Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Father’s Day Without Dad

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was the first time we celebrated it without my Dad. We tried to have a meal that he would have liked and actually he probably would have done the cooking.  We bought a cake that was decorated in John Deere colors and a John Deere hat.  We gathered at the farm that he loved and which he  tirelessly kept looking pristine.  Somehow this didn’t fill the void of him not being there with us.  

Unfortunately two other employees of the bank lost their father’s this year, so I wanted to share this poem as my blog.

 A death has occurred and everything is changed by this event.

We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again

That yesterday is over, that relationships, once rich, have ended

But there is another way to look upon this truth.

If life went on the same without the presence of the one who has died,

We could only conclude that the life we here remember made no contribution,

Filled no space, meant nothing.

The fact that this individual left behind a place that cannot be filled is a high

Tribute to this individual.

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, but NEVER after the loss of a treasure.

Paul Irion

So, just a reminder, please cherish your treasures.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Make a child’s day and mine too.

This spring I went to Drakesville to the Southeast Iowa Produce Auction.  If you haven’t been there, it is a fun outing if you like auctions. The local growers bring their produce and plants there to sale; most of them are from the Amish community.  You have to buy in large quantities, so a lot of the buyers are from local stores.
I have several flower beds for spring flowers and fall mums. Fall is my favorite.  The first time I went, I came home with 150 pumpkins.  Randy was so happy with me.  I always take the pick-up and this wagon that is the same size.  Last fall I went a little crazy.  I had to call Randy at work to help me haul mums and pumpkins home.  That’s half of the fun, trying to make it fit. That wasn’t the first auction I have ever had to call him from.

It is a coop association so there are people around that will help you load your purchases at the end of the day.  This spring I was done before the auction was over.  I was rounding up the things that I had purchased and here came two little guys.  They were about five, they had their little hats and jackets on without shoes, and they were so darn cute. They came up, looked at each other trying to decide which one was going to do the talking. I spoke to them, and then one said “Shall we help you?”  I told them that would be great. I had already loaded most of my stuff.  They moved eight flower pots to the edge of the dock for me. I think the pots were about as heavy as they were.  I didn’t have any smaller bill to give them a little tip until after I paid. I told them I would be back. I don’t think they thought I would be back by the look of disappointment I went and paid my tab and returned to find the boys. I gave them each a couple bucks, I turned to walk away, and I couldn’t help but look back.  They were comparing to see if they got the same amount. Their little eyes were the size of golf balls and they are grinning from ear to ear. It was so darn cute.  I was visiting with some friends, and when I went to leave I didn’t see them any more.  They must have earned all they needed for the day.

I can’t wait until fall is here to go again, and I’m sure Randy will be looking forward to it also.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Office Monkeys

Most people that know me, realize that I have a fascination with monkeys.  My IPad screen saver is a chimpanzee, I have monkey t-shirts, and I even say “monkeys” when I feel the need to say a profane word. 

Last year, right after Thanksgiving, I had an anonymous surprise on my desk.  It was a set of office monkeys, complete with office scenery.  Office monkeys are little plastic monkey figurines that are about three inches tall and are wearing business suits.  Some are on computers, a banana phone or taking a smoke break.  They currently sit on the corner of my desk and are a conversation piece for everyone that sees them.  They don’t always sit in their office scenario and quite frankly haven’t been there for a long time.  I tend to change what they are doing to suit the holidays or events that are happening.

During the holidays, two of them were dressed as Santa and an elf and the others were standing in line to see Santa.  They were carolers around a Christmas tree, re-created the nativity scene, and even wore ugly sweaters when the bank employees had an ugly sweater contest.  They have tried to escape on a Friday down the telephone cord hole in my desk and all held up signs depicting “Hump Day”.    They have even worn shamrock hats, wooed the female monkey with candy for Valentine’s Day, and dressed up like Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Sam for President’s Day. 

Most recently, they have been depicting the construction that is happening to the parking lot at the bank, including Hot Wheels cars courtesy of my husband and another LSB employee.  With the onset of the Memorial Day weekend, the monkeys are ringing in the summer by lounging in a pool and riding bicycles. 

Kids love to play with them and move them around.  Adults like to comment on what they are doing.  I enjoy the smiles that everyone gets when we talk about them.  I even have requests from vendors to send pictures of them when they change activities. 

Sometimes when my day gets a little stressful, I just need to “monkey around” to realize that I shouldn’t take it all so seriously. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Color The Earth Run

Have you ever read a quote and thought about what it really means to you?  Well, the other day I read a quote that said, “Hard, is a mindset.”  As I reflected back on that quote I thought, “Wow that is so true”! How many times have I thought something was going to be hard and after doing it, it really wasn’t, but my mind thought it was going to be.  At the beginning of 2014 my sister asked me to join her in the Color Run in Des Moines this year.  I agreed and then days after accepting thought, “This is going to be so hard I will never make it”.  So, in Fairfield, in April, there is a similar run called Color the Earth run.  I signed up thinking this would be great practice for me to see how bad a 5k really is.  For weeks I have been walking and trying to prep myself for the day.  Well, April 12, 2014 came and still the morning of the run I was nervous and not sure if I was going to be able to do it.  53 minutes later I was finishing my first 5k! Granted, I did walk it but by July I will be able to run it!  It wasn’t hard after all, but my mind wanted me to think it was going to be.  “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining who we are.”  Max Depree -  another great quote that proved to me that I need to overcome my fears of something new and try it.  I didn’t want to remain the person who had never tried to do a 5k.  I challenge each of you reading this to stop and think about something that you think is too hard and try to overcome it this year! 

Here is a photo of me at the end of the Color the Earth run.  What a great time!

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Path To LSB

Some time ago, I stumbled across the Libertyville Savings Bank’s blog via the links from the Keosauqua Sale Barn’s website.  Since then, I've periodically checked back to see if Blain had written anything interesting.  In mid January of this year as I was considering whether to accept a job offer to come to work at LSB, I came back to the blog page wondering, “what would I write my blog about?”
I was born and raised in rural Jefferson County.  My dad raised feeder pigs and sold livestock feed for most of my childhood.  I participated in the 4-H program in Jefferson County taking pigs to the local county fair each year.  As a kid on the farm, doing chores helped establish a work ethic that would help me be successful down the road.  It also instilled a passion for working with livestock that will be with me for a lifetime.  As I was finishing up high school in the late 90’s, the hog industry changed at a rapid pace.  Vertical integration within the industry pushed small hog producers like Dad out of business.  The vast majority of customers my dad sold feed to got out of the hog business as well.  My dad was bitter.
I vividly remember one particular day during my teenage years.  I was summoned from the house by my mother because Dad needed me outside.  It was a cold winter day, and I found Dad working on an automatic water that had frozen.  “What’d you need?” I asked.  Dad erupted into an explosion of anger and emotion.  He was having a bad day.  He went on and on, many of the words that came out of his mouth I can’t repeat in my story today.  He didn't call me outside because he wanted my help.  He simply wanted to express his frustration with his current situation that had probably been building for months or years as he’d sold hogs for a loss and watched his feed sales dry up.  He yelled and carried on, “You don’t want to do this when you grow up!  Go to college and get a real job, because there is no future in agriculture” were some of the exact words out of his mouth that day.
For as long as I live, I’ll never forget how upset Dad was that day.  When I graduated from high school in 2000, I headed to the University of Northern Iowa to get a degree and ultimately a job like he told me to.  I look back on my time at UNI and remember it for all the fun times I had.  As I reflect on those times I also realize I was lost as I worked aimlessly towards a “real job”.  Somewhere towards the end of my time in Cedar Falls, I started to think about what I was going to do upon graduation.  The decision I made gave me the direction I had been lacking as I worked my way through school wondering what I would do when I graduated.  I decided I was going to do what I loved, which was raising hogs.  I was still going to have to get a “real job” as Dad had instructed, but I knew he was very wrong about some of the things he said as he tried to influence my future years earlier.
As a young person I was very impressionable.  Dad’s influence impacted some of the choices I made such as where I would go to college.  When all was said and done though, his influence wasn't enough to overcome my love for the farm.  When I got home from college, I came to Blain and borrowed money to purchase my first sows, because I knew it was what I wanted to do.  I’d have to market the hogs I raised as show pigs to make things work, but I knew I could do it.  I also took a “real job” with a local manufacturing company that I’d worked for as summer help during my college years.  I worked 8 years for them in various roles within their Quality Control Department.  It was a great job for a company that has been highly successful.  I worked with a lot of very skilled people during that time.  Frustrating to me though, I also worked with a fair number of people that showed up only to punch the clock every day.  They didn't show up because they loved their job, but simply because they needed a paycheck to pay their bills. 

I am very excited to be onboard at LSB as their new Ag Loan Officer, working with farmers in SE Iowa.  Farming is different than any other industry/job.  People choose to farm because it’s what they love to do.  They eat, sleep, and breathe it.  I love the passion people involved in Agriculture feel towards the line of work they have chosen.  I don’t think there is an industry in the world where there are a higher percentage of people that love and truly care about what they do.  My path to a career in Ag Banking was probably a touch unconventional, but after a couple months on the job I feel like I've ended up in the perfect place for me.    

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Construction Project - The End!

Keeping a blog is like building a house.  It can take awhile, a long while.  So like the house building process it’s been awhile since my last blog.  But, once it is finished it’s out there for all to see.  The conglomeration of decision, all tied to your personal preferences and tastes... it’s daunting.

 The most common question we got after completion was “are there things you’d change?”  Well the answer is “of course”.  But if you’re going to build thinking to achieve perfection you better rethink your goals.  It’s a crazy fun process but it isn’t for the faint of heart – and probably not for the “anal spreadsheet minded” like me (so my wife says).  We had two completely different experiences.  My wife, the creatively talented, loved every minute of the process.  There was a point, I think it was during decision number Four Thousand and Twelve, when she gave serious thought to killing me with the particular doorknobs I liked.  I know that look.  Her eye twitches, her hair clippie vibrates, and her face turns the coolest shade of purple.

Then the woodwork choices about did us both in.  Wood species, edge design, stain color and width for baseboards…  What width and design for the windows? How about the headers on top of the doors?  Wait! The wood on the sides of the doors has to run flush with the baseboard trim.  Design rethink.  I officially earn the title of “Mr. Upgrade”, says my wife.  (It becomes less affectionate as the months wear on.) 

Each tile requires a grout color choice to accompany the already difficult choice of actual tile.  Samples here, samples there, samples everywhere.  Oh and this is while we’re living in an unfinished basement. 

Kitchen planning…  June is dreading the granite yard.  “This is going to be terrible.  Acres of slabs and we have polar opposite taste” she declares.  We drive to Des Moines.  Ten minutes in the yard and we zone in on the same single piece.  We’re done.  Whew.  Still married. 

Granite has waiting list. Quarry out of the color of granite ordered.  Start over on granite.  Back to Des Moines, up to Iowa City, back to Des Moines. Granite chosen.  “Still married” our new theme.

Cupboards…  Wood species, door design, drawer design, stain color, to the ceiling/space above cupboards, knobs etc.  HAVING A BUTLERS PANTRY DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO HIRE A BUTLER, someone who I vowed through thick and thin, says to me in her outside voice.   I question the floor to ceiling wine rack.  Mental note: Need bigger broom closet. 

I’ll admit, I have opinions that once in a while I should probably not share.  And maybe, I don’t have the best delivery of said opinions, but our end product was truly a labor of love.  One that we found hard to pound a nail into when it came time to hang the first picture on the wall.  In the great room I have a stuffed pheasant and June has her abstract metal rooster.  Our tastes are different but when we meet in the middle our combination works.   And while it is far from perfect, we have a home we are happy to go to each night.  The list is on-going.  We’re still planting trees, adding to the landscaping, planting food plots and adding our touch to the land.  But I know I can speak for the both of us: It was worth every dollar and every minute.

For the record these are things I learned or relearned about my wife:

·         She hates Menards.

·         She really can ride a broom (probably on camera at abovementioned store).

·         She can make a home in an unfinished basement.

·         And she is in it with me for the long haul – although probably not if it includes more auctions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It's Tax Time

It’s that time of year again.  Income tax time!  I dread it with a passion, and I ask myself why?  I have worked as an accountant in some capacity my whole life.  In fact, I enjoy working with numbers.  I even prepared tax returns for a number of years.  Why is doing my personal tax return so painful?

Well, let me explain.  First of all, my husband is a farmer.  We have been in the farming business for 45 years.  You would think we would have the process perfected by now, but we always seem to have the same problem.  I take care of the books throughout the year, and try so hard to keep a record of everything we will need when it comes time for the tax appointment.  My husband has a more relaxed approach to recordkeeping.  He keeps it all in his head.  I am not saying he doesn’t have a good memory, but it is selective.  We just don’t seem to agree on what is important.  I like things exact down to the penny, and he thinks as long as it is close, the exact amount doesn’t matter.

It never fails every time we sit down with the tax preparer, she asks a question I can’t answer.  I immediately panic and turn to my husband hoping he will be able to search his selective memory and provide an answer.  He calmly answers the preparer’s questions.  The two of them work together quite well filling in the information my bookkeeping has not supplied.  I want to be like them, calm, cool and collected.  Instead, by the time the appointment is over, I am really beyond frustrated.  I try to convince myself there is nothing to get so worked up about, but the appointment always ends up the same way, with me aggravated and my husband clueless as to why I am.  Needless to say, I am always relieved when the tax returns are filed and I have another whole year before I have to do it all over again.