Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stealing Joy

I had heard of it, in passing.
I even recognized the characters’ names, somehow?
But I had never actually engaged. 

Through the advice of coworkers, two weeks ago I began watching episodes of FixerUpper.


I’ve had a strange urge 
to burn our house to the ground 
ever since.

For the three people left in this world not familiar with the show (I was one of you, only weeks ago), Fixer Upper is a home improvement show hosted by a young, charismatic couple that transforms dumps into dream homes…in one episode…with humor…and a perfect budget.
Every project they complete is fresher, brighter, and more charming than anything I’ve ever lived in. Sorry, Momma.
They just don’t build shiplap bathrooms made to house frozen baby calves over night.

Chip and Joanna are like the admirable, adorable older cousins who live states away that you keep up with only seeing the highlight reel (Christmas letter). Even after seeing them every so often (Tuesdays at 9:00 EST), you leave feeling just a bit envious of the amazing work they do, the ease of which they do it and the allure of the life they live.

And that’s why 
I’ll never watch the show again.

I have to tell you something.
In hopes that maybe by telling you – and only you – I’ll do a better job of holding myself accountable.
I do this thing. Not often, but every once in a while.   
I’m aware of it, only once it begins.
And I cringe each time I let myself do it.
Still, every so often, it happens again.

I let comparison creep into my mind and 
I quietly begin to discount the positive things in my life.

I see a beautifully renovated Fixer Upper house and I forget about how far along our home has come.

 Today our home is filled with ranch and family history. And walls. None of which you can buy at Magnolia Market

I see someone begin to take impeccable care of him or her self and I wonder why I’m ok with WhirleyPop for supper when Cody is out of town.

I see people younger than I chasing beautiful kids around and worry: Am I going to be an old Mom?

But isn’t it so easy? The comparison thing. 
Isn’t it so easy to watch good things unfold for someone else, then quietly sit back and think: I’d like to experience that, too. If only just a little.
In a time where we have access to every intricate detail (whether we want to or not) of a family’s highlight reel, it’s so easy to watch our own behind the scenes footage unfold, and compare. If only by saying something as simple as: I like what they did in that space; I’d like to completely renovate our bathroom. 

Side note: A plumber is seriously coming to our ancient farmhouse today – on the day of this writing. If he can’t figure out something quickly, I’m taking the lightening rods off the roof and letting the problem sort its self out. 


Comparison, in moderation, is not necessarily an evil. In fact, it typically encourages the desire to do more or do better.

So when is comparison a bad thing?
When it begins to steal your joy.

When is comparison a bad thing?
When it begins to steal your joy.

Proverbs 14:30

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.

When you expend enough energy comparing anything that you have (or don’t?) to others, 
that you’re too worn to seek out and enjoy the wonderful things in your camp, 
the rot has already set in.

And by “
someone else’s beauty”, I mean someone else’s

Career, path, professional success
Family, heritage or history
Home, house or furnishings
Friends, social scene or status
Appearance, confidence, or closet
Health, strength or energy
Location, proximity or zip code
Winnings, success or trophy case
Body type, body type or body type
Children, legacy or rendition
Schedule, production or obligations
Someone else’s Life.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
But that has nothing to do with this blog.

What I really wanted to share with you is that Theodore Roosevelt is also accredited with once saying: 
Comparison is the thief of joy.
What a simple, profound way to think of something so common in our every day life. 
Do you find yourself - if only just a little - comparing what you have to what others do? What about comparing your life's path and timeline to other people's? Why do that to yourself?  God made your life's story uniquely for you. Only you were meant to live it. 

You lock your car when running errands. 
You use a password to securely lock your personal information online. 
Certainly, you lock your home up when you leave for an extended period of time. 
Because you don't want a thief stealing the physical things that are important to you. 

So why - why - would you allow 
conscious comparing to trespass 
into your most guarded possession: 
- your heart -
so it can
steal your joy?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Puzzle Piece

I learned last week of the untimely passing of a bright, compelling, and spirited woman. She had an incredible story. A bright, compelling and spirited story. The thing about this gal is that she was fantastic at telling it, and she did so often. You couldn’t know her without knowing her convictions, where she stood, or what she believed in. I always admired that about her: She wasn’t afraid to tell her story because she knew it was one worth passing on.

In the last week I’ve thought often about her passing and considered the void it has left in a family, community and frankly, world that needed more like her. Who would now tell her story? She was so active in a multitude of community organizations; an important piece to a lot of different puzzles.

Puzzles are interesting things. John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker, is said to have invented the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. I don’t know who wrote down that information in 1767 but they sure made my Google search more efficient. Spilsbury, not to be confused with the dough boy, first created a puzzle that was a map, used as an educational toy.

We had puzzles growing up. They were somewhat educational; they were Cabbage Patch. 

I asked Momma to find an old puzzle for me to use as a visual for this blog. It took her two minutes and a trip upstairs. 
Any photos of me between 1984 - 1987?: She's still searching. 

Corner pieces were always the easiest to place. Faces were usually an early victory, too. Water was tough and skies were close to impossible. But not quite.

Every puzzle is comprised of several pieces, different components, varying purposes, but all important. No puzzle is impossible if all the pieces are accounted for. But if one piece missing, the puzzle will forever be incomplete.

If you think of your life as a puzzle, it’s easier to understand the value each of us brings. The important part that no one can play, but us. The unique individuality that creates our distinctive puzzle. There are so many pieces:
Each piece bringing something unique to the end result. We are one piece, but such an important one! The puzzle, once completed, creates the story of us.

Your family.
The place you call home.
Your classroom.
Your farm.
The place you go to work every day.
Your circle of friends, large or small.
Your hometown.
Your new hometown.
The business you’ve built.
Your dream.
Your future.

We each have a puzzle. Maybe even a few of them. The thing about these puzzles – 25 or 250 pieces – is none are complete without us.
You can’t be absent and expect things to move along without you.  
You can’t sit out and expect things to get better.
You can’t expect people to see things your way without sharing your story.
You can’t think that you're insignificantly small when you're so very important.

Don't ever discount the value you bring to the puzzle. Don't ever question it's scale, validity, or significance.  Your playing small does not serve the world. 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marrianne Williamson

Now I charge you to think of your puzzle(s). Your value.  Your great, big, value. The piece you bring to that particular family, team, group, event, business, organization or scene that no one else can.
Don't hide that piece. 
Show up. 
Be active. 
Be present. 
Be the irreplaceable piece to that puzzle that you were perfectly designed to be. 
And maybe, tell someone else how happy you are to be a part - corner part, middle part or sky part - of their puzzle. 

While you're at it, be on the look out for a cardboard piece of hay. We've had this puzzle for 32 years and it takes a two-year-old named Oscar to forever misplace the forage. 
Grandkids bring an interesting element to a family puzzle, 
don't they?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Facebook Follies: UNFOLLOW

It’s been nearly four years since I wrote the original Facebook Follies post, outlining a few observations I’d made during an 8-year love/hate relationship with Facebook. I went back and read it last night and not much has changed in four years. People are still crazy and for some reason, I can’t look away.

Dont expect me to share your "I love Jesus" message on facebook. I love Jesus. Jesus hasn't logged on to Facebook...Ever. God doesn't even have an account. Telling me to "repost if you believe" only appeals to folks who still send chain letters. With a stamp. The same people who are still waiting on something great to happen to them at 12:01 AM every day. Wake me up if it happens. I'll be asleep. - Original Facebook Follies

I don’t even know if this feature existed four years ago, but since the Follies I’ve discovered the “UNFOLLOW” feature on Facebook. It’s a game changer, allowing you to remain “friends” (I use that term oh, so loosely) with someone but never see anything they post. I have something like 500 friends and only follow 17, selective people.

If you feel a little overwhelmed – and a lot annoyed - when you log onto Facebook, follow these simple steps to weed out the cringe-worthy fodder. 

Anyone still taking selfies out of boredom: UNFOLLOW
It’s one thing to show a new haircut (looks great!), yourself visiting an interesting place (wish I was there!), prove healthy makeover progress (I'm constantly amazed as what people can accomplish) or anything with a group that involves a selfie stick (yes, selfie sticks promote team building, or something).
But it’s another thing to post a selfie only to solicit attention.
You stage the selfie, retake the selfie six times, edit the selfie, post the selfie, then compulsively check the selfie to see how many likes it got. Then post about being tired.
You’re tired? You’re bored?
Have you tried not taking a selfie and taking a nap, instead?
Because I’ll tell ya, we’re all exhausted, too.

Anyone who constantly posts articles based off sensationalism: UNFOLLOW
There are some ridiculous articles or images in circulation regarding things that Americans truly worry about: food production, politics, self-awareness and the environment. Do people actually believe what they read on Facebook?! And why do they share it? It's one thing to spread a message you may believe in; it's another to click "share" before even considering the validity. Here is a recent screenshot:

Do you really think these foods would still be on the shelf if there were any carcinogenic concerns? Think before you share. Don’t scare other parents. They have enough to worry about.  

**Also, disagreeing with someone doesn't always warrant an unfriend/unfollow. Sometimes the best way to learn is to observe what the "other side" (in any matter) shares. You may not always agree, but you can always be respectful. 

Anyone who constantly shares misquotes: UNFOLLOW


Shakespeare tweeted just last week that this makes him very angry. 
Buddha retweeted it – so you know it’s true.

Anyone who posts a photo of a baby still covered in afterbirth: UNFOLLOW
I shouldn’t have to explain this. There is a time and a place. Shut off your phone.

Abuse of #blessed: UNFOLLOW
Life’s blessings can some in a lot of different forms and it think it is wonderful when folks recognize that. But when everything - everything - in your life is described as #blessed, it’s kinda hard for the rest of us to keep up. Especially when you’re #blessed enough to use #blessed regularly to promote personal success. Constantly. Sometimes you being #blessed has nothing to do with your success. Most who abuse #blessed (there is a difference in using it and abusing it) don't even explain how the #blessing has changed their heart or their life. Not everything is a #blessing.  Sometimes it’s a result of hard work or money. Bless your heart. 

Over use of lol: UNFOLLOW
Some people really do intend to “laugh out loud” when they use “lol”.
But the large majority who “lol” just typed something that they’re not completely confident in, so they end the statement awkwardly. Lol.
We're all on to you, repeat offender. Lol.
I’d love to use some screenshots, but I know the guilty read the blog. Lol.

Weekly #MCM and #WCW posts: UNFOLLOW
If you have to publically renew your shaky pseudo-vows with your (in)significant other on a weekly basis, you have more issues than just picking which photo to post. Besides, everyone already knows you have a perfect relationship. Except for those who know you in real life.

Constant sales pitches: UNFOLLOW
While I admire your entrepreneurial spirit, please, I’m begging you: Quit directly asking me to soak it, cover it, wrap it, drink it, shake it or burn it. There was one week that I received three messages from the same person asking me to join three different teams. Your products seem to really produce results but your sales pitch makes me want to take a nap. Trust me, I've bought my share of burners and Spark; but the constant invites to change my life through a lotion really wear me out. It is discouraging to never hear from someone for years, then suddenly they want to sell you something. Good luck! I expect you to be 30 inches thinner, self-employed, wrinkle free and driving a Lexus the next time I see you.

And on that note I’ll wrap it up. No pun intended. 
Keep these ideas in mind next time your news feed needs a shake down. Facebook can be a really powerful tool if you actively control what you see.  Believe it or not, I've stuck to these guidelines so closely, I rarely see any political slander in my newsfeed. What a relief! Can you say #blessed?

Lets end this on high note. Facebook usually does a great job of inserting personal interest groups into my timeline. This little ditty showed up just yesterday:

You got it wrong, Facebook, 
you got it all wrong. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Running On Empty

I really like alone time.
Driving alone.
Working in an office alone.
Tuesday nights left alone to write.
Cody’s travel schedule grants me just enough alone time. I don’t mind being alone and getting things done solo as needed, but I’m always glad to see him come home. As I write this he’s working his way east, making his way home from Denver. It’s been two weeks since his truck pulled out of the driveway; it’s time.

It got cold after he left. 

Nothing this farm hasn’t seen before, but working against artic chill as a team of one can really extend morning and evening chores. The biggest obstacle I have encountered solo is frozen float balls on waterers, followed by frozen valves on waterers, followed by frozen pipes leading to waterers. The adult version of Frozen isn’t nearly as fun. On these particular waterers, when the water level hits a certain point it will automatically refill. But when the pipes, valves and balls are frozen, the water level stays low enough that cattle can’t drink from the tank. Sometimes the tanks simply ran on empty, waiting on sunshine to thaw things while I was at work.

Legend (the internet) tells that your mind is supposed to be able to answer most of the questions rambling in your head if you just learn to relax and wait for the answer. I did this on day two of frozen water and learned nothing except the longer you wait for an answer to fall out of the sky the more frozen these deals become. 

They were just a tick ready for a thawed water system. 

In week two the Kubota began putting around as slow as I did across the sheet of ice that lay quietly under the snow. I told my faithful orange friend (one of two that we have) that we still have a lot of ground left to cover and it better not give up just because temperatures were going down. Zipping around day and night, I didn’t think to check the diesel fuel gauge until it was too late. I got it parked in the barn and chored the old fashioned way: by foot. I had been running the Kubota on empty. Dad told me later that I was lucky that the Kubota started right back up after running so low on diesel. Sometimes when it sucks air you have to go to such lengths as draining the fuel line.

One evening I finally reached a point of relaxation in my day when I got a chill. Not a creepy, Dateline chill but rather “this house is flat cold” chill. The furnace had been running since I came in for the night (I lined the registers with gloves, a hat, long johns and socks) but it was still chilly. I went down to the deep, dark depths of the basement where our historic fuel tank lives and “PING”ed down the side of it. Lower, lower…lower………………..
PING rang loud and clear. We were completely out of fuel oil on a 0º night. I was running our house on empty.

For two weeks I’ve worried so much about getting things done that I hadn’t focused on taking care of intricate parts of this place. Do you ever feel that way? Running in so many directions to fulfill obligations and responsibilities that you fail to take care of the greatest working part: Yourself.

Maybe you’ve given up a few hobbies that really brought you joy because there is no longer time.
Maybe you’ve started missing your kids’ events because work demands that you prove your commitment.
Maybe you’ve let your health decline and your weight increase because you put yourself behind everyone and everything else going on around you.
Maybe you’ve cut out a couple hours of sleep to knock out just a few more emails.
Maybe you’ve gotten so emotionally tied up in a situation that you’re having a hard time focusing on anything else.
Maybe you have trouble saying no.  
Even the things you love can wear you down. 

I put myself in a bad situation with the Kubota and the fuel oil: When fuel gets that low, the machine will continue to draw fuel – or air – through the filter to get the job done. It will continue to try to run, even on nothing. And when I’ve given it nothing but air to work with, damage can happen. And homes can get down to 40º. No kidding. That’s chilly.

Isn’t it the same with you?
When you’re physically or emotionally running on empty but you continue to operate, can’t you feel yourself wearing down?
Be aware of that. 
We may not be equipped with a physical gauge that will tell us when we’re running low, but certainly we know ourselves. Pay attention. Sometimes the most important thing we do for ourselves in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.

Dad came up last week and helped me feed hay. As we were shutting the gates and finishing up for the night he stopped right on the lane in the barn lot, looked at me in four layers of winter wear and said, "I can tell you're really happy. And that makes me happy." 

I wanted to confirm his words but the frigid air had frozen my cheeks. I felt like I had just chewed on ten pounds of ice.  I just nodded, tried to speak and hugged him. It was enough. 
It's important to keep that - your happiness amongst all of this running on empty - in check.
And your water levels. 
And your diesel fuel. 
Especially your fuel oil tank. 
But always, your happiness.