Tag Archives: life lessons

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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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.

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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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A Deer In the Headlights…

Cattle outnumber people in the state of Nebraska by a ratio of just under 4:1.  We share our great Cornhusker State with a healthy population of deer who reside amidst the 1800 miles of river ground within our boarders.

pavement-ends-road

 

Life on a farm leads to many miles traveled on gravel roads. Learning to drive where the pavement ends initially provided a bit of a learning curve for me, and I remember my favorite farmer giving me driving advice as I adjusted to life on the prairie. After two decades and hundreds of thousands of miles, I recently got to put his what to do when a deer jumps out on the road in front of your vehicle advice to good use…

  • Slow down as much as possible without losing control of the vehicle. 
  • Stay in the middle of the gravel road where the traction is the most consistent.
  • Hold the steering wheel with two hands and drive STRAIGHT.  Do NOT SWERVE.

 Natural human intuition often leads to swerving to avoid the collision.  Swerving results in losing tire traction on the uneven gravel and crashing the vehicle into the ditch.  It is preferable to take the deer head on which allows you to better remain in control with a solid driving surface.

It was pitch black dark the morning that a doe mule deer decided to cross the road in front of my vehicle.  The look she gave me reflected her lack of foresight and thought, but I am glad to report that I had enough to cover both of us.  I followed my favorite farmer’s advice to a T, and all ended well.

anne-ag-meg-treeAs I recounted the experience of saving both myself and the deer to my girls, I took the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment.

  • PAY ATTENTION to the world around you.
  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for both your actions and the situation at large.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID to face things head on.

 Of course, the girls expressed great excitement toward their spontaneous life lesson opportunity with Mama. Now, if I can just get them to consistently wear socks and coats during the winter weather; they might be ready to go off to college in a year or two 😉

Like many of you, we reconnected with family and friends over the holiday season.  In my case, many of these awesome people lead unique lives in places vastly different than my farm on the prairie.  While I deal with deer before dawn on gravel roads dressed in blue jeans and boots, they deal with rush hour traffic while dressed in business suits.

Taking the time to appreciate the diversity in others allows our own lives to take on a new depth of meaning. In doing this, we are able to shed that deer in the headlights look and actively embrace the similarities that exist in our hearts.

**P.S. I am open to any and all advice as to how to convince my teenage daughters that physical care and comfort should come ahead of fashion.  Please leave thoughts in the comment section 🙂 —Thank you, Anne

 

 

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Goals, Accountability, and Teenagers…

  • I believe that setting goals and working to achieve them gives life purpose.
  • I believe that accountability empowers integrity and results in making good decisions.
  • I believe that in all of my life journeys, the one that I take as a parent is the most important.

I live in a house full of teenagers.  My girls bring me intermittent bouts of joy and exasperation as we make our way together as a family.  They are both my greatest pride and my best challenge.  What we build together provides life’s greatest blessing.

I am a habitual goal maker.  Setting and working toward goals keeps me passionately excited to be better tomorrow than I am today.  I set goals in every facet of my life and hold myself accountable while working toward achieving them.  I try each and every day to pass this habit on to my daughters. This often results in interesting feedback from them 😉

agstatexc3I remember a couple years ago when my favorite brunette was struggling during track.  I asked her at the dinner table one night what her goals were for the season.  Her reply caused me to grit my teeth as she stated: “I don’t have a goal for the season.  I am afraid to set a goal because I might not reach it, and I don’t want to fail.”

Fear is real.  It is part of being human and affects the decisions that each of us makes every day.  Acknowledging it empowers you to deal with it and ultimately move past it.  Setting goals that are challenging, yet achievable is one of the best ways to keep fear under control and gain confidence on the journey.

Although that night at the dinner table I wondered if my mentoring was flawed, the maturity and fortitude that my daughter went on to show in the next two Cross Country seasons demonstrated that we were both on the right path.  She ended both seasons as the lead runner on the respective XC squads helping to bring home the runner up team medal in 2015, and garnering an individual medal in 2016.

While she would likely tell you that the hardware was her greatest achievement, I would argue that learning to set goals and finding the personal strength to hold herself accountable for them creates her greatest accolade.  Over the last 18 months, I have watched her dig deep, over come adversity, and persevere with greatness.

This weekend, I will watch proudly as she competes in her first 1/2 marathon.  Completing the race accomplishes a long term goal and checks off a bucket list item.  She loves to run, and I love to watch her love to run.

Finding the appropriate balance as both her parent and her coach provides my greatest accomplishment.  While I want her to find success more than anything in the world, I realize that success only holds meaning when she learns to do it for herself.  From finding the personal discipline to get through the daily grind to daring to dream and packing her faith to go after it — that’s what makes her a winner.

She may be a teenager today, but tomorrow her contributions will help to shape our country.  That’s plenty of motivation to fuel us both on the journey 🙂

 

 

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Finish What You Start…

AnneGirlsApril2016.jpgWhen I think of all of the important lessons that my parents taught me growing up, likely the greatest is to finish what you start.  My own girls have grown up indoctrinated with that mentality as I follow in my parents’ footsteps in order to prepare them to be responsible and contributing adults.

Many people ask why my cattle feeding exit plan spans more than six months.  The short answer to that questions is I always finish what I start.  When I made the decision to close down my feed yard, I knew that I needed to do it the responsible way.

  • The way that offers the best care to the animals on my farm.
  • The way that provides the best benefit for my employees.
  • The way that allows our farm to continue to thrive in the environment of change.

That requires me to remain in the business for an elongated period of time.  Honestly, it is emotionally more difficult for me to slowly phase out the feed yard than it would be to just sell the animals on my farm and shut the gate.  However, I am cowgirling up because that’s what you do when you are the boss lady 🙂

I remember my dad telling me as a child, “Anne, there is no excuse for quitting.  It is never acceptable.”  Time and time again, my parents showed me both with their actions and their words that honoring your responsibilities came ahead of personal comfort.  There are hundreds of young athletes in our community that would tell you that “Coach Anne says to always Finish Strong!”  I don’t just say it, I live it.  While I have many imperfections, quitting is not one of them.

One of the things that I grappled with when making the decision to shut down the feed yard was whether closing the gate meant I had personally failed.  The rational part of my brain understood that there were many outside forces at play pushing me in the direction of change, but the bottom line showed that I was the one who was throwing in the towel.  It was under my leadership tenure that part of our farm would cease to exist.

annemattbale2.jpgDespite the fact that I am the psychologist and Matt is the engineer, my favorite farmer was ultimately the one that allowed me to see that I was continuing to remain loyal to my responsibilities.  That making the hard decision to transition the farm did not constitute a failure, but rather a carefully weighed decision that could ultimately benefit both our family and our farm.

While there is a part of my heart that still feels a sense of loss, I am passed feeling a sense of failure.  I’ve decided to cut myself a little bit of slack, celebrate the long list of accomplishments over the past two decades, and look to the future with a strong sense of hope.  My favorite blonde cowgirl reminded me a couple of months ago that, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”. C.S. Lewis

I just needed to figure out that I could finish what I started 20 years ago and still look for that new dream.

It’s a good thing that God has filled my life with really smart people 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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