Jan. 3 2019 08:00 AM

    The start of 2019 is a great time to refocus, redirect, and rediscover the passions that drive you.

    "Work on being in love with the person in the mirror who has been through so much but is still standing."

    I'm kind of rediscovering who I am and what my hopes are.

    I was born and raised on my family's dairy farm in Bend, Ore., and moved east after graduating college. For the last 16-plus years, East Moline, Ill., has been my home.

    The things I'm most proud of are not on my résumé; they are the ones I kiss goodnight. I'm married to what I believe is the number one dairy farmer, Scott. He humbles me and reminds me that good people exist. Together, we have three children, who happen to be in three different schools, playing three different sports. Our children bring us joy and purpose.

    We co-own and comanage a 500-cow Jersey dairy and farm 1,300 acres. I'm a freelance writer and communicator.

    My life is organized chaos. Yes, far from perfect, as it is messy and loud and fulfilling and challenging.

    I lost both of my parents in my 30s, and grief has both stifled me and redirected me. My passion for my family, friends, cows, and dairy could fill a barn.

    Free time is limited, but I can be found jogging on a country road or taking an Orange Theory fitness class. I do that to hopefully sustain a longer life than my parents.

    I love a good glass of wine, cheese, and chocolate, and I believe a good hug and a good friend go a long way.

    Now it's your turn. Who are you and what do you stand for? Let this be our mission as we move forward in 2019.

    Remember, your self-worth goes beyond your profession. This is something I struggle with and I'm 42 years old. I have to remind myself that my identity isn't associated with what my professional bio says, as proud as I am of that.

    When I lost my job in April 2009, I sort of lost my identity. People told me, including my own late mother, that this was a blessing, to be able to stay at home and raise my children. But, truth be told, I knew I wasn't cut from the cloth to be able to stay at home and raise children. I was a far cry from making Pinterest perfect projects, and playgroups and nursery rhymes weren't my gig. But somehow I managed to hold that job for the last decade.

    My work away from cultivating small human beings was freelance writing and photography. It has intertwined moments of satisfaction and challenges to run both a business and family out of my household. Add the farm to the mix and some days, I'm not sure how I juggled it all.

    For me, life slowed down in 2018 in terms of freelance projects and picked up with on-the-farm and kids' needs. I'll be honest; somehow, through payroll and vaccinating heifers, making lunch for the crew and deciphering algebra with kids, I kind of lost my self-worth. I know I'm more than all of that.

    But, for now, I'm embracing where I’m needed during this chapter of chaos and craziness. I'll be honest; the pay comes in pint-sized moments that make my heart burst. These moments come at the least expected and the most needed times. They come after long days and even longer months of the mundane cycles of making lunches, washing calf bottles, kids' homework, sorting cattle, and so much more.

    When you feel you have lost your self-worth, look up and see those glittering moments of hugs, holding hands, smiles, and laughter — and let that fuel you for the year ahead.

    Let the following quote be our motto for 2019: "Work on being in love with the person in the mirror who has been through so much but is still standing."


    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.