I’ve let work and life keep my blog writing silent for what has ended up being months … oops! Below is my recent column as printed in the Charolais Country, a quarterly insert in Cattle Business Weekly. Cheers for a new day and the gift of new beginnings!
As summer winds down, our family finds itself in a common situation … the end of a season, the sadness of good-byes mixed with the hope of a new year.
I’m nostalgic, dare I say, overly soft-hearted, so I feel every emotion of this end-of-summer season deeply. Our kids made new friends. They had new experiences. We enjoyed the unscheduled craziness of a full schedule.
Alas, the end of August found us sending our twins off to fourth grade and our middle son into third grade. We even sent our youngest off to experience the world as a kindergarten student. Talk about a moment of nostalgia!
The beginning of school signifies the end of summer to many families, but the South Dakota State Fair marks the end of a season for us.
Our children have bonded with their three calves over the past 11 months. Heck, we all bonded with the critters. Silly as some find it, I will not be the one hauling steers to market; even though our butcher likes me, I’m sure he prefers not to watch grown women cry at drop-off!
While the calves grew, we all know they aren’t what grew most. What grew most importantly was our family, our children. Each of our kids took on responsibilities I couldn’t imagine last September. They became stronger in their likes and more capable in their abilities. We saw our four children grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually; there has been a lot to be grateful for. Of course, it wasn’t all roses.
We had ugly days. Days where no one liked each other or the animals in our care. Days when Mom pondered return to a town job, Dad threatened to put show calves in the feedlot, and kids wondered what it might be like to spend their days at the pool or baseball diamond. But, the work was done anyway.
We also had beautiful days. Days where our hearts swelled with pride as our children overcame a challenge or realized a goal. Days where the only things to see were positive and the way to accomplish everything was as a team. And, the work was done anyway.
We even had mediocre days. Days where everyone was burnt out or overwhelmed and didn’t go the extra mile. Days where conversations were short, faces were long, and naps were required. But, the necessary work was done anyway.
There was a lot to learn about the importance of gratitude coupled with a good attitude.
This was also the first summer where I’ve had a glimpse into the future. A future where the kids don’t need us to reach a topline with the blower or to stack the hay bales or to harp on them for every little detail. It’s a mixed bag, folks.
Personally, I am more grateful at 38 for my parents and all they still do to help and support us kids than I ever could have been at eight or 18. So, I’m sure our kids will always need my husband and me to some extent, and I like to think there will be a time when they appreciate our help.
Yet, there is a season’s end on the distant horizon.
I can see with both hope and sadness a time when our children spread their wings and fly their individual paths … paths I can’t predict but know those of us who love them most will work hard to prepare them to travel.
For the most part, I’m excited to discover what lies ahead for our children. I’m anxious to see where they go, who they become, and how they do it all. Like any parent, I worry plenty, but mostly, I look forward to what lies ahead.
As I reflect on the summer and look ahead to the future, I can’t help but think our family’s small-scale summer experiences serve as a parallel for the ag industry.
This has been a tough year to put it mildly. Fires ravaged the south and west, devastating families in the most unimaginable ways. Drought struck the Midwest leaving many producers little option but to drastically reduce herd numbers. Each of our areas has its own stories of struggle.
Within this year’s hardships—whatever those struggles have been—we producers have had a glimpse into the future. I’d wager there were, and continue to be, sightings of hope coupled with moments of mind-numbing sadness.
A life in agriculture is hard, knowing that is the simple part. But, for those who can keep marching forward—even if forward means a detour—we know this life is worthwhile.
Well-known American journalist, author, and naturalist Hal Borland once said, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on with all the wisdom experience can instill in us.”
I find that most fitting as the seasons—both with life and weather—change. There has been much to learn in the past months, and there is much yet to come. Perhaps the key to treasuring it all is to enjoy the excitement of new beginnings rather than to dwell on the sadness of endings.