Boss Lady

The last twenty-four hours have been nerve wracking.  After being the “boss lady” for two months, I was offered a chance to run back to the security of a steady paycheck.  Did I want that?  That’s a big NO.  Did I seriously consider it?  Yes, I did.  Why, you ask?  Because humans crave security.  People who say they don’t want security are lying to you and/or themselves.  I basically had a chance to say, “Ok, here’s a safety net until I can totally get on my feet.”  It was tempting.  I could pay off some bills, get season tickets to the Preds, not watch every penny we spend for a while…

For those who don’t know, let me give you a little backstory.  Back in December, I resigned from a job I had been doing for almost ten years.  I had been unhappy in an office for a while, but finally reached my breaking point.  I was super stressed and it was affecting my home life and my health.  I hated every single day I had to go to work.  The kicker is I have a degree in animal science and live on a real live working farm with cattle and yet I was sitting in my office every day looking at a computer and wishing I was doing something on the farm.  December came and I went for it.  I left the security I had built up since I first started a full time job and came home to explore my options and revive the “old” Katie.

Fast forward to now.  I have loved my time at home.  Yes, there is still stress, but it’s stress for my own business and my own family.  I’m not continually solving someone else’s problems and worrying about somebody else’s profit and loss.  I get to pick my little boy up off the bus every day and work in an “office” where I can watch him play.  I get to interact with our cattle daily and feel the peace that physical labor and curious calves provide.  It’s been awesome for my soul and my sanity and I really think my whole family has felt a burden lift.

It all comes back to the money though, doesn’t it?  In the end, it’s all about the money and the freedom that provides.  We are very fortunate to have little debt.  Outside of hockey, we don’t do much traveling or spend a lot of money on entertainment.  We have savings and are generally smart with our money.  I say all this to say that money really shouldn’t be that huge of a deal for us.  My sweet husband still works full time and I am bringing in income here and there and eventually will sell calves.   A few cutbacks, nothing even extreme, and we can make it.  Everyone needs money though and we are no exception, don’t get me wrong.  To us, the call of paying off what little debt we have and building up our savings is what draws us.  The security of it all.  That has been my hardest struggle with being the “boss lady” around here.  I don’t want to feel like I’m punishing my family with my decision.  And I have a lot of guilt around that, more than anything.

Stay with me here, this is where it gets interesting.  I promise you this happened.  Yesterday, on the way home from taking my son to school, I prayed to God to show me that I was still doing the right thing and someday it wouldn’t feel this hard.  I remember exactly where I was (coming up Blair Hill for you locals) and I prayed it more needing support than begging for a sign.  I kid you not, three hours later I got a call about a full time job.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to take that, honestly.  I was praying for something to show my faith wasn’t in vain and this shows up.  Again, why does everything have to be so hard for me?  (See my last post for that reference.)  All I wanted was to feel a peace that I was still on the right track and I get an offer to basically negate all this “nonsense” and go back to work like a mature, responsible person.  I’m going to be honest, the thought of going to work full time made me want to cry.  I love my new journey and I’m finally settling in to being my own boss.  It was hard.  Was this God’s way of saying I had a chance to make a bad decision right or was this a test of my faith?  In the end, after talking to my husband, soul searching and running it through my head a billion times, I had to go with my heart, which was screaming that I didn’t want to go back to safety.  I didn’t want to stall my dreams and goals again for someone else.  The real Katie is a daredevil and loves the challenge of doing something people say she can’t or shouldn’t.  That Katie knows she can do this and provide for her family, if for no other reason than to prove it’s possible.  And that Katie is the one that I was searching for when I took the leap the first time.  I called and let them know that I really appreciated the offer, but I would never work for someone else full time again if I didn’t absolutely have to.  Like the first time, I have peace with my decision.  I’m sure when I can’t buy season tickets, I’m going to question my sanity, but here I am.

When I picked up Tuck off the bus and pulled in the driveway to check the mail, one of our neighbors, Ricky, was coming up the road on his tractor.  He is one of the ones we went to the TCA conference with and one of the people who encouraged me to take the Artificial Insemination class (which I am signed up for :)).  In the way of farmers, he started mid-conversation by asking if I received a certain monthly magazine, which I didn’t.  He told me to look into it and I told him I definitely would.  I also that I had signed up for the AI class and was taking the advanced master beef class in March.  He was happy for me and headed off to finish his feeding.  (As a side note, if you don’t know, farmers “ain’t got time” for greetings and goodbys.  I knew my father-in-law was like that, but apparently it’s a thing.  Conversations to just begin and end abruptly.)  About fifteen minutes later, my doorbell rang.  Standing on the front porch was Ricky with two of the magazines he recommended and a sire catalog for when I need to pick a “daddy” for my AI cows.  Short, sweet and to the point, he handed those to me and I said thank you and he was gone.  Let me tell you something.  I know I am a Steele and that kind of gives me a foot in with this farming thing.  I get that.  But as a city girl learning the ropes and wanting to fit in and be something the founders of this farm would be proud of, having a farmer show up on your door with magazines for you to learn is something I can’t explain.  Knowing that he doesn’t question my seriousness or my ability to do this thing is priceless.  Honestly, one of the things that has aggravated me the most so far is the lack of female leaders on our local level.  I realize this a rural county and things are what they have been for years.  Men fill the leadership positions and people talk to your husband before you, since he’s the farmer, right?  While my husband loves this farm and the work done, he’s not interested in how we make it run.  He trusts me to research and make the best decision and is ready and willing to help.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not much of follower and this farming thing is no different.  I have opinions and ideas and I want to be active in making it better for all of us and not just through my husband.  The industry needs new blood and I’m here for it.  Someday it won’t just be men filling these positions I guarantee you that.  But for now, I’m content to build my knowledge and reputation and make this farm the best I can.

That went a little off track, but I’m here to tell you:  I am passionate about what I want to do and how I see our life in the future.  Do I miss the security of a steady paycheck?  Yep.  But it isn’t worth stalling this opportunity I was given or letting my dreams take a backseat to someone else’s.  Nothing makes me feel more at peace than feeding our cattle and my afternoon conversations with my kiddos (aka calves).  After a stressful day, driving the little Jeep with my trusty cattle dog co-pilot, carrying buckets of feed to our cows and calves, driving the tractor to feed hay, and interacting with our littlest ones to get them used to people…well, that makes it all worth it to me.  Nothing beats a day on the farm for peace and purpose.  My faith is fragile at best.  It’s one of the reasons I asked God for a little support.  It didn’t come like I expected, but overall this day reinforced that I am where I should be and I’m making progress.  And I don’t guess I can ask for more than that.

Small Town Heroes

I grew up within 10 minutes of two different hospitals. An ambulance with EMTs was never more than a few minutes from anywhere in town. Until I married a small town boy and moved to the best place ever, I never really thought about emergency health care in small communities. I know there were volunteer fire departments (VFDs) in my area, but I never thought much about them or what they did. I assumed they fought fires, which they did and do. But they do a lot more in small towns like ours.

When I got married in 2005, lots of things changed including my address. I moved to a small community with one stop sign, a country store, two churches and a post office. Too small to even be a town. The tornado got the post office and the economy got the store, so I guess we are even smaller now. The nearest decent-sized town in our county that also has a small hospital is thirty minutes down a very curvy road, and only if you drive dangerously fast. Our little community is perfect for a lot of things, but emergency medical situations isn’t one of them. While we dated I had become more familiar with the local VFD as my husband and father-in-law were both members and regularly went out on emergency calls. After we married, my husband started working as a wildland firefighter, so the drive to help and protect runs pretty deep with him and an EMA radio is never far away. Hearing the pages and seeing him fly out of the house is not as regular as it used to be, but it’s still a pretty common occurrence. See, out here VFD members don’t just put out fires. I mean they do put out fires, but if you get hurt, first responders from the nearest VFD get to you the fastest. You know them and they know you. They do everything they can until an ambulance can get to you, which may be 15 minutes or so. It could be longer, depending on where in the county they are. Members of the VFD are literally the difference between life and death in some situations and they are volunteers.

Another thing about this small town life: you never want to see the Air Evac helicopter, but you are thrilled to see it when you need it. Even by ambulance at top speed, it’s a treacherous drive from out here and nothing is close. The nearest trauma center is over two hours away. That helicopter and its crew save a lot of lives in communities like ours.

A few years ago my father-in-law had a massive heart attack. 100% blockage of his LAD or “widowmaker”, as it’s lovingly referred to. First responders were at his house working on him within minutes. When EMTs arrived he was alert and feeling better, never really experiencing “normal” heart attack symptoms. They were preparing to leave to get him checked out when he had another episode. They immediately realized it was a life threatening situation and called for Air Evac. They drove toward the helicopter, which landed in the nearest town, to save time. He was flown to Vanderbilt, where they immediately performed procedures that saved his life. It was still a close thing for several days, but without our local VFD and that helicopter, he wouldn’t be here. I have no doubt about that. And stories like that happen daily.

Tonight as my husband was cooking supper, the page went out that our local VFD was needed to help land Air Evac for someone. This community is small enough that you immediately start trying to figure out who it is. Every siren. Every time you hear the helicopter coming over. Every single time you start to pray, because chances are good you know the person they’re here to help. My husband left to help the helicopter land safely and Tuck and I sat on the deck waiting for them to fly over. They always fly near our house because we are very close to the VFD, but today as they circled around our house to go in for their landing, my little boy stood on our deck waiving his arms at them and I swear they must have seen him. They flew low and directly over his head on their way to land. Because these are awesome people who love their jobs and love the communities they serve and they love making kids smile.

When a tornado practically destroyed this community, that VFD kept us fed and organized every thing we could possibly need while we tried to salvage what we could. We literally ate all our meals there. It was a gathering place for us to just be together and rest. It housed the church until it could be rebuilt. It is the heart of this community and I’m not sure what we would do without it.

If you have a volunteer fire department near you, show them some love. They run on donations and good will. The members literally volunteer and by doing so, save lives. If you see the Air Evac crew at a local event, because they’re often there to let the kids crawl all over their helicopter, thank them for their service. It’s not an easy job and it’s dangerous. These people make it possible for people like us to live out here on the farms we love away from the bustle we don’t. They are small town heroes and they need your support. #supportyourlocalVFD #luttstennessee #thevolunteerstate



I love cows.  I mean I really love cows.  So much that I have a cow picture in my office so I can see cows when I can’t really see cows (see below – don’t you just love her?)  I especially love my cows.  I love that I can recognize them by just looking at them.  I know them and they know me.  They aren’t afraid of me and let me get close to their little ones with no concerns and I cherish that trust.  Before I became a mommy and ran out of free time, I used to ride my 4-wheeler out there and just sit with them and watch them eat.  It is so soothing.  They’re all just calmly going through their lives eating and raising babies.  They’re curious about everything and they’re really patient mamas.  I can hear you saying, “Well, duh, Katie.  You live on a farm.”  But see that’s the beauty of it – I didn’t grow up like this.  I grew up in a decent sized town in West Tennessee.  It wasn’t a booming metropolis, but it would blow this little town out of the water.  Looking back I honestly feel like I just survived there.  I went to school and church.  I had friends and we did things for fun.  There was always something to do there.  But I never quite loved it or felt like “this is where I want to live forever.”

I’ll start by saying I went to college with no idea what I wanted to do.  At all.  Until late in the summer I hadn’t even intended to go to that college.  I was enrolled somewhere else with several of my friends.  But I didn’t have a good feeling about it and my mom suggested I visit this college.  The minute I walked on campus I knew I was going there.  I just had a feeling it was the place.  It didn’t hurt that the dorm rooms were twice the size of the other college and bathrooms were shared in each suite and not by the whole floor.  I coasted through a semester of two undeclared, but then people start insisting you pick some direction and go with it.  I decided to try social work.  I’m going to pause here for a minute so you can’t stop laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes…  I quickly realized that was not the life for me, which is no surprise to any of you that know me.  Then I tried political science, because why not, but I hate history, so that didn’t fit either.  The only thing I cared about in my free time was learning everything I could about horses.  From genetics to character traits across breeds, I read it all.  I was studying more at home than at school.  I think every little girl living on a lot in a subdivision dreams of a horse.  But I was twenty years old and dreaming of a life with horses.  The summer before my senior year my mom convinced me to take a chance and change my major again.  This time I went in to agriculture, specifically animal science.  At the time my college did not have an equine program, but I was already there and loved it, so I stayed.  It was a big deal for me to tread into something totally foreign.  My body starts throwing up at the first sign of change.  That’s a fact.  And all these other kids grew up in this.  They came to get an education to go home and apply it.  I was clueless.  I just knew I hated what I was doing and wanted to enjoy school and hopefully enjoy my future.  I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to change for the better.

I didn’t realize, but that very first day, in the very first class, my future husband was also there.  I’m glad I didn’t know that, because it would have probably made me bolt.  I was already terrified.  I knew nothing and no one.  But I was determined that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in an office doing something I hated.  And I loved it.  I loved every class and every single thing we did.  Well, I didn’t love processing baby pigs, but everything else was great.  We did labs at the swine research barns and with real live cows at the experiment station.  And I was good at it.  So my life changed.  And I met the one.  But that was not home either.  I loved it.  I was happy there.  But I didn’t want to stay there.

After school I interned on a farm that bred, foaled and trained race horses.  It was awesome.  I loved everything, but the snow.  But again, not home.  I missed the green of Tennessee and I missed my other half.  I came home and after what seems like forever job hunting and not having any luck, I got a job at a law office of all things.  I hired in as the receptionist (yes, really) and moved up to assisting the bankruptcy attorney.  They told me once they hired me because they thought it would be cool to have someone with an agriculture degree working for them.  Whatever the reason, it worked and I loved it.  I made some lifetime friends in that office.  I moved into a little house in my home town and worked while my future husband finished school.  I got my very first real dog, Buck, and life was good.  But I was restless even then.  It had been home at one time, but it wasn’t home anymore.  We had dated a long time and I had been to my current home many times.  I loved it as much as he did.  It was so different from everything I knew and I knew he would never settle anywhere else.  And who could blame him?  I knew we would end up here eventually.  I just had to wait and survive.

We got married in October of 2005.  It was the happiest day of my life and we had a beautiful day.  We had remodeled his grandparents’ old house and were ready to be grownups.  I literally never looked back.  People ask me sometimes if I miss the city and all the conveniences it affords.  No.  No, I do not.  I love that we are out here away from all the problems of the city.  I love looking out my windows and seeing green hills and my beloved cows.  I have a son and dogs that can run wild here.  This little community is family.  We all survived a tornado here.  Nothing bonds like rebuilding.  It is the home I always dreamed of, but had no idea how I would get to, living in town.  One leap of faith and everything changed.  And I don’t just intend to survive here.  God made me to thrive.