I couldn’t wait for this year’s county fair. I was looking forward to it. This year would be the first year that all three of our kids would be showing sheep and cows, and they would all be at the fair with their dad and grandpa. Which meant free time for me to walk, read or relax. (Yes, probably a little selfish.)

Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone

The county fair is something my husband, our kids and my father-in-law do together. It’s their element. Walking, washing, clipping, prepping sheep and cows…no thank you, not for me. On numerous occasions, our kids would encourage me to sit in the stands and clap. Sit in the stands and clap…now, that’s my jam!

However, with a husband who has a bulging disk and awaiting his scheduled surgery, reality set in quickly. On the Monday of the fair, he informed me, “Shelly, you’re going to have help out at the fair.”

Um…let me remind you, for most of my life, the closest I have been to farm animals is gathering eggs from a chicken coop.

Yet I knew my father-in-law would need help. I also knew the oldest granddaughters would step up to the plate. I didn’t know what I would be able to do other than be a taxi service. But I didn’t want my husband to hurt his back more. So there I found myself, watching my kids and my niece and nephew setting up pens for sheep and prepping beds for cows. Basically, they went into this “fair mode” that I didn’t even know existed. And at that point I realized, I could either stand around and watch or figure out how to help.

And I’m not wired to just stand around.

On the first night of the fair, I’m not sure how many times I was told to “put the broom down.” Let me tell you, though, I got really good at sweeping up wood chips. Everyone around me knew what their job was. Even our son knew what his task was. Sweeping gave me something to take ownership of.

There’s no other way to describe the next few days other than “organized chaos.” And you know what, instead of sweeping, I decided to “half-jump in” and help my family prep the animals. This was a gigantic step outside my comfort zone, and I had a huge learning curve.

I quickly learned to get out of the way of any cow, and that patience is a must. Also, our son constantly reminded me, “Mom, you don’t have to talk to the sheep to get them to walk!”

Making a Difference

When I say I’m not wired to just stand around, it’s because I’m wired to serve others, and that’s what I did. I volunteered to walk sheep. I helped clean sheep. I stood near the show ring and helped keep five kids and 17 sheep organized. I learned how to blow dry and comb cows. My 15-year-old daughter and niece quickly gave me tips to accomplish the task at hand. Don’t worry, I received a thorough inspection by the girls, just to make sure I was doing it correctly. These fair days are tough. They’re exhausting. Yet one look around, and all I could see were smiles, excited kids and hard-working families.

And at the end of all of this, stepping outside my comfort zone, the learning curve, the extremely long days…there is so, so much joy.

Seeing the unmatched work ethic and leadership both my daughter and my niece displayed made me smile. Seeing the smile on our middle daughter as she won Junior Beef Showmanship made me smile. Seeing the smile on my nephew as his heifer was crowned Reserve Market Heifer made me smile. Seeing our son show his cow for the very first time and receive his very first purple ribbon made me smile.

And through all the sweat, all the small details, all the big details, the steer getting loose in the ring, my father-in-law beamed with pride. And this made me smile, because maybe just maybe, I made a small difference in fair week.

I’m glad I’m not wired to just stand around.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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