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Sleepless nights: It’s a stuffed chicken’s fault

Mindy Ward Fall themed decorations and a stuffed chicken adhered to a wooden board
WORK REMINDER: This country craft has a prominent place in my kitchen. My mother filled the small rooster with stuffing and placed it on that wooden skillet. These were sold, not by us, but by others at craft fairs. My mother was paid for each one she produced. I helped. It’s a reminder of hard work. My parents taught it. Farmers know it. I hope the next generation finds it.
Generations of hard work make it tough to shut off the mind and find rest.

It’s 2:30 a.m., and I’m still awake. It’s my mind; it won’t shut off.

Lately, my job role added more responsibility. I work 10- to 12-hour days. Right now, I can hear all of my farmers murmur “lightweight.” I agree. My time is nothing compared to the much longer hours you work, but don’t leave me just yet.

There are days I find it hard to stop working both physically and mentally. I was raised by a generation who told me, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” “A little work never hurt nobody,” “No matter how hard you work, someone else is working harder,” and even “Without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom will accomplish much.” So, I press on.

Models of work

The daughter of a plumber, I was taught the value of hard work. My father was employed off our little farm, so I could enjoy raising and showing livestock. My mother took part-time jobs to help pay for feed and contest entry fees. They both worked long hours so I could pursue my dreams in high school.

It wasn’t so much about why they worked, but how they worked. My dad took side jobs on the weekends and brought me along to learn the value of a trade. My mom stuffed chickens, not live ones, but small crafted chickens for decorations. And she made me pull up a chair at the table and help.

During those moments, I learned how to work.

Whatever the task, they set about it joyfully. They lightened the workload by conversation and laughter. I shared my future dreams and aspirations, and they offered encouragement and hope.

They were the example of nothing is impossible if you put your mind and feet to it. Two parents, who never had the opportunity for higher education, sent their children to college with just one verse — "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” So, I work.

Search for sleep

If it weren’t for my increased workload, I would’ve never come across Dr. Andrew Ellsworth. He is part of The Prairie Doc team of physicians and practices family medicine in Brookings, S.D. It was his email, “Let’s get some sleep,” that caught my attention.

He says, “Sleep is one of the best ways to help keep our immune system strong to fight off infection and illnesses. And now more than ever, it is important to give our bodies the best chance at fighting off a cold, flu and disease.”

Ellsworth offers a few solid tips to a good night’s rest:

• Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Kids need nine to 10 hours.
• Regular exercise helps us sleep better. But exercise during the day, not before bed.
• Avoid eating large meals within two to three hours of bed.
• Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption, especially near bedtime.
• Consider gentle stretching, meditation, prayer or deep breathing.

He ends with, “There is a lot we can worry about in the world today. It can be so easy to let those problems invade our thoughts as we try to get some sleep.”

That brings me back to 2:30 a.m.

Why we work

I love my job. I cover stories for the best people in the entire world.

I see your lights in the farm field after midnight trying to get a crop in the bin. While the whole world sleeps through a Saturday and Sunday morning, you are up tending to cattle or in the milking parlor. You work, so my family has food, clothing, shelter and fuel.

It’s been a long, difficult year in agriculture. So, on behalf of those that can’t even comprehend the demands placed on a farm family, thank you.

You love your job. You work hard. You have sleepless nights. Try to find rest. But until that day, I’m guessing we’ll both keep working. It’s just the way we were raised, and we haven’t fainted yet.

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