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.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Hermit and the Butterfly

This year is a big one for Cowboy and me.   We are celebrating 20 years of marriage.   A big milestone for sure, but we also tip our hats to both sets of our parents who are celebrating 44 and 50 years. Marriage runs deep around these parts.

All those years ago, our wedding invitations were emblazoned with the phrase, “Today, I marry my best friend.”  

We had dated for several years before tying the knot, but to be honest, I developed a bonafide, heart stopping crush on him the first time I saw his denim blue eyes and slightly crooked smile.  Too shy to talk to him, I’d find reasons to pass him in the hall at school just so I could see him.  

But even from the beginning when my breath would catch just trying to talk to him, friendship with a healthy dash of humor has always been our heartbeat.  To this day, there is still no other human on this planet that I’d rather spend my time with than that car-loving, mr.-fix-it, critter-wrangling man.

Which brings me to what has often been one of our greatest differences.  He could easily be a hermit.  He’s a loner.  He’s perfectly happy working away on a project, minding his business.  While he can be sweeter than southern iced tea, the man simply doesn’t like to socialize much.  Those who know him best, know that he has, what we all affectionately call, a people limit.  In general, the fewer the better.

Me, on the other hand, well I love people, sharing stories, and connecting.  I mean seriously, my first grade teacher didn’t call me the mouth-of-the-South for nothing.  So I’m often itching to go galavanting somewhere, to see or do or taste something new, to meet up with friends, or to just take a break from the farm.

Not Cowboy. Nope. Not one little bit.  What he does have is a deep down in his bones kind of contentment and satisfaction.  He knows who he is and what he wants.  And over time, I will be darned if that man is not rubbing off on me.  I swear, at least once a week I break out in laughter as I look at him and say, “You are successfully turning me into you.”

And as you can probably guess, he just smiles.   

My Farmtastic Lie - Cowboy and Ranger
One of my all-time favorite pics of Cowboy. That man continues to capture my heart each day, and boy can he make me laugh.

This winter, I have found that I can go weeks and weeks, barely leaving our beloved farm.  I am perfectly content to putter around, drink up the sunshine, and just be. Cowboy is so proud.  

Cowboy and his contentment have taught me so much.    The realization that you can define for yourself exactly who you want to be.  That you can love so deeply and be so connected to a place, a person, a passion that the noise from the outside really doesn’t matter.  It’s not about loading up your days with busy.

It’s been in this season of freezing temperatures and shorter days that I have truly settled in.  Had a chance to reflect on this major milestone we are approaching, of who we were and who we are.  And I am grateful.  

Once a social butterfly, I now consider myself more like a faithful old hound dog. Learning that it is not about the quantity of activities but about the quality of them. Knowing that when it comes to the heart of the matter, it’s about friendship and kindness, and well, just simply being who you were always meant to be.  May we all be so lucky to have someone rub off on us, someone who can show us the way.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Resolution Revolution

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past 365 days – the glorious moments, the critter-filled challenges and antics, the experiences lived and the moments missed.  It’s also that time of year when we look hopefully and optimistically into the next 365 days with dreams that we will make it count, challenge ourselves to be and do better, and, if you are like me, that tiny little nagging voice in your head that says, “Will you really live up to your own expectations?”

Oh yes, those little internal voices. Gremlins.  Mine have had a lifetime of criticizing, chastising, and  just downright tormenting me.  That is until 2017 when the tide began to turn.  It was a year of change, the time when I finally learned the meaning of enjoying the journey, and the beginning of being a-okay with my serious lack of perfection.

As one dear friend once said to me, “You suffer from the dreaded triple-P syndrome.  You are a people pleasing perfectionist.  You see, I recognize this, because I too am in recovery.”  I laughed.  I had an aha moment. Someone had named it for me.  That was years ago.  And so I kept that little jewel tucked away, hanging onto it and truly not knowing what to do with it.

I’d occasionally trot it out with friends to chat about my ailment.  I’d make minor strides to try to keep myself in check, but truly on the inside me and triple-P were besties.  We knew each other far too well.  And because we knew each other so well, we had no intention of parting ways anytime soon.

Then 2017 came along and things began to shift for me.  For some reason, I decided to heck with resolutions, because who am I kidding, I never kept them anyway.  Instead, I made a vision board filled with words and images and thoughts that inspired me, that laid out the life I wanted to live. It was fun – I cut, pasted, and scrapped until my heart was content. I framed it and hung it on my wall.  It’s still there.  It still speaks to me.

Something started with that vision board.  I started thinking about the person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to try, the possibilities.  But not the possibilities that were like my typical New Year’s eve rush of resolution panic, but true possibilities. I started listening, listening to my insides.  My not so perfect but oh so me insides.

Then came springtime, and things lined up just right; I had my soul listening ears on, and I hired a life coach.  I did it on a whim.  I saw her website, and thought “Why not?”  And before I could talk myself out of why I didn’t need to spend the money or convince myself that I’d be the same me at the end of it, just with less cash in my pocket, I signed up for an exploratory session, and IT. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.

I met with my coach every other week for 6 months.  I discovered who I wanted to be, who I didn’t want to be, and how to harness the little voices in my head and turn them from tormentors into cheerleaders. Now let’s be serious, it was not all roses, rainbows, and unicorns.  There were tough moments.  Moments of doubt and frustration.  But my world slowly went from black and white, to shades of grey, to full on technicolor magic.

When I look back on 2017 I see where I went head to head with some of my most ingrained thoughts on what it means to be spiritual, what it means to live my best life, what it means to follow my creativity, what it means to plan but still hope and dare and most of all find deep down, soul loving joy.

For maybe the first time in my life, I started to believe in me.  In the possibilities all around.  Oh and trust me, I have oodles more work to do.  I mean when you spend a lifetime letting your gremlins drive the car, sometimes you still have to take a stick and whack them into the backseat.

My Farmtastic Life - Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!
Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!

So on this New Year’s Eve, as you sit and ponder if 2018 will be different, I encourage you   to listen to the messages that are swirling around you, the good people in your life who are encouraging you, and take a chance on something that just might make all of the difference for you. Sure, your gremlin voices might party like it’s 1999 tonight, but tomorrow they will totally be passed out in the back seat.

P.S.  When looking for a life coach, you need to find someone who clicks with you, as you are building a relationship.  Trust is critical.  You’ll also want someone who has their certification and is a professional.  Because I think she’s absolutely the best, I can’t recommend Kelsey Joy highly enough, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in 2018.

P.P.S. I’ve learned tons throughout my journey 2017, and I’ll work to create some short vignettes to share those lessons with y’all.  I can’t wait to continue to get my learn on in 2018.