Tag Archives: life lessons

The Future…

Thoughtful Thursday

swimteamretreat.jpg

The University of Texas’s school slogan is:

“What starts here changes the world.”

The above is a picture of the 41 young athletes that attended our kickoff season swim team retreat over Memorial Day.

When I look at them, I see the future.

When I coach them, I teach them to work hard and to believe in excellence.

With each swim practice they become stronger: physically and mentally;

and I smile knowing that

what they learn will help them to one day change the world…

 

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Winning the Day With Team Work and Faith…

Monday night our family trekked 60 miles north to watch the Cozad Haymaker Boy’s High School Basketball Team win the C1 District finals.  Their success earns them a chance at the Nebraska State C1 Basketball title next week.  My favorite farmer and I have been fans of our Haymaker basketball teams since moving back to Cozad in 1997, and this year the group of young men that represent our town have warmed my heart with an impressive search for excellence.

Faith, Perseverance, and teamwork propels them to achieve greatness...

Faith, Perseverance, and Teamwork propels them to achieve greatness…

Like many small town basketball teams, the Haymaker squad is made up of a cross section of athletes that call many different sports their own.  Each week during the long winter season, they don their Haymaker jerseys and take the court as their community cheers with passion.

The heart of our team is their ability to work together to achieve a common goal.  The unselfish mental and physical support that they offer to one another is truly remarkable.  They may not realize it, but this life skill is one that will bring them success for the rest of their lives.

Unity for the common goal and love for each other brings them success...

Unity for the common goal and love for each other brings them victory…

On the morning of the big game, one of the mothers of the players posted these words on her Facebook page:

There is an “F” word that is often easily said, but can seem so impossible to express: Faith. At times it can be buried so deeply, we wonder if we will ever be able to unearth it again. Faith can be difficult to find when faced with disappointments, worries, and sadness. However, those same times can be replaced with encouragement, joy, and a feeling of being content. And it’s all because of that “F” word: Faith.

Tomorrow night, two towns will come together to cheer their basketball teams on, one more time, during the 2013-2014 season. For one team, their season will end. For the other, it will be extended to the state tournament next weekend. I’m certain the phrase, “Have faith,” has been spoken, but has it really been expressed?

To our Cozad players: I have faith in your God-given talents and abilities, and know you will let them shine tomorrow night. I have faith in your peers, and know they will be with you, either in the stands or back home listening to the radio broadcast. I have faith in your teachers, who even though may not verbally wish you good luck, will be anxiously awaiting the outcome. I have faith in our coaching staff, who may have frustrated you at times, but did so with the intention of getting out of you what was needed. I have faith in your families, who have been with you on this journey, and will continue to be, regardless of the final score. Finally, I have faith in your biggest supporter….Jacob….who will encourage you, cheer for you, and be so proud to be sitting beside you on the Cozad bench.

The mother’s son, Jacob, transitioned from a star player to a fledgling coach when he sustained a life changing knee injury on the football field last fall.  While each one of our Haymaker athletes have given something special to our town this year, Jacob is my unspoken hero.

There was likely not a mother in attendance whose eyes weren't damp as Jacob cut the net...

There was likely not a mother in attendance whose eyes weren’t damp as Jacob cut the net…

  • It is his quiet presence that inspires bravery and unselfishness.
  • It is his mature guidance that creates strength of character and resilience.
  • It is his unwavering faith that guides his team to greatness.

    A gym full of small town community members that traveled the extra mile to cheer on their team...

    A gym full of small town community members that traveled the extra mile to cheer on their team…

Today I salute a special young man, a special team, and a special community.  I count my blessings to be able to call Cozad home.  It is in the heart of Rural America, and has a heart filled with people with tremendous faith.

Go Haymakers!

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A Legacy of Strength…

Fourteen years ago today, I entered the world of motherhood.  After a battle of wills that lasted about 16 hours, Ashley Grace entered the world three weeks early weighing 6 pounds and 3 ounces.  I have wondered many times over the past 14 years which one of us is more tenaciously obstinate—I believe that the jury is still out

We make quite a pair...

We make quite a pair…

Motherhood has proven to be both my greatest joy and my greatest challenge.  Balancing discipline and guidance as my girls journey their way through childhood and adolescence provides an ongoing personal search for me.  While I love my girls unconditionally, I know that it is my duty to raise them to be strong, hard-working, and compassionate young women.

They also make quite a pair...

They also make quite a pair…

Ashley Grace is a wonderful enigma and, every once in a while, I find the need to step back and marvel at this child that is such a part of both Matt and I.  The take-charge personality that is so much like me, combined with the intellectual mind that is so much like Matt.  Add in the quirks and sarcastic humor that make her uniquely Ashley Grace, and the result is a fascinating package.

Worn with pride as she realized success through hard work and dedication...

Worn with pride as she realizes success through hard work and perseverance…

Whether she is running her heart out on the cross country course and the basketball court, or dazzling me with facts and philosophical ideas that her sponge-like mind seems to absorb at an astounding rate; I thank God each day for the ability to share my life with her.

A good brain and a love of learning earned her national honors in the Duke University TIP program...

A good brain and a love of learning earned her national honors in the Duke University TIP program last spring…

Three days from now, my favorite teenager will climb the steps to the pulpit at Bethesda By the Sea Episcopal Church and to read at her Granddaddy’s Memorial Service.  She will do this with both grace and composure despite the fact that she will look out amongst hundreds of family members and friends as she shares from the book of Revelations.

Bethesda By The Sea Episcopal Church: Palm Beach, Florida

Bethesda By The Sea Episcopal Church: Palm Beach, Florida

Her innate sense of compassion and self-confidence will lend her strength as she takes an active role in the celebration of the tenacious man who will always hold a special place in our hearts.  This act of selflessness will be performed out of love and respect for her grandparents—both the one that we say goodbye to, and the strong woman who will now persevere through life without her husband of 45 years.

I know that as I watch Ashley Grace give this gift, my heart will warm as my dad smiles down with pride.

Handing down his passion and skill for fly fishing...

Handing down his passion and skill for fly fishing in his beloved Absaroka Mountains…

It will be a beautiful continuation of the legacy of strength that was born with the life of her Granddaddy…

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Go Annabelle…

Dad always called me Annabelle. 

anneanddadfish

Three decades ago…

Although I am unsure of exactly when he coined the term, he was loyal in its use.  Whether it was spoken quietly near a favorite fishing hole, or hollered loudly from the crowd when I prepared to burst out of the starting blocks:  there was both comfort and love intertwined with the name.

Anne Starting Block Swimming

Go Annabelle!

It became a bit of a joke amongst my teammates because Dad’s booming voice yelling Go Annabelle on the swimming deck was well known.  There were likely a few times during my early high school years when it brought on a touch of embarrassment; however, those words are a mantra that I still carry with me today.

Finding my way...

Finding my way…

The path that I chose for my professional adult life has not been an easy one.  When I entered the world of cattle feeding as a 22 year old, there were very few young women following the same path.  Additionally, I was an outsider coming into a new culture with a different life perspective.  It seemed, at times, that I was truly speaking a different language than my fellow cattlemen.

Add in the physical and mental challenges of learning to care for large food animals, and the combination became a bit daunting.  There were days when my dad’s magic words kept me going as I whispered Go Annabelle under my breath.  As I said it, I would think of my dad and the stubborn tenacity that marked his personality.

While I still have a long way to go in my journey, I believe that I have begun to make my mark...

While I still have a long way to go in my journey, I believe that I have begun to make my mark…

My dad was an inherent believer.  The words quitting or failure never entered his radar screen.  His life was marked by conscientiously moving forward with quiet confidence.  In many ways, he was a purest with a steadfast commitment to striving for what he believed was right.

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To him, life was not a popularity contest—rather the chance to work for positive change.

Although my dad’s time on earth is through, the words Go Annabelle will endure.  They live on in my heart and will continue to inspire me as I make my own journey through life.

Grilling and serving what I work hard to grow...

Grilling and serving what I grew for him…

I look forward to continuing to feel the warmth of that signature smile that always lit up his face when I made him proud.

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My Sunday Morning Helper…

We run what I call a skeleton crew on Sundays at the feed yard.  One of my guys comes to work to feed the cattle both in the morning and the afternoon, and I am there in the morning to read bunks, check cattle, and exercise any pens that need it.

During the fall months we are particularly busy getting in many younger animals that take a higher level of care.  I often roll my Sunday morning helper out of bed and into the car at 5:45 to provide an extra set of hands.  Megan is not only good help, but her eternally sunny disposition never fails to make me smile.

Pausing for a moment at dawn to try yoga on one of the feed yard fences...

In typical Megan fashion, pausing for a moment at dawn to try yoga on one of the feed yard fences…

One of the added bonuses of having a Sunday morning helper is that I know how many memories and life lessons Megan learns while working with me at the yard.  She is developing a great level of animal savvy, and is on her way to being an excellent cattle handler.  Outside of that, she also learns how important it is to follow directions and take responsibility for both her actions and the animals that we care for.

Here Megan is trailing cattle down the alleyway going back to the home pen at the end of an exercising session...

Here Megan is trailing cattle down the alleyway headed back to the home pen at the end of an exercising session…

Megan is Beef Quality Assurance Certified–having attended two different trainings with our consulting veterinarian.  I also try to take the time to explain BQA care practices to her as we work together at the yard.  I know that hands on training is critical to her understanding and retention of the principals of good animal and environmental stewardship.

Our vet, Ryan O'hare, doing our yearly BQA training at the feed yard...

Our vet, Ryan O’Hare, doing our yearly BQA training at the feed yard…

I truly cherish the time that I spend with my girls.  It is a constant reminder that the best thing that I have done with my life are my three confident and compassionate daughters.

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Passion—Preparation—Perseverance

Friday afternoon brought record temperatures (a high of 104 degrees) for the first Haymaker Cross Country meet of the season.  It was hot—there was no other way to describe it.  Mother Nature’s harshness presented an incredible challenge for the young athletes that gathered to compete.

My favorite teenage in a huddle with her teammates before the Junior High race...

My favorite teenage in a huddle with her teammates before the Junior High race…

There were some that were victorious—those that worked hard over the summer months to build a running base that would carry them past the vicious hurdle of a long run through what some might describe as the fires of hell.  There were others that were defeated both mentally and physically by the ruthless conditions.

As I watched the hundreds of athletes make their way across the course, there were several words that ran through my head:

  • Passion
  • Preparation
  • Perseverance

There was a visible difference between the young people that had developed these life skills, and those that were still searching to find them.

A gutsy run brought her both a 3rd place finish and a smile...

A gutsy run brought her both a 3rd place finish and a smile…

I was reminded of my own years as an athlete.  Little Anne Gibson was never the most physically talented athlete in the competition, but my 5’3” frame was packed full of the three P’s.  Although there were certainly times when I longed for another 6”s of height and muscles that would move me just a little bit faster, the three P’s brought me many athlete victories.

A younger Anne with her coach---a great mentor in her search for the three P's...

A younger Anne with her beloved coach after a victory in an ocean mile swim…

Although I retired from competitive athletics almost twenty years ago, I have taken that same passion, preparation and perseverance with me during every day of my adult life.  It is what drives me toward excellence as I raise both my children and my cattle on the prairies of Nebraska.

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I cherish the opportunities that I have to pass along the three P’s to my daughters, and it brings me tremendous pride to watch them mature into hard working and determined young women.  I am also incredibly thankful for both my parents and my youth swimming coach for instilling these values so deeply in my heart.  I hope that they realize that every success that I achieve is linked back to their diligent mentoring.

Youth that develop the three P’s learn not to settle…

They learn to aspire for greatness, and figure out that the joy of success is sweetened by the hard work and determination that ensures it…

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250 Miles Stronger…

Like many avid football players and fans, my husband looks forward to the fall because of the ensuing college football season.  Last fall, his eyes were opened to a new sport as our oldest daughter was introduced to running.  A Cross Country course is a bit different from the football fields and 200 meter dashes that Matt was famous for during his athletic tenure, but watching our daughter over the past year has made him a believer.

Matt, his senior year in high school…

I have always loved Cross Country.  There is just something about taking on the challenge of a running course with nothing but a stop watch, a pair of shoes, and your pride that makes me grin.  While I have transitioned away from competitive athletics during my adult years, I still periodically search for that “runner’s high” on the roads that surround our farm.

I don’t run as fast anymore, but I still enjoy the journey…

Nothing in my decade long search for athletic excellence prepared me for the absolute joy of watching my daughter in her own athletic journey.  It is fascinating to watch her learn to set goals, work toward them, and gain confidence as they are achieved.

Last fall was the beginning of a beautiful thing…I look forward to the years ahead!

This summer her coach challenged her to run 200 miles.  The lure of the “200 mile club” sparked her competitive nature, and she came home and announced that she was going to do it.   I helped her to develop weekly goals for the summer, and then turned her loose to see what she could accomplish.

The medal last fall that taught her that hard work led to success, and the coach that helped her to learn…

I spent the summer watching her gain confidence and pride with every run that she took.  She and her loyal four legged running partner got up early each morning and ran in the relative coolness at dawn.  While she certainly gained physical strength that will be greatly beneficial as she competes this fall, in reality she gained so much more than that…

The runner and her loyal sidekick…

At the end of the summer, armed with 250 miles and a smile, she is a proud member of the elusive “200 mile club”.  She wore her shirt to the first day of 7th grade and talks excitedly about the plaque that she earned the right to have her name printed on.  She comes home from practice talking about how it is important to always “work hard and finish strong”, and I find myself blinking back the tears as my heart swells with pride.

A special shirt on a very special young lady…

I have no idea what physical accomplishments this cross country season will bring—she has new goals for the season which include breaking a 5:45 mile and winning at least one race.  As her mom and her biggest fan, I know that regardless of how fast she runs and how many medals she brings home that the life lessons that she picks up along the cross country course are invaluable.

I would like to send a huge thank you to Coaches Dustin and Alisa Favinger for inspiring my daughter to search for greatness in all that she does.

Go Haymakers!

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Harnessing The Power Of Our Youth…

Over the past decade, I have coached hundreds (perhaps thousands…) of children through local youth sports teams.  Whether it is on the soccer field, the track, the t-ball diamond, or in the swimming pool it is easy to tell the children who are expected to tenaciously work hard and problem solve at home.

As I coach them, I not only teach them to be good swimmers---more importantly I teach them to work hard and challenge themselves.

I studied psychology in college, and am a firm believer that good work habits and problem solving skills need to be ingrained in children from a very early age.  Learning to work hard and finish with pride gives them confidence and teaches them to be positive contributors to their team, their community, and their country.

My coach used to tell me "Pain is temporary, Pride is forever"...I tell her the same thing. It is how we push ourselves to work through challenges that creates excellence.

Although it is a natural human tendency to want to smother our children and complete tasks for them, it is so important to not give into that tendency, and rather instead to empower them to complete tasks on their own.  There are times, as a parent, when I have to let go.  I have to believe in my girls and allow them to work through a task even when it challenges them.  Challenges teach tenacity—they inspire confidence—and they reinforce the importance of digging deep to be able to finish strong.

I often ask them how they should end a race---they instantly answer "STRONG!".

My oldest daughter, Ashley Grace, is blessed with an incredible verbal ability—she has the vocabulary of a college student and expresses herself well both when publicly speaking and writing.  She is a 12 year old walking dictionary…

This is her favorite place, and her favorite pastime...

She is not a natural problem solver.  If something is broken or if anything needs to be done that requires mechanized equipment, she calls her younger sister Megan to do it.  Megan is not a walking dictionary, but she is an incredibly resourceful problem solver…

My "problem solving" cowgirl would rather ride her horse or exercise cattle than read a book...Caring for animals teaches her personal responsibility and a commitment to excellence.

Last weekend our lawn mower was broken.  Matt was in the middle of planting alfalfa, so I knew that our mower would not get fixed before the grass was tall enough to hide my youngest daughter Karyn (Matt is the mechanical problem solver in our marriage—can you tell which of us each of the girls take after?!).  Matt’s parents have a mower similar to ours, so we borrowed it for the weekend.

After the job was finished...

I gave the task of mowing the grass to Ashley Grace.  I took a few minutes to show her how to operate the mower and then headed off to get Karyn ready for her soccer game.  Ashley Grace was not keen on the idea of mowing and, consequently, did not pay much attention when I was showing her how to run it.  It took her a long time to mow our large lawn, and before she was finished she had christened the mower with a new name: the hell wagon.

The newly mowed grass looks beautiful, but the lesson that my daughter learned was far more valuable...

Perhaps the lawn would have gotten mowed faster if I had done it for her…Perhaps she would have exerted less frustration and fewer tears if I had done it for her…Perhaps she would have had a more enjoyable afternoon reading a book.  None of those were the point.  The point was that I gave her the instruction and tools that she needed to complete the task—I expected her to complete the task—She learned by completing the task.

Did I mention that I also harvested the power of my youth to plant part of the vegetable garden last weekend?

Whether I am parenting my own children or coaching someone else’s, I believe that it is my job to empower the next generation to strive for greatness.  In order to harness the power of our youth, I must first empower them to believe in themselves and want to excel.

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