Why the change?

L.A. Skyline

Wait, this blog still exists?

Yes, this blog still exists, but it now comes to you from a different city. I’m writing this as my first post since relocating to the Los Angeles area. So, why the change?

The more I experience in my life, the more I am surprised by the growing number of sayings or adages I heard that I thought I understood, only to realize later they contained way more wisdom than I was able to comprehend originally. One such adage is, “The only thing consistent in life is change,” or some variation thereof. I used to think I knew what this meant. I had no idea.

The Good Life

About a year and a half has passed since I wrote a post on here. That’s plenty of time for change under any circumstances, and in these past 18 months, the changes in my life threw me around like a rollercoaster..

The biggest reason for the lack of new posts on Jdilley’s  Questions was because I seemed to be finding a lot of answers. I was excelling in my career as a copywriter. I was in several music projects and some of them seemed to be gaining traction. One of the bands I was in released an album, Mammatus, while another got a temporary residency. Both were booking private parties. I even got the opportunity to sing the national anthem at several events. Writing for work and performing at night sapped all my creative energy, so my personal writing, ie. this blog, took a back seat.

My personal life seemed to be going just as well for much of this time too. I got engaged, set a date, and booked a venue. Everything in my life seemed to be going well, but as you already know, things change.

Let the Dominos Fall

The pressure of an approaching wedding date seemed to cause the first cracks in the foundation of the life I was enjoying. My relationship with my then fiancee deteriorated and we called the wedding off. To keep a promise I made to her, I won’t go into any more detail, but that moment opened a floodgate of questions I had to ask myself about my life. The biggest one being, how can I trust my own perception if it could have me ready to commit to something that could fall apart so quickly? While that’s an important question, pondering it didn’t leave me with any actionable answers. However, other questions sprung up around it. I will explore those questions in this, and subsequent posts.

While trying to console myself after another failure in my personal life, I tried to point to the success I had in other realms of my life. Unfortunately, what previously felt like success, was now feeling stagnant.

After months of constant work and some great gigs, the demand for the bands I was in started slowing. Our residency was coming to an end and we didn’t build the following we had hoped. The other project was back to playing bar shows and, although the bar patrons, employees, and other bands always liked our shows, we failed to bring fans of our own. Singing to empty barstools grew tiresome and frustrating. Those are the perils of the Salt Lake City music scene. I will write an entire post about this at some point. The point being, finding the energy to stay dedicated to music projects with so little support grew more and more difficult.

I still liked my job. I couldn’t ask for a better company for which to work. But, that was strangely part of the problem. My work life was extremely comfortable. Although the work itself was interesting enough, writing sales copy isn’t exactly fulfilling. That’s not a problem when you find fulfillment in other areas of your life, but as I’ve already stated, the other areas of my life were not going well.

Time to Move On

With seemingly everything in my life turning stale at the same time, I found myself asking, “What are you doing with your life?” That quickly transitioned to, “What do you want to do with your life?” My answers focused around how I wanted to spend my time each day. But, that’s a difficult to define beyond the foreseeable future. I’m not sure what I’m going to feel like doing next year, next month, or sometimes even next week. Again, this didn’t lead to many actionable answers.

The next question that came up was, “What do you want to have done with your life?” It’s a small change in phrasing, but the connotation means everything to me.

As I get older, I think more about my legacy. I want to leave a mark on the world in some way, or at least try to do so. Asking “What do you want to have done with your life?” leads me to answers that resemble goals. Accomplishing those goals will help me create a legacy of which I can be proud. Working backward from those goals to where I am now, or more correctly, where I was when realizing all this, started to lay out a road map that provided answers to the previous questions.

I’m not going to blow smoke and say I have clear goals now, because that’s not true, but I’m so much closer to having them than I ever have been before. For example, I realized I wanted to have lived in more than one place for a significant portion of my life. I feel it’s necessary in order to understand how much of my perspective is because of my environment and how much of it comes from within. With everything going stagnant in my life, now felt like a good time to try a new city.

Change

I deliberated for a while about which city would be my new home, but ultimately I knew it had to be a place with lots of musical opportunities. I don’t have any delusions of instant stardom, but I love singing. I couldn’t stop doing it if I tried, so I might as well live somewhere with the potential for recognition or financial compensation for doing so. That narrowed the list of potential relocation targets to a handful of cities. As I imagined myself in each place, one kept stepping to the forefront. So, I followed through on something I had thought about doing since high school. I packed up my car and headed to Los Angeles.

I didn’t have a job lined up, (still don’t). I didn’t have a place to stay. I only knew two people in the whole city and we weren’t particularly close, but sometimes you just have to go. In the weeks leading up to the move, a lot of people told me relocating took a lot of guts. While I appreciate the compliment they were trying to impart, I don’t think of it that way. It’s uncomfortable and stressful, but I moved to a major U.S. city. It’s not like I was going to a third-world war zone.

I kept thinking about previous generations of people from whom many of us Americans are descended. Multitudes of people would board ships in Europe headed for the new world. They knew some of them would die on the trip. The knew they likely wouldn’t see the family members they left behind ever again, probably wouldn’t even hear their voices or see pictures of them. Yet, thousands took the risk, searching for a better, more meaningful life. Compared to that, a 700 mile drive on a well maintained roadway is nothing.

So, here I am, a few miles down the road of change and counting on more change to survive. And while what those specific changes will be is still uncertain, the one thing I can rely on to be consistent, is that change will happen.

Thanks for reading.

“Hi kids, do you like violence?”

Dilley Tackle

For a peaceful person, I sure love violence.

I think of myself as a person who doesn’t like violence. I’m not really into guns, or swords, or any other weapons. I usually don’t like hurting anybody and I don’t like seeing people in pain. I think the faces of death videos are deplorable. But, I recently realized I am a giant hypocrite.

I find humor in the over-the-top, comic book style violence of the Kill Bill and Sin City movies. I am emotionally gripped by the dark and violent turns in movies like The Departed and TV shows like Breaking Bad. This troubles me a bit because I like to believe I would never do those types of things, but I can also dismiss it because these movies are simply depictions of violence. They aren’t real. In that light, you might say I only like the artistic depiction of violence. I wish that were true, but it isn’t. The truth is, I like actual violence.

Football is my favorite sport and often my favorite thing to watch on TV. Aside from rooting for my alma mater, I don’t even have a favorite team. It’s not about the win or the loss. I love the drama of it. I love the strategy of it. I love the physics of it. I even love the violence of it.

I have a personal connection to such violence.

I played football for a decade and eventually became a starter on the varsity team. High school games weren’t televised back then, but it was still a violent game. Each week I would try to knock the other teams quarterback out of the game. Most of the time I tried to do this within the confines of the rules, but occasionally I would cross the line and hope to not get caught.

I wasn’t thinking of the opposing players as people. They were just obstacles standing in the way of victory. I like to believe I was spurred into dehumanizing my opponent by my coaches and the “us versus the world” mentality they tried to instill into us.

The picture was very clear at the time. Those rich, pretty-boy, east-side bastards looked down on the poor kids from the west side of the valley. We didn’t live in the foothills of the ski slopes so we had to make them respect us by force.

Tapping into the inferiority complex a lot of us had made motivating us easy for the coaches. They may have even believed what they were selling. Hell, there may even have been a kernel of truth to what they were saying, but they sure made it seem like it mattered a lot more than it actually does.

That’s the beauty and the curse of sports.

If you beat the other team, you win, that’s it, case closed, you were better than they were. It establishes the pecking order. The flip side is that it implies there needs to be a pecking order in the first place.

Even as many of my teammates were sidelined with injuries of their own, I continued trying to hurt the other team. I wouldn’t dive at their knees or anything like that. I wasn’t trying to knock them out for the season. Just for the rest of our game so we would have a better chance of winning. Plus, I didn’t want them to have the excuse that we could only beat them if we played dirty. But, as I said, I would often push the boundaries.

I would hit the quarterback even after he got rid of the ball. I wanted him to know I was close. I wanted him to be jumpy in anticipation of the next hit I was about to give him.  I managed to knock a few quarterbacks out of games over the years. Sometimes, if there was a pile-up, I would twist the foot of an opposing player in an attempt to slow him down by giving him a sore ankle, or at least discourage him from jumping in on the next pile.

I don’t know whether those things ever did anything to help us win or not, but football is a sport of physical dominance. Enduring pain takes energy, low energy causes fatigue, and as Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Cowards aren’t dominant.

Legitimate feelings of dominance are hard to find as a young man.

That’s partly why victory felt so good. Most paths to that feeling are illegal or at least frowned upon. Not only was football accepted, it was celebrated. It still is.

I like to think of myself as a modern man, a thinking man. I use my brain to solve problems, not brute force. But, when I see a good hit in a football game, I’m reminded of the feeling of dominance I used to get when I played. I don’t like admitting it, but I still enjoy that feeling. It’s a primitive feeling. Understanding the physics involved makes it even more impressive.

I don’t want to see people hurt, but I love seeing a player execute the game plan so perfectly, with flawless technique, that it results in an artistic expression of violence, in a way that can’t be scripted.

I don’t know what my love of football says about me. I don’t like other violent sports. I’m not into UFC or martial arts at all. I don’t like boxing. I don’t even really like rugby. I never participated in them, so I have no connection to them. They seem way too brutal and violent to me, but doesn’t my love of football make me a hypocrite for thinking that? Maybe, but show me someone who says they’re not a hypocrite and I’ll show you someone who is. I was just a frustrated boy who loved a violent game and grew into a peaceful man who loves a violent game. Excuse me for not being one dimensional.

In the spirit of being multi-dimensional, I have to tell you of another reason I loved playing football, especially under the lights of a packed stadium. I am an attention addict. But, we’ll go into that another time.

Thanks for reading.

Follow me on twitter: @john_dilley

 

Title quote by Eminem

Are You Feeding Your Monster?

My list is long.

I will never finish all of the things that I want to do in my lifetime. This isn’t the sound of me giving up. This is the sound of me growing up. Every day, the list of things I want to read, watch, visit, see, hear, taste, learn, and experience gets longer and the number of days left in my life become fewer. This is fact. The scope of that thought used to cause me to slip into a paralyzing depression. Now, that same thought, gives me motivation.

The ghost of the idea haunts me. It burrowed into a small corner of my brain and made its nest. It is one of those parasites of knowledge that you can never un-know. It will eat at you and eventually destroy you unless you learn how to feed it and make friends with it. The only option for coping with this type of unsavory bloodsucker of an idea, is to change the parasitic relationship into a symbiotic relationship.

As long as I keep feeding my monster, it remains harmless. But if I let it get hungry, it will emerge from its nest and run rampant throughout the rest of my mind.

What does the monster eat?

The monster eats effort. As long as I’m working toward accomplishing something from my list, the monster is satisfied and stays in its nest. I don’t know how it knows. Maybe my brain releases some kind of hormone or chemical when I am putting forth effort and maybe that’s what the monster actually eats. All I know is s when I don’t keep it fed, the mogwai turns into a gremlin.

What happens when the beast gets hungry?

The monster needs to eat regularly. Some might say damn near constantly. The longer it goes without its effort-juice the more havoc it wreaks.

After 10 minutes without eating, the monster gets bored and starts to move around.

After 30 minutes, it leaves its nest and starts running laps around my mind.

One hour — It rests by leaning up against my guilt sensor.

Two hours — It starts poking my guilt sensor.

Four hours — It starts punching my guilt sensor.

Eight hours — It gets bored with my guilt sensor and heads for my center for rational thought where it has a party and the excuses begin.

16 hours — The monster leaves the rational thought center and runs full speed into my panic button.

24 hours — It heads back to the rational thought center for a puke-&-rally.

48 hours — In a drunken stupor, the monster makes its way to my self-esteem chamber and begins to drain it.

72 hours — The self-esteem chamber now empty, the monster proceeds to intercept a large percentage of my sensory impulses.

120 hours — The monster returns once more to my rational thought center. There is no more party. It is now an echo chamber. He speaks softly, “You are so lazy. You will never be happy because you are too weak to work for what you want. The people who care about you want to help you now, but they won’t when they realize you’re a lost cause. You keep adding to that list of things you want to do, but you never accomplish anything. You don’t have what it takes to be successful. You should just quit now.”

The monsters words reverberate through my head.

Two Options

So, I either keep the beast sedated by feeding it with effort, or deal with the maddening consequences of the monster. Having danced with that devil before, I’ll stick with keeping it fed.

It’s not easy to keep up with such a rigorous feeding schedule. Sometimes I’ll even let it lapse for 24-48 hours. But, I don’t dare let it go any longer than that.

My list is still long.

The list of things I want to experience in my life grows longer, faster and faster each day. My list will always be getting longer, but in turn I will always be crossing items off of it as well. I will never complete all of the items on it. But, the more there are, the more things I have that I can put effort into, thus the more ways I have to feed the beast.

Don’t forget to feed your beast today.

 

Thanks for reading.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @john_dilley.

What can traveling 500 miles east teach you about your western roots?

Riding

“I did everything I could to make him a cowboy.”

My father said that to my Scan 2mother a few weeks ago as the three of us looked at some pictures he took of me when I was seven.

In one picture I was riding Stormy, one of the horses we (he) used to have. In the other, I was shooting a .22 pistol. My dad took the pictures while he and I were riding on the west side of the Oquirrh Mountains. It was one of several rides we took during my childhood.

Dad was joking when he made the cowboy comment, but it contained a lot of truth. When I was young, Magna, the small town outside of Salt Lake City where I grew up, was a very rural town. As the years passed, urban sprawl engulfed the town until it was just another suburb. As the town turned from country to city, so did I.

A Country Home

I grew up in a rambler on two acres of land. It wasn’t enough space for a big farm, but that didn’t stop my father from making it a country home. We started with one horse, then a second. Eventually there were three: Stormy, Cinnamon, and Rascal. At some point in there we raised chickens. We grew strawberries in the front yard and fruit trees dotted the back. Two barns, a chicken coop, and a homemade horse trailer completed the county portrait.

Directly to the west were a few other fields full of farm animals. Although they weren’t ours, I was no stranger to cows, sheep, or even peacocks. It wasn’t rare to see rabbits hopping across the back field.

Playing in the backyard at my house meant dirt clod fights, rotten peach fights, and swinging on the bar that ran the width of the horse trailer my grandpa made. My friends and I even stupidly played with the electric fence. At night, after the irrigation came through, Dad would take us out to the field with a flashlight to catch night-crawlers for fishing.

A Cowboy in the Making

Dad bought the first horse to help drag elk and deer carcasses out of the woods on his hunting trips. I suspect he bred the second horse so I could be his riding partner. As I got strong enough, I learned different aspects of caring for the horses.

It began by sitting in front of the saddle while my dad rode. As he rode I would hold on to the “feathers”— that’s what I called the horse’s mane. While sitting there I learned the names for all of the parts of the riding tack. As I got a little bigger I started sitting behind the saddle as my dad rode. I held on by putting two fingers from each hand through the belt loops of his blue jeans.

It was about that time that he started having me help with brushing the horses before saddling them up and after the ride was over.

I began riding by myself before my legs were long enough to reach the stirrups. Dad would lift me into the saddle and secure my feet in the loops made by the leather straps that held the stirrups. At first he would lead the horse around while I was in the saddle. Eventually, I unwrapped the reins from the saddle horn, Dad unlatched the lead-rope from the bridle, and I was riding on my own.

When I got strong enough and tall enough, Dad taught me how to saddle the horses. I remember pulling a saddle out of the old camp trailer where they were kept, throwing it on the horse, pulling myself up on the saddle, and heading to the wide open back acre.

I would get Stormy running with a couple of strikes on her rear end from the long leather reins. I stood in the stirrups as she got up to a full run. The biggest rush came when she would take flight to clear the irrigation ditch that cut through the pasture with about one-third of an acre before the fence. The placement of the ditch left you just enough room to slow the horse down and get her turned around. Then she would trot back up the other side of the field dodging the Russian olive trees.

That time period didn’t last long—maybe only one summer. Taking care of the horses began to feel like more hassle than it was worth to a kid who was starting to develop interests of his own.

Hay is for Horses

One night in the middle of the winter, my dad woke me up to ask if I had fed the horses that day. Of course, he was only asking because he knew I had forgotten.

With snow blowing directly into my face, I trudged through the drifts of the back field. I pulled the tarp off the haystack. Luckily, I didn’t have to cut open a new bail. I didn’t think to bring the wire cutters. I grabbed the pitchfork, stuck into the open bail, and peeled off a large leaf of hay. Carrying the load at the end of the pitchfork, I pushed through the snow for ten more feet. I reached the hay up and dropped it into the manger mounted to the side of the barn about six feet above the ground.  As the hay dropped from the pitchfork, small particles blew back into my eyes and hair. The prickly particles of hay were the last straw.

Groggy and cold I went back to the house. Some particles of hay had found their way under my clothes. They irritated my skin all night. I didn’t get much sleep. The next morning, I strongly complained to my parents about my experience from the previous night.

A Missed Connection

Not long after that Dad traded hunting for fishing and got rid of the horses. He took the money from the sale of the horses and bought a boat. The boat era comes with its own set of stories, but I’ll save those for another time.

Recently, I drove 500 miles east to Torrington, Wyoming, to work at a goat show. The hard work of caring for farm animals reminded me of the days from my youth that I spent as a cowboy. I still think about the work. I still think about the animals. I still think about the rides.

Reliving those memories with the perspective I have now, I realize how much I’m still learning from those experiences. I realize that, not only was my dad trying to share his interests with me, he was investing a lot of money into doing so. Those times were never really about the horses. They were about connecting with my father. I was just too young and too close to it to see.

Dad had plenty of reasons to get rid of the horses. He almost never went hunting anymore. I’m sure that was partly because I had little interest in it. Also, sitting in the saddle made his back ache so he didn’t enjoy the rides as much as he did when he was younger. But the biggest reason might have been that his little riding partner, the guy he was counting on to help care for the animals, turned out to be a whiney little boy.

As life went on Dad and I found other ways to connect, other interests to share, and a mutual respect. I wish I hadn’t been so ignorant of him sharing his life with me in those early days. Now, I’m just grateful that was the beginning of our story, not the end.

 

Thanks for reading.

What’s a Goat Show?

Don’t be alarmed. Although this story is about how a dirty weekend with Charm and Sparkle reminded me of the times I spent with Cinnamon and Stormy years ago, I assure you it is completely clean. Despite the names, it has nothing to do with strippers and it didn’t take place in Tijuana. It took place in a little town called Torrington, Wyoming.

I spent Memorial Day weekend helping my girlfriend, Barbara, and her mother, Cindy, transport, care for, and display 13 goats at two goat shows. You may be asking, “What’s a goat show?” I heard that question a lot in the weeks leading up to the trip:

At work.

“I need time off.”

“For what?”

“A goat show.”

“What’s a goat show?”

 

At rehearsal.

“Hey, I won’t be able to make it to band practice next week.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll be at a goat show.”

“What’s a goat show?”

 

Even in casual conversation.

“Any fun plans for the long weekend?”

“I’m going to Wyoming to help my girlfriend’s mom with a goat show.”

“What’s a goat show?”

 

I’m not blaming anybody. I didn’t know what a goat show was either. When Barbara first asked if I could make the trip, the first words out of my mouth were, “What’s a goat show?” By the time we departed for Wyoming it had become a punchline.

So, what is a goat show?

It’s like a dog show, but for goats. Goat owners show their goats in different categories based on the breed, sex, and age of the goats. Judges pick the winning goats based on a variety of factors including the curvature of the goat’s spine, the strength of the goat’s stride, and the goat’s stance. Of course the female goats are also judged on the size and orientation of their udders.

 

A Long, Hard Road

Barbara and I drove from Layton, UT to Hillsdale, WY on Thursday. That’s basically from Salt Lake to Cheyenne. I met her parents for the first time that night. I brought her dad, Jay, a 12 year old bottle of scotch to grease the wheels of acceptance. The four of us sat around and sipped on some drinks that night. Had I known the magnitude of the workload we were about to face, I would have relished that relaxed evening a little more.

The first thing I noticed the next morning when I walked outside to help with the goats was the noise. The bleating was terrifying, especially from the kids. The voices sounded remarkably human. The volume, pitch, and tone cut through all other sound and touched on a primal instinct that triggered fear. It sounded like the noise animals make when they are attacked or brutally injured. It was a noise embedded in our primal psyche as a sign of danger.

After a few minutes I was able to block out the sound enough to stop the shuttering in my spine and did what I could to help Jay load supplies. Occasionally a particularly loud bleat would slice its way past my mental block and into my nervous system, momentarily stopping my heart.

Cindy and Barbara milked the goats. Jay moved things around the yard to prepare for cleaning the goat pen, which he would do while the rest of us were at the show. I did what I could to help with both tasks, but it was mostly just moving things out of the way. I felt a little useless, but at least this gave me the opportunity to observe the environment and soak in the new experiences.

I’ll never forget watching Cindy and Barbara milk the goats. The milking room had two milking stations. Each milking station consisted of a platform about a foot off the ground.  A small trough and latch were attached to one end of the platform. Cindy brought the goats in two at a time. Each goat stepped up onto one of the stations. The goats stuck their heads through the latches to eat grain from the troughs. Then Cindy and Barbara closed the latches to secure the goats.

The women attached the hoses of the automatic milking machine to the goats’ teats. They let the machine do most of the milking, then finished milking each goat by hand. Barbara taught me the proper squeezing technique and I even helped milk one of the goats. That was a first for me.

After the milking, we loaded the goats into the trailer. Once the loading was done, the four of us ate dinner. Then Cindy, Barbara, and I hit the road for Torrington. Cindy drove the pickup with the attached trailer.  Barbara and I followed in my SUV. Aside from the large snake that slithered across the road, the drive was uneventful.

 

The Tour de Torrington

Once we arrived at the arena in Torrington, the real hard work began.

We brought three bales of straw to line the bottom of the goat pens. As we hauled the first one into the arena, hundreds of cries echoing off the aluminum semi-cylinder that capped the arena assaulted my ears. The same haunting sounds of bleating goats I had heard that morning were now amplified both numerically and acoustically. I had to concentrate to keep the noise from distracting me from my duties.

We spread the straw out as needed and repeated the process with the next two bales. Each time I re-entered the arena it became a little easier to ignore the echoing screams.

Once the straw was in place, we led the goats, two-at-a-time, from the trailer to the pens. Then we pulled out the feeding cages and mounted them on the sides of the pens. Next, we wrestled a bale of hay into the arena to feed the goats. We separated the hay and loaded the cages all by hand. Then we hauled in the water buckets. Unfortunately, we only had four water buckets but Cindy’s goats were dispersed in six pens. She had only planned on four, but the pens turned out to be smaller than expected. It was a small problem that Cindy solved by procuring the two extra pens at registration. That solution left us two buckets short.

We watered the goats we could, then brought in the portable milking stand, along with a pump and milking machine. Once the milking station was assembled, the three of us went to check into the motel and purchase two more water buckets.

Torrington only has a few places where we might find a bucket. First we tried the local grocery store, but it only had small buckets. Next we tried the feed store, but it was closed. What else would you expect in a small town at 8:15 pm. We wound up at a Shopko at the edge of town where we found a couple of mop bucket big enough to do the job. We stopped at Pizza Hut for a quick dinner, then drove back to the arena.

Cindy started another round of milking. Barbara and I watered the goats in the two extra pens. Then we helped Cindy rotate the remaining goats through the late milking.

 

The Calm Before the Storm

We finally got to back to the motel sometime around 11:00 pm. Despite the late hour, Barbara and I decided to go out for a drink—this was supposed to be our vacation. We each took a nice hot shower, then found a little bar where we could unwind. This little bar in a cowboy town played dance and hip hop music—making me feel uncomfortable in two different ways at the same time. We only stayed for one drink, but enjoyed the time alone.

The next day Cindy was up early to start preparing her goats for the show. She caught a ride to the arena with some friends she had in the goat showing circuit.

Barbara and I got up about an hour later and slowly got ready for another day of goat wrangling.

You may recall from the beginning of this post that we helped with two goat shows. Both shows took place in the same arena. The show rings were back to back. Each had its own judge and functioned completely independently, they just happened to be under one roof.

When we got to the arena, Cindy was already showing her Saanen yearling, Lucy. WinnerLucy placed third in the first showing, but the judge for the second show picked her as Grand Champion in her class. Barbara and I got to the arena just in time to help Cindy gather Lucy’s official documents so she could verify the goat’s identity and ownership to the judges.

Cindy only had one more goat to show that day, her Nubian buck, Sparky. The buck show wasn’t until the end of the day, but that didn’t mean it was time to sit around. The day was a continuous cycle of feeding goats, watering goats, and milking goats. ShaveCindy also had to shave the goats’ udders and clip their hooves.

Wrestling the goats onto the milking stand was no easy task. Many of the goats would not go willingly so we had to lift them onto the stand—first their front legs then their back legs. This meant literally bear-hugging the goats. I had no idea I would be getting that close with them.

 

Of Goats and Folks

Barbara and I found a little time between tasks to walk around the arena and soak up the goatmosphere. The arena was lined with goat pens. The floor was fine dirt like you would find at a rodeo. The two show rings were at one end of the enormous space and the other half was sectioned off with square goat pens in a waffle pattern.

dwarfAlthough I wasn’t a complete stranger to farm animals, I had never known a goat before.  I learned more about dairy goats in two days than I thought I would ever know. We met many goats of all shaped and sizes as we walked.

The goats were very clean compared to other farm animals. Their fur grew in tight uniform directions giving them a smooth, well groomed look. hairThey weren’t mangy the way cows sometimes look. They didn’t roll around in their own feces like pigs do. Even the goat feces itself made as little mess as possible because it was in little balls, much like that of a rabbit. The patterns in a goat’s eyes, although unusual, was often quite interesting.

I was also surprised at the goats’ friendly nature, especially considering the terrifying noises they make. climberThey seemed to have a never ending curiosity. They would approach the edge of the pens when we walked near, even climbing up on the rails. They weren’t skittish or afraid. They were looking for attention and affection. And once you gave it to them, they only wanted more. They were remarkably like dogs in that way. The goats seemed to have a happy disposition. They often looked as if they were smiling.

smile

 

baby goats 2Often we would be leaning against a pen having a conversation when a goat would begin suckling one of my fingers. It was startling at first, but by Saturday afternoon, it was like getting a high five from a friend.

 

The only thing friendlier than the goats were the people at the show. friendly uddersAlthough the show was a competition, it was definitely a friendly one. People shared the limited amount of power outlets. If a goat got loose, strangers would help other strangers surround the goats and get them penned up again, even if the owner wasn’t even there. On more than one occasion, strangers asked if I would “hold this goat for a second,” while they ran to get a grooming tool, showed another goat, or posed for pictures.

The best display of friendly competition occurred when an owner would have more than one goat to show in a single class and handlers from other camps would show a goat for them just as if it were their own. Keeping with the friendly nature of the event, show officials even provided everyone with dinner on Saturday night.

After we ate and finally got back to the motel, we were all exhausted. A long day ended with a long shower. I collapsed on the bed.

 

Winning Charm

Sunday morning Barbara and I got up and drove Cindy to the arena. Then we headed back to the motel to pack up and check out.  Next, we grabbed coffee and breakfast for Cindy and ourselves. It was a cool morning and we expected our time at the show to be shorter that day. We went inside for another hard day at the goat show.

We took Cindy her breakfast, then fed and watered the goats. Cindy needed to show a lot of goats that day. Barbara had to help her show goats in a couple classifications in which Cindy had multiple goats competing. I assisted by leading goats back and forth from the holding pens to the show rings, then handing them off to the women. I also made sure Cindy’s book containing her goats’ official documentation was always within reach. It was a virtually continuous cycle for two or three hours.

One of Cindy’s Nubians, Charm, won Grand Champion in her class and Best in Breed. While that was a fantastic achievement and I was very happy for Cindy and Charm, the win meant we had to stay until the end of the show in order to show Charm in the Best Goat in Show competition.

Cindy finally finished the preliminary showings of all her goats. While we waited for her to show Charm in the final competition, Barbara and I started bringing the rest of the goats to the milking station to prepare them for transport back to the ranch.

 

The Storm at of the Goshen County Fairgrounds

Cindy and Barbara were nearly finished milking all the goats when a new sound filled the arena. Just like the bleating goats, the sound of the rain mixed with hail was amplified against the steel ceiling. It was almost deafening.

As we looked out of the overhead doorway, 0525141438cwe noticed that the water coming down on the Torrington Fair Grounds wasn’t draining properly. Within minutes the puddles became a pond.  The water kept climbing. Soon it was at least 18 inches deep. The surface of the water was up to the trailer door. It was even with the door of a nearby RV.

Worried that the water level was getting close to engulfing my SUV, I decided to go check on my car. Barbara came with me. Attempting to stay out of the water, we climbed onto a fence that made up some of the big sturdy exterior pens used for horses and cattle. We shuffled along the fence sideways. It felt like an obstacle from a Survivor challenge. Eventually we made it to the road beyond the standing water.

Luckily, I had parked on a little higher ground than where the trailers were parked. Still, the water was half way up my wheels. I rolled up my pants and waded out to my vehicle. I pulled out to the road, picked up Barbara, and drove my car around the arena and parked on the high ground on the other side. Then we both had to do an even longer fence shuffle to get back inside the arena.

The storm only lasted about 45 minutes and went away as quickly as it came. But, it left a lasting impact on the rest of the day. Even after the rain and hail stopped, the water level outside didn’t recede.

Back inside, Cindy showed Charm in the Best Goat in Show competition. Charm placed fifth.

With the show over and the milking done, we had to load up the goats and the gear and head back to the ranch. Unfortunately, 18 inches of water still dominated the exterior of the arena.

I asked Cindy for her keys. I rolled up the legs on my pants and waded out to the trailer.  Once at the trailer, I climbed onto the wheel well. Then I shuffled around the edge of the trailer, onto the hitch, and into the bed of the pickup. Then I opened the door to the cab. I tried to squeeze into the driver’s seat, but it was way too close to the steering wheel. Hanging onto the bed of the truck with one hand, I used the other to pull the lever that allowed me to move the seat back. I then used my knee to slide the seat back. As I pushed with my left knee my right hand slipped off the bed of the truck and I lost my balance. Struggling against gravity, I heard the seat lock into place. I was able to swing myself inside without falling into the icy water. I felt a little like Indiana Jones at the end of the truck scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

My relief turned to stress when I assessed my situation. I was about to drive the diesel pickup that belongs to my girlfriend’s parents whom I’d just met two days before. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I would also be pulling the trailer her mom uses to haul the goats she raises – which is what she loves to do. Plus, I would be starting from a dead stop and pulling the trailer up-hill through the mud that lay beneath a foot and a half of water. I swallowed hard and turned the key.

Once the engine started up, I flipped on the four wheel drive. With my heart pounding I pushed on the accelerator. 0525141439aThe truck easily climbed the smaill hill, but that put the trailer in the deepest part of the water. I kept my foot on the pedal. The front tires of the pickup reached the road, but the trailer was still too close to the other trailers to start making the turn. I kept going. The front tires reached the middle of the road. At this point I had to turn. The rain had left another pond on the other side of the road. Although I had achieved enough clearance to make the turn without hitting the other trailers, the trailer I was hauling still sat low in the water. I could not turn with the four wheel drive engaged. I had to stop and hope two wheel drive would be enough to pull the trailer out. I stopped, disengaged four wheel drive, and took a deep breath.

As pushed on the accelerator, the wheels slipped for a fraction of a second, then the friction took hold and the truck pulled the trailer from the water. As I pulled the rig around to the other side of the arena, the sun came out. I found a place to park and went back inside.

 

We’re All Stars Now, in the Goat Show

We were able to take out all the goats and the gear through a small door near the dry side of the arena. The sun warmed the moist air, adding a hot, muggy atmosphere to an already labor intensive afternoon. By the time we were finished I was exhausted.

After a brief stop for a bite to eat, we were back on the road to Hillsdale.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We spent another night at the ranch outside Hillsdale and then drove home on Monday.

As we drove, I thought about all the work we did to take care of the goats. It was hard, but I look back on it fondly. I actually really enjoyed it. The goats were fun to be around. The people were friendly. The labor provided good exercise. With as much energy as it took, I don’t think it’s something I would want to take on daily, but for a weekend, it was a great experience.

My experience with the goats reminded me of when I was a kid helping my dad take care of our horses, Stormy and Cinnamon. That was also hard, dirty work, although I don’t recall enjoying it as much.  I wonder if I would have enjoyed the horses more if I had only been more mature at the time, but that’s a story for the next post.

Thanks for reading.

What do you want to do?

Yes, this IS my second post in a row about New Year’s resolutions. Why am I doing this?

Because I want to.

People ONLY do what they want to do. New Year’s resolutions are hokey. If you really want to change your behavior, you will—the change in the number on a calendar has nothing to do with it. All day, every day, whatever you are doing, you chose to do—whether you realize it or not. You may not have every option available to you, but you are still choosing how you spend every second that you’re awake.

You may think that you don’t want to go to work, but you still go, because you want to make money. You may think that it’s all about the money, but you don’t try to rob banks or print up counterfeit bills in the basement because you don’t want to risk the consequences. You may not be happy with the few options that you have, but you are choosing the option that you like best—always.

What you want doesn’t always make you happy.

What you want can change and your decisions always have consequences. These changes and consequences sometimes make you feel like you’re doing something that you don’t want to do. But, in reality, you’re constantly doing what you want to do among the choices that you have.

Some people revel in their own despair. They feel like they are some kind of martyr to the misunderstood. They still choose to live that way. I know because I was one of those people.

Consequences greatly influence what we want.

You know those days where you think you want to get all your laundry done, but instead you sit and watch TV? That means that you wanted to watch TV more than you wanted to do your laundry. You may regret your choice the next day when you have to wear dirty underwear to work, but you chose to watch TV instead of doing your laundry. You always choose what you want.

As we get older we realize that we want clean underwear more than we want to watch TV and thus choose to do the laundry. We want to do the laundry because we want clean underwear. The reasons behind what we want can be hard to recognize and can trick us into thinking we’re doing a lot of things we don’t want to do, but in reality, we ONLY do what we want to do, we just have to consider all of the consequences of our decisions before deciding what we want.

If you don’t choose, your body will.

The saddest people around are the people who can’t or won’t decide what they want. When you haven’t decided what you want, your body decides for you. It tells you that you want to sit on the couch. It tells you that you want to eat whatever tastes good. It tells you that you want to escape your life for a few hours by watching TV or a movie, or by playing a video game, or even by getting wasted.

Unfortunately, your body sucks at making decisions because it can’t think past what it wants at that immediate moment. It can’t factor in consequences into what it wants.

Make sure you’re behind the wheel. Even if you’re not sure what you really want, choose something that you might want and work backward through all the decisions that will get you there. That way, even if it’s not what you want when you get there, at least you’ll be making your own decisions.

With great power… yada, yada, yada.

When you finally grow to accept that you’re always doing what you want, you’ll be empowered. While it forces you to take responsibility for how you spend your time, it also allows you to forgive yourself for spending an entire Saturday on the couch, because that must have been what you wanted to do at that moment. Still, if you spend every Saturday on the couch, then you must not have wanted much out of life.

We are always doing what we want from among the choices we have. If you don’t like the choices you have, maybe you want to change your circumstances, but do you want that more than playing GTA today? Do you want it more than getting drunk with your buddies this weekend? Do you want it more than watching The Walking Dead? Do you want it more than you want to “fit in?”

The answer is whatever you want.

Are you in the “you” business for 2014?

Business Victory

Treating yourself like a business will make you happier this year.

There’s a reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail. They are usually pie-in-the-sky ideas that aren’t very rooted in actual change. Ambiguous goals such as “losing weight” or “reading more” are easy to abandon because there is very little accountability.

If you really want to accomplish your goals this year, hold yourself accountable like a boss—literally.

Make a plan, not a resolution. 

Human Resources

One of the first things that happens when you start a new job is filling out a bunch of paperwork. While that may seem like a tedious task, it is imperative to the functioning of the business.

Along with the tax declarations and legal disclaimers, there are usually some forms in that stack that are very important to how you will function at your job.  Your schedule, your job description, your pay scale, and the description of your benefits are all in there.

The information in these papers form the structure in which you will operate. It tells you when you will be working, what you will be working on, how much you’ll be paid to do it, and how much time you can take off from doing it. Why not apply these same types of parameters to your personal goals?

Write up a document that outlines when you will be working on your goals, include the specific days and hours. Take it a step further and mark down what you intend to do during those hours and how it will impact your overall goal.

It’s a good idea to pencil in the first few hours as research. Once you’ve researched the steps it will take to reach your ultimate goal you can fill in the rest of your schedule accordingly. I’ll elaborate on this in the next section.

Next, outline periodic incentives to keep yourself going.

Finally, allow yourself a limited amount of “paid time off.” This way if you need to skip a day, it won’t feel like cheating. It will all be part of the plan. 

Research and Development

As you’re making your own personal job description, you will need to understand the steps it will take to accomplish your goals. This will require some research. How do I know that? Because if you want to do something and already know how to do it, you wouldn’t need to make it a goal. You’d already be doing it.

Research can be daunting, but if you make it part of your plan from the beginning, it will fall in line just like any other goal.

Sometimes accomplishing an overall goal will require a skill that you don’t have. Or, more accurately, it may require a skill that you don’t have—yet. Luckily, skills can be learned and honed through practice.

If your goal is to stop eating so much fast food, but you don’t know how to cook, that doesn’t mean you should abandon your goal. It just means you need to make another smaller goal to learn how to make one meal, then two, and so on. Often you’ll get so focused on the skill development that the original goal becomes very easy.

Research the steps in your goals and break them down into smaller chunks. Develop the skills you need to accomplish each one. Sometimes the skill you develop will have longer-lasting effects than the primary goal. 

Accounting

Now that your plan is in place and you know the skills that it will take for you to accomplish your goals, it’s time to make a budget.

Changes aren’t free. They require an investment of time, money, or both.  Plan out what it will take to accomplish your goal.

How much can you spend on a gym membership?

Can you afford new pots and pans right now?

Are you going to buy printed books or save up for a Kindle?

If you’re life changes are going to make you go broke, they won’t last, so budget for them ahead of time. If there is zero room in your budget, then maybe your first goal will need to be increasing your income or reducing your spending. Maybe there’s a cheaper or free way to accomplish your goal—like using the library instead of buying books.

The funding needs to be part of your plan or it will fail. 

Production

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE!

Produce results. Whatever you decide to do, make it useful. Yes, your goal is probably about self-improvement. Yes, it can focus on you. But the quickest way to feel good about yourself is to feel like you have value. And the quickest way to feel like you have value is to add value to the world through something you did.

The feeling of value is what will keep you going. It’s what will ultimately drive you when things get hard.  It is how you stick with what you started until you finish. The feeling of value is what makes it all “worth it.”

We are all consumers. You cannot live without consuming. But, if all you ever do is consume without producing, in your mind, you’ll know that you are a net negative on the world. If you stop consuming, you’ll die, so the only way to tip that scale in a positive direction is to produce.

Producing can mean a lot of different things. It can even mean taking things away. A massage therapist produces stress-relief. A garbage man produces clean streets. The point is to add value in some way. So, even if your goal is to exercise every day, that goal needs to produce value to the world or it will be very hard to keep it going. This is why having a workout partner is so effective, each partner produces accountability for the other.

If your goal is to read more books, share what you learn from them. Produce new ideas and write them down. Whatever you are doing to improve yourself, use it to create value.

WARNING – It is not your job to jam your self-improvement down everybody’s throat. Trying to make yourself feel good by telling others how much better you are for improving yourself, doesn’t add value. Just do something productive and let the world know it’s available. That’s it. Let the people looking for your particular brand of value find it for themselves. Not everybody sees the world the same way and what you call value, may seem extremely annoying to others.

In short,

DO –

Use your goal to add value to the world.

DON’T –

Use the world to add value to your goal.

 

Quarterly Reviews

Include quarterly (or even monthly) reviews as part of your schedule. Take the time to hold yourself accountable to what you said you would do.

Give yourself a performance review. Ask yourself difficult questions:

Did you spend all of the time the way you planned in your schedule?

Did you earn any of your incentives?

If so, do you need to increase the goal?

If not, why?

What will you do differently going forward?

Do you need to adjust your goal?

Do you need to adjust your schedule?

Do you need to adjust your budget?

Do you need new skills?

Are you feeling the added value?

Every review is a time to recalibrate and refocus. It’s okay if you’re behind on your goal as long as you know why and make a plan to fix it. If you have changed your mind about a goal, it’s important to understand that reasoning too, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Reviews will add a little pressure, but they will also help you see how much of the outcome is in your own hands. In that way, they give you power.

Take the time to reflect and analyze. Otherwise it’s like going to a shooting range and never looking to see if you’re on target.

In the business world you have to make your goals specific and measurable. You’re in the “you” business. Manage your projects accordingly. Make clear goals that have value. Plan out how you will accomplish them. Keep yourself on track.

Review, don’t resolve.

Thanks for taking the time to visit and read my blog. Please keep reading and I’ll keep writing. Don’t forget to give me a “follow.” You can also find me on twitter @john_dilley.  Thanks again. — J. Dilley

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