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Happily Ever After

Holy buckets. This is actually happening!!

On a flight home from Portland a little over a year ago, I was in seat 1B and the sweet flight attendant in the jump seat awkwardly nearly touching knees with me, struck up a conversation. The usual, Where do you live? How was your trip? niceties were exchanged. She commented how lucky I was to call San Luis Obispo County, home. Of course I agreed but countered and said she was pretty lucky, too, because she gets to see the world. I shared with her my love of travel and told her that if I was younger and had it all to do over again, I’d be a Flight Attendant. She responded, “Honey, I’m 50 years old. I started this job when I was 47. I’m a single mother, managed to get my two kids safely into college while working two jobs. Now it’s my time!”

That conversation and that moment are permanently etched into my mind.

Last year was definitely a tough year and one of transition. I learned, once again that the status quo can change in an instant and to take nothing for granted. I learned that “home” is where my heart is, no matter what my address is. And most valuably, the check-list of life we all have, that is surely the key to happiness, should only be used as a guide. Often, the more boxes you check, the more illusive happiness can seem.

Rather than looking at happiness as a destination, I began to look at happiness as a state of being that runs parallel to life and our every day activities. I learned to be happy, no matter the circumstances, just as a cancer patient can find happiness on their worst of days. We can all agree that cancer and happy usually aren’t associated, yet, some of the most inspiring people we find are facing extreme adversity.

After a particularly enlightening work meeting last fall, I headed East for Reno to hopefully check a box called, “Tall, Dark and Handsome.” The 12 hours total drive time offered fantastic reflection about what I was doing and where life was going. As excited as I was about the newest Mr. Wonderful, I was equally pleased to be traveling again. For me, few things make me feel happier than to check out new places, and enjoy the company of new found friends. I recalled the last trip I had taken was to Portland for work .. Oh yes. That sweet Flight Attendant. My mind wandered with the miles and I wondered about what that life would really be like. About a month later, I Googled, Flight Attendant Position Available. Yahtzee!! Three companies were hiring. 9 months later, here I am!!

I’ll be working for one of the Big Three who has a very strict policy about Social Media and what we, as trainees and employees can share. I’m completely okay with that. If I choose to look at this time in my life as one of renascence, I’ll take the opportunity to spend more time with my electronics turned off and more time talking to the people in my immediate proximity. This doesn’t mean an end to blogging and social media. Simply, taking the opportunity to slow down and be present in the moment. I’m not sure if it was my normally hyper and anxious disposition or the 7+ years of taking over 100 calls per work day (not to mention text messages and emails) that had me adjusted to the constantly connected life. Here nor there, my future will be in the here and now.

I’ve gladly answered 1000 questions since this new chapter was revealed. The only questions that surprised me a bit were those about my happiness. Specifically, if this job would finally make me happy. I guess I can answer that a few different ways. 1. It is not this job’s duty to make me happy. 2. I don’t think I’m an unhappy person. 3. Happiness, to me, is a choice and one I choose every day.

So with warm and happy thoughts of an incredibly supportive base of friends and family, wheels are officially up on this journey. I will continue my life of not wasting moments, seizing opportunities and enjoying this crazy ride. If you find me radio silent occasionally over the next few months, I hope it only adds to the intrigue and fun. Next time I’m close by, ask me a thousand more questions and I will answer every one of them. Happily.

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Whiskey is for Drinking, Water is for Fighting

Honored and humbled as I share my first guest blog with my people. Water is a dificult subject and with the epic drought most of the Western United States is experiencing, passion and concern is universal amongst land owners, citizens, farmers and ranchers. Water divides, unites, destroys, solidifies, quenches and depleats as its quantities waiver. One thing is certain, the West needs more rain and snow. Moving forward, we also need to be smarter about usage, conservation, storage and regulation. Thank you, Megan Brown, for the oportunity to tell our story to your followers. Please take a moment to read and follow Megan’s blog, The Beef Jar.

The Beef Jar

One of the amazing things about farmers and ranchers is solidarity. We will always have differences of opinion about everything, but when push comes to shove, you’ll never find a group of people that are more supportive of each other. This becomes apparent to me every time agriculture has a serious event like a drought or a major storm.  As we know, the western United States is suffering from an epic drought. The networking, and information being shared amongst our groups right now is staggering. The messages of support and advice I’ve been receiving has blown me out of the water (sorry, bad pun). Carin has been one of those people that has offered her support. Like me, she is passionate about her way of life and ranch. She has graciously shared with me a post about her experience with our drought. Please take the time to follow her blog here

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Drugs & Addiction, Uncategorized

Aggies and Speedballs; A Normal Family’s Struggle with Drugs and Addiction

Few things are more daunting in life than a blank page with a blinking cursor on a computer screen, staring back at me. One of those things the notion that someone has asked me to tell the story of her battle against drugs and addiction. She wasn’t addicted. She had never taken a drug in her life. Her daughter, on the other hand, had engaged in 10 years of drug and alcohol use and abuse. The second trip to rehab finally worked. Shawna Dallaire is finally clean, sober and living a life to be proud of. A life her mother fought so hard to save. Sobriety is a choice Shawna makes every day. She wakes up every morning and reminds herself that, today, she chooses not to do drugs.

On a quick road trip to the valley last Saturday, my phone lit up with a Facebook message from Cindy Dallaire. It simply stated: Would you ever be willing to come out to our ranch and sit down with me and write an article about our drug epidemic? My answer was simply: YESSSSSSS.

My experience with drugs starts and stops with being a spectator. I’m proud to say that I’ve never done an illegal drug in my life. In my mind 20‘s, sinus surgery and wisdom teeth removal, each landed me a prescription for 90 Vicodin plus a refill, of which I took a total of six in the days after each surgery. The rest of the pills were stolen out of my medicine cabinet. I could speculate on who stole them but that’s unnecessary and irrelevant, except for the fact that this tells you that drug use and abuse is everywhere. Other than these doctor supervised, prescribed medications, I’ve abstained from recreational drug use. Alcohol is another story. I may or may not have a problem with alcohol. This is a subject I quietly struggle with.

On the other hand, I’ve watched countless friends as they battle addiction. High school in Shandon may have given me insight that I didn’t need but it was insight nonetheless. Shandon High may have been where I first understood that people took prescription pills, amongst other things, to get high. An idea in my perfectionist’s mind that seemed ridiculous and just strange. Prescription drugs are to be used when your doctor tells you to, not just because you want to. They have a purpose and that purpose is not to get high. This idyllic thought may stem from the fact that my brother, Aran, has a seizure disorder that requires him to take heavy doses of sedatives. I’ve seen, since I was 3 1/2 years old, what prescription drugs can do to a person and this is not something I’d willfully do to myself.

Alcohol was a different story completely; plenty of fun and definitely illegal at my high school age. Weed scared me because I’m allergic to most everything that grows in the great outdoors, so the thought of smoking anything, much less doing drugs, seemed insane. I could nearly see myself in the hospital, hooked up to some breathing machine, my parents standing over me with the look of judgment and disappointment as I knew they’d never smoked a thing or taken a drug in their lives. If they lived through the late 60‘s, for God’s sake I could make it through Shandon High School without doing drugs.

I’ve listened, most every night since I was 16, to Loveline. Laugh if you’d like – I know it doesn’t make me any kind of an expert on the topic of drugs and addiction. However, I’ve heard countless times Dr. Drew giving advice to desperate parents and friends, even to the addicted themselves, to go get help. He talks about what the drugs do to the human body. He tells stories of how profound addiction is and how difficult it is to break the habit. I admit that I’m very curious. I don’t want to try drugs – but addiction is one of the most interesting things in the world to me. New Co-Host, Mike Catherwood, has said time and time again, he loves drugs and alcohol more than he loves his wife, his family and more than life itself. Although I cannot wrap my mind around this, I believe him. This two hour glimpse into addictive behavior, 5 nights a week, quenches a bit of my curiosity but I often find myself wanting to understand what makes addicts tick.

Enter, Cindy and Shawna Dallaire.

I know Cindy and Shawna because quite literally, I grew up knowing them. Cindy took my Senior Pictures. I babysat the girls for Cindy and Sean on more than a few occasions. Sean Dallaire was a premier show hog breeder in our area and recognized even on the national level. Sean was a big deal. Our livestock judging team would practice on his hogs. He was an industry leader. His three daughters, Shawna, Sarah and Stephanie, were his constant companions and heirs to his knowledge and legacy. They were a busy family, highly engaged in a wonderful rural lifestyle where children are educated, engaged and carefully mentored as future leaders. As an industry, Agriculture talks about how engaging children in 4-H and FFA programs keeps them safe and out of trouble. We elude to the idea that drugs and trouble do not exist in this lifestyle. I’m afraid we are only lying to ourselves.

I arrived at Cindy’s house late Sunday night. She was caring for her grandmother and granddaughter in addition to her usual ranch, wife and mom duties. Covered in poison oak, a bashed hand and an exhausted but appreciative look on her face, she enthusiastically welcomed me into her home. There aren’t words to describe what I felt in that moment. I was nervous, excited, scared, humble. All those feelings went away when Cindy’s granddaughter, Jayde, crawled onto the couch next to me, then into my lap, silently gave me a hug, then snuggled under my arm until Cindy sat in her chair opposite of me. Cindy shared her shock at Jayde’s openness and affection toward me. I smiled and took it as a sign that I’m welcome here and that it’s okay to tell this family’s story.

And so it began ..

Cindy was visibly nervous and overwhelmed. She kept repeating, “I have so much to tell you. There’s so much to say.” We agreed that I could record our conversations so that I didn’t get anything she said, wrong. My first question was, how did she know when Shawna was in trouble? When did this start? Cindy was frank with me. She was honest and assumed blame any opportunity she could. She told me about when Shawna was in high school and started drinking. Looking back and after Shawna had addressed the crowd at the Lighthouse, it was apparent to all that that alcohol made Shawna feel accepted amongst her peers. Her peers thought that the Shawna that partied was fearless and fun, she was the ultimate party chick and that Shawna was cool.

Alcohol was how it started but it certainly didn’t end there. This writing is the beginning and an introduction to the Dallaire family’s struggle with addiction. This is the first blog in a series of writings I’ll be posting about the Dallaires. They are good and normal people. A wonderful family stricken by drugs and addiction. I’ve asked Cindy what she wants to get out of this exercise. Cindy wants other parents to know the signs of drug use, how to help their children if they become addicted, and to empower the community to take an active role to stop the inflow and sale of drugs. As a writer, I will attempt to expose the human element within addiction, the gaps between drugs, recovery, rehab and sobriety, and I will try to change the face of a junkie from the scary, dirty homeless person, to the drug addict I knew; beautiful blonde, athletic, smart and loved.

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Young, White, Isolated, Entitled Gun Owner

This Memorial Weekend for me looks a bit different than years past. Gone are the days of Car Shows, Mule Days and the Narrows at Nac.  I’ve opted for a much quieter weekend taking care of animals for friends and celebrating birthdays close to home.  The quiet time has afforded me to monitor social media and local news outlets as more information surfaces about the tragedies in Isla Vista.  

I’ll begin my thoughts by saying my heart is broken for the families and individuals affected by this horrific crime.  There aren’t words I can say to comfort you or lessen the pain caused by these senseless acts.  Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  

Today, more facts are out.  7 dead, 7 hospitalized.  The shooter seems to be an early 20‘s, UCSB student and the son of someone of Hollywood importance.  His statistics are irrelevant to me.  

We live in a world where information is passed faster than the speed of light. We can understand what is happening thousands of miles away in the matter of moments. A Tweet, a YouTube video, a status update can tell stories and bring us closer to events than generations past could even dream of being.  A social media acquaintance posted a video shortly after 9:30 last night stating that there was heavy activity and police presence outside her apartment.  I took a moment to watch and the dread set in. 

“Here we go again.” I thought.  Before the video was complete, I made an assumption that nearby gang violence spread into a known college party town but somewhere in my heart, I knew a young white man had taken, what he felt, was unjust matters into his own hands.  Now, victims lay dead and injured.  How could this happen?  The assumptions and finger pointing were immediate.  Americans are most comfortable when we can explain tragedies and cast blame.  

I guess I find comfort in understanding and assigning some blame as well.  As a responsible gun owner and someone who suffers from mental illness, I feel my perspective on this subject may be unique.  Over the last 15 years and probably long before that, I’ve been honest with those close to me about my battles with depression and anxiety – both are categorized as Mental Illness.  They are managed well now with nearly 5 years of counseling and medication.  It’s not my most favorite attribute, but one that’s with me every day and in some ways, defines me.  

I engaged in a few discussions on Facebook with folks who had posted the shooter’s video or shared their thoughts.  We all were horrified.  One post in particular with my like minded friend Katie, broached the subject of mental illness and that the shooter was probably sociopathic.  I agreed.  But if we label him Mentally Ill, and categorically claim that folks with mental illness shouldn’t have access to guns, does this include me?  Where do we draw the line? In all my years and through all my struggles with mental illness, never have I dreamed of turning to one of my guns as a solution.  My guns have never killed anyone.

Is this shooter’s mental illness a product of parenting?  Or modern society’s “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” mentality?  In one of his YouTube videos, the shooter expresses his disappointment as he is still a virgin and that he’s never kissed a girl in his over two years at college.  Does showing up at college entitle you to sex?  Did the shooter realize in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, sex didn’t come until marriage?  And in order to be married, you had to make effort to woo a woman. You had to be of decent character and be worthy of sharing a life with her.  If this shooter lived 50 years ago, what would his destiny have looked like? 

Then and now, love, affection and respect are earned, not demanded.

More details are surfacing as I type.  His parents had expressed concern to the authorities and the authorities paid him a visit.  He feared his plan was foiled.  Is this the point where legislation can intervene?  Can cries for help via social media coupled with family concern become just cause to intervene?  I have no answers, only questions.  

Our National Leadership needs to address 2nd Amendment rights with respect to mental illness.  I pray they take a close look at this disease and it’s patients who are managed and high functioning.  I hope that friends, family, law makers and law enforcers can take a more aggressive stance to stopping these tragedies.  We can all agree that something must be done.  We cannot afford to lose another life to mental illness.  

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Ten Thoughts on Cliven Bundy, the BLM and Me!

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In contemplating responses to last night’s blog, it seems there are a few points I need to make more clear. I’ve also come up with a few morsels for you to chew on:

  1. I am a Flag Waving, God Fearing, Star Spangled Banner Loving, Red Blooded American who reads her Imprimis from Hillsdale College, monthly. (Google it.) I believe in our Constitutional Rights. I believe in the Rights the Constitutional Amendments have given us. I will defend my Rights and this Nation to the death if that’s what’s asked of me.  I will obey the laws that have been laid in front of me. If I feel laws or politicians are infringing on my rights, I will take action to change what I can. (See numerous posts about CWA, NRA, Property Rights, Water Rights, and Second Amendment Rights.)
  2. In order to have a place at the table in negotiations, you must be in good standing with all parties at the negotiating table.
  3. Several statements have been made that the Government has been manipulating grazing contracts for years, that the Government can’t be trusted and that the Government is breaking the rules, perjuring themselves and violating their own contracts. If all these statements are true, you probably should not depend on the Government as your business partner, your livelihood and your sole source of income.  Ranchers in California have had a second source of income for years. This may be the future of Ranching across the rest of the US.
  4. If you tell the Government to expect a fight, expect the Government to come armed.
  5. If you tell Protesters to have Funeral Arrangements in order, expect the Protesters to come armed.
  6. If you act like an uncivilized redneck, you will be treated as such.
  7. You can beat the Government in Court and at negotiations.  My family has successfully negotiated with the State of California when a gigantic pipeline bifurcated our ranch. I will not disclose details but I will tell you that we got everything we asked for.  And we are not the only family to successfully negotiate.  Settrinis won.  Chiltons won.  The list goes on.  Don’t give up.
  8. STOP selling your property to Land Conservancies, Land Trusts and any entity with the word “Government” in the description.  You are giving away your rights to that property – no matter what they tell you (See point 3).
  9. Bundy v BLM is EXACTLY why ALL elections matter.  (Thank you Marie!!)
  10. If you didn’t vote in our last election or don’t make a habit out of voting, your opinion means nothing to me.

As mentioned, I didn’t start this blog to make friends. I certainly have no grand delusions that everyone will agree with me, all the time.  I sincerely hope these ten points were, at least, a little thought provoking.

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Vegas isn’t the only excitement in Clark County

I’ve spent my life on the edge of popular opinion. Although we are much a product of our environment, a lot of my opinions lie in opposition to that of my parents or employers. Within the Ag Community, I get more than a few startled looks and angry responses when I suggest that agriculture would be a far healthier industry if we stopped accepting subsides from the government (Go ahead. 🙂 I’ve heard it all. You’re not changing my mind.). It’s taken me a solid week to sort out my thoughts in Bundy v BLM.

When Bundy v BLM recently hit the national airwaves, I believed, like many others that Cliven Bundy was getting screwed. I still believe he got screwed – 20 years ago. Many of the details in this case are hazy. Many can be left for personal interpretation. And if you listen to the stories about Mineral Rights and proposed Solar Farms, it’s enough to make the hair on the back of any Rural American’s neck stand on end as it wreaks of Agenda 21.

Here we are, a week into national headlines and the Bundy Supporters have declared victory because the BLM has retreated and Bundy’s cattle have been returned, save for the unconfirmed number of head killed when contract cowboys attempted to gather. But victory for how long?

No doubt this story has been steeped in Constitutional Rights Violations. Government Agencies are seemingly performing the work of Agenda 21. And this is the last cattleman standing in Clark County, Nevada. I want to be on Cliven Bundy’s side.

I want to believe that this is another case of government overreach and I believe it is. I want to believe that Bundy did everything he legally could in order to keep grazing the land his family had been on since the 1870’s, but I don’t believe he did. I want to believe that our judicial system is always on the right side of justice and that the right party always wins, but I know that’s not true.

My discomfort lies on several facets of this story: 1. We have glorified a man who refused to recognize the federal government. He is not acting any more civilized than a tattooed gang member engaged in a turf war. 2. 20+ years of rulings in Federal Court have been against the Bundys and for the most part, there has been not a peep from all these ‘protesters’. 3. If the government was not involved this case and it was classic, Tenant v Landlord, the politics of the protesters would be exactly the opposite. 4. If the Bundys hadn’t made threats, including bodily harm, against the Government in 2012 when they last tried to evict the cattle, I highly doubt that the government would have shown up with the 200 armed forces they came with.

My questions are: What will the Bundys and their protesters do now? File a motion in Federal Court stoping the eviction? Probably not. Will the government now stand down and allow Bundy to continue grazing rent free? Nope. Not gonna happen. Will other cattlemen take to this form of vigilante justice and will the West be Wild again? I have no idea. Only time will tell.

I guess I’m still not taking sides in this case. In my heart, it’s wrong all the way around. Another case of complicated facts, poor response and knee jerk reaction. I wish more people were like the Chiltons and others who have taken the high road to beat the Government at their own game. Hopefully the Bundys will take this opportunity to band together with other ranchers who are having their grazing rights diminished in the name of endangered species. Maybe they can file a class action suit demanding that the BLM be dissolved and the rights be turned over to respective states as Bundy says is his ultimate goal.

For now, I’ll continue to uncomfortably follow this story and hope that no one or no more cattle are hurt in the process. Nothing good is coming from this debacle and I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

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Frankenberries

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I have a fantastic mix of friends. All walks of life, all religions, all education levels, from cities across the US and definitely working in a vast array of professions.  A dear friend from the Great Northwest posted a picture on Facebook, of what she described as Frankenfood, expressing her concerns that they may be GMO and longing for the “the deliciously imperfect, knobby, gnarly, fun shaped strawberries I grew up with that smelled so, so good?”  My friend, Laurel, went on to say that she had purchased the berries from a “high brow organic co-op” and I gleaned from her comments that she had far higher expectations for her produce from such an esteemed establishment.

This post and our ensuing exchange made me think long and hard about food labeling in general.  For the last few years, we as an Ag Community have been working to educate the consumers of our products loudly stating that one of the major problems facing Ag is the uneducated consumer.   As a member of CWA, we spend time educating children and adults as part of our three armed approach to outreach.  It now seems contradictory to me when I hear an outcry from producers that don’t want to be forced (albeit by regulation) to label our products.

A US Appellate Court just handed down a ruling stating that packaged meat should include source information including the country of origin.  What if consumers knew that the relatively cheap package of preformed, frozen hamburger patties weren’t American Beef but that they could find American Beef in the fresh meat section instead?  What if consumers knew that there are only eight Genetically Modified Organisms currently in agriculture production?  Would our transparency build a trust with our consumers?  Would preference win over price?  Would the Ag community get paid a higher premium for American made products? Could transparency be a win-win??

The rising popularity of Farmers Markets is one indication that the consumer we label as uneducated really does care about where their food comes from. 

If we printed on Laurel’s package of Frankenberries, NON GMO, CALIFORNIA GROWN, PICKED ON APRIL 4TH, 2014, I believe she would have felt more comfortable rather than resorting to Facebook with concerns about what she was consuming.

My friend Laurel is smart.  She’s originally a California girl but moved to the Seattle area where she is now a renowned wedding photographer.  She’s educated. She has a valid opinion about what she consumes as part of her diet and I believe she should!  As members of the Ag community, we have the privilege of daily chatter involving different farming methods, regulations governing those methods, products and production practices for those different methods.  Do we have the right to deny the same information to the consumers we claim are uneducated?

Sometimes the first step toward common ground is the hardest. Sometimes that step is the most fruitful.

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