Tag Archives: love

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?


Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General


I was lucky enough to grow up down the street from my grandparents. Although they have been gone for several years now, when I think of them the word that comes to mind is devoted.  More than 70 years of marriage, the sun rose and set for them in each other.  As a little girl, I dreamed of finding a soul-mate — someone to build a life with just like my beloved Grannie and Dedaw.

Feb March 2006 017When I brought my favorite farmer to Florida for the first time, my Grannie loved him at first sight.  I still don’t know if she innately sensed that he was my one, or if she simply loved me enough to believe in my heart.  Either way, she showed me with her life that love required work — a good marriage necessitated diligently doing chores — and that the blessing of sharing your life with someone always topped the priority list.

One of the things that I love about Matt is our ability to work together in harmony.  After twenty years on the farm, I still love to do things with him. Whether we are checking fields, working on projects around the house, or building fence, we make a good team.  Matt figures stuff out, and I follow directions well 🙂

When you work well together, chores are not just a necessary part of life — they are part of what makes life fun.marchfence7.jpg

Last weekend Matt and I took down my winter horse fence.  Intermittent warm days inspire the alfalfa to green up and start to grow, so it is time to corral the horses and take them off their winter pasture. Since it snowed on Saturday, we opted to wait until Sunday to take down the electric wire fence. We traded the Saturday snow for a 35 mile an hour wind on Sunday. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we picked the correct day, but we bundled up and laughed our way through the chore.




We brought along our favorite blondes as we’ve always maintained that families that work together find greater love together.


We survived the wind, and finished the chore. I think perhaps the only ones pouting are the horses as they prefer their large winter grazing pasture to the corral 😉


I spent much of the day thinking about my Grannie and Dedaw.  How my life on the farm is so different than their’s was on the Florida coast, yet how our days are actually so much the same.   When your better half provides the center of your world, love becomes much less of a chore and much more of a blessing…


Filed under Family, Farming, General

The Glow That Illuminates…

Last week, I joined Idaho rancher Kim Brackett to film a podcast for the monthly joint effort by Purdue University and Beef Magazine known as The Beef Roundtable.  Our podcast will run in December and offers information on “sharing the beef story”.  As I prepared for the filming, I found a quote that resonated with me.  I think that it provides a perfect point of reflection for the week of Thanksgiving.  James Thurber states:

There are two kinds of light — 

The glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures.

Finding the quote sparked some quiet personal introspection in the days that followed.  I asked myself:

  • Do my words and actions provide a glow that illuminates? 
  • Am I a vehicle that allows others to find new and beneficial knowledge for their journey of continuous improvement?
  • Do I make a positive difference in the lives of others?

There exists no greater honor than being a catalyst for positive change.  I not only believe that on a philosophical level, but I also try to work for that in my life.  It starts with a willingness to respect the thoughts of others, and continues with the quiet strength needed to persevere kindly amidst a myriad of opinions.

Over the weekend, I took my oldest daughter to visit Notre Dame University and then attend the Division 1 NCAA College Cross Country Championships. My favorite farmer and I believe that our girls will gain both knowledge and motivation by experiencing life outside of our farm.  While it is hard for us to imagine them leaving home, we realize that a broad perspective will provide an illuminating glow as they make their way to adulthood.

The trip accomplished a number of “bucket list” items for my favorite brunette.


On the way to Notre Dame, we pulled off the road and found Lake Michigan.  The pure joy you see on my daughter’s face comes not just from seeing the lake and dipping her toes in the water; but also from her realization that I value what is important to her.

Sometimes the glow that illuminates exists by simply allowing others to realize that what holds importance to them holds similar importance to you — just because you care. 

I found this unselfish spirit pervasive on the Notre Dame campus.  It was obvious to me that the culture of compassion and respect found on campus provided a healthy and happy environment for the students. Just as I know that I will always treasure my daughter’s smile, I also realize that fueling it comes from her innate ability to find her passion and express it with kindness.  The true light that illuminates glows from an unselfish desire to improve the lives of others.

Creating this type of culture rests within our reach — we simply need to embrace it.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!




Filed under Family, General

It All Started With a Beer…

Frankie Ballard has a new song out on the country music charts entitled, “It all started with a beer”.  There is something innately human about the song that really speaks to me.  The truth in the words of the melody pull at my heart and serve as a good reminder of what real life is all about.

There’s been highs and lows,

Fast lane freeways and bumpy roads
Cursed the devil and prayed to heaven,

Lost it all and we rolled some sevens
Been some smiles then there’s been tears,

Been more good than bad years
Ain’t it crazy baby how we got here,

Oh, it all started with a beer

annemattjeans.jpgMatt and I met at Dartmouth College at a party in the fall of 1993.  The life we started together in New Hampshire and then continued on the farm in Nebraska is wrapped up somewhere in the midst of those words coined by Frankie Ballard.  We celebrate 20 years of marriage this June and 19 years on the farm having experienced the joys of love, the trials of farming, and the journey of finding strength in togetherness.

When I look in the mirror today, my eyes do not hold the innocence and optimism of youth.  Instead, they carry the knowledge of life — the highs and lows, fast lane freeways and bumpy roads — the recognition that tackling challenges is just part of living.  Understanding that, perhaps, the tears and frustrations that come during the lows actually lead to a broader perspective allowing for a fuller life experience.

There is no doubt that the optimistic Ivy League graduate with stars in her eyes that landed in the heart of the Nebraska plains really had no idea of the journey ahead.  Sometimes it is hard to remember the girl who showed up at the feed yard that first day shaking with nerves, but determined to learn.  The years blur together, but adaptation is a curious process and I have (from time to time) both cursed the devil and prayed to heaven. 

The experiences of creating a family combined with the trials of learning to understand cattle and running a business have instilled me with patience and resilience.  The uphill battle of bringing positive change to an agricultural industry steeped in both testosterone and tradition taught me that small periods of failure often precede a roll of sevens.annemattjeanskiss.jpg

Through the decades, my favorite farmer has shared both my smiles and my tears quietly supporting me so that I would have more good than bad years.  His faith in me never waivers and the love that we have nurtured on the journey humbles me.  On this Valentine’s Day, it seems quite hard to believe that

It all started with a beer



Filed under Coaching / Personal Growth, Family, General

Words to Live by…

My grandfather was an inspiration to many people.  His cheerful optimism served as a magnet which drew others toward him.

Hank was notorious for his “sayings”.  He frequently quoted poetry and had many “catch phrases” that we affectionately referred to as Hankisms.

Between the two of them, there is more than 180 years of wisdom to share...

More than 180 years of wisdom to share…

The largest mentor for Hank in his  adult life was his preacher, Rev. Dr. Samuel M. Lindsay.  The following is a poem written by Dr. Lindsay.  These words served as Hank’s Mantra all of the years that I knew him.


I will talk health—Instead of sickness.

I will talk prosperity—Instead of failure.

I will carry Good News—Instead of bad news.

I will tell the cheerful tale—Instead of the sad tale.

I will mention my blessings—Instead of my burdens.

I will encourage —Instead of criticize.

I will be a friend to everyone.

This mantra lends itself to a wonderful legacy of good will.  I cannot think of a better thing to leave behind as you enter the gates of heaven.

Cheers to a wonderful life, and many thanks to my beloved  Dedaw for all of the love and memories that we shared!


Filed under Family, General

Life’s Greatest Blessing…

Tomorrow, Matt and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary.  While the day will be our normal organized chaos that between the two of us involves exercising calves, coaching a swim meet, and leading an alfalfa harvesting crew; it will also be special.Anne and Matt0003

I am not sure if I can clearly remember the 21 year old with stars in her eyes who walked down the aisle of Bethesda-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida; but I certainly remember the look on Matt’s face when I stepped inside the church.  I am blessed to still get to see that same look today.

I have loved Matt for more than half of my life, and our marriage is based not only on love but also on commitment.  The journey from Hanover, New Hampshire to rural Nebraska has been marked by both challenges and opportunities.  We face them together: holding onto each other for support and remaining committed to living the dream.

Our recipe for sustainability lies in an unwavering desire to endure with joy.DSC05079

Almost two decades later, we are thriving farmers and the parents to three beautiful and talented girls. Matt is not just my husband, he is my biggest fan.  He believes in me when I doubt myself, encourages me when I am challenged, and celebrates my successes with enthusiasm.  His loving support not only guides me, but also teaches our daughters about the respect and devotion that provides the foundation to a successful family.

Husker and Swimming June 17 2012 049Today, I reflect on the fact that a devoted spouse is life’s greatest blessing.

  • Their faith is unwavering.
  • Their support is priceless.
  • Their love is a gift to always be treasured.

While many people look at my path from urban athlete to rural cowgirl as both an unusual journey and an interesting success story, the truth is that most of the credit should go to the quiet man who stands beside me and  has dedicated his life to our partnership.  I can only hope that our daughters will one day also be blessed with someone who both completes them and inspires them to greatness.

Today I salute my favorite farmer.  I look to the past with thankfulness, I look to the present with joy, and I look to the future with excitement knowing that we will greet each day with the knowledge that love and opportunity await us.DSC05507

What is your greatest blessing?


Filed under Family, General, Sustainable Spring

The Love Story…

More than a year ago, author Susan Amestoy contacted me because she was putting together a book of love stories.  She wanted to include Matt and I in her short story collection entitled So, How Did You Meet Anyway?  Susan is premiering our story for a second time on her blog site today (hopefully that means that it was popular the first time!).  For those of you that are interested in how the farm boy from Nebraska met the city girl from Florida, read on…and enjoy!

16 and a half years ago...

16 and a half years ago…

As my parents put me on a plane for Dartmouth College in September of 1993, my mother’s parting words were “Anne, stay away from the senior boys…”  I smiled, gave them both a hug, and determinedly walked aboard the aircraft ready to start my life as a college student.

Six weeks later, I looked across the room at a fraternity party and I knew that my world was about to change.  There was a great looking blue eyed boy (with devil’s horns glued to his forehead) smiling and heading my way.  Our conversation that night was short as I had an early swim team practice the following morning and he had imbibed plenty of beer…but we were destined to meet up again a couple weeks later.  I still remember what t shirt and jeans he was wearing that first night…And I will never forget the first time that I saw those blue eyes and gorgeous smile off-set by ridiculous looking devil’s horns!

I had found my “senior boy”.

We had our first date Thanksgiving weekend as we both stayed on campus due to sports practice obligations.  I casually asked him where he was from…He replied, “Nebraska.  My dad’s a farmer”.  I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu that night because I was worried that a farmer from Nebraska did not have very much money…Coming from urban Palm Beach County Florida my experience with “Nebraska farmers” was pretty limited!

Apart from swimming, football practice, and class; we were rarely seen outside of each other’s company.  Our team mates and his fraternity brothers teased us unmercifully, but we both recognized that we were soul mates.  We got a dog together the following spring…My mother inquired if I was aware of how long dogs lived?  Taylor (the dog) lived a long and comfortable life before passing away at age 13 and 1/2.  Matt will tell anyone who will listen that Taylor was our first child…

Much to my parents surprise and dismay, we got engaged on my 20th birthday and married the summer before my senior year in college.  No matter how odd it seemed to our family and friends to marry so early, it felt right to us.  We spent the first year of our marriage at Dartmouth and then moved to Nebraska two days after I received my B.A. in psychology, and Matt received his Masters of Engineering.

Matt and I are the only two Dartmouth College graduates that live in rural Nebraska.  We are often asked why we moved to rural America after having received Ivy League degrees.  The answer is simple:  it felt right.  Today (15 years later), we raise crops, cattle, and three beautiful daughters in what I fondly call “God’s Country”.  Our life together is full of challenges as we work hard to care for our animals and quite literally “feed the world”.

I still like to tease my mom about “those senior boys” that she warned me to stay away from.  She just laughs and tells me that with three daughters of my own that I will one day worry about them too!

If you are interested in more love stories that Susan has collected, you can visit her site: http://wwwsohowdidyoumeet.blogspot.com/


Filed under Family, General

15 Years and Counting..It just felt right.

As I look back at my life, I am always amazed at how the pieces came together and unfolded…  It is almost as if my life has been a series of well timed building blocks that stacked one upon the other.

If I had not had scoliosis, would I have become a nationally ranked swimmer?

If I had not become a nationally ranked swimmer, would I have been accepted to matriculate at Dartmouth College?

If I had not attended Dartmouth, would I have ever met my “farm boy” from Nebraska?

If I had not ever met my farm both from Nebraska, what path would my life have taken?

He's been my soul mate for more than half of my life...

Without him, I most certainly would NOT have had the opportunity to manage a cattle feed yard in Central Nebraska!

I am nostalgic today because last week I wrote an essay on how Matt and I met and our subsequent love story.  Matt’s and my story will be included in a book entitled So… How Did You Meet Anyway? by Susan Amestoy.  Susan found me via “Feed Yard Foodie”, and asked me to contribute Matt’s and my story to her collection.  My essay is featuring on her blog site this week, and can be found at:


The essay is entitled “It Just Felt Right” and it is the September 10th post on her blog site.  It warmed my heart to write the essay and hopefully it will warm yours to read it!  Happy Monday!

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Filed under Family, General