Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Ripple Effect

Every day we are faced with making about 35,000 decisions. (Yeah, I googled it.) Most of them are pretty basic, what I'm going to eat, if I'm going to walk to the bathroom, should I get a drink, etc. The impact most of those decisions have won't change much about my life or anyone else's. Out of that 35K decisions, however, some of them could change the course of my life and many other lives.

When the weather is good we like to go down to the river. The kids like to splash and play. I like to toss rocks into the water. Partly because snakes scare the ever loving beejeebes out of me, and partly because I like to watch the water ripple out from the point of impact. I like to see what they touch. And when all of us throw a rock in, you can see the ripples kind of overlap. That's what our decisions are. They are rocks, tossed into the river and the ripple effect goes far beyond the starting point. Even those decisions that we don't think make any difference can change things. 

I don't wake up every morning and wonder how I'm going to change other people's lives. Heck, I don't even wonder how I might change my life. Most days I'm just thankful that His grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every day. Survival. That's what I think about. Point A to point B and how that's gonna happen. I'm coming to realize that I need to wake up everyday and be more intentional. 

I've been taught many lessons about this being intentional. Those lessons have led me to set my priorities. I thank God for my day and my blessings. I take care of my husband and my kids. I clean the house, cook the food, clean the clothes. I do the shopping, run the errands, taxi the tiny humans. I try to fit in a few minutes of me time, even if it involves 5 minutes behind a locked bathroom door with hands or a flashlight beam under the barrier. I'm overwhelmed, but I have priorities. I feel like I have an okay handle on that stuff. But none of it feels very life changing.

I've come to the age where I've attended a few funerals. Those always warrant some desire to live life a little different. I've been to funerals for people who had so much more life to live. My heart still breaks when I think about those lives cut too short. My faith allows me to believe in a greater plan, that there is a reason for the pain in the world. I believe that there is something to be gained from pain, even though my tiny brain can't comprehend it. I've been to enough funerals that I have thought about how I would want my own to go. 

A few years ago I lost a cousin. Even though we never got to spend a lot of time together and she was older than I was, I always looked up to her. She was strong. At 36 she had a husband, kids, a career and leukemia. She came from a less than ideal home. She took herself to church. She knew Jesus, not from a family example, but from her own desire. She faced decisions that I've never faced. I'm proud to tell you that her choices impacted lives. I couldn't begin to estimate the number of lives she touched. I know this because at her funeral, there wasn't an empty seat. She wanted her preacher to PREACH. And he did. He told everyone in that sanctuary that they had a free gift of salvation and all they had to do was take it. He told us that without Christ we faced a bleak eternity. He made sure that every single heartbeat knew that there was one way to Heaven and the path was laid out. And bless her, she would have been proud. As that pastor preached to me, he held up my sweet cousin's Bible. It was worn. It was marked. It was highlighted with notes taken on most every page and post-it notes sticking out. It had tear stains and a rip or two. It was a well used, well loved Bible that spoke to me like few other things ever have in my life. And it told me that your circumstances don't define you. You can choose more. And every time you choose more, you touch lives. Those lives will make decisions that your decisions influence. The ripples that you push outward will touch ripples of someone else. 

I will never forget that message, that Bible. I will think of it when I am weighing big decisions. At my funeral, somebody better PREACH, y'all. Somebody better have the guts to stand up and say what needs to be said. I want my life to ripple out and touch yours. 

My family has our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. It's been that way for a few generations on my paternal grandmother's side. I come from a long line of preachers set in their ways. My dad, of course, his uncle (his momma's brother), and her daddy. You might blame my genetics on my long-windedness and my desire to just call it like I see it. Honesty is still a thing in some places. My family doesn't exchange gifts as adults. Mostly because we are all to difficult to buy for. It makes life much more fun to just get for the kiddos and watch their joy. My niece was super excited about a box she got. It didn't really matter that there was stuff in it. The littlest Milkmaid got some walkie-talkies, 10-4 good buddy, this is the rubber ducky. And my big girl got money.'s all about the paper at her age. Even though we don't buy for each other, this year my daddy gave me an unintentional gift. 

He handed me my great-grandpa's Bible. Jake Brady was well known in Oklahoma. I've heard all kinds of stories about him and revivals. I am fond of hearing about him say something like, "If I die and happen to be reincarnated, I don't want to come back as the first row pew in a Baptist church or the third verse in a hymn. They don't get used." I've heard about how he wouldn't let his girls swim or wear pants. And how he would just die (again) if he were living in today's world. He preached and helped build churches. He also helped build me. 

This means something to me. Just like my cousin's Bible spoke to me on the day we buried her, this one tells its own story. There are pages marked and passages circled. The edges are frayed and the pages are fragile. This Bible may not have bright highlighter in it or written notes, but it has my great grandpas name in it. It has pages that I'm sure are stained by his tears. It has rips that happened while he preached so hard he spit on the front row. Y'all, it's a good thing no God fearin' Baptist sits up there or there'd be no need for a Sunday morning shower. 

This Bible that was a Christmas not-gift makes my heart so full. The ripples that Jake Brady made in his life have helped make me who I am today. And while everything I do, like wearing jeans or letting my girls wear a swimsuit, wouldn't impress him, I would hope that he would be proud of me. I hope that he would look at the legacy he left and be happy with its direction and the legacy I'm going to leave. I am far from perfect, just a sinner saved by grace. I haven't given up on the ripples sent out by a baby in a manger. My faith remains that I am loved perfectly in my imperfection. That's the rock I want to throw, the ripples I want to make. 

It is almost that time where we get a fresh start on the year. I think we can all agree that 2016 wasn't the most epic of times. We probably threw a few rocks in that we wish didn't ripple. Thankfully, 2017 is just around the corner. We have an opportunity to not only make ripples, but make waves. Let those waves be like post-it notes in an overused Bible. Be intentional when you make a decision. Set your priorities so that when your rock hits the smooth surface, you can hope for ripples that go on forever and touch lives you don't even know exist. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I don't have good balance. I can fall up the stairs. I can trip on air. I do not climb out of a holler very well. You know what a holler is? For those of you who don't speak southern, it's a valley. Like between mountains or big hills. In my experience, a holler is a bit steep. My lack of balance keeps my ability to walk quietly non existent. And since I walk too loud, I don't get invited hunting very often. I have no idea how The Milkman is able to traverse a mountainside covered in crunchy leaves and crispy sticks and not make a sound. He's like a vampire. It's not normal. Anyway, because of my lack of balance, I sway around and snap crispy sticks and crunch fallen leaves, all of this while sober. Sometimes I slip on the leaves. It's really a talent just to stay upright sometimes.

Christmas makes me feel a little bit like that. It's all good in theory. October rolls around and the music starts jingling, the air gets crisp (OK, so that comes about December 5 down south), Hobby Lobby starts setting up their Christmas trees, and it hits me...I haven't purchased a single gift. I need to brave the attic for the tree and decor. I am reminded that I'm a pack rat and I should really get rid of some of this junk. And then, like stepping on a rake, it hits me square in the face, that I am not ready for end of year tax time. It's in those moments that the world spins and I'm flat on my back wishing for some of that balance that I so lack.

I had the great pleasure of attending this years AgChat conference. Wow. Just being in a room with that many people who share my passion was pretty inspiring. I looked around to see faces that I knew. Many of them I knew lots of details about, but had never met them. Thanks internet...for making people look like a bunch of creepy stalkers. Its awkward to say, "Hi, (insert name). I love reading about your farm and family. How are (insert kids/husbands/pets name)? Then it dawns on you that this person might be a little creeped out that you know all about their life, bring it to their attention, and they've never met you. Oh well, its the world we live in. When I found a person that I was familiar with, I asked them generally the same question. It was "how do you find the balance?"

I just can't figure it out. I don't have a groove. I am not Stella. These folks have jobs, or they work on their farm, they have kids, church, volunteer. They have things just like I do but they still manage to agvocate, write, interview people, have amazing podcasts. I envy that and I am on a mission to find that balance.

I've struggled since I started this blog to find the time, the subjects, the words. Lord help, so many words. I would make it a New Year's resolution, but then I would be walking straight into failure. There are a long list of things I want to do, that I want to improve. I suppose I'll have to prioritize. I need to set boundaries. I need to make a list of ways to deal with my lists of to-dos. Does anyone relate to having lists of lists of lists?

Well I'm a hot mess. I'm going to say it's part of my charm. That's a thing, right? Charm?

At this conference, I found encouragement. The information given was useful. The speakers were fantastic. Most of all, I rediscovered my passion for writing and telling my story. I need to expand my tribe without falling into hostile territory. Balance is not my strong point, but I want to work at it. I want to rekindle my delight in writing and hopefully entertain one or two of you. But first....Christmas.

Guess what, October has passed and I am so over Christmas. I am trying really hard to contain my inner Scrooge and be jolly. It is hard to be jolly when you feel off balance. I think I'll start referring this to Christmas Vertigo.

Christmas Vertigo: The time in which preparing for Christmas makes you feel dizzy, off balance, and slightly cranky.

I think it'll catch on.

I am plotting ways to make next year less vertigo-ish and more jolly. I am trying to find the boundaries that help me balance. I need to walk softly and avoid the crunchy leaves and the snappy sticks. I've been in a holler lately, but I'm on my way out. Less sure footed than I'd like to be, but still trudging in the right direction. Even if I find life balance, I probably won't get invited hunting. It's all fun and games till someone breaks their neck. And that someone is bound to be me.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Live it, Learn it, Leave it

Family business. 

Some of you see those words and smile. A few will feel proud. Those words might make you feel exhausted. And I see you over there, those of you cringing so hard, your face might stick that way. You really shouldn't make that face. 

Lots of farms are family businesses. 97% of American farms are family farms. Don't be fooled by the LLC or Co at the end of the farm name. Considering the legal, butt hurt, litigatory culture we live in, it is common practice for family farms to incorporate for their own protection. Sometimes we do it for tax purposes or because of the way a family trust is set up. It isn't because we are "big ag" (I hate those words together) or because we aren't farming as a family anymore. Agriculture is a business. It is the livelihoods of 2% of the population and contrary to popular belief, farmers are smart. Farmers have smart phones, GPS, farmers do research, use the Internet, have programs that help decide what to plant, when to plant, what to use that is safe and effective to grow food. Farmers wear many hats and aren't afraid to call a vet or get help from whoever has the knowledge needed. Some farmers have *gasp* degrees. Useful ones even. Who knew?

Family businesses are built. They are grown and cultivated. Someone puts their mind to building a future for their family and they pour their heart and soul, blood sweat and tears into making it successful. A person loves an idea so much that they marry it, and then they have a little family business baby that turns into a legacy. Something that they can pass on to their kids and everyone can be proud of. Whether you are a first generation or tenth generation farmer, a legacy has been left to you and it's your responsibility to continue or expand that legacy. If you are just starting out, the legacy waiting for you is from everyone that came before you. Agriculture is an industry of hard work, passion, sadness, love, growth, emotion, blisters, bruises, heat stroke, and frost bite. If you are first generation, you have been left a legacy, even if it wasn't by your flesh and blood.

The Milkman is the third generation on our farm. He is the second generation to dairy on this land. His dad built our farm, worked his tail off, and passed his legacy onto the Milkman. His brothers took other paths, but each of them have a work ethic as strong as their father. Farming teaches more than plants and animals. It is more than dirt and sweat.

We want our girls to learn everything that agriculture has to teach. We want the Milkmaids to learn a strong work ethic, determination, passion, emotion, and love for the land and animals that God allows us to care for. We want them to smell fresh cut hay regularly. Something about that smell is good for the soul. We want them to see the circle of life, feel the joy of a calf, the excitement of watching it grow, and feel the pain and sadness of the loss. Because that makes life a little more understandable and tolerable. We want our Milkmaids to see the seed go into the ground that has been worked, pray for rain, watch a crop grow and watch a crop fail. We want them to see the silage chopper, pack the pit, and watch the feed dwindle as we keep the mommas fed. They need to know where their food comes from and what goes in to the production, how it gets to the shelf. These are important things that our Milkmaids learn and experience. We are expanding a legacy that we are so grateful to have been passed.

Family businesses are meant to be passed on. Family farms are meant for family to continue. But I don't want my Milkmaids to take the legacy as is and continue. I want them to experience it, but I don't want them to continue it. 

Why, you ask, would I feel that way?

Because they are girls?
Because I don't believe in them?
Because they are too fancy to farm?
*Ha. No.

I would love to see our farm continue on. To see my future grandchildren learn the things my girls have the opportunity to learn. But my heart does not want to see my children continue in this business. Let me tell you what makes me feel this way. 

Did you know that according to the National Institutes of Health, farming has one of the highest rates of suicide?
Do you know why?
Farmers control very, very little of what they do. Two of the biggest factors in farming is pricing and weather. We can't control either.
We get to pay retail for every step of what we do. In crops it is equipment, seed, fertilizer, any pesticide that is required for a yield, more equipment to harvest, and the labor to get it all done. Then we get paid wholesale for whatever we produce. In animals, we pay a premium for quality animals, retail for whatever feed we can't grow (and what we did grow, we paid retail to get) vet care, vaccinations, labor costs, equipment to take care of the animals, the buildings, and in the end we are paid whatever someone else says is the going price. It may or may not be a break-even price, but that doesn't matter. That's the short version. 
When you control nothing, put in everything you have (money and passion), and you still can't pay the bills because there isn't a safety net, you feel like a failure.

Obviously we can't control weather either. A dry year can put a farmer so far behind financially that he just can't afford to continue. An overly wet year can do the same.  Too cold, too hot, an out of season freeze, can end a crop. Just this past winter we saw a surprise blizzard kill an unfathomable number of cows. Those farmers suffered. And an uninformed public spit on some of those farmers for not being prepared.

Which brings me to my next point. An uninformed public. An uneducated public about where their food comes from. It's depressing. Then there is the circle of "educated" ones that have "done their research" based on fear mongering charlatans. You have your animal rights activist that hide their true agenda behind sad puppy eyes, faked bad farmer videos, and they exploit that bad apple that every industry has. We have a platform to share our stories, why we do what we do, and our passion for doing it. Social media, of course. But on that same platform, we have people with extreme agendas and a dollar to make spreading lies and misinformation to scare a public that puts a little too much faith in what they see on the Internet. So you see farmers attacked, in a very public manner, by people that haven't taken the time to ask questions or learn or science. I take those attacks very personally even when they aren't directed at me.

Why else wouldn't I want my little Milkmaids to continue our farm?

I have watched many farmers. Closer than any, I see our Milkman. I see the 17 hour days. I see the 7 days a week. I see the love, the sadness, the stress, the joy, the biggest emotional roller coaster known to man. The family of every farmer has a free pass to that roller coaster. It doesn't ever stop. Sometimes it stays up high, but you know that drop is coming. You know your stomach will be in your throat in a matter of time. The bottom drops out and it is a slow, stressful pull back up to the top. And just like any good piece of equipment, that farm-coaster WILL break down. But being a farmer with many hats, you'll just hop off, lay under it, and fix it up with a screw driver, duct tape, and bailing twine. You'll hope it holds together so you and your family can hop back on and go again.

Speaking of breaking down, lets talk about the toll farming takes on your body. The Milkman is 36. He is one knee surgery in and I'm fairly certain another one or two before long. He is physical, all the time. In and out of a tractor, up and down the steps in the barn, the shoulder pain and arthritis to come from putting milkers on cows repetitively. He is 36, but has worked himself hard enough to have joints like a 55 year old. And every day, he gets up and goes at it again. Of course, he refuses to go to the doctor when he is hurting or sick because who has time for that? And when he does he has to wait. Waiting is not his strong point. He just presses on because that's what you do when you farm. According to the pedometer on his phone he averages about 23,000 steps a day. I'm doing good to get my 10K most days.

When I think about the Milkmaids putting their bodies through that kind of stress it is a punch to my gut. I don't want them to work their tails off, get attacked by people that don't understand, break their bodies down, and possibly not even make a dime.

But wait, there's more.

The unnecessary regulations and costs that come with it. Farmers are the original stewards of the land. We were green before green was cool. We recycle...oh lawd the things we keep because we might be able to use it later, the ingenuity farmers use to make something useful from something broken. Haven't you ever watched an episode of pickers? Most of those places are old farms where the classic farmer/hoarder kept everything to reuse.
We can't grow crops if our soil isn't just right, we don't have water if we don't care for our rivers and streams, We can't survive if we don't care for the resources that are God given. We all need some guidelines, we need scientific research to help us do better, but we don't need to pay $74523 (yeah, I made that up) in permit fees.

Let's talk about the city coming to the country. I don't mean just to visit, either. Our farm used to be in the country. Rural. Boondocks. Back 40. It used to be secluded except for the other farms touching each side. Today within a mile of my house there are probably 6 new houses that wouldn't cost less than 2 kidneys, a left leg, right arm, and your first born. The price of land would never cash flow. And when people from the city decide they want a slower paced life they end up wanting the city to follow them. I have a Wal-Mart 4 miles from me, gas stations, pizza joints, and a soon to come DQ. Not that I'm complaining, I like convenience as much as the next guy. But, when the city comes to the country, the city doesn't like the smell. It doesn't like to be careful and drive slowly behind the tractor, combine, chopper, or any other farm equipment. The city is scared of fertilizer and pesticides. The city forgets that it is in the country. And the bigger our little area gets, the closer the city comes to our farm. Guess what...the farm smells funny.

All of these things are real life for the Milkman and me. They are real for the Milkmaids, but only through the eyes of children. I am hesitant to go against the grain and say that I don't want my kids to pick up the legacy and run with it, but it is my true feelings. I want them to learn and experience. I want them to teach others, I desperately want them to go into the agriculture field and carry our legacy in another way. I just don't want them to bet their lives on the same things we bet ours on. I don't want them in one of the highest suicide rate jobs. I don't want them to pay retail to produce a wholesale product under circumstances they can't control. I don't want them to ride the same roller coaster we ride. I want more for them.

Heck, we all want more for our kids. And if in the end our Milkmaids can find a way around the city encroaching on us, the extreme toll mentally and physically, the cheap shots from those who don't understand, and they want to farm, love this land, feed the world, and carry on our legacy, I will support them. I will understand. Because farming, dairying, doing God's work, is born into you. You bleed it. Your soul longs for it, and it isn't something you will find true happiness without. The Milkman and I love what we do. We love our life. And we know how hard it is now and how much harder it will become. We will be thrilled if our girls expand the legacy we have been blessed with on the land we care for. But if they don't, the family business can change. Our legacy can live on because we will teach them what that legacy is made of.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tales of a Pout Pout Fish

I'm not a very good blogger.

It has been a long time since I took the time to write something. I love writing. It is like therapy for me. Writing and music. I can't write music so I am content to write and listen to music.

The problem is that when I sit down to write a blog post I end up spending hours on it. Partially because I'm long winded and partially because I read and re-read and want someone to edit it. I check grammar and punctuation. And I still end up with a lot of dumb mistakes. Also, I tend to be a perfectionist, I don't want to do it half way wrong, so I just don't do it at all.

No excuse. I just need to suck it up and make time for a post. So here I am at 11pm on a Monday night trying to just write something.

I have been posting stuff to my blog Facebook page, so there's that. I hope y'all follow that so you can see my effort.

I have missed it, putting words down on...not paper...a screen, is good for my soul. Sometimes the words come out and they surprise me. I go back and read it and think, "Hey, that's what I needed to hear. It makes sense." and then realize it actually came from my brain and my fingers. Then sometimes I read it and think, "What idiot wrote that?!" Yeah, that would be me. Oh well. We can't all be perfect all the time, right?

We live in a crazy messed up world right now. I feel like we've been thrown in a cup like a bunch of dice and someone just dumped it out and said, "Alright, alright, alright. Let's see what kind of mess we've shaken up today." (Admit it, you said that in Matthew McConaughey voice.) I don't feel like there is a Yahtzee happening. It is the turn where you roll 3 times and the third you're like, screw it, I'll put one on my ones. Maybe mark out the "chance." Does anyone know what I'm saying?

It is entirely to late for me to drag out my soap box so I'll just continue on with this train of thought. It might derail and leave mass casualties pretty quick, but "Choo-Choo! All aboard!"

I've noticed a lot of division. Just all over. About all kinds of things. The hot topics for sure, but also just in daily life with people you see all the time. I see it in the oldest Milkmaid with her school people. And with it, there is a trend I keep noticing. A lot of times the reason there is division or a feeling of "left-outness" is because we draw our own lines.

We get our stick and we shove it down in the sand, and we drag it long and slow until that line is drawn. Sometimes we stand behind it and just dare someone to cross it. And we glare, "don't you dare even think about coming over here." We seclude ourselves. And then we get our panties in a twist because nobody is playing with us.

There are the times that we get our group together. Form our gang, our clique. And we are marching with a "we have been wronged" attitude. And we just dare other folks to try and join up. "You don't know what they've done or said or didn't." "Don't you dare come over here like you know what we feel." And once again, we have secluded ourselves.

And my favorite. The littlest Milkmaid is this one. We're gonna stomp off and draw our line with our lip stuck out. We gonna draw the pout line. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? The "if you aren't gonna do it my way I am not your friend anymore" line. And we tell everyone to go away because we aren't getting our way. The justification comes with, "I was GONNA play with you, but you wouldn't give me all your toys." And in my household it becomes the line of, "Sissy wins all the time and I'm not playing with her anymore." Guess what. We have once again managed to seclude ourselves and look like a turd doing it.

We need to grow up.

Milkmaid #1 is the oldest child. She is the mother hen, the rule maker. She has some OCD tendencies that just won't quit. She likes to boss. We have accepted this as her personality. She is a great leader and a great giver. Sometimes she gives too much of herself, and I can relate to that.
Milkmaid #2 is the baby. She is the pusher of the boundaries. She is the, my way or the highway child. Stubborn and irrational. No logic applies when she is mad. Since she's only 4 we are hoping to not accept quite every trait, but realistically, she belongs to The Milkman. If he had been a cute little redheaded girl, he would have been this exact Milkmaid.

At the book fair last year the biggest Milkmaid took her very own money. She bought herself some books and her sister a book. It was "The Pout Pout Fish Goes To School." THE perfect book for the littlest Milkmaid. We now call her "Pout Pout Fish" on a fairly regular basis. She is a pouter and she can draw some pretty mean lines. We love her anyway.

Sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand to prove a point or to make sure others can grasp the seriousness and depth of an issue. There are legit circumstances that call for a line drawn in the cement. A line that cannot be erased. A line that says, I will not cross back, this line won't be blurred, this line will define me and everything I believe in. And there are times that we draw a line that we should cross back over and erase.

If you have drawn a line in the sand, crossed said line, but feel like you are being left out of what is happening on the other side, have yourself a little self-evaluation. You might just be causing a division and secluding yourself. Don't make people decide if they are happy on one side, but have to leave it so that you don't feel all alone. Not everything is black and white, one side or the other. Not every situation calls for a point of no return.

I have to teach the littlest Milkmaid that secluding yourself because you are a Pout Pout Fish doesn't mean that nobody wants to play with you. Let's be real though, it might, because who wants to play with the pouter. But removing yourself from the game just to see who will follow you is not a nice way to play.

I know people that will march across a bridge, draw their line with black powder and then set it all on fire, burning down any opportunity for the people on the other side to visit. I have been this person. I have been the hot head, the fighter, the one that walks and burns. That is not the person that I am anymore. That person...friends, that person is too full of emotion and too low on rational. That person is a destroyer of themselves.

I will burn a bridge, yes, but not if there is any chance that I might someday miss the people on the other side. I have Jesus, y'all. And He has forgiven me when he should have just set a fire. I try to be a person that doesn't jump to bridge burning. I try to take a walk and refrain from line drawing. I do not always succeed, but I give it my best effort.

There are times in life when we need to draw lines. All the different kinds of lines. The sandy lines that a wipe of our hand can erase, the ones in concrete, and sometimes the black powder and dynamite meets matches lines. There is a time and place for each one. Just make sure that whatever line you draw or find yourself up against is worth crossing. Usually you can come back. Most of the time whoever you locked behind your line will come knocking. But sometimes, we are just being a Pout Pout Fish in need of some attention. Don't draw lines you can't justify. And don't seclude yourself to sing, "Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me." You'll be eating worms all by your lonesome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

National "We Aren't Naked and Starving" Day!

Well Ladies and Gents, you are in luck! Today is National Agriculture Day!

Let's celebrate agriculture by putting on clothes, eating, and enjoying our homes. Because without farmers we are all naked, hungry, and homeless. And Lord knows, some, uh...most...well, really ALL of us need to be covering all that up.

Ag gets a bad rap. (bad rap—otherwise known as a bum rap—is dishonor resulting from false accusations or trumped-up charges.) Yes, I looked up the exact definition. Because it matters.

We are well fed, America. We have more options than anyone, we have strict food safety regulations, we have better practices, and more waste than very many other places. (that is not me bragging, just a point to be made.) We have access to any kind of food, no matter the season. We have technology that allows us to do more with much less. And try as they may, the anti crowd cannot take the facts away. They can blur, lie, twist, turn, and manipulate to their heart's content. They can correlate this to that and that to this, but as we all know, correlation is not causation. 

We are spoiled, America. We have this little thing called free speech. And while it may not be as free as it once was, there is a portion of our country that may not like what is being said, but acknowledge that it is their right to say it. There is an ever growing other portion that says free speech is theirs, and anything to the contrary shouldn't be allowed. Let's be honest, we, in agriculture, have done a poor job of standing up for ourselves. We have allowed a negative narrative be pushed because it is the speaker's right to free speech. And sometimes we let a small group intimidate us into silence because we are afraid we might say something wrong. 

If you are involved in agricultural organizations you have had many workshops on how to answer consumer questions, how to respond to the negativity that plagues our country, and received talking points and instruction on how to help guide a conversation. Farmers are a mostly quiet, hard working group. We spend 10-14 hours a day doing that which we love (most days.) We have technology at our fingertips, but it takes focus to do most of the things we do. And we are being asked to pull focus from our loves, from our livelihoods, from our passion, to educate. Education is the easy part. We can talk about what we do, explain all day, but the problem is, we are sometimes trying to educate those who have already formed an opinion, not based on fact, but feeling, emotion, and what they read on the interwebs. The workshops try to get us out of our shell and to connect on any level with our customers.

We need these educational workshops. We need to learn how to relate to consumers. Forty years ago, people were glad to be able to go to the store and see affordable food on the shelves. Fifty years ago, the Depression was still too fresh for anyone to complain about having food on the tables. And because consumers were grateful to farmers for producing, they didn't need to know what seed you planted, what you watered it with, if you used technology or not. They cared that it was available and affordable. Those of us in agriculture have learned from those that came before us. And since those before us didn't have to defend practices, they didn't teach us how to. So we need these educational opportunities on how to talk about what we love so much we spend more hours doing that than anything else. 

The problem I have with most of these workshops and opportunities, is that they scare the shit out of us. It is true. You go hear a PR specialist tell you to say this and not that, because if you say THAT they are going to think terrible, awful, horrific things about you. Then they will call the EPA, MIB, IRS, FBI, and the NSA and if that isn't bad enough they will get successful, multi-million dollar scam artist like PETA and HSUS to come pay you a visit. And we are scared shitless to even look at a non-ag person or, God forbid, a camera. 

I am here today to tell you that we, the farmers, the agriculture super heroes, are able to tell our stories. We can talk to people. If you aren't comfortable with spilling a tub of facts and figures, or speaking without using jargon, it is ok. You can still tell your story. Your story has emotion, it has passion, it has smiles and tears, and that is what is winning hearts in today's society. People like the feels. The reason they send stupid amounts of money to HSUS/ASPCA is because they have sad puppies and that beautifully tear jerking Sarah McLachlan song. The feels. Consumers don't go look at those websites and dig until they find the part where those organizations want to do away with people having pets, or animal agriculture totally. People don't need those facts, because ....feelings.

That does not make consumers stupid, it makes them human. And what we have failed to do is make agriculture human. They see big companies. They see machines. They see a person that doesn't care about animals because they watched a documentary about someone lifting a cow with a piece of machinery and a chain. What they don't see is a farmer sitting on the steps with his head on his knees, tears in his eyes, because his most favorite, oldest momma cow went down, despite the best care that farmer and his vet could give her. And you can't let a 1700 pound cow lay without eating or drinking if there is any hope at all for her to make a recovery. They saw a baby calf that didn't make it through birth, but that video said they just killed it because it wasn't a girl cow. They didn't see the 10 year old that helped pull that calf, cry because they didn't understand why all of them couldn't be born happy and healthy. The consumer doesn't know that the farmer got up at 3am to milk, fed, built fence, then didn't get sleep the next night because he was up every 2 hours checking dry cows about to calve in the snow. He was unrolling hay, putting babies in the warmers with coats and feeding them warm colostrum just so they didn't freeze and had the best shot at life. The news said that their kids can't use antibiotics because farmers overuse them. They don't know that farmer's not only have to pay for the animal's antibiotics, but in our case, have to dump the profits down the drain when we do have a sick cow. Farmer's don't let their animals just stay sick. If the weather has been up and down and pneumonia starts through a herd, we have to treat them, then we have to dump their milk. We make nothing and we suffer right alongside our mommas because we have to watch them, treat them, feed them properly and just pray that the weather gets better so they don't die, and not get paid a dime for our product. That is the harsh truth. We don't use antibiotics for the heck of it. And buying something because an animal was "never given antibiotics" is the same as telling the ag industry to let sick animals die because of a label. 

Consumers don't always realize that we, the farmers, are consumers too. And they don't know what one of our weeks looks like because they are working their own job, raising their kids, and being fed a whole load of crap by the internet so they are worried about what a GMO is and where the gluten is because someone said its bad. They can't afford the organic and the natural homeopathy guru said that anything else will poison your kids, and you just can't easily find reliable information out there. 

Let's all just take a breather. Let's stop constantly having to defend what we do and our choices. Farmer's, we have got to be human, and let everyone see our human. Because if we don't, our customers are confused by the people making me and every farmer into machines and lab coats. We are more than what they are being shown. And you better believe that if we aren't doing the showing, someone is doing the lying. 

Consumers, come on. Please don't believe everything you read on the googlenet. If you want to discuss technology killing us, let's talk about the false information that is so readily available. The .coms and the wii-fives are taking us away from everything important and teaching us to value all the wrong things and believe all the crap.

You don't always have to trust what someone says, but you can ask one farmer, two farmers, three. We are out there, and we aren't all as elusive as my Milkman. Ask lots of questions. To really real people. Ask the experts. Not the guru, not the Dr. Oz, not the natural something-or-other. Most of the labels you are looking at for information are marketing objectives. They mean nothing, aren't regulated, don't tell you a dang thing about what you are buying. But you can ask us. We have the answers, and if we don't, we will sure as heck find out the truth for you. 

If farmer's weren't out here doing what we do....we would be a nightmare of a homeless, starving nudist colony. Lord, please don't let that be our future. 

Disclaimer #1: 
I appreciate all forms of agriculture. If you want to buy organic, Non-GMO, I don't have to understand it. I don't have to agree with it, but I do respect your CHOICE to do so. I will not bash another form of agriculture. I buy conventionally grown products. We are a conventional dairy. None of our options are wrong, just different. It takes all kinds for the world to go around.

Disclaimer #2:
When talking about farmers, I am referring to them in general. There are bad apples in every tree. Every walk of life has one or two that don't like to follow rules, treat people or animals with respect, but as a rule, farmers care about their animals and their land. We eat what you eat, live where you live, and we want to be healthy and have a world to pass on to our kids. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Just Want My Pants to Fit

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

If you change nothing, nothing will change.

What you will allow, is what will continue.

People don't generally like change. We like the known, the expected, the comfortable.

People say they want change. We want to embrace new things, new experiences, new people. But when it comes right down to it, we like to be comfy, cozy, in the known.

I am on a new journey. A new mission. I have started identifying the things in my life that need to change. Not that I am necessarily excited to do the work, but there are things that NEED to be different. And maybe I've found a secret that will get me there.

I read this devotional. It is "The Confident Woman Devotional." It's a daily page with a verse, the writer's thoughts, and a short prayer at the end. Twice this year a string of words has lifted off the page and smacked me upside the head, hard enough to shake me. It says,

"Do what you can do, and God will do what you cannot."

What can I do? There are plenty of things that I cannot. I have come to terms with that fact. For instance, I cannot do 20 real push-ups (girly, yes), I cannot run a marathon, (I can run to the donut shop, if I drive.) I cannot carry two full buckets of milk to feed the babies, (yes, I'm aware, I am weak.) I cannot find time to blog every stinking week. And there are so many other things that I cannot do. So...what CAN I do?

I have a tendency to want quick results. If I hop on the treadmill and spend 45 minutes one day, I'd like to hop of 10 pounds lighter and have developed a 6 pack. I have tried this. It does not work. And expecting it to only leads to frustration and disappointment. I would like to eat my veggies and baked chicken and get the above mentioned results. Disappointment. I would like to be the Pinterest mom, but I fall closer to the line of Pinterest Fail Mom. I would like to organize my office, have my accounting and tax stuff done monthly. I am awful at that. I would like to be more patient and less cranky as a mom. I haven't mastered that. And, Lord, that does not mean I am asking for patience. I do not need a new lesson in that, I just need to do better with the lessons I already have, thankyouverymuch. I need to be a better "farm wife." I think The Milkman holds more disappointment than I do about that. But, hey, I am a fair weather farmer, and when winter takes its leave, I will venture outside and help.



We better not put money on it.

That doesn't even come close to the whole list of changes I'd like to make. But what I do, what I have, who I am, is comfy. It is like a pillow mattress covered in fluffy blankets and pillows, with the fan blowing, and a glass of...I don't drink really smells about a plate french fries and mac n cheese, (because, carbs.) and a Netfilx marathon, maybe a puppy or two, sleeping. It is comfy, cozy, and downright warm and fuzzy. But it isn't truly the best me I can be.

I kind of want to go to sleep tonight with the idea of the changes and wake up tomorrow with the results. But thinking about it then taking a siesta isn't all that I can do. And if I don't do my part, do what I can, I can't expect God to do what I cannot.
I also can't expect results without putting the work in. Drinking a slim fast and sleeping on it doesn't make you slim, fast.

A couple of years ago I lost about 15-20 pounds (it's back now, don't judge) and people would say things like, "I wish I could do that." "How did you do that?" And it was kind of sneering, kind of jealous tones sometimes. It would just irritate me to no end. Because, it. was. hard. I had to work to make it happen. I had to make a choice every single second of every single day.

That was a lesson. One that was quickly forgotten and I returned to the slightly heavier version of myself, that I don't hate, I just want my stinkin' pants to fit. Is that too much to ask?!

We all want to be right exactly in the place we want to be. We are envious of those that appear to be right where we want to be. And we don't understand why we can't seem to just get there.

Well, friends, it isn't a train. You don't just hop on, ride it out, and hop off at your destination.

Change, the kind we all want for ourselves, isn't just a snap decision and a happily ever after. It is a single decision every second. It is many decisions each hour. It is a decision to STOP running on autopilot and start making conscious decisions. Stop doing what comes natural, what comes easy and do what is harder. To not do what we've always done, because we want to get something we've never gotten before.

It is a choice to say no to the chocolate.
It is the decision to get up and move instead of watching another episode of Arrow on Netflix. (Yes. You should watch that show. It is fantastic.) Maybe you should have a smoothie (with yogurt, fruit, and milk instead of ice cream.) See what I did there? I helped you make that quick decision about the smoothie you will have.
It is a series of decisions that will give you results that are different that the ones you got yesterday.

Sometimes you make the wrong decision. Somedays you are too tired to run on anything but autopilot. Let's face it, sometimes you just. don't. want. to. have the yogurt. Just give me the ice cream.

But that's ok.

If you wake up tomorrow and you start your day with the decision to be positive about life. To stop the complaint and negative thought in its tracks and do something positive instead, you have started your day making the harder decision. You have made the choice to be the difference. Let me help you one more time. Repeat after me:
I choose my happiness.
I can do it.
It is many small steps, not one giant leap. And small steps, I can do.
My today will give me a better tomorrow.
I got this.

(You're welcome. You may return to reading this fascinating piece of writing.)

If you want to change the way people treat you, stop allowing them to treat you badly. It is a decision you will make over and over and over. Without realizing it, we set boundaries for the people around us. And what we allow is what we will get.

You are not a failure if you aren't seeing immediate results. You are not failing if you run on autopilot sometimes. If you desire a change, and you are doing the work to get it, even if you aren't seeing a 6 pack after 3 miles on a treadmill, you are lapping everyone choosing the easy way.

It will be hard.
You will not always make the right choice.
You will get off track.
You will eat the chocolate, the ice cream, the carbs.
You might gain a pound instead of losing one.
But the decisions you make in this very second will dictate the results you see in your life.
What you do after reading this might make the difference in you, in your future, in your kids, in your marriage.

You have the ability to do what you CAN. And if you can't seem to finish, God will do what you cannot.

Y'all, if making conscious decisions will make my pants fit again, I'm willing to give it a shot.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Quarter Cup of Milk

We have this problem at our house. Actually, there are lots of problems, but I just want to talk about this particular one for now. For some reason, that I have no explanation for, the people I live with refuse to use the last little bit of something. Be it tea, cookies, bread, if there is just a little bit left, they don't finish it, they put the package back and leave it. If they decide later they want another cookie or some more milk, they say something like,
"Mom, is there any more tea/cookies/milk?"
And I say, "Did you finish what was in there?"
And they say, "Well, no, but there's only a little bit."

Is a "little bit" not good enough? Does a "little bit" taste different than when the package is full? If you have that "little bit" and there is no more will you explode? I am so confused about the "little bit." Is it not better than none at all? Help me understand. Anyone?

None of it makes any sense to me. Why can't you finish what is in there? If Mom is getting ready to go to the store, and she looks in the cabinet, and there is a package of cookies, Mom is not going to get out the package to see if there is one or twenty-one cookies. Mom is going to assume there are cookies and not buy a new package.

I'm a little off the path of where I'm going with this. Just keep tracking.

If someone leaves a quarter cup of milk in the jug, and I go to have a bowl of cereal, I am not going to be a happy camper when I don't have enough milk to fill my bowl. And when Momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy. Am I right?!

Here's the deal, this post is for the Mommas (mostly). We have a lot of really big jobs. Jobs that take a little bit and then a whole lot more. There's a meme that says something like, if you want to know what it's like in a woman's brain, imagine a computer with 2,078 open tabs. It's the truth. We are full of responsibilities and decisions and thoughts. We need to get the kids ready, feed them, remember the grocery list (that probably doesn't have cookies on it because there is a package with 2 cookies in it and we think its full) change a diaper, make a bottle, wipe a behind, feed the dog, let the dog out, put matching shoes on ourselves and the kid that continually takes one shoe off and loses it,  and about 500 other things all in a matter of 30 minutes, in the morning. And we could get up earlier, but we didn't get everything finished until midnight and woke up 42 times to pee and make sure the kids are still breathing. Because that is what moms do. We worry and we are busy and we are overextended. Because we need to be the pinterest mom, the working mom, the breastfeeding mom, the formula feeding mom, the helicopter mom, the free range mom, the stay at home mom, the party mom, the yes mom, the mom that says no too often, the mom that never fails. Never, ever, ever fails at anything.
But sometimes, us moms are the quarter cup of milk in the fridge. And every person in the house wants a bowl of cereal. And there just isn't enough of us to go around and we feel like a failure. We feel like we should be giving more. We feel guilty because we didn't wake up every hour to check the breath of our children, or we just wanted 5 minutes alone in the bathroom, or we took the time to read our Bible and spend time with God, or we read a couple chapters of the book we've had on the shelf for 7 months and the movie is already out of theaters and we missed that too.

We read on the internet that we aren't feeding our kids the right food, letting them cry it out is bad, and we have damaged our children beyond repair unless we decide to be a good parent and get therapy for them. We aren't reading enough. The kids don't have enough responsibility, they have too much responsibility. They are too old for a pacifier, too young for potty training. You shouldn't discipline your children, they should be allowed to have their feelings. A temper tantrum in the store is okay, except when it's happening and you would just rather lay down and kick and scream beside them because Momming. Is. Hard. And no matter what you do you're doing it wrong.

Mommas. LISTEN UP. You are okay. We all have one giant problem. And it sounds really easy to solve, but the actual solving part feels really hard. We are the one cookie in the package. We are the quarter cup of milk in the jug. We are the empty coffee pot when we really just need one cup. We cannot pour from what we do not possess. You have to stop sometimes and let everyone cry it out or work it out on their own. Because nobody is going to die if you don't check their breathing every hour, except you. You have to take a time out and replenish yourself, your soul, your reserves. You have to or you cannot give. You cannot give what you don't have. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You can't have a stinking bowl of cereal with a quarter cup of milk. And whoever says that is a serving needs their butt kicked. We are the one cookie in the package and everyone wants more.

We carry guilt by the boatload because we cannot do and be everyone's everything. We were not designed to do that. And we certainly can't sustain if we don't take care of ourselves. And part of that involves not listening to another mom, or even better, someone that isn't a parent, try to tell us the "right" way. Trying to tell us what is best for our OWN kids and family. It is not the internet's business what I feed my family or how I chose to raise them and I will not allow the guilt to rise up in me because someone thinks they know my people better than I do.

My responsibility is to fill my cup with love and respect and pour it out on my family. If you are filling your cup with unhealthy things, that will be what you pour out on your family. So make sure you are replenishing yourself with kindness and peace. Don't let people fill you with hate and regret. Don't let someone else control what goes into your cup. Fill yourself up with the good stuff, with hope, love, grace, forgiveness. Take a moment in the morning to find something positive and focus on that. Because what we fill ourselves with is what we pour out on our people.

If you don't like yourself, you can't like anything else.

And for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT be a mom shamer. Don't tell someone else how to take care of their people. If someone asks you for your opinion, by all means, give it, but not in a degrading way. Don't tell everyone how you don't love your baby if you don't breast feed. Or you don't love your 11 year old if you don't give them a phone. Or how if you do give them a phone you are ruining their life. Just. Don't. I will haunt you.

The Milkman and I have this long term battle because he won't go to the doctor when he's sick. He just rides it out. Or goes to the vet supply store and gets some fish antibiotics. Don't tell me about how it isn't the same, he's just too stubborn to listen. We pay for health insurance, but he doesn't want to spend the money to go to the doctor. It's a poor excuse, but he uses it. And I try to explain to him that he cannot take care of the farm at the best of his ability if he isn't well. Does he listen? Nope. Not usually. Until he just can't take it anymore. Then they tell him to "rest." Then he laughs at the doctor and says, I'm a farmer, I don't rest. And it's mostly true. But he knows, deep down, that he can't give what he doesn't have. And he can't take care of things if he has pneumonia. He's getting better about it with age. He just isn't old enough to know that Momma knows best.
Anyone know what age that happens? Do share.

Momming is no different. We have to be enough for ourselves, we have to fill our cup with the good stuff before we can pour anything out on our people. Love yourselves, ladies. Possess some positivity. If you can't find it in the world you are in, then find a new place to immerse yourself. You are enough within yourself. You are good enough, you are pretty enough, you are strong enough, you are the rock of your people. You are the cup that holds all the goodness. Make sure you take the time to fill your cup.

You cannot give what you do not have. Take care of yourselves, Mommas. Don't be a quarter cup of milk in the jug.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Looking Up

You know that thing that happens when you are in a public place and someone stops and just stares up at the sky, so someone else stops to see what they are looking at, then someone else, then someone else and before long there's a group of folks trying to see what the first guy was stopped looking at? Sometimes there is something really neat or rare. Sometimes its just the first guy trying to see how many people will stop and stare at the nothing that he was staring at. 

My life has kind of turned out like that. 

I spent most of my life in a church. I have faith that is rarely shaken. I believe that if my world is God centered other things fall into place. That isn't to say that there's no bad in my life. Sometimes bad things happen. If you will remember one of my past blog posts, Life Support, was about our milk barn burning. That was one of those times when I could have questioned God. But, I had faith that there was something in store for us that was better. And there was. We survived that trial and came out stronger because of it. I believe that looking to God for guidance during that time is what allowed us to get through. That our faith in a greater plan helped us to step back and be blessed. 

I want to spend my life looking to God so intently that the people around me stop to see what I'm looking at. That through my actions I can show my faith. Because without faith we can't do what we do. 

Farming is all about faith. Farmers can't control very many factors that dictate the fruits of the year's labor. Weather, prices, equipment failures, illness, so much more is determined by someone or something other than the farmer. I wish I could find words that convey the emotion and ties that a farmer has to farming. It is not just a job. It is a lifestyle. It is lifeblood. It is everything.

You hear that so many times and lots of people don't believe it. I think it is because our world has evolved into a place where you work because you have to, because you want to make a living, but people hate what they do. They despise the life that they ended up with because they get up every morning and go to a job that doesn't give them joy. And how could someone possibly love getting up at the butt crack of dawn to wade in mud and manure? How could anyone obtain joy by watching something grow so slowly or do the same thing every day in all kinds of weather? How could someone possibly take care of so many animals or acres, watch the animal or crops die, and still want to get up the next morning and pick up where they left off the day before? How can anyone work until their bodies hurt from the physical labor that they put themselves through, sleep a few hours, and wake up ready to go at it again? How can a farmer actually love their chosen profession when it takes such a toll on their lives?

I am not very hands-on when it comes to our farm. The path we chose didn't end up with me being on the farm all the time. The Milkman is 3rd generation. Our farm was established. He grew up doing exactly what he is still doing. Which means that I only complicate things. I am the, work smarter not harder guy, and The Milkman is more of a, how can I do this in the most labor intensive way, kind of guy. We don't exactly do things the same and I am far from a good farm hand. I don't listen and I'm insubordinate. Both of us can hold a grudge that tends to carry over to the in the house, after-hours, mom and dad characters in this play. It is hard for us. I commend the young farmers that decide to take on a farm as a first generation. It is amazing to see the dedication from a couple, or a single, that it takes to start out. It is hard. We built our own herd, purchased much of our own equipment, and changed the way The Milkman's dad did things. We have made this farm our own. I worked out of the home for years before we had kids. The Milkmaids changed things, and I have been able to stay home with them. That isn't to say that I won't ever work on the farm. That day may come, but for now, I take care of the day-to-day, raise Milkmaids, and pay the bills. 

I may not be the one getting up every day and going out into the elements to take care of our herd, but I live with the guy that does. I love the man that has dedicated his life to doing something we can be proud of. He doesn't do anything for fame or fortune, for the money (what would that be like?), or even for recognition. He farms because of his deep love for watching things grow and being a part of it. Seeing the miracles that are rare for the general population to witness. The Milkman's passion for the outdoors, for the land, the water, the animals is far beyond any post I can write. There just aren't words. And even though you would be hard pressed to hear a farmer talk about his farm with beautiful words, you can listen to their stories, see the lines on their faces collect tears and turn up in a smile all in one tale. You can hear their stories of trial and triumph, loss and gain, and of the pain they have endured and the joy that made it worth it. You really haven't seen happiness until you walk through a seemingly barren field and watch a farmer smile with their whole body because the wheat they planted is peeking up out of the dirt. And they have to physically bend down and touch the plant for anyone else to see it. You've never seen glee like that of a farmer, shoulder deep in blood and afterbirth, who just pulled a calf and saved it and its momma. That, my friends, is joy. It is real love and passion for what they do.

I wasn't ever a big dreamer. I thought I wanted to grow up and be an astronaut or a marine biologist. Unfortunately, flying and water both make me motion sick, so I never pursued those careers, nor did I want to put the effort into achieving those goals. I wasn't the girl that grew up dreaming of a big wedding or being a mom. As far as I can remember I grew up knowing there was a plan for my life and I would follow where that road took me. I didn't always like the scenery, but it led me right where my happiness lies. Any dream I had for myself became intertwined with one guy. The Milkman himself. Maybe this was easy for me because I didn't have those lofty goals and ideas of fairy tale marriages, but I turned the Milkman's dreams into my own. When I saw my guy standing there, staring at the sky, I walked up to him, took his hand, and looked up. 

Maybe I get in the way when we are working cows together. It's possible that we argue because we don't have the same way of doing things. But maybe the reason we don't see eye to eye is because we are both too busy looking at the sky, at the same big dreams, with the same big faith. And as long as we are looking in the same direction we can keep on the same path. As long as we keep our faith and love for what we have, the path may zig zag and loopty loop, but we will end up at the same destination, achieving his dreams that became my dreams, and basking in the joy that comes with sticking it out and doing what you love with the person that you love. 

Take a minute and look at the sky. There may not be anything there, but you may find everything you didn't know you hoped for. At the very least, a bunch of nosey folks may stop and look with you.