Friday, December 6, 2013

Hope From Highway 34

Hope from Highway 34
is a 2014 calendar
for sale to benefit the
Rancher Relief Fund
which was set up to provide help to those
with loss of livestock due to the early blizzard on October 4, named Atlas.

You can order yours Saturday, January 11, 2014, on the KBHB Radio Auction 810 AM.
Tune in at 9:00 a.m. for details.
We will sell the remaining calendars 1/11/14,
make our donation of current funds collected to
the Black Hills Area Community Foundation/South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund.
1/11/14 UPDATE: Online Orders have been closed ~ THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support.

This week I was thrilled to hold the proof in my hands,
and have been about to burst with excitement to share.

So, I am giving you a sneak peak at some of the pages... (not all)
and more of the inspiration, workers and support behind the project.

Some key things you will notice about the calendar:
*All photos are scenes on, from, or very near South Dakota Highway 34
from the Hayes area to Bear Butte
*A theme of hope for the future runs throughout the calendar
*A South Dakota atlas found in an 80 year old school book serves as the background
*Honor of land and people  

Late October, a friend of mine from our days at good ol' Sturgis Brown High School
 shared about his friends' music group called Houdek
made up of South Dakotans singing about their home state.
Houdek is actually the name of the South Dakota state soil,
and their album, Return to Houdek, features cover art with roots growing down into the soil.
Depth and roots are a rich part of my identity, 
and over the years, I have become truly rooted in this land.
I made an immediate connection just by seeing their cover.
You can find them and order music here:  Houdek

One of their songs is called HWY 34 (from Hayes to Bear Butte).
Simply reading the title hit home to me.  
I live in the middle of that route and so do many of my friends.
Our community is along that highway.
Highway 34 is one of many things that we all have in common.

I have to give a nod to Eric for referring me to Houdek,
and to the band for doing what they love . . . creating music and words
to remember and honor places of their life.
Artists inspire artists.

After the winter storm Atlas wrecked havoc on much of the western half of our state,
my "rootedness" to the people, the land, and our lifestyle pressed deeper into the soil of my heart.
I wanted to bring help and healing.
And so a few photographs from Highway 34 on a return trip from Pierre, 
a story of one cow named Hope,
a Bible verse about God's plans to give us a future and a hope,
and the title of a song from the group called Houdek,
were seeds scattered in the soil of my heart,
that grew into this project
of Hope from Highway 34.

(I will do a drawing from all calendar orders through December 20 for a free copy of Return to Houdek.)

 When one drives across western South Dakota, loneliness attempts to creep in. 
That vast, expansive prairie makes you feel small,
almost like gazing at the stars on a dark, clear night.
Yet at the same time,
I personally feel the presence of God
 in the epic and intimate,
in the large and small.
Even though there is a sense of emptiness,
there is also a fullness.
 People are there, even if you cannot see them from the highway.
Like a drive across the prairie, people are virtually unseen in these calendar photos,
but they are remembered, honored, and hopefully encouraged
by the words and the beauty.
The land and the people . . . this is my place and my people.

On the back cover of the calendar,
you will read a story of Hope.
It is from a cattlewoman who experienced the full blow of nature.
Yet found faith and hope and courage in a small answered prayer.

A little excerpt is featured in this photo here:

As the seeds began to grow,
a team also grew to create the project.
Melissa Wilcox, the calendar designer, took the photos, words, ideas, thoughts,
read my mind and created the vision.
She did a phenomenal, beautiful job in a short amount of time 
with enthusiasm and heart.  
Jimmie Kammerer shared her story with me.
I will never forget the moment that my husband pushed the button
on our answering machine, our eyes connected,
and the two of us listened to her cracked voice asking me to write her story.
I cried.  I sobbed, in fact, as I listened to her recorded voice.
To be trusted with her personal story . . . there is no greater honor she could have given me.
At a time when I felt so helpless to possibly do anything to help her,
this was something that I could do...record the story of hope.
Dede Long has been my photography buddy for the past few years.
We have ventured to the Black Hills Photo Shootout together
and shared ideas about shooting pictures during branding season, cattle work, and sports.
Those that know her, know that her smile and laugh bring light and encouragement
whenever she enters a room.
She has shared her photos and her encouragement here in the midst of a hard season.
Kerry Frei brought willing hands and heart into this project.
Phone calling and lots of the behind the scenes details that needed to happen...
that has been her work.
She has edited photos, ideas, and written words and 
worked with me on the phone for countless minutes through this process.
The Wink family.  Dean. Joan. Dawn.  The Winks shared photos and editing, and words.
I am grateful to this family for the extras behind the scenes they have contributed.
Bob Bertolotto has talked with me for the past couple of years about creating a calendar.
This cause was the catalyst that finally put a goal and a deadline to the idea.
He has contributed photos and immediate excitement for this project.

Much thanks goes to the following for their support of this project.
Their support has kept costs minimal so that the maximum amount of the $25 per calendar
goes to those in need.

Thank you!

The Mackaben Family
Sabers-Farmers Union Insurance Agency
C M W Mfg.

It is humbling to have so many get behind this project
to give a hand to put some hardworking courageous people
back on their feet.

There have been beautiful words of support and encouragement all along the way.
Thank you for ordering calendars!
We have calendars ordered from coast to coast. Below is a lovely card from rural New York.
We have a limited number of 1000 being printed.
They will begin mailing the week of December 16-20.
Those that order first will get priority on mailing to ensure Christmas delivery.

Thank you Lorraine from dairy cow country in New York for your card.
It reads,
Dear Jodene ~ Greetings from rural New York, dairy cow country.
We have watched the situation of the ranchers and hoped and prayed for them.
Our dairy farmer papers have carried the story
and we did all we could to get national media on it.
In the process, we met many people with great heart and soul.

Thank you Lorraine, and so many others!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Before The Perfect Storm

I went for a walk
Monday, September 30.

These were the photos from the walk.
I am just looking at them for the first time today.

Friday of that same week
was the perfect storm
that hit our area of the prairie and Black Hills.
Starting with soaking rain, freezing rain, ice on the windows while lightning flashed
and thunder boomed as the snow and wind started.
The fury of a summer and winter storm all wrapped into one.

On Monday, it was a beautiful late summer day.
Sure, we knew that weather was coming.

We prepared like we usually do.
But this was not a usual storm.

And so, our land and lifestyle has wounds that will become scars.
But scars are healed spots that remain a bit tender . . .
of what we have been through
on our journeys to where we are going
and remind us to have compassion for others on their journey.
Scars are nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of . . . 
they show life lived with courage.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Living Wholehearted. What's gratitude got to do with it?

Sunday I taught this class on creating a journal from a repurposed book
by creating a collaged cover using a photograph, similar to my art pieces on wood & canvas.
I shared this time with a lovely group of seven women at Scrappin' Ladies in Pierre, SD.

But it wasn't just about the project.
It was about their life.  My life.  Really living it.

I have a couple more of these coming up,
so I wanted to share a bit about what you could expect.

Through sharing my own personal stories
of moving from seeming to always fall short to abundant living,
{not necessarily materially, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually}
I will share how gratitude moves us
into living wholehearted, fulfilling lives
right in the mess of everyday, ordinary stuff
as well as the biggies.

Back at Christmas 2008,
I wrote about it in a Christmas letter
you can read about it here.

I share about being real and about savoring life's little treasures.

Here is what you can look forward to at a Wholehearted {Gratitude Journal} event:

We will transform an old book into a personal, unique work of art 
featuring one of your own personal photographs.
You will enjoy curling up with your journal and recording those priceless moments
with words, photos, art, or whatever your mind comes up with...
We will create a bookmark from a heart-shaped rock, twine and ribbons.
We will laugh, visit, perhaps shed a few tears, and tell stories.
We will be brave in trying new things.
We will find things to be grateful for.  The deep things. The really important stuff.
I will share my personal journey of discovering gratitude and beauty in my everyday life.

I have two Wholehearted {Gratitude Journal} events coming up.
Click here for the details and registration information:  FALL SCHEDULE

Here is a sneak peek at  projects
from the last journal class.

In addition to writing,
photography is one of the ways that I record my gratitude.
Sunday was a great day of journal-making and friendship building
finished off by this beautiful drive home across the prairie.

Sharing with you some gratitude in photos 
for this great state of South Dakota. . . 

. . . during the "magical hour" when the prairie
is lit up
in all her glory.

The two events I have coming up:
ARTescape afternoon on
November 3 at the Jon Crane Gallery in Hill City, SD
an evening class on
November 7 at Sturgis Photo and Gifts in Sturgis, SD.
Click here for event schedule and sign up details:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving Hope ~ Resources

For my community,
sharing some hope and some helps
for you.

Below are resources
to help your body, mind, and spirit
right here, right now.

Come back if you need to.
There are several links.

A friend, right in the thick of it all,
posted this truth as her status today,
""Though You have made me see troubles, 
many and bitter, 
You will restore my life again; 
from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up."
Psalm 71:20

Allow that truth
to sink down deep into the spirit...
into the marrow of the bones...
into every crevice of the mind...

You will restore my life again; 
from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up...

Meade County 4-H Leader, Tacy Langemeir,
has collected courage-giving notes from 4H clubs and leaders all over the country
Click this link here to be filled with support and hope by just reading a few:
Well Wishes For Ranch Families
Pour in From Across The Country


 Beth Moore has a message.
It is from 2011,
about going through life storms,
but it is even more relevant for those
enduring the aftermath of real, physical storms.
Watch her videos here.

Wrecked But Not Ruined Part 2

Wrecked But Not Ruined Part 3

Wrecked But Not Ruined Part 4

Wrecked But Not Ruined Part 5

{Each segment of her teaching is about 15-20 minutes of the first part of the program,
although the entire program is 30 minutes. So, you could break it up over a few days.
Each message is good on it's own.  She brings it to a strengthening and confidence building close.}


The effects of this storm on our mental, emotional, physical health is very, very real.
Do pay attention to what is happening in your own body and mind,
as well as those that you love.
Below is a resource to help know
what is normal reaction, coping tips, and reactions to take seriously, especially as time goes by.

It is from the SDSU Extension Western SD Beef facebook page:

The SDSU Extension also has this great spot:
iGrow Blizzard Resources

And for those moved to give, 
the SD Stockgrowers, SD Cattlemen, and SD Sheepgrowers have established
a Rancher Relief Fund.
Below is one way that you can donate to it online.
You may also mail checks to 
Rancher Relief
PO Box 231
Rapid City, SD  57709

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Storm Aftermath: Moving Forward With Character & Hope

There is nothing like hard times
to make you fall in love
with all the things you realize
you have been taking for granted.

I have a passion for these cattle right here.
Like never before.
For standing by my husband and supporting him and encouraging him.
Like never before.
For water and light and dishwashers and running washing machines.
Like never before.
I have a passion for our ranching way of life.
Like never before.

If you haven't read of the Storm Atlas that hit our community,
you can read my previous post here:

and this very well-written article that ran on the front page of the
Los Angeles Times this morning:

I have stared at a blank screen
trying to think of all the things to say.
All the questions to answer about our way of life
that are hitting in a tender and raw spot
with emotions just about to crack all over the place.
But there are blogs circulating doing just that.

Like this one:

This one by Dave Ollila explains the weather/livestock factors:

So I will just share a bit of my heart and story.

One of the days of the blizzard, I was snowed in at Keystone, SD,
at the South Dakota Women In Ag Conference,
I talked with my husband on the cell phone about selling calves.
He said, "I hope we still have some to sell."
And I replied naively, 
"It will be ok.  We've been through storms before.  
It's not that cold.  We're going to be alright."

Then at last I drove home on Sunday afternoon
eager to see my family.
My mother-in-law had told me on the cell phone
the highway was open and
the guys had been to the cows with steer calves and they were good.
I knew there had been loss, but that happens with storms.

I was driving home with relief feeling hopeful that maybe it wasn't that bad.

Then I saw the first bits of red and black hair, ears, and hooves 
sticking out of a ditch filled with snow
just south of where friends of ours live.
"Oh . . . no" I said out loud to myself immediately thinking of our friends.

Then more.  And more.
More and more.
Both sides of the highway.
I was sick to my stomach.
I texted one of my very best friends.  
Asking if they were alright??????

I was driving a corridor of death and broken dreams.
No words will ever adequately explain it.

I called my mom, my voice cracked and I just started crying.
"Mom, there are dead cattle everywhere.
The electric poles are broke off . . . all of them.
There's more cattle, Mom, 
and more and there... is.  more..."

"Oh.... God...." my mom barely breathed.

We lost service.
I wiped my eyes, called her back when there was service,
took a deep breath
and told her that I was ok 
and I'd call her when I got home.

All I could think of were my friends . . . and that they weren't telling me everything at home.

I did make it home and we have had minimal loss
at our family ranch . . . . 

But... my friends.  Many of my very best friends....
we not so fortunate.

There are many, many questions.
From other people and in our own minds.
Lots of "what ifs" and "why this" and "why that"...
Why them? Why not us?
It's like asking why a tornado took that house and left the one right beside it standing.
None of us know why natural disasters come
and wipe out one and leave another standing
or why terminal disease strikes one family and not another.

Yet in all that,
there are stories of hope
that would crack your heart wide open
but they are not mine to tell.

There is kindness coming
from across the globe.

This I know,
there is eternal reward that is growing
right here on the prairie.

There is hope that is alive and pulsing through veins.

There is passion stirring and character building and community strengthening.

We are remembering who we are
and what we live for.

My friend Jennifer Stomprud shares it beautifully here:
And so did my friend Missy Urbaniak here:

There will be days like this again:

But to get there, for some will take significant help.

It will take the Farm Bill passing in Washington D.C.
Yes it will.
This is no ordinary storm.  This is epic.
Bigger than we can fix ourselves.

I visited with a businessman in our community and we agreed
that if this had happened to one family in our community
we would have already put together an event,
raised funds, and started setting them on their feet again.
But this is bigger than us.

It has brought us to our knees and looking to God.
When all else has been lost,
we can know that He is the rock we can build and stand on.

Remembering this, even though it is hard, hard, hard.
Remembering it with faith instead of feelings.
And remembering it because I am seeing it happen right before my eyes and ears:

...we also glory in tribulations,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
Now hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out
in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
who has been given to us."
Romans 5:4-5

So very many are asking me what they can do to help.
This is what you can do right now.
Give to the 
Rancher Relief Fund

Also, the South Dakota Stockgrowers posted this via facebook:

Status Update
By South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

RANCHERS: We have so many incredibly generous volunteers standing by to bring heavy 
equipment, trailers, and other equipment, they want to ride, sort, build fence or do 
anything they can to help you.

If you could use a hand, please contact our
help-line for details at 605-274-1454 or dial 2-1-1

VOLUNTEERS: You can also call the helpline to register your services. Thank you so much 
for all you're doing for us.

Thank you so very, very much for your support.
If you would also like to leave a word of encouragement
in the comments below,
many will read it and I will share.
As I said before, every word of encouragement helps.
It really does.
What we need right now is this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, 

but only such as is good for building up, 

as fits the occasion,

that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29

This is a place for encouragement and grace.

Donate to Rancher Relief Fund at Razoo

If you'd rather mail a check,

Rancher Relief Fund
PO Box 231
Rapid City, SD 57709

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Broken Dreams and Hearts On the Western Dakota Prairie

I share this post with a heavy heart for my community.
Many that read my blog are from across the country and globe.
I am grateful for your friendship and support.
I share this to share the story of the hearty people of the prairie 
that need prayers and compassion right now.

I am grateful to live where I do
with my family, my friends, my neighbors.
Neighbors in our country live 5-10-50-100 miles away.

Our community has never seen this.
Never a blizzard with such devastation.
Never so early in the season.

Ranching families across the prairie
are experiencing the trauma and loss like never before.

The loss of livestock is shocking to the core.
Our hearts are raw.

Driving the roads with ditches filled with dead cattle
leaves us in tears with deep, deep heart ache.
The sight alone is truly gruesome and traumatizing.
Airplanes are flying over to find those dead and those alive
because people simply cannot travel through the oceans of drifts.
People have to document the losses for proof.
Taking photos of dead livestock is painful.

There is financial loss, yes.
But much deeper than that . . . 

Cows and calves have died.
Most of the cows were pregnant with baby calves inside.
That is three generations.  Gone.
Many of the cows on a ranch have been raised right there by families,
and so was that cow's mother, and her mother. 
The "grandma-cows" go back generations.
You don't just simply go "buy new cows" and start over.
The foundation is removed.
The legacy.  The years.  The work.  The love. The faith.
It takes years of work and faith to grow a herd . . . to raise healthy, quality cattle.
It takes decades.

Spring will be missing the bawling of many baby calves and the gentle moo of their mamas.

Our lifestyle is not simply economical,
although that aspect is huge.

Everyone who has lost jobs and is working through debt
on a wing and a prayer,
knows the mental and spiritual and emotional struggle.
It does not matter what business you are in,
hard economic times are hard times on families deep within your heart.

As electric power starts to return bit by bit,
we start sticking our heads out and communicating with the rest of the world again.

We look for bits of hope.
The news of a family who has found live cattle
brings rejoicing.
Freeing live tree branches from snow banks 
to reach toward the sky again,
feels life-giving.
Finding life.
Clinging to each other.
Texting because we don't have good cell service to hear a voice
becomes life-giving connections to loved ones.
Yesterday, as I saw live cattle,
I wanted to wrap my arms around their neck and kiss their faces.
I have never felt that before.

We pray for each other.
Talk through it.
Text through it.
Can't wait to see each others faces
and feel arms of love wrapped around each other.
For now, distance separates us,
but love for each other and our lifestyle
bonds us together.

A sister-ranching-friend of mine sent me this verse via facebook
which I am just now receiving as my electricity returned.

I pass it on to you.

It describes the one hope that we can continue to cling to always
because everything we hold in this world can be lost.

Though the fig tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like deers’ feet,
he makes me tread upon my high places.

Habbakuk 3:17-19

May we grasp for God to give us hope and life and strength and each other
through this time.

Sending love and prayers
to my community.


If you want to know more and have questions,
here are a few more articles and posts by Tri-State Livestock News:

Storm Atlas takes its toll,

perseverance will remain

and from Dawn Wink:

The Blizzard that Never Was – and its Aftermath on Cattle and Ranchers 

and from Rapid City Journal:
Tens of Thousands of Cattle Killed In Friday's Blizzard

South Dakota Stockgrowers and SD Cattlemen and SD Sheepgrowers have all 

came together

along with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation have established the 

SD Rancher Relief Fund.  

You can find it on FB and the website is


Here is my post on how we are doing in the aftermath:
Moving Forward With Character & Hope

Communication helps. 

Every word of encouragement to people helps. 

I have always felt like leaving a message 
on facebook or a blog comment was so insignificant, 
but it is not. 
To finally return to electricity 
and turn on the computer and have my inboxes filled 
with encouraging comments of love and prayers is so, so helpful. 

But also to see that there is nothing reported on the national news is disheartening. 

I know we are private people here in our area 
and it is a raw and tender place to tread with reporting, 
but I believe in telling the story.  

As we share our stories, compassion is built elsewhere and kindness is shown.

Thank you so, so much for kind words! 

We have been fortunate, 
but so many in our community have not.

Please continue to pray and extend compassion 

to our ranching community here in Western SD who have lost so much. 

Every encouraging word helps.  

Share in the comments and I will pass them along.  Thank you.