’ve ran in this race at least six times – maybe more – and I love it.

This is was my first time competing in this race post-baby and racing as a working mom has given me a whole new perspective on the women running along side me. Never before had I really paid attention to the mob of dads with kids strapped to their fronts or skipping down the sidewalk and the running strollers occupying the back of the starting pack.

I realized that the tiny, sleeping baby in the dad’s arms means there is a mom running only months after giving birth. And the crowds of children – mine among them – symbolize these women’s ability to juggle family, work and/or volunteering and running.

Those of us participating represented a wide range of ages, shapes and sizes. Few of us are probably the shape and size we want – or at one time – use to be. But we’re out there, giving it our all, juggling multiple demands – even while on the course – and knowing that as soon as we cross the finish line we’re back to being mom, wife and partner. But for the time we’re racing, we’re super woman, running toward our goal and working our butts off to cross that finish line.

More and more women – and moms – are discovering running and for each lady who makes the decisions to squeeze one more thing into their day, I tip my sneaker. We’re may not be Olympians – or even all that fast – but we’re giving it our all and loving every minute of it!

Parenting

Me and the little guy on his first plane ride to Florida.
Me and the little guy on his first plane ride to Florida.

My last blog entry was all about our wonderful mother cows and sometimes I look at them with empathy and sympathy – for any of your breastfeeding mothers out there you would cringe while watching a calf nurse. But I also see that their one and only goal is to keep their calves fed, safe and warm. Sometimes I envy the simplicity.

I am not only a mother but a full-time professional who balances work, motherhood, domestic duties and a few non-profit obligations on top of it all. Combine that with the fact my husband works 80-plus hours most weeks and I’m basically a single parent for a few months of the year.

This is one of those months. Outside of the normal work hours, my husband and his father split the night hours, checking the mother cows and calves every three hours. Sometimes that check takes 10 minutes and sometimes it leads to an all-nighter of babysitting expectant mothers and watching over newborn calves. Regardless of the number of hours my husband spends in bed each night, he gets up every morning to do it all over again.

I know I am not the only mother with a spouse who can’t make it home for dinner every evening or who is absent from the weekend activities and errands more often than not. I am fortunate in that I can call and visit my husband most days because while he isn’t at home, he’s right down the road. Some spouses are halfway across the world defending our country and our way of life – and to those individuals I tip my hat and offer a sincere thank you.

Outside of the stress of just trying to get it all done each day, going a day, evening or weekend without a spouse means there are no time outs or “me” time. You have no “other half” to watch the kids while you run to the grocery store or make the quick trip to the mall. There is no one to hand the kid off to for bath time or to read the same book for the 1,000th time. It’s you and them and only you and them.

But for all of the times I have grumbled about my situation because my husband is spending yet another Saturday at work, I have also learned to appreciate the irreplaceable one-on-one time I have with my son. I know all his habits, I can decipher his toddler language and can comfort him when something just isn’t going his way. Because we have spent so many mornings, evenings and weekends together, I am his go-to, his protector. And that’s pretty cool. Dad may have the keys to the tractor and access to the cows, but I have the ability to console him when he’s sick and find the blanket he’s misplaced.

I didn’t grow up hoping to find a husband who wouldn’t be home for dinner or away for entire nights and days at a time. But I love and respect what my husband does and I know he is living out his dream. For all the moments I want to complain and fight, I have to remember that there are millions of other women in my shoes and I am one of the lucky ones. Some are fortunate to have a spouse that will eventually return home. Some have forever lost their partner and others are simply hoping that one day they will have the opportunity to just be a parent. My situation may not be what I envisioned as a child but I know I have much to be thankful for.

It’s never easy juggling a job, friends, children, cooking, cleaning, laundry and extra obligations. But I count myself fortunate to have a wonderful little boy who enjoys my company because it’s only a matter of time before friends, sports and the farm will pull him in a million directions. I will never love the idea of going it alone but I have learned to appreciate the time I get to spend as a parent. It’s priceless and fleeting.