Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Two Became One

It is important to me to recognize the most influential person I have had in my life for the past thirty-one years: my husband, Steve.

Steve and I on a ski trip in 1980.
Steve grew up on a farm near Snyder, NE.  He dreamed of feeding cattle and farming as soon as he could start playing with tractors and building little pens in the dirt.  It was in his blood.  His dad and grandfather were cattle feeders and perhaps his German ancestors were as well.

Steve and I met at a wedding dance in Snyder.  I was with the brother of a good friend of Steve’s.  Steve sat across the table from me most of the night and wooed me with stories about his horse.  I didn’t remember his name until he stood up to leave and I noticed the cut out letters “S-T-E-V-E” on the back of his belt. 

Steve and I with my family.  Left to right are Sandy,
    Sharon, Linda, Steve, Dad, Dave and Paul.  Mom    
                                is sitting next to me.                                        
Steve didn’t remember my last name but he did remember where I worked.  The Monday following our first  encounter  I heard the phone ringing as I was unlocking the door to the veterinary clinic that I was working at.  I hustled over to the counter figuring it was an emergency call for the vet.  It was Steve!  He was wondering if I would want to come out to his farm and ride his horse that next weekend.  Well, yes, I responded and the rest, as they say, is history.   We were married in September of 1981.

I didn’t know much about feeding cattle but I was excited about living on a farm. I always loved animals and had gone to college in Curtis, NE to be a veterinary technician.  I found that my knowledge of doctoring combined with my concern for the well being of animals was an asset to our business.  

Steve and I with all five kids in 1996.  We have Scott,
Steve and Kim, Emily, me, Jeff and Ginger.
Steve and I started having children so my work on the farm was limited to the chores I could do with the kids in tow  and book work.  We had moved to the vacant farm that Steve’s dad was born and raised on and eventually purchased it from Steve’s uncle.  We faced financial difficulty in those early years.  Every penny was accounted for and we didn’t buy what we didn’t need.  The focus was on building the farm so that in the future the farm could give back.  It was tough but Steve had a vision and the work ethic to see it through.

Steve proudly shows me a fish he caught
while Zoe looks on with anticipation.
While Steve loves feeding cattle he also has a hobby that is near and dear to his heart.  Steve is a fisherman and has many tales of fishing as a boy in a nearby creek.  When we were able to take a fresh water holding pond and make it into a fish pond Steve saw a dream fulfilled that he never thought possible—a fish pond only a few hundred feet from our house.  One can find Steve fishing early in the morning, mid morning, lunch time and in the evening during the warmer days of the year.  While I don’t have the fishing bug that Steve has, I do enjoy spending  time in the paddle boat or roasting marshmallows in a nearby campsite we built.

We have faced many challenges together.  The external challenges revolve around weather and markets.  I had to learn early on the importance of timing when it comes to farming.  One summer day I had planned to take the three young kids we had at the time to a circus in Norfolk.  Steve said, no, the hay had to be baled that night  (we also picked it up right away in case of rain and I drove the hay rack across the field).   I shared this story once with a group of students that were our Ag Pen Pals in Lincoln. They were shocked that our kids had to miss the circus.  I then explained to the students that many farms grow to add employees so that family activities can be attended.

Steve in the feed truck.  He LOVES watching
cattle line up to the bunk to eat.

We have been fortunate to have employees to help us with our labor.  Taking care of livestock is a full time job seven days a week, on holidays and when the weather is blistering hot or bone chilling cold.  While I get moments of burn out from the lack of time off, Steve seems to run on Energizer batteries.  It has been said that if you love what you do it won’t seem like work.  Steve has passion for what he does and he does it very, very well.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Steve has his hand on Oliver's shoulder as
Archbishop Lucas anoints him.
Today my nephew, Oliver, was confirmed by Archbishop George Lucas.  Oliver was joined by sixty-two other candidates at St. Patrick’s Church in Gretna to receive this very special sacrament.   Oliver chose Steve to be his sponsor.  The role of the sponsor is to be a witness to the candidate of what it means to live a Catholic life.  Candidates also choose a saint name.  I was pleased to see one of my favorite saints, Joan of Arc, chosen by one candidate.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had a discussion about who Oliver would choose for a patron saint.

Back in September several members from my side of the family met in Grand Island for my mom’s 75th birthday.   As the day drew to a close we were sitting in the kitchen planning some family events like high school graduations.  Oliver’s confirmation date was brought up and I casually asked him who he had chosen to be his patron saint.  Oliver wasn’t sure so I suggested Jose Sanchez Del Rio. 

Blessed Jose Sanchez Del Rio
Blessed Jose’s story recently became more well known since the release of the film “For Greater Glory.” In the movie, Blessed Jose grows in his own faith through the witness of his parents and a priest.  This young boy became a witness for others of faith as he experienced torture and eventually death because of his faith.

Since Oliver seemed interested in Blessed Jose’s story we whipped out our iPhones to search for more information about his life and death.  I won’t share much hear as I would prefer you do some research or watch the movie yourself! Eventually Oliver chose Blessed Jose Sanchez Del Rio for his patron saint.  I hope that Oliver never has to go to that extreme for his faith but I do pray that he be a witness to the faith that has been handed down to him.

I am grateful for the witness of Blessed Jose, St. Joan of Arc and St. Stephen. I could go on and on with a litany of saints as the Church is full of amazing holy men and women!  I have been thinking a lot lately about the role of being a witness,  maybe because I help to prepare students for confirmation.  Maybe it is because I see thousands of teens getting ready this week to go to Washington D.C. to promote rights for the unborn. Or maybe I am seeing another witness role evolving in my life that parallels that of my faith.

This parallel role involves my full-time job in agriculture.  More of us in agriculture are called to be a witness to what we do on our farms and ranches because for a long time we just went quietly about our work hoping to make enough one year to be able to go back at it the next.  As fewer people and more technology became the norm in production agriculture we suddenly found ourselves having to defend our practices.

Much like the life of faith we have to keep sharing our story. In my life of faith and farming it gives me courage to know that what God requires of me is “to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly” with my God (Micah 6:8).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saying Goodbye

This morning I took our youngest child to the airport to catch her flight back to college in Ohio.  She has been home for Christmas break  for about a month.  This good-bye was easier than the one in August.

In August five members of our family jumped in a rented mini-van headed for Steubenville, Ohio.  Our youngest daughter, Kim, was off to her first year of college and two of her siblings were going to join my husband, Steve, and I for the journey.

The journey began with God’s presence from the start.  My husband and I were pretty busy with feedlot and farm duties up to the day before departure.  It suddenly dawned on me that we would not fit five people and Kim’s things in our Ford Edge.  I tried calling a few rental places with no luck so I went on-line and reserved a mini-van through a rental company in Omaha.  I also tried calling the on-line number to tell them we would be there right at 7 a.m. to pick it up but no one ever answered the phone.  This  gave me a little anxiety.

In the early hours of the day of our departure we packed our luggage,  personal items, Kim’s college containers and a luggage carrier  in our club cab pickup.  We figured the luggage carrier would give us the room we would need inside the van to be comfortable on the 16 hour drive.  The nylon luggage carrier had served  us well on a few vacations we took with the kids when they were younger and fortunately didn’t take too many hours of searching the garage  to find.

We arrived at the rental store right at 7 a.m. as the manager was getting things ready for the day.  I went in to sign the papers and discuss the rental.  As my husband started talking about the luggage carrier the manager stated that we could not put anything on top of the van.  All eyes were on me as we realized everything and everyone would have to fit INSIDE the mini-van.  The manager stood firm and mentioned something about under the seat compartments that might help as we shuffled towards the vehicles to make the swap.

I have to admit Chrysler has made some amazing improvements to the mini-van since we last owned one.  We used every space available to carefully pack all we had brought from home.  When we finished putting everything in the van we still had room to see out the back window and were certain we had forgotten something.  Nope.  Everything  including pillows, blankets, extra food, a cooler, luggage and Kim’s college items were all inside.  

Jeff celebrates as we near the Ohio border, with Kim sharing
in the excitement as well.

 We made a pretty uneventful journey across the Midwest with an overnight stop in Indiana to visit some family.  As we neared the campus of  Franciscan University of Steubenville my mind started replaying the four other times we had taken a child to college.  I was wondering how her roommate would be.  I was thinking about how different life would be without her at home.  I was starting to dread the next few hours of unpacking and driving back to Nebraska.

Sierra and Kim settling in to their dorm room.
 I am not sure who had the hardest time saying good-bye.  Kim was not going to be coming home until Christmas and her brother, Jeff, would not be there as he was going to Lima, Peru in just a few more weeks.   While we were all excited for Kim  and her choice to go to Franciscan we were all feeling the separation that happens when kids leave home.  We each hugged and cried and hugged again before walking out of the dorm and to our vehicle.  In my heart I knew she was in a great place but there was still an ache that can’t be explained with words.

We kept in touch throughout the semester with phone calls, texting, Facebook and Skype.  Kim was able to spend Thanksgiving with the extended family in Indiana and her roommate was another blessing from God.  Kim was flourishing at Franciscan.

Casey, Ginger, & Emily watch as Ella opens a Christmas gift.
 As Christmas drew closer Jeff surprised us with news that he would be going to Denver in February and could take some extra time to be in Nebraska.  This led to planning for all of the family to be home in February.  That meant our son, Scott, from  California would not be home for Christmas. Even though two of the five kids would not be home we would still have a beautiful Christmas. Kim started contacting professors for the second semester to get excused for her three day trip home and plane tickets were bought.

 As Kim prepared to go back to Franciscan from her Christmas break she came down with the flu.  Fortunately it happened before her travel day and not on her travel day.  This also gave me a chance to nurse her back to health so she could get back to school on time.  More blessings.

As we prepared to leave for the airport Kim asked for an orange.  When we arrived at the airport Kim said she was hungry and I knew she was well on the recovery road.   In the airport we bumped into the other student from Nebraska going to Steubenville.  We thought they were on the same flights but found his flights were taking him all over the country with an arrival time of 8:30 p.m.  Kim’s final arrival was 1:30 p.m.  Another blessing!

As we walked towards the security gate I had to make sure she had her ID and boarding pass out before giving that hug good-bye.  As she turned and walked away I hesitated as my mind told my heart it will just be a few weeks this time.  Good-bye Kim.  See you again soon!