Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Curse and a Blessing

The last few days have been a little bit crazy for my family and me. A few months ago, I vaguely mentioned having a bottle calf that we named Buckles. Over the last few months, he has become a fixture in our lives. Every day since he was born and his mom died, we have fed him twice a day. There were definitely times he was frustrating, but for the most part, he was a well-mannered little calf, who became more like a pet, than just another calf. Last Thursday morning, he started acting peculiar, the biggest sign being that he wouldn't take his bottle. After my parents consulted our vet, they gave him a dose of an antibiotic that we had on hand, hoping that would help him regain his appetite. My mom also tried to give him another bottle that evening, but had no luck. The majority of the evening was spent in the field, harvesting wheat. (Harvest was uncharacteristically late this year due to all the rain...never thought I'd say that sentence!)

While Mom & Dad took the last load of the evening to Co-op, Scotty and I went out to get Buckles loaded up in the trailer so that my mom could take him to the vet early the next morning. It wasn't a prime time to load him, but it was the only time we would have to get him loaded with plenty of people able to help, we were already out and about, and the moon was bright enough to help us see, along with headlights. Getting him loaded was a fiasco, but I have to hand it to Scotty, who expertly wrangled him and made it happen...heaven knows I couldn't have done it myself!

Friday morning, my mom took him to the vet. When I took my lunch break that day, I just so happened to be the only one in the lunch room at the time and I had some time to spare after eating, so I called my mom to check up on Buckles' appointment. When my mom answered the phone, she sounded dejected, and I started to worry. After asking how everything went, my mom proceeded to tell me that I really didn't want to know. Our vets had a hunch that his peculiar behavior, in addition to his poor appetite, could possibly be rabies. Unfortunately, the only way that they could know was if they took a specimen of his brain, which would entail putting him down. Because of the fact that we were all in close contact with him and rabies is fatal, that was the only choice.

My mom had the most difficult job, since everyone else was at work. She had to take Buckles back to the vet's office to be put down, take him back home, then take his brain specimen to the city for testing. (My dad buried him after he came home from work.) Hearing about all of this right before having to go back out into the real world, put on a happy face, and work with customers was difficult. I spent the last five minutes of my lunch break crying profusely in the break room. I made it through the afternoon, but cried during my entire drive home. I stopped off at the shrine and lit a candle in his honor, and prayed a short prayer for him and my family, all through my tears. The worst part was entering my house and seeing Buckles' paraphernalia in our utility room. I suddenly lost all of the composure I had managed to temporarily regain.

We were told that if the tests came back positive for rabies, we would be notified by phone between 2 and 4 PM on Saturday, but 6 PM at the latest. Since my parents, Scotty, and I were the last people to come in close contact with Buckles, my mom gave the department our phone numbers. I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon on pins and needles, hoping against all hope that we wouldn't receive a call. When I left work at 5:15, I was happy, because I figured that everything was alright. I figured wrong; at 5:50, my mom called me to let me know that the test came back positive, and I would be receiving a call from the State Dept. of Health very soon. At 6:01, the call came in, and the nice lady informed that it could be advisable, but not mandatory, that I start the immunization process as soon as possible as a precautionary measure. She was very informative, nice, and comforting, which was what we all needed at the time. Yesterday, we consulted with our family doctor, who had personally talked to the state epidemiologist about a case similar to ours not long ago. He told us that there was only one instance of bovine-human contracted rabies, and that there would honestly be a bigger risk from taking the immunizations than from not, so we all decided not to, and really feel at peace about our decision.

This really has been quite the year for my family, as far as trying times go. Back in September, quite a bit of our fence, hay, and pasture was burned due to a "controlled" burn that was poorly set just north of our property. Emily had a close friend whose baby died of SIDS, which has somewhat reminded our family of Michelle's death. Kyle broke his arm in a 4-wheeler accident. I faced the difficult decision of breaking up with Tevis. Mimi's health was starting to really fail back in February. There was a drought, a blizzard, and plenty of other trials. Now, we have a rabid calf, and the uncertainty of the health of the remainder of our herd.

Sometimes, I feel like my life is a reading from the Book of Exodus, and the freak things that happen are like the plagues. Sometimes, I wonder why things have to happen like they do. Sometimes, I just get frustrated with life in general.

When I get to feeling this way, I have to take a step back and look at things differently. Even though I sometimes feel like God has sent us "plagues", I have to remember all of the blessings that He has sent us. Our pasture has grown back, and the drought is starting to diminish, thanks to the bountiful rain we have received. My parents have been able to use their experience with Michelle to help counsel Emily's friend. Kyle's arm healed quickly and wonderfully (and it definitely didn't slow him down!). I have really flourished since I broke up with Tevis. Mimi is healed and in much better health than she was in February. The snow from the blizzard melted, and life returned to normal. Even more, everyone in my family is employed, we all have nice homes to live in, plenty of food to eat, and clothes on our back. We are healthy, and we are even expecting another little boy to join Gina & Jeremy's family in October!!!!! (That brings the total to six boys, if you're keeping track at home!) Really though, the best blessing is that our family is bound together with undying love for each other and our faith in God.

I truly believe that all of these trials are merely tests of our trust in God and have helped to strengthen our relationship with Him. With all of this in mind, I know that, while it doesn't seem like it ever will, everything about this rabies incident will blow over, and God will continue to bless our family in the best of ways.

"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose."--Romans 8:28 (My personal favorite verse)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Ode to My Dad

Yes, I am aware that I haven't written anything in a month, and I'm okay with it. Nothing has really happened; I can sum up the majority of my life in a word--work. And yes, I still love it as much as I did last month! Tonisha moved and Liz works as much as I do, so I don't have a bustling social life right now. And, in a freak accident, I broke off my big toenail. (A story for another time..) No, I haven't taken the company of a new man, although, if you know of anyone who would fit the bill, you could send him my way :) So, I won't bore you with the minutiae of my life, and I will move on to other things...

The other day I was thinking about the fact that I never really post much about my dad. I'm not really sure why, but that is the case. It's not like he isn't around or is totally reclusive, it's really more of the fact that he doesn't like posing for pictures very often, and I typically revolve my posts around pictures I have taken of my family. Anyway, now that Father's Day is here, I thought that now would be the appropriate time to spend some time talking about my dear ol' dad!

Bernard is his name, but it is pronounced like Ber-Nerd, not Ber-Nard. He has starting going by Bernie instead, to save the confusion. There really isn't a way to sum him up in a word...that DEFINITELY is not happening. He is quite the man of contrasts, and is truly one-of-a-kind. I'll do my best to paint a better picture of this man who is quite the class act.

Just the other day at church, I was sitting with Gina and Andy after Mass, and I watched Dad come out of his weekly council meeting that he hates, besides the fact that he gets to talk with his friend, Frank. He was a stunning vision in his Wranglers, ostrich-skin Roper slip-ons, and his pink button-down shirt...all of which was eventually topped off by his straw cowboy hat and prescription sunglasses after he exited the building. That's one of the cool things about him: he wears pink on his own accord, and he really wears it well! Right now, he looks like he's in training for a Phil Robertson look-alike contest, much to my mom's chagrin, but he claims that he will let us shave his head after he gets his shed built...or until he gets too hot outside. (I think she gets first dibs at the clippers when that day comes!)

My dad is intense, which has been known to intimidate others. He stands his ground and is firm about his beliefs. He knows what he's about! He is bold, and sometimes, brash. He can curse like a sailor, and rarely minces words to tell you how he feels about something. No matter how you look at it, he is good at getting his point across when he needs to. He's also good at sitting back and observing situations, and I trust his opinions on people, because he is usually right on point with his judgments. You wouldn't believe it by talking to him sometimes, but he gets nervous in crowds of people and prefers smaller settings.

My dad is smart, even though he always says he is dumb, because he didn't like school. There is no way that I could ever possess half of the knowledge he has. My dad has a working knowledge of motors (both gas and diesel), plumbing, electrical information, heating and refrigeration, welding, and most other mechanically-oriented areas. He can drive and operate almost anything with wheels. He knows all about when to plant, fertilize, bale, pasture, and harvest wheat and other crops. He knows all about animals, because his parents used to run a dairy, and he has raised almost every other type of animal, including sheep, chickens, pigs, and turkeys. He can draw blueprints almost as well as accurate as any computerized blueprint...he and my mom designed and drafted the plans for the house we live in now. He knows all about banking, legal matters, medical issues, and a plethora of other things. What I admire most is that, although he hated school, he strongly encouraged my sisters and me to pursue an education in order to find a career that fulfills our passion.

He is disciplined and a hard worker. My dad often works all day at his job, then comes home and farms until he runs out of daylight. He's worked plenty a graveyard shift, and has gone from running a mail route all day to working second shift at the feed mill in the same day, and doing that five days a week. Nowadays, he rests a little bit more, but I think even if he ever retires, he'll still wake up at 5:30 AM and make a pot of coffee, just because it's ingrained in him. Thankfully, he taught my sisters and me this virtue also. This work ethic alone has been the most valuable thing we ever could have learned in life.

He knows how to have fun, too. As odd as it sounds, his favorite hobby is sitting with my brothers-in-law, drinking beer and smoking cigars, listening to country music. He also appreciates good music, and I think I got some of my good taste in music from him. As rough and gruff as he may appear, he loves Carole King and James Taylor, among other artists. Of course, he listens to classic rock and country music, but he tends to prefer old rock or country to most other music. He also has a fondness for old Western movies or TV shows, and would much rather spend an evening watching DVD reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies or Andy Griffith, as opposed to anything on TV today.

He isn't necessarily a Luddite, but he isn't a big proponent of technology, either. He has a love/hate relationship with his cell phone, and has no immediate plans of upgrading to a smart phone. He refuses to do any internet banking or online shopping, but often calls on my mom or me to look stuff up for him. He uses the computer just fine, but usually prefers to use it to play Solitaire or other card games. He fears the big role that technology plays in our lives today, and often declares that it is the "ruination of our society". I agree with him, to an extent. Considering all of this, it is somewhat fitting that he is a mail carrier, carrying on the tradition of how things have always been. (He doesn't always have much love for his job, though, in case you were wondering.)

His faith is a major part of his life, but he isn't preachy about it. He is a cradle Catholic, who willingly attends Mass on Sundays and other holy days, but he hates the new wording of the Mass prayers. He actually still says everything the old way, and sometimes I think he says it extra loud, just because he can. (In all honesty, I don't like the new wording, either. I think it is archaic and an unnecessary change.) He doesn't usually talk about God or his relationship with Him, but I still think he is a good example of a Christian, because he sees the value in helping people out. That is best seen whenever disasters strike or someone dies. He is always the first to call to ask people if they need to borrow a generator or a chainsaw after storms. He is always the first to go visit with grieving families after a loved one dies, usually bringing kind words, paper products, and a pot of chicken noodle soup with him. I think he does that because he remembers the kindness that people offered to my family when Michelle died.

Really, it takes a strong man to live his life around lots of women. Growing up, he had four sisters and his mom at home. After marrying my mom, he ended up with four daughters. Heaven knows that had its tense moments, if you know what I mean! Often, people might think that since there were all girls in my family, we were all treated like "Daddy's Princesses". (For reasons I can't explain, I hate that phrase.) That was NOT the case at all. In his eyes, us girls were just as good, if not better than, any boy ever could have been. From a young age, he had us bucketing cattle feed, moving 50 lb. feedsacks, and all sorts of other stuff. It would always floor the guys at CO-OP when he told us to go load up sacks of mineral, instead of waiting an eternity on the high-school aged boy to come load it for us. He taught us about car care, finances, farm work, and plenty of other things. He taught us not to be dependent on a man to save us, but rather, how to be independent and wait for the right man to come into our life.

My dad is a great cook! I think it came from being the youngest and always being in the kitchen with his mom. He can grill and smoke meat to flavorful perfection, dream up delicious breakfast concoctions, roll out paper-thin egg noodles that are just about as perfect as Mimi's, and bake bread & cinnamon rolls with the best of them! He also loves pies, and often jokes that he only gets them for his birthday and Father's Day...okay, so that is kind of the truth..Oops!

He loves his grandsons, and would go to the ends of the earth for them, just as he would for us girls. Cody, especially, has been his shadow as of late, and is doing his best to soak up all the farming knowledge he can from Dad. I always loved seeing him at the hospital after all of the boys were born, and he would hold them in his arms.

Okay, so I've gone on long enough about my dad, and I'm sure I have painted a better picture of him. Even if he can be stubborn/difficult sometimes, I am still incredibly blessed to have a dad like mine! I love you, Dad...Happy Father's Day!