Tag Archives: life lessons

What Fuels You On the Journey?

25 years ago…

Sunday morning, just as the sun popped over the horizon, I logged in my 500th mile running since deciding to compete in the Good Life Halfsy October 29th in Lincoln, NE.

500 miles is a long way…
Farther than the width of the state of Nebraska – Similar to traveling from NYC to Cleveland…

I decided to keep a journal of my training as a bit of a whim. I figured that looking back on my swimming and running cross training for the race would be meaningful. More than four months into the journey, I am very glad that I did. Not because I plan to do it exactly the same way the next time, but because it gives me insight into the journey of peace that I embarked upon last June.

For the first time in my life, I trained not for time but as a means to regain my mental and spiritual health.

I’ve logged in more than 500 miles never wearing a watch. I never missed it because my pace was superfluous — I set out not to regain the athletic status of my youth, rather, to regain balance in my life. In less than two weeks, I will cross the starting line packing my faith to compete with grace. I know that what I accomplish on that day pales in comparison to what I have found running the gravel roads — watching the sun rise — and finding a deep sense of rightness in my life.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that my faith could be stronger than my fear. I found joy, peace, and inspiration as I opened my heart and refocused on what is most important in my life. I will cross the finish line with the knowledge that life is a journey.

That I am stronger than I ever imagined and that hope is the muscle that fuels faith.

I remember when I moved to the farm in June of 1997, I laughed to Matt that I traded flip flops for cowboy boots. Over the last four months, I have learned that my perspective on life is healthier if I also add in a pair of running shoes in order to fuel myself with some quiet time in the presence of God.

The blessings are numerous — we only have to look to see them.

Where did you see God today?

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Family, General

Keeping Our Cool…

I had an unwritten protocol at the feed yard for myself and the rest of my crew in the event that someone lost their temper:

  1. Make sure that all animals are safe in an appropriate pen.
  2. Walk away until you are once again calm.

The flip side of losing your temper is keeping your cool. Spending 20 years caring for cattle taught me the importance of rationally assessing a situation while simultaneously controlling my temper. For years, my girls claimed that I had twice as much patience with my cattle as I did with them. In all fairness, this was likely true as my steadfast mantra as feed yard boss lady was:

The cattle come first. They do not understand your brain but can sense and cue off of your emotions. Calm cattle caregivers lead to calm and well comfortable cattle.

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COOL!

Over the years, I periodically lost my temper with myself, my crew, and the occasional truck driver that serviced us at the feed yard; but I tried to recover quickly to ensure that my cattle did not feel my frustration. I think this was one of the keys to my success as a cowgirl. Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to collect yourself before continuing the journey. That is what I call being a responsible caregiver.

A month ago, my favorite brunette bet me that I could not go a week without losing my temper. She spent a good part of her childhood comparing me to Old Faithful, laughingly explaining to anyone who would listen that her mom displayed frequent and predictable displays of emotion 😉  It is 100% true that for years I placed a higher priority on keeping my cool with my animals than I did with the people in my life. The moment that she wagered the bet, I made the decision to strengthen this personal weakness.

I am proud to say that Old Faithful remains calm and has not erupted in more than 30 days. I’ve learned a few important things along the way.

  • Conveying your passion in a respectful way provides an effective way to inspire others to do the same.
  • The key (for me) to warding off anger is to take on a perspective of thankfulness. I’ve found that it is difficult to become angry when I focus thankfully on my blessings.
  • Patience and encouragement combined with a steadfast persistence helps to bring about positive change – both in yourself and in others.

At the bottom of the Feed Yard Foodie home page is a quote by quarterback Drew Brees from his book Coming Back Stronger. The book is a favorite of mine and it makes an important observation:

“Believing—there are several layers to it. There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true. Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you. It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

I need to give credit to my favorite brunette for inspiring me to enable my beliefs to permeate to a deeper level in order to create an important behavioral change. I may occasionally revert back to bad habits; but I am confident that Old Faithful has been put to rest. I have become a believer in keeping my cool 🙂

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

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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Respecting the Land…

Since closing the feed yard, I have a new habit of exercising during the dawn hour. As part of my training for the half marathon that I will run in the end of October, on a daily basis I trade off swimming and running. I do this for two reasons:

  1. I love dawn and have a 20 year habit of being outside to watch the birth of the new day.
  2. I love to exercise and am using it to “fill the gap” now that I am not reading bunks every morning at the feed yard.

Sunday morning, I ran round trip from my driveway to the old feed yard facility — high 5’ing the stop sign at the half way point — and meeting a training goal of a 9 mile run. As I saddled up my horse early the next morning to go down to the pasture to move cattle, I questioned my intelligence as my stiff legs caused me to look trepidatiously at my favorite black quarter horse who stands over 16 hands tall.

I am glad to report that my legs cooperated as I consciously filled my head with youthful thoughts while gaining the saddle. We had a beautiful morning to move the cattle as the animals began their return journey to the main corral to ultimately ship to Roberts Cattle Co. in a couple of weeks. Maximizing our grass resources while ensuring good animal care provides the steadfast goal for our family.

As we drove home after moving the cattle, Megan, Karyn and I had a good conversation about always respecting the land. I have a Wendall Berry quote hanging in the hallway of my house that reads:

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children!

As farmers, Matt and I respect the land by using the resources that Mother Nature bestows upon us while also carefully making sure that we tend to it. We recognize that increasing the quality of the land enables it to sustain into the future. There is pride to be found in being a good caretaker and we want to make sure that we pass along that lesson to our girls 🙂

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Filed under Farming, General, Video Fun on the Farm

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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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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42 Reasons We Love You…

Tuesday, I put 42 years on the books.  My daughters, led by my favorite brunette, gave me a really awesome birthday gift.  It warmed my  heart and was so perfect that I decided that I needed to share it with each of you.

girlsfall2016chute

Image credit: Katie Arndt Photography

I woke up to find a written list entitled: 42 Reasons We Love You…

  1. You push us to be our best selves.
  2. You always support us in following our dreams — even when they inconvenience you.
  3. What you see is what you get.
  4. You do everything with your whole heart.
  5. You don’t hide the way that you feel.
  6. You’re confident in your own skin.
  7. You can still beat most of the high school boys in a push-up contest.
  8. You donate so much of your time to your community and those you love.
  9. You make us sing the wrong words to songs.
  10. You always have a goal,
  11. And you work hard to achieve it.
  12. You always see things through to the end.
  13. You’re a glass half-full kind of gal.
  14. Your not afraid to own the room,
  15. And you command it so well.
  16. You’re not ostentatious,
  17. You quietly find a way to show your talents.
  18. You uphold your values and beliefs in everything that you do.
  19. You taught us that “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll always fall for anything.”
  20. You’re a planner,
  21. But when you don’t have one, you fake it well.
  22. You treat everyone with respect, no matter their age, gender, beliefs, or intelligence.
  23. You taught us that God made everyone different, and that’s a good thing.
  24. You’ve encouraged us to leave home and see the world,
  25. Plus you’re paying for us to do it!
  26. You’ve shown that holding a grudge will only wear you down,
  27. And that forgiveness lightens the heart.
  28. Because of you, we know that good is the enemy of great.
  29. We’ve seen your incredible work ethic throughout the years and been inspired by it.
  30. You are an example of how to live and love life to the fullest.
  31. You embrace PDA and let us know that true love only grows.
  32. You’re not afraid to be a little goofy,
  33. And you put up with Dad being more than a little goofy.
  34. You tell us to Pack Our FAITH,
  35. And constantly encourage us to look for God in our lives.
  36. You appreciate the natural beauty of the world.
  37. On that note, you allow our house to be in its natural state of lived-in messy.
  38. You take our fashion advice with little complaint (and sometimes even ask for it!)
  39. You don’t know what swag, lit, or OG mean, but you still manage to be the coolest person in the world.
  40. You are an impartial judge of character.
  41. And a great listener.
  42. But most of all, you’re our Mom!

My girls are my greatest blessing and I am so proud to be their mom…

 

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To the Young Women Wanting a Career In the Beef Industry…

annebunkpb2I am often asked about my journey as a woman in the beef industry. For all of the young women who have asked me for advice on the topic –This one’s for you…

5 Nuggets of Advice from the Feed Yard Boss Lady:

1. Be prepared to develop yourself and learn to problem solve. The complexities and traditions of the beef industry provide a delicate puzzle. Change is a given. It is your job to ensure that it is positive in nature.

  • Establish personal core values to live by
  • Gain an accurate understanding of the beef production chain
  • Create both long and short term goals to guide you on your journey
  • Develop plans to effectively work toward your goals
  • Recognize that you can learn something from EVERYONE

2. Be prepared to prove yourself. True leaders garner respect through work ethic and positive passion. Lead by example — Words only become meaningful after respect is earned. There are days when your body will ache and your brain will beg for refuge.  Ignore the discomfort and keep working. You must earn your place on the team. Everyone may not always like you, but over time your actions will convince them that they NEED you. Once they need you, acceptance and respect will follow.

Learn to sweat with a smile 😊 

3. Be prepared to deal with awkward moments — Do it with grace and class. 

  • There may be a time when a bull hauler (truck driver) exclaims “Hey, I’ve read about you. You’re the crazy lady who exercises her cattle!  What’s it like to work for PETA?” Smile, politely correct the PETA assumption, and go load the cattle.  The goal is to create the best experience for the animals — keep your temper in check. Trust me, it’s worth it.
  • There may be a time when you are in an auditorium with hundreds of cattlemen present. You are slated to present an award to a veterinarian who exemplifies many of the animal welfare principles that you have worked so hard to advance.  As the President of the cattlemen’s organization introduces you, he inadvertently belittles you by calling you a princess and misrepresents the project that you have spent a decade as a volunteer working on. Smile, shake his hand, turn to the audience and tell the veterinarian’s awesome story of animal care.

Recognize that IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU. It is about fostering positive change in your industry.   

4. Be prepared that not everyone thinks like you. Your job is to build bridges, not pass judgment. Building bridges requires both action and compromise on your part.  We are stronger if we embrace diversity and use it to create a more effective team. Figure out your own Anne Gates and go to work!

As a woman in the beef industry, you will have experiences that your male counterparts cannot fully understand. That’s okay.

  • It’s unlikely that a fellow male crew member knows what it feels like to work cattle during pregnancy when the little one crams her foot in between your ribs while also making your bladder a temporary punching bag. However, your crew is your team and they will likely do everything that they can to help you get the job done. They do not have to be you to empathize and care about you. Be grateful for them.
  • It’s unlikely that a fellow board member for your state cattlemen’s association will receive an “emergency” call informing him that his children had not been picked up from school that afternoon. While he won’t likely get the call, he can surely empathize with your husband who evidently forgot he was in charge of the after school pick up that day!

Building bridges creates a team spirit which incites positive movement.

5. Be prepared to make difficult decisions as you balance your family and your career. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything — You will have to prioritize.  After the cattle chores, the daily business decisions, and the volunteer work are completed, there is dinner to be made and the never ending laundry to be done. Most importantly, there is a beautiful family that loves and needs you.

Be a loving wife and an engaged mama — celebrate your greatest blessing by enjoying life with your family. 

The last twenty years have been an incredible adventure for me as well as a great preparation for the new journey that lies ahead. I have no regrets and many proud moments. It is truly a gift to get to use both your body and your brain to make a difference each and every day.

Cattle are amazing creatures and there is great honor in the role of cowgirl.    

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Family, General