Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Soul-tober

Sometimes we just need to take a break, whether it’s from a litany of commitments and chores or the mental gymnastics we put ourselves through on a daily basis (we know who we are) or from something as simple (and as overwhelming) as the news and social media.  Sometimes, our souls just need a rest.

And given that I’ve already heard Christmas music in stores and seen the trees and ornaments stacked for sale, I think October is a glorious time to inhale and just take it all in. Because, seriously people, it will be holiday-palooza before we know it.

It’s easy to feel like this life is just one giant to-do list as we race from season to season. Whether we’re rushing kids from here to there, putting in extra hours at work, or Pinterest-ing ourselves to death to create some perfect moment, life can be downright busy.

A dear friend and mentor once said to me, “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time for that’, instead say ‘It’s not important to me.’”  I’m just going to leave that there for a minute and let it sink in.

What she was advocating is that this wheel of busy we are all on is filled with choices.  When we tell ourselves things like we don’t have time, what we are really saying is that thing/commitment/effort is not important to me.  Ouch. That was a hard one for me.

But if we are honest, we really don’t have time for all of the things we could take on.  And most of us have likely taken on lots of things without really thinking about if it’s important to us. Whether it’s from guilt, a sense of duty or out of habit, it’s super easy to say Yes and way harder to say No.

It’s curious that the thing that we most often say No to is making time for ourselves.  Sometimes in our culture it’s easy to feel like making time for ourselves is selfish.  In the faith culture I grew up in, putting yourself first was not only wrong it was a sign of a weak character.  Oh my stars how sad this makes me to think of this now, and how I hope with all of my heart that we aren’t still instilling this in our young ones.

Listen, I’m not suggesting that you sign up for narcissist 101, I’m simply suggesting that you take time to feed your soul, fill up your cup, soak up some gratitude, care for who you are, and dream of where you want to go.  Give yourself permission to say, “Yes, I am important.”

For me, it’s the simplest of things like planting myself on the porch with a good book and a cup of mint tea or listening to my favorite podcast or music while I weed the garden.  It’s brushing a horse or trying yoga (which also leads to much laughing). It’s making time for storytelling and cooking and crafting. It’s simply sitting side-by-side with Cowboy and talking about life. Those things fill me up.

Here’s what we all know deep down inside, when we are broken and tired, we can’t give our best and quirky selves to those we love most.  And while it sounds dramatic (cue music), the world really does need us to be our best selves, for all of our sakes.

So as you bask in the bluer skies and golden sunlight of October, think about what you will say Yes to and put yourself at the top of your to-do list.   Whether it’s making time to read a good book, meeting up with a friend who makes you laugh, or spending time in nature (like Dinosaur Valley State Park or Fossil Rim Wildlife Center – our town really does have the best), take some time for a soul break.

P.S.  A version of this post was published in the the Glen Rose Reporter. This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Featured image © Marek – stock.adobe.com.  Standard license.

Farmtastic Faves · Farmtastic Reads

Farmtastic Faves – The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee – Talya Tate Boerner

Oh my stars am I ever in love with the grit, wit, and wisdom of 10-year-old Gracie Lee.  Set in the sweltering heat of an Arkansas delta summer, we are invited to come along for the ride as Gracie Lee navigates the beauty and the brutality of the hard truths that life has dealt her, and in some ways the truths and the questions that are in all of us.

Told in first person, Gracie reminds us of the bravery, curiosity, and compassion that children possess in spades, and that we often spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to recapture.  From the first moment she marches down the church aisle to ask her a pastor a question, which hilariously ends up in her accidental salvation, to her quest to find out who lives in the big house next door to the myriad of emotions she experiences as she watches the unraveling of her alcoholic father, Gracie has you cheering for her on every page.

Gracie’s family is complex – a loving but exhausted mother who wants nothing more than to be loved herself, a younger sister who requires comfort and other times a good eye roll, and a dad who is checked out emotionally but dedicated to the hard work of financially providing for his family.  The lives of this famer’s family weave and bob around each other as they live in their reality of barely hanging on to the middle class, and at times each other.  They deal with the precariousness and mystery of nature including flooding rains, crop cycles, and our human desire to harness it all.  And most of all, our desire to connect and understand.

Growing up Baptist in the south, I can whole heartedly testify (see what I did there?) that Talya has captured every nuance of the culture – both the Baptist and the southern – all rolled into one big patchwork quilt.  I was humming along as the congregation sang every endless verse of Just as I Am.  I was reminiscing at the details of unscheduled childhood summer days where bicycle exploration and ham sandwiches with mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, and white bread were what made our world go round.  If you grew up in the south anytime between the 1950s and early 1980s, I suspect you’ll feel your senses toggle between the feeling of home and “oh my what were we thinking.”

This is my absolute favorite kind of fiction – one where the landscape is as big of a character as the people, one where you feel the sense of place as large as life.  Most importantly, while it is fiction, you know that there are thousands of Gracies in this world, and you simply want to cheer for each and every one of them.

P.S. – This farmgirl loves a good book – whether that book makes you laugh, cry, refreshes your soul, dances with your imagination, or teaches you a history lesson.  Books are just the bees knees.  Check out our Farmtastic Faves section for more of our favorites.

P.P.S. – Check out Tayla’s website for more information about her and the book.

Featured image Amazon

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories · Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm · Uncategorized

Choices – It’s Not Always Rainbows

Animals are my jam, but if I’m honest I  don’t think I ever thought about having quite such a zoo – 4 dogs, 6 cats, 4 horses, 2 donkeys. (Not to mention the scads of wildlife around here – hummingbirds, barn swallows, leopard frogs, and jack rabbits galore.)

If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ll see all sorts of fun animals pics – from the frog riding around on a pool thermometer to Max the dog sporting glasses to horse and donkey antics.  Every single one of our critters has their quirks (don’t we all), and every single of one of them is part of the family.  That means they are here to stay.

I’ve had folks tell me, “You’re living my dream.”  That is beyond sweet and kind words are always appreciated. (We could all do with a few more kind words. Am I right?)

But there is another truth.  There are moments when the fur and the feeding duties and the poop scooping chores and the vet bills are not so Insta worthy.  There are moments when I have thought, “What in the world was I thinking with all of these critters?”

Everything in life is a trade off.  Unlike the story that the media likes to tell us, we cannot have it all.  Something has to give.  And that’s not a bad thing; it’s really just simple math.  There are only so many resources – time, money, space (physical and mental) – a girl has, and so you make choices.

My Farmtastic Life - Max the dog in glasses.
Max, clearly deep in thought, thinking about his choices. Which are generally, “Do I want to sleep on the sofa or on the bed?”

Some choices last a LONG time.  (Did you know horses can easily live into their 30s? Seriously!) Some choices don’t seem long enough.  (Why can’t our best dog pals live forever? Maybelle, I’m talking to you!)  We all make choices – whether to marry, to have children, where to live, where to work, what to risk.  And some choices get made for us – what family we are born into, what physical abilities we have or don’t have, what natural gifts we have, the challenge of loss.  It’s part of this great big life adventure we are all on.

Now nothing I’ve said here is new; we all know this stuff.  We just don’t generally stop and think about it. So why am I sharing it?

Well if you’re like me, when you find yourself looking at folks’ social media personas (and let’s face it, that’s what they are, the version of us we are all putting forward), it’s easy to forget that choices have been made, which inevitably means sacrifices, compromises, and unrealized dreams are likely heaped in a pile somewhere.  We just don’t share them.  (And that’s cool.  No one needs to see someone’s drama blasted all over the Internet, although it wouldn’t hurt us all to be little more vulnerable.  Balance, my friends!)

So as a girl who is living on a farm and working in technology by day, what don’t you see in my Instagram feed?  You don’t see buckets upon buckets of horse poo.  You don’t see the travel dreams I’m longing for, as being away from the farm is hard.  You don’t see the daily vacuuming and sweeping in a (losing) battle to keep the fur under control.  You don’t see the mile long list of things that need fixed or tended to. You don’t see the moments when I think, “Dang, living in a condo sure sounds nice.”  You don’t see the hay bill to keep my equine babies fed for a year. You don’t see the heaps of sand we’ve brought in (yes, we paid for sand!), to try to deal with crazy boot sucking mud when it rains buckets.

Would I trade my farmgirl life?  Heck no. It’s what Cowboy and I chose, and we are grateful.  We feel lucky to have this adventure.  But it’s also okay to have those moments when you sit down in a pile on the floor and ask yourself, “Holy cats, what did I choose?  Did I choose the right thing for me?”

And here’s the really beautiful thing about life.  You cry, you think (and lordy can this girl spend some cycles whirling around in her own head), you get frustrated, and then you get up and keep going. If something’s not working for you, you can continue to shift and twist and turn and make this life your own.

So when you see all of my adorable critters (and yes, they are adorable), don’t forget there is a whole lot of work and choices and compromises going on behind the scenes. None of us gets to escape that, no matter how Insta perfect the story appears.

P.S. – As I was lamenting about all of the critter chores to my momma the other day, she reminded me that, “It’s never a bad thing to save an animal.”  And you wonder why we have 16 critters?  Seriously, I come by it honestly.

P.P.S. – There are those amongst us for whom making choices seems a far reach. They are truly working so hard just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Let’s remember that we don’t all get to start from the same place in life, and as often as we can we should offer compassion. You truly never know how someone’s story has impacted their available choices.  Let’s love each other.

 

 

 

Farmtastic Faves · Farmtastic Reads

Farmtastic Faves – Barking to the Choir

This farmgirl loves a good book – whether that book makes you laugh, cry, refreshes your soul, dances with your imagination, or teaches you a history lesson.  Books are just the bees knees.  We’ve had our Farmtastic Faves section for a while, and we think it desperately needs a Farmtastic Reads section.  So in an effort to share one of my absolute all time favorite things – STORIES – here goes.

First up in the Farmtastic Reads category …


Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship – Gregory Boyle

I must admit, up until about a year ago, the chances of me making it through any nonfiction book were slim to none.  For years, my reading was limited to mystery fiction, and I wasn’t really open to exploring much else.  It was my guilty pleasure. Last year, a wise soul turned me onto Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, then Love Wins by Rob Bell, and well my bookshelves – virtual and real – are so much broader, deeper, and richer for it.

With my reading horizons expanded, I’ve found that I am usually reading a book or five (thank you Kindle), and in that mix is always something that speaks to the broader sense of humanity, spirituality, and the divine.  On the recommendation of a friend on Instagram, I added Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship to my list.

Filled with engaging, uplifting, and at times gut wrenching stories of men and women coming out of gang life and into the fullness of seeing their own value and divinity, Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit Priest affectionately known as Father G, reaches straight into the heart of our shared humanity.  He deftly weaves his personal observations and experiences with lessons that we can all take to heart.

You know it’s a good book when you and your highlighter become besties as you try to soak up every last nugget of truth, hoping that just a tiny bit of the goodness you are experiencing will stick to your core.

Father G doesn’t mince words.  He sheds the formality and the perfection facade common in many religious circles and writings, not afraid of using strong language and slang to make his point, and to simply remind us all of the realness and the emotion of life.  Father G strips away the sterileness that modern Christianity can often be wrapped in, and shares the gritty truth about trauma, loss, and hope.  In short, he takes us back to the original story of Jesus – connectedness and kindness, compassion and love.

My emotions ran the gamut while reading this book. At one point, so moved by a former gang member’s story of loss and redemption that I found myself crying. At other times laughing out loud at the sheer smart and witty dialogue of these former gang members who were coming to see the beauty of their true selves, often for the first time.

You’ll also get a feel (or more accurately all the feels) for Homeboy Industries, started by Father G in 1988 as an answer to the question, ““Can we improve the health and safety of our community through jobs and education rather than through suppression and incarceration?”1

Barking to the Choir is a neon reminder that we  make it far too easy to write off the other in our world – the gang member, the mentally ill, the poor.  We’ve come to believe everything is a simple choice, while forgetting the impact of heartbreak, trauma, and fear on the human spirt .  That we are all fragile, and strength comes in our kinship, in our ability to see and be seen for who we really are. Father G puts these truths front and center and reminds us all that we are the choir.

This is Father G’s second book, and believe you me within an hour of finishing this one, I  ordered his first one, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.  Come on Amazon Prime speedy delivery, this farmgirl has some soulful reading to do!

1 – History of Homeboy Industries

Featured image Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Independence In the Middle

As we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day last week, I was struck by the beauty that happens when we all take a break from being so staunchly in our respective corners and join each other hand in hand in the middle. Stars and stripes. Parades and fireworks. Sunshine and barbecues. For a moment, with all of our beautiful differences, we were one.

And then it was July 5.

More than ever, we are in love with being outraged. We argue about immigration, tariffs, guns, the economy, religion. If there is a side to be had, we will find it. We have become amazingly adept at drawing lines and determining who is in and who is out. We see it on the right and on the left. No one is immune.

Where is the middle?

Conversations about meaningful and important topics have become difficult because we go into them having already determined that we are right and that the other side is wrong. While we might ask, “Why do you think that?”, all too often we have stopped listening and are ready to pounce with our rebuttal before the question has left our lips.

Trust me, I know this is not easy. Especially when both sides feel like they have so very much at stake. But the real beauty is in the middle. In trying to understand why someone feels disenfranchised or left behind. In trying to understand why someone is adamant about their position on open borders or immigration reform.

We all come from a distinct point of view that is formed by our experiences, our environments, our tribe. And we can’t all be right, which also means, hilariously enough, that  we can’t all be wrong. So how in the world do we move forward?

We all take one giant step toward the middle.

I think back to my school days and remember the dreaded group project. Oh my stars, I cannot stress how much I absolutely detested group projects. In this crazy exercise, we each had to do our part to succeed. Torture, sheer torture.

Inevitably, I would volunteer (ahem … demand) to take on much more than my share because I just knew if I trusted others that the project would go south and my grade would suffer. But let’s just call it what it was, I was terrified of losing control.

Some folks in my class loved having me as a partner; it meant less work for them. Others, I’m sure, were not so thrilled as we vied for control. But how much more would I have learned if we collectively shared our work and our ideas?  How much more meaningful would those relationships have been with my classmates if I had taken a step toward the middle?

And if in the end we had gotten a B, or heaven forbid a C, instead of an A, what would I have really lost? Imagine if if in my compromise I had gained knowledge, friendship, and let go of some stress in the process. Success isn’t always an A. (And yes my overachiever self has had to work years to come to this place.)

I see our love of taking sides in a similar way. We all want control. We all want to be right. And when we think that’s in danger, we retreat to our corners mad as hornets. Here’s the deal, I know the problems facing our world and our country are not simple. Congress is in gridlock, we’re marching in the streets every month for some new injustice, and we have become professionals at being outraged.

But in the end, if we’re honest, outrage is easy. And quite frankly, exhausting. Action is so much harder. Listening is harder, yet. The first move is taking one step toward the middle. Having real conversations with your neighbors. Understanding the deep down why of their beliefs. Finding just one little thing you can agree on and then building from there. Maybe even find a joint cause and volunteer together. It’s amazing how you will see the heart of another when you are giving back shoulder to shoulder.

We are not all going to get what we want. It’s impossible. But together we can embrace a little of that Independence Day spirit every day, when we find our common ground and move forward, one step at a time.

Featured image © MNStudio – stock.adobe.com.  Standard license.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Heat Wave Wisdom

The other day, I was in the grocery store chatting it up as I was waiting in line.  The conversation inevitably turned to the weather and the impending, much-earlier-than-normal heat wave. When the lady in front of me said with a smile, “It’s going to drive up my electric bill.  It’s going to be tough, but we’ll make it work.”

It was a seemingly innocent statement, but it stuck with me.  Yes, I know that the more you have to run the air conditioner the higher the electric bill. (Trust me, I know August is when the meter runs constantly.)  But there was something simpler, more earnest in her statement.

She was having to consciously think about choices. How much does she run the air conditioner?  How much will her bill be? What would she have to trade in order to get the amount of cool, comfortable air she’d need?  Would she have to work extra shifts to cover the unexpected expense from an early heat wave? Was this a sign that her entire summer would cost her more?

We continued chatting about the upcoming weekend, the glorious freedom of a Saturday without plans, and then just like that we went our separate ways.  But it’s been nearly a week, and I’m still thinking about her.

I’m also thinking about my own situation.  That a heat wave is more of a nuisance and less of financial hurdle.  And then I think about all of the other seemingly mundane things that I do on a regular basis.

I fill up  my car with gas, buy groceries, turn the air conditioner down to frigid to sleep, take the critters to the vet.  I don’t stop to wonder if I should fill up the car all the way. I don’t weigh out what I should and shouldn’t’ buy at the grocery store, although Cowboy would tell you it’s so much cheaper when I stick to the list. I just do what I need to do.

And then it hits me, all of this day-to-day living that I don’t have to think about is a gift.  Sure, Cowboy and I work hard, but so do most people I know. Working hard is not a guarantee. It’s not a free pass from thinking about the little things.  

Don’t get me wrong, Cowboy and I have to make a budget and live within our means.  We talk about things like how much money gas costs or what we should budget for necessary house maintenance or how much hay the horses will eat in a year.  But we don’t have to make hard choices like having enough to eat versus melting in the hot Texas sun.

I am reminded that we live in a community of amazing and diverse people. And sometimes there are those amongst us that need a hand, and we should be willing and able to give it.  It can be as simple as picking up a few extra canned goods at the grocery and donating them to your local food bank, or leaving an extra nice tip for a waitress who is working her tail off to serve you.  It’s things like checking on your elderly neighbors and just spending a few minutes of time to make sure they are okay and to show that you care.

We’re all in this life together, and sometimes it just takes the simplest sentence in the grocery store line to give us the reminder we need, to jolt us out of our comfort zone. If we will just walk around with our eyes wide open, we will find so many ways to share, care, and give.  And you just never know when that simplest act of kindness can change someone’s day or even their life.

Featured image © Cherries – stock.adobe.com.  Standard license.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Mom, The Constant

I’ve often written about my dad, and if you follow me on social media, you’re sure to find goofy pictures of us laughing and cutting up.  We have a special bond – from our love of the chocolatey goodness of a Yoo-hoo to our matching knock-knee walks to our shared wacky sense of humor.  He’s been my buddy since the beginning.

Growing up, he was undoubtedly the fun parent.  But, you see, I’m a lucky girl and I have two amazing parents. On this Mother’s Day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a little about the woman who was always behind the scenes.  Mom.

My Farmtastic Life - Mom, the Constant
Our little family – the three musketeers.

In as much as Dad was the fun one, Mom was the teacher, the caregiver, the carpool driver, the disciplinarian, the fashion police, the organizer. In short, she was the constant, the stability.

Bless her heart, she was room mom until I was in the fifth grade – making sure all of the kiddos in my class were cared for.  That woman deserves a gold star for the sheer amount of sticky children and parental organizing she endured.

My Farmtastic Life - Mom the Constant. Read more about Mother's Day and its importance to our family at www.myfarmtasticlife.com
In this photo, I love mom’s smile. I love that I am in her arms. I love that we are together.

When I was in second grade, she even volunteered to be the class art teacher when my small school didn’t have one.  And while this sounds like a normal mom-thing to do, let me assure you that this was a huge deal, as Mom is probably one of the least artistic souls I know.  Glue, construction paper, paint, glitter – they are not in her wheelhouse. You need help with math or grammar? She’s got your back.

She was willing to step in and take on something she was not familiar with, didn’t enjoy, and honestly scared her a bit, just for me. In my eyes, that is love in a million ways.  

My Farmtastic Life - Mom the Constant. Read more about Mother's Day and its importance to our family at www.myfarmtasticlife.com
Christmas was always a special time. When I was born, Mom was in her early 20s, so in a lot of ways it was like we were getting to be kids together during those special times.

Whenever I had a cold, Mom was there.  Was in a school play, Mom was there. Was in the youth group orchestra, Mom was there. Was scared or afraid, Mom was there.  She cheered me on to do well at school, and begged me to go easy on myself when I cried over getting a B.

When it was clear that gymnastics or sports weren’t my thing, and trust me when I say they were so not my thing, she helped me find my creative side with piano and art lessons.  And when the piano teacher said that I had talent, but we would need to invest in a piano to develop my skills, Mom made it happen. I still have that same piano and thanks to untold hours of Mom driving me to lessons and listening to me bang on those keys at a rapid fire pace, I can still play.

My Farmtastic Life - Mom the Constant. Read more about Mother's Day and its importance to our family at www.myfarmtasticlife.com
Me and mom doing one of our favorite things – snuggling together, and with a pooch to boot.

Mom also taught me right from wrong, the value of telling the truth even when it’s hard, and the importance of being kind.  She showed me what compassion looked like when she spent months caring for her own dad after he had a heart attack – balancing the care of me with the care of him.  

And while Mom might not have the same rip roaring sense of humor as Dad, she loves a good laugh. I remember more than once climbing up into bed with her and tickling her sides while she would squeal with laughter.  To this day, whenever I can make Mom laugh, it feels like I’ve just received a gift.

My Farmtastic Life - Mom the Constant. Read more about Mother's Day and its importance to our family at www.myfarmtasticlife.com
Oh the college years. Mom forever was cheering me on – even through changing my major four times. She always said there was nothing I couldn’t do that I put my mind to. Well except gymnastics, maybe. That was so not my jam. Those pics will remain hidden.

Yes, it’s true, oftentimes Dad gets a lot of the glory.  Mom has called us the mutual admiration society for years, but the truth is that she is the foundation.  She’s solid, steady, full of love and always there. Even now as a forty-something grown up, when I need someone to tell me it’s going to be okay, that I can do it, or just need an ear to bend, I pick up the phone and call Mom.  

So on this Mother’s Day, I want to say thanks to my mom for being the constant – constant care, constant protector, constant love.  May we all be so lucky to have that constant in our life, and may we all take the time to say thank you.

My Farmtastic Life - Mom the Constant. Read more about Mother's Day and its importance to our family at www.myfarmtasticlife.com
Mom just recently got her first smart phone. This is her first selfie. Mom would tell you that being together is her favorite.

P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.