Karen Bohnert

What’s your life’s road map? You know, how did you get from Point A to Point B? Most of us have more than two pins on the map, or at least I do.

I was born in the small town of Lakeview, Ore., located in the southern part of the state. Before I was a year of age, my parents purchased my childhood dairy farm in Bend, Ore., and moved their farm and family north.

Now, I don’t even know what point I’m on. To be honest, I’m trying really hard to enjoy this journey that God has granted me, as wild and crazy as it has been. It hasn’t always been straightforward — it has had several turns and twists, and then sometimes it feels like I’m on a very long stretch where I want to nod off because it is so monotonous. However, I’m always reminded that God knows the way, even when I do not.

I knew early on in my life that I was destined somewhere other than central Oregon. I can’t explain why I felt this way, whether it was a strong inclination or a calling, but the hunch later became my reality.

My sisters didn’t have the same hunch. Although we have the same parentage, their life road maps have veered in different directions than mine. And that’s okay, because differences are what makes the world go around. What matters in life isn’t where we go, but what we do. And by that I mean, regardless of our path, we must follow our internal passion.

My sisters and I try hard not to compare our life journeys with each other. Instead, we have cheered each other on as we have traveled through life. My highlight reel might coincide with their life low points, or vice versa. Life is unfair like that, but when we focus on our own excursion, we realize life has many highs and several lows and long stretches that are uneventful. What I have learned is that during this life chapter, we must open our eyes wide and find the joy it presents.

My oldest sister, Lynn, just retired at the age of 53. Some people are still finding their life calling at that age, and here she has made a name for herself in her career of education, holding various positions, from teacher to middle school assistant principal to the most recent job she held as a principal of a juvenile institution. Now she and her husband, Rusty, are making their way off the grid, traveling the United States via truck and camper, finding some of America’s hidden gems.

She shares her travels on Instagram, and I can tell you that many times when she shows these breathtaking views somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, I find myself a tad jealous. However, I cannot compare one of her life highlights with my own journey.

I do envy the plethora of trails Rusty and Lynn have hiked on, and their ability to unplug, as life literally has no clock for them. They do what they want, when they want. My life chapter is far different than theirs.

Right now, I don’t have that luxury in my life. Only if, right? But how unfair is that statement? Again, we cannot compare our life’s lows to someone else’s high points, even if that someone is related to you.

Dairy farming doesn’t allow us to just pack up and roll on, like it currently does for my sister and brother in-law. Truthfully, it can be hard not to compare, but realize that comparison is a thief of joy. I might not be traveling through Yellowstone right now, but when I open my eyes wide and focus hard, I find joy in the mundane that my life offers right now.

My current life point is one that follows my late mother’s footsteps. I’m the head cheerleader for my household and dairy farm. The joy might not quite be felt in the surplus of laundry, cooking, or bookwork that I do daily. However, happiness is there. I just have to look beyond the surface.

And, on the hottest day we had this year, joy was found. We just finished packing the silage pile, and it still needed to be covered. I reached out to our local high school football coach to see if a few players could lend a helping hand, and within two minutes, the coach had 12 players lined up to assist.

So, yes, crazy enough, during one of the physically hardest of jobs, combined with the heat and humidity, joy was found here at Bohnert Farm. I believe it was because when we surround ourselves with good people and focus on a common goal, joy surfaces. And, after nearly four hours of pulling tarp and throwing tires, the players and our family sat around and enjoyed pizza and drinks, covered in sweat and dirt. I was able to look beyond the surface and witnessed everyone smiling wide, feeling accomplished.

I don’t know what point you are in your life. What I can tell you about my life journey is that sometimes the bright spots happen on ordinary days. On days when we don’t even leave the farm and on days that we have really tough jobs ahead, joy is there.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.