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.