Tag Archives: life lessons

Dear Beautiful Woman…

Megan is my sunshine — a stubborn pragmatist steeped with compassionate empathy…

My favorite blonde cowgirl celebrates her 14th  birthday today.  In honor of her special day, I would like to share a letter that she wrote to a friend in need last fall.  All of us who are parents can recognize how important it is to teach a balance of confidence and compassion to our kids. This letter demonstrates the struggles of teenage girls while also highlighting the importance of loyal friends who share love and compassion to support each other on the journey.

 Dear Beautiful Woman,

You can be anything you want to be. Aspire to be your greatest form. Take the tools that you are given and make something of yourself. You are so amazing at being you. If the people who are around you actually care, they will stick around no matter how stupid you make yourself look.

Study hard and work for what you want. If I could give you any piece of advice it would be to work your hardest. Nothing has meaning unless it is earned. Good grades are earned through studying hard and learning. If you want that spot on the varsity team, work your butt off to get better. Go to every open gym or practice you can. That’s how you get better. Push yourself to be better than the “you” you were yesterday.

And to that jerk who dumped you last week; that’s his loss. If he doesn’t have the intelligence to see what a great person you are, then let him go. It’s okay to cry but don’t let him leaving change who you are. You are you; boyfriend or not! Your true friends will be there for you (sometimes a little more than you want!). Let them help. Help them. They know how it feels. But most of all: move on!

Stand up for yourself. Tell that brat at the lunch table off. Make your voice heard. Your opinions matter. So let others know that you think for yourself. Words are sometimes more effective than a punch. And tell that boy that starts strange rumors about you that you are not afraid of him. People will respect you for that. Just let your conscience lead you, and don’t go too far.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Have confidence in who you are. And please, please, please, do not EVER look to any one else for approval. If you are comfortable in your own skin, roll with it. Be you! Be intelligent, be strong, be humble, be kind.  Relative to the people who are “on your hate list” — What a stupid waste of time. Don’t focus on the negative in people, focus on the positive. You have negatives too. We are all human; we are ALL imperfect.

Put all of these things together and what do you get? A leader. Be one. These things make you an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful person. Encourage others to be one too.

Think about these things. They will make you a better you.

Love,

Megan

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A Lesson In Perspective…

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch :)

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch:)

My favorite 16 year old brunette traded her basketball shoes for high heels this winter when she became a member of the 2016 Haymaker Speech Team. Her long-time dream of attending an Ivy League college combined with the intellectual nature that she inherited from her mildly nerdy parents led her to the path of public speaking. She began the season as a novice participator and ended it as a varsity competitor at the Nebraska Class B State Meet on Wednesday.

Ashley Grace qualified for state in the Extemporaneous Speaking category. An incredibly unique event, Extemporaneous Speaking involves drawing a topic from a large pool of both global and domestic current events to create a 5-7 minute speech citing specific news resources to support the oratory content. Each competitor has 1 hour to write and prepare the speech before presenting it to a judge/judges. Every meet involves the entrants competing in 2-3 rounds (2 preliminary, 1 final) drawing different topics for each round.

I have to admit that I nudged my favorite brunette toward this topic because I recognized the invaluable life skills that it would help her to develop. Learning to intelligently convey your thoughts in an effective, organized, and interesting manner ranks at the top of Anne’s list of life skills. Being able to do it publically in front of a judge, under the pressure of time constraints, is nothing short of awesome. I watched my daughter evolve from a nervous and unconfident competitor to a poised, thought provoking, and eloquent speaker over the span of four months.

While the season far surpassed any expectation that I had as a parent, it ended in a sea of frustration for my daughter. After winning the first round at the state meet, she delivered what I believed to be the best speech of her career in the 2nd round. Her seven minute oratory on necessary changes within the Republican Party leadership in order to rein in fringe candidates was clever, organized, and beautifully presented. Unfortunately, the judge did not agree with her interpretation of the topic question and, as a result, scored her so harshly that she fell short of qualifying for finals.

The experience provided an interesting lesson in perspective…

One could argue that a differing personal interpretation of an open ended question should not result in such a punitive score reduction. This action ultimately denied her an opportunity to compete in the finals, but I think that perhaps the lesson is much larger than placing at the Nebraska State Speech meet. The lesson did not appear in the lost medal; rather, it originated in the season long acquisition of a valuable public speaking skill and culminated in the realization that the same words on a paper can mean different things to different people.

It is hard for many of us to recognize that perspective colors interpretation; but that is a reality. Neither the judge nor my daughter were wrong on Wednesday, they simply interpreted words differently as a result of having unique perspectives. I cannot begin to count the times in my ag-vocating journey where this has occurred. Perhaps one of my most valuable acquired life skills came from the realization that the blending of eclectic perspectives leads to learning and personal growth. The first step in this process is accepting that words and views can be meaningfully interpreted from multiple angles.

I am incredibly proud of Ashley Grace – the poise that she displayed this week as well as the hard work that went into her public speaking transformation warms my heart. While it may take a few days for her to let go of the disappointment of the lost medal, I am confident that she will ultimately realize that that the true prize exists in a broadened perspective and the maturity that comes from being able to look at the world from a variety of angles.

My favorite farmer fervently wishes that the leaders of our National Republican Party could have listened to the words of her speech – perhaps then our country would be able to climb out of its current political quagmire😉

 

 

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The Privilege of Diversity…

DSC03744Six weeks before matriculating at Dartmouth College I was mugged at gunpoint. A seemingly normal weekend night turned into a nightmare as a friend and I were assaulted a mere two miles from my house in Florida. My life changed that night as a stranger threw me on the concrete and placed a gun to my head. My guardian angel sat firmly on my shoulder that evening as the assailant and his accomplice stole my purse, but not my life.

I tell my girls to “always take God with you”. While the lesson wrapped up in those words holds many meanings, one of them dates back to that August evening in 1993.

My years at Dartmouth were a time of both healing and personal growth. Rural New Hampshire slowly brought back a sense of physical safety and ultimately l conquered the fear of walking across campus in the dark. I remained cautious, but the culture on campus helped me to find a healthy perspective and renewed my confidence.

Surrounded by intelligent and motivated students who held a great diversity of opinions, I was able to determine just “who Anne was”.   This concurrently sharpened my intellect as well as broadened my perspective. I started my time at Dartmouth a “jock with emotional baggage”, but I ended it as a confident intellectual who held a strong sense of purpose.

This is the beauty of a liberal arts education on a well-structured college campus.

  • A place where diversity is embraced allowing for the creation of mature thinkers with compassionate natures.
  • A place where a blanket of respect protects each student’s Freedom of Speech and personal rights in the midst of intellectually stimulating debates.
  • A place where students learn to recognize that life’s challenges do not define the individual, rather they are stepping stones for personal growth. This growth will, at times, bring discomfort but it also teaches perseverance.

Sometime during my tenure in Hanover, NH I figured out that I did not want to live my life as a victim — focusing on the past and allowing my heart to fill with discontent. Rather, I wanted to live my life as a humanitarian – seeking out the good in others and looking to the future with the desire to play a positive role on the ever important journey that we call life.

My alma mater found itself in the midst of controversy last week as a passionate student protest escalated to threaten the boundaries of respectful debate. My heart was saddened for a variety of reasons but perhaps the greatest was the apparent lack of inter-student respect on campus. Basic decency becomes lost when hatred toward a single ideology overtakes the value of compassion among individual classmates. Sadly, the second is sacrificed in the name of the first.

  • I dream of a world where people are valued for what they hold in their hearts rather than the image that they see in the mirror.
  • I dream of a world where people are lauded for the humanitarian work that their hearts empower their bodies to accomplish.
  • I dream of a world where diversity of thought is celebrated — Where our young people relish eclectic virtues and use them to make the world a better place.

Life is both a privilege and a responsibility. We must always move forward mixing our passions with compassion so that what I dream of today will be a reality tomorrow. Unfortunately, there will always be unexplained acts of violence like that which occurred to me so many years ago. However, we can lessen the impact of those acts by recognizing one act of hatred does not rationalize another.

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In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle…

A college friend introduced me to the book, In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle, by Madeleine Blais more than twenty years ago. Based on an Amherst Lady Hurricanes high school basketball team in the mid-1990’s, the book is a tribute to hope, respect, and dedication to team. My friend was a member of that team, and her story influenced me greatly as I began my adult life.

Prior to this fall, I had not thought about the book in many years, but the 2015 Lady Haymaker Cross Country team brought those memories back full circle. A small team, led by an awesome coaching staff, defied the polls and walked away with numerous titles. Their accomplishments included bringing home the Nebraska Class C State Runner-up trophy last Friday.

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In Nebraska, Cross Country teams run 6 and score 4. Due to injuries, the Lady Haymakers ran 5 and scored 4. Demonstrating an impressive display of “pack running”, the top four girls finished the 5k race within 15 seconds of each other. Despite the fact that none of the girls received individual medals, their accomplishments garnered them the Runner-Up team trophy.

While there are many things about the state race that I will forever take with me, it is the look of determination on each girl’s face that warmed my heart the most. They had a goal. They believed. They trained. They built the muscle of hope just as they built physical fitness.

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And they persevered with greatness…

My oldest daughter led the team as each member competed with character, love for one another, and a deep respect for the sport. While the trophy that brought tears as well as smiles will now live in a cabinet in the Cozad High School, the joy that comes from building the team will travel in all of their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Haymaker Cross Country personifies a culture of excellence. The positive mental development of the athletes provides the true beauty of the program. Somewhere in the thousands of training miles under the leadership of head Coach Dustin Favinger, a bond is forged among the runners that transcends the physical.

It is truly a joy to witness…

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Throughout the season, I watched the girls “fill in” for each other during the races. They packed up tightly, running together and feeding of off the muscle of hope that beat deeply in their hearts. The girls tenaciously battled challenges, always determined to accomplish the prized end goal: a state team trophy.

As a parent, I cherish the life lessons that Ashley Grace learns pounding the running trail in search of excellence. Comraderie, self-discipline, and confidence all tie together creating the realization that true success occurs when selfless individual efforts forge together to create a team.

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I will never forget the smile on her face as she proudly held the trophy. It is the smile that results when hard work, determination, and hope provide the promise of victory.

That is the recipe for excellence – That is Haymaker Cross Country.

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18 Years of Life At a Feed Yard — 4 Years of Blogging…

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Matt and I, on stage for the Trailblazer Award, last week in San Antonio at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention.

 

As a result of the 2014 Trailblazer Award, Beef Magazine asked that I write an article reflecting on important issues for cattle farmers.  This was a great opportunity for me to share thoughts relative to 18 years of working in a feed yard and 4 years of blogging.  The target audience was cattle farmers, but I wanted to share the piece here as well.

In the article, I share lessons personally learned from both my cattle and my beef customers.  You can view it by clicking here.

**On the home front, we are celebrating being free of the flu as well as the crutches that plagued our house for a couple of weeks.

  • My favorite teenager’s 9th and 10th basketball team finished their season with an 8-1 record, and a final game Friday night will end her Junior Varsity season as well.  She is gearing up for the high school musical performance that is a few weeks away, and looking forward to the start of track.  Last but certainly not least, she brought home the 3rd place award for the Nebraska Voice of Democracy Oral Essay contest last week in Lincoln.
  • My favorite blonde cowgirl will have her first competitive gymnastics performance of the year this weekend in Lincoln.  Having mostly healed from her first career pole vaulting accident, she is also gearing up for the start of track.  I am very glad to have her back as a contributing member of the chore brigade and once again helpful on the farm!
  • My favorite 10 year old is rocking the volleyball court with a second place tournament finish last weekend.  I never thought that I would have a child play middle blocker on the volleyball court, but she stands several inches taller than any other teammate so seems well placed!

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 I hope that your week is full of joy!

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5 Lessons That I Want My Children To Learn Before They Go To College…

Thoughtful Thursday

While the love story that brought me to agriculture was steeped in romanticism, the secret to my success as a cattle caregiver and the “boss lady” at our feed yard is buried deeply in the five lessons listed below.

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I learned to “run” a scoop shovel when I went to work on our farm in 1997. I still run one every Sunday morning because it plays a role in my search for excellence…

5 Lessons that I want my children to learn before they go to college…

  1. The only thing that you are entitled to is work.  Do not expect for the world to hand you what you want — Know that you will have to work for it.
  2. Realize that attitude is everything and will shape your perspective — Look favorably upon your responsibilities, then they will also become your joys.
  3. The most important thing that you take with you is your integrity.  Respect it enough to always be loyal to the truth.
  4. Work Ethic + Attitude + Integrity = A Leader.  Be one — The world will be a better place if you share of yourself.
  5. The Road To Excellence Is Rarely Comfortable.  Excellence is not about comfort — It is about reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order accomplish far more than your dreams.

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The Future…

Thoughtful Thursday

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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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