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Irons in the fire: Don’t use all the Post-it notes

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 30 October 2018

From my perspective, I find social media to be, for the most part, a huge waste of time. It can be useful, to be sure, for a variety of reasons – but 10 minutes of productivity somehow usually evaporates into 45 wasted minutes viewing an array of ridiculous political rants, videos and borderline crude GIFs and memes.

Facebook and its cousins, Twitter and Instagram, have come in handy for me on a few occasions. For instance, I posted a picture of some kittens I’d found behind the barn, and within a few days they’d all found new homes.

I wasn’t too awfully concerned if they were good homes so long as they were not my home. (Oh, relax. They’ll be fine. They didn’t go to feed some weirdo’s pet python.) I like to have some cats around, but when the feline herd numbers reach double digits, it’s time for some culling.

Anyway, I was taking a peek at Facebook the other day when I saw a post from a friend of mine (a real friend, mind you, not just a Facebook friend). She’d posted a picture of her kitchen covered in Post-it notes, each with a word or two (many of them misspelled) written by her 5- or 6-year-old daughter, who was discovering the joy of the written word.

This reflective young mother wistfully commented on how happy she was as she changed her attitude about wasting Post-it notes. Instead of scolding her daughter and lamenting the wasteful destruction of the world’s limited forests, she found genuine joy in watching her little girl’s world open up as she discovered new avenues in communication. Mama was growing up with her daughter as she learned to appreciate the little things and the art of genuine gratitude.

It cast a momentary shadow of regret over me as I realized that, too often, I’d opted for the low road of too-harsh criticism of my kids as they were growing up. I’d cussed them for crooked saddle blankets and granny knots, for leaving the bull behind in the bottom of the draw or feeding from the wrong end of the stack.

They felt the sting of my wrath when they came home from the homecoming dance with the gas gauge on empty – or when they overfed the heifers, when they got a C in fifth-grade art, missed the bus or tied the horse up with the rawhide romal. The clarity that comes with hindsight makes all of that seem silly now.

I hope I’ve learned a little more about gratitude than I understood in years past. Now I’m grateful for the simple fact they were even a little willing to help me with the feeding and they liked to spend all day in the saddle, gathering cows in the dust, rain or snow.

I’m grateful they still want to come home on Thanksgiving weekend to help preg check a couple hundred cows, even though they know the straw boss will probably be cranky and a little on edge. I’m grateful for their mother, who packed the lunches and got them out the door. I’m grateful for the Thanksgiving morning, a few decades ago, when I sat on the fence with my dad and spent an hour watching two old bulls fight, placing bets on whether the Simmental or the Hereford would win.

I’m grateful that, every once in a while, I can appreciate the little things, which helps me truly understand the value of the monumental gifts.

The grass will grow back. The fence can be fixed, and there are more Post-it notes in the drawer.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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