Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Official Harrison Farm Statement on Bathrooms

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference out-of-state to represent a farm organization -- and on this trip I had one of my classic Katherine embarrassing moments.  While sitting in meetings all day, I inevitably take several breaks to stretch my legs and visit the restroom.  At this particular conference, I ducked out of a presentation for a few minutes to take a break during a very long day.  I headed for the ladies' room, and walked into the stall immediately in front of me.  While in there, I observed that there was someone in the stall next to me.  My observant nature operates at all times, so I realized it was a member of the cleaning staff by the uniform of their pants leg.  My mind -- always running -- thought to itself, "That poor lady . . . They really make the cleaning team wear such awful shoes!  Those shoes are just so manly.  What a terrible uniform for a lady!  Wait a minute . . ."  I hurriedly looked around the stall, and realized there was no discreet box on the wall for waste as would be present in every ladies' room.  And it suddenly occurred to me that I was observant enough to be judgemental about the shoes of the "cleaning lady" in the stall next to me, but not cognizant at all that I had just walked into the men's restroom.  I pulled myself together, stepped out of the stall, and as luck would have it there was a gentleman washing his hands at the sink.  He looked at me with questioning eyes.  I smiled and said "lovely weather we're having!" . . . And then hustled out the door as fast as my non-manly stilettos would take me.

My friends have laughed about that story for years.  As embarrassing as this story is for me, I love to make my friends laugh and thus the experience had a purpose.  Blissfully, I was not arrested for using the restroom of the gender to which I was not born -- a concept which never entered my mind when I made this mistake years ago.  Now we are oddly in a world where such things are being debated.  It seems to me to be a most ridiculous debate.  A bathroom is created for a specific purpose.  No one angrily chased me out of the men's room when I made my error.  At my church, there is inevitably a group of women who end up in line for the ladies' room during the "halftime bathroom break" that is the offertory.  In an effort to move things along -- and reserve the ladies' room for mothers with children -- some of the ladies will instead use the men's restroom (which never has a line).  I can report that the ladies' room is usually a bit better organized and cleaned, but both rooms are there for a specific purpose.  Arguing over who gets to use it is not a constructive use of our time.  Animals relieve themselves in front of me (and sometimes on me) all the time, so I am very happy that as humans we actually use dedicated restrooms.  Beyond this, it was not that long ago that my grandparents were using an outhouse at Harrison Farm.  We should be filled with joy that as humans we have the technology to offer real functioning bathrooms!

This morning in the Wall Street Journal, there was a photo on the front page of a bus that was bombed in Israel, injuring many.  There was an article inside on the hundreds of people who died in the earthquake in Ecuador and the current humanitarian crisis facing the survivors.  There was in-depth follow up on the terrorism in Europe over the last year and the intelligence failures that permitted these atrocities.  A particularly intriguing article discussed the struggles of aging parents in China (a culture that expects adult children to provide for their elderly parents without a strong safety net by the government) who lost the only child to which they were restricted to have by the government, and now have no one to provide for them.  And in the United States we are arguing about who gets to use a bathroom.  Our country has had 240 years of freedom and liberty, and we choose to exercise our First Amendment rights by arguing about bathrooms.

Friends, this post is not to attack anyone's beliefs.  These words are to remind you that our country is engaged in dialogue on a trivial matter: who gets to use a toilet.  I happily endorse that there are differences between the genders, and I happily promote that we are all unique individuals.  Parents who are concerned about their children using a public bathroom should always go with their child.  ALWAYS.  Women tend to go to bathrooms in groups -- this is both social and basic good safety.  In Wyoming, my girlfriends & I visit the woods in groups when we camp to help protect each other from bears of all genders!  It is as equally ridiculous that government bodies are trying to regulate the use of bathrooms, as it is that other government bodies are trying to protest this regulation with their own proposals.  I doubt there is a government entity in this whole great country that does not have at least one rule on the books that would be offensive in some manner.  Move on, and address issues that truly matter.

And if you end up in the wrong bathroom, just comment on the lovely weather!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Iron Ladies 2016

I have come to believe that to be a great lady, one must first be a true bad ass.  While the rules of etiquette provide us with the standards for which to interface in a genteel & respectful manner, these are only arbitrary dictates if they are not first inspired by a sincere desire to treat others with love & understanding.  And that desire comes only from a heart that has complete confidence of its place in the world and a deep understanding of life -- two things which come from encountering joy & pain, from loving sincerely, from losing things & people of value, from struggle, from laughter, from being forced to start over unexpectedly, from learning what truly matters in life.  Once a woman has done all of these things, she becomes a bad ass.  She knows what is important and what is not.  She has the ability to be completely confident in her actions no matter what others think, and yet she chooses to treat those around her in the manner that she would want to be treated.  Those are also the hallmarks of a great lady.

In April of 2013, Baroness Margaret Thatcher passed onward.  Several of my best friends gathered at Harrison Farm the following weekend in their black cocktail dresses to celebrate the Iron Lady.  This event has now evolved into my annual Harrison Farm Iron Ladies Party -- a celebration of the strong and remarkable women who inspire my world.  We gathered on Saturday 4/16 for a wonderful night of conviviality.  The event usually starts with cocktails, then a potluck, dessert, bourbon, and cigars.  It is the one night of the year that smoking is permitted in the farmhouse . . . Being surrounded by inspiring women (all in their favorite black dress) while having a libation and enjoying a cigar is a joy-filled experience!

My friends are cognizant how important equality of opportunity is to me.  I believe we are all endowed with certain rights by God, and we should have the freedom to exercise our abilities and shape our own destinies through personal hard work -- regardless of gender or color or creed or orientation.  I am interested in individual achievement, and I want to compete on a level playing field.  That being said, I also believe in celebrating what makes us different.  I love being an American, I love having blue eyes, I love raising goats, I love being a Catholic . . . And I also want to encourage others to love what makes them a unique individual.  Finding connections with others can be uplifting, thus I firmly endorse finding support networks of those who help to celebrate what makes a person remarkable as individual.  Being able to gather with other strong women to laugh, to cry, and to support one another is such a joy.  It is also my personal celebration of what it means to be an American woman: my friends were able to drive themselves to the home of an unmarried woman without any male chaperones to pray as we wanted, drink as we wanted, and talk about what we wanted -- all while wearing fabulous black dresses.  Think of all the places around the globe where this small party could NEVER have happened due to restrictions on behavior.  To be an American woman is a great gift, and we must never lose sight of the routine freedoms which we have thanks to our birth in this great country!

I am extremely grateful for my inspiring friends who joined me for this year's event!  I truly believe that Margaret Thatcher would be proud!

Sunday, March 6, 2016


My mother used to say that one of the worst parts of farming is picking up the dead ones -- and the more you have, the more you lose.  Behind this thought is the reality of percentages.  If you lose ten percent of your animals in a given season and you only have ten animals, that is only one loss.  And if you have one hundred animals and lose ten percent, there are now ten lost.  The emotional reality for me -- even after forty years on a farm, even after so many animals lost & buried -- is that I feel the impact of every single loss.

Baby Goat Elizabeth passed peacefully this morning.  After so much time spent around the dying, I can usually tell from their body how they slipped away from the temporal realm.  Elizabeth's peaceful state tells me she simply slept away sometime after 5am when I last checked on her.  Her body was so relaxed.  My nature is to over analyze any situation that does not go as I wished.  What could I have done differently?  What signs did I miss?  How could she have been doing so well on Saturday morning, and dead on Sunday morning?

Unfortunately, sometimes these things just happen.  After all, Elizabeth originally came in the house because she was not able to walk or nurse after birth.  There is already something not right if a baby has to come into the kitchen to warm up; any baby who cannot make it in the barn with their own mother is already a lost cause.  I know this, I have lived it over & over, but I still cannot leave a baby simply to die alone & cold. Elizabeth drank her milk very well on Saturday morning.  She drank reasonably well on Saturday afternoon and spent time in the barn with her mother & and her brother.  Yet, by Saturday night she was in a terrible state when it was time for her to come back in the house for the night.  Did I miss a warning sign?  Even though I keep asking myself this question, I know she was doing very well when she went out to the barn for the afternoon.  Her digestive system was functioning well -- both intake & output -- and Elizabeth was quite alert. But something was already not right with her, and apparently it triumphed over her ability to fight it.

It is a struggle to start your day with a dead baby.  Frustration, disappointment, sadness, and self-castigation do not make for a positive start to a morning.  Mornings always require too much as soon as I wake up: walk the dog, let the chickens out, check water, turn out the night lights, feed the orphans.  Managing these activities prior to coffee can be plenty for this farmer to handle, and then the added loss of a little one inevitably adds to a negative outlook.  My back was already sore from working hard the last few days on trimming hooves & basic herd maintenance.  A headache was already raging from inconsistent sleep last night: first falling asleep while holding the baby and sitting at the kitchen table, then getting up in the night to try to give it milk, then getting up again to give it nutritional supplement, then another effort at giving it milk drop by drop from a syringe.  No matter my efforts, no matter how I drive myself to work on the farm, no matter how hard I work off-the-farm as well to earn the income which the farm does not provide -- still these losses come, and still they break my heart.

I raise animals for meat.  The animals will live, and they will eventually die, as will I.  It is the circle of life, and it touches each and every one of us.  Yet, in the time they live, my job is to provide the best care I can for these animals.  I want their days to be good, and I want the end to be quick.  Especially on a farm that focuses on meat production, I want their days of life to be good days.  I hate to see a little one lose the opportunity to enjoy those days.  I recognize that it would be easier for me to manage the losses if I did not get so attached to the animals.  After all, Baby Elizabeth was only in my world for sixty hours and she was just a goat.  That stark reality does not change, though, the desire I had to nourish & care for her, or the emotions I felt as a result of our time together.  The animals work for me, just as I work for them, and we live together in a symbiotic connection.  I have a unique vantage point on the circle of life.  I see my animals born, I raise them, and sometimes I am the one who butchers them.  From this vantage point, I have learned much on the value of life.  I have learned to never give up on a person or an animal.  I have learned that kindness is always of more value than profit.  I have learned to accept failure with courage when I know I tried my absolute best.  The integrity which comes from farming is priceless.

After I bury Elizabeth, there will be more babies that come along.  Some will thrive, and others will be lost.  I will cry over more deaths, and I will have more sleepless nights of care taking.  But I will also have more of those amazing moments that inspire me along the way.  When I sit in the barn at night and watch the babies playing while their mothers quietly relax, I am filled with a great sense of peace.  I know my place in the circle of life, and I know that I am meant to be doing what I do.  Our mission at Harrison Farm is to connect people with animals and with farming.  Sometimes animals make life happier and sometimes they make it sadder, but animals always enrich our lives because they teach us how to be better humans by understanding our place in the world.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mardi Gras Farm Table Dinner

The Mardi Gras season has always been one of my favorites times of the year, with its emphasis on conviving with loved ones & enjoying delicious meals in preparation for the Lenten Season.  This year I hosted a small group of friends for my annual Mardi Gras dinner: the Mistic Krewe of Ro Bo.  A "Krewe" is a social group that celebrates Mardi Gras, and I have been fortunate to host many wonderful friends to the farm for this event over the years!

One of the items I always serve is Robey's Red Beans and Rice.  Red beans & rice is such a simple yet hearty dish, and it can be flavored in many ways.  To make a pot, I start with cooking two cups of rice in four cups of water, following the instructions on the packet.  Once the rice is simmering, I watch it to add the red beans before all the water cooks down.  For this quantity of rice, I use three cans of red beans -- and I pour them in with the juices from the can.  This allows for plenty of liquid to enrich the flavor of the rice . . . And it allows you to simply leave the pot on a low temperature until you are ready to serve your guests!  

I like to flavor the dish with lamb sausage.  I use one pound of delicious Harrison Farm ground lamb, and brown it on the stovetop with onion salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  I serve the lamb sausage on the side so that my guests have the option of the carnivore version or the vegetarian version of Robey's Red Beans & Rice.  It is such a simple dish to prepare, and I received many compliments on it this year.

As a tradition, I enjoy serving the red beans & rice in a dish that has been in the Harrison Farm Family for generations.  The note that sits inside of the dish when it is on the shelf reads (in the handwriting of Ina Marie Harrison dated January 14, 1970): "Tureen belonged to John Lum Harrison and Phebe Thrapp, his wife, married July 6, 1851, parents of James Virgil Harrison, grandparents of Frank Edwin Harrison, great-grandparents of Virgil Grube Harrison, great-great-grandparents of Janet Susan, Rebecca Jane, and Virgilea Ann Harrison".  In a line at the bottom of this note, dated March 23, 1983, it reads further that they were the great-great-great-grandparents of Katherine Harrison Haley and James Virgil Davidson.  Props to The Grandmother for her labeling abilities!

I shared this story with my friends who attended the Mardi Gras dinner, as well as the information that John Lum Harrison had been fortunate to survive an arsenic poisoning that had killed some of his siblings.  From family legend, David Harrison took his four oldest sons (including John) hunting one day, while the younger children stayed home with their mother Mary.  She baked biscuits for them, using "baking powder" which she had purchased recently from the store -- sadly, she had been given arsenic instead of the baking powder she had requested.  My grandfather Virgil had always told the story that the younger children eventually died of arsenic poisoning because they ate the biscuits while they were hot, but the older children survived because they did not have the biscuits until they were cold.   I can recall my grandfather telling this story whenever we would visit the cemetery at Martinsburg, where these children were buried, but I never knew the veracity of this poisoning situation.

I owe great thanks to my Emma, who investigated the scientific properties of arsenic, and was able to share this information with me after the Mardi Gras party: "So, I looked it up and arsenic poisons you by creating oxygen radicals that interfere with oxidative phosphorylation (how your cells create energy). Thus, your cells cannot create energy and die. It stands to reason that this would happen more when the arsenic was hot because heat is a form of energy. It takes energy for electrons to be displaced from the arsenic atom and create radicals. Thus, if some of your relatives ate the biscuits when they were hot there would, in theory, be more radicals that could lead to a more severe reaction (i.e. more cell necrosis). Then, when the arsenic cooled down it could be less toxic because the arsenic atoms had less energy so there were less free radicals bouncing around and messing with the cell's energy production. Another reason could be that there were antioxidants in the biscuits themselves (e.g. nuts, ground cloves) that "soaked up" some of the free radicals as the biscuits cooled down. Thus, they were less toxic to your great great great grandfather when he came back from hunting."

Family history means a great deal to me -- and my friends mean even more to me -- so bringing all of this together to celebrate one of my favorite holidays was extremely wonderful!  I hope you will have an opportunity to enjoy my recipe for Robey's Red Beans & Rice with Harrison Farm lamb sausage . . . And I encourage you to serve it with crusty French bread, and NOT homemade biscuits!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The John Kasich who I Know

During my life, I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to work with politicians and participate in policy development related to agriculture.  I have greatly enjoyed doing this, and I like engaging with political leaders to discuss issues that affect the farm community.  I have also had the unique opportunity of working many events that were attended by local political leaders.  No matter what kind of event it might be, I have learned that if you are wearing an apron, some people view you as merely service staff -- and they will say nearly anything in your presence because you are just staff.  At weddings, this meant that I got to witness brides having meltdowns and guests behaving badly.  But at political events, this meant I was privy to discussions that I would not have heard otherwise.  During the years that I was doing a lot of catering work, I was also starting to do a great deal of policy work.  Many of the leaders with whom I would meet to discuss farm issues, were the same individuals to whom I would be serving a drink while catering a political fundraiser.  My standard for judging these politicians came down to how they treated me when I wore an apron: it was easy to recognize Katherine Harrison in her cowboy hat during a farm visit or in a dress & turquoise jewelry while lobbying at the Statehouse . . . But if they still knew me when I was wearing my black server's uniform, and they still took time to speak to me as a person, then I discerned they were a good human being.  Whenever I release the political endorsements of Harrison Farm, you can trust that the politicians I support (no matter their party) are the people who have earned my respect as good human beings.

I recognize that I am in a unique position to share information on a particular candidate during the presidential primaries, and I am writing this post to provide more detail on my interactions with a politician who definitely earned my respect: Governor John Kasich.  Right after John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, he visited the Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting.  I had the good fortune of serving on Farm Bureau's policy development committee that year, and thus was seated right next to the podium while he gave his address to the delegates.  I was very impressed by his energy & charisma, yet had no idea I would soon get to spend much more time around the Governor & his family.  My initial good impression grew into strong personal respect.

The reality of being a farmer is that it is a job that is hard work, in tough conditions, with little pay.  Farmers do not farm to get rich, they farm because they love what they do.  To keep my own livestock farm going, I have to work off the farm to provide income -- so I can have things like health insurance, a cell phone, and my subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  I began working as a server for a local catering company to bring in extra income.  I ended up finding an amazing work family at a catering company that wholeheartedly supports local farms & local foods.  My organization skills were a good fit to oversee events, and thus I began doing a lot of event supervision.  This is how I began to supervise events at the Governor's Mansion in Bexley, Ohio.  I was never employed by Governor Kasich, thus my observations of him were merely from my role as a supervisor & server for the company that catered several events at the Governor's Mansion.

From the time I first worked an event for Governor Kasich, he was always polite.  I suspect that an energetic leader like Kasich must get used to a constant flow of people around him.  So I was not surprised that our early interactions were short, but pleasant.  The more I worked at the Governor's Mansion (and the more that Governor Kasich became used to me being there), I felt that I was able to establish a certain level of trust with him.  Because he was always kind to me, I wanted to make sure that in my limited role I was able to assist him to the best of my ability.  Admittedly, this meant small things like remembering he liked a cup of coffee after dinner, he appreciated a bottle of water for the road if he had to head out to a meeting, and he liked all the food on his plate to be warm (not a mix of temperatures).  I learned that if Governor Kasich was at the end of his business day, he enjoyed a nice glass of red wine -- but never if he still had more work yet to do.  Attending to even these small things allowed me to feel that in my own way I was helping our state's leader, and he truly repaid me with courtesy & kindness.

I believe that Governor Kasich appreciated that I paid attention to how I could be of help in my role.  With this, I was given the rare opportunity to get to see the political leader of our state in completely relaxed situations.  I saw Governor Kasich interact with his staff and his friends, just being himself -- and seeing the warm & professional people with whom he surrounded himself increased my opinion of him.  I heard him on business calls, I saw him help his daughters with homework & piano practice, and I listened to the prayers he offered before I would serve dinner.  First Lady Karen Kasich earned my deep respect as a lovely, accomplished woman.  I found her to be a caring person, and one who was willing to pitch in to get event work accomplished successfully.  Seeing the partnership between the Kasichs (particularly the way that the Governor supported his wife), cemented my support for the Governor.

John Kasich always treated me with respect & appreciation.  He consistently offered thanks for my service, and encouraged his staff to welcome me in my role.  But more than that, the Governor himself made me feel valued.  In our interactions, I truly felt he cared when he would ask how I was and what was new in my world.  Governor Kasich would tease me about my trait of always being calm, no matter what drama might be swirling around me -- and I liked that he got to know me as a human being, not just as a person in an apron.  I treasure my memories of working events that he & his wife hosted.  I know that I was afforded a rare opportunity to see in action someone who is now a presidential candidate.  

As I have spent more time in the policy arena, I have come to realize that I would rather work with a politician who is a gentleman (even if we disagree on certain issues), than a politician who is not a gentleman (even if I may agree with their ideas).  In this time of bombastic & juvenile behavior that passes for political discourse, I felt it important to share my memories of working for a politician who is a gentleman.  As my friends around this great country consider their primary votes, I wanted to share more about my personal interactions with this candidate.  When I support a politician, it is not because I am issuing a rallying cry for a certain cause or a certain party -- it is because I believe in the human being.  Governor Kasich treated me with respect when I was in professional dress as a farmer delegate to Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting the first time I met him, and he continued to show professional & personal courtesy when I was the server routinely bringing him coffee.  On behalf of all my farm animals and in memory of the noted political prognosticator Doody the Goat, I am very happy to offer Harrison Farm's endorsement of Governor John Kasich for President!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

Greetings from Harrison Farm!  I sincerely hope that your family has enjoyed a blessed and wonderful year.  As I began reflecting on this past year, it has truly been the most difficult of my life -- and I do not say that lightly.  With the passing of my grandmother this fall, I have been very reflective on the chapter of my life that has closed now that my parents and grandparents have all passed onward.  During the struggles I have encountered, I have found myself often turning to those things that my family instilled in me.

I was fortunate during my childhood that my grandparents were such an active part of raising me.  My grandfather Virgil taught me to drive a tractor, to deliver lambs, to provide medical care for livestock, and to understand the circle of life on a farm.  My grandmother Ina Marie taught me to bake cookies, to sew & mend, to garden, and to understand how to nourish a family.  The happiest times of my childhood were spent with my grandparents: the weekly Friday night that I got to stay at their house, the wonderful road trips that we took in the motor home, the time we spent sitting together in their kitchen talking.  I spent hours at the kitchen table with my grandfather (as my grandmother brought us chocolate chip cookies, sweet tea, and popcorn), where we would discuss history, politics, economics, religion, and culture.  I was fortunate that my grandfather never tried to guide me to simply be the best woman I could be -- but rather instilled in me the desire to be the best individual that I could possibly be.  With a strong-willed wife and three dynamic daughters, I am sure that by the time I arrived there was no doubt in my grandfather's mind that a woman could achieve whatever she put her mind to doing.

I can recall distinctly as a child that my grandfather tried to prepare me that at some point my world would fall apart.  It could be from something dramatic like war or famine or plague -- or it could be something intensely personal like divorce or cancer or job loss.  While this was an unusual lesson for a child, he tried to instill in me the realization that this happened to everyone at some point . . . And it would happen to me.  And when it did, I would only be left with what I had in my head and what I could do with my hands.  Of late, I have often thought on those words.

My grandfather did not have an easy life, but he was a hard worker who loved people and always wore a dynamic smile no matter the situation.  I suspect much of his attitude on life came from watching his own parents.  My great-grandfather Frank was crippled, with one leg approximately six inches shorter than the other.  He wore a specially designed metal lift attached to his shoe.  One of these shoes has survived through the decades, and I still have it at the farm.  It weighs a good ten pounds, and it amazes me to think that my great-grandfather overcame what had to be a profound physical struggle to find success as a farmer & a butcher.  That resilience of spirit was matched by his wife Monnie.  My great-grandmother was an educated woman, who spent the first years of her marriage living in a sheep wagon in Wyoming.  I am continually amazed by the fortitude it took for her to give up what was a civilized life in Columbus to travel to the open country of Wyoming and live in a wagon the size of a truck camper with her husband, their dog, and hundreds of sheep.  After my great-grandparents returned to Ohio, they originally lived at a farm outside of Fredonia.  One day while my great-grandmother was home alone, the house caught on fire.  She saved a pillow that she had hand embroidered (which my grandfather gave to me on my 16th birthday), and she saved her piano.  I cannot imagine the surge of adrenaline that fueled the strength to save that piano from a fire, but I am in endless admiration of a woman that shows that kind of courage in the face of danger. 

I know my mother Rebecca was fascinated by her grandparents, and in my youth she shared with me the stories they had told her.  My mother was tough on me -- very tough at times -- but I doubt I would have survived this long in life if she had not expected discipline and endurance from me.  When I was nine years old, I was riding Abraham the Mule after school one day, when he bucked me off.  As Abe headed for the barn, he managed to step painfully on my ankle.  My mother caught Abe, brought him to me, and told me to get back on.  I recall distinctly crying and telling her I did not want to do so, yet she kept telling me I had to get back on.  And so I did.  My mother got bucked off a lot during her life -- both literally and figuratively -- but she never gave up.  As I have matured, I have come to realize that one of my mother's best traits was that she was not afraid to make mistakes, and she always tried to learn from them.  She baked beautiful wedding cakes, she loved making baskets, she got her pilot's license at age sixteen, and she was extraordinarily gifted at healing the maladies of little lambs.  Watching my mother as she went through her journey with cancer inspired in me proud respect for a woman who could face the end of her time on earth with such courage & graciousness & laughter.

As I have faced the struggles that have arisen in my life this year, I have thought greatly of how my grandfather cautioned me that this time would come.  With age, I have gained more perspective on his life and the challenges he faced, and I recognize that he was demonstrating clearly to me that one could live with dignity no matter the challenge.  Life is not easy.  One of my favorite songs has the line "if you're going through hell, keep on going".  There have been many days that I have pulled myself exhausted from bed this year despite my physical challenges to keep my work commitments.  There have been many times that I have felt nearly broken while nursing an animal late at night in the barn, knowing it was probably going to die any way.  And I have spent a lot of time with my arms around the neck of my dog or my horse as I nursed a melancholy heart.  But the legacy that my family passed to me has strengthened me through this time.

If I am tough at all, it is because my mother demanded it of me.  If I have any wisdom, it is because my grandfather spent his live demonstrating it to me.  As I live my life in the same home where my mother, and my grandmother, and my great-grandmother resided, I am continually reminded of the legacy they left me.  You may recall that line that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did -- but backwards & in high heels.  My great-grandfather's boot is a tangible reminder that he did everything I do today, but with a ten pound metal lift on his left foot.  Every time I see my great-grandmother's piano, I am reminded that we have deep reserves of strength within each of us that we do not even know we have until we must call upon them for survival.  Above & beyond all this, I know I am alive today because my grandmother took the time to make sure I had a good meal, a delicious cookie, and a warm hug whenever I needed them during my childhood.

We all possess the ability to inspire others through determination, dignity, and love.  I am extraordinarily blessed to have such remarkable friends in my world, and I am truly grateful for that support that has been given to me.  I hope that you have received such inspiration & support in your life -- and I hope that you have found ways to offer it to others.  I wish for you a blessed and joyful 2016!  May it be a wonderful year for all of us!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Ninja

One of my grandmother's habits was to label everything with her name.  A good portion of the Tupperware containers at the homeplace are labelled Ina Marie Harrison in black sharpie.  As I have sorted through her clothes, I have seen many sweaters with her name written by the tag at the back.  Photographs -- thankfully -- were given notations of the date, the location, and who was pictured.  The Jackalope my friend Angie bought in Wyoming for Grandmother is properly labelled with information on the date it was given and the the name of the giver.  

Toward the end of the time that Grandmother was living at home, this habit did morph to extremes.  She would write her name on her shoes, on bags of sugar, and even on gallons of milk.  Probably the greatest moment was when she likewise wrote INA on her toilet paper.  The first time my Emma came to stay at the farm, she saw "INA" written on so many items around the farmhouse.  Not yet having met Grandmother, she inquired what I N A represented . . . Maybe the International Ninja Association?  Thereafter, Grandmother picked up the nickname of The Ninja.

This story came to mind as I marveled about what occurred as I was leaving the cemetery following the memorial gathering that we had for Grandmother on Sunday.  Several of my friends joined me for brunch at Bob Evans -- a fitting tribute to The Grandmother -- and I departed the cemetery first to lead the caravan.  As I sat at a traffic light, ready to turn into the Bob Evans parking lot, I looked up at the car in front of me.  Reading the license plate, I hastily grabbed my iPad in a poor attempt to record it with a picture.  As my friends arrived at the restaurant, I pulled out my iPad to show them the photo of the car that was in front of me on the short drive from the cemetery . . . With the custom license plate of "INA".  It was starting to get dark, and you can just barely see the license in this picture of the car turning right. I am still completely amazed.