Random connections

I’m a Creature of Habit when it comes to many things. I know what I like and I stick to it, especially whe12228126_10153308695652992_1278223934_on it comes to restaurants and my walking route. And most of the time it pays off in the form of random, meaningful connections.

When I’m walking I only have a couple of routes. My favorite route is through a neighborhood. I look forward to the people and animals I meet along the way. They make my day better.
My favorite “haunt” is TJ’s Cafe. I visit usually once a week now, but when they first opened, I went probably four days in a row. I discovered they had the best biscuits and gravy and pancakes I had ever tasted. I continue to get that every time I go to the cafe. When I walk into TJ’s they already know what I want to order — order of biscuits and gravy with an extra sausage patty, chopped onions (try it on your gravy, it’s amazing) and pancakes to share, along with a coffee and a water. I don’t even have to order anymore. If I want to change anything, I know I’d better call it out the second I walk in the door.
But, it isn’t always the food that keeps me going to places such as TJ’s. It’s the people you meet, make connections with and get to know. Few things touch me as deeply as the stories of others and those connections you make with people in this life.
Two waitresses at TJ’s, Jules and Crystal, make my day every time I come in. Jules and I have had many talks over pancakes, coffee and biscuits smothered in gravy. She comes over and sits down in-between getting more coffee for me and others in the cafe. She always greets me, talks to me and shares stories about her life. Jules also likes to ask about my job at The Gazette and sometimes we discuss local news. Upon my return from a recent vacation to Eureka Springs, Jules expressed desire to go so we joked we were going to leave the next day.
“I’ll see you at 6:55 a.m. (our agreed time was 7 a.m.) and don’t be late,” she said to me as she began clearing the dishes off of my table.
Then our attention turned to credit cards with chips — on some machines you can’t leave a tip on the card after it’s been run. I happened to fall victim to this the last time I was there. Jules said it was no big deal — meaning she was willing to forego her tip — a sign of her generous personality. I would hear no part of that. She tried to stop me as I made my way to the car to get some cash. She joked and said she was going to lock the door on me. I jokingly said she’d have to remove me from the door as I stood in it to prevent her from locking it. And that would be considered customer abuse, I told her. We both had a good laugh and she got her tip.
On a side note, Jules once told me she’d quit her job if her name ever appeared in the paper. I’m hoping she makes an exception in this case and doesn’t quit, because I’d truly miss seeing her at the cafe.
You can put price on the food you eat, but you can’t put a price on human connection. You can’t put a price on those experiences and the stories you hear from people around you. These connections remind me to listen in life — to not be so closed off and so busy that I miss these connections. It’s important to be open to these connections. I am constantly amazed and deeply touched by the human experience — those connections you make that you don’t see coming.
I love random conversations on a sidewalk while waiting for a light to change such as the one I had on my way back to work following a funeral last week. I learned the man was from California and the he had once received a ticket for going against a yellow light. As he walked away, he told me to have a nice day. Little did he know he lightened my heavy heart a little. A small, but meaningful connection — and to me, that’s what makes life meaningful.

—Brandy Nance is the online and news editor for The Emporia Gazette. Her blog, The Wandering Pigeon, can be found online at the thewanderingpigeon.com, on Instagram and on Facebook. Brandy can be reached at brandy@emporia.com.

Simple, breathtaking beauty

12063385_428237064047205_8564471604112973876_nThis morning I was on my way to work and I was struck by a beauty so simple and so ordinary for our Kansas town. Our local grain elevator, Bunge, was surrounded by grain trucks waiting to drop off their load of precious grain.

I kept driving for a second, but was just struck by the scene, so I went back. I needed a photo.

It was hard finding a good vantage point since the grain elevator is right off a road that isn’t exactly easy to stop on, so I stopped on a nearby side street to grab the s12074843_428237080713870_3911829038915214424_nhot. Thank goodness for a parking lot off of a building right across the street.

When I was taking the photos, I could hear the hum of the elevator and the trucks idling, steam coming the trucks in the cool, crisp fall air. The photos were truly worth going back and taking.

The above photos embodies not only Kansas, but the product of the hard work our farmers put in year-round to provide products for our nation. These farmers and ranchers work tirelessly — and at great monetary risk — each season. They are at the mercy of the weather every year. You can’t predict what the weather will be like from year to year.

To illustrate how important farming and ranching is to our community, I found this information: according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, “agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at more than $62 billion, accounting for 43 percent of the state’s total economy. There are 46,137,295 acres of land. Farmland accounts for 88.9 percent of all Kansas land. More than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops and over 16 million is pastureland for grazing animals. Kansas farmers and ranchers are feeding the world. In 2012, Kansas exported nearly $4.9 billion in agricultural products. The top five exports include wheat, beef and veal, soybeans, feeds and fodders, and corn.”

I am proud to be a part of this community I call home and this community full of so many hard-working people.

So, part of your food supply — and these photos — are brought to you by Kansas farmers.