Category Archives: Family

Hope is a Muscle…

I graduated with a degree in psychology from Dartmouth College in 1997. I remember clearly the phone conversation with my parents a couple of years prior when I told them of my chosen major. My dad struggled to find enthusiasm as he finally managed to say “Psychology’s not a very practical major. Don’t you think you should study something else?”

Two days after graduation, I moved to rural Nebraska where I used my psychology degree to learn to care for farm animals and coach young athletes. Over the almost 25 years that have passed since that phone conversation, I have routinely pondered why the science of the brain and the emotions that play critical roles in our lives fall into the “not practical” category of focus.

Mental health touches all of us. The mass shootings that all too often ravage our country were not even on my radar screen in the mid-90’s when I formally studied psychology; but the denial and feeling of shame that go along with smaller daily emotional  and mental challenges did permeate our mainstream American culture. Still today, we harbor embarrassment toward and quietly shun people who suffer from mental turmoil instead of reaching out in love and support. We chose to judge others, blame inanimate objects, and participate in rabid political debates after tragedy strikes rather than acknowledge the real problem and preemptively come together to focus on a cure.

Hope is a muscle.

When it is strengthened daily by love and faith, hope wards off the self-doubt, loneliness and fear that challenge and erode our mental health. The battle is real. No one holds immunity from it. Hope provides the inspiration that allows each of us to find value in life. It motivates us to reach out to others in love and support, instead of focusing inward with judgement and disdain.

A grass-roots effort is needed to create the cure. It starts with you and me – how we view ourselves — how we relate to others, as well as what we teach our children.

  • Do we focus on love of others and honoring the gift of life?
  • Do we respect individual differences while also working to find common ground so that we can move forward together as a team?
  • Do we accept that mental and emotional struggles are part of life and focus on creating the tools needed to find happiness amidst the challenge?
  • Do we have honest discussions with our children about faith that inspire them to love themselves while also recognizing that “we” is stronger than “I”?

Everyone matters.

We all have worth.

We are all children of God.

I believe that we begin to effectively improve the mental health of our country one person at a time – one relationship at a time – one loving action at a time. We waste precious lives when we judge instead of love. Repetitious acts of kindness build the muscle of hope. They not only help others, but they help us. We feel self-worth rather than self-doubt, focus on community instead of loneliness, and replace fear with faith as we look toward the future.

I spend a lot of time coaching and working with youth on the athletic field. While it may appear that my primary job is to build physical muscle and athletic prowess; I know that what I truly need to do is teach my athletes to believe in themselves – to truly believe that each one of them matters. Not just on the day of competition, but in the journey of life.

You see, hope is a muscle. When it is strong, it refills our cup and provides a beacon of light as we travel the journey. It keeps us honed in on the joy of giving. It tells us that we have something worth sharing and inspires us to reach out in empathy toward others. When we all work to build the muscle of hope, we rediscover the value of life. We are at peace and whole within ourselves through our faith in God which allows us to show love and compassion to others.

It isn’t complicated; but it requires dedication and tenacity both at the individual and community level.

Are you ready to build the habit of love and fuel it with faith in order to find hope for the future?

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What Makes a Good Animal Trainer?

Learning about cattle…

I remember the first time that I stepped into a pen filled with cattle at our feed yard. I was 21 years old and had never been within a quarter of a mile of a bovine before. The first thought that ran through my mind was “They’re huge”, followed simultaneously with an almost automatic feeling of fear.

I’ve always believed in the saying Mind over Matter and, in that instant, I made the decision to figure out how these very large creatures viewed the world (and me). My gut pushed me to learn their story so that I could become a part of it. It’s been an awesome journey. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with those big, hairy creatures. Their minds fascinate me, and I overcame my fear as I traded inexperience for knowledge.

Learning to work with cattle taught me more about myself than I would have ever imagined. Cattle’s ability to sense emotions and see the world in pictures challenged my natural linear thought process. I figured out relatively quickly that they were not able to think like me – that, in fact, it was not their job to think like me. Rather, it was my job as their caregiver to learn to think like them.

Empathy creates a powerful tool…

Today, I don’t handle cattle as often as I used to. I get my fill during the spring and summer months when we run cattle on grass pasture. But, once our grass is eaten up and I move them into the feed yard, I pass off the job of “primary caregiver” to the knowledgeable crew at Roberts Cattle Co.

Honestly, there are days when I miss that daily bovine-human interaction tremendously.

I’ve learned during my adult life that happiness is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I determine my own fate and my attitude defines my level of joy. When I sense a personal gap, I look to fill it in a meaningful way as that helps me to find daily fulfillment.

Enter Theodore…

Six months after closing down my own feed yard, I brought a 7 week old yellow lab puppy into my life. Labrador Retrievers have a special place in my heart. I shared a love for them with my Dad, and I have fond childhood memories of watching him train his hunting dogs. Theodore has helped me to fill the gap and I am broadening my animal training prowess. Just like cattle, learning to understand Theodore is a journey. We have a partnership with each of us having responsibilities to fill in order to find harmony together.

The following is a short list of qualities that I believe make a good animal trainer. While cattle are incredibly different creatures than dogs, I am finding that the qualities that make me effective in training them are remarkably similar.

  1. Patience: Animals have a way of trying to “outlast” their handlers. Being patient tips the scale in your favor as it allows you to control your own emotions and wait for the right moment as you teach.
  2. Consistency: Just as patience allows for success, consistent boundaries are critical for effective training. Animals learn what happens before what happens happens which means that good caregivers must be consistent with their feedback.
  3. Communication: Clear communication sets everyone up for success. Expectations and asks can only be effectively answered by the animal if he understands what you want. Be clear.
  4. Empathy: Animals are not smart enough to think like you, so to be an effective trainer you have to learn how to think like them. When you are able to put yourself in their shoes, then you can ask in a way that is meaningful to them which leads to your idea becoming their idea.
  5. Love: Someone once told me animals don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A good leader always cares.

I am so very thankful for the lessons that my animals teach me. They enrich my life in countless ways as we make the journey together. Theodore’s a pretty awesome little partner 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding the right words…

Today marks the third 5K race in 8 days for the Haymaker Varsity Cross Country team. We are into the “tough” part of the season where fitness is critical and mental determination creates success. As a coach, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the right words to help the athletes believe in themselves and continuously engage in the running journey.

Words are powerful.

When chosen carefully and delivered effectively:

  • They inspire.
  • They create.
  • They bring beauty to our lives.

In order for words to bring about positive change, they must be heard and they must be meaningful. The bottom line for us is that, as a team, we must celebrate our differences as we build team unity. A culture of hard work and excellence plays a critical role. And, it extends beyond the physical to include our ability to be good teammates.

What are the top 5 qualities of a good teammate?

Heart: Packing your FAITH to trust in both yourself and your teammates creates a team with heart. Building a positive culture inspires a unity dedicated to greatness.

Work Ethic: The road to excellence is never comfortable. Expect to work tirelessly under conditions that will be uncomfortable. Success is often found in the midst of challenge and surrounded by hard work.

Integrity: Truth in thoughts, words and actions creates a team worth fighting for. Love yourself enough to be true to your uniqueness – Love your teammates enough to embrace diversity – Love your sport enough to give it your all.

Leadership: Supporting and mentoring others inspires greatness. The team is bigger than any one individual or race. What you build together is infinitely greater than anything that you can build alone. Life is a journey – one that contains a vastness of joy that can only be tapped through community.

Passion: Race with passion. Give it your all, recognizing that you bring honor to your God, your team, and your sport when you dig deep to compete with perseverance.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General, Rural Communities

The Best Part Of Me…

Tracking Hurricane Irma as it headed toward my home state of Florida provided for interesting introspection this week. Not only was the original path of the hurricane set to hit the Southeast Coast where I spent my formative years (and much of my family stills calls home), but the name chosen for the large storm was “Irma” which was my beloved Grannie’s name. I am not certain how the National Hurricane Service chooses storm names, but Hurricane Irma shares little in common with my quiet and compassionate grandmother.

My beloved Grannie lived a few blocks south of us and I spent many of my early years bouncing back and forth between our houses. I remember how proud I was when my mom decided that I was old enough to walk to Grannie’s all by myself, and I cherish the memories of the times that we spent together. My grandparents spent more than 70 years together – weathering a variety of storms – and positively touching the lives of many.

I wrote this blog post shortly after my Grannie past away in 2014. I re-blog it today as a tribute to the wonderful lady who taught me to give endlessly and selflessly in this journey that we call life. She will always be the picture of “Irma” that I hold in my heart.

Feed Yard Foodie

Anne Sally and Grannie picture Three generations: June 1996…

I tell my daughters that they come from a long line of strong women. 

There are many types of strength, but I think that a quiet and compassionate strength is likely the most beautiful.  It is this type of strength that allows for universal greatness. A person of quiet and compassionate strength spends her life as a people builder — inspiring others to greatness.

I was blessed to grow up down the street from my grandparents.  I learned so much from each of them individually, as well as from watching them as a couple.  My beloved Grannie was the quiet strength that held the family together.  Her unconditional devotion to both her husband of 70+ years as well as to her children and grandchildren defined her as a truly remarkable woman.

Today, there are very few people willing to sacrifice personal accolades in order to…

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Finding Honor In Our Lives…

My favorite farmer celebrates 46 years of awesomeness this week. With the last twenty of those years spent working on the farm, I find myself thinking that perhaps we aren’t as young as we used to be! Matt and I tend to draw very few boundaries in our lives, so it would be impossible to evaluate the last two decades of our lives without including the farm.

A couple of weeks ago, the sermon at church centered on finding honor in our work. The topic resonated deeply with me as honor is something that I personally value. It was a great reminder for me that work is part of God’s plan for humanity and we honor our faith when we honestly and fully engage in our jobs. For Matt and I, finding honor in our work is closely akin to finding honor in our lives as there is very little separation.

I think that one of the hardest things about being a farmer is finding and maintaining balance. You learn quickly to control the controllable in order to protect your livelihood from those things that threaten it. From Mother Nature –  to volatile markets-  to debilitating regulations: the list of things that keeps you up at night can grow lengthy. Maintaining a perspective that focuses on honor instead of fear/frustration provides the encouragement that refuels your cup and grants you a healthy outlook on life.

Cattle are masterful at sensing their caregiver’s attitude 🙂

The last twelve months have inspired me to reflect on this topic. The following are 5 personal habits that I have worked to establish in order to help me always focus on finding honor in my life:

  1. Let my faith be stronger than my fear.
  2. Look for gaps and be cognizant of the needs of others – Approach each day with the question: “How can I help?”
  3. Bring a constant element of thankfulness to my daily perspective. Thankfulness wards off frustration and anger, and increases the ability to live a life filled with joy.
  4. Create a personal focus on giving intentional encouragement so that my words and actions positively inspire others.
  5. Recognize that it is okay to take time for personal reflection and growth. While I am very much an “action” person, taking time each day to talk to God and develop a plan grants meaning to my actions in addition to helping me to refill my cup.

I find each day that I am still a work in progress – achieving differing levels of success with the above 5 habits.  But, I am confident that I am on the right track. Good habits bring about good daily choices.

And, making good choices enables us to find honor in our lives.

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Celebrating 21 years…

Today my favorite farmer and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. I’d like to deny that I am old enough to celebrate such a milestone, but when I look at my daughters it’s pretty difficult to dispute the facts 😉

Matt and I met at Dartmouth College the fall of 1993 and said “I do” in June of 1996. We spent a year on the East Coast before making the decision to move back to the family farm in Nebraska the summer of 1997. I often claim that the three girls in the above picture are my greatest blessing, but likely a better statement is that the family that we all make together is our greatest blessing.

At age 21, I had no idea what the future would bring the day that Matt slipped the ring on my finger; but I recognized that honoring the gift of our love would provide the basis of the life that we would build together. I tell my girls that the road to excellence isn’t meant to be comfortable. Rather, excellence is about reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order to accomplish far more than your dreams. That statement provides a perfect description of our marriage.

  • The road is often bumpy.
  • The bumps can make it uncomfortable at times; but there is joy to be found in the journey of togetherness.

Matt has taught me that no matter what you can accomplish alone, accomplishing things together is what makes life meaningful. Being a team creates the needed strength to turn uncomfortable into joyful success. We are devoted to each other — finding strength in the togetherness that transforms the wedding day into a life-long partnership. We work hard for each other, always striving to honor the gift of our love.

Today I count my blessings as I look back with pride on the last 21 years, while also looking forward to next 21 🙂

 

 

 

 

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The Good Life Halfsy…

Last week, I signed up to run The Good Life Halfsy. My favorite farmer thinks that I am crazy and my favorite blonde cowgirls are claiming that my mental status has been in question for years; but there are a variety of things compelling me to complete my first half marathon.

 The first, and most important, is that Ashley Grace asked me to do it with her. My favorite brunette begins her senior year in high school this fall, and I am incredibly excited to be able to share this experience with her. While we will not really run it together (she will cross the finish line well ahead of me), it is a mother/daughter bucket list item.

Apart from a few 5k races completed recently as a fitness building tool with my family or the Haymaker Cross Country team, I have not competed in a running event since high school. The six minute miles that I used to kick out on the XC course provide an interesting history, but little relevance to the race in late October. Much has changed over the last twenty-four years 😉

The second reason that I hit the “go button” on the registration form is simply that I canFor the first time in 13 years, I am physically strong enough to finish the race. To be completely honest, this race is a mental (as well as physical) stretch for me. However, I believe that it is a symbolic event as I celebrate a level of health and fitness that, during my years with active Graves Disease, I worried I would never again attain.

I recently wrote a blog entitled Life’s About Never Giving UpIn a number of ways, this race will be living proof of my words.

  • It is a difficult challenge to lose your health.
  • It is often a long journey to regain strength and fitness.

But, there is an awesome sweet spot to find as you pack your FAITH along the healing process. I’m hopeful that sweet spot will make a strong appearance the morning of the race as my main goal is to complete the half marathon with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

I hope to have many great moments over the next five months as I train and prepare for the race; but what I most look forward to is seeing the pride in my daughter’s eyes as she hugs me on the finish line.

 

One of the reasons that Life’s About Never Giving Up is because there are so many awesome things to do as we live it 🙂

 

 

 

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Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

Life’s About Never Giving Up…

The onset of Mother’s Day always brings a personal sense of pensiveness. I think this is the case for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Being a mom and a coach/mentor provide the most important facets of my life.
  2. After my third daughter was born, I struggled for an extended period of time with chronic illness due to an autoimmune system disease.

At a glance, these two things do not necessarily seem related, but digging a bit deeper brings us to the heart of what I believe it truly means to be a mom.

The privilege of being a mom begins with receiving a new life. I’ll never forget how I felt when I held each of my three girls for the first time. I was in awe that something so precious, so infinitely beautiful could come from me.  I made a multitude of promises to my girls in those first moments. As I vowed to love them forever and support them in their dreams, I curled their tiny hands around my index finger and humbly thanked God for his gift of life.

Ashley Grace was just short of 6 and Megan was 2 and ½ when Karyn entered the world. The next five years were difficult ones as Matt and I struggled to hold together the family, the farm and survive my journey with Graves Disease. I learned a very important lesson during that time.

Life’s about never giving up.

It’s about FAITH.

It’s about letting go enough to embrace GRACE.

When I began my journey with Graves, I packed my stubborn with a vengeance, but I forgot to take along the majority of my FAITH. The stubborn took care of the fortitude and my integrity seemed to be permanently ingrained, but my attitude, trust, and hope were severely lacking. I am not proud of the person that I was during those years; but Matt held me up when I wanted to fall, and I came out the other side with a new perspective on life.

Today, I look at my beautiful girls and I see the true meaning of blessed. As I accept that blessing, I know in my heart that I must help them to learn that same important lesson about life. Being a real mom is about much more than wrapping that tiny hand around your finger, it’s about instilling that important value of FAITH and then letting them go enough that they can learn to find GRACE.

Life is hard.

Life is real.

Life is what you make of it.

Problems do not just disappear when you do not want to deal with them. No one is going to wave a magic wand. The negative aspect of challenges can fester and ruin your beautiful spirit – causing you to lose sight of what really matters. The only way that you work through it is to recognize that life’s about never giving up.

Sometimes never giving up involves letting go. On the surface, this may seem a bit backwards – letting go in order to never give up. But, trust and hope cannot move into your soul to lead you through the journey if there is not a personal realization that not everything in life is meant to be controlled by you.

Life isn’t about control.

Life’s about FAITH.

Life’s about GRACE.

The journey is better when you accept the love and support that God can grant you. This support comes in many different forms, and I have learned that I need to look for it. Trust and hope are critical components to FAITH. Developing a meaningful relationship with God enables you to open your heart to find them. When we pack our FAITH, we are open to receive GRACE.

Sometimes as moms we are tempted to try and fix things for our children. I make it a point to not do this with my girls because I know that their lives will be happier and more meaningful if they learn how to pack their FAITH, remember to let GRACE lead their actions, and figure out how to let go enough to never give up.

Life will never be perfect, but it can be meaningful. In order to receive, you must give. True joy can be found in sharing of yourself as you use your talents in order to make a difference. Peace is a beautiful emotion – it sits all along a journey marked by FAITH and GRACE. Finding it provides one of life’s most precious gifts.

Look for it.

Honor the gift of life.

Pack your FAITH so that you can fly.

Lead with GRACE so that there is a purpose to your flight.

Above all, cherish the journey as the pot of gold is the rainbow itself, not any given moment in time.

 

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