May this Holiday Season fill you with joy!
The impact we have on others, whether through a brief chat in a checkout line, or serving on a committee together is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately.
This past summer, I took the opportunity to participate in some Life Coaching. I’m approaching a milestone birthday at a rapid pace, and I want to go into this next decade feeling better about life than I did when I entered the current decade.
A couple of things really stood out to me when I looked at the results of the various assessments I took. Leadership is a pretty strong theme. Along with leadership, the threads of communication, empathy, fun, extroversion, harmony, and passion (to name a few) helped me to see how uniquely I am made. They have also been a source of contemplation…how can I use this information to be the best me?
Following my coaching sessions, I have focused on the impact that I have had on others…good and bad. As part of the leadership focus, I have also been observing the behavior of others as mental note taking on how actions directly affect those we encounter every day. I have witnessed some pretty awesome encounters in the checkout lines at Walmart, where people have been kind to strangers, and patient when the process is taking a bit. There have also been some pretty negative experiences where I wonder why I am volunteering for certain groups, or why I try to share my farm story online.
This leaves me with the question: What kind of an impact are you leaving on others? Are you making sure that those you encounter leave with a positive impression of you…or are you making sure you win the argument at all costs? With all of the division, hatred, and violence in the world today, my challenge to you is to make sure you are leaving a positive impact on those you encounter every day. Doesn’t matter if it is in person, or online. You don’t have to agree with everything a person does or stands for to have a positive impact. If nothing else, be kind. Always.
The way each of us sparkle and shine in the world is different, just as each firework in a show is different.
In the age of social media, it’s tempting to try being like those who are more “liked” or to “go viral”. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it dulls your sparkle.
It’s okay to be different, to have different opinions, to use your gifts in a unique way. That’s what brings joy to life. Those that tell you that you need to act like them, or agree with them are just dulling your sparkle.
Be bold. Be you.
This past week, World MS Day was observed. It is a day when many countries send out information via various platforms to help raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis, as well as helping the general public to understand what MS is.
Our oldest daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with MS at age 13. When many girls at school were worried about their middle school homecoming outfits, Anna was having MRIs, spinal taps, and numerous blood draws. Her MS was very aggressive, as it is for many of the children diagnosed with this disease. That meant we needed to spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices, outpatient infusion centers where she received steroid treatments to calm her relapses, and had to make modifications on some activities at home. She took a lot of our time and attention, which meant her two sisters felt a little left out at times.
A few years later, Jonathan was also diagnosed with MS. We haven’t spent as much time in doctor’s offices as we did with Anna, but his disease has caused a change in the way we live at times.
It wasn’t until Laura, our youngest, was in a college psychology class and wrote a paper about shadow children that I realized the affect that chronic illness has on the rest of the family. I believe that sometimes, when you are living it, it is more difficult to see the changes in the “healthy” family members. We didn’t intentionally pay more attention to Anna, and we didn’t mean to make them feel as if their issues weren’t important…but yet, that is what they have sort of felt. Both Christina and Laura have assured me that they don’t hate me (whew!), and now when they are older they understand that living in the shadow of a disease wasn’t something we wished for them.
One thing that I have learned from Laura is to value the time spent with your family members. I love spending intentional time together with each of my kids, where we can have fun, be serious, laugh, or cry together. While we can’t change the past, hopefully others can learn from our experience.
Check in with the family members of those living with a chronic disease. Ask how they are doing. Grab a cup of coffee, or go for a walk…something that is normal and mundane may be exactly what they need. Just don’t forget about them.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head to Washington DC for a few days of Farm Bureau meetings, and a day on Capitol Hill. I love when we are able to visit our elected officials. I have learned so much about leadership, and how to work with those you may not agree with politically.
One of the things that has been repeated with every visit, is the importance of building a relationship with the Legislative Assistants. When I see Senator Amy Klobuchar’s LA, Brian Werner, I try to get a selfie or a photo with him if his day is not crazy busy. He is a native of my county, a connection that has led to a recognition when we see each other either in DC, or when he is traveling to Minnesota for his job. In the photo above, I was able to greet him at a hearing about the Farm Bill in his home town.
While we were waiting for our meeting with Senator Klobuchar, we had the chance to ask questions of her office staff. They were busy answering phones, and reading the emails that were coming in. They explained the process of sorting emails to the appropriate file (not the deleted folder), and how every call is logged. Even with the volume of calls they receive, the two staffers were very friendly on the phone. Ever feel like calling up your senator or representative and ripping them a new one? Don’t. The people on the other end of the line are human, and they don’t like being yelled at any more than you do. Ripping someone a new one is also a poor reflection on you or the organization you represent. The Golden Rule applies to congressional staffers, and our elected officials.
Sometimes schedules are so crazy that we cannot meet with our Congressmen or Senators. Having the ability to sit down with their LA’s is a good thing. They are the ones who will research, document, and make recommendations to their boss about whatever it is that you are wanting them to work on. Drop them a business card on your way out of the meeting, and follow up with a thank you email as soon as you are able. I’m still working on mine from two weeks ago, but I will get them done!
I’m thankful that we have talented, smart, and energetic individuals who are working as our Legislative Assistants. Whether they are working for a boss in DC, or your home state…in the office on the Hill, or in a field office, we need to treat them all with a bit of kindness, and show them a little appreciation now and then.
We have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for each new day, for the comfort of home, for my health, for my family, and for my friends.
Sometimes it may be difficult to see the good in a day, or to see the blessings in your life. We get so focused on the things we long for, that we can’t see what it is we have.
We have been given a new day. How can I do my best with it?
We have a place to call home. What can I do to make it warm and welcoming?
We have food on the table. Who can I break bread with?
We have friends and family who love us. How do I treat those around me?
This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.
If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.
I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.
After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.
I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.
This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)
My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship. It’s good to be home.
On September 1st, I became a Grandma! Lydia Ruth was born to our daughter and son-in-law in Kentucky.
The plan was for me to head from Minnesota to Kentucky when Anna was in labor, so I could arrive right before she would be discharged from the hospital. With Anna’s Multiple Sclerosis being rather aggressive, there was worry she might have a relapse soon after she delivered. I was happy to be asked to help out, and drove to Kentucky when we were sure Anna was in labor. I was pretty excited to see the little bundle that made me a grandma which made the drive seem a lot longer than it actually is!
The first week home with a new baby is always a little stressful, especially for new parents. I am so proud of Doug and Anna, and how they have supported each other through that transition. Anna was readmitted to the hospital to be treated for an infection and possible MS relapse after being home for 10 days. Doug and Lydia spent as much time with Anna as they could for the 2 1/2 days that she was there being treated for her infection. That time spent together just focusing on each other was so beneficial…even if the situation wasn’t what they wanted.
When Anna returned home from the hospital, Lydia’s other grandma was here. The plan was for me to return home when Doug’s mom arrived, but because Anna is still weak I’m staying a few days longer so I can be mom more than grandma. I’m so thankful that I can be here to help the kids out!
There’s something pretty cool about watching your kids go from infancy to toddler stage…kindergarten to graduation…college to jobs…and now on to parenthood. Watching how nervous both Doug and Anna were when holding Lydia shortly after delivery to seeing how comfortable they are holding, changing, feeding, and recognizing her needs based on grunts and cries has been so awesome to witness.
And this whole grandma thing? I’m loving it so far!