Stand Up. Do Better.

It feels like over the last year, I’ve frequently shook my head and wondered how certain things can be happening in America.

After the murder of several Asian-Americans yesterday and the undeniable increase in hate crimes against Asians in this country, I find myself doing it again. And to compound my grief and frustration, there is the lack of white Americans condemning this violence. One friend of mine said I was the only non-Asian who she had seen post about the killings. That breaks my heart.

We have to do better. People, made in the image of God, living in the United States of America are being brutally murdered because of their ethnicity. We have to stand up for those facing violence and racism and hatred in this country. Full stop. No “but what about” or “yea but also” or “well it wasn’t because…”.

So today…stand up. Whether that looks like a social media post, a prayer, a donation, texting your Asian friends, reading a blog post or social media status of someone of Asian descent to understand how they feel … do something. I’m sick of asking how this can be happening in America and ready to figure out how the hell we make it stop.

Recipe Card: Taco Soup

My mother in law makes really good taco soup, so I recently asked for her recipe. This could not be easier and I love it especially for a Friday night when I am exhausted, but want a good dinner at home.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 can rotel (I like the one with Hatch green chile)
1 can corn
1 can ranch style beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix

Brown the meat and season with garlic, salt and pepper. Drain grease.

Add all the cans (liquid included) and packets. Heat then simmer until ready to serve.

I serve with cheese and sour cream. I like to eat it with cornbread or cheese quesadillas! I also like to add green chile because, well, I’m a New Mexican.

It’s Just What Farmers Do

This was published with the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer magazine.

Recently, we were at a small family gathering. I looked over to find my four-year-old son, pants around his ankles, going potty in the yard. I rushed over to find out what in the actual world he was doing!

He responded, “Well, Mama, it’s just what farmers do.”

After I got over the embarrassment, I got to thinking about his statement and what things farmers just do.

Farmers help their neighbors.  I was fortunate to grow up withneighbors really did feel like family.  When my grandfather suddenly passed away when my dad was a teenager, it was our neighbors who stepped in to help get crops in the ground and to offer advice for decades afterwards.  I can think back on my childhood and remember neighbors helping me collect rocks for my science project, never refusing to buy whatever I was selling for a fundraiser, and being my biggest cheerleaders at basketball games or stock shows.  

Farmers give back to their communities.  I cannot think of a single farmer I know who does not also give back to the community in some way.  Some are members of the volunteer fire department, others volunteer to judge public speaking contests.  Some coach pee wee basketball teams, and others can be found flipping burgers behind the school concession stand.  

Farmers care for the environment and their animals. I learned a lot about respecting the environment from farmers. I can remember being a child standing in the field talking about conserving water and how best to care for our soil. I’ve seen grown men cry when, despite their best efforts, they’ve been unable to save a cow, a newborn lamb, or their favorite horse.

While I trust dropping Wranglers in public is something my boy will grow out of, I sure hope he learns and remembers so many of the other things that are just what farmers do.

Recipe Card: Shephard’s Pie

Shephard’s pie is one of my go-to weeknight meals during the winter. It’s classic comfort food and easy to get on the table quickly!

Ingredients

1 pound of ground beef (I think technically shephard’s pie is made with ground lamb and ground beef is called cottage pie…but used any ground meat you want)

Garlic

Onion (minced or fresh chopped)

Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

3 small russet potatoes

Butter

Milk

Either a packet of brown gravy mix and water directed on package OR 3/4 C beef broth and 2T corn starch

1 can of cut green beans

Shredded cheese

*To spice it up, add green chile to the meat while cooking!

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Brown hamburger meat in skillet adding about 1 clove garlic, onion, 4 shakes Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

While meat is cooking, boil potatoes until soft. Add milk, butter, garlic, and salt and mash. Set aside.

After meat is brown, you need to add gravy. You can either add in the gravy mix packet and follow directions on water, or you can make your own gravy. To make your own, add about 1/2C beef broth to the browned meat. Let that cook for a couple minutes and make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1/4C beef broth. Add to skillet. Stir until it thickens. If it’s too thick–add more broth.

Place meat mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Add can of green beans (drained) on top. Then place mashed potatoes on top of green beans. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and edges start to bubble.

Recipe Card: Beef Tips

Beef tips is one of my go-to recipes. It’s easy and delicious!

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1” cubes

24 oz beef broth

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons Soy sauce

1 clove garlic

¼ Teaspoon onion salt (or a couple shakes minced onion)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 green or red bell pepper sliced into strips

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

¼ cup water

Heat oil in large skillet; brown meat on all sides. Stir in broth, Worcestershire, soy sauce, garlic, onion. Season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer at least 1 hour (I like it closer to 2 hours).

About 20 minutes before you want to eat, add bell pepper and return cover.

Blend cornstarch and water; stir gradually into the beef mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

Sunday Nights Make Memories

This article was published with the Progressive Farmer Our Rural Roots series.

Under quarantine, the days started to run together, and life began to feel mundane. The kids were going stir crazy locked up at home and, if I am honest, so were their parents.

So, in an attempt to find some fun and salvage our sanity, we cooked up the idea of a fancy Sunday dinner.

These days, on Sunday nights, we simply prepare a little fancier meal than normal. In reality, the affair is nothing fancy. But to my kids (ages 4 and 5), you’d think it was dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park.

The menu isn’t complicated. It involves a lot of steak (of course). Dessert is always on the menu.

The kids make paper placemats for each of us. Our son, who is learning to write his letters, often works to write each person’s name and decorate each masterpiece with that person’s favorite animal.

We let the kids choose their own glassware. A wine glass with a twisty straw (because it’s a party!) is nearly always the vehicle of choice. We use the “fancy dishes,” which are honestly just our regular Fiestaware plates, but they feel fancy when compared to the paper plates that often get called into service during the week.

I hope when they are older and they look back on the chaos of the year 2020, my children will not remember too much of the hard. Instead, I hope they remember steak and macaroni and cheese on turquoise plates and apple juice in a wine glass.

I hope they remember the clanking of crystal glasses at least 57 times per meal and the joyous shouts of “cheers” as we raise our glasses high in salute. I hope they remember the real recipe to making things memorable is the simple ingredient of togetherness.

The Angel

We had been praying for a family friend who was very sick with COVID. We included the kids in these prayers for weeks. When our friend passed away, we told the kids that he had gone to Heaven.

Braun responded with, “He died? We have to make an angel for his family so they can remember him.”

After some negotiating and convincing the kids that we, in fact, cannot make a nice angel sculpture out of items in our house or concrete, we agreed that he and Harper could select an angel at the store to give to our friends.

There are times where I wonder if we are doing anything right on the parenting front. Days where it just seems full of fighting and whining and refusing to obey.

And then there are days like this. And I see that the seeds we are planing in their little hearts are growing. And those days make me full of hope.

Oh, and we also included a large drawing of a euoplocephalus because what says “we are so sorry for your loss” better than a large, herbivore from the Cretaceous period?

The Gift of Gratitude

I published this article as part of the Our Rural Roots Column for Progressive Farmer Magazine.

Well…2020 has been quite a year.  A number of people have lamented about all of the negatives the last 365 days have brought and cannot wait to kiss this trip around the sun goodbye.  While I understand the sentiment, I decided to take a different route to wrap up the year.

In March, when we were knee deep in the chaos of the pandemic (which for me involved trying to work at home with two kids under the age of 4…yikes), I found myself grouchy and unhappy much of the time.  So, I started a little gratitude practice.  Every day, I took a photo and wrote a couple of little things I was grateful for.

This one act completely changed my outlook. As it turns out, when we look for things to be grateful for, we find them all around. My lists each day grew longer and longer. Instead of listing two things, I had seven or eight some days. None of the listed items were extravagant or fancy — they were as simple as a beautiful sunset or a new calf, my daughter’s laugh to a purring kitten, my son teaching me about dinosaurs and an afternoon spent on horseback.

Looking back over my daily photos, I have so much to be grateful for in 2020. I bet you do too. As we wrap up this painful year, let’s take the time to really consider the good as we look forward to 2021. Reflect on what went right, on what gifts the forced slow down offered, and where we saw the goodness in people and in the world. It is my hope that by making time to look back with gratitude on the year coming to a close, we set ourselves up to see an abundance of good in the one to come.

The Land Will Take Care of You

We bought our North Place one year ago today. It was really a dream come true. We had wanted to own ranch land for several years, but just couldn’t find the right place. The way we found it had to be God, pure and simple.

It’s been fun to watch our dreams grow on this ground. The kids swimming in the tank. Picnics in the pasture. Hours of identifying plants. Our cattle herd growing. Ty getting to shoot both an antelope and deer on our land. Caking cows. It’s been such a blessing in a year of so much hard.

Ty said last night, “If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.”

It sure has done that for us this year.

A Stack of Stones for Agnes

I heard a preacher say that it was important to stack our stones. When the Israelites escaped Egypt, survived the wilderness and crossed the parted Jordan River, they stopped on the other side and made a stack of stones. A memorial, so they could remember for generations what God had done for them. It mattered, because we so easily forget what He has done. The miracles fade and in our humanness, we move on to think about other things. But the stones would remain, and their reminder would continue.

Today, I, along with so many people across the country, spent the day begging for a miracle for a sweet baby named Agnes. Her parents my dear friends and my own baby’s Godparents.

She had a complex surgery. Her parents were told it would be difficult. That they wouldn’t be able to completely untether the extremely complex spinal cord situation she was born with.

Today, I will stack my stones. I will write it down. I will keep telling everyone. So I will never forget that our God is still a God of miracles.

He heals the lame. Parts the seas. Raises the dead. And he untethers spinal cords.

May my stones and my words help me never to forget the prayers offered, the tears cried, the tethers loosed for sweet Agnes. It’s a miracle for her, and a reminder for us.

Thanks be to God.