Thursday, January 26, 2017

Recipe for Success (and pizza)

I don't own cook books. I'm just not good at recipes. I mean, I look at Pinterest or something and get an idea of what I'm after and then I make it up on the fly. That's probably why this isn't a food blog. Lord knows I love food. I love to eat, er, cook and I'm not terrible at it (eating or cooking.) I just don't follow recipes well and I don't measure things. When someone asks me, "Can you give me the recipe for this?" I balk a little. " me look at all of my measuring gadgets and figure out how much of, wait, what did I put in there?" 

Like this blog, I make it all up as I go. 

When it comes to life, I like a general recipe. I like a picture painted of what I should do to get the desired result. No doubt, I mostly wing it, but with a general recipe you can add in some extra cinnamon or pepper or cheese and it usually turns out pretty good. 

You can get a "Chicken Soup" book for just about everything. Your soul, your dog, your kid, your bathroom (for light reading.) My go to book for life recipes, though, is The Bible. I even have an app that will give me reading for whatever I'm feeling. It's pretty cool. What is so handy about all this, is that most of the recipes laid out in the Bible, are applicable to everyday life. 

I can read a Bible recipe over and over and never get it until someone actually breaks it down for me. That happened Sunday. Our pastor preached out of 2 Peter 1:5-11. Those verses paint a picture of God. They lay out, step by step, how we should behave in life. And I couldn't help but connect the dots from Bible to life to agvocacy. 

It's just laid out plainly. I hope you can draw the same lines I did on this one. I'll try to paint the picture. I never was any good at art.

We start with diligence, careful and persistent work. I think farmers have this part under control. 

To diligence we add virtue, behavior showing high moral standards. Also, valor, fearlessness, boldness, keeping to high standards. There are bad apples in every single group. There are farmers that mistreat their animals. There are bad teachers, bad police, bad Christians, bad businessmen. We shouldn't use those as the rule, but as the unaccepted exception. If we want to tell our story and be taken seriously, we have to hold ourselves to the highest standard. We have to be able to be proud of what we do. 

To virtue, add knowledge. There is always room to grow and something to learn. It never stops till the day we die. We are the most knowledgeable in our fields. We can answer questions and defer when we aren't sure and let someone else answer them. We are a community. We have to depend on our knowledge and be willing to add to it. We also have to just admit when we don't know and learn. 

To knowledge, add self-control. Oh boy. This one isn't always easy. Control our words, our feelings, and our faces. My filter isn't very good, but I'm exercising it. It is my face that needs deliverance. I can't hide anything. Lord help me, I just don't know how. Everything I feel is written right across it. I have to work on this. 

To self-control add perseverance, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Crap. How are your toes? Mine are getting stepped on. Agvocating is HARD. You feel attacked by your own people, by consumers, by activists, sometimes by your very own family. Keep on keeping on. It's easier said than done. This week alone, I have wanted to give up on farming, give up on writing, give up on my story, but I know that is not the way. We all have to persevere. 

To perseverance, add godliness, being devout to God. Most of us believe in Him and we farm on faith. Taking this recipe from being a picture of God to being a picture of agvocacy, we can use this as being faithful to our trade. We must have faith in agriculture, in farmers, and in our ability to reach others.  

To godliness, add brotherly kindness. That one is pretty self explanatory. It's been a message to The Milkmaids and a goal for myself. #Kindnessmatters it really does. It is easy to roll your eyes and sigh heavily when you have to explain agriculture ten times before someone gets it. It is second nature to us. It's easy. Rocket science is pretty simple to a rocket scientist. I'm not sure I could understand it on the tenth explanation. We have to tell our story with kindness and patience. Everyone wants to be treated kindly, even if they forgot how to treat others with kindness. 

To brotherly kindness, add love. It is easy to see that we love what we do, but are we showing love as we tell our story? Secret tip: (This is free) You don't have to like someone to love them. Have you ever worked cows with your spouse? That will fuel some dislike without killing the love. Point is, if we love what we do enough, we will share our stories with love and passion. 

Verses 8-11 say "For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

In agvocacy, I'll translate that to say, "If you follow this recipe, you will tell your story and they will hear it. If you can't use these ingredients/guidelines, you're shortsighted, blind even, of what your job as an agvocate is. After all, there was a time we didn't know what we do now. Be diligent, be certain, and if you follow this recipe you won't fail. You will have plenty of opportunity to share your passion and touch lives with your story in agriculture." 

+  LOVE                                     

I know that with God, all things are possible. I don't apply that just to things of faith. I think we are supposed to take the outlines that we are given and use them in every situation life serves up. 
I'm passionate about 3 things: my faith, my family, and farming. I will find a way to apply God's recipe for Christianity to each of my passions. I'll even share them with you.  

The oldest Milkmaid wants to go to culinary school. She wants to have a bakery with a giant glass case full of cupcakes and delicious pastries. I am all for this dream, it has some major perks. If she peruses this passion of hers, she will learn to follow a recipe. She will learn to tweak it to create whatever she wants. I am hopeful that I am training her up with the ability to follow recipes, both in cooking and in life.

I leave with you one of our favorite snack recipes:

1 loaf of bakery french bread ($1 bread at our Wal-Mart)

1 jar of pizza sauce (Also Wal-Mart brand because I'm cheap)

Cheese: This I don't measure or have a brand preference, nobody is paying me here. 
*You should go by the motto of the more the merrier. Use all the cheese.

Other toppings: Mini pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, Canadian bacon, whatever else you like

Did I mention cheese? Dairy good, y'all. 

1. Slice bread. You can slice the whole loaf long way, or into individual slices. I suggest the latter if you have kids that are picky or just like to bicker because they want their very own. 
2. Slather the bread with jarred pizza sauce. (Or homemade if you're an overachiever.)
3. Add cheese. A lot of it.
4. Add cooked toppings. Make sure the meat is cooked. I don't want anyone having raw hamburger or bacon. This is very important.
5. Cheese. Just do it. Add more cheese. I like mozzarella because its a little less greasy, but you do you.

Put it on a cookie sheet. If you're lazy like me, put it on some parchment paper so your pan stays clean. I hate scrubbing cheese off of a pan.
Melt all that cheesy goodness in the oven at 350 for a few minutes. I don't know how long. Don't let the cheese burn. That's my best guess. 

Serve with ranch or marinara, if you're weird and like that stuff. 

Pro Tip: Let it cool before you bite it. I know...I know. It looks so cheesy and delicious, I can hardly wait either. But cheese can cause some major burns. It is melty and sticky and it hurts. 

What's that you say? Oh, you think I should write a cookbook? Yeah, me neither.
Check out my Facebook page and share your best recipes with me! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bless Our Hearts

"It isn't a race, Sissy!"
"Last one upstairs is a rotten egg!"
"Last is best!"
"It isn't a competition!"

Direct quotes from my Milkmaids. Daily. Seriously. All. The. Time. They are 6 years apart. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages. And there is always a competition.

It plagues us in life, competition, I mean. As children, as teens, as adults we are bombarded with comparisons.

For men (ahem...boys), it is usually about who is stronger, who is bigger, who runs faster, who can kick the ball further, who can work harder and who can eat the most pizza (drink the most beer.) I'm not saying men don't have any competitive issues, I'm saying they usually have a healthy idea of what competition is all about and live accordingly.

For women, lawd help us.  Women are in always in some kind of unspoken competition, with their friends, their peers, women they don't know and ones they will never meet. We need to be skinnier, prettier, more successful, less feminine. We need to be stronger, able to do whatever a man can do. We need to wear the right clothes, say the right things, know everything about raising children, and master the Pinterest. The WHOLE Pinterest: the workouts, the food, the drinks, the crafts, the costumes, and make sure our kids can read by 3. Not only do we feel the need to succeed at everything, we are pressured to feel like "less" when it appears that someone can do more, or do something better. We are supposed to wrinkle our noses and be a bit catty when Pinterest Mom shows up at the school party with handmade Valentine's cards, a meat & cheese tray, a fruit & vegetable tray, balloons, crafts, songs, dances, games, homemade punch, and perfect gift bags for everyone.

Yeah, I don't like her either. (Visualize: me with a wrinkled nose and a huge eye roll. Deep breath.)

I'm doing good to get the juice pouches, store bought cupcakes, and the candy (no peanuts, oh crap I bought Reese's) in the cheesy dollar store goodie bags, and get to school on time. I'm NOT Pinterest Mom.
I am also not the do-it-all mom, the skinny lady, the fancy clothes lady, the hair fixed lady, and sometimes I'm not even the makeup on lady. I am a hot mess about 98% of the time. The other 2% is dumb luck and small blessings.

I am proud of who I am. I have good kids. I have an amazing, hard working husband. We have a great family, fantastic friends, and a support system that knows no limits. I know Jesus. We have a farm that allows us some freedoms, but also keeps us very grounded. I am blessed beyond measure. (Thank You, Jesus!) And with all of that, I still have moments where I get wrapped up in what I am not.

When I went to AgChat  in December there was a panel of women that are active on social media. The title of the segment was, "Issues In AgVocacy." The panel included: Leah Beyer (Leah Beyer & @beyerbeware), Krista Stauffer (The Farmers Wifee), Cristen Clark (Food & Swine), and Chef Alli (Chef Alli). Y'all, this panel was so good. The whole group made great points. They all seemed passionate about the need for us to all work together. It isn't a competition. We each have something valuable to offer. We all need to use our voices and stick together. Then Leah Beyer said something that I will never forget.
"Your success doesn't tarnish my success."

Did you hear that?
DING-DING-DING! When I heard it, I swear something clicked.


I am not any less successful because someone has more followers, more likes, someone weighs less, someone dresses better, fixes their hair, puts on makeup, or is THE Pinterest mom. My value is not diminished because someone might fit the world's standards of "better."

That, y'all, is a freeing realization.

In social media, in AgVocating, in the workplace, on the farm, and in life, we all have a part to play. And our only competition should be with ourselves. We should strive to be better than the person we were yesterday.

We have to find a place to come together and stick together. We need to be proud of who we are and who someone else is also. Stop condemning someone's success or feeling like their success takes anything away from yours. The world is a mean place and we don't have to make it worse.

You are valuable. You are good enough. You aren't more or less based on anyone else. (She said into the mirror.)

Y'all, this doesn't stop me from wanting to hot glue Pinterest Mom's lips together. It doesn't stop my eyes from rolling into the back of my head when that Facebook post about how perfect life is, rolls through my newsfeed. I still have the "Bless your heart" feeling when I see someone trying so hard, they have 100 pounds of makeup on, hair closer to God, duck lips and chicken wings in their pictures. Probably those feelings won't ever go away, but I know my only, my hardest competition is myself.

I want to teach my Milkmaids (myself and you as well) that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:14) I want them to know that we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses. I will tell them that they are good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, successful enough because they are loved. They don't need likes, shares, or trophies to prove their worth.
They will still race up the stairs, and make fun of each other, they are sisters, but I will encourage them. I will teach them to be encouragers. Kindness matters and so does self worth.

We should all strive to be someone to be proud of. And humble enough to know that another person's success doesn't tarnish our own. The only person I need to be better than, is the one I was yesterday.