Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Party Girl 2015

It’s unlike me to be unprepared. 

Sure, it happens from time to time.  I forget to return papers to school here, key ingredients forgot at the store there.  I’m a list-maker; day planner; set an extra reminder on the iPhone kinda’ gal.  These lapses in preparedness leave me utterly frustrated.

So when I arrived at my parent’s house for a three day stay over Thanksgiving without a toothbrush, a clean bra, pajamas, or underwear – yet remembering absolutely every stinkin’ thing for every other member of my family, not to mention an extra batch of dinner rolls and a gallon of soup and dozens of eggs – you can only imagine my utter frustration.

Arriving on the eve of Thanksgiving, there wasn’t time to drive to the big city for my forgotten essentials.  I scavenged for an extra toothbrush, slept in some of Brent’s extra clothes, and washed my undies each morning. 

On Black Friday afternoon, my sister and I made a quick trip to the big city.  I had an errand to run at the mall; she said she had coupons for Victoria’s Secret.  Praise the Lord.

I headed straight to the back of the store, where they keep the plain, cotton panties.  I reached for the bottom drawer, way in the back, and pulled out five pair (because it’s always a better deal when you buy five; every girl knows that): two greys, a navy blue, a white and a beige.  I paused for a moment and thought about a red pair, challenging my inner Sarah Plain & Tall, but noticed there was some writing on the back side and quickly put down the red panties. 

We stopped at HyVee on the way home for Mucinex, a bottle of wine and peppermint mocha coffee creamer.  That’ll cure what ails ya.

Fast forward to early, dark early, Saturday morning.  I’m digging clothes out of my bag and getting dressed for a fun day in the even bigger city with my mom and sisters.  By the light of my iPhone, I pull out my clothes for the day.  The light of my phone caught something that shimmered.  Strange, I didn’t bring anything that’s shimmery.  I don’t even own anything that shimmers.

I tip toe downstairs to the bathroom to get dressed.  I reach for a clean, new pair of plain grey undies, and that something shimmery is staring right back at me.  In large, shimmery script letters across the rear-end side of the plain grey undies, is the phrase…

party girl 2015.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing.  I’m without words.  Wholly embarrassed.  Sensing the self-deprecating humor.

I tip toe to the kitchen to show Brent and Mom my shimmery undies.  They spewed coffee and peppermint mocha creamer across the kitchen table.  I tip toe back upstairs to find the actual plain grey undies.

I still have the party girl panties.  They’re in the back of my drawer, and serve as my emergency pair for the day the washing machine breaks down.  Which will inevitably happen on the same day I end up in the emergency room wearing the party girl panties much to the surprise of the local doctors.

You can bet I’ll never forget to pack my undies again.

So whether or nor we're prepared for what 2015 has to offer, when we find ourselves surprised by something shimmery and unexpected, just remember, it’ll make a great story.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dried Basil Gift Set

My herb garden overflowed with basil this summer.  And somewhere in the middle of harvesting all those fragrant leaves, a savory little idea struck.

I should dry all this basil, sew up some simple little muslin pouches, attach a pretty and tasty recipe, and sell these for Christmas.

And so I did.

The first product of the Potted Goose is now available to you.

Each pouch contains 1 tablespoon of basil straight from our garden - enough to make two batches of my favorite spaghetti sauce.  And once you make your own spaghetti sauce, you'll never buy a jar from the grocery store again.

Nothing against store bought spaghetti sauce.  But when your house fills with the savory aromas of tomatoes and herbs, you'll completely understand.

The recipes and attached basil pouches will make simple gifts for teachers, neighbors and friends.  Or, they'll stuff nicely in the stocking of your favorite mom, grandma, or anyone who has loved ones to feed.

Ready for delivery or shipping this week.  $5 each.  (Shipping available, and charges will vary.)

Contact me soon - only a limited quantity available.

Have a savory and saucy Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To everything there is a season

We were 200 miles into the 219 mile trip to our Thanksgiving destination.  I had seen a handful of Christmas lights strung on houses, far too many blow up snow-men in front yards, and listened to countless Black Friday ads on the radio. 

By the look and sound of things, we had skipped right over autumn and Thanksgiving and moved into Christmas.

And here I am, early on Thanksgiving morning, the coffee’s brewing and the turkey’s on its way to the oven, wondering why we hurry so much to the next season, while the joy of the current season is right under our nose.

I spent the better part of 10 years helping with a leadership program for college student called Changing Seasons.  I was blessed to work with a team of creative and talented people who developed the concepts behind this conference.

The essence of the leadership event was that each season of the year evokes an element of personal growth.  Rooted in the seasons of agriculture, these concepts easily play out in the lives of every one of us.

Winter is a season of preparation; spring a season of emergence; summer of growth; and fall of harvest.

Maybe it’s the season of life I’m in right now, maybe it’s the holidays; maybe it’s the cold that just won’t quit pestering me, but whatever it is, I feel myself holding fast to the current season, while change is coming at me faster than a Black Friday blow-out sale.

My little family is in an intense and extended season of growth.  The kids are outgrowing shoes and clothes daily.  They’re losing teeth; gaining vocabulary and social awareness; dribbling basketballs; writing in cursive; reading chapter books; Britta’s even insistent on putting on her own shoes and brushing her own teeth.  It’s a summer-time kinda fun - watching our little garden bloom and grow.

But on the horizon, the seasons are changing.  A time of preparation is nearing for this momma Goose.  Our extended season of growth will march on, blooming and surprising me every day.  But the day that all of my children spend all-day, every-day in school is coming at me just as fast as those Black Friday sales.  My mind wanders into a season of preparation often. 

I try my best not to hurry this current season along.  Even in the hurried, hectic moments when I’m rushing to prepare the next meal, helping with multiplication homework, consoling #3 who was just whopped by #2, and wiping up spilled milk, while Brent walks through the room, muttering, “16 more years, 16 more years.”

And so, for the balance of this Thanksgiving Day, my heart will be on savoring the season under my nose.  The kids are up now, the coffee pot is empty, it’s time to put together some breakfast, begin the final holiday meal preparations, get everyone dressed and keep 10 kids outta the kitchen so my mom, sisters and I can get this meal to the table in time.

My mind will surely wander to Christmas lists, decorations, party preparations, shopping the sales, and the next set of holiday travel plans.  Even while the most joyful moments are right under my nose.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A little longer...

Nell was so eager to start Kindergarten that the mere mention of the word school made her entire little body shake.

She bounced out the door that first day, eager and fearless.

So when the call came around lunch time on the fourth day of school that Nell had fallen from the playground equipment and likely broken her arm, I knew the time away from school would hurt her almost as much as the pain itself.

And while I was sad for her; frustrated at risky playground equipment; and unsure of how to care for her; I see those days now as a small gift of time to hold my baby girl a little longer.

Nell was the kind of toddler and preschooler that was fun to have around the house.

Another trip to the grocery store?  Smiling Nell preferred to sit in the back surrounded by the groceries.

Bathroom cleaning day?  She loved to scrub the toilets.

Dishes, dishes and more dishes?  It was her job to rinse.  And provide the musical entertainment.

Of course, there was cookie baking, sand-box playing, coloring and reading.  Her zest for life wasn't just for the fun stuff; she made the mundane a little brighter.

When she left for that first day of Kindergarten, I wasn't sad.  I was happy for that bouncy little girl. And thankful I had the chance to spend every day with her in preparation for life as a school-aged girl.

A broken arm just may have been God's way of giving my bouncy little girl and I a few more special days together.

A few days to cuddle, to paint her nails, to wash her hair in the kitchen sink, to carry her from room to room.  A few more days as a little girl close to her momma; one final reassurance that my bouncy little girl is ready to take flight as a school girl.

Broken arms are sometimes so much more than broken arms.  They're a chance to hold our babies just a little longer.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Clearing the air

Let's clear the air about a few things.

Phenomenal Fashion was not an attack on high school girls.

If you read my piece and believe that to be true, then I'm sorry.  No harm intended.


Did my piece say these girls lacked in accomplishments, athletic talent, musical abilities, character or compassion?  Absolutely not.

Did my piece say that today's clothing choices detract from all the good that young people represent?  Absolutely.

I used my experience as a mom of young girls in watching fashion trends to be analogous to what's happening across the country.  And across the country, teenage fashion blurs the line between stunning and sexy.  My preference is for teenage girls to look stunning.  Sexy (albeit unfortunate) belongs elsewhere.

I believe in challenging young people.  To study harder.  To stand in front of a room and exude confidence.  To practice harder for the next game.

I find it hard to believe I'm the first person to challenge young ladies to employ some modesty.

My approach is that of tough-love.  I expect much from my children.  And, in return, I strive to give them my best.  I'm just not into fostering a false sense of self-confidence.

And so, I'm just not into lauding young people when I know they're capable of more.

Back in "the day," my mom would have told me I had a good game no matter how lousy I played.  My dad wouldn't let me go to bed until we practiced how to seal a more effective box-out.

Young people need a dose of both: unconditional praise and a challenge to do even better the next time.

Every smart, beautiful, talented, compassionate teenage girl has the ability to stand-up to culturally accepted fashion standards and choose better.

And I'll remain steadfast in my challenge to be phenomenally fashionable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Phenomenal Fashion

I've been taking my girls to our community's promenade since they were little. The girls put on dresses and necklaces and clip-on earrings and faux feather boas, and we go see the fancy dresses. 

At the end of the night, we pick our favorites.  Pink dresses and full skirts always score well with the girls.  The blue and grey shades always catch my eye.

Lately, it seems, the hem lines have been getting shorter.  The backs more open.  The neck lines plunging deeper.  The high heels taller and taller.

And each year, we've noticed.  Since about Kindergarten, Noah has expertly used the word "inappropriate."  Nell fumbles over the syllables, but it will soon be part of her vocabulary, too.

We return each year, the girls hoping for something poufy and sparkly, and I, quietly watching in the back for that young lady who’s willing to take a stand against teenage fashion trends and don something elegant, classy, and sophisticated.  The girl who’s ahead of her time; who’s fearless in the face of pop culture.  The girl I want my little girls to grow up to become.

So when this year’s Homecoming candidates rode past us in the back of pick-up trucks during the parade, I was once again watching for that girl.

And I was disappointed.

When I see Homecoming candidates, I see girls on the verge of becoming young women.  I see girls who represent years of hard work and achievements.  Girls standing up for our school; our community; our churches. 

But when their arms reach longer than their hem lines; when their back is fully exposed on a chilly October evening; when their skirt inches higher as they walk, it’s so very hard to see those accomplishments; so hard to see a role model for my little girls when they’re wrapped in barely enough fabric.

Fashion isn’t the absolute definition of a person.  But that old saying…

…what you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say…

…seems to apply here.

What you choose to wear can convey messages that are positive and driven and accomplished.  The right dress has the power to say, “I’m proud of who I am.  I’m proud of my school and my community.   I’ve worked hard to be standing here today.  And I will represent you well going forward.” 

Finding that dress is not so easy.  And especially not easy on a week’s notice in the midst of a busy senior girl’s schedule.  And even worse when you’re a tall girl with an athletic build searching for a dress in the juniors department.  (I am that tall girl with an athletic build.)

But it’s possible.

Thanks to my much more fashionable mom and sisters (and to watching dozens of What Not to Wear episodes while taking care of my baby girls), I know how to find clothes that fit, that are fashionable, and that express who I am.  I have learned how to choose clothes that flatter the good parts, and to hide the not so good parts.  And thanks to the internet, I don’t have to go far to find them.

Loft, Anthropologie, J Crew, Old Navy, Gap, Boden---are some of my favorite places to shop.  I look for sales.  Or, I find inspiration and recreate with pieces I can find at Target or Wal-Mart that suit my budget.

These clothing lines offer classic pieces that have staying power in my wardrobe, and offer plenty of modern fashion for even the most stylish among us.

I have warned Brent since the girls were little: we will drive farther and spend more money to find clothes that the girls and I can agree on in terms of fashion and sensibility.

He gets it.

But our influence will wane as the girls grow up.  They’ll be looking to pop culture, to the girls at promenade, to the Homecoming candidates for their influence.

So I’m asking you now: be a fashion leader, not a fashion follower.  Let your fashion sense show us the smart, independent, driven, compassionate girl you are.  Choose elegance.  Sophistication.  Stand up to the lesser standards and be something phenomenal.

Because my little girls are watching…and they wanna be just like you. 

(Here's a few homecoming alternatives I adore...)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A good thing

I was a first generation 4-H’er.

My parents grew up in the north-end of working-town St. Joseph, Missouri.  My dad was a jock.  He played competitive sports year-round, and spent his free time rounding up the neighborhood boys for a few innings on the sandlot.  Weekends were spent on his grandparent’s farm in Kansas.  4-H simply wasn’t on his radar. 

My mom, eager to escape a childhood riddled with painful memories, found security and stability in my dad.  She wanted her own family, her own home.  She wanted her turn at building a lifetime of happy memories.  4-H wasn’t on her radar, either.

They married at 19.  My dad finished up college, wrapped up a college sports career, and five short years later, bought a farm and moved his wife and three – soon to be four – babes to an 80 acre paradise in northeast Kansas.

4-H was suddenly on their radar.  A wholesome, fun, family-oriented experience perfect for a new-to-the-farm family.

I joined the Circle B 4-H Club.  We bought a pen full of market hogs and picked up a Hereford bucket calf at the Atchison Sale Barn.  I sewed a calico-print skirt with help from my Grandma, and made cookies and a craft project with my momma. 

The summer of 1988 marked our first Doniphan County Fair. 

This summer, while standing in the barn of the Ellsworth County Fair – looking over Noah and Tucker’s bucket calves – my Dad reminded me of why 4-H was just the right fit for our family.

On a sweltering evening at the market hog show, late July 1988, the competition was heating up in the swine showmanship class.  At eight-years-old, I was oblivious to it all, trying to keep track of a fast-moving hog and wiping the sweat from my brow with a bristle brush intended for my pig.  (Actually, I think my brother did that, but it adds a nice touch, doesn’t it?)  The oldest daughter of a more-seasoned 4-H family and member of our club, was a show-woman to be reckoned with.  She was in the running for Grand Champion, but when the judge passed her up and gave the nod to another showman, her mom threw a camera across the bleachers in disgust at the judge’s decision.

While the crowd looked on in disbelief, my dad stood under the eaves of the hog barn, smiled and thought to himself, “This 4-H thing is gonna be good.”

We went on to enjoy about 15 more summers of wholesome, fun, family-oriented county fairs.  And 15 summers of heated competition in the show ring.  There are boxes of trophies and ribbons filling closets at my parent’s house.  And enough wonderful memories and treasured friendships for us to cherish forever. 

The Circle B 4-H club boasted 40-plus members at its peak in the mid 90’s.  We had solid exhibitors and competitors in nearly every project.  We vied for the herdsmanship award every summer under the watchful eye of our club leaders.  By the time my youngest sister, Molly, was in high school, there just weren’t enough kids left to keep the club going.  Last fall – ten years later – my brother, and a number of the kids who were a part of the better days of Circle B, reinstated the club.

Our kids are now 4th generation Kansas 4-H’ers; thanks to a long 4-H legacy in the Goss and Dechant families participating in the Finney County 4-H Fair.  As members of the Elkhorn 4-H Club – they're part of a group of hard-working, no frills kids who can have as much fun at a big city water park as they can in a barn.  And a group of kids who pay attention to the youngest among them – this momma of young un’s loves that.

This 4-H thing is good for our family for reasons no different than the reasons my dad discovered many summers ago in that hog barn.  It brings our family together through meaningful work.  It allows our children to channel their interests and passions.  It provides opportunities to lead; and to work as a team.  And it puts our children into a nurturing, yet competitive, environment.  Because after all, the world doesn’t give everyone a ribbon for just showing up.

I sometimes wonder if we’ve pushed our family into a 4-H and farm lifestyle because that’s where Brent and I are most comfortable.  But when I see Noah blossoming in the show ring, Tucker tackling chores with a very grown-up sense of responsibility, Nell whispering to the chickens, and Britta hungry to just keep up with her siblings, my mind rests.  The Goss and 4-H just go together.

Brent's dad, Larry, in 1964.  Obviously.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bridging the Gap

Every year in early summer, upwards of 10,000 women descend upon the Overland Park Convention Center to attend the Just for Her Expo.  They come with their moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, neighbors, and best gal pals for a few hours of girl time.

They come to shop for purses, boutique clothing, house cleaning gadgets and luxurious bathrooms renovations.  They come to sample chocolates and wine.  They come to listen to live music.  They come for mini spa treatments.

It’s everything a girl could ask for.  It’s everything this farm girl loves to escape to the big city for.

This year marked my first trip to Just for Her.  And instead of shopping and massages, I was parked behind a booth, alongside another Central Kansas farm gal, volunteering for a farm women’s advocacy group called Common Ground.  And we were charged with the task of doing just that – striking common ground between farm girls and our suburban counterparts.

The goal was to engage in conversations about food.  The draw was bold questions printed across the booth’s backdrop: Have questions about where your food comes from?  Concerned about hormones in your food?  What’s all the worry about GMO’s?  The giveaways included a flexible cutting board and a notepad for grocery lists.  The results were, err, well, interesting.

I thought GMO’s were a bug.

I buy raw goat’s milk for my family from a farmer near Kansas City.

I’m worried about losing the family farm.

I just started juicing.

There aren’t hormones in poultry?  Really?

I remember visiting my grandparent’s farm, but I don’t think my teenage son has ever seen a farm.

I don’t like that they give all the animals antibiotics.

So, you’re saying organic production uses products to control weeds and pests, too?

I don’t have a vegetable garden.

Do you work for Monsanto? (Followed by an over-exaggerated wink.)

I began each conversation the same way: “I’m volunteering on behalf of Kansas farm women, and we’re here to provide information about your food from its source.”  Where the conversations went from there was not always what I expected.

Beyond cute purses and wine tasting, there simply wasn’t much common ground.  The gap between Central Kansas farm women and Johnson County women is much greater than the 208 miles between us. 

Sure, there were some positive conversations.  I made contact with an eager young gal who writes a newsletter for KC Metro moms.  She said she’d love to have articles about food contributed from Common Ground.  Another go-getter ran a women’s executive club, and we chatted about exchanging business leadership training for education about food production.

But the vast majority of conversations were riddled with misinformation and rampant with fear.  Some wanted to listen and were eager to learn more; others ruffled their feathers and moved on.

In each short encounter, I did my best to leave the conversation with this, “No matter where you fall on the food purchasing spectrum – from local and organic to modern and conventional – it’s important you get the information about your food from the farmer.”  Then, I handed them a flexible cutting board and flashed my most sincere, Kansas farm girl smile.

Bridging the information gap between producers and consumers is a marathon – not a sprint.  It doesn’t happen quickly.  And the road to the finish will take us to places farmers have never been before – the halls of an Overland Park Convention Center, the pages of an urban mom publication, the offices of suburban executive women. 

Common Ground and it’s supporters – the Kansas Soybean Commission and the Kansas Corn Commission – get it.  They understand that one conversation at a time, we can reconnect consumers with the faces behind their food.   And if that means meeting suburban consumers on their turf – in the shopping and dining mecca of our state – twist my arm, I’ll be there.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On repeat

It was 8:11am on Holy Saturday.  We were headed southwest in Brent's farm truck.  A 13 year old, ruddy-orange, extended cab Chevy pick-up with rusty fenders and 128,753 miles of memories.

The extended cab was full.  Six family members equals two booster seats, a toddler chair, an eight-year-old squeezed between mom and dad and their coffee mugs and smart phones, and a homemade livestock crate strapped down in the back.

Our destination was Garden City - birthplace and hometown of my true love. 165 miles to get there.  And home again.   (384 miles from my own hometown, by the way.  Love knows no boundaries.)

Our goal was to return with a 4H pig in that crate.  And, to make the most of a quick trip, have an Easter lunch with Brent's family - pork burgers, baked beans and all the fixins at the farm, arrange an Easter egg hunt for the kids and their cousins, and swing thru Target for a pair of nice sandals for the next day's Mass.

About 30 miles down the road, Brent inquired about the goings-on of my Dad and his farm.

"I'm not sure what he's up to today.  Let's call him and see."

My smart phone tracked him down 249 miles in the opposite direction.  He was headed out the door to check cows and work on his planter.  I gave him a full update on our adventure.  He laughed out loud as he envisioned the sight of us heading down the highway.

"All you really need to complete the look," he said, "are a few old tires and an opened bag of feed in the back and a round of slur-pees for all the kids."  He could barely get the word slur-pee out before the hilarity of his creativity consumed him. 

It's only so hilarious because he's been there.  The only difference - I was the eight-year-old riding shotgun, my seven-year-old brother beside me, stock-racks in the back of a '79 Chevy pick-up hauling our 4H pigs to town for the county fair.  My mom and younger sisters had to stay behind.  No extended cab pick-up.  And no smart phones to text them we'd stopped for an ice cream cone and would be home a little late.

So many moments of my adult life are repeating the days of my childhood.

Finishing up chores with just enough daylight to get in some batting practice.  Been there.

Getting by on used equipment and hand-me-down supplies.  Done that.

Taking a small farm in need of lots of attention and slowly working into something to be proud of.  Doin' it tomorrow.  (And the next day, and the next day...)

These deja-vu moments are frequent.

When I set out to make my own path, I certainly didn't expect to end up on the same road as my parents.  Sure, I shared my dad's love for the farm and my mom's passion for family.  Yet, the merger of two has yielded more nostalgia than I ever expected.

I read once that the goal of Generation X (Brent and I) is to reach the same standard of living as achieved by their Baby Boomer parents.  I'd say we're slowly, but surely, on our way.

By early evening on Holy Saturday, we were headed Northeast.  Two - not just one - pigs in the homemade crate.  Four tired and dirty kids with bags of Easter goodies stashed beneath the seats.  A pair of sandals for church.  About a dozen bags of groceries crammed in front of the pig crate for the next day's Easter dinner.  And two parents who, on most days, feel like staying one step ahead of this crazy life is all they'll ever accomplish.

And we'll be doin' it again tomorrow.

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.