Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sweet corn and sweet Ruthie

My brother called yesterday afternoon.  He was outside.  Working on his planter.  And his spirits were good.

He said he had some sweet corn seed he was sending our way.  He said Ruthie was doing far better than he had expected.  He said he'd be in his tractor seat, planting corn in the next few days.

How 'bout an amen?

The week of Ruthie's diagnosis was like a tail spin.  (And I'm just the Aunt.  I still can't comprehend the pain Nathan and Adrienne felt.)  There was a mass.  It's cancer.  It's stage 3.  It's inoperable.  Chemo starts right away.

But then there was some good news.  The cancer was contained in one area - it had not spread anywhere else.  They called her diagnosis Intermediate Risk - which gives her an excellent chance at surviving this thing.  And she's been a fighter through her first round of chemo.

Ruthie was able to come home from the hospital last week.  She goes back and forth frequently to keep a close eye on everything.  They are fortunate to live just an hour away from Children's Mercy Hospital.  Yet, in the ten days they have been home, they have made a trip almost every day to see Ruthie's doctors and monitor her condition.  All of this has forced Adrienne to take a leave from her job as a first grade teacher at Troy Elementary School.

There are so many of you praying for Ruthie.  So many of you offering your help and support to Nathan and Adrienne.  For all of that, we are so grateful.  While it can be hard to accept help, we all know Nathan would be among the first to offer his help should it be any of us that fall on hard times.

The road ahead is long for sweet Ruthie.  Three more rounds of chemo with the hope to operate in the summer to remove the tumor. 

Please keep praying for Ruthie.  And her Daddy and Mommy.  (And her big brother, Henry, and her big sister, Elliette.)

Let's lift them up and walk beside them.  Let's hope next spring is just another dusty, dirty, stressful, eighteen-hours-a-day-in-the-tractor-seat, normal planting season.

Ruthie during a height check - wearing her Super Girl cape and her very own stethoscope.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In the tractor seat

My brother, Nathan, is one of my favorite farmers.  Always has been.

I helped him haul in letter-block hay bales in our preschool days.  I saddled up beside him on the arms of the couch as we rode over the prairie, checking our herd.

He was born to be a farmer and rancher.  The hat, the jeans, the pliers pouch, the dirty boots - they suit him.  He's smart, savvy with machinery, gentle with his cattle.

Yesterday was National Ag Day.  Nathan should have been in his tractor seat, having a working celebration as he prepared fields and put on fertilizer getting ready for planting season.

Instead, he spent the day in a living hell at Children's Mercy Hospital.  His baby girl, 14-month-old Ruthie Jane, was diagnosed with cancer.

What was thought to be a tummy-ache or appendicitis, turned out to be a mass near her bladder.  As of right now, it's inoperable, and plans are being made to treat it with chemotherapy.

Four days earlier, Ruthie, and my Britta, were running laps through Grandma's house and giggling as Grandpa gave them a bath.

I've always heard about the horrors of cancer.  But until you've been jerked from your tractor seat on a Monday morning and thrown face down in the dirt of God's uncertainty, you don't really get it.

We have more questions than answers about sweet Ruthie Jane.  But we have faith, we have each other, and we have you, dear friends, to lean on. 

It may be awhile before Nathan gets back in the tractor seat.  Yet just like long ago, I, and so many of you, will saddle up beside him and offer our grit, our faith, and our muscle to see Ruthie Jane through this.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Getting noticed

National FFA week was a couple weeks ago.

Maybe you noticed.

Maybe your news feed blew up with #tbt pictures of your friends rocking the ‘90s in a corduroy jacket.

Or, maybe you didn’t even notice.

Maybe you’re not really sure why anyone would wear a corduroy jacket.

I made a choice – nearly 20 years ago – to wear one of those corduroy jackets.  And when I look back on all the choices I made as a teenager, this stands out as the one I’m most proud of. 

It certainly wasn’t the most popular thing to do in my high school.  But it wasn’t the worst thing either.  We had a handful of students enrolled in our chapter.  Enough to muster up teams for contests, and fill a short bus to go to events and conferences.

I didn’t post a #tbt picture.  That’s fine if you did.  It’s most certainly fine if you posted a picture of yourself in a corduroy jacket with a former US President.  I just wasn’t that cool in 1995.

Truth be told, I like to focus on what FFA can do for the next generation of young people.  Not re-live the 90’s. 

So, I drug my band of young’uns to two events during National FFA Week at our local high school.  First, we headed to town a little early and ate breakfast in the ag shop for the FFA appreciation breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, pancakes, hashbrowns, coffee and juice were prepared and served up by FFA members who took the time to say hello and help out my little people.  I love that.

The next evening, we traipsed to town for the FFA Chili Feed and Work Auction.  Members serve up a chili supper, and then auction themselves off for 8 hours of labor.  Proceeds fund trips and activities for the chapter.  The students usually go for more than my charity budget allows these days, so I opt for buying some left-over rolls or chili at the end of the auction.  

Just before the end of the auction, Miss Hobbs, the young and hard-working teacher and advisor, cornered me.  She had promised to be auctioned-off if the students each brought a minimum price.  They were just about to reach the goal, and Miss Hobbs' brother had offered to spend up to $500 to buy 8 hours of labor from his teaching and advising little sister.  She gave me his bidder number, and the permission to spend every dollar.

The bidding for Miss Hobbs began.  And the bidding was hot.  I jumped in around the $100 mark and hung in there until $500.  

Noah turned to me quizzically, 

Mom, what are you doing?  

Heads around the room were turning to see who was doing the bidding.

Wow, things must be good for the Goss these days.

It was $525 to me, and I turned it down.  Miss Hobbs went for $525.  Sold to local dentist and school board member, Dr. Mark Herzog.  

Conversation buzzed after the auction.

I don't ever recall him coming to the auction before.

Were you bidding for someone else?  

Wow, I'm so glad he came.

Dr. Herzog made quite an impression that night.  While he serves on the school board, he doesn't have a student enrolled in the program.  He isn't employed by the ag industry.  I can't say for sure, but I doubt he ever wore a corduroy jacket.

I'm going to be a bit presumptuous here, but I think Dr. Herzog sees FFA as I do: a solid program for young people that builds leadership and career skills for lifetime of work and service to the industry that feeds us.  A program that's building self-confidence, public-speaking skills, guiding students towards careers in mechanics, science and business, and establishing leaders for the future of our community.

I'm so grateful he noticed National FFA Week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wearing Red

It's hard for me to wear the color red.

I like the color when it comes to decorating my house.

But to pull the color on over my head reminds me of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  It was a big deal to despise Nebraska during football season until they departed the Big 12.

Red reminds me of the KU Jayhawks.  It's still a big deal to loathe the Jayhawks during every, single sports season.

Red reminds of the Wathena Wildcats.  My high school's nemesis.  As a school, the Wathena Wildcats have long been consolidated with another small northeast Kansas town.  But I still detest them and their red Wildcats.

So putting on red to cheer for our town and our team - the Ellsworth Bearcats - pains me.

But a red, $4, clearance rack t-shirt caught my eye the other day.  A self-to-self pep talk ensued.

Okay, for $4 I can give it a try.  It'll be okay.

Not so long ago, I would have walked away from that $4 t-shirt.  Not so long ago, I still wasn't convinced I wanted to put down roots in the middle of Kansas.

Brent and I moved to Ellsworth after college because it fit our career choices.  He took the job as the Agriculture Extension Agent, and I tried my hand at economic development work.  We like to say we took the only two jobs open in town.

We saw the move as a good start to our life together.  And beyond getting married and getting out of our lousy rentals, we didn't have much of a plan.

A few years passed.  We were baptized into the working world - realizing how much we still had to learn.  We got married.  Got out of our lousy rentals.  Bought a home and brought home our first baby girl.  And we still didn't have a plan.

But sitting in the nursery, rocking my baby girl, I realized we needed a plan.

Maybe it was the hormones.  Maybe it was because it seemed like every other new momma had their own momma nearby to help.  Maybe it was my dad's encouragement to come home and help revive my flailing hometown.  Maybe it was because my brother had just moved home.

Whatever it was, I knew I wanted my family to be closer.  I wanted what I had growing up: Grandma and Grandpa at my ball games and 4H events, my aunts and uncles at birthday parties, an extended family close enough to call on when I needed help.

But the man I married, didn't feel the same pull.  He liked our compromise of living in the middle.

The battle of location lingered.  The "plan" never materialized.  Angst and tension settled in.

Three more babies came along.  Noah started school as part of the largest Kindergarten class to hit the district in years.  We lived in a neighborhood full of young families.  We had a network of friends, neighbors and co-workers that supported us whenever we asked for help.  We witnessed a rural revival of sorts - investments in jobs and new businesses unlike anything the town had seen in recent history.  We had opportunities for the kids to play soccer, and t-ball and take ballet lessons - without driving out of town.  We had everything we ever wanted for ourselves and for our young family - except having our own families nearby.

In the summer of 2012, the lack of a plan finally caught up with us.

Britta had just been born.  The county fair was days away from starting.  Brent's dad - a lifelong southwest Kansas farmer - was battling some health issues, facing retirement from the work he loved, and was asking for Brent's help.  And "that perfect little place in the country" went on the market.

I guess you could say it was time for a plan.

There was a lot of talking.  A lot of tears.  (Mine, of course.)  A lot of time spent analyzing the negatives and the positives of every option.

In the end, we chose us.  We chose our family.  We chose the middle.  The compromise.  That perfect little place in the country.

And I think we got it right.  In fact, I know we got it right.  I know it by the way I've watched the kids play and run on the farm.  I know it by the way I feel happier, settled, invested.  I know it because less than a year after our move, Brent had the opportunity to make a fantastic career change that let him have a home office and offer his expertise to a wider range of Kansas farmers.  I know it because we convinced my sister, Mary, to move here, too.  (Well, a charming cowboy maybe had something to do with that one.)  Still, I know we got it right.

I wore that red t-shirt the other day.  It wasn't quite the fit I was hoping for, but for $4, I'll make it work.  Maybe, just maybe, I can get comfortable wearing the color red.

The fam - from inside the barn shortly after our move to the farm.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aim low and fire

My brother, his wife and their children - three of 'em ages 6, 2 and 1 - were coming for a weekend visit.

In planning for their visit and arranging extra beds and pillows and a place for the baby to sleep and five meals and dozens of snacks and three gallons of milk, it occurred to me, we might need an escape.

Seven kids.  Snow and cold outside.  Nothin' to do but wrestle, jump, run and dump oodles of totes of small toys in every room of the house.

We're gonna need a break.

Twenty short miles down the road is a great wildlife museum.  Towering robotic animals move and help young'uns (and big'uns) to understand natural history and wildlife habitats.  We'd only been one time before, so this would be perfect.  Plus, my six-year-old nephew has a thing for big, intimidating wildlife.

I pitched my idea at the supper table a few days before their visit.  The kids were on board.  And then there was Brent.

I refuse.  It's expensive and the animals aren't even real.  I'm staying right here.

He's the eternal pessimist.

But, we'll need something to do with all these kids, and it's a great experience for them.

I'm the eternal optimist.

It's a happy marriage.

I'm absolutely not going.

His resolve was palatable.

I didn't think.  I aimed low.  And I fired.

Going to high school basketball games and eating cheap Mexican food isn't giving your children experiences in the world.

He didn't fire back.  He was sunk.

Brent and I both had a rural Kansas childhood experience.  We were 4H and FFA members.  We raised and showed livestock.  We played and worked on the farm.  And the similarities stop there.

My Mom and Dad embraced the hard work that comes with a family farm lifestyle.  But they always had a way to make time for fun, time for a family vacation, time for a new restaurant or a museum or a festival or literature - both old and new.

None of these experiences were extravagant.  We couldn't afford that.  But our location, in northeast Kansas, accessible to the major metropolitan area of Kansas City, gave us a chance to see the world beyond our family farm.  My parents took great pride in making sure we understood we were swimming in a small pond. 

Brent's location - in southwest Kansas - left them isolated from much beyond the borders of their city.  Seven hours drive to Kansas City.  Six hours drive to Denver.  Isolated.

And his parents placed an even greater emphasis on farm work.  A family vacation meant taking 4H animals to a livestock show.  He didn't play high school sports.  He still hasn't seen the ocean. 

To him, going to high school basketball games and taking the kids out for a quick meal at the Mexican food joint is doing more than he ever experienced growing up.

Think before you speak, right Mom?

Together, we've living our lives and raising our family in the middle.  Literally.

When it was time to say goodbye to university life in Manhattan, we sought out the smaller, rural places in the middle of Kansas.  We landed in Ellsworth.  Half-way between northeast and southwest Kansas.  And we haven't left.

I fight to help our middle-of-Kansas kids understand what's beyond the borders of our county.

Brent strives to make sure they appreciate what's right here at home.

We're striving for a balance of kids who love their rural Kansas home, and kids who aren't afraid to conquer a world so much bigger than them.

It's exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed of raising a family.

We never made it to the wildlife museum.  My nephew firmly put his foot down.

I wanna stay here and play!

I didn't fire back this time.  The kids used the wildlife toys and set up a jungle in the basement.

It was a perfect compromise.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing on the wall

We took the fam - and some extended fam - to a hip little pizza and pub in the big city on Saturday night.

The lighting was dim.  The music was loud; which drowned out the endless noises from our squawking 19 month old.  The walls were covered with paintings of old cowboys and Indians.  Over-sized taxidermy hung high on the walls.

And the pizza was fresh, rustic and oh-so cheesy.

Twice during this dining out experience I traipsed to the restroom with little girls in tow. 

The bathroom walls were completely covered in hand-written messages. 

My four-year-old asked, "What's all that say?"

It says, "The pizza tastes great!" honey.

However, my eight-year-old and her two older cousins lingered (for too long) taking it all in.

Some messages made them giggle.

If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie.

Some inspired them.

Reach for the stars

Others confused them:

He's called an 'ex' for a reason

If Cinderella's shoe fit, why did one fall off?

The big girls giggled and chatted about their eye-opening experience for the rest of the evening.

And I - a grown-up girl trying to reclaim my lil' corner of the blog-o-sphere - thought about those words, too.

The urge to strike at the keyboard has been welling up inside of me once again.  Words and stories are spinning around in my head, and just like the gals in the lounge at the pub after a few drinks and a slice of pie, my thoughts need a place to rest. 

Maybe it's because of my dad's encouragement.  Maybe it's because I need an escape from my toddler chasing, preschool shuttling, laundry folding, 4H leading, sight word teaching, supper making, basketball coaching, 'how-to-tie your shoe' and 'don't forget your show and tell' life.  Maybe it's because other writers inspire me to craft my own words into the story of my life.

Whatever the reason....

the writing is on the wall.

It's time, once again, to hear from the Potted Goose.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Christmas Prayer

I put a prayer in my heart this Advent Season.  I don't every year - as we all should; but this year felt just right.  Even needed. 

Advent - much like Lent - invites us to change; but in a less grueling, more gentle way.  And it's a season I love.  Early winter, some snowfall, a cozy, decorated, twinkling home, the anticipation of the coming of baby Jesus.  I always wish Advent could last just a few more days.

And I could use a few more days to work on this prayer that's been in my heart: a prayer of forgiveness.

Less judging; more forgiving.  That's the spirit I'm trying to squeeze into my heart.

To say I need a few more days; is, well, to say I'll probably be working on this during Lent, too.

I want to be the kind of mom that judges less.  Less criticizing the way other moms and dads run their show.  The way they dress their kids, feed their kids, medicate their kids, schedule their kids.  Because in the end, I don't want their judgement on the way I dress, feed, medicate and schedule my own children.  I want their compassion.

I want to be the kind of wife that stops putting impossible expectations on my husband.  Less revenge seeking after his 14 hour deer hunting expedition on my birthday.  More looking for the ways he loves me on the other 364 days of the year.

I want to be the kind of sister, daughter, family member who will spend more time focusing on my own challenges; and less time talking about the challenges each member of my family faces.

I've already started this forgiveness thing by sending a little to Phil Robertson in Louisiana.  I know Phil's type - rough, course, outdoorsy, plain talkin'.  One might say I'm married to one.  Phil's words may be have been rough - but they were rooted in Truth, and they were Phils' words.  Phil doesn't have fancy words.  We love him in spite of that.  I love my husband in spite of that.

In the end - what Phil meant to say but didn't have a way to finesse - was that we're not the judge.  Our word is not the final word.  And who's to say my sins are lesser than yours?  God didn't rank the Ten Commandments in order from least to worst offensive.  He just gave us Ten - and said to pay attention.

As I squeeze the final presents under the tree, squeeze in an abundance of family and travel in too few days, squeeze a little more forgiveness into my hardened heart, my prayer is that you'll find a little room in your heart to forgive me for my grievances, too.