Who I am

I’m a mother. A working mother. Someone who puts in 40 hours a week; sometimes more, sometimes less. I spend 8 or 9 hours a day away from my boys and worry the entire time.

I’m a person who despite having a good job, where I’ve been for more than a dozen years, we still live paycheck to pay check. We have lots of wants, some means and a little bit in the bank at times.

I’m a person who wants to see her husband succeed. I want to see him have a cow herd and not having to work a job just so we can have health insurance.

I’m a mom who questions whether or not a sore throat merits a doctor visit. Not every sniffle or sneeze does so, but I second guess my choice. I’m thankful I have health insurance when I do have a sick kid.

I’m a horsewoman, who hasn’t ridden in more than a year. For years and years, my mare was the center of my universe. Ask my husband. He knew he was second place for many, many years. Now, I don’t “have time” to ride. The boys need shuttled around. I have work to deal with and they want to ride. There’s only 3 horses at the house, so when dad needs to work, guess where mom stays?

I would love to stay home and take care of cows, horses and kids, but lack of confidence, lack of experience and a little lack of patience keeps me working in town.

I’m a wanna-be photographer. I’m trying to get a few more clients after taking engagement photos for one friend and family photos for another. I absolutely love taking photos and capturing a beautiful scene. I hope people like my photos more than I do.

Last week I wrote about being a rural voter after the presidential election, and how I disliked being called an uneducated and rural voter. After fielding more than a dozen comments on my blog, I had to get away from the computer and get some fresh air. As I was feeding horses, I thought, “Who am I?” I always thought I was a writer, a photographer, a hard worker and I’m just me. I don’t like being called uneducated—especially since I’m still paying my student loans from my time at Oklahoma State University.

I came back in the house and wrote the above six paragraphs in about 12 seconds. Ok, maybe not that fast, but they came out on paper pretty quickly. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned who I was/am/were/will be. But who does it matter to who I am? Mostly me. I do my job, keep my head down and try not to cause much strife. I’ve changed over the years, and I hope the only one who is bothered by that is me. I’ve just got to be me.

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I’m a rural voter

I’m far from a political person. Never have been. Last night was the first time I’ve ever stayed up past my bed time to watch election results. The comments from one of the commentators about rural voters turned my stomach the moment I heard it. I’m one of those rural voters “forgotten” about in middle America.

I’m one of those rural voters who joined the droves to vote yesterday. I’ve voted in a half-dozen presidential elections since my first vote in 1996. This was the first time I had to stand in line and wait my turn to cast a ballot. I stood in line for an hour to vote, while others I know spent two. But I wasn’t disgruntled to do so. I was proud to let my little voice be heard.

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Rural to me, are my friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances. We love our little towns, our one stop light communities and the farmers and ranchers who are on our school boards and town committees. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being designated as rural (in my humble opinion.) What’s wrong with the rural designation is others assume by being rural, we’re uneducated and our votes aren’t as important. We’re not uneducated and our votes are just as important as someone who lives in downtown Denver.

The non-rural folks standing on the other side are unwilling to understand rural. I, however, try to see where they’re coming from. They don’t need us (so it seems.) They don’t see us. They don’t run into us on their streets or in their stores. They rarely come here. Do they appreciate all the things I appreciate of rural people? We’re mostly kind, mostly simple and most of all, we’re important. We’ve stood by the last 8 years and suffered through trade embargos, falling commodity prices and lack luster cattle markets and we’re still here. You won’t find us out in the streets destroying property and running a muck protesting. Rural folks are tough, and often can take a beating and keep on ticking.

I’m not upset by the election. I’m upset because of the words. I’m saddened people resort to name calling over something they don’t have much control over. And I too, as a member of the media, take offense to how these so-called journalists have chosen to take sides. I may be simple-minded because I chose to remain in agricultural media, but I’m still part of the media. I interview, photograph and tell the story of America’s famers and ranchers. I tell their stories in the most fair and balanced way possible. I may not always agree with what I’m listening to but I leave my bias and personal opinions out of my stories. I try to tell both sides. Truly, I don’t agree with mainstream media and all the misconceptions they’ve strewn about in this election.

I’m a woman and I’m offended by thoughts others have of my gender and why everyone assumes women should vote for a first woman president. We need a better candidate for the first woman president than we were presented with this year. I’m offended because I’m college-educated, rural and a woman and some hopped up “mainstream media” person just assumes I’m not important.

A college coach once told me don’t assume anything, it just makes an ass out of you and me. As much as I disliked the guy, he’s correct in his thinking. Mainstream media assumed their chosen candidate would win, but they were sadly mistaken when the rural votes pushed the eventual winner over the top.

So, before I fill another ten paragraphs about the election, I’m going to stop and say, if you don’t like something change it. If you don’t like what’s going on in America right now, start with your own home. Change things there, and it will snowball. We need stronger families, children and parents. We need strong workplaces. We need to improve ourselves before this country can get strong again.

 

**Edited to add: I had a comment on this post that lead me to add some more of my thoughts to the original post.**

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and to spend the time to comment on it. I appreciate your insight! My post came about because I was fired up after listening to the commentators continually use the term “rural uneducated” out of context, out of connotation and the continued use of it during their broadcasts on election night.

I admitted in my first sentence politics is one of my least favorite things. Admittedly because of it, I don’t know all the specifics about each campaign, nor do I care to. Not once did I say whom I voted for or provide any indication of endorsement of a certain candidate. My 5-year-old son asked me who I voted for, and I told him frankly, that’s none of your business. It’s mine. He didn’t understand, but accepted it.

In my post, I made the statement, “What’s wrong with the rural designation is others assume by being rural, we’re uneducated and our votes aren’t as important.” Yes, by that, I mean we weren’t weighted appropriately in the polling data. We weren’t a serious consideration. Again, politics is FAR from my wheelhouse and I choose to be that way, because I don’t know the specifics about polling, data and the like.

I’m simple. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. What I do take case with is how our lawmakers make it difficult to live the way we want to. I’m sure others struggle with this as well, even though they’re not in agriculture.

Again, throughout my post, I was talking about how rural votes were overlooked (by the data) and mainstream media. Even though I didn’t come out and directly say that. I wasn’t discussing the polling data, bias or any other things you’ve mentioned. I’m not well versed in any of that, and prefer not to discuss something I don’t know much about and thus not comfortable with.

I don’t agree with mainstream media’s or your definition of me being less educated. I went to college and received two degrees. I worked hard to become educated, and I’m happily still paying off those student loans because of it. I’ve been out of academia since 2002, and I’ve lived life and learned from the college of hard knocks as well. I have parents who never went to college. My twin sister and I were the first in our family to graduate from college. I’ve learned from them and have common sense because of them. It takes talent, smarts and experience to operate the tractor, truck or pickup used to plow fields, haul crops to town or feed cattle. Just because many rural folks are what you deem uneducated does not mean they are unintelligent. Some of the farmers and ranchers I’ve met in my day job are the smartest, most intelligent people I’ve met and often don’t hold a college degree. I’ve also met those with multiple, upper-level degrees, and they are not someone I’d consider smart.

A friend of mine made a really good point to me about education and I’m going to steal her quote and share it here, “The minute you think that school diplomas make you educated, you come out to Kansas and help my husband overhaul a loader transmission and engine (which he did at age 14) and tell me how educated that college degree in Poli-Sci makes you feel. There are an overwhelmingly high number of dropouts in inner cities and urban areas, and a lack of good education in those areas. Out here, we have great education, smaller classes and a higher number of citizens who demand we be responsible for ourselves. Accountability is huge and part of that comes with being ‘educated’.”

So, even though, I don’t know what the president-elect will bring, what I hope is we can continue to live in rural America and prosper. Our definitions of prosper may be vastly different, but I want my children to have happy parents who work at something they love and at the same time can provide for the family. I don’t want us as parents to be saddled with debt because we choose to live in rural America.

 

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Dozens of name badges

In the nearly 12 years I have been at my current job, I’ve hardly thrown out a name badge from various meetings, conventions and functions I have attended representing my place of employment. Partly because they have my name on them, but mostly because they show where I’ve been.

On nearly every one of those badges is a ribbon with MEDIA on it. I take pride in my job, but at times it can get pretty repetitive telling someone what I do and who I work for if they are outside the agriculture industry. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful we have all the news and information we cram in each issue for our readers; and that I can travel then consequently write about all I learned. What I get tired of is the misconception of what media in agriculture means.

I have a bachelors degree in agricultural communications from Oklahoma State. What does that mean? Well, I took journalism classes to teach me how to interview, write and take photographs. I also took classes ranging from agronomy to animal science. I even took an agricultural law class. The aim was to have knowledge of both sides – journalism and agriculture. When I graduated and left college, I felt as though I had a great mix of both subjects and in my first job as a general assignment reporter at a daily newspaper I was equally prepared enough to write about the school board as I was an agricultural meeting I was sent to cover.

In the last month I have questioned my chosen career path because of frustrations stemming from the most basic part of my job. Calling a farmer or rancher. I fear my luck has run out because of a couple of guys who just won’t call me back. It’s hard to say if they don’t like the subject, my publication or even what I’m writing about.

There’s a saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Well, I’m not a teacher or downgrading the importance of what teachers do. But I often feel as though it would be nice to be working on the farm or ranch every day, but I don’t think I have the skills and my husband doesn’t have the time or patience to teach me (he might though), so I write about it and photograph the beautiful things all around me.

I don’t expect everyone to understand the media, or what agricultural journalism is all about. What I do expect is for someone to take me at face value. Let my actions and not assumptions define who I am as a writer.

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Work

I ran across a tweet on Twitter this morning, that said, “I don’t want a job, I just want money.” Oh how perfect life would be if one didn’t have to work for their money. At least that’s what I am feeling this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, but it would be nice to be able to do every single thing my mind wanders to and wishes for. It would be nice to have a workshop and I could sand, paint, stain and create to my heart’s content. It would be nice to have a fully stocked office with a super fast computer and a bag full of awesome lenses that way I could edit the many magnificent photos I know I can find and take. It would be nice to have a way to make money at creating things and capturing images. I know many people do the things I am wishing for each day and are very successful at them. What is holding me back? Heck, I don’t know. Maybe its fear of failure. Maybe its lack of desire. Maybe it’s lack of time.

My very first job out of college started a week after graduation. In that week, I moved into my apartment, tucked away all of my things, and sent the rest of my stuff back home with my dad. One of my most prized possessions would have to remain there too, my horse. But it wasn’t long before I found a place for her to live and she joined me back in Oklahoma. At my job as a general assignment reporter I covered anything that was thrown at me – education issues, agriculture issues, news stories, and even features. It was a fun time, and one that I won’t forget and one that taught me so much, but I wanted to be directly involved in writing about agriculture.

Nearly 10 years ago I started at my current job. My title at the time was copy editor. My days were filled with editing stories and sending them to the right edition. I occasionally got to write stories and take photos. Then web editor was added to my resume. I did a lot of the same things, but with more of a web-influenced track. Then in 2012 I was promoted to associate editor. With more of a focus on stories, covering events, photos and other duties my job sure has evolved from what it did when I started in 2003. But I do like to write, really enjoy taking photos and traveling.

So, why then does the thought of changing my path creep into my brain? Am I getting a seven-year itch three years too late? Who knows. But what I do know is I need a steady job to pay the bills to survive. We have a house to maintain, horses to feed and Shaun to feed and clothe. Those things aren’t cheap, not to mention the bills that seem to always make their way to our mailbox.

When telling my husband about my thoughts on the subject of work last night, he asked, “what would you do if you didn’t work there?” Honestly, I said, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I will keep on keeping on. I’m not a quitter and will get the job done, no matter how unpleasant or unhappy I am. Then, as I was trolling Twitter again, thinking of how to finish up this post, I ran across this – Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. -Unknown

So God made a farmer

Facebook and Twitter blew up last night after the Ram Trucks commercial aired during the Super Bowl. I would have done the same to my own news feeds, but my battery was dead on my iPhone. This morning I watched the 2 minute clip again and again, and again. See it here. Every view/share it gets Ram will donate up to $1 million to  FFA.

I was at my sister’s house watching the game and socializing. There was about a half-dozen kids around and the house was loud. When the commercial started her and I both stopped and she turned the TV up pretty loud. We hushed kids and watched intently. I was impressed. Paul Harvey’s voice and the impressive photography sucked me in.

Now, I may be partial to the whole Dodge trucks and farmer concept. For as long as I can remember, my folks had Dodge and Chrysler products. It’s very hard for me to even consider driving another brand. I own a Dodge truck now and I am very proud of it. My dad farmed for a number of years when I was growing up, worked at the local John Deere dealership and now has his own cattle herd. My grandparents farmed on both sides. My great-grandparents did too. Some of my relatives even homesteaded in the county I live in. My husband is now trying to carry on the small farm dream with our own little family.

The third time I watched the video of the commercial I noticed of the 577,000 views it had at the time, 900 people gave it a thumbs down and didn’t like it. I was a little disgruntled by that fact. I guess I need to take off my rose-colored glasses and see how the rest of the world thinks, not just my agriculture-industry peers feel. I don’t have many friends or family for that matter that aren’t involved in agriculture in some way or another.

Scrolling down through the comments you see anything from how Monsanto rules the world, or big corporations are killing the small farmers and ranchers to GMOs, to how the government provides farmers welfare and some blatant inaccuracies. I was not impressed. I had to stop reading these idiots’ comments. Where is the respect anymore? Hide behind your computer screen and complain about things. I’m not complaining. My face is out there and I’m not hiding.

Others have blasted that the ad wasn’t selling anything or it was hard to tell what was being advertised. For real? Does a commercial always have to shove “buy this” down our throats? Why can’t a million dollar commercial remind us where our roots lie?

It’s not about the kind of truck you drive or the kind of combine you use or what you think about Paul Harvey. Farming is a way of life and a pretty darn important one. Food, feed, fiber and fuel. I’d like to see how long people can live without farmers, ranchers and agriculture.

Proud Dodge Ram owner and farmer's daughter.

Proud Dodge Ram owner and farmer’s daughter.

Grammar

I am not perfect, but I try to be in my writing.

When I was attending Kansas State, I had a professor for my editing and design class that pounded into our heads appropriate grammar and usage. On one of the first days of the class we took a quiz to see how much we knew (or in my case) didn’t know. I was horrified to only have gotten a few correct on the quiz. Thanks Dodge City Public Schools. I think I learned more in that editing and design class than I had learned in all of my elementary, middle and high school English classes.

From then on, I was completely corrupted. I can’t read a magazine without copy editing it or looking for a mistake. Even now, 12 years since that class, I have a hard time getting through an email from someone who has poor grammar or even a text message. Yes, I’m one of those people who spells out words in texts. I have a hard time not doing it and succumbing to the abbreviations of texting.

My first real job out of college was at a daily newspaper in Northwest Oklahoma, and there I again was shown what I didn’t know. My editor harped on “over and under/more than and less than” and one of my least favorite terms, first annual. I despise that term. There’s no such thing as first annual! You have to have an event more than once for it to be an annual event. My husband rolls his eyes every time I rant and rave about that term. I even drug out my old AP stylebook to prove to him that I was right one day last year.

Grammar is often humbling. I can get a kick out of someone’s lack of proper grammar, and eventually I will make a mistake and use incorrect grammar. So watch out! I’m on to you..

Annual event entry.

My AP stylebook from college.