Every year seems to pass by a little quicker. It starts out with ashes marked on our forehead, in the sign of a cross. We are reminded that, “Thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.” We try with the best of intentions to become a better person, the best version of ourselves. In my earlier years, giving up candy, pop or ice cream apparently helped me to feel like I had done my part. After all, giving those up and having fish (which I absolutely love) every Friday was hardly a sacrifice at all. Years later, offering each day for a classmate, neighbor, sick or a deceased person seemed more appropriate and added meaning. This year, I focused on three areas of my life that I have neglected and are needing attention. One area turned out better than expected, and I am pleasantly surprised. Area two felt good when I followed through. Area three can best be described as a work in progress. As we were holding palm branches preparing for Holy Week, one thought would not leave me, “Have I done enough?”
    Surely if the rooster had to crow for my short comings the last 40 days, he would have crowed at least three times every day. What is it that our weaknesses seem to be the same year after year? Possibly we recognize those valleys in our lives, but deep down we accept them because we haven’t found a way to overcome them in the past, and thus justify our actions. Or could it be the busyness of our times? Every day we wake up with the best of intentions, only to be bombarded by a long list of chores that must be accomplished. Add in all the other surprises that pop up and continuously redirect our energy and before you know it we are exhausted and the day is over. Not to be over looked is laziness. It is often easier to push the snooze button just one more time, watch TV a little longer or start to eat right tomorrow. There is a little millennial in all of us no matter our age.
    When I reflect on the last 30 years of my life, it is hard to believe how quickly I have gone from the age of my children to my present age. Yet, in another 30 years I will be the age of my parents; the Lord willing. It is easy to see the strengths and weaknesses in others, especially when you work elbow to elbow on a daily basis. But to admit your own short comings and take the time to deal with them takes honesty and effort. These admissions come best in times of silence or moments of emptiness, created by misunderstandings, lack of respect or communication. Trying to convince yourself that this or that will eventually get better or go away seldom happens.
    For 30 years I have ignored problems, changed the subject or used my busy life to deal with or avoid dealing with difficult situations. Using the same plan and expecting different results has run its course. What has worked for my parents to pass on the farm likely isn’t going to work for me. My passions and reasons for wanting to farm are not the same as my children’s. Even though Laura and I both love our cows, we each do so for different reasons. There are many different paths as to how to make money with our dairy. Many are different, but all can be successful. I have shown her my way, and Laura has respectfully absorbed what I have taught her. Now it is her turn, and I must support her. The lesson here, though, is that even though dairy is an important part of our life, it is not the only part of our life. Taking care of ourselves is also important but taking care of others and treating them as we want to be treated is the greatest of importance. I have experienced many situations that were much different than they appeared. All the way from family life, or lack of it, scheduled around the cows to the opposite end of the spectrum. I believe there is a happy medium somewhere in between. Some of the families who have the fanciest cows from the highest producing herds seem the unhappiest. Why would we want to work so hard for a few trophies or awards and sacrifice the happiness of those closest to us in return? Life is not only about the big moments but all the little ones that make up the big picture like a puzzle. Make it a happy puzzle; one that you are truly proud of.
    If I were to change a few pieces of that puzzle, there would have been more pieces for family time. Trips do not have to be far away or expensive, but they do actually have to happen. Being in my sister’s back yard swimming pool with our entire family creates memories without even trying. My kids witnessed their dad who cannot swim gasping for air in the pool; a day that will never be forgotten. Going to a rodeo near Rochester, Minn., and being amused by the clown was another great family outing. A surprise visit to see Laura at Gar Lin Dairy was well worth all the freezing fingers and toes. Everyone had a specific role to perform in helping to build a basement for my son, Joey. I hope I’ve shown my children a good work ethic, how to make good choices in life and the importance of practicing my faith. I know there are also areas that need more work. Money and materials cannot fix these. It is the choices that I will or won’t make and what I do with my spare time that will determine these. So when it’s time for that final transition, will I have done enough?
    John Rosenhammer farms with his daughter Laura Scholtz and brother, Greg, on Roseview Dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minn. They milk 200 Holsteins and run 580 acres of cropland.