It’s Been a Long Time

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Oh dear, it’s the second day of Fall and I’m afraid I was inconsistent with my blog over the summer. My goal is going to be to put out a blog once a month from here on out. I’m terming the blogs, “blog-ets” because I intend to make them short and sweet. I’m not sure with video, Instagram, and such that blogs are overly relevant. People are busy and they don’t want to sit down and read and read.

Unless it’s a book.

We are now in a culture that values instant.

We can cook faster, move faster, and produce faster than ever before. Therefore, we want a few bolded items or something quick because there is too much stimulus in front of us at any given moment.

Trying to keep up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked-In can be a part-time job. With the line of work we are in, we spend a fair amount of time outside and as you all know from my absent blogs–life can get away from you.

My goal, although I have another job and many “hats”, is to simplify.

What better way than to simplify the website as well. It is too easy to watch the calendar float by without actually feeling present in the moment.

Somehow it is too easy to not savor my fingers on the keys, but be thinking about my work hours this evening or my meeting tomorrow.

Relationships aren’t made by jumping from one thing to the next like a bungee cord. If I’m to be relational, I must be intentional.

I’d like to be intentional about moving slower, even if there is more to do.

Blessings on you all! May you find the pace that works for you!

 

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How To Be Like the Big Boys

just like the big boys

This photo is of our bottle calf. Well, it’s actually some friends’ bottle calf. We tried to graft him to a cow who her lost her calf, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him. He’s aggressive, smart, and he’ll be anyone’s buddy… I’m bummed the momma wasn’t interested.

We are feeding him a bottle until he can be re-homed. Bottle calves are fun because they always love to see you. He loves back rubs, scratches behind the ear, and long walks on the beach… Ha, ha.

After it was clear the momma who lost her calf wouldn’t take this amazing one, we had him behind the barn. He could see some other pairs, but he wouldn’t go out with them. Instead, he wanted to be with the 4-H steers. He stood at the gate into their pen and bawled. The poor kid was lonely!

He bounded into the steer pen like a bull at a rodeo. He ran up to the steers and the three of them started playing. The calf was so happy to have friends!

Obviously the steers eat a bit more and a different variety than the calf, but every time the steers get fed, he comes over to the bunks. He nibbles on hay and a bit of grain, but not much. He’s simply happy to be included.

Aren’t we like that too?

I know I like to be included. I also try hard to included others. It hurts when we are deliberately left out.

Yet it also shows who is important in our lives. Who we hang around will determine our own course. This calf is copying the behavior of the bigger boys around him. We often do the same.

It doesn’t take much to be like the big boys–just hang around them!

WINTER IS WINNING…

April snow

Winter’s End??

Snow, snow, snow…I want to wash my hands, my face and hair, with snow…

That is a line from a song in White Christmas.

It’s a great song.

Except it is April.

A-P-R-I-L.

We are in Montana, so this isn’t abnormal, but I’m ready for spring. I’m ready for rain instead of snow anyway.

Lack of sunshine causes somber moods, weariness, and seasonal depression.

On the upside, I took my kids skiing four days ago.

We started calving on April 1st. The weather can fluctuate in April, but we had a full on snow storm with seventeen degree temps that first weekend. Now it’s 35 degrees and blowing snow sideways.

I miss you sunshine!

Yet last night I saw a wheelchair bound friend of mine. She’s relegated to only going outside if the weather permits. No putting on boots. No layering up.

You know what she did?

She asked how my life was going and wanted me to tell her everything we were up to.

Talk about humbling.

I know life is challenging and we can’t compare our life story to someone else’s. Yet it helped me put it in perspective. I’m thankful I can go outside.

We are all missing the sunshine. But it will come. The earth does in fact rotate and we can’t stay in perpetual winter. It may feel like it, but our feelings will sometimes deceive us.

Enjoy your day, whatever it looks like. I’m going to crank the heat up, turn on the lights (pseudo sun!), and maybe put on some music…

 

 

 

Optimistic Pessimism…What Do I Focus On?

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Calves do what they were meant to do

 

Recently, one of my kids struggled with something. This kid practiced for a year, worked hard, and had been consistent. Until it came to game time…gulp. Things did not go the way they had in practice…

In my mother’s mind, I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how I could’ve helped, what I could’ve done differently…Did I encourage my child in the right way?

The coach said the game got in the head too much. She said stop thinking about it so hard, just play.

How often do we try to prepare for everything that could go wrong?

If this happens, then I’ll do that…

To some extent we need to be prepared–after all, vehicle repairs happen, cattle sometimes get sick…

When does it cross a line though?

I’m a planner, so I excuse my over-thinking as “planning”. I’m pretty sure it’s optimistic pessimism.

Being an analytical thinker sometimes keeps me up at night, even though my heart is to trust and pray.

So what does an analytic mind do when they need to teach their child to stop thinking too much? (Talk about an oxymoron!)

Yep, I Googled it.

How to stop over analyzing…

Google did not disappoint. There was everything from meditating to “let go”. The one that really caught my attention though:

Start focusing on what could go right instead of what could go wrong.*

Hmm.

Stop planning on what might happen that you’ll have to fix. Start thinking about what might go right.

We actually have to retrain our brains. The Bible calls it taking every thought captive.

I call it hard.

It’s not impossible though.

Graham Cooke says, “What we focus on grows within us”. It’s a quote I use often, but still haven’t quite mastered.

Whatever we are facing today friends, be it cows, people, fences, or other…may we learn to focus on what might go right.

 

 

 

 

*Lolly Daskal, http://www.inc.com

Simple Joy

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Cows have personalities. That’s why I love this picture.

These girls have really gotten friendly during feeding season. I’ve patted their backs even.

When I go out to feed, we cut the net wrap off the bales before we unroll them and these girls are eager to get the first few bites.

These cows don’t push on me and they aren’t rude, they’re just there, ready to eat as soon as possible. They seem to enjoy life and they don’t care who is watching them. They don’t even notice they’ve got food all over their chins.

They’re purely content.

Granted, animals are simpler than humans in many ways, but watching the cows is a blessing because it reminds me to keep life simple.

It’s easy to over complicate.

Perhaps it’s too many plans in the schedule or relationships that require more attention than anticipated. Maybe we complicate life with our thoughts–worrying about what other people think or accidentally gravitating towards performance rather than authentic living. So many factors filter into overcomplicating.

Cows just live.

They soak in the sun. They eat when they’re hungry; they drink when they’re thirsty. They rely on us to bring them food when it’s not available to forage.

The simple life.

I long for simplicity.

Snapping this photo of these girls is a fun reminder to keep life simple. To me, they look happy, uninhibited. May we all proceed with sincere joy in life’s simple moments–they often remind us of what matters and what doesn’t.

What reminds you of simplicity?

 

 

Ranch Hibernation

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I’ve been in hibernation mode.

It’s snowing. It’s the last day of February and we’ve had sub-zero temps for a good part of the month and a fair amount of snowfall. I’m thankful for the precipitation after last summer’s drought. We need it. I hope we get rain this spring. However, it does make a person want to hibernate. Or fly south.

The cows tolerate the weather fine, although they eat more with the harsh temps. We even had a big surprise–a cow that was preg tested to calve in April calved a couple weeks ago! A nice big steer calf!

The record keeping part of me is embarrassed; how did this happen? We are better cattleman than this. However, it’s a fairly new-to-us cow, so she could’ve calved early last year and rebred right away. (Plus, we didn’t do the preg checking.) The other part of me is excited because I love seeing new life and watching the babies reminds me what this life is really all about.

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Sometimes we need the reminder.

Ranching is tiring. Around the clock care. Always on call. Surprises. It is the simplicity and joy of this life that keep us on track with the call we have to live like this. We love it, but I think it’s time for a vacation.

Since that isn’t going to happen right now, I feel like hibernating. I’m working in the house and I’m not being lazy, but I am enjoying some excess netflixing as time allows.

In our fast paced culture, it is hard to go against the flow and slow down. However, I think slowing down is needed in order to appreciate all the small gifts we are given each day. If we rush constantly, we miss the bird on the windowsill, the brilliant sunset, or the fog hovering over still water.

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I haven’t totally figured out how to be slower paced in a fast paced culture–especially since ranching, working other jobs, and having kids (high school is busy!) keeps us hopping. That’s why sometimes I just feel the need for a time-out, a hibernation. Take care and rest up this winter! Irrigating is coming!

A Rancher’s Valentine..

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

On Valentine’s Day, you might be surprised by a box of chocolates or a rose…which are wonderful. If you’ve ever dated a cowboy though, you know Valentine’s gifts may not be ordinary . Cowboys are hardworking. Many a cowboy remembers Valentine’s Day because it is usually when he puts in a fuel order. Cowboy Valentine’s might look a little different:

You may get a new shot gun–as in the vaccine kind.

He may give you a swig of his favorite drink.

Your cowboy may try to get you to touch his hat–which means you owe him a kiss.

Men in boots sometimes present poems… That they wrote themselves:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Your eyes glisten more,

Than dew on cow’s poo poo.

 

Really girls, there are many ways a cowboy will love you…but I’m telling you this: if a cowboy gives you his time, he’s giving you one of his most precious commodities. The movies may show ranching as romantic, but we know it is a lot of work. A lot. So when your cowboy moves things around in his schedule, when he doesn’t jump to the computer to check the market reports or read a good article, when he includes you and makes time for you…that’s a Valentine’s gift.

Friendship, love, relationships…they aren’t made in the wrapped present. (Although they are nice!) Authentic connection happens in the small moments: sharing the newspaper, playing a game, walking out to check the heifers…trust happens in the details that revolve around each day. Maybe you watch the sunset, maybe you commiserate after a loss, perhaps you watch a movie because you’re tired…

However you share your Valentine’s Day, be thankful for time together. If you’re lucky, your cowboy may even let you drive the feed truck and you know what that means!!!—He’ll have to open the gates!

**Just a shout out to my cowboy…who remembered Valentine’s Day and got me a nice gift! I’m thankful!

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I’m in the driver’s seat…looking at a new calf. He’s quite a bit early for us, but he’s healthy!

 

 

 

Time Drainer… How to hold on to time

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I’m in the kitchen cooking supper and I’m wondering where my day went.

Sure seemed busy.

Things were accomplished: laundry, cleaning, phone calls, writing, feeding cows, chores, but where did the time really go?

If it were an object gone missing, like my son’s pocket knife, I’d look under couch cushions, stick my hands in coat pockets, and poke my head in odd places–like behind the commode or inside a the dog food sack.

Time hasn’t gone missing though–it’s there, it just passes quickly when I’m not looking. Even when I’m conscious of it, it slips through my fingers. In years past, I’ve been angry about it. Frustrated. Where did my hours go? I’m trying to get my to-do list done!

Yesterday I’m sitting at the computer getting ready to write and the Lord’s voice whispers, “Time isn’t an enemy. It’s a gift.” I pause. I’m not sure what to say… Or do. I don’t do anything and my muscles relax.

I breathe that in like the aroma of coffee or tea and let it sink it. Time is a gift.

A GIFT.

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Here I’d been trying to lasso it, wrangle it, or run it into a corral to keep it locked up. I’d been trying to wrestle time and instead it’s been wrestling me.

Here’s my new plan:

*Take the first moments I’m awake to be thankful for the day and pray.

*Make a to-do list and proceed in an order that fits around scheduled blocks of time in my day, but be flexible.

*Be present. I’m trying to be in the moment, rather than jumping ahead in my brain to the next thing that has to be done before my body even gets there.

*Stop. When things aren’t working, stop and go to something else.

*Make time for truly important adventures. Time with kids. Date nights with my cowboy.

*Countdown. I need time to decompress after the day and relax before heading to bed.

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Each of us will find different ways to make our days precious. However that happens, it’s a delight to know that time is not against us, it is a gift.

ARE YOU HAPPY TO SEE ME?

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Happy girls at the feed line.

How do you feel when you see other people?

We’ve been feeding cattle in a pasture not too far from our house. In years past, we’ve winter ranged, providing supplementation for cattle, but allowing them to forage during the winter months. This year, after drought and then high levels of snow early on in the year, we are feeding hay to our critters. It means extra time every day. It means planning around feeding time. But it also means that every day, the cattle are so glad to see us.

They start gathering before feeding time. They wait by the gate for us to pull through. They are getting plenty to eat–there’s usually a bit of leftovers in the field–they are just ready for the fresh food for the day. (There’s a balance in feeding–you don’t want too much leftover because it’ll be wasted, but you don’t want them hungry either. We calculate pounds of feed per day per animal.)

Cows will rub their backs on the truck as we are slowly rolling along forking off hay. We can even scratch their heads. Cattle aren’t necessarily wild, but they aren’t naturally domestic either. Our kids have 4-H steers and a heifer they work with regularly, so they are often like a dog on a leash. However, our range cattle, while not wild, aren’t usually the type to just walk up to you and let you scratch them. Feeding changes the dynamics a bit.

Do you remember as a kid the smell of the kitchen when a parent or grandparent made cookies? Maybe you still think about a favorite meal you had…usually you’ll remember who made it or who was with you when you ate it. Cattle tend to associate people the same way. They remember the food and it makes them more relaxed because they know you’re bringing them something good. The opposite is also true. Do you remember someone who always yelled? Maybe even at you? Cattle remember those types of situations too. They definitely act in accordance to their environment.

We too react, engage, or disengage based on the atmosphere. If you know someone doesn’t like you and you see that person, hopefully you’ll be cordial, but it’s not likely you’ll strike up a long conversation or make weekend plans together.

Watching our cattle’s joy at seeing us bringing them food made me think: What if I treated people that way? I know, it’d be weird to hand out food. I don’t mean that.

What if people knew I was happy to see them?

What if I showed genuine care?

Showing genuine care is a goal I’ve had for awhile, but sometimes time crunches and fatigue have gotten the better of me and I haven’t done it. Sometimes I feel self-conscious.

We humans are on a journey together. We are sharing experiences, be it through on-line connection or daily interactions. We have people we encounter that are easy to talk to and some people whom we have to work at conversation. Yet I truly am thankful for the people in my life.

I’m thankful for each and every one.

Since I am thankful, I’m going to work at showing you I’m happy to see you. I may not always get it right, but hopefully you’ll know that your life is important. You aren’t an accident. Someone sees you. Someone cares how your day is going.

The cows may not ruminate (bad pun!) on human interaction like I do, but we do have something in common: We are happy to see you!

 

 

Happy New Year! Leaving the old and walking into the new…

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Feeding the steers.

I’ve always loved the symbolism attached to New Years. New beginnings. New hope. I’ve often hung my hat on new things happening as December 31st turned over to January 1st.

The practical side of me says it’s just another day. Really it is. But there is a hope on New Years that things will be just that: new.

Yet isn’t every day a new beginning? Why doesn’t March 1st–or any other day of the year–feel like a fresh start?

Perspective.

I think it has everything to do with my perspective.

The reality is that as one year changes to the next, we all hope for something fresh, but most of us–myself included–still bring everything old right into the new.

I believe our pasts are never wasted, but I also believe they don’t have to define the future. Just because I was hurt, doesn’t mean I need to stay hurt. The things of the past may have brought structure or plot twists, but we are only defined by that which we allow.

Will we allow the hurts, unforgiveness, or betrayals to define who we will be? Or maybe we’ve had great success: will our identity be wrapped up in our accomplishments?

2017 wrapped up an extremely difficult time for us. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know we encountered drought so severe (despite doing everything possible!) that it affected the health of our cattle. Of course it affected the pocket book, but when you’ve been entrusted to care for something and everything you did just wasn’t enough…it’s heart wrenching. However, tough situations usually lead to deep thinking and intense prayer, so it wasn’t wasted. There is much good that is beginning to come out of this situation: my husband and I are communicating better. Our kids know we welcome their ideas. Our family has pulled closer together. We’ve met new people. We’re looking at things differently and seeking creative solutions.

We were never meant to just feed cows and let them grow. Those are byproducts of being called to bless land, animals, and people. We want land to be better, more fruitful, after we’ve been on it. We want to bless the people around us. We want our animals to thrive.

Only God knows what 2018 will bring and I will trust Him in it. But as I walk into this first day, I’m choosing to toss some baggage, some old thinking and welcome the newness of this fresh start. A new year comes in winter, which is also refreshing. Yes, there is feeding and chores each day, but the land is resting. It is waiting. May our new beginning also we a time of resting and waiting and then proceeding in natural progression.

Blessings my friends!

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The beauty of land resting for the winter.