2017 Year in Review

Good gracious. I haven’t blogged since July. It’s been crazy, folks.

2017 was a hard year, wasn’t it? From tragedies like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, to the fires here in my own back yard to dealing with sick kiddos, to losing three of Ty’s family members, if I am honest, I am leaving the year exhausted and ready for a new beginning.

But, there were some great moments too. From trips to funny moments with the kids to newfound obsessions, I am grateful for what I learned these last 365 days.

Here are some of my favorite things from this year.

Podcasts. Guys. I am officially podcast obsessed. It all started when my friend Whitney somehow mentioned The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey on her Facebook page. The rest is history. I listen to at least 2 a day and I am here to tell you, they have changed my life. I feel so inspired and motivated listening to the shows I now can’t live without. If you need help getting started or aren’t sure how to listen, hit me up! Here are a few of my favs.

  • The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. I never miss an episode. I am also listening to all her prior shows. Jamie is an amazing interviewer who has guests that are honest and inspiring and funny and real-life. I really think there is something for everyone on this show! I don’t know if I can pick a favorite episode…but a few from this year are Abby Kampman, Kat Lee, Rachel Cruz, and Heather Avis.
  • DAIS with Rachel Hollis. Learned about Rachel from Jamie Ivey and I am hooked. My friend Lyndse makes fun of me for quoting Rachel so much. This is a podcast for women in business, but I find it fitting for any woman who has goals and dreams and is getting stuff done. Start with episode #3 which is about Rachel’s own story.
  • Goal Digger Podcast. I am new to this one, but can’t stop listening. I pick and choose (not all the nuts and bolts marketing ones are relevant to me) but Jenna is so good with practical tips for getting what you want out of life and career!
  • The Daily. Okay, right up front this one can be pretty political and is probably somewhat left leaning. But…I appreciate knowing a bit about what is going on in the world in 20 minutes per day!
  • How I Built This. I am not in business but the stories of how ordinary people built these amazing companies like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines and Kate Spade are so interesting!!
  • Super Soul Conversations. Y’all. It’s Oprah. Enough said. Amazing guests. Great stories.
  • Ag Law in the Field. Last but not least is…me! I was so excited I launched my own show! It is ag law focused and I talk to a different guest about a different legal issue each episode. Check it out!

Dates. Given our insane life with jobs and livestock and toddlers, it’s easy to sort of put “us” on the back burner. We have started trying to be more intentional about spending time together, whether that’s a weekend away or just grabbing lunch alone. Our favorite date this year was to the OSU-K-State game where we met some great new friends and ended up with club level seats!

Nature Valley Biscuits. Yes, these things are good enough to have their own spot on my year in review. I eat them every morning. Almond butter is my favorite. Coconut butter probably second. There are also cocoa almond butter and peanut butter options.

Comphy sheets. Heard about these in a podcast. Where else? They are amazing. So soft and they don’t wrinkle! We ordered one set and they are amazing. Downside…they are pricy. But worth it in my mind!

Book report. I managed to knock out 8 books this year, something I am really proud of. I know that doesn’t sound like many, but for a girl with a full time job, 1.5 hour daily commute, and 2 toddlers, it’s pretty good! Here they are:

{If you order any of these books, pretty please use the links below and I get a tiny little cut for referring you!}

Floating the river. This is one of those things I feel like every Texan has done. You rent a tube (black, round inner tube), sit in it, and let the river carry you along for 3 hours or so. We went on the Comal while in New Braunfels for our friends’ wedding. And we took our 18 month old, who thought it was awesome.

AALA. I was finally not pregnant or taking care of a newborn in October, so I made it back to the American Ag Law Association Conference. In addition to learning all about the newest ag law issues, I got to see many of my favorite lawyer friends again!

Halloween. I’ve never been too much of a Halloween fan, but this year a little tractor and a cute elephant may have changed my mind!

Brussel sprouts. In Louisville, I had amazing brussel sprouts at Guy Fieri’s restaurant. I have made them multiple times sense. I just chop them, add bacon, grated Parmesan, pepper, olive oil and a little butter. Toss and bake about 30 minutes. Amazing. Trust me. Even the farmers and ranchers at church gobbled this up at the Thanksgiving potluck.

Work trip with my little one. I took my little boy with me to Fredericksburg for a women in ag conference where I was speaking. As you might imagine, he had a blast and was quit popular with the attendees!

New school. In July, we made a major change when we left out sitter who had kept the kids their entire lives and switched to a Montessori school. It was a happy parting as the reason for than change was that Audra got into nursing school! Other than the germs they bring home (all the germs!) we could not be happier. I am so grateful for women who love and invest in our kiddos!

Giving back. This is a priority for us. This year, we were able to adopt a Syrian refugee family and with the help of our friends who graciously pitched in, we made a real difference in their lives in the refugee camp! Ty gave a good deal of time and support when the wildfires tore through the Panhandle and I am so proud of his willingness to jump in and do whatever needs to be done. This Christmas, we were able to match up with a family in need and send gifts to an 8 year old boy and his mom! And, of course, we basically buy any raffle ticket a 4-H or FFA kid is selling, although we’ve had no luck this year.

Birthdays. Lastly, we all turned a year older. Our baby girl had a first birthday full of pink and gold and our big guy turned 2 with a tractor cake created by his amazing great grandmother!

So there you have it. Another trip around the sun. I am grateful for our little family and the life we have built!

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If You’re Going to San Francisco… (Eats)

…for the love take me with you!!

SF

Hands down, San Francisco is my very favorite city.  I have visited many times and spent a life-changing four months living in an apartment overlooking the Bay.

Recently, several people have asked me for recommendations for their own upcoming trips.  I figured I should write something up that I could share with anyone going to my favorite city!

Let’s kick things off with my favorite restaurants.

If there is one thing I am confident about, it is my ability to point you to good food in San Francisco.  I gained 10 pounds while I lived there and there was a lot of effort that went into that!

For breakfast…

1.  Hollywood Cafe.  This one I sort of stumbled onto by accident.  It’s not in a fancy building, it doesn’t have a fancy name, but I’m telling you if you want the best breakfast of your life, go to the Hollywood.  My friend Nomad even brought tour groups here for his job.  That’s how good it is.  I’d highly recommend one of the breakfast sandwiches, served on amazing fresh croissants with a side of the absolute most fresh fruit you have ever tasted.   Location wise it’s great because it’s walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf and not even up any hills!

2.  Crepevine.  This restaurant is my go-to spot after running a race in San Francisco.  Crepes and/or pancakes and mimosas.  I’ve eaten here post-Bay to Breakers and the San Francisco Half Marathon.  They have a location on Market Street in downtown and one out by the Golden Gate Park.

3.  La Boulangerie.  If I were to be given a last meal, I would have to at least consider the homemade granola and greek yogurt with fresh fruit from La Boulangerie.  There are no words.  Just trust me.  It’s like heaven in a big ol’ bowl.  Plus it’s a great atmosphere–a cute little French bakery with wicker furniture, a cute blue and white striped awning and an amazing pastry selection.  Again, there are lots of locations around town, but I’m pretty partial to the one in North Beach just off of Washington Square Park.

4.  Mama’s.  This one is a must do because, to me, it’s classic San Francisco.  I found this place when my Dad and I went to look at apartments.  It’s right in the corner of Washington Square Park and there is usually a line out the door if you don’t get there early.  I honestly don’t remember what I’ve ordered when I have been there, but I remember that the food is good.  It’s second to the atmosphere though—a long line where you can see them making your meal, tiny tables in a corner with fresh flowers on them, an old two story building a bit reminiscent of the Full House house.  It’s an experience that you need when you visit San Francisco.

For lunch or dinner…

1.  Trattoria Pinocchio.  I think that if I had to pick my favorite type of food, I’d pick Italian (sorry to my Mexican ancestry there…) and this is my favorite Italian restaurant.  It’s right in the heart of North Beach, as it should be since that’s the main Italian neighborhood in San Francisco.  They have the most fun drink menu, all fresh, homemade pastas, and a great atmosphere.  You can reserve yourself a table outside, which I always like to do.  I highly recommend the homemade gnocci.  To.Die.For.

2.  Chioppinos.  This restaurant is located close to Peir 47 right across from The Cannery.  I love the location–close to the beach, the trolley and Fisherman’s Wharf.  It’s a great blend of Italian and seafood.  My parents loved the seafood there.  I don’t eat fish, but I would probably kick a puppy for a bowl of their minestrone soup.  (I wouldn’t actually ever kick a puppy, obviously!)  Plus, they have a great outdoor seating area and always have really fun music playing in the background.

3.  House of Hunan.  I think everyone wants to eat in Chinatown while they are in San Francisco.  My favorite place to do that is House of Hunan.  The only problem is that it’s everyone’s favorite place to eat, so if you go at normal times there is a line.  If, however, you can plan your day to go at an off time–say right when the open or at like 3:00 you can get right in.  They serve food family style and it is all seriously amazing.   My favorite is the sesame chicken.  Order that.   You’ll thank me.

For drinks or sweets…

1.  O’Reilly’s Irish Pub.  I’m partial to this pub for lots of reasons.  My Irish heritage and love for Notre Dame football probably draws me to Irish pubs in general.  This one is awesome—old wooden floors, a huge old wooden bar, and usually a bartender who is from Ireland and speaks with an accent.  You can’t beat it.  Plus they have great bar food snacks as well.  It’s tucked around a quiet corner in North Beach.  I frequented this joint a time or two, but my favorite time was when my girlfriends (who turned out in later years to be my bridal party!) were in town for Fourth of July. We all ventured down to O’Reilly’s for a little drink and when we walked in, it was a madhouse full of people dressed in white with red scarves just like the Running of the Bulls in Spain.  Turns out, they were having a “Running of the Bars” where they all dress up, make a list of like 5 bars, go to the first one for an hour, then all go out in the street and run (by run I sort of mean walk/stumble while screaming) to the next one.  It was awesome.  My dad is also a big fan of this place, as he likes to park it at the bar while my mom shops down the street.

2.  Tony Niks Bar.  This bar is also in North Beach (can you tell that was both close to my apartment and my favorite neighborhood?) just off of the park.  It’s usually pretty low key, they have an awesome drink menu, and comfy couches for sitting.  Highly recommended if you just want to relax and grab a drink.

3.  Specialties.  Remember that 10 pound weight gain I mentioned?  My guess is that 9.5 of those pounds came from the semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies at Specialties.  You guys do not even understand.  They are the best cookies ever in life, especially when they are all warm and fresh and gooey.  The bakery even sends out text messages if you sign up to let you know when an order comes out of the oven so you can run over and get ’em while they’re hot.  (I could lie and say I wouldn’t know about that, but we all know I’m a fatty and LOVE cookies.)  This place has locations all over the city but they are usually closed on weekends, so go during the week.  (That’s at least true for the downtown locations, it might be different at the others, I don’t know.)  In the past, I’ve literally had people bring me a ziplock bag full of these home when they went to visit.  Keep that in mind if you find this advice useful…

 

Love Your Neighbor. Period.

Man, the world is just hard.  My friend, Kelly, and I were recently having a deep theological talk and that was pretty much the conclusion we came to.  In a broken world with the devil speaking lies and society so lost, things are just flat out hard.  


And, unfortunately, we make it harder on each other.  Oftentimes, we do so in the name of Jesus. 

On a weekly basis I see hatefulness spewed claiming to be in the name of Christ.  I see division and judgement and just plain evil. 

And guys, I really  think we are missing the point.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love. Your. Neighbor. Period.

He didn’t say to love your Christian neighbor.  Or your heterosexual neighbor. Or the neighbors who vote or look or believe the same as you do.  He simply said to love your neighbor. Period.

I read that to include neighbors who have had abortions and who voted for Hillary and who may suffer from mental illness.  It looks to include folks in the red “Make America Great Again” hats and in Yamikas, and in Subarus.  I think he means neighbors who are homeless and who are filthy rich and who curse on Sundays.  It is the neighbor who shops at Whole Foods or is a member of the NRA and probably the one who doesn’t eat meat. And, yes, even neighbors who shop at Target and use the bathroom.

And you know, maybe when Judgement Day comes, I will learn that I have it all wrong.  But I just find it hard to believe that on the list of sins that Jesus and I will have to talk through I will see “you were kind to a gay person” or “you attended an atheist wedding” or “you smiled at a man in a dress.”

So, let’s stop hating. Let’s stop harassing.  Let’s stop the unkind words and the turning up our noses and the walking right by people who need our help and support and love. 

And if you are not going to stop it, let’s at least admit it is not Jesus who is leading us to do it.  

Let’s just love people. All people.  Period.

Bridesmaid Dress History

This summer, I was a bridesmad for what I assume will be the final time since, you know, I am old and all.  I thought it might be fun to look back on my dress collection.

Sadly, I have no photo of my first experience, when I stood up and signed as “best man” at the court where I worked for a pregnant couple who the judge married while she was in labor. Not even kidding.

Now for the “normal” weddings I have been in…

2006

This still goes down as one of the most fun weddings I have ever been to. Wedding at plum orchard on her family’s ranch, reception at fire station.

2008

This requires two photos so you can see the dress. Second photo is re-enactment of when the limo left with the rings still inside. We chased him down.

2009

The Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces NM is a beautiful venue–views of Organ Mountains are killer.

2012 (A busy wedding year!)

When my best firend toed the knot, he and his sweet wife asked me to stand with him on his side. I deemed myself a “groom’s ma’am” and also attended my only bachelor party.
This wedding was adorable and I loved that the bride had a short dress, which she always wanted, and the colors were OSU orange. Go Pokes!
This was the fanciest wedding I have been in, and it was held at the Gaylord Texan. My favorite part may have been the cotton candy in martini glasses.

2013 (The year of me being Maid of Honor)

This was my first destination wedding. If you get the chance to go to Friday Harbour, you must go. Amazing!
I bet you I sang “My cousin’s getting married at the Methodist Church” in my best Reba voice 500 times. Also, I was almost in a plane crash and Husband met my family for the first time.

2014

If there ever was a Pinterest dream wedding, this was it, beautiful wooden barn and all!

2017

The bride is a photographer and there was just never a more photographic wedding than this one. Add to it the absolute blast we had floating the river and my handsome escort down the aisle and it was just about perfection!

 

10 in ’17 Report

Well, somehow I blinked and we are halfway through 2017.  I remember when I was a kid always hearing adults say how quickly time goes, but man alive….they were right!  Here’s where we are on the 10 in ’17 list of goals I posted at the beginning of the year.

1.  Run a race.  This hasn’t happened yet.  I am honestly only about to run between 1-2 miles at this point.  But….I’m planning on doing a marathon relay (my part will be just over 5 miles) in November, so there is hope for this little goal yet!

2.  Read 4 books.  I’ve been holding my own on the book front if you count audiobooks, which I do at this stage in my life.  Here’s the list so far…expect blog posts coming about each one sometime soon.

  • Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson.  I loved this book about the importance of female relationships between generations.  I even gave it as a gift to a couple of friends!
  • Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son by Brad Harpe and Drew Harper (Audiobook).  I thought this book was really well done and I really think that it is something everyone should listen to.  I even recommended it to two friends of mine who are gay and they both said it was very accurate with regard to how it felt for them to grow up in predominantly Christian communities.
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (Audiobook).  This book was okay, it was packed full of statistics and was maybe not quite as exciting as I expected, but I did enjoy listening to it as I drove around Texas.

I’m currently working on Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker (audio version).  After those, I’ve got Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Jen’s new book, Of Mess and Moxie, on my list.

3.  Go to adoration 20 times.  Zero excuses for not having done this.  I’ll be hustling up to get back on track.  Luckily, I’ve got several trips to my the location of my favorite chapel coming up soon!

4.  Hike in Palo Duro Canyon.  I blame crazy schedules for not making this one happen.  And now, it’s just too dang hot.  So…this fall I’ve recruited my friend Lisa to help me check this off!

√  5.  Grow a garden.  Bam.  Done.  The Boy from Texas built me a raised bed box and our neighbor filled it with dirt.  We planted tomatoes, squash, celery, and strawberries.  So far, only the tomatoes have been productive, although the squash look to be close behind.


6.  Pray 10 Novenas.  Have not done it.  No excuse for this one either.

7.  Declutter.  I’m not as far along as I’d like to be, but I have been working on this slowly.  You can imagine that trying to get it done with two kiddos around is next to impossible!  But, I have cleaned out desks, given away almost all outgrown baby clothes, I’ve got my maternity clothes boxed up and ready to go, and I need to tackle the garage totes next.

√  8. Finish Uncle Buddy’s Book.  Miracle of miracles, the book is done.  If you’ve followed my blogging for a while, you know that this has been quite the project.  We started 8 years ago and to now see it in print just really makes my heart happy.  I loved being a small part of helping my Uncle Buddy achieve his dream.  (If you want to order one, please let me know by commenting below!  They are also available at the Create Space Store or on Amazon.)


9.  Send a friend a little note once a month.  I haven’t kept track of this like I should have.  I know I’ve done some, just not sure how many or which months.  So…I’m going to just call a mulligan and start over with July.

10.  Blog 100 times.  Back when I started this blogging thing in 2009, I would write multiple times a week.  Now, there are sometimes it is only once a month.  Life, you know?  But I really do want to continue to share my stories and struggles and thoughts and life with you all.  So, I’m going to try and get back in the groove!  So far, I’ve written 36 posts.  Going to have to step things up!

 

The Gift of Hope

A refrigerator.  Mattresses. 5 sheep. A washing machine. A television.  Heat.  Pillows. An oven.  Medical care. Clothing.  Formula. Removal of an infected tooth for little Bailsan.  Blankets. Shoes. Toys. Food. Cell phones.

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These are the items we have been able to purchase for Metheb, Amina, and their family.

I will never forget standing in my kitchen with my friend Jina on Ash Wednesday and knowing I had to do something to support efforts to help Syrian refugees, now.  For years, I had been wringing my hands.  Praying, but feeling overwhelmed by the amount of suffering and unsure of what I could do to really make a difference.

And then, I found Humanwire and a photo of a mother with two children close in age and a baby in the way.  And through her hijab and beautiful dark eyes, I saw something of myself.  I knew this was my way to help.

So, we started a campaign and set a fundraising goal that seemed unattainable.  Then, came the fear.  Refugees have (unfairly!) become a political issue and I worried that no one would help with the campaign. I feared that people would say mean things and mock our attempt to help and question why we care about people if a different religion across the world when there are Christians suffering in our own back yards.

But, for the most part, my fears were misplaced.  And people began donating.  My friends and complete strangers.  Rich and poor.  From all geographic areas and educational backgrounds.

Now, 100 days later, $10 here and $100 there from — people made my wish for Amina’s family a reality.

And while these tangible items were needed and important, I do not believe they were the real gift.  As Metheb explained to me last week, the real gift, my friends, was hope.

Hope for Metheb, Amina, and their family. Hope for a better life. A home of their own in a land that is not.  Hope of a long-term way to support themselves.  Possessions like the ones they were forced to leave behind when they decided they had to flee. Hope that even though many families had applied, there would be a family in Texas who loves people and Jesus chose them, even though they had never met and the similarities seemed few.  Hope of a better life in the midst of the worst circumstances.

And, here in America, I’ve been given that same gift.  Hope that there was some way to help even one family on the ground.  Hope that other people felt the same calling as I did.  Hope that despite our differences, we can communicate and care and give.  Hope that God could use my little family in our little town to make a difference.

We gave the gift of hope.  And my bet is that we all–from Amina and her family to each person who donated a single dollar–will leave this project changed.

Hope. In a world that seems so hard and broken. Hope. In a situation that seems so helpless. Hope.  What a gift.

___

Our campaign is ongoing.  We are hoping to continue raising money for the family and plan to stay in contact with them forever.  If you would like to join us in our efforts, here is our fundraising page.  If you would like to start a campaign for a family of your own, here is the list of causes and I am happy to help you set it up.  I also promise to be your first donation!

Also, Metheb and Amina absolutely love talking with folks who have donated to help them, so if you have any desire to have a Skype call with them, let me know and I will be glad to help you do that!  They also have What’s App and we are now chatting and sending photos all the time, so I’ll be glad to get you their info if you’d like to chat with them as well.

It Was Never About The Ball (aka What I Wish I Had Known at 18)

This past weekend, I got the honor of being the keynote speaker at the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference honors banquet, which was being held in my hometown.  I thought I would  share my speech.


15 years ago, I was in your shoes. Preparing to graduate from my small town high school and ready to take on the world. I mean, some things were different. No one had ever heard of Facebook when I was a senior.  We took pictures with actual cameras. I didn’t know there was a hairstyle that didn’t involve a perm. And at a banquet like this, everyone’s cell phones were in their vehicles, safely inside their Velcro bags, as they should be.  Time changes things, that’s for sure. 

I learned so much in the walls of this school, and I know the same is true for all of you at yours.  The best way to dissect a cat. How to conjugate Spanish verbs. And in that gym right there, I learned exactly how many suicides the coach means when he says we are “running until someone pukes!” 

But as I look back, there are so many things I wish someone would have told me before I left high school.  So when I got the opportunity to speak here today, I made a list of things I wish I had known at 18. 

1. Appreciate where you came from. I know there are a lot of you who cannot wait to get the heck out of Dodge. You want to live somewhere with a traffic light. You want to have restaurant options with more expansive menus than the chimi or beef burrito. You want to know if a person really can live without every. single. person. knowing all your business all. the. time. I get it.  But when you leave, you don’t want to forget where you came from. Your hometown gave you roots. There are no better people in the world than those in Eastern New Mexico. They have loved you and supported you your entire lives.  They bought every ridiculous thing you were selling as a fundraiser. Seriously, no one needs a box full of freaking pears guys. They have cheered for you on Friday and Saturday nights. They have prayed with you in church pews and mourned with you at gravesides. It’s great to want to leave and try something new, but always remember where you came from and respect the people who made you who you are.  And one day, when some kid shows up at your door, you get out the checkbook and buy the dang box of pears, because that’s just what we do here. 

2. Go to class. To those of you going to college, this is the most important piece of academic advice I can offer. Go to class.  I don’t care if you are too tired or too sick or too bored or too busy or if you had entirely too much fun the night before, go sit your butt in the chair. It honestly is hard to fail if you just show up. 

3. You have to take care of you. For your entire life, people have helped look after you. Your parents have kept you fed and clothed. Your counselor or ag teacher probably made sure you got your scholarship applications filled out. Your coaches carried an extra uniform for those times when you brought the wrong color jersey (again). But as you go out into the world, it will be up to you.   You have to pay attention to things like what credits you need to graduate and the balance in your bank account before you swipe that debit card and whether you have any clothes to wear dancing on Thursday night that pass the smell test. It’s on you to be your own best advocate.

4. Dream big. I think that one of the most detrimental things we can do in our lives is to dream too small. Too often, we sell ourselves short because we doubt our abilities or we just don’t even know what opportunities are out there. During my second year of law school, I started looking for summer jobs. Somehow, I came upon a list of the top 25 law firms in the United States. So, I sent every one of those firms a resume. Now, understand these are the fancy white shoe firms that hire kids from Harvard and Yale and I really wish I could tell you I was just insanely brave or super confident,  but honestly, I think I was just too dumb to realize what a reach it was to think they would even interview  a student from UNM.  In the end,  I got back 23 rejection letters. But 2 firms gave me an interview. And I spent the next summer living in an apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay.  I rode the trolley to work every day, made more money in a week than I made in a month at any other job, and got the chance to work with many of the top legal minds in the country.   When I was 18, I could not have even fathomed that something like this was possible for anyone, much less for me. And had I been afraid of rejection or deterred by those 23 letters, I would have missed that entire experience.  But, without a doubt, that summer changed my life, because it taught me the power of a big dream.

 As you look to the future, dream big.  Believe in yourself. Take time to really investigate what opportunities are out there. And then reach for some that seem wholly unattainable. Because you never know what you can accomplish when you go after it.

5. Always talk to your cab driver.  You are going to see that society will tell you there are certain people who are beneath you.  Janitors. Secretaries.  Cab drivers.  And society is dead wrong.  Take the time to acknowledge and talk to these people.  Why?  Three reasons.  First, because they are people and deserve to be seen and treated with respect.  Second, because when you do, you are likely to find out they have amazing, inspiring stories.  As one of my favorite songs says about cab drivers, “I hope I am half the man of the men who drive me places.”  And finally, because they are likely to save your bacon one day.  As a young lawyer, I learned really fast that a good legal secretary and paralegal were far more valuable than me.  And more than once, mine saved my rear and probably kept me from getting fired!  Had I been a jerk to them, they might have just let me sink.  

A while back, someone came to me for help because he said I was the only one who ever really talked to him and listened to what he had to say.  You know what? I would trade in every award on my wall for that compliment.  Because that’s the way I think we should all strive to be to one another.

6.  Get to know people who are different than you. For the most part, almost everyone you know is like you. With a handful of exceptions, my guess is that most people have the same religion, mostly the same political beliefs, and pretty much the same background as you. But the world doesn’t just look like us.  It wasn’t until I left home that I made friends with people who were really different than me.  At OSU, I met a girl who had honestly never seen a cow in person. I have sat shiva with a Jewish friend and his family afternhia grandpa’s funeral at the Temple.  One of the funniest guys I know is a Hindu, vegetarian from California.  In law school, I sat next to a girl who wore a hajib and read the Koran. And if the combo of the last presidential election and Facebook taught me anything, it is that my friends have political beliefs all across the board. And you know what? I am better for knowing every single one of these people. They have taught me that though we are all different, we are still the same too, and that we can disagree on fundamental, important things, but still be kind and respectful of each other.  And that is a lesson this world badly needs.

7.  Find your passion and make a difference. There is a difference in the world that God designed you to make. And I honestly believe that God places different tugs on people’s heart for a reason–so that there is someone to help with every important need.  Let’s take adoption for example. I know many families who have adopted and some felt very strongly that they wanted to adopt domestically to help a child here in our country.  Others will absolutely tell you their purpose was to adopt kids from China or Haiti.  And neither one is wrong, just different. And because of that, all those children have families.  Another example I just recently lived, occurred when my husband and I adopted a Syrian refugee family living in a refugee camp in Lebanon.  Many friends donated to that cause, but many did not.  And of those who didn’t, during the same time frame, some organized a Christmas drive to be sure homeless kids got gifts. Another opened a school for blind kids in Uganda.  And when the wildfires swept across the panhandle, countless friends and family helped in more ways than I can count. 

With all this in mind,  I beg of you to find your passion and whether you have a job that lets you make a difference through your work or you find an outside opportunity to give back, find your difference.  And then make it!

8.  Pull your hair back and get to work. I could not stand in this school and speak today without mentioning one of my very favorite people in the world, whom many of you will know, Coach Jerry Franklin. We’d be here for days for me to walk you though everything I learned from that man. Instead, I chose one lesson. There were a couple of times when we would be at a stock show or a judging contest and us girls would be dolled up thinking we looked cute and perhaps not completely focusing on the task at hand. Clear as day, I can remember him saying, “Girls, you pull your hair back and get to work!” There is nothing in the world that is more important than working hard. Many times, you will encounter people who are more talented than you, people who have more natural ability. But often, if you are just flat willing to outwork them, to out hustle them, to put in the unglamorous practice time, you will come out ahead. 

And my final thought for you all today–the best of the best when it comes to athletic talent in the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference–is that it was never about the ball. Sure, the state championship banners on the wall and rings on your fingers are nice. The gold emblems on your FFA jackets are something to be proud of. Your NHS patches on your letter jacket are well deserved. But they aren’t what it’s really about.  In a few years, when you look back about your high school career, you will see it too. You will realize that the work ethic, the being part of a team, the sense of community, and the relationships with your coaches, teammates, and even your competitors from other school…turns out that’s what it was all really about, rather than how well you could bounce a ball. 
So take all the lessons. The ones you learned in a classroom or a basketball court or a show ring or a football field or here today, and put them to use. Make us all proud. The world needs good adults. Now go be one. 

Recipe Card: Pulled Pork Sliders

I am always on the hunt for a good weeknight recipe for the crockpot.  And I found one here. Thanks Pinterest!  Even my uber picky Husband said these were “really good.”

Pulled Pork Sliders

Pork roast

1/4 C chicken broth 

1/4 C apple cider vinegar 

1 T worchestershire sauce

1 bottle BBQ sauce

1/4 C brown sugar

1 T chile powder

Slider buns (I like the sweet Hawaiian style)

Pickles

Mustard

Cole slaw

Put a crockpot liner in your crockpot. (If you don’t know about these, look them up.  I just changed your life.)

Place roast in crock pot.  Pour chicken broth, vinegar, BBQ, worchestershire over the top.  Pour brown sugar and chile powder over roast and rub it in.

Cook on low for about 8-10 hours.

Remove roast, pull meat off and shred with fork.

Build sliders. (I like mustard, pickles, and coleslaw, but you can use anything you like.)

…But I Can Do Something

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

When I started my fundraising campaign for Amina’s family–Syrian refugees living in Lebanon–on Ash Wednesday, I did not know what to expect.  Would people care?  Would they think this too political of an issue?  Would I be questioned about why I was helping there and not here?  Would anyone even give?

The results have been humbling and inspiring.  Thirty different people have made monetary donations to our campaign and we’ve raised $2,100.  These folks include business owners, retirees, and young families.  They live in Texas, New Mexico, Canada, and include some folks who I do not even know.  They are Methodist and Catholic and Baptist and some have likely never set foot in a church.  Donations ranged from $5 to $200 per person.  And every single one of them helped to accomplish our task.

What have we been able to do with this money?  Let me show you.

On our last Skype call, the father (Metheb) asked if we could use a portion of the funds to allow them to purchase sheep.  In true “teach a man to fish” fashion, he explained that doing this would allow them to start a business and support themselves long term, rather than relying on donations.  Of course, I had to laugh.  What he didn’t know is that my family raises sheep here in the states.  When I told him we could, indeed, help him start his flock, he teared up and told me that we were changing his family’s life.  The sheep were purchased at market this week.

lebanon sheep

A washing machine was delivered just today and a fridge is coming next week.  We’ve also sent money so that their daughter, Bailsan, can see a dentist about an infected tooth she’s suffering with.

washing machine

In addition, there have been over 10 “Go Delivery” orders sent directly to the family.  From children’s toys to food to clothing to toilet paper to cell phones to blankets to formula and diapers, we have helped to feed and clothe this family without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes.

We’ve still got about $500 and I’m planning on Skyping with the family tomorrow to see what else they need at this point.

The world is a hard place.  It is easy to look at the hatred and violence, the hungry children and war-torn nations, and just feel negative and dejected.  For over a year, I felt God tugging at my heart about the situation in Syria, but I also felt paralyzed and unable to know where to start or what to do that would really make a difference.

These photos make clear to me that we’ve made a real difference for Amina and her family.  And who knows, maybe God will use this project and the others like it to make a major difference in the world. Could something like this help to end terrorism or anti-American sentiment in the Middle East?  Could it help to stop religious hatred between some Muslims and some Christians?  Could it really change the world?  I don’t know…but I have to believe it is a start.  I’ve got to think that there is one family in a refugee camp in Lebanon who will not think evil things when America is mentioned.  Instead, they will think of the white-as-day Christian family in Texas who rallied their friends and bought sheep and food and washing machines for people they did not even know.  Maybe we’ll change the world, or maybe we’ll just change it for this one little family in a tent in Lebanon.  Either way, I’m happy to be a part of it.

Remember, in the end, we are more alike than we are different.  The two photos below–one taken last week in America and one taken last week in Lebanon seem to illustrate that pretty well.

What we have done for this family, it gives me hope.  It restores my faith in loving our neighbors–even when they may not live nearby or look the same or even pray to the same God.  It makes me remember that there are good people who are always willing to help others.    Thank you for being His hands and feet here on earth.

I am inspired and humbled and honored to be a part of this effort.  Thank you all for doing something.

 

We are still taking donations through the Go Delivery page (click here) and the fundraising website (click here).  Please feel free to share with your friends if they might want to help.  If you’d like to adopt your own family, just go here (and feel free to contact me if you have questions or need any help!)

Minding Our Business

Mr. Stevens,
I was greatly disappointed to read your editorial addressing “the James neighbors” and suggesting they “mind their own business” with regard to the proposed borehole project. Not only was the content frustrating, but the tone was rude and unprofessional. I would expect more from an editor of multiple newspapers.

First, I think it very unfair to paint a picture that in order to be concerned about the borehole project (and the deceitful actions of the company proposing said project), one has to be anti-the James family. I love the James clan and have, gosh, my entire life. I went to the prom and on countless ski trips with their youngest son. I have gotten great advice on mothering from their daughter. I have never seen Mrs. James and not been greeted with a hug. I will absolutely guarantee you, if I saw her tomorrow, borehole or not, the same would be true. Let me be very clear: I am not now, nor will I ever be, against that family. Nor are the vast majority of concerned citizens.

Second, my family owns a farm in Quay County and my children will be the fourth generation to work the soil that their great grandparents purchased nearly 60 years ago. And you better believe that protecting that land, environment, and water is not only my business, but my responsibility. And one that my family and I take very seriously, as do so many other Quay County residents. Voicing questions and concerns over a proposed drilling project is doing just that.


Finally, before attacking one side involved in this, please consider the number of inconsistent statements made by Enercon, the company proposing the project. Numerous times, they have been caught speaking out of both sides of their mouths, being inconsistent (at best), and misconstruing statements and positions of others. Regardless of the nature of their project, their actions would raise concern from me, period.

I believe you owe the residents of Quay County an apology, Mr. Stevens. Because in seeking to protect their land, their water, their families, and their livelihood, I would say they are “minding their business” quite well.

Tiffany D. Lashmet