Monday, October 16, 2017

An Influencer, Really?

So, if you follow me on various social media outlets, you know that I have had a fun fall. Between birthdays and ball games, harvest and homecoming, I have been fortunate to do a bit of traveling for work and fun.

This is crazy that I am now the frequent flyer in our family, considering three years ago, I NEVER LEFT HOME. Remember these moments from just a few years ago?



We spent a lot of time doing this.

And then this? Remember this simultaneous craziness?




That's our house on stilts.  Sheesh. 

So friends, when I am asked, "how do you do it all?" I honestly don't know how to NOT do it all. I don't remember a lot about this particular year, but what I do know now is that if I can weather being a mom of six, nurse twins while simulatneously answering construction questions, I can figure out how to get on a plane and talk to adults. It's all relative, really.

Fast forward to this past year, and I have had the incredible opportunity to work in a job that is rewarding and flexible all while still figuring out who I am online. I took a step back to figure this out, and as a writer, I highly recommend that head space.

So when I was contacted to be a part of the Rural Influencer Project, I was surprised. My presence here has been sporadic at best. My social media outlets mostly included kids and cattle, but I never have considered myself an influencer. However, hearing the premise of this opportunity made me realize that this was just the place I needed to be. 

Here's some background: Brooke Clay is a dynamo. She has a wide range of experience both corporate and grassroots. She dreamed up this retreat to not just connect and encourage folks like me with an online presence, but to push us to consider our influence. 

I have been to blogging conferences. I have been to ag conferences. 

This is neither and both.

In her first year, Brooke has created a space where presenters are learning alongside attendees. We were encouraged to consider ourselves as a business by discussing the legalities and accountancy of our art. I was pointed out in the first session by a PR expert to get my site off a blogspot and some new pictures because, "You're darling, and people love that." Ummmm...okay. Is that why you're here? Because I'm darling??? Either way, I appreciated the "get off your booty and update" suggestion!

I haven't given the time to oomph up my presence online, and that's not just because I have all these kids and a life. This was somewhat intentional and always something I kept close to my chest. I have always focused on the content and not the targeting or the outreach because I have always held firm that this is a grassroots effort over here, and I never want to be anything but real.

However, after this weekend, I am reconsidering the options I have here. You guys, I appreciate all of you and all your shares, but this Internet thing is really here to stay (ha, ha). My story, my influence, my life is something to share, and while I'm still navigating how exactly to market that, after this weekend spent in Denver with some incredible people, I have received the encouragement and tools to do so.
What a space to collaborate!

Here's what I took away the most:
  • I know who I am online. I have stayed true to that since this blog started seven years and three kids ago. However, I never trusted that I had an influential voice, until this weekend. I'm not saying that I am someone who will write for Time Magazine or something like that some day, but with the community we have created, the connections we have made, and the content you folks have continued to read and support, Brooke may be on to something here. Being invited to this table of influential people was truly remarkable.

  • We have a story to tell, Rural People. Our story is one that spans generations, raises up kids who know what to do when life gets hard thanks to life lessons and days spent working. We need to tell those stories in a way that leans on common ground and less on textbook explanation, hoping that people who don't understand will just "get it." We need to hook folks in with cinnamon rolls, and "sprinkle in the prolapses." Thank you, Leah Beyer (beyerbeware.net). 

Here's where I learned the magic that is DSLR photography! Ha!
  • And, did you know that a good camera takes better pictures than an iPhone? I now need to apologize to all of you for the crappy pictures I have taken, and to my children for the fuzzy cell phone pictures that have documented their lives. Merry Christmas to me, maybe, Farmer Joe?







I am so thankful to have been a part of this inaugural opportunity. I went in feeling like I was probably not legit enough to attend, and left knowing that my voice is valued, influential and one to be heard. It was an empowering, enlightening and encouraging weekend. 
Leah Beyer inspiring Erin Brown and me. This is what the conference encapsulated the most: empowering through collaborating.

I hope you have an opportunity to be stretched in something you love to do. I hope that you have the chance to use where you are to influence the greater good. I encourage you all to take where you are and figure out a way to use that space to make a mark, even if it's not where you thought you'd end up.

I have mentioned this before, but did you know that I was supposed to be living in a city? 

Could I have spent my entire adult life wishing that was true, miserable where I landed? Yes.

Have I? No.

Maybe that's because I was raised by parents who encouraged me to embrace the day ahead and enjoy the past without wistful "what ifs." My life has gone through paths that I thought would NEVER be laid before me, but through this space, I have been able to work through them, enjoy them, embrace them, and educate you a bit along the way.

Being an influencer is not just changing people's minds, but being true to who you are to show how you're doing what's right for YOU and hopefully encouraging someone along the way.

So, what does this mean? I'm still working on that. However, for starters, there's going to be an updated picture at least because we ARE darling! Ha! Stay tuned for that!

Thank you so much for weathering all the twists and turns, and for allowing this space and me to be influential. I appreciate all of it.
Always.






And, just for fun, here's the venue! A house made of shipping containers...seriously. Weirdest and most awesome place ever.


And, the mountains! This is all I saw! Ha!

Monday, October 9, 2017

It Ain't Easy Being 3, When You're #5 and #6

Our twins are three today.

Three.

I have been telling people it feels like either 30 minutes or 30 years that they have been with us. You can read my reflection on the way they rewrote my life's story here. It's a good one.

Holding Caroline for the first time. I don't remember it...lots of meds.

Anna holding Mary for the first time. 
Don't let them fool you, this was NOT a common occurrence in the first few weeks.




And here's where they are now:
The two moods of Mary: Wayyyy up or wayyyy down.


Our thoughtful curly girl, Caroline.




It is so stereotypcal "mom" to reflect on a birth of a child with wistful bliss. Those first baby moments and fuzzy first memories popping up throughout the day. I love those memories for all of my kids. However, with these twins, a lot of those early memories are more fuzzy than sweet.

This is real life, people. I have six kids.

I never want to be considered a martyr or pitied for our sheer volume of children, but to all of those who have given your sweet three year olds the perfect Peppa Pig birthday party, 
KU-FREAKING-DOs.
While we did not have a themed birthday party, we did celebrate our three year olds three times. Does that count?
We spent time with Joe's family, celebrating as cousins came in and out from various sporting events, then again with my parents last night after the 4H wiener roast, and once today, in between Daddy heading to work and Anna's 10 o'clock basketball game. When my girls get a party that is not bookended by another kid's event, they will be THRILLED...

and possibly 18.

It ain't easy being 3, when you're #5 and #6. 

We consider these experiences for our twins gifts. Life lessons, if you will...or we at least go to bed at night with a little less guilt when framed this way.

So, in honor of my sweet twins' birthday, here's my wishlist for them as they embark this tricky toddler year:

1) Mary and Caroline, you will be flexible. Between ballgames and dance lessons and piano lessons and church duties and calves and work trips and babysitters, you girls need to figure this out early. Naps are always key, but sometimes come in the car. You may or may not be included in a big kid event, but there's always a fun "Grandma Day" or babysitter to soften the blow of being left out. You girls are age appropriately patient, and can do about 3/4ths of any event: concert, game, lesson, but are very capable of continuing to go with the flow. Praise for that.

2) Twins, you will not be self-centered. You can't be. While 3 is an age that tends to deal in tantrums and demands, my sincere hope is that through your shared existence as twins, combined with being at the tail end of a tribe, you will understand early these things: 
Life is not fair.
Not everything is always about you.
BUT: you are loved and cherished nonetheless. 
This is a lesson we are standing firm upon as their parents.

3) You girls will be happy in who you are. God had a plan for us to be blessed by you two girls. We have had a lot of change, good and bad, since your arrival. Thankfully, this change has solidified our marriage and our values, but it hasn't just stopped there. It gave your dad the strength to choose us over a career, which is ultimately made everything all the better. It gave me the confidence to step out in my career. Let's be honest: if I can manage all you little people, juggling a room of adults and projects IS NOTHING! The trickle down effect of this change has made your pretty awesome big sisters and brother even more amazing. They have thrived having more responsibility, more tests to be patient, more chances to be kind and understanding. Finally, for you sweet baby girls, being a part of this family is something that will shape who you are always. You are two important pieces to our puzzle. Your personality quirks (did you know Mary is extremely OCD about just about everything? And Caroline? She's a ninja.) and charm make us grateful for you every day.

I am so happy to be celebrating my twins today. I am so happy to watch them change into little girls right before my eyes. I am so happy to search back in my memory of those first few days, babies hooked up to wires, and see how far our girls have come. Modern medicine within the NICU is something to marvel, my friends. Our girls are strong, smart and pretty darn cute, thanks to good genetics and a whole bunch of luck.

Happiest of birthdays, my sweet Mary and Caroline. We adore you and celebrate you, always.



Monday, August 21, 2017

What Could Eclipse a Total Solar Eclipse? A Rain!

Yes, friends.
Happy TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE DAY!!! Otherwise known as the day where parents everywhere have lectured many a child about damaging his/her retina, only to have to explain to that SIX year old what the heck a retina is. Also known as the day of packing lunches in disposable containers to send the kids to a lovely day sponsored by the library and school...which is probably not happening thanks to a good soaking rain, so I hope you kids enjoy your lukewarm Gatorades!

Anyway, you want to know what could totally eclipse the excitement of a total solar eclipse in farm country? A good half inch of RAIN (and maybe more...but my dog has eaten our rain gauge, so I'm just "ishing" it.)!
While I want to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event, you should see the happiness on my face realizing that God will not let us burn up during this eclipse, as we are dry as a danged bone around here. I know it's getting down to the harvest wire when we'll be complaining about moisture, but as for me and my dusty car, we are celebrating rain!

Which has gotten me to thinking about the brevity of drought and eclipses as well as the reactions we have had in our first world culture. Today, as I trolled social media while the twins watched Daniel Tiger (don't judge, I never claimed to not be #firstworld), I saw how many people in my feed had pulled their kids from school or were headed south for a better view.

Really? Pulling kids out of school? Our school is having a program, so I believe that my choice to work happily in silence while experts guide the discussion and monitor the aforementioned retinas of my kids seemed like a parenting win, but you do you.

Next on my feed were my farmer friends, praising God about the rain. Not in a "who cares about the eclipse," but more of a "if the world doesn't end because of this event, we will be able to feed and clothe our family and yours" sentiment.

Which led my thoughts down the rabbit hole of how we as people of means and constant news and information are reacting to things in nature. In true first world fashion, there are reports of price gouging in hotels along the prime viewing area and sketchy, unprotected glasses (KIDS-SERIOUSLY, YOUR RETINAS WILL FRY). There are people who are way into this, and while I think this is pretty amazing, shouldn't just the actual event itself the amazing part? Maybe I'm just jaded. Maybe I'm just going to walk out in my driveway, wet from a soaking rain and wear the glasses my mom bought me (she's still concerned about my retinas) and enjoy the moment in a very "in the moment" way.

Why do we live in a world where everything has to be so pomp and circumstance-y?

I think that's what got me to consider the reaction of the farmers to the rain and the eclipse. Our worlds are ones that are focused on "us." Put that on a pillow as one of my best, most deep thoughts, right? And, while my world today is more concerned about the information my kids are given, their eyes, and the fact that the crops and pastures look good, I'm a little less concerned about an eclipse themed meal tonight, or driving three hours south to get a better look.

I'm not being judgmental, so please hear that. You do you. Seriously.

Again, today is amazing. This event is incredible. I wish I could see Amelia's face when she gets a good (albeit safe) look at something she'll remember forever. Jack was bummed to miss it, because, like a smart first grade team, those teachers didn't want to monitor glasses wearing and are instead watching it on live feed. However, I want all of us who have listened to the coverage, made the plans and the meals and maybe even trekked to another zip code to also remember that while this is all amazing and incredible, the natural world is pretty danged amazing all the time. Maybe it's because of where I live and who I am, I have seen a lot of pretty amazing things that I haven't had to wear protective eye gear.

A well timed rain shower being one of them.

Friends, enjoy today, but don't wear your protective eye gear tomorrow. Look around. Find someone or something/someone that is bigger than you, bigger than any party or news coverage, and celebrate it/them. Eclipses have happened in my life's story several times, I have been too busy worrying about what's blocked out that I couldn't appreciate the outer rim.

So, I hopefully haven't offended all you cookie bakers and party makers. Enjoy today. Look through your glasses, and know that I'll be standing in the puddles in my driveway, thanking God for rain and uncompromised retinas.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

You're Not a Princess Anymore

There are still a few wedding pictures up in our house amidst all the school and baby and family pictures.

One in particular is on my desk in our home office. Our office is in the heart of the home, a marketplace of craft supplies, our family computer, the entrance to our basement, and my desk. By design, I like it (and the locking doors help when I have conference calls), especially when little voices come up with commentary behind my desk chair.

"Mommy!" Mary gasped one day with her hands on her face. "You're a PRINCESS! And Daddy is so FANCY!!"

Well. If that doesn't make the piles of laundry on the floor and the salty feel of my skin, still not showered from my morning's run melt away from my memory...

"But you're not a princess anymore."

SCREEEECHING halt to that warm fuzzy.

Joe does look fancy in our picture. I am princess-like in my white dress and veil. It's a candid picture of us sharing a kiss after our wedding ceremony, 14 years ago today.

Today, not so fancy.

The past 14 years, very few "princesslike" moments and fancy times have been shared.

But that's real life, folks. Pinterest and photos and curated images and perfectly posted Facebook memories are all lovely and nice. But they are not real. Our wedding day was a lovely one. I have shared that while it was one of the best days, best parties...it too was not perfect. We planned and planned and planned and God laughed and laughed and laughed (all while He unleashed the best hail storm He could during our ceremony.). The picture on my desk doesn't show that we were all pretty worried about my aunt, who was supposed to be our photographer. She was in the ICU, unsure of what was wrong, in critical condition.

But that's okay, too. I'm good with remembering the moments that are small and sweet on that day. Isn't that what we're supposed to do in marriage? Remember the sweet small times and hold on to them as we navigate the big?

This year has not been the easiest in our marriage. Lots and lots and lots of hard and scary and tricky and trying and exhausting moments and conversations have been had. Joe and I have pushed through, pushing away at times, but always figuring out how to come back together to work through the hard. It is human nature to look around and see everyone else doing it "right," and our culture has become one of comparison. However, it is faithful marriage and believing in and living out those vows we shared 14 years ago to quit comparing and start loving each other, even when we ourselves are unlovable.

This next year of marriage is going to be easier, right? There will be moments of princess and fanciness, right, Joe? Nah. There's still laundry and car pool and ballgames and lessons and cattle chores and dust and bills and appointments. However, in this new day, this new year in our marriage's story, I am encouraged more and more every day. I do not recommend a massive health scare and employment woes as a way to see your spouse in a new light...however, I am seeing you for the fancy dude you are. I am seeing your new role at work making you fulfilled. I am cheering on your new page in health. I hear your encouragement as I walk into my career. I lean on you for support in the hard days and laugh with you when the not-so-fancy part of parenthood rears its ugly and gross head.

Thanks for 14 years of non-princess, non-Pinterest days, my love. Life is hard and messy and crazy, but I wouldn't want to roll my eyes at anyone else but you.

However, next year? Can we take it easy on the crazy? Maybe a nice island vacation instead of a stent?




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Who Paves Your Path

Nope, this is not a reflection on the sad state that is our gravel road.

Ahem, I'm looking at you, Knox County.

No, today I'm staring at my Facebook Events invitations and not wanting to respond "yes" to one in particular.

It's our pastor's last day tomorrow, and there's a "celebration" for him.

I'm not in a super celebratory mood about this. I have been a card carrying Methodist all of my life. Pastors come and pastors go, but this move is one of the hardest.

There are few people who have truly challenged and touched my life in a spiritual manner.
Pastor Dave, my childhood minister, loved me and my family like, well, family.
Roger Ross led me back to a faith I had forgotten how to practice in a time when I needed it the most, grounding our early marriage in a truth and a love that can be bent but not broken.
Pastor Mark welcomed us to a community when we felt like we had made a HUGE mistake moving to, allowing us to lead and grow in ways that we thought were not possible in a tiny church.

And then came Brad.

We were nervous that first Sunday. We were certain the growth in our church was surely going to be stunted because of YET ANOTHER changing of the pastoral guard.

Little did I know, God had a huge plan for us when we were given Brad and Debbie as our new leaders.

I feel like an Israelite! Will I ever learn that God's plan is not necessarily the easiest and/or the most simple?

The energy that was included in that first service in which Brad preached was palpable. He spoke without NOTES. He used a booming voice. We were going to be rocked, and it wasn't because of a new set of musical selections.

This was the summer before Karma, Joe's mom, died. She was very, very sick, and while we know all of our time on this earth is limited, hers was short. Pastor Brad challenged Joe and me to co-lead Disciple Bible Study starting that fall. I remember saying yes because I knew I was equipped to teach, but where we were with Karma's illness and a growing uneasiness in our farming situation was causing my mind great angst. What I didn't realize, and I'm sure Brad couldn't predict either was that teaching this class was timed perfectly during an imperfect time in our life.

When Karma died, Pastor Brad and Debbie drove all the way to the visitation. He showed up.
When our twins were born early and we were tired and worn out and the babies were teeny tiny. he showed up at the NICU.
When Grandma Mary died, and before she did, he showed up.

This is the thing about Brad. He shows up. Even when it's hard to get there. Even when it's the worst timing for him or for you or for whatever, he shows up.

As I sit here typing this and wiping away tears, I am realizing Brad's timing at Elmwood United Methodist seemed strange at first. We loved Pastor Mark, so why would we need another minister?Looking back on these three years, I am realizing that they have been our family's hardest: Karma's death, our farming journey changed, our twins. Here's what's been constant: our faith. And I tell you honestly, it has been tested. It has been bent. We have wondered why in the world our world was being shaken to the magnitude where I couldn't get my bearings. But each Sunday and the days in between, Brad's teaching and guiding and example have allowed Joe and me to feel loved and welcomed and celebrated and challenged and understood when we didn't feel any of those.

I am not happy about this transition. I will admit that there are times when I wonder if I can do this pastoral transition AGAIN. However, as written in the the first line first book we studied as small group leaders, The Purpose Driven Life (thanks, Roger!), "This is not about me." Nothing is permanent. Super glue loses its strength. Sadness can morph into happiness. Leaders can follow. New opportunities are soon old. New shoes get scuffed.

I will get over the sting of "celebrating" Pastor Brad and Debbie's move, but the mark they have made on our family will not be easily removed.

Thank you, Pastor Brad and Debbie for stretching our faith and leading us to be rooted in the love that only can be felt by believing in something bigger than yourself.

We know that all things work together for the good of whose who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV 

^^^That version is for you, Debbie!!


Friday, June 16, 2017

From Outside of the Ring, Looking In

I'm at home this week. Joe and Anna and some of our Illinois Simmental friends are in Ohio for a Regional Classic. This is not as big as a Junior Nationals, but it's still states away and a larger pool of cattle from across the country.

Since Anna has been of 4H age, she has shown cattle. She does love it. Josie has now taken to showing as well. The girls and Joe have had a good time working cattle, learning life's lessons and making new friends. We have had our share of big shows, little shows, winning shows, losing shows, learning shows, raining, cold, hot, and sweltering shows.

However, no matter where in the country my family is, how hot or cold I am, I have come to the realization over and over and over at why I am NOT the show parent, and probably never will be.

I can't take it.

I know I didn't grow up doing this. 
I know that I just provide the blingy jeans and the snacks.
With our increasing number of children participating in showing, I feel like I should get a handle on the process, the reasoning, and god-help-us the politics and business of this activity.

However, the anxiety and angst and frustration I feel at the few shows I can logistically and emotionally handle to go to is just too much. 

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent and teachable human being, but friends, showing animals is not like sports. There are nail biting moments in baseball, but nothing compares to the utter angst that is being ushered out of the ring with the rest of the group still in. There are free throws that come up short. However, when you're at that line, you're not having to explain the process of how you learned to shoot that free throw. There's that last game that you'll ever play. And then there's selling your animal at the end of the season. Forever.
But it's sort of like a sport, right?
Not so fast, cattle showing! From what I gather, in showmanship, you have to explain a lot. You are on the spot, answering questions about the breed, your animal, your role, etc., etc. Answer those questions to a complete stranger, in the middle of an arena, in an eloquent manner...

...when you're in the sixth grade. 

My girls are more confident because of this. They are "look you in the eye and shake your hand" type of kids. That's huge.

This comes, however, at the cost of my husband's blood pressure and my nervous stomach. 

Maybe it's because I only can come to a few shows a year, and I just want to see the fruits of our girls' labors be recognized. Maybe I should start going to livestock judging practice to understand the process. Maybe I should just stick to sports. 

Either way, my stress level cannot take the ups and downs. 

You win again, agriculture! 
Livestock friends, congratulations!

Once again, the manner in which you can handle this has successfully shown (no pun intended) that I am NOT made of stronger stuff than you guys. I am neither advocating for an "everyone wins!" campaign, nor am I saying that we are the wronged winners, I'm just saying I can't handle it, and I don't know if I ever will.

Anybody willing to explain this to me in a manner that doesn't include the phrases "builds character" and "it's always been this way" will win a fresh baked batch of my chocolate chip cookies. 

With a side of Xanax for me to handle it.





Saturday, June 10, 2017

Time Is Not Going to Slow Down, So I Better Try to Slow Down Myself

Do you ever have that frantic feeling during the day? Like you have been working and feeding and playing and laundering and carting and refereeing and then you stop dead in your tracks, feeling like you have forgotten to do something?

Maybe it's just me.

Well, our society lives at a breakneck pace, and while our family tries (so desperately) to find margin, my personality doesn't allow me to slow down. For example, it's 9:30 on the evening of my daughter's 8th birthday, and I'm just sitting down.

I'm not being a martyr. I'm just admitting I'm terrible at slowing down, resting, finding "white space."

So, when Amelia, our as of today 8 year old, asked to spend the afternoon with me, just me, I had to really try hard to be present. After sending Anna off with Joe for the Illinois Simmental Preview Show, shuffling Josie to a carpool for a birthday party and ditching the littles at my mom's, we were off.

I am trying to find space to enjoy my children one on one, but with the sheer volume of people and tasks and activities, it gets tricky. Add in my crazy "get-er-done" personality, and Joe and I rarely have time to go on a date, let alone have kid dates.

But today, as Amelia and I were enjoying our massage chairs at her first ever pedicure, I looked over at my third girl, my sweet girl, my spunky girl, and realized I had better quit worrying about the deck stain that needs to be put on because time is not slowing down. I had better just try to slow my pace to enjoy her sweet face.

This kid's timing is perfect. When she was born, we were feeling weary and haggard from a really hard, wet spring. Her birth was quick and her disposition as a newborn, toddler, preschooler and now elementary school kid has remained the same: steadfast, happy, easy. She takes her sweet time to do about everything, which is perfect because her birthday buddy, my late Grandma Mary, did the same. Amelia finds herself lost in the shuffle at times, but that doesn't mean that she's lost herself, She's just off singing her own song, puttering with her Legos, or helping a little sister play dollies.

She wanted a fairy garden this year for her birthday so that she could learn to grow something and enjoy it.

Who is this kid? I can't even keep petunias alive!

She was put on this earth for amazing things, and with her heart and spirit, I know she will do it. But for my life, for my selfish purpose, Amelia was put here to teach me to slow the heck down and enjoy my life that is unfolding in front of me. To take it in. To write about it. To sing along with a song on the radio. To enjoy a pedicure by giggling and savoring the Starbucks and THEN picking up the deck stain at Home Depot.

But only once the shopping, the sipping and the giggling had ended.

Amelia, you are so lovely. We adore you. We are proud of you, and we are so thankful for you. Thank you for teaching me to slow down.

Happy birthday, my dolly.

Friday, May 19, 2017

When Your Birthday Is in May, You Sometimes Get a List...

...but you always get a blog post!

Our little buddy, our only boy, our Jackson Richard is six today! Yippee!! Considering he laid his head down on the table earlier in the week and wept as Joe and I discussed the busy week ahead, crying, "Will we EVER celebrate my birthday?" and here we are...presents opened, birthday doughnuts eaten, and a cookie cake baking...I think we're doing okay!

He did spend the morning soaking wet at the state track meet for his older sister, but that's okay...life is not all about you, even on your birthday, right?

Life lessons.

So, without further ado, here's the top six things about being six about our precious little guy.

1) When you're six, you hum and sing about your new 500 piece Lego set as it is spread all across the kitchen table. That's what's awesome about being six. Our boy is quite the constructor of all things Lego. He's also a whistle while you work, sing while you structure, and narrate all of your building so that we all know the storyline that you're constructing in your head.
In other words, our boy is creative.

2) When you're six, you pretty much think everything is one extreme or the other. You're either super psyched to do things or are anti whatever you're being asked to participate in.
In other words, our boy is opinionated.

3) When you're six, you are in constant motion. Jack came home with a paper about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Not a farmer. Not a banker. Not a teacher. A ninja. Seems about right with all the kicking, running, jumping, spinning that happens with this boy.
In other words, our boy is active.

4) When you're six, you're still trying to figure out your place in our family, even in the world. The stereotype of a boy is to be sporty, to be rough, to be loud. You're all those things, and none of them at the same time. There are days that you ride your bike too far, push too hard and yell too loud, but then there's those "other" days. Those are the days that I know you're still a little boy. Those days when the world in kindergarten is too much; the sisters are too bossy; sometimes the sun is too hot (insert an eye roll from Mom).
In other words, our boy is multifaceted.

5) When you're six, you pretty much want "home lunch" or a Nutella waffle at every meal. Every. Meal.
In other words, our boy is picky (we're working on that).

6) When you're six, you're still looked at by your mom and dad as their little boy. That little baby that we brought home one warm May day to three adoring sisters. That little baby that completed our family (but not totally complete!), "saved" the Webel bloodline (no pressure!), and made us burst with pride. You're the little boy who wore a cape nearly every day of your third year, a Cardinals cap most of the time during year four, and now a backpack as you head out to the bus like a big kid.
In other words, our boy is still our little boy.

It's been a fun six years with you, Jack. You're fun and creative and energetic and exciting. You make our family laugh, your dad and I proud. You're a neat kid, a nice boy, and we couldn't be any more excited for this next year of your life.

We will celebrate tonight with waffles and Legos: important things to this very important six year old.

Happy birthday, Jack Webel. We love you more every year. I promise to add more every year to your list!



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

Hey there.

I'm doing the most therapeutically ironic thing that seems to be right today: writing about social media while cross posting it on social media.

Sounds about right for a first post in over a month, don't you think?

While I have not been here writing about the day to day, advocating for truth in agriculture and sharing my thoughts and opinions on basically everything under the sun, I have been writing. Sure, it's been a lot more technical, agenda-ish, presentation and health and well-being related, but I have been filling my communication void.

And friends, I just want to update you on something: I love my new job. The end.

However, there are days that I wish I could spend hours explaining myself. Explaining what I do, why I do it, why my work is valuable, and how I do it with all these kids around.

Because that's what social media in the past year has done to me: wanted to make me explain myself. Well, maybe not just in the past year, because that was the sole purpose of the start of this blog, right?

But still.

As my relationship with social media has matured, my reaction to it in general has not. I have allowed outside influences, your wins, your vacations and jobs and #makingmemories cloud the truly awesome things that have unfolded in my life.

Why is that?
Why have I allowed outside influences make me feel less about what I do, who I do it for, and basically everything else I do (or don't do) as a mother, friend, wife, eater, exerciser, professional, whatever? While I'm a typically confident person, why do I feel "less than" while seeing people, truly from afar?

While my confidence is a result of both nature and nurture, being raised to know who I am and find value from multiple sources lately, social media has tainted that belief instilled in my fabric. I think that our society and its reaction to relationships has led us in a direction that is moving to viewing from afar and commenting in your face. Through this shift, I have especially become less immune to feeling inferior. It is something that I have always battled, and I don't need to go into detail because when I do, it's DANGED embarrassing at the cushy "problems" I have perceived as hard in my relatively content life. So why am I STILL, at 39 (I had a birthday last week, and it was lovely, albeit not documented via Instagram...I know-How would you ALL know I had a birthday then???), sit on a Saturday morning, kids playing kindly in the background, one daughter off to a track meet, one son feeling better from strep throat, in my nice (not magazine perfect) house, sipping coffee and yet still feeling inferior?

You know why?

Quick answer: my own crazy.

Outside influence: social media.

As I sat having a nice breakfast, alone because my kids had finished and cleaned up their own mess ( shall I hashtag #momwin or #awesomekids ?), I started to feel inferior. I was scrolling through Facebook. As I scrolled, I noticed runners completing training runs, crafters doing awesome things, houses filled with kids from a birthday party, vacation goers squinting and smiling in the sun. I felt that icky, "Why aren't you there? Why aren't you doing something like that, Emily?" feeling. I hate to admit this, as it is absolutely ridiculous.

Someone's win is not my failure.

Social media for a person like me is a hard balance. I hide a lot. I hide behind filters on Instagram, funny posts, and then I hide people who I can't enjoy their successes in a way that is anything but a result of my own crazy.

Am I the only one around here who feels this way?

This is hard to write, but in the wake of this past election and all the "I'm no longer friends with you because I can't agree with you" posts I saw, I found myself rolling my eyes. However, I'm just as bad. I find myself comparing, contrasting, considering and contemplating WAYYYYYY too much about things that, if I were otherwise absent from social media, I would not even know or know to care about. Yet last night, first thing Josie wanted to do after her play audition was take a selfie.

What have I shown as value to my people?

Evidently it is outside approval, and that made me feel just plain silly.

#momfail

So. Where do I go from here?

I'm not making a sweeping generalization that all social media is bad. I truly believe in the power of this medium for writers like me, women like me, parents to document their kids' lives and successes, and YET, and YET...I have to be careful what my little eyes see.

Remember that song from Sunday School?
"Be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down with love, oh be careful little eyes what you see."
Irony: I found out-on Facebook-that Myra, our lovely Sunday School music director, died. That's using social media for good, right?

I never want to be one of those Debbie Downer post sharers. While "keeping it real" is imporant, I do love a good filter, and will continue to do so (did I mention I just turned 39? #filterworthy). I want to rejoice in your blessings. I want to love and like and laugh at your funny quips. I just want to also stop comparing. Stop considering other's win as my inadequacy.

So, let's charge forward, shall we? Anybody?
Anybody?

Let me go first:

I'm going to be careful with what my little eyes see.

Human nature is shifting. We are seeking out "likes" and filtering our life and "curating" the CRAP out of everything. So I'm going to remember, when I see something amazing on a less regular scroll (I'm going to do better at that, too.), that my life is still comparably awesome, and my eyes are to just see your awesome as simply that. Not a comparison, not a jab at my inadequacies, because, let's be real: we've all got 'em, just some are better at covering them up.

So. What does this mean? Will I post a picture of me in my Cattlemen's Association sweatshirt and crazy hair this morning?

Probably not. I said "be careful little eyes" and your eyes may burn from the sight of me in the morning. My posts will continue to reflect my life in honesty, but my REACTION to others' posts will be the big truth in my change.

I am training. (yes, I'm training for a run in June and will most  likely share an "I finished!" post.) I'm training my reactions. Your successes are not my failures. My life is still happening. We are still #winning, just maybe at different races that what you're running...so to speak.

Thanks for keeping me accountable. I'm not sure how you'll do that, but if you see me around and I high-five you for no reason, it's because I'm being careful for my little eyes to see you in a new light.

One that is unfiltered.

#winning

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Dozen Years

***Blogger's note: I seem to be writing a lot of birthday posts as of late. Maybe it's the sheer quantity of birthdays we have around here, or maybe it's because it's the one day in my family member's years that I truly focus on them. Either way, it's March 2, Anna's 12th birthday, and here's her letter from her mama.

March 2, 2017

Dear Anna,

You woke up this morning, super early like you always do. I heard you downstairs in the kitchen. I skipped my run because it's cold today, and I was glad to be here to greet you first thing. However, as I heard you rustling around in the kitchen, fixing your own breakfast, getting your morning in order, I just listened. I took a few of those early morning moments, quiet and dark, to remember what it was like when you were little.

Because now, you're 12.

When you were first born, you were it, my friend. You were the only. The only grandchild on my side. The only kid in this house. We were overwhelmed, but not by lack of sleep or just the general shock of having a baby. We were overwhelmed with this joy of having you. Your dad and I wanted to have a family, and once you were born, I had this sense that you made us complete.

Little did I know five other friends would complete the package, but being a mom, having a family, made me feel like my life was truly just beginning.

This morning as I stared at the ceiling, I thought of the way we dressed you up like a doll at first, worrying if you were too cold or too hot or too hungry or too wet. You always let us know.
I remembered when you would navigate our one little step down to our family room in our first house, just so that you could look out the patio doors and see what was going on. Always looking back to see if we were watching, but doing it by yourself.
You were and still are curious, precocious, and so independent. As a toddler, your favorite phrase was "all by MYYYYYYYself."

Okay, then.

While pouring milk at age three and climbing up a tall playground structure as a preschooler made this independence hard for me to swallow, now that you're 12, your independence have served you well. In school, in activities, in church: your independence and confidence shine through. Your ability to just get things done have made your role as the oldest in this tribe invaluable. You are a really, really good big sister because of it, and your helpfulness with your siblings is one that should be celebrated.

I want you to know this is something that we are so proud of. This is something not everyone has, and you are so amazing for it.

Even though you're 12, even though sixth grade is almost halfway through, and even though you have the ultimate in independence: A PHONE, we're still here. We still love you like that little one we brought home in a little pink hat. We still are here to encourage you like we did when you were taking your first steps at 10 months (why did we do THAT? ha!). We still love you and want you safe and secure like the little one we would tuck in at night, always making sure you had your two blankies. We will let you do your own thing, chart your own adventure, but we're here as a safety net. Remember when you didn't want me to walk you into preschool art when you were four, and then ended up crying at circle time because you missed me? I love that story.
This year, like that story, you marched into junior high without a single ounce of drama but you didn't cry at your locker when you first got there. You know that you've got this, but I also want you to know that Dad and I are always here in case you do feel like that little girl at circle time...because you will, here and there.

Life is going to give you great things, and it will be good and planned well and exciting. It will also be hard and sad and tricky and unfair. Remember that you're ready to weather whatever, but that Dad and I love you enough to know when you step in and help.

My sweet girl: these dozen years you have been on earth are ones that have been joy filled and fun and hard and sad and happy and exciting. Each of the 12 March 2nds we have celebrated have been days that I  step back and revel in the fact that I am your mom. We are so lucky to be your parents, lucky to have you as our kid.

In the next dozen years, you'll go through a lot, but for now, let's celebrate the fun. Let's eat Mexican and lemon cake and text funny GIFs to each other today. It's been a fast 12 years, so let's slow down today and celebrate you.

Anna Grace, your dad and I love you more than you will ever know. Thanks for being YOU.

Happy birthday, darling.

Love,
Mom

Monday, February 20, 2017

Double 21

Hey friends.

You know what will make a person feel somewhat older, wiser, and more jaded?

For me, it was taking Josie to her voice lesson on a college campus where the biggest problems in the music building seemed to be where one can get the least expensive Converse and how long they had to wolf down their burrito before class.

Insert eye rolls.

You know another way to make someone feel a little old?

Realize your age is 21 times TWO.

Yikes.

I'm not speaking of MY age, nonononononononono....It's Farmer Joe's birthday today! Whoohooo! Nothing says happy birthday like a new heated mattress pad and apple pie, amIright?

Well.

When you have had the mentally exhausting, draining, and strange year that Joe has weathered since last celebrating a birthday, you would be ecstatic with some normalcy.

In all seriousness, Joe has spent the weekend doing what he loves: working with the girls and their cattle.

Honestly, this guy could be in a barn with cows, calves, and all that goes with it for hours...days...months. It's truly his happy place. It's where he feels centered. It's a place where problems can be solved; long talks can be had; benefits of hard work and patience can be reaped.

This is a perfect spot for Joe right now. You see, it's been a rough almost year. We have transitioned again from the operation in which Joe was on staff. Nothing huge, but being a person who is 42 and not 21, Joe knew that when the situation was not sitting well with his core values, his time, and his talents, he knew to hold his head high and get out.

Again, don't get me wrong. Lots and lots of moments of panic were had (mostly by me). Lots of what ifs and no ways and what the hecks were spoken (again, mainly by me), but in the very long run, this is a good transition. There's a big, bright light at the end of the tunnel of age 41, and as Joe turns over to 42 today, we are emerging from the tunnel.

I'm thankful to be Joe's wife. Thankful for his 42 years. Thankful that we are growing kids and cattle out here. Thankful for the rough patches that make us appreciate all the good and normal that is involved in our life.

Happy birthday, Farmer Joe. Here's to doubling 21! Love you.