Friday, March 29, 2013

Camera Tricks

By Stan Reimer, Pratt
Our wedding album is usually stuffed in an old pie cabinet that Randy refinished long ago. It's buried under old cards and old photos. (Yes, it's yet another thing I should clean out.) But yesterday, on our 32nd wedding anniversary, I got our album out once again.

I was struck by the photo of Christ super-imposed over the photo from our wedding ceremony. I've seen it dozens of times before. But, during this Holy Week, it seemed even more significant. In 1981, at the time of our wedding, the photo was pretty innovative. It combined that familiar image of Christ knocking at the door and we two Kansas farm kids joining our hearts and families into one.

But when I was selecting the images that I wanted our photographer, Stan Reimer, to include, it was one that was important to me. To me, it represented Christ being at the center of our lives and our marriage. 
By Stan Reimer, Pratt
Today is Good Friday. Detractors may want to say that the Crucifixion and Resurrection were the ancient equivalent of camera tricks.

Good Friday seems to be anything but good. But if we get through the darkness of the Crucifixion, there is hope.

During this Lenten season, Pastor Amy has been preaching about "The Way, Walking in the Footsteps of Christ." I have been reading the book by the same name by Rev. Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, as well as his Lenten devotional book. He says:
When I look at the cross, I also see a mirror held up to our souls. Each of us hears the whisper of the serpent and at times succumbs. The story of the cross is our story. ... Something in us is broken. ... When I look at the cross, it reminds me of all the things inside myself that I don't like to admit are there, all the ways I've betrayed and denied Christ or hurt other people, all that is in need of redemption and grace. The cross leads me to gratitude and awe. ... I want to walk in His footsteps. I want to live as a citizen of His kingdom. I want to love as He loved."
Rev. Adam Hamilton in The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Christ
When Jill and Eric lived in Omaha, we visited the Holy Family Shrine a couple of different times. If I lived near there, I think I would visit there often, even though I'm not Catholic. It was beautiful. I took the photo above there and later added the text.

On that May 2010 visit, I also took this photo in the gardens there. It reminded me of this Bible verse:

Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."
 Isaiah 1:18
During this solemn day of Good Friday, I still look forward to the promise of Resurrection that we will celebrate on Easter Sunday.
If you're in the Stafford area, you are cordially invited to the Stafford Ministerial Alliance's Good Friday service. It will be at our church, Stafford United Methodist, at 7 PM this evening, March 29. It will feature the cantata by the choir, "Behold the Darkness," and will include candlelight litany by Stafford community pastors. Please join us!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fore Better Or Fore Worse

"For better or for worse."

That's what I promised 32 years ago today at the Pratt United Methodist Church in front of a church full of family and friends who had weathered a torrential rainstorm to be there.
Photo by Stan Reimer, Pratt
I didn't realize at the time that I was also promising "fore" better and "fore" worse. When it comes to golf, Randy is the better, and I am definitely the worse.

A little more than eight years ago, Randy decided he wanted to try golf. Shortly thereafter, he bought a used set of left-handed women's clubs for me.

He's on his second set of clubs. I am not. And I will not.

But, when you think about it, golf and marriage aren't so far apart. It takes a lot of patience, time and commitment to get better at golf ... and at marriage. I guess the difference for me is that I'm willing to invest the time in my marriage. It's why I tagged along in the golf cart March 16, when Randy was finally able to golf again. He broke his right wrist after a run-in with a bull in September, then he had back surgery in November. In mid-March, he was cleared to play golf, and the weather was tolerable.
His inaugural golf swing after a 6-month hiatus
So, I was there when he swung the golf club for the first time in months. He's not sure whether I went with him to celebrate - or to make sure he behaved.

He may not have played so well that he got a hole in one, but he made it through 18 holes of golf and was still smiling when he left. It was probably the company, right? (It might also have to do with the fact that he didn't hurt as much. The surgery seems to have been a success, for the most part!)

I was smiling, too, but it had nothing to do with golf and everything to do with him being happy. Learning to look at things and people with different perspectives is a valuable lesson to learn in marriage. Some fancy brochure at a Nebraska golf course we once visited included this quote:

In its purest form, the flight of a golf ball carries
the human spirit with it.

Soaring hopes. Rising aspirations. Lofty goals. 

You could say the same about a marriage. When you're 23 and 25 - like we were on our wedding day in 1981 - you walk down the aisle of the church and have the same:  Soaring hopes. Rising aspirations. Lofty goals.

But life happens. Sometimes you end up in the rough. You might be searching ... whether it's for a missing ball or a missing bull or something else that's missing - literally or figuratively. There are hazards along the golf course and along the marriage journey. We have to tee it up and try again. (Maybe this analogy thing isn't working out the best, since I've given up on the golf game. But I'm not giving up on marriage or in going along for the ride.)
The conditions the other day were far from perfect. Randy's home course is the Stafford County Country Club. It's not a country club in the sense of Augusta National Golf Club or even our neighbor to the east, Prairie Dunes.

The gallery is formed by the horses in the pasture to the west and the cattle to the east. With the Kansas wind blowing its way toward spring, the creaky windmill made a mockery of the "please-be-quiet-I'm-putting" etiquette on the golf course.
But the country surroundings suit us - whether on the golf course or in life.  Even if the greens aren't always so green, it's been quite a journey - together.
Happy Anniversary to my favorite golfer. Phil Mickelson doesn't even come close.
Photo by Stan Reimer, Pratt

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bunny Bait

A little bunny bait just might assure that a special someone will make a stop at your house this Sunday.
This particular version is "eggs"actly right for Easter. But with a few modifications, switching up colored chocolate candies, food coloring gels and holiday sprinkles, it can be easily modified for any birthday, holiday or your favorite team's tailgate party.

It makes a bunch, so you’ll have enough for a crowd of people - whether that's treats for your Sunday School class, children's sermon or Easter baskets - plus you'll have plenty left for munching. I took it to a Missions and Ministry fundraiser at our church a couple of weeks ago and still had some left to bring home and put in the freezer for Easter munching.

If you want to package it individually, you might like to use the cute bag topper I found at Tammy Mitchell Designs blog. (See photo above.) It's free to download. She has another for bunny tails (marshmallows).
Bunny Bait
 (aka Nutella Popcorn Snack Mix)
2 bags microwave popcorn
4 cups mini pretzel twists
20 oz. package white almond bark or CandiQuick, divided
1/2 cup Nutella
1 bag Cadbury chocolate mini eggs (or Easter M&Ms, etc.)
Easter sprinkles
Gel food colorings

Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside. Pop the popcorn according to package directions. Remove from bags and put in a large bowl, taking care not to include any "old maids." Add pretzels and mix lightly.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt almond bark or candy melts, according to package directions. (I usually heat at 50 percent power, stirring after each minute, until it's smooth and melted. Put about 1 to 2 ounces of the almond bark in a separate small bowl and set aside. (You can repeat this step if you want additional colors. This time, I put a small amount into two bowls to make two colors - blue and pink.) Stir Nutella into the bigger batch of almond bark and combine until mixed well. Pour over the popcorn mixture. Toss until coated. Turn out onto wax paper-covered baking sheets. Sprinkle generously with Easter sprinkles. Don't stir after adding the sprinkles or they'll be coated with the candy coating and you won't be able to see them. Let set up in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes. Break apart.

To the almond bark you've set aside, add gel or powder food coloring - NOT water based. Water based colors will ruin the almond bark. (This time, I used pink and blue, but you could do this for a tailgate party for your favorite high school or college team, too, using school colors.) Using a fork, shake the colored almond bark over the popcorn/candy mixture. Repeat with any subsequent colors. Let set. Break apart and add Cadbury eggs or M&Ms. Store in a sealed container. Can be frozen.

Note: You can use 2 cups of pretzels and 2 cups of Rice Chex or other cereal instead of all pretzels.

Need other easy Easter ideas? Try these - Chick Magnets.

If you're a mom and grandma looking for a fun project to do with your kiddos or want an easy way to add a festive touch to your Easter table, try these fun no-bake cookies, Noodle Nests.
Or try the spring-like taste of lemon in this Lemon Buddies snack mix. If you like a little chocolate with your lemon (and who doesn't?) add some mini Cadbury eggs or colorful Easter M&Ms to make it full of holiday fun and color.
Today I'm linked to Wichita blogger Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday. Be sure and check out what's cooking in other food bloggers' kitchens! There's plenty there to complement your Easter meal.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why? A Child's Guide to Animal Husbandry


We might have heard that question more than a time or two from a small helper as we worked baby calves last week. With her daycare center closed for the day,  Jake's 5-year-old daughter, Miss E, was our official helper. She had lots of questions. 

Why? Because questions and a 5 year old go together like peanut butter and jelly (or in this case, a hamburger and ketchup).  

When a 5-year-old is around, a sorting stick becomes a magic wand. Then it transforms into a stick horse. And there are more "why" questions than at any press conference I've ever attended as a journalist.
Miss E: Why do they get numbers?

Me:  Each of the numbers begins with a 3 this year. That way, we know they were born in 2013. We also can pair the babies and the mamas by writing down the numbers that go together.

Me again:  Can you help tell me the numbers? (Note to the preschool teacher: We got a LOT of number review done while we were working cattle. You're welcome!)

Me again:  What's your favorite number?

Miss E:  It's 5 because I'm 5. (This little calf  - above photo - got a pretty important number, according to Miss E!)

Miss E to Randy: Why are you giving those shots? 
Me:  Remember when you get shots at the doctor's office? It's to make sure you don't get sick or, if you are sick, to make you better. And even though it might have hurt for just a second, it didn't hurt after you were done, right? See, these are the ones that are already done. They look just fine, don't they?
Miss E:  What's Randy doing?

Me: He's making that bull calf into a steer.
Miss E:  Why?

Randy: So we can sell him some day, and people can buy good meat at the grocery store.

Miss E: Why is he bleeding?

Me, pulling my glove off my hand:  See my finger? I cut it last night when I was cutting up vegetables for Randy's salad. It's not still bleeding, is it?

Jake:  It will scab over and quit bleeding soon.

Miss E to her Dad: Which one are you going to get next?

Jake:  Whichever one decides to go down the lane.
Miss E:  Can I help?

Jake:  I thought I'd save this little one for the last, and you can help me.
Miss E:  Why did we take them away from their Moms? 

Me: Well, we need to separate the babies and the Mommies for just a little while so that we can give the calves their doctor's appointments. But we'll take them back to their mamas when we are done, and they'll be back together again.
The little calf that Miss E helped usher down the lane became "her" calf. She was glad to see it reunited with its mama when we hauled the babies via trailer back to the corral where their moms sniffed and called out to their babies.
Why did Miss E get to touch this baby? Because it was brand new that day and it cooperated. Plus, its Mom was out dining on green wheat and was otherwise occupied, away from curious girls.
It was a pretty good bonus for a pretty good helper. Thanks Miss E!
Why do we give the shots we do? For a more technical explanation of why, click here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winter's Last Hurrah

Like the daffodils, some Kansas school children may have felt a bit bogged down by winter weather on the final weekend of spring break.
Saturday night at dusk as the snow started to fall.
They, like the flowers by my front door, may have hung their heads as wind-whipped temperatures kept them inside.
I was hanging my head a bit, too, after my beloved Wildcats were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the first round. I am trying to be happy for the Wichita State Shockers and the KU Jayhawks who have danced into the Sweet 16.
Saturday evening at dusk (taken with flash)
Sunday afternoon
By the time we got home from Palm Sunday services, the sun had turned the tender snowflakes of Saturday night into icy diamonds, still clinging to the yellow daffodils that rivaled the bright sun as it reflected off the snow.
Even though the snow and icy roads made the trip to town a little more treacherous Sunday morning, we are thankful for the moisture that fell this weekend.
In the U.S. Drought Monitor released last week, our area still registered extreme drought. And while a few inches of snow won't end the drought, every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, the wind whipped the snow into a frenzy (not unlike the Wildcats in the second half on Friday. Sorry: I know I'm dwelling on it.) Some of the snow ended up drifting into roads and into shelter belts instead of staying on the wheat fields that so desperately need the moisture.

The weeds in the ditches had more snow cover than the wheat fields. Just what every farmer needs ... healthy weeds.

Still, the February and March snows and a little bit of rain have helped ease the drought slightly in some sections of Kansas, though it doesn't come close to ending the 20-inch deficit from two years of drought.
"In terms of the winter wheat, I think it helped a great deal. Farmers from Eureka to Ness City are pleased with the recent rain and snow. A light, steady, soaking rain can be more beneficial than a 2-inch rain that falls in 40 minutes because it allows the soil to absorb the moisture. They all thought the moisture's timing and amount and the rate was all very, very helpful."
AccuWeather Vice President Mike Smith, talking about recent moisture
Sunrise on Monday, March 25
Like sunrise on snow, it can't help but make farmers feel a bit more optimistic.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Flowers of Gratitude

March 16, 2013
Spring has sprung - or so the calendar says. But the plants at the front of our house are still holding tightly to their blooms, kind of like a toddler who doesn't want to give up a favorite toy.

Maybe they've heard the news that wintery weather may be on the way again later this week. Still, when I got home from a full day of cattle duty yesterday, there was one brave blossom shining in the late afternoon sun.

March 20, 2013
We'll see if its bravado was ill-advised as the temperatures dip below freezing again.
 Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer.
Verbena Woods
(From one of my email devotionals)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Morning Drive Time

Our morning drive time yesterday didn't have a thing to do with tuning our radio station and adjusting the seats. Instead, the drive involved mama cows and their calves.

It was Day Two of working baby calves. We started the morning with a round-up at Peace Creek. With temperatures hovering around freezing, I chose the pickup for the first task of the day. Randy and Jake were on 4-wheelers to get the cattle out of Peace Creek and onto the road where they would make the half-mile trek to the corral.
The green wheat fields were just too tempting for the mama cows, who took a detour along the way. But with a little encouragement from the "cowboys" on 4-wheelers, they eventually turned into the driveway and into the corral.

After the babies' appointment in the calf cradle chute, the moms and babies are usually chauffeured back to the pasture via trailers pulled by the pickups. But this time, Randy had another idea. He decided we'd save a step and see if the mamas would follow the trailer back to the pasture.

After their "doctor's" appointments, Randy didn't think the babies could make the half-mile trek back to the pasture on hoof. After all, they'd just gotten their eagtags, their ear notches, two shots and their growth implant. The bull calves had become steers. So they still would get their chauffeur-driven ride back to the pasture.

The mamas may have expended a little energy pacing outside the fence and bawling for their babies, but they were going to have to make the trip on hoof.

The hardest part of the endeavor was loading the babies into the trailer. The mamas know the drill. But this was the babies' first rodeo. And it was a rodeo. The calves weren't the only ones tired after the guys finally got the calves loaded. 
This time, I got to ride a 4-wheeler, while Jake hauled the calves. After we got the calves loaded, we opened the corral gate, and the cows did what good mamas do. They followed their babies.
Only one of the mamas took a detour into the wheat this time. They were ready to be reunited with their babies. (It's probably a good thing. There are rules against texting and driving. Randy told me that there should probably be a similar ban on taking photos, especially since both the 4-wheeler and the camera require your right hand.)
From the human's standpoint, the experiment was a success. We're not sure what the mamas thought about their extra half-mile of exercise.

This morning, we'll be rounding up another group of cows and their babies. Spring Break 2013 continues on The County Line!