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 ( 

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.

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.


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, 
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.