Jan 25, 2010

Saddle up to San Antonio!

Tomorrow morning, I will leave my home at the crack of dawn. Actually, before the crack of dawn. I’m talking about the REAL crack of dawn here, not the Laura-version-of-anything-before-double-digits-kind of crack of dawn. And I am ecstatic about it.

Why, you ask? Because I’ll be boarding a 7 a.m. flight for San Antonio to attend the 2010 Cattle Industry Convention!

The Cattle Industry Convention is to conferences what the glorious Cheyenne Frontier Days is to western celebrations – the daddy of em’ all. It’s a week full of education, sharing, meetings, entertainment and camaraderie for cattlemen across the nation. And it’s epically fun.

Five years ago, I attended my first NCBA convention as a National Beef Ambassador. It was an incredible eye-opening experience for a first-time-convention-goer who was just getting my foot in the door of the beef industry. It was, without a doubt, the experience that made up my mind – I would forever work in the beef industry. Preferably in a job that would take me back to NCBA Convention and other gatherings of the like.

Two years ago, I went as an NCBA intern – it was an amazing experience, professionally and personally. I worked with a group of wonderful friends who I still love dearly. I also made a connection with the folks at the Certified Angus Beef trade show booth. They told me to apply for an internship with them. I did. After my internship, they told me to apply for a full time job. I did. Now they are sending me back to NCBA convention as their employee – I can’t wait!

It will be a busy week – the kind where you run on absolutely ZERO sleep and thrive on it. Meetings start at 7 a.m., end at 9 p.m., then re-convene during social hours that usually last late into the night. My head will likely be exploding with information, and I will do my best to let some of it overflow here!

Jan 23, 2010

Farm girls are meant to be naturally fit

Girls who make their living in the country are often blessed with natural fitness. They spend all day outside doing chores, checking livestock, building, fixing, tinkering, feeding, moving, stacking, digging, sorting, etc. Or, if they are "inside" country women, they spend their days scrubbing, fixing, feeding (humans), weeding, mowing, painting, folding, washing... you know what I mean. Women in the country don't need gym memberships to be fit and fabulous. It comes naturally.

Women who live in town and work office jobs go to the gym. They know where walking trails are in town, go for runs in the park, ride bikes on paved sidewalks or take workout classes with their girlfriends. They understand yoga and Pilates and find “inner peace” after a hard workout. Some country girls are suited for these things, too.

I am not one of them.

I am clumsy, awkward, unbalanced and don't have a lot of rhythm. That pretty much limits me to walking and jogging in big, open spaces with minimal spectators to fulfill my fitness goals. But it’s cold out. And I get bored easily.

So this morning, I attended my second session of ZUMBA! at the YMCA. Without even knowing what it is, you can pretty well guess a name like that is going to make a clumsy country girl look stupid. Take a gander at what goes on in ZUMBA!:

I look like none of these women. I move like none of these women. And I certainly don’t smile and look seductive while sweating like these women. This is not my kind of fitness.

But it is fun. And I’m getting the hang of it. I flail my arms around and move my feet as fast as I can, usually in no correlation to what the instructor is doing. I haven’t fallen down yet. And the hour-long session seems to go by in no time.

I’m sticking with it, but only under one condition: my friends are NEVER to let me think that I am actually good at ZUMBA!. I know that someday, in a flash of classic-Laura-awesomeness, thinking I am an advanced ZUMBA! student will inevitably lead to showcasing my ZUMBA! skills in public, probably on a dance floor somewhere.

Nobody wants that. Trust me.

Jan 20, 2010

Props to my new home state

I've always been told a good writer is a good reader. That is a fact. So, I spend a lot of time reading. Reading for my job, reading for my entertainment, reading to pass the time and reading for research. If I were to re-hash my life pie chart, I would in all actuality give at least 60 percent of my time to reading.

When I was a little kid, I trained my stomach to be OK with reading on the hour-long rickety bus ride to school. Sometimes I read during recess (You should see pictures of me when I was little... you would understand). I can remember riding in the back of my dad's pickup during the summer months, reading while my older brother and sister fixed fence. They loved that.

You're getting the picture, right? My point is -- I spend a lot of time reading very interesting things that I think you should read, too. From time to time, I will take a break from writing here and let you make your own judgments on some of my favorite reading subjects, namely topics surrounding the beef industry.

One of my favorite things to read each day is the BeefDaily blog. Amanda Nolz is the editor, and she does an outstanding job of picking up three-four interesting beef industry news tidbits to share with her followers.
The headliner for her blog today was "Farm Bureau Discusses Ohio’s Stand Against HSUS." The people of the state of Ohio did a great thing when they passed The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board last November. What they did and how they did it makes me proud to now call Ohio my home state (or at least the stateI now reside).

Folks took a stand against the Humane Society of the United States. Ohioans made it clear the HSUS was NOT who they thought deserved to make decisions and influence opinions on livestock husbandry. Right on, Buckeyes!

Read Amanda's blog to learn more: http://blog.beefmagazine.com/beef_daily/2010/01/20/farm-bureau-discusses-ohios-stand-against-hsus/. I also highly recommend subscribing to receive BeefDaily's e-mail updates. It is truly a great resource!

Jan 19, 2010

I had a very interesting, educational post planned tonight, but....

I'm a terrible driver. Well, not a terrible driver. I'm actually a very good driver when I'm paying attention. But I have been known to be a bit absent minded. My attention strays sometimes. Today was one of those days. As I was driving to the public library tonight, I pulled up to a stop sign behind a gigantic tow truck.

I was fairly lost -- I live in what is quite possibly the most impossible town to navigate on EARTH. A coffee shop that I had never noticed in this part of town caught my eye. I apparently turned my head so far around looking at it that my right leg jumped right off the brake.

"EEREREEEERRR!!!" *imagine the noise made by Harry in Dumb and Dumber when he asks, "Hey Lloyd, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?*

Yup, that's what it sounds like when your car slides under the hind hydraulic lift of a tow truck. Goldie's nose slid right under that big fat truck, leaving her pretty paint and Dodge decal with it.

Epic fail.

Tow truck man slowly gets out of his truck.

"Did you just hit me?" The man was seriously bewildered. Like, who hits an enormous tow truck? You really accidentally just 'didn't see' several tons of metal on wheels in front of you?

Yes, sir, I saw your tow truck. I just didn't know you had the big stupid metal thing hanging out a foot behind you! Or that I was that close to hitting it when I started gawking at the coffee shop.

He got back in his truck and turned on his lights. And by lights, I don't mean headlights. I mean his cop-like siren-lights to signal to all those passing by I was a raging idiot who managed to hit a tow truck. Then he called his buddy, who was also driving a tow truck. He pulled up behind me and turned his lights on, too. Then another friend came by and stopped for a cigarette. No kidding. I wanted to DIE.

None of them even tried to laugh at the pathetic jokes I was telling to make myself feel better. Then Mr. Tow Truck driver called pretty much EVERYONE in his phone book to say:

“Hey, I just got hit. I’ll be a little late...

“Ya, I just got rear-ended. Yes, rear-ended by some car. No really, some girl just ran into my truck, man. Ya, hit it.

"No man, my truck’s just fine. Ya, I’m right on the corner of XXX and XXX (if I had known the street names, I would have just looked the dang coffee shop up later). Yes, I’m in my tow truck. She RAN INTO THE TOW TRUCK.”

Ok, he only had that conversation twice. But a shake is still salt on an open wound – it need not be poured in mass amounts to hurt.

Anyway, while the three tow truck men smoked cigarettes and pretended like I wasn’t trying to make pleasant conversation to ease my mind, the cop finally showed up. We didn’t need to file an accident report – as tow truck man said, we all agreed it was my fault and his truck was just fine.

We exchanged information anyway, just in case (in case of what, I don’t know…). I handed him my business card. He looked at me, again bewildered. ‘How does a girl stupid enough to run into the back of a tow truck get a job important enough to have a business card?’ He didn’t have to say it. I knew. Whatever.

I finally got out of there. Relieved the experience was over, angry at myself for being so careless, thankful it was just a minor little accident with nothing but cosmetic damage to Goldie. I was calm, the situation was under control. It was nothing to ruin my day.

Then I still couldn’t find the library. I drove in three circles, passing the scene of the crime twice more. I’ve been to the library several times and know exactly where it is. They apparently moved the blessed thing just to make me mad.

THAT is when I started bawling like a baby. Then I passed the cop who had came to the accident. Conveniently, we passed right under a street light so he could see the floods of tears pouring down my face. I’m sure he thought I was awesome, too.

I finally found the library. Right where it was the last time I gleefully left it with my arms filled with books. There was no glee this time. I got here five minutes before closing time.

So here I sit, in a dark library parking lot to use their wi-fi, feeling like a complete creep – even more of a creep than when I went to Bob Evans to eat by myself and use their free wi-fi.

Moral of the story: I have got to choke up the money to get my own Internet service.

Jan 17, 2010

A man named Kate

Yesterday was a day of planning. I literally lied awake last night for hours, thinking of all the new experiences and adventures I wanted to get into after setting this lofty goal of trying something new each week.

Today was a day for action. And I already knew the first "new" thing I needed to do.

My grandma called me early last week to see how the move had gone. I tried really hard to paint a happy picture for her... I do like my new home. I love that I have three times as much space as my old place. I love the new bathroom decorations I bought (more on that later) and my new office is full of great people.

All those things being true, I was still a little down in the dumps, feeling lonely and sorry for myself (baby). Being the smartest person in the world and all, grandma knew that. First, she told me I needed more hobbies (I know). Second, she asked if I had found a church to go to yet. I said no.

"Well, you better do that," she says. "That's the best family you can have when you're this far from home -- a church family." She's so dang smart.

So this morning I googled a few local churches. I picked one that fit my leisurely morning pace (10:30 a.m. worship) and reminded me most of my rural church at home. I found this place:

Oak Chapel United Methodist Church.

It's just a couple miles outside of town. It's small and cozy and lists people's birthdays and anniversaries in the church bulletin. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

Most importantly, it was filled with wonderful, kind, sweet people. I recognized two ladies from my office behind the organ and piano, playing beautiful music before the service started.

I had barely sat down before a very elegant-looking older woman came and squished into my pew next to me.

By the way -- I pretty much think all older ladies look elegant. There is something about perfectly pinned silver hair and age-worn hands with a traditional, gold wedding band that elicits perfect elegance in my mind. But this one was particularly elegant in my mind.

"I don't think I've ever seen you here before."

"Well, that's because I never have been here before..."

"Oh good! We just LOVE visitors!"

I knew I would love this place. Joanne introduced herself and got the run-down on my life in about two minutes. During the "joys and concerns" part of the service, she introduced me to the congregation. I blushed. Pastor Paul (who I would meet later) announced a pot luck lunch would be held after the service. From two rows behind me, Joanna managed to tap me on the shoulder.

"You'll come to lunch with us, won't you? Yes, you had better come to lunch."

How could I say no? Which leads me to the title of this blog -- a man named Kate. Kate is Joanne's husband. After the service (which I loved), a slow procession of sweet older couples took their turns introducing themselves and welcoming me to the church. Also much like my home congregation, my attendance brought the average age down by about 50 years. I love that.

Kate waited patiently in the pew behind me until I had said my hello's to all the kind people who wanted to meet the "new girl."

"Hi, I'm Kate. I know it doesn't sound like a manly name, but it's what I've got. I belong to that one over there," he points to Joanne. "She said you were from Wyoming."

"Yes, I am." He looks at my red high heels with bows on the heel.

"Well, why aren't you wearing boots, young lady? Those little shoes surely didn't get you very far in Wyoming, did they?"

"No, they didn't. but I'm not in Wyoming anymore, so I thought I should wear something more appropraite."

"Well if boots are what you like to wear, I think that's what you ought to wear next Sunday." He winks. An old man's wink is like an old lady's perfect hair to me -- an instant charm. "Now tell me about your horses. Surely you've got horses, right?"

I loved Kate. He’s a wonderful, kind, unassuming person – his wife, too.

So maybe life is different here than it is “back home.” But today re-assured me that people don’t have to be from where you grew up to make you feel like you’re at home.

Jan 16, 2010

Something to fill the gaps...

I always say I need a hobby.

Ever since I graduated college last May, I've felt like there is an awful lot of extra "space" in my life. Certainly not literal space, since I am the world's worse pack-rat. But "space," as in, if my life were a pie chart, there would be a big section of "work," then a healthy slice of "talk on the phone to friends from home," a sliver of "Netflix," a VERY small morsel of "social interaction" (when my co-workers hang out with me or friends from home visit), and then a great big chunk that seems empty, save sitting on the couch with Stones.

I attribute that big empty spot in my pie chart to moving. After graduating college, I moved to Manhattan, Kansas for my job. Six months later, I moved to Ohio for my job. Needless to say, I've been a bit unsettled lately. I spend a lot of time in my pajamas, wandering around my house, wasting time until the next day comes around. This is not like me at all. And I don't think it's healthy.

So, I'm out to find a hobby. I think "hobby" is probably not the proper descriptor for what I'm looking for, but it's all I can think of. I need a fulfiller. An activity that inspires me. Something that does not pertain directly to my job. Something that makes me change out of my pajamas on the weekends.

I need to be held accountable for giving finding that "something" an honest attempt. Hence the blog. Surely there are cyber-police out there who will call me out if I do not follow up on something I told the cyber world I would do, right? Right.

So, this is what the cyber police of blogging shall keep me accountable for: Each week of this new year, I will force myself to experience or try something new. I have a horrible habit of hating things that are "new." (With the exception of new merchandise, of course, which is something I'm also suppose to be cutting back on.) I like to stay in my house, in my pajamas, with my cat. That's easy. Moving to a new place a thousand miles from home is hard. Making new friends in a new place is even harder. Finding things that I enjoy and that fulfill me in a new place is nearly impossible.

So, I'll trail through all the things I know I love -- as described in the oh-so-thoughtful "about me" section -- and some things I don't know about until I find the perfect combination of new and old loves that will complete my "life pie chart." You can come. It will be fun. And hopefully, at the end, there will be real pie. Lots of it.