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

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.