5 Golden Rules for Tidying – Applying Marie Kondo to the Corral

Golden Rules for Tidying

While burning a few hours in the airport last month I picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping and read an article on the ‘Five Golden Rules for Tidying.’  It highlighted Marie Kondo who is an ‘organizing guru’ and shared some of her ‘genius tips.’  Given that spring is in the air, I thought I’d take the tips from ‘Declutter Queen’ to the corral as we sorted heifers today.

There were some nice pictures in the magazine of Marie siting on a chair in white linen pants and a kimono cardigan.  I didn’t feel white pants would be appropriate for cattle work in the corral after ¾” of rain this week, so I skipped that part of the outfit.  However, I did have a sorting stick, clipboard, and 8 pages of data for my decision making that Marie was missing, so I figured we’d just have to go from there and start with Marie’s tidying rules.

Apparently, my mother is an organizing student well before her time as right away she pointed out that we had heifers in heat on one side of the fence and enthusiastic yearling bulls strutting and bellaring just across the fence of the sort pen.  Marie’s first rule is to to sort things by category and it seemed that after 39 years on the ranch, mom was concerned that if the facilities didn’t hold true, we might have more than one category to sort during afternoon heifer sorting.

Next, Marie says to make this a onetime event.  “If you tidy just a little every day, you’ll be tidying forever,” Marie says.  Apparently, we like to tidy on the Rimrock Cattle Company.  Either that, or we just need more pen space this time of year.  Sort 1 is the registered heifers from the commercial heifers.  Sort 2 is the commercial heifers to ship from the commercial heifers to sell later.  Sort 3 will be the half dozen heifers who lost their ear tags and are unable to be tidied at this point.

The third rule for decluttering is to keep only items that, “Spark joy.”  That fence crawling heifer certainly does not spark joy, so she was easily decluttered.  Next, I tried to relate this concept to rancher terms by asking Dad if he really loved all the heifers in his keeper pen.  Dad gave me a look and said, “It’s not like we’re married to them, they’ve just got to hang around here a few years!”

Next, Marie recommends to, “Apply Gratitude,” and thank giveaway items for their service before you let them go.  So far, these heifers service to the ranch has been pretty limited to eating expensive hay and testing the fence for green grass.  We decided to instead apply gratitude to the idea that someone else can feed and breed these girls and the haystack might make it till green grass.

The last decluttering rule of Marie’s is to, “Use what you already own.”  Now this rule seems doable given that every heifer we’ll be keeping has been bred, raised, and developed on the ranch.  Maybe we’re more fashionable than we realized?  Or do we still need white pants in order to be fashionable?

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I wish you knew

I wish you knew how good a hard day’s work feels, of dirt and mud and muck even when there’s not much luck.  I wish you knew the privilege of working with your family to care for livestock and land.

I wish you knew the daily fight to preserve livestock’s life.  How whenever we see one die, we look to the sky and say, “Lord, why did they die?”

I wish you knew the pride that comes from seeing a fat calf buck and play, who nearly DSCN1906died that cold March day.  I wish you knew the synchronization of sorting cattle and knowing just what to do, after a few decades of doing that too.

I wish you knew that colds and influenza warrant a rancher’s sick day not.  I wish you knew the sleepless nights of calving and the long summer days of haying and harvest.

I wish you knew how a producer’s costs change every year.  How they never know if diesel will be up, corn or cattle will be down, or what the Feds will do to interest rates in town.

I wish you knew how we pray that the Lord brings sunshine and rain.  I wish you knew the drought’s lasting pain.

I wish you knew the blessed smell of rain on a cool June night, knowing this will do the grass just right.  I wish you knew the sight of a harvest moon and the hustle of family and equipment to bring the crop in.

I wish you knew the deer that crowd our stock tanks when summer is dry.  Or that feed on our hay when spring is still a far cry.

I wish you knew the land taxes these farmers pay.  I wish you knew the startup cost and the risk.

I wish you knew 97% of us are family run, and most days that makes it more fun.

Grad picI wish you knew the biology, chemistry, and economics we do.  That we’re college educated with even a degree or two.

I wish you knew the number of parents who told their kids, ‘Get a job in town, it’ll be a better life.  Find one with insurance and retirement for the wife.’

I wish you knew the number of kids who still silently prayed that with enough hard work they might still get a chance on the farm or ranch.

So why don’t you know?  Well, I suppose it happened when we got too busy to call the cousin living off the farm.  Maybe we figured as long as milk’s $1.88 and eggs 99 a dozen there would be no harm.    

But we truly do want you to know of this life we love, and the blessings we count from the Lord above.

We want you to know the families behind your meal.  We want you to know our love of land and livestock.  We want you to know.

Bills, Receipts, and Paperwork – ‘Adulting’ more efficiently

Certain areas of my life I’ve managed to keep fairly well organized. However, paper and receipts have not been one of them.  There have typically been 43 things I would rather do than deal with them.  Consequently, it has gotten shuffled from the table to the desk to the office and back with an occasional, “How was that bill late!?  I had to pay an extra $1.17 in interest for that!?  Why can’t I get it together!!?”  The frustration only mounts at tax time as well.

Gradually, I have been improving.  Improving in a day by day, month by month fashion of, “I don’t like this inefficiency and continual frustration.  I don’t want to continue like this.”  I have determined that if I truly don’t like dealing with paperwork this much, then I need to figure out what I can do to reduce it and make it the most efficient possible.  Between paying bills, keeping receipts and records for our ranch business, and being an adult, paperwork is a given but I’m finding it doesn’t have to be an Act of Congress to manage.  Here’s what’s been working for me lately.

I am a visual person and seeing something written down certainly helps me.  Many of our bills are due the same date each month, so at the beginning of each year I go through the calendar and on the 10th of each month write down which bills are due that day, which are due on the 20th, etc.  I typically pick a calendar due date a few days ahead of the real due date to give myself a little flexibility if I forget which week it is (a realistic problem during calving, A.I.ing, or fair seasons).  The calendar is on the side of the fridge and since I tend to eat every day, it’s clearly visible.  Bills that I know are the same every month (internet, for example) are paid electronically to reduce paper, labor, and the chance of missing the due date.

The quickest way to reduce the amount of paper to deal with, is to first reduce the amount that enters the house.  I’ve requested that ministries we donate to monthly only send one year-end tax receipt (saving them postage and administrative fees as well).  I throw sales flyers and promotions immediately.  Any remaining mail is sorted into a bin in the office labeled ‘Bills’ (also includes checks to deposit), ‘To Do’ (items that need attention), and ‘Coupons.’  As coupons expire, they are tossed, but in the meantime it’s a neat place for them to stay until we potentially use them.  They have a much greater chance of being used if they are visible and easy to grab while heading out the door.

Receipts go into a ‘Receipts to Enter’ file folder on the desk.  As time allows, they

The baskets on the right are for Bills, To Do, and Coupons.  The file folders are ‘Receipts to Enter’ and ‘Receipts to File’ and the binders contains bank statements, etc.  Keeping a three hole punch, pens, envelopes, stamps, etc. in one desk helps increase efficiency as well.

are reconciled with Quicken, and then put into a second folder ‘Receipts to File.’  They are then filed in the filing cabinet in an appropriate folder.  This has helped corral the clutter and provided a system until they are managed.  Bank and retirement statements that come monthly with multiple pages easily go into binders and by keeping a three-hole punch on my desk, it literally takes seconds to place them in the appropriate folder.  By changing my settings with Edward Jones, for example, I can receive only pertinent monthly statements versus records of every transaction made which created additional paperwork.  If I so desire to see such transactions, I can login online to see them.

Not stressing over categories within the filing cabinet has helped streamline the filing process.  At the end of the day, as long as paper has a place to go in the file and can be referenced in the future, it works.  Some folders are broad (Cattle Supplies or Cattle Income) while others might be specific to a vehicle or business.

Lastly, my goal this year is to take off at least one morning or day a month to take care of bookwork at home.  After spending the day looking at a computer at work, my desire to come home and stare at Quicken on my home computer is even less.  We occasionally hear this ‘work-life balance’ phrase tossed around, and I’ve decided a few hours monthly to stay on top of bookwork will be well worth it and can easily be traded for the evenings and weekends I log as an extension agent.  Between a full-time job, ranch work on Saturdays and some evenings, and church on Sunday, I’ve come to the point of acknowledging my previous ‘system’ hasn’t been working and this deserves some prioritization.

Hebrews 12:11 tells me that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  I’m gradually learning that the discipline of setting aside time to do that which needs done and of having a system makes the process doable, efficient, and worth it.  As I’ve gradually changed my mindset from, “I hate bookwork!  What do I do with all this stuff?” to, “I like to be organized!” I’m discovering that its actually not that bad.  Focusing on the end result versus the process keep me motivated, and that $15 label maker from the Office Max clearance bin is just pure icing on the cake!

 

 

Does Rural America have anything for women?

Recently I’ve heard numerous discussions on attracting women to rural America.  The distance to Wal-Mart, the scarcity of shopping and restaurants, and the lack of entertainment all seem to be concerns.  A quick Google search and rural America seems awfully dismal, which has left me to mull over the question, ‘Does rural America have anything for women?’  I might be biased, and I might be optimistic, but I can say there’s no place I would rather be than rural America.

In rural America, the people are genuine, the people care, and we wave hello.  It doesn’t take very long before there’s half a dozen people to say hello to in the rural grocery store.  The number of folks who show up for bridal showers, baby showers, and funerals illustrate that we take our community and the people in it seriously.  We might not always be the best at expressing our feelings, but we hope you’ll understand when we drop a casserole by that a 9 x 13 pan is how we show we care.

Huckleberries 2017

Huckleberry picking is our local sport!

And yes, it might take a bit of time to crack the shell into our tight knit community.  Rural America is a place where you prove yourself by showing up, rolling up your sleeves, and pitching in.  It might be bringing brownies to a bake sale, serving on the School Board, PTA or Chamber of Commerce.  It might be leading youth group, 4-H, Scouts, or anything else that needs done.  And we’ll need you, we will absolutely need your talents and skills and time.  But the great thing is, when you serve with your community you become the community.  It will be in the kitchen washing dishes after a potluck that you’ll learn so-and-so moved here 35 years ago and only planned to stay three years but never left, and you will be encouraged.

When it comes to raising a family, it’s hard to beat a partner like rural America.  Folks look out for one another and cheer one another on.  If you miss a game or science fair, there will be someone in the stands cheering just as hard for your kid as you would.  Coaches, teachers, and parents all invest in these kids.  And our schools are top notch with small class sizes and teachers that wholeheartedly invest in these kids.

Wal-Mart might be 100 miles away or so, but most of us like to shop locally anyhow.  It’s

Apple picking

Hard to beat fall apple picking!

our local businesses who support our schools, local sports teams, and every community cause there is.  We plan ahead, we improvise if needed, and nearly every day there’s posts on Facebook of, “Headed to Great Falls, anyone need anything?”  No, we might not have the latest in modern entertainment here, but we do have Netflix, Hulu, hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and tubing at the lake.  Add in every small town’s summer festival, Harvest dinner, local sporting events, and the bowling league, and you can stay just as busy here as you want.  In fact, we often say we don’t have enough time to do all that we want!

But are there jobs?  Yes.  Rural America certainly needs nurses and teachers, but we also need bankers and accountants, businesswomen, crop scouts, lawyers, and insurance agents.  Respect is earned here, and if you show up on time, work hard, and have a good attitude, you’ll flourish.  We have high speed internet, telephones, and even a few fax machines still, so the opportunities available for working remotely are greater than they’ve ever been.

Tanking

Tanking is definitely a rural America sport!  Cowboy hats not required. 

And lastly, the men of rural America deserve some appreciation.  They’re hard working, creative, problem solvers, and generous with their time and skills.  Chances are they might take a few weekends off during hunting season, but they’ll be a good dance partner during wedding season to more than make up for it.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul says, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.”  Perhaps in rural America we have learned to appreciate the open skies while we travel, the natural resources we have access to, and the community who is our family.  Rural America might not be for everyone, but I can contentedly say its home for me.

Fighting my way out of a wet paper bag

The auctioneer struck fear into my 4th grade heart when I realized I had the winning bid on 5 heifers but the bank account for just one heifer.  With John Goggins as my negotiating ringman, the auctioneer had mercy on me, and I went home with one heifer, a relatively intact bank account, and a newfound knowledge of the livestock auction lingo, ‘Roll ‘em together!’

DSCN1679

I’ve made a fair number of mistakes over the years, but Kaleb isn’t one of them.  Although, he does say ‘irregardless’ every now and then, just to test me!

I spelled obstetrician wrong as a 6th grader in the county spelling bee.  I’ve never forgotten the correct spelling since.  I used ‘irregardless’ in a graduate seminar presentation and Dr. Galen Erickson knocked me down a point with the comment, “Irregardless is not a word.”  I haven’t made that mistake again.  I tried baking cocoa as a kid straight from the can, and quickly learned why mom said I wouldn’t like it.  I hit Dad’s parked semi on the way to the school bus one frosty morning in junior high when I neglected to scrape the windshield (still working on that skill).

Then there was the e-mail response to a gentleman who had been on my job interview committee and suggested via a follow-up e-mail that I join Toastsmasters to reduce my “Umms.”  I found the idea hilarious.  But it turns out my e-mail response of, “Oh my gosh, this guy thinks I need to go to Toastmasters, haha!” went not to my intended friend but instead back to the interview panelist.  Needless to say, I didn’t get that job, but I haven’t mixed up the FWD and REPLY e-mail buttons since.

For some reason, it seems my mistakes have a longer lasting impression that my successes.  And yet, I continue to make mistakes.  Hopefully I don’t make the same mistakes twice and that I’m wise enough to not make the same mistakes I’ve seen of others.  But as I blunder through life, I am reminded that, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  And even though some days I can’t hardly fight my way out of a wet paper bag (Rose Malisani’s words, not mine), I am reminded that because of the Lord’s grace and mercy those failures and mistakes can still be used for good.  The Lord never gives up on us and will continue to refine us in His image until the day of His return.

When that day of Christ’s return comes, it won’t be our spelling or vocabulary or career that counts, but if we are trusting in Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  I am grateful for the eternal promise of salvation and the continual working of Christ in me that I am a work in progress!

Do you have all the free stuff yet?

I remember in graduate school there was a fantastic seminar we had the opportunity to attend free as graduate students.  During a discussion of who was planning to attend, one PhD student remarked he wasn’t planning to go and clarified that with, “I’ve already got all their free stuff anyway.”

dscn6703Today I had the opportunity to help host Cavin’ Fever – Ladies Day Out, an event that covered calving difficulty, management, and newborn calf care.  There were self-described ‘green hand’ ladies there, gals that have been immersed in ranching for decades, some women that had half a dozen cows and some that have hundreds of cows.  Some grew up in ranching, some married into ranching, and some add a calving night check to their day job.  And yet, each person shared what they learned throughout the day and multiple ladies commented on how they appreciated the camaraderie of the group.

A couple years back I gave one of my local farmers a ride to a conference.  On the trip to Great Falls she reviewed her notes from the previous day’s workshops and commented a couple times, “Oh, I need to look that word up, I hadn’t heard that one before!”  I silently marveled that someone would take the time to look up a word they didn’t know, rather than just gloss over it.

It is said that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  To become a lifelong learner, we need to surround ourselves with other learners.  We need to take advantage of the opportunities available to us to learn, even if it involves stepping out of our comfort zone or prioritizing an opportunity.  As someone who has been blessed by an immense amount of learning opportunities and education through the years, I feel increasingly challenged to retain information in an era of ‘just Googling it.’  I feel challenged to read for content and to not just skim for what I’m looking for.  I feel challenged to block out the distractions.

Personally, I hope that I never reach the point where I miss a learning opportunity because I already have all the free stuff!  I want to desire knowledge and wisdom and be that lady taking notes and looking up unfamiliar terms.  As an extension agent, I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities available.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  May you surround yourself with those will sharpen and encourage you, just as I observed today.

My Top 3 Investments of 2018

As I looked at my last 2018 retirement savings statement, the negative growth was certainly 078 cowdiscouraging.  As a I hope for an upturn in 2019, I paused to consider my investments in 2018 and their successes or lack thereof.  The following are my top three investments for 2018.

We started the year off buying a few 8-year-old bred cows from my folks.  With buying middle aged registered cows, I had the benefit of analyzing six years of performance data and their pregnancy ultrasound records in making my selections.  (I continue to maintain that using, not just collecting, data is key to progress in the cattle industry!)

Of that group, cow 032 raised two stout twin bull calves.  The timing never worked out to adopt one of the calves onto another cow, so she ended up raising them both on Mama’s milk and native grass, weaning 1,298 pounds of calf this October!  Another purchase, 078, weaned an 840-pound Big River bull calf, the heaviest of the herd.  Those cows may not have been as ‘fancy’ as a group of bred heifers, but they were proven cows adapted to the environment who all bred back this fall.

Kaleb and I wrapped up the ‘Moments with You’ couples devotional by Dennis and Barbara Rainey this year.  This $15 book has prompted us to take five to 10 minutes each day to read, discuss, and pray together over the topic at hand.  I’ve noticed there are many topics that we would probably have never discussed on our own, but with a little prompting it has led to some fruitful conversations.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want to do them every night, and I become resentful if a disagreement is soon followed by, “Time to do devotions!” but it has been certainly worth it.  I am continually reminded that the marriage we hope to have requires intentionality.  Whether that intentionality is devotions, asking what the spouse needs prayer for, or turning on a Focus on the Family radio program instead of Pandora, intentional marriage is a worthwhile investment.

And while the return on investment for calves weaned or a retirement portfolio is relatively easy to interpret, no such number comes with ministry.  However, investment in the lives of others is our greatest investment.  If being truly transparent, I drag my feet most Wednesday evenings knowing the masses of 3 to 12-year olds waiting at AWANA.  However, when the chaos fades away and it’s just a half dozen girls in a classroom learning bible verses, I am encouraged and refreshed.  God promises that His word will not return void, but that it will accomplish what He pleases, and that it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11), and that is enough.  Our Financial Peace University class was equally as encouraging as we saw students cut up their credit cards, pay off debt, accrue an emergency fund, and begin to realize their financial dreams are within reach!

The Lord reminds us to ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33).  As you prioritize 2019, may you invest in that which is eternal and that which is wise!  God promises, “That if anyone lacks wisdom, we should ask Him, and He will give us wisdom generously.”  (James 1:5).  May we seek Him for wise investments in 2019!

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Over 2,000 years ago, the wise men followed a star to Bethlehem to see Jesus.

They couldn’t see every twist and turn in their trek, but they wisely sought and trusted God’s guidance to find their Savior and King.

How often do we try to do things our own way, thinking that we know best?  Or, miss out on God’s guidance and direction telling ourselves that we have to figure it out ourselves?  But God says that if anyone lacks wisdom, we should ask Him, and He will give us wisdom generously (James 1:5).  Like the wise men, we don’t see every twist and turn in the road ahead, but God does, and He promises to give us the wisdom we need.

As this Christmas season wraps up, will you wisely seek Him?  Will you seek Him daily in prayer and reading His Word?  Proverbs 8:11 tells us that wisdom is more precious than rubies and that nothing we desire can compare to wisdom.  All those ‘things’ that were marketed to us so heavily throughout Christmas will soon begin to gather dust, the batteries will wear out, or they’ll become obsolete.  But the wisdom of the Lord?  It is more precious than rubies, and nothing can compare.

As you head into the new year, may you seek Him daily, in the big things, the little things, the frustrations, the joys, the ups, the downs, and the everyday.  By reading just one chapter a day in Proverbs, by the end of the year you will have read the ‘Book of Wisdom’ 12 times!  God reveals Himself to us through His Word, and Proverbs is a great place to begin gaining God’s wisdom on marriage, managing money, work, raising children, seeking a spouse, and life.

Wise men still seek Him, will you?

7 Lessons Learned in ’17 (and thoughts of the future)

As I reflect back on this past year, here’s 7 lessons learned in ’17:

  • Appreciate the perspective – During Kaleb’s month-long work trip to Iowa this year, I kept the perspective in mind of when my Dad was also gone for multiple weeks for a job nearly 25 years ago. While Kaleb was gone, I had to pick up the slack and not only take the garbage out but also shovel the sidewalk myself!  Despite being over 1,000 miles apart, we were able to talk and text daily, and the USPS was able to deliver care packages in less than a week.  In my Mom’s day, not only did she have to take out the garbage but also was responsible for feeding and caring for two small children and 200+ cows.  Mom didn’t have the opportunity to call and text throughout the day, but instead hoped she would be able to get a call from Dad in the evening (when long distance rates kicked in and the day was done) while he waited his turn to use the one bunkhouse phone that all seven guys on the job shared.  It was only then that she got his over the phone help on how to thaw the water tanks or troubleshoot why the well wasn’t working. I hope one day I’m as tough and perseverant as my mom.
  • The law is easy, grace is hard – How relatively easy it is for me to tithe; 10% of our income is pretty easy to calculate and write a check for. How relatively easy it is for me to make it to church on Sunday.  It’s relatively easy to carve out three to five minutes in the evening to do a marriage devotional and check that off the list.  But forgive my husband 70 x 7 for the clothes on the floor?  Love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me?  Glory in sufferings?  Daily demonstrate patience to the lady who is perpetually late?  That for which there is no formula is much more difficult.  That for which can only be developed through seeking the Lord in humility, prayer, and the Holy Spirit within me, ah, how much more challenging that is!
  • Intentionality is necessary – How quickly the days, weeks, and years pass us by. If I want to visit Fairmont or the Izaak Walton with my husband, that will require actually scheduling days off.  If I want to read more real books, that will require limiting social media.  If I want to encourage others, I need to intentionally make phone calls and invite people over for dinner.  If I wait until things slow down at work, we’re caught up on the ranch, and the house is clean before I pursue that which I want to do, the days, weeks, and years will only continue to pass me by.
  • Talk about blessings more than burdens – How easy it is to grumble, complain, or gossip. Complaining requires no intellect or effort; it’s merely an effortless way to perhaps find common ground with someone without having to share anything personal.  After the weather, it’s an easy catch all topic.  But how different would things look if I instead testified to the Lord’s blessings and abstained from that which brings no fruit?
  • Embrace the tough – I am aware of how soft my life is. I work in a relatively climate controlled environment, earn a regular paycheck with insurance to boot, and enjoy a warm house with indoor plumbing and a freezer full of beef.  I naturally gravitate towards what’s easy, but I realize I instead need to embrace the tough for that is what provides a foundation for the future.  The University’s tenure process didn’t worry me this past year as I knew I’d made it through graduate school at the University of Nebraska.  The long days during calving and AI’ing have made my evening and weekend work for Extension not nearly as traumatic as for some people.  Tough times make tough people, and I am consciously aware that I need to embrace the tough conversations, tough work, and tough times to continue to grow and mature.
  • Organization is beautiful – As if struck by a disease this fall, I purged and organized my office. I introduced order to my cupboards and drawers and added notecards detailing what goes on which shelf to ensure order is maintained.  I separated the knives from the spatulas from the serving spoons at church.  It’s amazing how something so relatively easy can continue to bring satisfaction day after day!
  • Be grateful for today – We assume we will have tomorrow, and that tomorrow will be like today. But so many of our friends and neighbors have experienced dramatic wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts this past year.  May we thank the Lord daily for that which He has blessed us with, and trust that His ways are higher than our ways and through it all He will remain faithful.

 

Ten Things I love about America Today

This Veteran’s Day, I am so grateful for those who’ve defended America.  I’m grateful for the men and women who’ve scarified their dreams, their family life, their emotions, and for some, their lives, so that I could experience life in America as I know it.  To our veterans and to their families on the home-front, thank you for defending our country.  There’s no place I’d rather live, thank you for defending the United States of America.

Here’s 10 Things I Love about America Today:

  1. Freedom.  The freedom to worship God and gather together for prayer, the freedom of press, the freedom to travel freely within the country – daily I take for granted so many freedoms that others only dream of.
  2. Education.  I grew up with wonderful, creative, committed teachers who encouraged and inspired me.  There are many countries where girls do not have the privilege of education, but in America, I had an equal playing field that encouraged learning and doing my best.
  3. Democracy – It is a privilege that I can participate in government, that I have the right to vote, and that I have the ability to participate in the democratic process.
  4. Beauty – Snow capped Rocky Mountains, amber waves of golden wheat at harvest time, green grass in the Sandhills at springtime, America is a gorgeous, gorgeous place to call home.
  5. Natural Resources – Whether it be timber, coal, oil, gas, grass, or water, our nation is rich with resources.
  6. Agriculture – The bounty that this nation produces is phenomenal.  Whether its summer’s ripe cherries from Montana’s Flathead Valley, juicy sweet corn from Nebraska, succulent Florida oranges, or Washington’s gorgeous apples, I’m blessed by our nation’s productivity.  From coast to coast, we produce some of the best beef, pecans, rice, fruit, and wheat in the world.
  7. Ingenuity – Baseball, the internet, Google… America has consistently been the master of invention.
  8. Infrastructure and services – Hot and clean running water, electricity on demand, good roads, healthcare readily available, and first responders who continually put their lives on the line to protect us are all blessings of this nation.
  9. Opportunity – There is no limits to what can be accomplished in America.  Are there challenges?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  No, it’s certainly not, but I still believe America is the land of opportunity!
  10. The people – I have been blessed to know some of the most generous, kind, and caring folks as fellow citizens of this country.  When a neighbor is in need, our community comes together to raise money, bring meals, pray together, and encourage one another.

Thank you, veterans, I’m grateful that I get to enjoy all this!