Friday, January 6, 2017

Cold Weather Challenges

It's outright miserable out there in this frigid January weather!!!  Thoughts and prayers are with the many dairy farmers out there working hard to keep everything going, and believe me it is going slow for many of them on days like today.  It was -20 when I woke up this morning.  Those temperatures are downright dangerous for any unprotected skin and that includes cow skin.  These temperatures freeze up engines and doors.  There are water lines that freeze and fountains that freeze.  I thought I would brain storm all the different ways dairy farmers are experiencing working challenges this week.
  • Frozen water lines that take hours to defrost and get much needed water to livestock.
  • Engines to tractors have cold oil and fuel making them hard to start making chores hard to clean pens and deliver feed.
  • Batteries are cold, making starting machines practically impossible.
  • Water in pails to baby calves is frozen and impossible to drink which means that farmers have to feed water more frequently and make sure it is always warm.
  • Milk in calf bottles cools down fast and baby calves need warm milk.
  • Silage (fermented forage/plants) has become frozen and it takes extra work by the equipment to break up the pieces of silage into bite sized pieces for cows.
  • Calf starter is stuck together and hard, which takes more work to allow calves to eat their food.
  • People are cold and frozen, and there are not enough layers of gloves and water protection to keep the cold and wet out.  Milking cows makes your fingers go numb.  Feeding calves makes your hands go numb. 
  • Driving 4 wheeler makes your eye lashes frozen solid and  your face cold and numb.
  • Just the slightest breeze makes your eye lashes freeze shut and your snot drip out your nose.
  • Water hoses in the parlor freeze before you can clean up after milking.
  • Milk freezes on the milking units making it impossible to clean up well without a heater.
  • The heated shop is the most popular place on the farm.
  • Manure freezes onto any metal surface it touches including the skid loader bucket and manure spread.  Manure also freezes to concrete floors.
  • Doors freeze shut making you walk around buildings to get inside.
  • Water fountains become impossible to walk around unless you want to look like a little old lady with a walker.
  • Skating rings appear on every road with heavy traffic.
  • Dangerously low temps cause teats to freeze and can cause skin damage.
  • Finding new born calves is critical because if a wet newborn is left outside she will freeze immediately in these temps, first losing her ears and then her hooves in serious cases.  Thank goodness for calf jackets and calf warming pens!
All in all we want everyone to stay safe and be careful. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017: Are you grateful?

A very wise friend of mine has a gratitude journal.  Inspired by that journal, I started my own version of that journal.  It was and is still a word document where I have a conversation with God about my struggles and I give thanks for my joys.  Over the period of the past 2 years this simple practice of writing to God every few days has opened up a part of my heart I didn't know I had access to, the place where I could truly find joy, blessings and gratitude for my struggles and my cross.  As a Catholics, we talk about our crosses.  Each woman and man have a cross that they are to bear.  That cross is our opportunity to find joy and turn it into a ministry.  It's a simple practice to think about our crosses but it is a difficult task to turn those crosses into positive parts of our lives. 

During an extremely difficult part of my life (at least so far) I said very off the cuff that I was turning the shit that I had been given into fertilizer and I would grow some amazing flowers with that shit.  It was a very real metaphor for the life that I want to live.  We are all going to have hard times and difficult times but we have the power to turn that shit into fertilizer and grow some amazing produce or flowers.  This metaphor helped me power through the last 2 years and helped me make good choices as a result.  I am proud of my ability to dig into my farming roots and find so much hope and love there!

This attitude of gratitude has now become a habit.  Just the other night (New Year's Eve) I was sleeping at a friend's house and awoke to some very loud snoring. I was patient, waiting for the snoring to stop but it did not and I could not fall back to sleep.  It was in that moment that I quickly said a prayer in my head.  It came so naturally that I am still in awe that I could find gratitude even in this moment, and then I fell peacefully back to sleep.  What was that simple prayer? "Dear Jesus, thank you for this amazing friend that I am able to spend New Year's with.  Thank you for his rest and thank you for the reminder of the blessing to be able to rest together in a house full and surrounded by family and friends, rather than empty and alone. Amen."

I am going to challenge you going into 2017 to find your attitude of gratitude.  Are you blessed with a messy house? Because that means you have loved ones that enjoy this journey known as life with you.  Are you blessed with a job that is difficult? Perhaps this will help you grow as a professional or push you to pursue a dream?  Do you have a difficult friend or family member?  Perhaps this blessing means that you get to grow and be the bigger person! Maybe you have a loved one struggling with a terminal illness?  Use this time to experience life with them as well as death.  So much gratitude can be found in more than just our actual blessings but also our struggles and crosses! Here's to a 2017 filled with gratitude and joy!!! God bless you all!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Passion becomes a Career

My love for cows and farming runs deep.  A good friend of mine told me that I was the most "dairy-centric" person he knew, and I took that to heart.  I am not currently farming but love of dairy farming has only strengthened.  A few months ago I was presented with the opportunity to apply for a new job, a potential long term career, working for the dairy farmers of Minnesota.  I took the chance and applied and it is with great joy that I start today on my first day as the Industry Relations Program Manager at Midwest Dairy Association/Minnesota Milk Producers.  This job is really the sum of my passion put into a career, one I can definitely see myself doing long term as long as I don't let Minnesota farmers down.  This new job not only is my passion wrapped up into a career but it is also the sum of so many small choices made over my lifetime.  I can see God's hand in the road that I have traveled to get to this place, and I can see his plan coming to light. 

I look back to the moment I made the choice to be a county dairy ambassador at 15 years old.  I remember the choice to attend college at South Dakota State University where I would encounter one of the greatest professors I would ever know, Dr. Arnold Hippen.  I remember 2002 as a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way, an opportunity of a lifetime to represent my county and the dairy farmers of Minnesota.  I remember my choice to go into dairy farming with a full heart after graduation and the first few pictures I posted on Facebook of new calves or field work.  I remember Sherry Newell reaching out to me to ask me to start posting some short blogs for a summer series for Midwest Dairy Association.  I was so excited for the opportunity to reach a larger audience!  Following that summer, Sherry encouraged me to take it one step further, "How about you start a blog?"  In 2009 I started this little blog, took advantage of every training opportunity I could get, and you have this, my own little outlet to the world.  Every step of the way I took a small chance in making what seemed like a small decision, which brought me to this place.  From the people that I met: my dairy woman strong role models including my best friend Annie, my roommates and classmates from college, my peers Carrie and Laura, and countless others who have been instrumental on this journey.  Each one gave me a little bit of encouragement and a pat on the back to keep on going.  Each risk followed God's plan to make good choices and put me where I belong.  Yes, I absolutely lost faith in his plan several times and I became full of anxiety and discouragement but I stayed the course (even when I went off course) and here I am with this exciting news!!!

I still don't know my final destination or where this journey may take me but I have faith that if I keep making these small choices to do God's will, I know it will be a beautiful ride, with amazing people and experiences!  I have so much gratitude for everyone that helped me get to this place!  The positive feedback from everyone has been overwhelming and I hope that I won't let you down! Wish me well, I'm off to help grow the Minnesota Dairy community in any way that I can! Go Dairy!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving Thanks for Suffering

Tomorrow we will sit around tables filled with delicious food, surrounded by family and friends.  We will count our blessings and give thanks.  Tonight at mass, Father talked about counting our blessings.  The gospel included the story of the 10 lepers which Jesus healed and only one returned to give thanks to Jesus for his healing.  While we sat in the pews and thought about our blessings I couldn't help but drift into thinking about being grateful for my sufferings.  Some day I hope to be able to write about my sufferings here but for now I will summarize it as a heavy, broken heart. I am on the other side of my suffering and I can speak with confidence that there is healing and growth on the other side of suffering. 

We talk about strength when we face hard times.  Dairy farming is full of hard times, difficult times, challenging times, but life is harder.  Dairy farming creates people who are determined, persistent, resilient, tough, passionate and strong, but I would argue that strength is more than these.  Strength found in suffering, which is the result of growth from the hard times and heartbreak, is vulnerability.   It is compassion, kindness, and honesty.  When I look back on my suffering, I am grateful for this growth that created the ability to be vulnerable.  Being strong all of the time is hard and it can be cold.  Being vulnerable is harder than being strong because it is real and you have to feel everything.  The sadness is sadder and the happiness is happier, but that's the benefit, it is real. I look back on my sufferings, and there were some very dark days. 

I chose to lean into the feelings and be completely vulnerable.  I was vulnerable to the people that hurt me and I was vulnerable with God.  I made my confessions many times, working hard to forgive myself, but when I look back, the biggest healing came from being vulnerable.  I am so grateful for this suffering.  If given the chance to live my life over again, I would do my suffering over again.  Sure I would make different choices to avoid hurting people I love but I know the end result would be the same.  If I hadn't leaned into the heart ache then I wouldn't have grown in the ways that I am today.  I am thankful for the suffering, for my compassion, for my honesty, and for my vulnerability.  It makes me real and it helps me live life to its fullest.  Here I sit, reflecting on Thanksgiving, knowing if it wasn't for the suffering, I wouldn't have my second chances either, to live life to the fullest with the deepest love possible.  Thankful and Blessed :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don’t be Afraid to get into the Picture

This weekend I had the opportunity to do some photography for friends and family.  I made the leap to invest in a camera that I know I will really enjoy for the years to come.  Since my 4-H years, photography has been a great pastime of mine.  If you stop by my home, my walls are covered with my favorite pictures of family, friends, and my favorite places.  During my adventures this weekend I had an adorable 9-year-old amateur photographer-in-training with me; she would like to be called a paparazzo.  I let my paparazzo take my camera and go to town taking her own pictures.  My paparazzo stopped and asked me to get into the pictures she was taking.  I hesitated.  I didn’t want my picture taken.  First, I was dirty.  We had been walking down field roads all morning on our journey and I was covered in dust.  Secondly, I was wearing a scrubby t-shirt and some super short running shorts, but those things are so darn comfortable.  And finally, I am always hesitant to get into pictures because I will find something wrong with how I look, my weight, my angles, my curves, my muffin top, my wrinkles, my sun spots, my list could go on and on.  But who am I to say no to this adorable, insistent 9-year-old paparazzo.  I couldn’t say no, she wouldn't let me.  I couldn't let her down.  

I hopped into the pictures and I did what she told me to do.  I wasn’t certain that she was getting my good side or not and I was a little shy about it at first, but she was just thrilled to have me participate in her creative process.  We did some funny shots, we did some serious shots, and we had a blast making memories.  This was not my usual place.  When I am out taking pictures I take pictures of other people, I seldom take pictures of myself, other than the usual Snapchat selfie on the farm or at work.  Pictures make me feel self-conscious, especially about my body type.  I have struggled with my body type and image for as long as I can remember, that’s an honest statement.    God made me to be a beefy, strong woman, not a delicate, petite one.  I know that I am more confident that I have ever been but I still have days where I feel exposed or vulnerable about how I look.  I feel like a 6 on most days rather than the 10 I know God wants me to be.  I want to be known for my brains and personality rather than my appearance.  Am I beautiful?  Yes I am.  But on those days when I am feeling low, I let all of the little things about myself that are not quite perfect bother me more than seeing the positives overall about myself.  I tell myself I’ll take pictures again when I lose 10 pounds or get my hair to look perfect.  
Floored, that this is how my paparazzo sees me, for all my good things!

My little paparazzo took me out of comfort zone and I am so grateful for that!  Because, when I took a look at the pictures she had taken, absolutely there were some that I didn’t like and made me feel insecure and vulnerable but there were also some amazing pictures that I LOVED!  She captured my smile, my personality, and actually…she captured how she sees me.  I was completely floored and honored that this girl could do so much for my self-esteem in such a short afternoon.  Children don’t care about your muffin tops or your wrinkles, they care about you being there with them, in the present.  They want you to be confident in who you are and what you represent as a human, as a woman.  Children just need you to be your beautiful self.  Be confident, be vulnerable, be beautiful, and for Pete’s sakes….get yourself into those pictures with those kids and make some memories!  Those memories will last forever and your children will have a memento to last a lifetime!