Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reflections on the past year

You might have noticed I haven’t written a blog lately.  I've just been too busy with work, home, the garden, the dog.  And life in general.  But I thought I would take a few minutes on this eve of my 41st birthday to reflect on my blessings and share a few thoughts.

Don’t blink – life happens.  It doesn’t seem that just about a year ago, I turned in my notice to a job I loved, accepted a new gig in Illinois, listed my house for sale and loaded up a stock trailer to move to Illinois with my soul mate.  It was a crazy time with a lot of unknowns.  But God always has a plan, and in retrospect, He had pretty good timing.  Thankfully there was a new career for me waiting in Illinois, and I’ve really enjoyed traveling the state and promoting beef and the cattle producers in the state.  Oh I do miss my Friday mornings with the ladies at Cracker Barrel and my church home in St. Joe.  I miss chatting with Robin, lunches with Donnie and margaritas with Kerry.  And I miss being a short four hours from my parents.


Never take a day for granted.  We always think our loved ones and mentors are always going to be there.  Inevitably, that’s not reality.  Around Christmas time, I mourned the loss of the teacher and friend who got me super involved in FFA and judging – Mr. Lyn Wiley.  Once again, it wasn’t easy being so far away from those I cared about.  I just hope I continue to make him proud through my passion for the livestock business.  And, I’ve watched the deteriorating health of my family.  Not fun or easy.  But as a good friend of mine always says, “growing old ain’t for babies!”

Politics is part of life.  In April of this year, a lot of folks in the Angus world saw just how political life can be.  I hurt for my friends who lost their jobs at the American Angus Association.  We were a team, a family.  But, I am proud of them for standing up for what they believed in, and I know that they will all be fine.

Simple is good.  I love travel.  I used to live for it – navigating my way through airports, challenging the airport scales close to that 50 pound mark and collecting hotel points across the country.  WOW.  I admire the people that do it for their entire life.  I went from traveling 180 days in the year to not even spending a total of 20 nights in hotel rooms this past year.  I repeat, simple is good.  Even though I still work for a member-based organization, I don’t have to worry about my cell phone ringing at 6 AM or 10:30 PM because someone missed a deadline or needs papers.  And just for the record, I didn’t mind that because I was serving people.  But now, it’s nice to go home, water the garden, play sticks with the dog.  I’ve gone from buying name-brand clothes to shopping Wal-Mart and Target.  And I don’t feel as if I need to keep up with every popular trend out there.

Real love does exist.  I sure kissed a lot of toads in my time.  But I finally found my prince a few years ago.  Stan is my rock.  We support one another.  He makes me laugh, and he is there when I shed some tears too.  I am so glad I never settled and waited for someone like him to love. And he has a pretty awesome family too.



So on this eve of my 41st birthday I just want to express some gratitude. 
Thank you to my parents.  Thanks, Mom and Dad for giving me roots and allowing me to spread my wings.  It isn’t easy being this far apart, but I know you just want what is best for me.

Thanks Stan for being you.  For expanding my horizons on food choices, gardening, pig feeding and fishing.  Thanks for teaching me to enjoy the simple things in life and loving me when I’m probably not always real lovable.

Thanks to my true friends and family who have kept in touch.  You take time to visit with me when I’m at various functions and call, text and Snapchat with me. You know who you are and how important you are to me.

Thank you to my new pals in Illinois.  It is nice to live in a friendly state where people are so welcoming. 

And thank you to my Bible Study ladies.  Although we are spread across the country, I can’t imagine not going through this journey without you!

Here’s to the next 40 Years and here’s to more blogs in the future!

Friday, November 15, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - International Marketing

In case you're keeping track, this is day 15 of my walk down memory lane...half way there!  Thanks for sticking with me!

No more sad market animal stories.  Today I am fast-forwarding to my high school years.  I was either a junior or senior, and my family had left Nebraska and headed to Kansas. We lived in Saint Francis, and our flock had grown significantly to at least 100 head of ewes - Hampshires, Dorsets and a few Southdowns. 

A marketing agent was putting together a flock of young Hampshire ewes to send to South America, and I had two or three that would fit the specs.  They were registered, healthy, the right age, and so my dad and I loaded them up to take them to the drop off point for export.  I thought this was the coolest thing ever.  And it was until later that year.

In June, Dad and I traveled to the Midwest Stud Ram Sale in Sedalia, Mo., and we had the opportunity to meet the Brazilian who had bought our ewes.  We had a little language barrier, but he new us by our first names and that we "were from San Francisco" and yes, that was a good translation, but probably not the San Fran he had in mind.  And, he was having a large time at this sale - and every time he took a drink, he'd say "Salute!" Well, we were pretty sure he wouldn't make an appearance the next morning, due to too many "salutes".  It was a great experience, and I was glad I had grown from the sappy little girl selling her market animals to an international exporter of breeding stock!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - The Load Out

I feel like I'm on a theme this week and yes, this is another story of me selling a market animal.  You might want to grab your tissues for this one.

I was either a sixth or seventh grader, and one of the best times of year for me was October because we loaded up the trailer, packed the suitcase and headed to Rapid City for the Western Junior Livestock Show (WJLS), which was a fall show for just select counties (think the Western Ak-Sar-Ben).  Any way, this particular year, I had a big string - several breeding sheep, a heifer and my prized steer, Snuggles.  I had got Snuggles the winter before and he was the perfect companion for me.  And yes, he was named after the dryer sheet teddy bear.  I tied him up all, worked what hair I could and his target was WJLS.  Except, I didn't quite understand the target would be so abrupt.

The steer show was an evening show, and as soon as we walked out of the ring, there was a semi ready - yep we were expected to lead our steers right out of the ring to "meat" their fate.  WHAT?!?! No one had told me this!  And they wouldn't let parents do it for us.  So I led my beloved Snuggles up that ramp and onto the trailer.  And I stayed there.  If he was going, so was I.  I was a sobbing messing -  maybe beyond sobbing.  Eventually, my dad had to come in the trailer, and take me and the halter off.  According to my dad, I eventually cried myself to sleep about 3 o'clock that next morning. 

Let's fast forward two more days.  We'd shown heifers and ewes and eaten good meals and went swimming at the hotel pool.  But we had one more stop before we left Rapid.  The. Packing. Plant.  WHAT?!?!  No one told me that the steer show was a combined on-hoof and carcass contest.  So there we were looking at Snuggles on the rail.  This was my first experience at a packing plant, and not on the most pleasant of circumstances.  We saw all the steers that had loaded out that night.  And when we got to Snuggles, there was a blue ribbon attached to his carcass.  And that made the trip all ok.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - Saying Good-bye

The more I get into my memory archive, I feel like I should have named this blog, "4-H memories" or "youth memories" but all these stories I'm sharing with you and they all stem from my childhood spent on ranches.  So please keep reading...

The above photo is called "Saying Goodbye" and my mom took it in 1983 at the Dawes County Fair Sale.  I was 10, and selling my first market animal.  This would eventually become a cover photo for a Sheep Magazine, and my mom later framed the picture for me.  It goes with me from house to house and state to state on every move.

Saying "good bye" to my market animals was never an easy task...Even in my last auction at Dawes County, when I was a sophomore in high school, I cried when I sold my steer.  Granted, he was a Hereford, and I raised him.  He was reserve Hereford steer and after the sale, I sat in the back pen of the sale barn and laid on him and cried.  No saying goodbye is never easy.  I fed him animal crackers (ironic?) and we shared a soda.  My dad had to come haul me out of that pen as the semi pulled up to load the market animals that fateful evening.

Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to have 4-H projects that I could sell.  And fortunately for me, I had a mom that captured this awesome memory above. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - July 2

If you ever showed cattle AND grew up in the Nebraska Panhandle, you know what happened every year on July 2.  Yep, it's Crawford Beef Show Day.  Every year on July 2, we would go to the Crawford Beef Show at the fair grounds right across from the sale barn; the only exception might be if July 2 fell on a Sunday, but I can't recall for sure.

I have so many memories from the Crawford Beef Show.  I went before I was old enough to show when my dad would help the older kids.  Oh, how I wanted to show!  Even when we lived in Mullen, I remember heading to Crawford (quite a haul) in the wee hours of July 2.  A bonus then was we would stop at the donut shop in Hyannis and got fresh donuts!

And of course some of my best memories were in the early 80s when I actually got to show there.  Yep, the Crawford Beef Show was a pre-cursor to the fair, about a month out.  You got to "go to town" and see all your friends and show your cattle!  What a deal! 

Perhaps one of my most vivid, although not pleasant, memories was showing Holly there.  Remember Holly, the HORNED Hereford?  Well, I wasn't very big, and she could practically pick me up with her left horn as I led her around that showring.  I think I was permanently bruised on my side that entire summer!

Even all these years later, I always get a little nostalgic when July 2 rolls around.

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories - Winter Wonderland

I'd say it was the winter of 1978-79; it was a bad one and I was 5 1/2 years old.  We lived on the Cox Ranch North of Mullen and most of our route was a one-lane gravel path.  I didn't actually remember that until a few years ago when my dad and I went to the Ranch's 101st anniversary, and drove it for the first time.

But back to that winter.  We had FEET of snow, lots and lots of feet of snow.  It was very handy to have the snowmobiles I wrote about in an earlier post to take care of the cattle, feeding etc.  But we were not leaving the Ranch HQ.  One thing I remember and will til the end are helicopters airlifting us hay for the cattle - the would lower these big round bales down to the ground, and my dad ran out to retrieve a few bags of groceries - milk and eggs - if I remember right.  We were pretty self sufficient on the Ranch with beef, canned and frozen goods from the garden and baked goods, but we plumb ran out and we were not getting to town.

Yes, that is a winter I will always remember.  I bet I didn't go to town for a month.  Good thing I wasn't in school yet.  Oh, but when I did get school age -we had a backup plan.  Sherron had a house in town, and a couple winters when my mom worked at the hospital we actually had an apartment too, so she could take call.  Oh the joys of living in the boonies!   But I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Ranch Memories: A Birthday Tradition

Singing the "Birthday Song".  Giving gifts. Eating cake. Opening gifts. Giving birthday spankings.  Most of these are common activities at a kid's or even an adults birthday party.  When we moved to the Nebraska Sandhills, we learned of a new tradition that made me thankful to have a late Spring birthday.

At the Ranch, it was "customary" to get thrown in the tank for one's birthday.  I made it pretty easy, as the littlest person on the ranch to get picked up, swung over someone's shoulder and literally thrown in the middle of a horse tank in the corral - green slimy moss and all!  There was no time to retaliate; no time to kick off your shoes; and basically no where to run too!

I was an easy victim.  But sometimes the bigger boys and men weren't so easy.  It would sometimes take two guys - one to get the arms and one to get the legs - or four men - one on each limb - to get the bigger guys in the tank.  Somehow, it always happened.  What about those who had a winter birthday?  They weren't forgotten - they just got their surprise birthday christening in the summer months when they least expected.

Ranch life was pretty good.  We worked together, played together, and celebrated together.