Author Archives: Rae

Sometimes I stick a needle in my arm

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Sometimes I stick a needle in my arm

OK, I don’t. The phlebotomist does. And it’s usually every couple of months. 56 days is the rule of thumb, and I am talking about giving blood. As amazing as modern science is, there’s not, to the best of my knowledge, a universal, medically approved substitute for human blood. While that may not mean much to most of us, to those who have had traumatic accidents or even those whose bodies just don’t make the proper amount of blood, it can mean a lot, maybe even the difference between life and death.

That’s why I try to donate blood as often as I can. There is a blood drive about every 2 months, conveniently located just down the road from my office. The front desk lady at the church where it’s held is nice, the staff is efficient and friendly, and the process usually only takes about an hour. The long drawn out paperwork has been replaced by RapidPass, which allows the donor to complete the necessary questions prior to arrival and really speeds up the pre-donation process. IMG_1547.JPG

That little pin in the photo? That’s my 2-gallon pin, and although that means that I have donated 2 gallons of blood over time, I’m embarrassed. I should be at 10 gallons by now, had I stayed in the habit.

People say “I can’t even. I don’t like needles, doesn’t it hurt?” Well, I don’t love needles either, so I don’t look when they put the needle in. It doesn’t hurt, per se… especially if you tell yourself it doesn’t hurt. But you know what? Even if it DID hurt a little, SO WHAT? The people who will receive this aptly-named “gift of life” may have been in an awful accident or may have complications from surgery…

I think of “my people” when I donate.  Makes it super-easy. Someone incredibly dear to me was in a lawnmower accident as a toddler. I interviewed a farmer who lost both legs in a grisly silage-chopper accident. My dad is a stroke victim and his body doesn’t produce enough blood, so periodically he finds himself in the hospital, running “a quart low” and receiving transfusions made possible by donors.

So, if you’re thinking about donating blood and are able to do so, I urge you to roll up your sleeve. To find a donor center or bloodmobile near you, visit www.redcrossblood.org. It’s something you can do that won’t cost you a dime but could save lives. What better “pay it forward” could there be?

Oh, and they have cookies after.

Grocery shopping can be HARD

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Shopping for groceries can be overwhelming. Trying to balance a budget and nutrition while deciphering food labels can challenge even the most experienced supermarket veteran. Most of the terms found in big, bright letters on packages in the supermarket have one thing in common: marketing. Companies are being pressured to change their formulations and their labels by consumers who may or may not know the truth behind the claims made by pseudo-experts and – even worse – celebrities. Fear-based marketing is alive and well, and the supermarket is a true feeding frenzy of misinformation, half-truths and fearmongering.

To help you sort through all the jargon, here are some clues for solving the mystery of buying nutritious, affordable food for your family.

  1. Poultry and pork products labeled “raised without added hormones,” aren’t any different from other poultry and pork. In fact, growth hormones of any kind are not approved for use (I mean their use is illegal) when raising chickens or pigs, so ALL poultry and pork is free from added hormones. Labeling pork and poultry as “raised without added hormones” is about the same as labeling water as “wet.” True, but unnecessary.
  2.  “Antibiotic free” is another tricky one. If an animal gets sick, farmers must provide care for that animal. This isn’t an isolated case – if you or children are sick, you visit a doctor and seek medically appropriate treatment. Farmers work closely with veterinarians to determine the best care plan for their livestock and administer antibiotics judiciously. If an animal is treated with antibiotics, a strict withdrawal period must be followed to allow ample time for the medicine to pass through the animal’s system. Antibiotics used in meat animals don’t enter our food system.
  3. “All natural,” doesn’t even actually have a definition. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) don’t have rules about what constitutes an “all natural” food, so beware of products boasting this label and charging a premium price.
  4. GMOs or genetically modified organisms aren’t new to the farm/food scene and they’re not scary. Farmers have been improving plants for more than 10,000 years; biotechnology is just a more precise, efficient way of identifying and selecting traits that improve a plant’s ability to grow and thrive in difficult conditions, all while requiring fewer natural resources and chemicals. GMOs are the safest, most tested foods on the planet and more than 2,000 independent scientific studies agree that GMOs are safe for us to eat. Genetic modification isn’t an ingredient, it’s a plant-breeding method, and that’s why it hasn’t been listed on food packages.
  5. “Organic” doesn’t necessarily mean the food was grown on a small farm or that it was raised without chemicals. Farmers of all sizes choose to grow both conventional and organic crops, and all food, regardless of how it was raised, must meet strict safety regulations before you can purchase it in the grocery store. Organic growers use pesticides, some of them are just different than the ones used by #ModernAg. Further, there is no nutritional difference between organically grown food and that raised using conventional methods. Choose organic if you wish – just don’t be fooled by the propaganda and misinformation.
  6. “Cage Free” poultry is another marketing term that can give consumers fits. Broilers, the name for chickens raised for meat, are not kept in cages. Again, it’s like marketing water as “wet.”

Choices are important to all of us, and there’s room in farming for a wide range of production methods to provide us with in-demand food choices. We are fortunate to live in the United States, where we have the most abundant, affordable and safe food supply in the world. Make good choices, and don’t fear your food!

When things heat up, be nice or take a break

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So here we are at the halfway point of summer, and things continue to heat up – not only outdoors, but in politics and on social media. International trade, tariff discussions with China and the possible renegotiation of NAFTA are all hot topics.

In tense situations, temperatures run hot, too, and it is important to keep your cool. My granddaddy used to say “be like a duck, calm on the surface and paddling like the dickens underneath,” and I think that’s good advice. When we’re stressed out, it’s easy to pop off and say (or post or Tweet) things that we shouldn’t. Even if we have second thoughts and go back to the “delete” button later, the damage may be done.

One of the things that I find most interesting about social media is the number of “lurkers” in the community. Whether on Facebook or Twitter, there are the few people with whom we interact, then there is the silent majority. They don’t “like and share,” they don’t “favorite or retweet,” but they are always there…reading what we write and watching how we interact with others.

Many of these lurkers are in what is known as “the moveable middle,” and they are an incredibly important sector of the social media audience. Those are the people who may not have strong opinions either way on the subjects of GMOs, international trade, the use of chemicals in modern agriculture or antibiotic use in poultry and livestock. They’re probably looking to those of us who are in agriculture for information, and they acknowledge us as the authority on these subjects because we deal with them daily.

So, who are YOU more likely to believe, “Levelheaded Larry” or “Bobby Blowhard?” Seriously. Many of these lurkers are friends of friends on Facebook, or they see a retweet of what you said on Twitter. They don’t know you, and their only impression as to your credibility may be seeing what you write on social media and how you write it. Do you approach a subject in a calm, factual manner, or do you just “let it fly” and refer to consumers with derogatory language

It’s true that consumers sometimes “don’t know what they’re talking about” when it comes to modern agriculture, whether it be row crop production or the raising of livestock and poultry, but the conversations in which their lack of knowledge becomes clear is the perfect time to share what you know instead of brushing off their concerns. We don’t know it all, either. What is a common practice in one part of the country may be unheard of in another, so it’s important that we speak to what we do know.

And, if you find that you can’t be positive and civil on social media, it is perfectly OK to take a break. An unknown wise person once said, “you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” If social media has stopped being a place where you share farm pictures and compliment your friend’s grandchildren, if you find yourself getting upset or angry when you log on, step away for a while, cool down, and come back in a week. If you keep engaging when you are in a poor mental state to do so, that will come through loud and clear in your posts and tweets.

No. No, Darlin’, you didn’t.

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OK so I’m a Southern girl, and aaallll that that implies ( bonus points for those of you who got the Urban Cowboy reference). I’m also a Southern cook, and – yes – Southern gets a capital S. Being a Southern cook, I don’t always use a recipe. When Mama and Granny taught me to cook, they used measurements like “a little of this” and “a dab of that,” and I either understood or figured it out right quick.

And, as I’ve grown older and cooked more, I have modified some of their dishes to suit my taste and that of the DH. But here lately, I’ve been spending some time on the Pinterest, and I’ve found some good recipes. Like with any other social media platform, though, people can’t just read something and leave well enough alone. Nooooooooo. And my silly self read the comments on some of the recipes.

Bad idea, Darlin’.

Because many of them say “I made this…. but” and that’s where things get ugly. “I made this, but instead of potatoes, I used riced cauliflower.” “I made this, but instead of grilled chicken breast, I used me some fatback pork.” “I made this, but I didn’t like ANY of the seasonings you listed, so I used something completely different instead.” And they wonder why it didn’t turn out.’

So, no darlin’, you DIDN’T “make this.” If you were inspired by a recipe to come up with your own, go for it! If you changed half the ingredients so that your dish IN NO WAY resembled the recipe, a knock yourself slick out doing so. But do not go on to someone’s pin or blog or FacePage and tell them “I made this” if you didn’t.

(Yes, I might be cooking supper using a new recipe and blogging at the same time. Go, me!)

Disclaimer: yes, I believe in tweaking recipes, and yes, I do it ALL THE TIME. This is about commenting on some poor chick’s hard-fought attempt at sharing her recipe, and basically telling her how YOU could have done it better. And yes, it’s most always ok to add a dab of bacon grease, unless you’re bakin’ a cake or makin’ a pie.

OH. My. LANTA, Darlin’!

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So it popped up in my planner (yes, I have a paper one in addition to my iCalendar – don’t judge me!) that yesterday was FIVE YEARS in the Redneck Girl’s Dream Job (RGDJ). FIVE YEARS!

Yes, I loved my job when I worked at the newspaper… until it became all about revenue forecasts and page count projections, and doing everything on a shoestring stretched way too tightly. I still loved the community and the writing and photography, and the people I worked with, but this opportunity came along and I am so very thankful, grateful and blessed that it did.

Yes, I have an awesome job. As communication director for the Kentucky Soybean Board and Kentucky Soybean Association, I STILL get to take pictures and write stories, but I am part of a much larger community than just Lyon County, Kentucky. I get to work with and for some of the best people I’ve ever known, and that makes my heart happy. I’m part of a family – truly. And the branches of that family extend far beyond the state line.

Through my career path and my AGvocacy efforts online, I have gotten to know people across the country, many of them well. There’s a certain young lady in Kansas (Hi Jancey!) without whom my life would be a little dimmer, a soon-to-be-ex pig farmer in Indiana who is surely my sister from another mister, and numerous other people who mean the world to me.

SO. Bear in mind that (the calendar says) I’m 50, so I changed careers completely at age 45, after being a member of the PMG staff for more than 20 years. I had thought I’d retire from there, but GOD HAD SOMETHING BETTER for me. When a great opportunity lands in your lap, Darlin’, examine it, pray about it, do the math, and TAKE IT.

#ILoveMyJob

SQUEEEEEEE! #GarthBrooks

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I have never been a literal Bucket List kind of girl. I am more a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. Shocking, I know.

But. If I HAD a written bucket list, seeing Garth Brooks in concert would have been on it. And I saw him. And Miss Yearwood. And it was all I could have ever wanted and more.

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I have loved this man since 1989, and I might have even married a guy who bore more than a passing resemblance to this man. He speaks to me. From “In Another’s Eyes” to “Callin’ Baton Rouge” to “Friends in Low Places,” he just gets me. My funeral instructions include the playing of his “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”  Goes like this:

Sometimes late at night 
I lie awake and watch her sleeping 
She’s lost in peaceful dreams 
So I turn out the lights and lay there in the dark 
And the thought crosses my mind 
If I never wake up in the morning 
Would she ever doubt the way I feel 
About her in my heart 

If tomorrow never comes 
Will she know how much I loved her 
Did I try in every way to show her every day 
That she’s my only one 
And if my time on earth were through 
And she must face this world without me 
Is the love I gave her in the past 
Gonna be enough to last 
If tomorrow never comes 

‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life 
Who never knew how much I loved them 
Now I live with the regret 
That my true feelings for them never were revealed 
So I made a promise to myself 
To say each day how much she means to me 
And avoid that circumstance 
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel 

If tomorrow never comes 
Will she know how much I loved her 
Did I try in every way to show her every day 
That she’s my only one 
And if my time on earth were through 
And she must face this world without me 
Is the love I gave her in the past 
Gonna be enough to last 
If tomorrow never comes 

So tell that someone that you love 
Just what you’re thinking of 
If tomorrow never comes

The fellas who wrote that song are really onto something. I am sure I wasn’t the only one in Bridgestone Arena with tears streaming when he played this song – because I know there are people in MY life who may not know how much I care about them, and that, my friends, is all on me.

Let ’em know. Because someday tomorrow won’t come.

Rae-Wagoner-Celebration-Of-Life attendees will also hear The Dance, written by the great Tony Arata:

Looking back on the memory of 
The dance we shared beneath the stars above 
For a moment all the world was right 
How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye 
And now I’m glad I didn’t know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d have had to miss the dance 
Holding you I held everything 
For a moment wasn’t I the king 
But if I’d only known how the king would fall 
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all 
And now I’m glad I didn’t know 
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d have had to miss the dance 
Yes my life is better left to chance 
I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance

Wow. Don’t miss The Dance that we call Life, friends. I know this talk of Bucket Lists and funeral songs is sad, but as I have achieved a “certain age,” I think about these things from time to time. I don’t want to hand God my one talent and say “here – I hid it and kept it safe.” Matthew 25:14-30  I want to slide up to the Pearly Gates sideways, comin in hot, having LIVED and LOVED and sucked every bit of joy from the gift of this life I have been given.

I encourage you to do the same.

So, the Cosmos has SPOKEN, Darlin’

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Well, SOMETHING has spoken. Maybe the planets aligned, maybe my inner overachiever has woken up, perhaps it’s simply meant to be. I was on #AgChat last night (if you don’t #AgChat and you are an ag person, you totally should! It’s a Twitter Chat held on Tuesday evenings at 8 eastern, 7 central and will totally connect you with other aggies. Subject is outlined prior, Questions are submitted ahead of time. Check it out.) and those of us who blog were either sharing #AgBrags or (this would be me) bemoaning our lack of performance for the year 2017 and PROMISING to do better in 2018.

Resolutions are like that, right? You get a brand new shiny year, with no screw-ups, and it’s like a kid with fresh school supplies! (My name is Rae, and I have a school/office supply “problem.”)  So the Fates collided (or colluded?) and as my every-Wednesday-morning-9-a.m. alarm went off on my computer, the one that reminds me to post here, I opened my personal email. The email came from National Day Calendar, proclaiming today as National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.

choc covered cherry day

That might not be a sign to you, but seeing as how I have had this image:

choc covered cherries

on my desktop since late November, it was a real “AHA!” moment for me. You see, I had been meaning to write a blog post about chocolate covered cherries and the memories they evoke for me. Do not misunderstand – I don’t LIKE them, but my Granny LOVED them, and I loved her, so I ate one when she’d offer it to me when I was a kid.

Isn’t it funny how seeing these on an end cap (this was even her preferred BRAND!) at WalMart can reduce a grown woman to tears?

So. Soak up all that your Granny or your Grandma or your whoever has to give you. Listen to her stories. Learn about the ole days, when they had to walk 10 miles to school, uphill both ways and barefoot. Let her teach you how to cook using measurements like “a little dab” or “about a handful,” or – my personal favorite from MY Granny, “well, till it looks right…”  There will come a time that you, like me, will only have memories. Store up as many as you can.

And for those of you who subscribe to my blog, thank you. I know I have let you down over and over, and I’ve really let myself down more than I have you… I intend to do better with content frequency in this bright shiny new year.