Microwaved S’mores & the Shores of Lake Tahoe

This article was written as part of Progressive Farmer’s Our Rural Roots.

On a family vacation to a sheep show (do other people actually take family vacations without involving a stock trailer?), I watched my kids hiking the trails and playing on the sandy beaches of Lake Tahoe. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was the perfect, sunny day for our first trip to see such a large body of water and our first time ever to sink our toes into the warm sand of a beach. The look of wonder on their little faces was priceless.

I realized, though, standing on the hills above the bright blue water with the snow-capped mountains in the distance, that I have seen that look before.

Those expressions of absolute joy, excitement, and almost disbelief that life can be this good appears in less majestic places, too. It was there the first time I showed them how to make s’mores in the microwave and every time they ride our old horse Lou.  It’s therewhen they go check irrigation ditches with their Grandad; when they hear their Aunt Elaine is coming to visit or when they sneak into Nan’s kitchen for a cookie before dinner.  I’ve seen it when they catch a frog; when our first squash plant sprouts in the garden and when they bottle feed a new baby lamb. 

Children hold a secret that adults too often forget: Joy can be ever present. Daily life can be viewed as a grand adventure.  

So, here’s to living with eyes that seek wonder in the day-to-day no matter our age. Here’s to taking time to discover a child-like delight in life, regardless of the location. Here’s to microwaved s’mores and the shores of Lake Tahoe and taking precious moments to appreciate both.

Always Up for an Adventure

There are a lot of things I hope to teach my kids. Always being up for an adventure is one of them.

I’m so grateful for my twenties when I did things like hop a plane on 24 hours notice to watch an OSU game and drink a limee at the Penny. I’ll remember drinking coffee in Vienna and white water rafting in Costa Rica and hiking in the hills above Switzerland. I’ve stood in the locker room and rushed the field at Notre Dame Stadium and ran a half marathon across the Golden Gate Bridge and ate lasagna and gelato on the streets of Rome. I’ve dressed fancy for Tavern on the Green, snorkeled in Cozumel, and drank wine all day and margaritas all night in Napa.

As for these two? Well, they’ve already dipped their toes in Lake Tahoe and seen dolphins on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve hiked in Palo Duro Canyon and shown sheep at the Nugget All American and sipped juice in vineyards in Fredericksburg. They’ve done a polar plunge and a Raptor Run and a kid pony show.

I’d say we’re off to a pretty darn good start…

Adults in Your Corner

As I was watching Braun walk into kindergarten yesterday, I couldn’t help but smile.

Two weeks into school, and I had seen him head in that door one day with a Hobbs Show Lamb shirt and another day with a Foscalina Club Lambs cap.

Most people at his little a school won’t know who these people are or where they’re from. But Braun does.

He knows that his Hobbs show lamb shirt came from his friend Megan who lives in Kansas. He knows that at Reno, she always took time to say hi to him and that he was welcome to come to her camp and hang out.

He knows that Foscalina Club Lambs hat came from his friend, Mr. Charlie in California. The guy who let Braun’s mad Harper sit with him for at least an hour of the ram show drawing dinosaur pictures on notepads and who we send cookies to in the mail.

And here’s what I think we can overlook. This 5 year old little boy has adults across the country in his corner. I just have to think that matters.

I read a lot when we write about the benefits of showing livestock. There are many. Learning responsibility, animal care, time with family, earning scholarships…the list goes on and on. But I don’t often hear the value of kids knowing they have other adults in their corner.

I know that was a big deal for me, knowing how many adults cared about me, rooted for me, and had my back. I think it really helped give me the confidence I have today.

I’m loving see it become a big deal for my kids as well. If it takes a village to raise a child, I’m grateful to have these kind of people in mine.

Summer Recap 2021 – Part 1

I’m not sure I could have written a more fun summer story. For someone who loves adventure and has a touch of wanderlust, it was just what I needed after 2020.

The best part was discovering my two little adventurers love traveling too and taking them along. Here is Part 1 of our summer recap.

We kicked the summer off with the kids’ first ever 5k, the Raptor Run in Canyon, TX.
Then we finished Braun’s t-ball season.
We spent a lot of time getting lambs ready for Reno
Harper became Instagram famous for her barnyard closing choices
We did lots of showing practice…
…and leading practice
And we spent one evening in a storm cellar.

RENO/LAKE TAHOE

We kicked off our Reno adventure with a day trip to Lake Tahoe.
We kicked in the hills above the lake…
…then took some time to do some swimming.
Our Chief Safety Officer, Harper, vetoed our jet ski idea, but found this pedal boat acceptable.
Then, the sheep arrived and it was time to get to work.
We made lots of great friends
Braun showed Cookie
Harper helped Mama show Splat
We talked to just about everyone in the barn
Braun showed Cookie like a champ on the big stage with Uncle Dent
And we spent lots of time with Grandad.
And the kids declared that they will be going to Reno every year from now on!

Leftover Strawberries

My friend named Ron has a hard life. Most days he stands on his corner with a sign asking for help. That’s where I met him.

For two years now, I’ve stopped when I see him to say hi. I always make it a point to call him by name and to tell him I am glad to see him. I worry that he might not hear that very much.

I wish I could do something big for him…but mostly it’s cups of coffee when it’s a cold, bottles of water, protein bars, or a couple of dollars.

This weekend, I stopped and had a bag of strawberries left over from the lake. I told him I knew it was weird, but offered him the bag. You would have thought he won the lottery. Turns out, strawberries are his favorite, and he hadn’t had them in years.

I know it’s hard to feel like you can’t do enough or that what you have to give doesn’t matter…I also think those thoughts are lies from the devil to keep us from doing what we can. So look around. Do what you can where you are. Maybe your leftover strawberries can make someone’s day….

My Top Ten Travel Tips

I travel a lot. For work. For fun. With kids. Internationally. it’s one of my favorite things!

A while back , someone asked me for a list of travel tips. I thought on it for a while, and have come up with my top ten travel tips (plus a little bonus one) to share.

1. Have separate toiletry items.

If you are a frequent traveler, this is an absolute must! I have two of everything I need. Tooth brush, tooth paste, face wash, moisturizer, leave in conditioner, hair brush, chapstick, soap, shampoo…. This allows me to essentially always be packed. I have a zipper pouch that holds all of my travel toiletry items and when I leave for a trip, I just throw it in. When I get home, I just put it back in the cabinet. I don’t worry about whether I remembered to pack my tooth brush after I used it the morning I was leaving. It saves me a ton of time and brain capacity to just know if I grab my pouch, I’ve got everything I need.

2. Clean the house as best you can before you leave.

This one can be tough sometimes when you’re scrambling to get out the door, but I hate coming home to a messy house. It makes me insane. So I always try to at least do major things like make beds, pick up toys off the floor, and wash dishes before I leave town. It just makes my return feel less chaotic.

3. Before you leave, identify an easy meal for your first night home.

Nothing makes me fly mad more than having traveled all day, rolling into the driveway exhausted and hearing the question: “So what are you making for dinner?” Makes me want to clock someone with a frying pan. So, I’ve taken to trying to have a meal figured out for my first night home before I leave. I try to have something easy like a freezer meal or a frozen pizza or sandwiches. Again, it’s just something I can do before I leave to make my return better.

4. Have a sleep routine.

Sleeping well in a hotel can be hard. One thing I have found useful is having a sleep routine at home that I can take on the road. That way there is at least something similar to home to tell my body to give it up for the night. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I take my Calm magnesium powder with me, have a travel size of my favorite sleep aromatherapy lotion from Bath and Body Works, and try to take time to write in my journal. They’re simple things, but they help me to wind down wherever I am.

5. Stock up on blank notebooks.

Here’s a tip for those of you traveling with little ones. Get yourself some blank notebooks. Better get, hoard the free ones you get at trade shows or as gifts or marketing materials. My kids get a new notebook to take on every trip. They pack it in their carry on backpack along with an extra change of clothes (I’m always prepared if someone pukes or spills their drink…) and some markers. Sometimes they draw what we see on the trip like a journal. Other times, they draw their favorite animals or draw stories they make up. The key here is it isn’t messy, it’s quiet, and it doesn’t have a million pieces.

6. Have rules set before you leave.

Here’s another traveling with kids tip for you. Have some basic rules set before you ever leave. Yours may be different than mine, but think about things that are important and non-negotiable. For example, I don’t carry kids in an airport. Period. I tell them that before we leave the house. If you want to fly on a plane, you walk in the airport. So when someone’s feet get tired and they start begging for a ride, I remind them of the rule and that usually is the end of it since they were prepped well before hand.

7. Rent your car seats with the rental car.

Some people disagree here, but I’m a big proponent of renting car seats when you get there and not lugging those bad boys through the airport. You want to know who looks the most exhausted and angry at the airport? The dude lugging a car seat or two. It’s with the extra money for me to just get the car seats with the car when we arrive.

8. Pack lots of snacks. Then double that amount.

Snacks are the key to keeping my kids from melting down whether we are on a road trip or a plane. Take far more snacks than you need, because you may need to burn a few of those bad boys to survive the last 15 minutes of a flight or something. And if I’m honest, I hate being hangry too, so this really applies to me as well. I got stuck once after an emergency landing with no food while we waited hours for another plane. I vowed to never crawl on a plane without some of snack in my carry on again.

9. Always take a jacket on the plane.

I don’t care if it’s 115 degrees outside, I will be cold on a plane. It never fails. So even if I’m in shorts and a t-shirt, I will carry on a jacket or sweater because I just know I will be cold and miserable shortly after take off.

10. Use the same vendors to take advantage or points.

If you’re not a loyalty member or whatever at your favorite hotel chain, rental car location, and airline, you’re leaving money on the table. I always have points to get a free flight here or hotel stay there. I keep a note in my phone with all my loyalty numbers for all the different hotel chains so I am never without it. I also rack up tons of points on my Southwest Airlines credit card, which is a great option to get free flights if you just pay it off every month.

Bonus: Take the free hotel soaps and donate them to your local homeless shelter or resource center.

This is something I do every time I travel without fail. I collect the little travel soaps, shampoos, lotions, mouth wash, whatever they give you, and bring them home to donate. Our local homeless resource center loves to get the big bag I bring in about three times a year. Think about how good a nice shower with good soap and some fresh smelling lotion would feel if you had been stuck outside in the hot sun or freezing rain. It’s a simple little thing that can make a big difference to our neighbors without homes. In addition to the travel soaps and the like, I also take Keriug pods, tea bags, and empty plastic or paper cups. All of these are appreciated by my local resource center.

So there you have it. Also always remember something my kids have taught me…look at everything in life an adventure. Happy travels!

Sharing Our Story Face-to-Face

At the show in Reno, we were penned by the door. That means we get the most random, non-sheep people traffic. The woman who works in the Casino. The husband and wife who had never seen sheep in real life. The scantily clad woman with an open bottle of Crown in one hand and her cell phone camera in the other asking for a picture with our ewe, Big Bertha.

I know at shows, it’s easy to roll your eyes at people who want to pet the animals or ask questions that we think are stupid. We can feel way too busy for that business.

But if you ask me, this is our best chance to tell our story. Because we can share all the memes and articles and #agtwitter we want, but I will bet you it’s never as effective as a one-on-one conversation. This is our chance to connect with a consumer and give them a farmer or rancher they know.

Also, just because someone doesn’t understand our way of life, that doesn’t make them dumb, they just don’t know. I don’t understand the subway system in New York—that doesn’t make me dumb, I just don’t know information that someone living they lifestyle would.

So I’ll always be up for answering questions about why they have muzzles and explaining that a sheep show is like a cross between a dog show and a body building contest, and snapping pictures of people with our sheep—liquor bottles and all.

Because when they see something about farmers and ranchers on tv, I hope they will think of me. I hope they will remember how we took good care of our animals. I hope they remember I was patient to answer their questions. And if I am ever too busy for that to matter, maybe I better be re-thinking what I’m doing there in the first place.

May Flowers Bring Warm Reminders

Flower power may be a phrase dedicated to the hippie-era, but I witnessed the real thing in 2020.

Last year, as we found ourselves in the midst of the COVID lockdown and I scrambled to find ways to entertain two preschoolers, while still doing my other fulltime job.

Who would have thought that a rangeland plant identification book would turn out to be better than tickets to Disney World for my youngsters?

I quickly realized that this book might allow us to learn about science and force us outside for some great exercise, and to help expend pent-up energy– the all-important mom goal.

We spent hours walking around the pastures with our book in hand, finding all kinds of different forbs and grasses to identify.  The kids took samples and collected flowering plants to put in a vase to decorate the house. They learned which plants were most palatable to cattle and to deer. By the end of the summer, they could spot an antelope horn milkweed a mile away! 

As the calendar turns and we approach May once more, I find myself so grateful for the friend that gifted us that book and the lessons it offered.  No, I don’t just mean the different plants I can now identify on command, although I do enjoy my new-found expertise.

I’ll forever treasure the joy of spending hours together, uninterrupted by trips or meetings. There’s nothing quite like seeing a child’s face light up when they learn something new.  The pride my kids have about our land and the understanding it belongs to them too rests easy on my heart.

Yes, we’ve endured some hard times in 2020, but there were beautiful times too. May those May flowers serve as lifelong reminders of how simple things bloom when we are together.

Follow Your Dreams

I recently had the chance to be a guest speaker in a class at my alma mater, the University of New Mexico School of Law. I loved my time at UNM and cannot say enough about how wonderful the professors were, how kind the staff was, and how many amazing friends I made there. I jumped at the opportunity to be involved there again, even in this small way.

My law school graduation

The professor who invited me to speak said that I was someone who charted my own path, made some unconventional moves, and always fought for the life I wanted. I wouldn’t have ever said those things about myself, but as I told my story, I realized, she was kind of right. When I laid it all out, maybe that is a thread running throughout my career.

I backed out of going to a top 25 law school when I woke up one morning and felt like UNM was right for me. Mind you, it was April. I had turned UNM down, I had a house and roommates and a seat deposit in Virginia. But when I decided it wasn’t right, I made new plans.

I turned down a 6-figure job at a top 25 international law firm. That one was hard to swallow, especially after that firm gave me the summer of my life when I lived in San Francisco as a summer associate. But I knew after that summer that while I will always love San Francisco, and I learned so much about myself in that experience, I wasn’t meant to be a big city girl.

I said no thanks to a federal clerkship. To you lawyers in the crowd, I know this is shocking. It was a great opportunity and it is not lost on me how many students dream of this very offer. I just wasn’t one of them. I already had a job I was excited about lined up that would give me the opportunity to work with amazing people, and clerking just didn’t appeal to me. So despite a pretty solid campaign and pressure from people around me, I trusted myself to know what was the best fit for me.

I left a great law firm job right before huge cases settled for crazy money. I mean, money with enough commas I had to really focus to count that high. I loved that firm. I love those people. To this day I credit them with teaching me how to be a lawyer. I worked hard on those cases. But then…my dream job came open. And there are only about 5 similar jobs around the US, so I knew if I wanted it, I would have to go for it now. Conventional wisdom, and a couple of my mentors, told me I was crazy to leave. But I knew my passions and my heart aligned more with this job than the law firm. So I jumped.

Reflecting back on these events, they were super stressful at the time. But now, a decade or removed from them, every one of those decisions was right for me and led me right to where I am meant to be. Could I have been successful and happy had I taken other paths? Sure, I think so. But I don’t think I would have been as successful or as happy, because I just wouldn’t have been as much me.

My job now (you know, before COVID made everything on zoom)

So that’s the encouragement I offered the students. Follow your heart. Say yes to the things that lead you to your dreams, not the dreams someone else tells you that you should have. Trust your gut. You only get to live this life once, and you don’t want to waste it trying to do what everyone else thinks you should.

A Lump and Perspective

I recently had a cancer scare. A lump. I’m fine—all clear. During the two weeks between the discovery and the appointment, I basically held my breath. I put a lot of things on hold, just because I needed to be sure everything was ok. Everything felt in limbo.

The moment I got clear results from my testing, I finally took a deep breath, and I got busy. I vowed to do all of the things that I had put on hold and silently prayed I would be able to do. Because that prayer was granted.

I’m booking flights to Reno to take my kids to their first National sheep show with their Grandad. I bought new running shoes, grateful that my body will let me continue my favorite hobby. I am researching houses on the sandy shores of the Gulf, to show my kids the beach for the first time.

It has been a dose of perspective for me not to treasure these things I could so easily take for granted.

I’m also aware that there were lots of other women in that center today. Some of them did not get to exhale. Say a prayer for them tonight, will you?