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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What Am I Willing to Trade?

With all the news about data breaches and the latest revelations about the social media platform to rule them all – Facebook –  I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching. And the question I keep coming back to is: What am I willing to trade?

When it comes to trading actual dollars, hard cash money for things, I tend to stop, think, and ask questions like:

  • Is this of value to me?
  • Will this make my life or someone else’s life better?
  • Is what I am getting worth the dollars that I am trading?
  • Who is this business that I am supporting with my dollars?

But with the ease of interacting online, I must admit I often forget about the transacting part of the equation.  Make no mistake, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, are not free. But rather than primarily transacting in your dollars, they are transacting in your data.  

You are making a trade – your information for the ability to connect, share, and tell your story in the digital world.  Every like, every follow, every photo, every connection, every comment – it’s all data. Their revenue models all depend on your willingness to trade your data, so that they can, in turn, sell companies advertising spots, which can then be targeted to you based on your interactions.  This is no big secret. It’s simply how it works.

The question then comes down to this: Is the trade you are making worth it to you, personally? Let’s also be clear, the social media platforms are heavily invested in making your experience relevant to you because, yes, the more time you spend interacting with their platform, the more ads that can reach you.

If you’re like me, you’ve whiled away more than one afternoon getting sucked into the vortex of social media, mindlessly scrolling away, clicking random emojis to show your approval or disapproval, reading articles that catch your eye, and generally just staring at your phone as if it holds the answers to the mysteries of the universe.  What’s worse, and I hate to admit this, but when I’ve posted, I’ve often become downright obsessed to see if someone has liked or commented on what I had to say or share.

So now not only am I trading my data, but I am trading my time.

Sadly, I’ve been to dinner with Cowboy or friends and found myself unable to leave my phone alone, or waiting at an appointment or riding in the car and neurotically scrolling and clicking.  It’s like a drug – a little adrenaline rush to see if someone has interacted online. Each time I’m rewarded with a brief little fix. But it doesn’t last, and ultimately I want more.

I justify my social media habit by saying things like, “But it’s a great way to keep up with friends, see pics of their cats and dogs.”  Or even better, “But I have to do it to gain followers for my blog.”

So now I’ve traded my data, my time, and real life experiences with actual humans in front of my face for online ones.  

And I just don’t know that the trade is truly worth it in the way I have been making it.  I’ve let the social media platforms make the rules. I’ve let myself be sucked in and lost.  But there is also something important to remember here – this is not about going backward. I’m not looking for some let’s-make-the-world-great-again-solution. Social media is here to stay, so the question is how do we make it work for us instead of us working for it?

And if we are being honest, social media does good things too. It’s great to see friends’ photos of their growing families. It’s inspiring to cheer people on as they strive for their fundraising goals.  It’s positively fun to watch small businesses and crafters and makers of all kinds flourish.

For me, I’ve had to dig deep and do some soul searching for what is and isn’t important to me.  Being present with Cowboy, friends, and family is tops. I’ve also gone through my social media profiles and removed a tremendous amount of data, like following a bazillion pages and made sure my privacy settings help me to connect when and how I want to.  I’ve removed apps from my phone so that when I interact on social media, it’s an active choice to sit down at my computer.

Are the social media giants going to stop trading in data?  No, and unless we are all willing to trade actual cold hard cash for their services, we shouldn’t expect it.  After all, despite their lofty vision statements about connection, they are businesses. and businesses have to stay afloat – which means they are about making money.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you are willing to trade.

Can you still find me on social media? Yes, but more often than not you’ll find me on the farm living my real life.

P.S. – Yes, I’m well aware of the irony that this will be posted on social media.  I hope this is one of those times when it is for the greater good.

Farm Life · Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, the Soil, and Springtime

This week, I noticed the tiniest little leaves of my mint plant poking their heads through the soil, the pastures brightening up with dotted patches of green, and the hint of warm air on southern breezes tickling my skin.  I absolutely love this time of year when new growth comes complete with vibrant colors, textures, and smells.  (Okay, it might also come with Flonase, Zirtec, and Claritin, but it’s oh so worth it.)

And it’s not just us humans who are soaking up the season.  Around the farm, the horses and donkeys are a little more playful, as they romp around in the hunt for all things green.  The cows are mooing and playing around the water troughs. The cats are seriously bird watching.  And the dogs, well they are napping, as always, but they love it best when they can nap on the porch with the sun warming their bellies.

It’s also the season for one of my favorite sounds of all time – the creaking of the screen door springs as the he pups push it open with their noses, and the fast recoil and slapping sound as it bangs against the door frame.  There is nothing better than fresh breezes flowing through that door, airing out the house from winter and inviting us to find a moment to soak it in, and maybe even play a little.  Do a jig around the kitchen floor.  Sip the perfect cup of tea.  Hum a tune.  

My Farmtastic Life - Our beloved old fashioned, creaky springs, doorframe slapping wooden screen door. Read about our door in the The Sun, the Soil, and Springtime at www.myfarmtasticlife.com.
Our beloved, old fashioned, creaky springs, doorframe slapping wooden screen door. Another one of Cowboy’s magnificent creations!

While I’ve always loved springtime, I don’t remember appreciating it quite so much when we lived in the big city suburbs.  Oh sure, it was time to head to the nearest home improvement big box store to load up on bright and showy annuals to tuck into the landscaping.  And yes, we maybe lingered outside a bit here and there.  But we weren’t connected to the seasons like we are on the farm.

With spring comes the much needed rains that turn the grasses green and allow the farmers to grow the hay we’ll buy later in the summer to feed our equine crew.  Wildflowers will pop up all over the farm in a kaleidoscope of colors and the bees will buzz from plant to plant to work their magic.  

I’ll try my hand, yet again, at a few raised garden beds and learn new things, like that mint I planted last year, oh my stars, it’s now everywhere.  (Experienced gardeners feel free to chuckle about this one.  When I asked one gardening friend of mine if it would come back, he just looked at me with amusement and said, “Oh my god, yes.  You won’t be able to get rid of it.”)

And while Cowboy and I still operate in the real world with day jobs, trips to giant grocery stores, the occasional fast food meal, this farm life has connected us to the soil and to the land in unexpected ways.  It has made us stop and think about what you put in the ground, what you take out of it, and how you care for it.  That the soil is in all of us, it connects us.  That this life with all of its bumps and bruises, seasons of lack and seasons of abundance, is truly a gift.

So as you go about soaking up the sunshine and the breezes and reveling in the deep down soulful joy as the earth literally springs to life, take a moment to breathe it all in. To find your connections – to your neighbors, to your garden, to critters.  And maybe just maybe, find a patch of grass to stand in, feet bare, toes wiggling.