Take small steps to find your new normal

Giving blood, giving back are positives in a world of unknowns.

Anika Pinke helps a calf relocate from a calving area to a cornfield where its mother was grazing. Photo taken April 19, 2020. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)

Are you ready for life to return to “normal” — to a time when you feel more confident in tomorrow? I jumped on the opportunity to give blood this past week, and the experience afforded me a few moments of normal. I have longed for life to feel normal again for several months.

Normal as my family once knew it is no more. We sold our home last summer, moved into a smaller house, bought a farmstead 200 miles away and are now living with my generous parents on their farm. My husband is the one with a long commute some days between work and home. Complicated? Absolutely. Each of our lives are uniquely complicated.

The farmstead allowed my husband to expand our small business last fall. Our girls started at a new school. Then our son had a skiing accident just after Christmas, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

We rang in the New Year by transitioning Hunter from the neurotrauma intensive care unit to a neurology hospital floor. It was a step in the right direction. Progress – after tragedy and trauma changed our normal in an instant. We started thinking about the recovery path and visualizing a new normal.

My hour-by-hour survival mode transitioned to day-by-day. Since those early days of the new year, when he was confined to a hospital bed, Hunter would say, “Let’s keep stacking good days on good days. There are no bad days.” That’s his mantra still today.


And then came COVID-19. So we’ve hurled ourselves into a new way of life. How will you define your normal moving forward?

This past week, I tried to find a new normal, a rewarding moment rather than a grand strategy. On Dec. 27, 2019, I was scheduled to donate blood, but I never made it to my appointment after getting the call of our son’s accident. This past week, when my mom mentioned my brother was going to donate blood, I decided to join him.

Donating blood in a rural fire hall gave me a sense of normalcy, even with the extra space between chairs and everyone wearing masks.

I accept life is different now. It’s not going back to what it once was. It felt rewarding to give my best effort by donating a pint of blood.

After returning, I asked our daughters, “What feels most normal and fun to you in your days at home now?”

Both said, “Cattle and working out.” Our girls have been bottle feeding a calf daily and helping my uncle and cousin move cow/calf pairs and artificially inseminate heifers. There’s a lot of science and health class lessons learned while being cowhands.

Each afternoon, when their schoolwork and music practice is complete, they participate in “brother camp,” as they call it, and work out with their brother. If he would not have had his accident, I don’t know if he would have had the chance to practice basketball, time runs from my parent’s mailbox to my grandma’s mailbox and work on strength skills with his sisters. Life today allows all three of our kids to exercise together, a positive in our new normal.

I didn’t know on Jan. 1, 2020, what the year ahead would hold, but I knew we were moving in a positive direction. Amid all the unknowns, find one or two things you can do to feel good about your days.


I recommend donating blood, if you’re able, or finding a way to give back to others around you. My kids recommend time with farm animals and daily exercise.

Even in a pandemic, we can and will keep stacking good days on good days.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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