Life lessons from Mom and baby journos

The women in my life inspire me.

Having a target date for Kenya – June 30 – has me thinking about a lot of things. The women I know being one.

My mom, the sheep farmer

On Mother’s Day, my mom went to church.

Then she came home and changed into a T-shirt, jeans and boots. First, she went out to the pasture behind the house where the ewes with single lambs grazed and moved them to a new pasture. Then, she pulled out heavy-duty pliers, a roll of wire and a hammer to repair a loose strand of the fence.

The day before, she rounded up the feeder lambs and trimmed feet. The day after, she pulled a late night weighing lambs in preparation to send some to market the next day.

The past six months have been an extended Mother’s Day of sorts. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on a lot of things – namely politics and religion. But I love her and I respect her.

A small town girl who grew up to be a well-traveled and educated woman, my mom is self-taught farmer. Getting back to my sheep farming roots has given me a renewed appreciation for what she chooses to do. It’s not easy. At all. Especially this spring, when we had one of the craziest lambing times ever. I even Tweeted my consternation.

At 72, Mom doesn’t have to wrangle sheep – especially when the work results in a tweaked knee or a sore shoulder. She does it because she loves it. I can only hope to have that much passion for something when I’m 72.

Hail to the Emilys

I call them the Emilys.

They’re wonderfully independent, newly minted college graduates. And they helped renew my love for good, old-fashioned journalism.

When I began working in higher education, I felt like newspapers had chewed me up and spit me out. I also felt like I’d given up before I had really found my way. The new work I did was rewarding in its own way, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had left something unfinished.

That is, until I was asked to become the college newspaper adviser – and I met students like the Emilys.

Who are they?

They ran the newspaper for two years, and they ran it well.

They are two very different people. They are brilliantly and uniquely different. But where they are similar, they are passionately so. The newspaper was the object of a lot of that passion. It was refreshing.

I had the privilege of watching them learn and grow through that experience. I still remember them wrestling with their weekly Entertainment section as sophomores. When they were tapped to step into leadership, they showed promise. They proceeded to take that promise and run with it.

By the time they walked across the podium in the bright sunshine this past Saturday to receive their degrees, they had shaped the paper into a source of interest, (sometimes vehement) discussion and relevance. They basked in praise and weathered criticism, showing maturity beyond their years.

I wasn’t their adviser during this past year, but I enjoyed seeing their progression continue, even at a distance.

It reminded me that although I may never be a daily newspaper reporter again, the craft of journalism is alive and well – and it will thrive as long as it has young advocates like the Emilys.

This relates to Kenya, how?

It took moving back to the sheep farm to realize that instead of shying away from where I come from, I should embrace it. Maybe that was God’s plan all along.

It took the reminder of my mom striding through the pastures in her polka-dotted galoshes and one of her lifetime supply of Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival T-shirts that sometimes your life’s work isn’t in a far-off location.

It took the growing pains of collegiate journalists to help renew a sense of journalistic purpose that may have gotten muddled along the way.

I love the farm and being outdoors. I love journalism. I love pursuing what I am called to do.

Right now, that means moving to Kenya. Down the road, who knows? There may be some sheep farming in my future yet.


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