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

Happy Christmas, Merry New Year

Trees are going up.  Lights are twinkling.  Menus are being planned.  Parties are in full swing. Giving is on our minds. Across this great big world, no matter what you celebrate, it’s the holiday season –  from big cities to suburbs to small towns to rural communities.

In our family, it’s Christmas. Growing up, our tree glowed with colored lights and candy canes.  Christmas pageants and plays afforded some slightly off-key singing. And Santa’s milk and cookies were always snickerdoodles. (Interestingly enough,  those were also Dad’s favorite.) It’s a time filled with memories, from the emotional to the hilarious, like the year our new puppies pulled the tree over by leaping for the aforementioned candy canes.

Now well into adulthood (ahem … dare I say entering middle age), we continue to count on those traditions and build new ones.  When Cowboy and I were newly married, Christmas was one of those times when when our families filled our home with the things we needed most like silverware, mixers, critter essentials, jeans, and boots.  

We are grateful for all of those gifts that helped to make our house a home.  We still treasure them.  I mean how many parents don’t blink an eye when you ask for four mineral block holders for your horses for Christmas?  Or horse steps so you can get your vertically challenged self closer to the saddle? (This last one is totally my issue by the way, not Cowboy’s.)

As we build on new traditions, we’ve begun to focus on experiences, like taking family to see a Christmas musical or hunting out the best Christmas lights, which also requires that the perfect mug of hot chocolate be brought along for the ride.

We’ve also become very aware of those that could use a little extra compassion, a helping hand. We’ve got amazing friends and family, and over time we have been shifting our gift giving to those organizations that need help to make this world we all share a better place.  It’s fun to see which causes friends and family care most about and donate in their honor.  Even our just-barely-a-teenager niece has gotten in on the act, finding an organization she thinks honors those she cares about.  Those moments are priceless.

Which brings me back to this world we all call home.  Let’s be honest, it’s been a tough year, especially if you spend any amount of time watching the news.  From natural disasters to man-made ones, to politics that have divided more than united, 2017 has made us all a little weary.  Our collective spirit could use a dose of holiday joy.

So when someone wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, or just plain old Happy Holidays, let’s remember to take it with the grace and love it was intended.  We could all stand to give each other a break, and realize that when someone is wishing you a merry or happy anything, they are simply sharing their best wishes for you.  They are not entering into a religious or philosophical debate or argument.   They are purely wishing you peace, joy, memories, and giving – all of the beauty that comes with this holiday season.

When you look around the world, we could all use a little more love, humor, and kindness.  Share your memories, share your well wishes.  And above all, share the love. Happy Christmas and Merry New Year from our farm to yours.

My Farmtastic Life - Christmas cat and dog
This is how we roll with Christmas at the farm – nothing a little stare down won’t fix. Seriously though, love all around.

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, The Water, and Hope

August has shown us the best of humanity, and through tears of joy and sorrow, it has offered us hope.  We so desperately need hope.  We need to believe in the goodness of the human spirit, in what unites us all – our raw, deep down humanity, our will to survive and thrive.

Earlier this month, we saw people lining up, camping, and gazing skyward in unity at the beauty and wonder of the eclipse.  Caught up in the awe of nature, of science, of God’s creation. We now see people launching boats in streets swollen with water to rescue strangers, animal rescuers descending to make room for displaced critters, and people around the world donating in ways big and small to help those in South Texas with hurricane Harvey.  It is these images that give us hope.

Admittedly, this Texas farmgirl has been glued to the news in the mornings and evenings, keeping a watchful eye on my Twitter feed throughout the day, and checking on friends in Houston as they wait and watch.  Doing my best to go through the workday, but in the back of my mind thinking all the while about what is important in this life.  Watching as the dogs and cats and horses and donkeys laze around the farm unaware of the world in peril, getting some sort of peace observing their peace and knowing Cowboy and I would do anything to safeguard our little zoo.

My faith in God is such an important part of my personal journey, and continues to grow and expand as I watch these beautiful moments when we come together with the best that we are, offering all that we have in order to help a fellow soul.

My Farmtastic Life - The sun, the water, and hope. The beauty of humanity when we all come together.
There is nothing more beautiful than connecting to your fellow humans – reach out, hold someone’s hand, say a prayer, offer a hug.

When I first sat down to write this post, I wanted to talk about how we’ve all gotten into an us vs. them mentality, and how it is pulling us apart.  How at some point, all of us are part of a them group to someone.

Even today as my fellow Texans are fighting to survive, I watched as ultra conservative religious leaders took the opportunity to launch the Nashville Statement – targeted to isolate and condemn our LGBTQ friends and those of us who love them.  And again, my heart broke as all I could think was, “Really?  Seriously? This is what we are spending our time on?  Why oh why are we not lifting up our neighbors?  Jesus was and is the ultimate in love, and we are so missing the point.”

And while I could argue until I am out of breath as to why this latest attempt to divide us is wrong and heartbreaking and ill timed on so many levels, it’s become clear to me that we simply cannot give hate or those who look to divide us any more airtime. It is enough. Silence may be our greatest gift to each other.  If no one is listening to the dividers, then they no longer become dividers, and we become the uniters.

The beauty of our world is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and hopefully thoughtfully.  The curse is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and if not careful not so thoughtfully.

So as we watch the tragedies that surround us, let us share the beautiful stories.  Let us link our hands with our neighbors in comfort and solidarity.  Let us remember that there is far more good than evil.  We just have to make our voices thoughtfully and beautifully heard.

P.S. If like me you grew up in a church that had a limited view of love and are looking for a breath of fresh air, might I suggest checking out Love Wins by Rob Bell.  You might just find a little respite for your soul.

P.P.S. There are lots of ways to help those who have suffered and are suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Whether you want to help families, babies, the elderly, or critters find a spot that speaks to your heart and offer your hand. See list from Texas Monthly. #TexasStrong

P.P.P.S. For all of those who have checked on us at the farm during this storm, thank you for thinking of us.  The farm was never in danger, as we are several hours from the coast.  However, knowing you care means a lot.  God bless!

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

 

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Easter Donkey – Take 2

Two years ago I wrote about our Easter Donkeys.  This year as Easter approaches, these sweet donkeys have even more meaning to me.  I’ve reworked the original story a bit an added in some thoughts on how this symbol of grace, compassion, and kindness touches me today.  Happy reading.

Easter is one of our favorite times on the farm.  The wildflowers are blooming, spring grasses are coming in, and all of the critters are feeling frisky.  In addition, it’s a time to reflect on our faith and God’s grace.

How do donkeys fit into that?

We’ve had our donkeys for nearly seven years. The first year we had them, a friend said to us, “Oh how exciting, you have Jesus donkeys!”  We were shocked and wondered what in the world were Jesus donkeys.  

A little Googling solves most mysteries these days, and it’s become one of our favorite stories to share at Easter.  The legend of the Easter donkey, as interpreted by this farmgirl, goes something like this …

A sweet donkey carried Jesus through town on Palm Sunday.  The donkey was in awe of Jesus, most especially his kindness and compassion.  One week later, that same little donkey was in the crowd as Jesus was crucified.  He couldn’t believe the cruelty and torture that had befallen his new friend.  

The donkey was broken hearted.  But he loved Jesus and to honor his friend he stayed until the end.  As Jesus took his last breath, tears fell from the donkey’s eyes.  The skies went dark, and the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey’s back.  

Forevermore the donkey would carry the cross as a symbol of his devotion to Jesus and as a message of God’s grace, compassion, and kindness.

Sure enough, our sweet donkeys have a dark brown stripe that goes down their spines and a matching horizontal stripe across their shoulders, forming a beautiful cross.

This cross reminds me of the crosses that we often wear as jewelry or on clothing as a symbol of our own faith.  I’m also reminded that in this time of immense turmoil and side taking that God doesn’t choose sides.  He loves us all.

Sometimes we’ve used the cross to send a message.  To shout our faith from the rooftops.  As the animals so often do around the farm, they’ve given me a different perspective.  The cross is truly a symbol of sacrifice, grace, and the ultimate compassion.

My Farmtastic Life - Sweetie Pie the donkey and her Easter Cross
Sweetie Pie shows off her Easter cross – a reminder of grace, compassion, and kindness.

Now when I wear a cross, I wear it not as a message to all that I am a Christian, but as a personal reminder that I owe my fellow man compassion and kindness, for the ultimate grace was shown to me.

As you celebrate this Easter and spring season, no matter your faith, we wish you comfort and peace.  As you think about the symbols that are important to you, may you see them not just for the story that they tell to others, but also for what they say to you.  
This Easter Sunday on the farm, we’ll be spending a little extra time with our donkeys. Remembering why our faith is important to us, how grateful we are for the grace we’ve received, and most importantly focusing on the kindness we owe our fellow man.

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

Grocery Story Grace

I’m a girl who absolutely loves Amazon.  I’ve ordered everything from muck rakes to rugs to soup mix.  Heck, we even know our UPS man by name.  

Don’t get me wrong, we also believe in shopping local.  Our town is filled with fabulous mom-and-pop shops and stores where you’ll find adorable gifts, great eats, and make friends with the shopkeepers.

But back to Amazon.  We’ve recently considered using Amazon Pantry for all the everyday things like trash bags and cleaning supplies and dry goods.   But then this weekend happened.  

Usually, Cowboy, my better half, and I grocery shop together, so we’re wrapped up in our own conversation, and I generally fail to observe all that is going on around me.  I mean, the man is distracting.

But this Saturday I was out and about running errands, so I stopped into the local grocery to do some shopping on my own.  Armed with my grocery list conveniently available on a phone app, I headed into the store to do business. I was on a mission.

I was immediately struck by how busy the store was.  I got behind two ladies at the cart corral who were clearly happy to see each other and chatting up a storm.  I squeaked by them to get my cart, slightly aggravated, and headed down a random aisle to try to get around them.

I have to be honest, I was annoyed.  I mean really, I didn’t have time for this. Or so I thought.

As I went about my business, I passed an elderly lady on her motorized scooter.  She was decked out in a beautiful green suit and sparkly clip-on earrings.  As I shimmied past her, I apologized for being in her way.

She smiled.  She was gracious. She spoke to me. She seemed happy to be at the grocery store, which was clearly not an easy task for her.

And then it hit me. Slow down.  There is something special about shopping at your local grocery store.  People know each other.  They greet each other, share stories, and tickle the chins and pinch the cheeks of each other’s grandkids.

Yes, Amazon is convenient, but when it comes to the simplest of simple, food and basic household goods, there is no better place than your friendly grocer.

It’s rare to pop into the grocery store and not see someone you know.  The produce lady knows my dad, and she is always asking about him and greets us with a big smile.  The store workers know where things are on the shelves and are happy to help.  Even my groceries are cheerfully toted out to the car for me.

So to those ladies who I felt supremely annoyed with this Saturday, please accept my sincere apology.  You taught me a valuable lesson.  Life is not always about convenience.  It’s about community.  And I’m grateful to be part of this one.

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

Featured image © Katrina Brown – stock.adobe.com.  Standard license.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

No Need for Kennels

First things first, I don’t write about politics.  I was recently told I could/should, and let the record show, that’s not my cup of tea.  I don’t talk about which side I am on, because I’m not much for taking sides.  End of story.  But I do love to write about the critters, and I’m always amazed at what we can learn from our critter friends.  And in this week of political crazy, it’s no different.  I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready for my Facebook feed to go back to puppies, horses, and friends’ great family pics.  I’m also ready for the news to find something else to talk about.  Period.

Unless we are darn near besties, I’m not one to talk about politics.  As my momma taught me, discussing religion and/or politics in most situations is just not the most polite thing to do.  And while I truly love the Internet – it lets me share stories, keep up with friends, and have a livelihood – I do think we have forgotten how to be polite to each other when we are on it.  (Yes, I’m not the first one to make this revelation.  But I do think it’s worth noting again, given our short attention span these days.)

All of my life, I’ve had friends from all walks of life, who hold all manner of views – some far left, some far right, some sitting in the middle, and some clear off the reservation in their own little world.  But the fact is that I love them all – as my fellow human beings.  (It’s also a reason I don’t often fit into groups, but have friends across groups.  As I’ve been told in the past, I’m not a joiner.  But I digress … .)

Folks have a right to their views, and I respect that.  As long as you don’t force your views on me, I’m even willing to have a nice discussion.  I’ve always loved to learn what makes people tick.  (And yes, some of us are down right cuckoo clocks, but still, I find it interesting nonetheless.)

Which brings me back to the critters.  You see, the critters at the farm all have to learn to live together.  We’ve got cats and dogs, and we don’t separate them or kennel them for everyday living.  We’ve got mares and geldings (that’s girls and boys for my city friends), and we don’t tell them who’s boss or how to share or which one is better at running or opening gates or listening.  We let them figure it out.  And, miracle of miracles, they do so just fine.   Now don’t get me wrong, every once in a while someone hisses or kicks or bites, but it’s temporary.  They made their point, and they move on.

So I come full circle to social media, news, and all of our various ways to scream our point of view from the mountaintops.  Let’s all try to be a little more polite, a little gentler, and remember that all of our friends don’t always see things the way we do.  And honestly, isn’t that a blessing? I mean how boring would my life be if all my friends were just like me. Lord knows, one of me is enough.

So while it’s probably not realistic to ask everyone to keep their commentary to themselves, I would ask us all to find a little bit of politeness and  ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary? Is it kind? Does this help my friends truly see my point of view, and am I open to hearing theirs?  Does this alienate people I care about?”

We can all be true to ourselves and also be kind. I’ve never once in my life found that browbeating someone who does not think like I do to be a successful method to share my point of view.  In fact, it does just the opposite. (And trust me, I’ve been on the wrong end of some serious browbeating, and it did nothing more than make me dig my heals in, and I still carry the scars.)

So as we all go into this new era, for better or worse, no matter your side, let’s keep it civil. Now, I know every once in while there will be some kicking, hissing, and biting, but let’s keep it to a minimum.  Because, at the end of the day, we all have to live and work together, and no one wants to be put in a kennel.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Maybelle and Willie
One of my favorite pics of an unlikely pair of friends – Maybelle as a crazy playful pup and Willie as a wise old crotchety kitty, rest her sweet soul. Maybelle made Willie a little more spry, and Willie taught Maybelle a few more manners. Sharing our life lessons – isn’t that what we want from each other?

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

Lessons From the Farm – Rainbows of Love

Life around the farm is pretty simple, and to be honest Cowboy and I just don’t watch the news much because it’s a whole lot of drama, and if you know one thing about Cowboy, it’s that drama is definitely not his thing.   But lately some of the crazy talk is just a bit too hard to ignore.  Frankly, I think it’s time we take a lesson from some of our animal friends.

A couple of things to know about me and Cowboy.  First, we are not political.  We are the live and let let live sort.  I’ve always liked the quote that your rights end where my nose begins, although a Google search to see who first said this leads to over a million results and a whole other debate.  Secondly, we are Christians.   That’s right, church-going, creationist-believing, gospel-music-listening Christians. (Okay, the gospel music thing is mostly me.)  Do you think you have a picture of us in your heads?  Have you labeled us yet? Let me throw you a curve ball.  One of my very best friends is gay.

Why does this matter?  It’s something that has been on my heart a lot lately, and to be honest, as Christians, I think we can do better.  For whatever reason, a fraction of Christians have decided that is okay to call out gay people, to condemn them, and now in Arizona refuse them service.  Now I don’t want to get into a whole debate throwing Bible verses around about what is right and what is wrong, but there is one thing that as a Christian I undoubtedly know is right.  Jesus called us to love one another, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  As Cowboy recently said, “It’s our job as Christians to love and help people.  We aren’t asked to be the judge or the jury.  God will take care of that.”  Have I mentioned that I just adore Cowboy?

Enter my animal friends.  You see, we’ve got all sorts of critters on the farm.  And they are all a little different and they all have their quirks.  But most importantly we love them all and they love us.  We’ve got a dog who is a little too large (and yes it’s her thyroid).  We’ve had a dog who was deaf and losing her eyesite.  We’ve got horses who are deemed mutts by some, as they have no pedigree.  We’ve got a donkey who still doesn’t trust us no matter how hard we try.  We’ve got one horse who blows at everything, another who can’t leave anything alone, and another one that requires special food and minimal dust for her allergies.  But they all work it out.  They accept each other, despite their differences they enjoy their life at Wild Horse Valley.

As far as I’m concerned, we all have our differences.  My point is simply this, if we all want to get along there is just no sense in focusing on a handful of things to get so wound up about.  Someday I believe we will all stand before God, and when He asks me, “Were you kind?  Did you love your neighbor?”  I want to be able to answer a resounding, “Yes.”  Not,  “Well, everyone but people who were not like me.”

You see, I grew up in a judgey-pants kind of church.  There was no dancing, no going to movies, no secular music.  And we had rules.  Boy did we ever have rules.  But what we didn’t have was a sense of service for helping others.  It was missing. (Don’t get me wrong, there was some good stuff too, but this is what is stamped on my childhood brain.)

So why do you ask am I still in church?  Because I know that those rules, that crazy environment was made up of mankind, and in general we humans have an amazing ability to screw things up.  My faith, my belief is in Jesus and God.  My focus is on being the best person I can be. That means loving my neighbor, and my dear sweet friend.  He and his partner are welcome in our home anytime.  Cowboy and I appreciate their friendship.

There really is nothing to be scared of.  My friend has never asked me or Cowboy to be gay, he’s never thought we were odd for not being gay, and we’ve never caught any cooties from him.  The truth is, he’s been nothing but patient and kind as I’ve asked him lots of questions to try to help me understand things that he experiences.  My friendship is the least I can offer in return.

Farm Photo - Rainbow over the farm
A glorious rainbow over the farm. A reminder of God’s love for us. Can’t we find it in our hearts to love others?

So yes, I am a Christian.  One of my best friends is gay.  These two things really can co-exist.   The rainbow is the symbol that God gave Noah that he would never again destroy the world by water.  Let us not destroy the world with hate.

P.S. – I know this was a departure from my lighter posts, but it was just something I wanted to share.  I promise the humor will return with the next post.  I’ve got stories about donkey basketball!  (Yes, you heard me right.  I’ve even got pictures!)