Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Present.  A strange and complicated word.  It means: “in a particular place,” “existing or occurring now,” “bestow,” “the period of time occurring now,” “a gift.” 
How about this: the gift of time right now.
I find myself trying to be everywhere at once in this modern age of 24/7 “connectedness.”  And I don’t think I am alone in this dilemma.  I’ve been reading (ok, listening to) Sherry Turkle’s new book, “Reclaiming Conversation.”  The fact that I have to listen to it via audible because I don’t have time to READ it says a lot. 
Anyway, Turkle presents an interesting thesis about the slippery slope of technology and how our newfound efficiencies are isolating us as humans. Many people would rather text than talk on the phone.  It’s safer – you can edit your response for just the right tone, message, nuance.  You can “get it right.” 

But at what cost? How much tone and nuance are lost from actually hearing a voice on the other end of the phone? Or, even more old fashioned – how much is lost from not actually watching the facial expressions AND hearing the tone of voice from a person right in front of you? Shazam.

This so-called “connection” is a total misnomer. 

A couple days ago, I made Katherine ride along with me to pick up Bella from the airport.  I hadn’t seen her in a couple weeks because she had volunteered to do tech for the school musical, and I really missed her.  We talked about normal stuff, and she was mostly present in the conversation.  At one point, she said, “Did I ever send you that photo of Wego at school on Halloween? My friend ___ babysat her while I went to class.”  Of course, I was driving so I couldn’t look at it (duh), so she texted it to me (see photo to the left).
So sad.  Look past the super cute baby goat and you will see a girl totally engrossed in her computer.  Wego’s leash is on the ground, while she waits expectantly for someone to adore her.  She spotted Katherine in the balcony.
It’s obviously a beautiful day, since the girl is sitting outside in a short-sleeved shirt. Has she noticed? Where is she really, because she does not appear to be “present”?
Now, I’m not saying that my family is any better. Here’s Wego again, this time at a goat show.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that we all did a happy dance when we found this bottle holder at the feed store. It’s really inconvenient to stop what you are doing every 2 hours to feed a baby goat for 10 minutes. 
At least this way, we can save ourselves TEN WHOLE minutes to … do what exactly? What is so urgent that we can’t take a break to be with this baby goat?

Screens are easy to blame.  Very easy. By the age of 3, Cash had figured out how to navigate Netflix on his ancient, first generation iPad.  He swipes through the screens to find the Netflix icon, then he picks which of the six profiles he wants to watch (profiles with no pictures mind you). He chooses Katherine’s because they have similar taste in movies (Disney and My Little Pony). Then he scrolls through the gazillion options to pick a show.
HE CAN’T READ BUT HE CAN NAVIGATE NETFLIX. What is the world coming to? 

Poor Caboose is waiting to be noticed.

But Caboose is no dummy.  He knows how to make himself indispensable.  Even if Cash is still watching cartoons, at least the kid IS interacting with Caboose at some level – the “table level.”
Goats are the same.  Blaze, our “comic relief” baby Boer goat is insistent.  She chews on clothes to get attention (and chips).  Hard to ignore.

Sadly, this problem is not limited to the goat pen.  I have lost count of how many times I have gone out to dinner/movie/game/anything and seen a couple on a “date” where one or both of them is on their cell phone.  Ugh.  Granted, David and I sometimes pull out one of our three phones to answer some burning question via “Google,” but at least we are still interacting and talking about something.

One of the many benefits of raising children on a goat farm is that the animals, by sheer necessity, drag us all away from our screens into The Present.
Whether it's feeding the bottle baby, kidding out a doe, or simply feeding goats treats we have to get off our screens and go do something with another living creature. More often than not, we linger in the field to be with the goats, even when the job is done. WE CONNECT, in The Present.
Feeding Gilbert
Waiting for babies

A few minutes ago, for example, Katherine came home from the feed store and asked me to help scatter grass seed in the pasture. (Yes, yes, she did make the request via text message but that’s just how it goes.) She really didn’t need me to get the job done, and she knew I was sitting here at the kitchen table hammering away on my laptop.  But she wanted me to join her in the pen, to enjoy the lovely autumn day, to pet the goats - and to spend time with her. 
I jumped up, donned my muck boots, and grabbed a scooper full of grass seed. We seeded the pasture, played with the goats and talked.  I said “Hello” to goats I haven’t spoken to in a while, and basked in the knowledge that they still love me even if I haven’t paid attention to them in a little bit. 
How many opportunities have we missed because we were staring glassy-eyed at our screens? 
On Thanksgiving this year, lets all make a pact to hide our phones and talk to the person across the table from us.  

Let’s be in the present and give each other the gift of this moment.

Mark & me