Dec. 5 2019 01:25 PM

Find ways to make your Christmas more joyful and less stressful.

It’s the time of year to count our blessings. Let me hit rewind for a moment and recap our Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving Day, I laced up my shoes and joined friends in a Turkey Trot race. As a total disclaimer, we walked more than we jogged, with a leash in hand and a farm dog leading the way. It was a time for some of my farm women friends to catch up. And truthfully, this was pure bliss to me; it was a great way to start my Thanksgiving.

Later, I stopped at church to light a vigil candle in remembrance of my late parents and brother. It was a moving moment that brought emotions to my heart.

Back at home, the men were combining corn and feeding cattle that are scattered on two different farms. It was a busy day and with no rain, that delayed us eating until we finally hit pause at 4:30 p.m. to gather around the table. Attitudes were less than ideal; everyone was crabby and hungry. Scratch that, I was told they were starving. Thankfully, as bellies filled, attitudes improved.

Last Christmas Eve, our family (like many of yours) was working.

As I think of Christmas looming, the stress mounts. It is not necessarily a time of calmness and brightness, or at least it isn’t for me. There is extra stress when corn still stands in the fields, as does 100 acres of sorghum that is most likely a $10,000 loss to our farm.

Trying to shop and plan for the holidays isn't so easy for us farm moms. Milking schedules and chores dominate. Santa has yet to fail us, but truth be told, gift opening is normally put on hold until cows are fed and the first milking is complete. While the kids have become accustomed to this, I'll admit, as their mom, I always feel a tad guilty that our work is truly 24/7, 365 days a year . . . even on Christmas Day!

My tips for making it through this busy holiday season follow. I reminded myself of this, and I thought I'd share with you all, too.

  1. Making a list, and check it twice! Or at least that is what the pros (like Santa) do.
  2. Don't overcommit. It really is okay to say no.
  3. Set a budget. Buying presents can be hard for dairy families who already are on a shrinking budget.
  4. Avoid family conflicts. Is this easier said than done? Just don't bring up topics like politics, milk price, or talk about who broke the west-end barn gate.
  5. Carve in some downtime. Even if it's a movie next to your fireplace on a Sunday late afternoon. Rest is good for the body and soul.

And, finally, I encourage us all to try to set our lens to focus on the season of giving this time of year. Even if you can't give a wrapped gift, you can give the gift of time, or the gift of listening, or the gift of baked goods to someone who has impacted your heart this past year.

Godspeed to you all this Christmas season!

Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.