The People in Rural America 

This is out first in the Best of 2016 series.

This post was originally published on Figuring Out the Plot and was subsequently published in several newspapers. It is my most-read post ever.

I grew up in rural America. And my husband and I have chosen to raise our family here. In town without stoplights or movie theatres or malls. We don’t have Starbucks or fancy shops or live music (well, except for Fourth of July in my hometown or the rodeo weekend in my current town, both of which are kinda big deals). The high school I attended didn’t have a band or offer French class and there were 200 kids, in one building, grades K through 12.

One of the best parts of living in rural America is the people. I grew up surrounded by neighbors who were like family to me. They helped with homework, they bought whatever crap I was selling as a fundraiser, and they pulled together when things got tough. A month ago when one of our cows got out and I was 9 months pregnant with a husband out of town and a one year old, two of our neighbors jumped right in and had her put up and the fence fixed before I even got home. When a neighbor’s house burned down, the whole community rallied to raise money and offer support. This is what people do here in rural America. 

I can tell you the names of my neighbors dogs for the past three decades. I bought my first cow from Robert when I was 9 years old. I still remember where the owl clock hung in Faye’s kitchen, although she has been gone now for over 20 years. I will never forget the taste Aunt Jean’s cheesecake she always brought to my grandma’s New Year’s Eve Party. 

And, so, on election night when the media kept referring to rural Americans like me, my family, my neighbors, and my friends, as “uneducated” it really made my blood boil. 
These people raise children. They raise the food the people in cities–including snooty news anchors–eat every day. They go to church and school carnivals and fair board meetings. They serve on the volunteer fire department and organize prayer circles and throw the best wedding showers.
And while some of us did receive a college education–I like to think my two college diplomas I earned while being first in my class (meaning the country kid beat the city kids) might deem me “educated,” the rest of us have received an education in the world. Some of the smartest people I know never graduated college and live in rural America. These women can sew anything you can think of, make the best tamales, and raised some of the best people I know. The men can fix anything, work circles around any man in a suit, and will spend hours helping their neighbor in a time of need. They understand agronomy, economics, and animal husbandry better than most people with PhDs.  

Recently, my dad figured up cost per acre on dry land milo on the back of an envelope in about 5 minutes, and the economists I worked with confirmed he was spot on after 3 hours of complex spreadsheets. He may not have walked around the gym in a cap and gown with a doctoral hood, but he is far from uneducated. 

We made the decision to live in rural America consciously, and there is no place where and no people around whom I would rather live or raise my babies. If you ask me, a lot of city folk would be better off if they spent a little time around some of these “uneducated” rural Americans. I am sure grateful for the ones in my life. 

One of the Good Guys

Five years ago today, we lost my Uncle David.  This blog post turned into me giving my first eulogy.  Please say a little prayer for my Aunt Midge today. Time passes, but the pain of this day doesn’t get much easier.

“To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die.”

My Uncle David was one of the good guys. The kind that I’m not convinced they make anymore.
A real cowboy, who used to rodeo with Chris LeDeux. Who could fix whatever, threaten to fight anyone, wasn’t afraid of anything, and liked a cold Coors Light. A guy with a booming voice, a look that made you instantly sit up straighter and say, “Yes sir!” and who constantly threatened to the kids that he was “gonna kick your butt!”

And yet, the same guy who spent part of Thanksgiving dinner playing peekaboo with my two younger cousins and used to untangle my toy puppets. A man who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought for a second you needed it. He was one of the good guys.

I don’t know if our family is like most others. Aunts and uncles here are not just people that we see once a year and who buy us crappy Christmas presents. In our family, they go to ball games and speech contests, graduations and weddings, and take you out to dinner anytime they are in town. Oh, and they buy really good presents. Aunts and uncles are part of our lives, and for that, I’m grateful.
“To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die…”

My Uncle David was one of the good guys. The kind that I’m not convinced they make anymore.


A real cowboy, who used to rodeo with Chris LeDoux. Who could fix whatever, threaten to fight anyone, wasn’t afraid of anything, and liked a cold Coors Light. A guy with a booming voice, a look that made you instantly sit up straighter and say, “Yes sir!” and who constantly threatened to the kids that he was “gonna kick your butt!”

And yet, the same guy who spent part of Thanksgiving dinner playing peekaboo with my two younger cousins and used to untangle my toy puppets. A man who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought for a second you needed it. He was one of the good guys.

I don’t know if our family is like most others. Aunts and uncles here are not just people that we see once a year and who buy us crappy Christmas presents. In our family, they go to ball games and speech contests, graduations and weddings, and take you out to dinner anytime they are in town. Oh, and they buy really good presents. Aunts and uncles are part of our lives, and for that, I’m grateful.

My Uncle David was the kind of uncle every kid should have. The only guy I knew as a kid who was brave enough to curse in front of my mother. Curse word of choice: Dammit as a new first name. (For example, my Aunt would say something that made no sense and his response would be, “Dammit, Midge!” or my mom would be worried about something or lecturing someone and his response would be, “Dammit, Sue!”)

He was the guy who everyone knew. At the State Fair, he would park himself at the corner of the pig show ring bleachers and never leave, because people who knew him just kept on coming by. He knew more about loco weed and winning a science fair than anyone you’ll ever meet. He became quasi-famous (maybe infamous is more like it) after he was quoted in the paper for this gem: “Pigs can’t read.” We were so proud.
You could always spot my Uncle David in a crowd, because he’d wear the same thing, without fail. Boots, Wranglers, solid colored shirt, black hat. He might mix it up and add a tan vest if it was cold or take his hat off at the table. For 28 years, that’s how I expected to see Uncle David.
Uncle David hated Olive Garden. But Aunt Midge and I loved it, so when they would be in town to take me out to eat, that was often the destination. He would moan and groan all the way through his shrimp alfredo. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he texted to check on me when I had a medical procedure done. I told him they had found a food allergy. His response, “Probably from that damn Olive Garden.”

Speaking of texting—if you knew Uncle David, you might find it strange that he texted. He told me he didn’t have a choice if he wanted to communicate with his grand kids. There was, however, a rule. When you wrote Uncle David, you used correct grammar and spelling if you wanted him to answer. Otherwise, you would not get a response, and would, instead, probably get the new first name described above.

And he loved to text me during Oklahoma State football games. I’m not sure if I’ve watched an OSU game in the last several years without a text from Uncle David. My favorite was the text I got the morning after Bedlam a few weeks ago. Here’s the conversation:

Uncle David: “Okay, so what hospital are you in? I saw on tv that 13 people got taken to the hospital after getting trampled while rushing the field, and I knew right away you had to be one of them.”

Me: “Ha! Well you are correct—I did rush the field—but you will be proud to know I only twisted my ankle and went to a bar and not a hospital.”

Uncle David: “I’m so proud of you for not being a dumbass.”

And you know, I’m happy I made him proud. 🙂

We lost Uncle David yesterday. A week after he was diagnosed with cancer. And Saturday, we will gather to say goodbye. I know that there will be tears, but I also know there better be one heck of a party. Because if there’s not, I’ve got a feeling that there may be a booming voice from Heaven giving the rest of us that new first name.

Best of 2016

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my top 10 blog posts (from my prior blog) from 2016 with you.  It may feel like tv right now with all the re-runs for my regular readers…sorry about that!

Here’s the official list:

  • The People in Rural America
  • LL’s Birth Story
  • Go Home and Love Your Family
  • Enjoying Your 10 Cows
  • Raising Livestock
  • Advice to the Class of 2016
  • Aunt Edith’s Turn
  • Grandpa Joe and the Question 
  • You Can’t Plan a Miracle
  • The Perfect Baby

Stay tuned!


My Favorite Christmas Song: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

It was written during the Civil War. It’s hard to think of a worse time, one in which peace must have seemed so far away, so unlikely.  A country divided against itself.  Brothers fighting brothers.  Bloody battles on American soil.

The author lost his wife and son.  And though the road he traveled was dark, he heard the bells ring out that Christmas and was reminded of the truth.  “God is not dead, nor does he sleep.”  And he remained hopeful that peace would one day reign. 

{Listen here.}

May the bells you hear this Christmas offer the same hopeful reminder to you.  Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas!  And may we have peace on Earth, indeed.

Essential Oils…Getting Started

It feels like essential oils are everywhere and for a long time, I have been interested but overwhelmed when it came to this topic.

Joy’s essential oil cabinet

There seem to be a million oils and  three million recipes to mix them. Some you put on neat (had to google that) and some need a carrier oil.  There are a ton of different companies.  It seemed so complex that I didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t.

But recently, two friends have taken me under their wings and helped me get going.  

Joy is a huge oil user and has been kind enough to answer all my questions and send me samples.  Jennifer teaches Facebook classes on oils that are super helpful. 

So I finally took one of Jennifer’s classes to learn what oils are and the different ways to use them.  And then I called Joy and asked her to tell me her three “must have” oils for someone getting started.  

Her verdict: lavender, peppermint, and lemon. In that order.

So I started slowly with these three and a Breathe bend my babysitter gave me.  I ordered a diffuser off of Amazon.  And we were off.

So far, I diffuse lavender at night in BB’s room.  When he is congested, I add Breathe.  It does seem to help with sleeping somewhat and it smells good if nothing else!)

I’ve also diffused a mix of lemon, lavender, and peppermint during the day to help with seasonal allergies.  Again, it makes our house smell amazing.

I have a Breathe Again roller bottle that I have used on Husband and my neck and feet and on BB’s feet. Not enough evidence to make a determination yet.

As I learn more, I will share more info. If you want to chat with my expert friends or order anything, let me know and I will get you in touch with them. They’re the ones to talk to.  I also found this blog post to be very helpful if you are getting started like me.

Book Report: Love That Boy

Author: Ron Fournier

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Favorite Quotes:

“From their first breath-if not sooner-our dreams for our children are at least in the ballpark of perfect, because great grades, championship trophies, lots of friends, and professional success lead to happiness, right? Actually, no. When a parent’s expectations come from the wrong place and are pressed into service of the wrong goals, kids get hurt.”

“First I had to learn to love my boy for who he was, rather than who I wanted him to be.”

“We should measure our children not by the mountains they conquer but by their efforts to climb. Oh–and let them pick which hills to scale.”

“What do I ultimately want did my kids? I want them to pursue the happiness that is found in goodness. On a day off, I want them to bring outgrown clothes to a bad neighborhood.”

“There are no small victories in parenting. Only victories.”

“My parents had big expectations for me. They wanted me to be what I wanted to become.”

Review

If you know me in real life, you are probably sick to death of me talking about how great I thought this book was.  I have recommended it to pretty much everyone I know. 

The book is written by the father of a boy on the Autism spectrum.  The dad is a political writer who took trips with his son to study several different Presidents in an effort to connect.  What he found–heck, what I think all parents find–is that his son teaches him more than he teaches his son.  It is, essentially, a book about coping woth (and overcoming) parental expectations. 

In my mind, it’s a must read for all parents, moms and dads alike. 

Recipe Card: Soup’s On!

Every week, I plan our meals on Sunday and share recipes on my Pinterest here.

Recently, soup has been a frequent flier on our weekly menu.  Is there anything better on a cold day?

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Potato Soup

Here are my 3 favorite soup recipes:

* Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Potato Soup. Basically if Ree Drummond comes up with it, I’m on board.  This recipe doesn’t disappoint!  I prefer a thicker, chunkier soup, so I put about a cup less broth and do not put it in the blender.  I could eat this every day. {Recipe here.}

* Peas and Crayons Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I only discovered the brilliance of broccoli cheddar soup in the last 3 years or so. How did I not realize it was amazing the other 30 years of my life?  Anyway, this is my go-to recipe. I like it better than any restaurant version I have tried.  Everything is fresh and the Gouda cheese…oh my gosh. {Recipe here.

* Chicken Enchillada Soup. This is a throw-in-the-Crock Pot recipe, which makes it a total winner for this working mom!  I also froze a ziplock of all the ingredients except the broth before LL was born so it was ready to go. It’s tasty and total comfort food.  I add green chile (New Mexican roots) and always serve with tortilla chips,  grated cheese, sour cream, and avocado. {Recipe here.}

*Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocci Soup.  I am always suspect of a recipe that’s a. Opucat of something I like at a restaurant. But this one literally tastes just like the OG version.  Plus, other than the butter, it’s really healthy!

I made the chicken in the crock pot the night before, so it only took me about 30 minutes to whip this up!  I added celery and used one less cup of chicken broth than called for, but other than that, I followed the recipe.  {Recipe here.}

Let me know what you think if you give them a whirl!

Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocci Soup

Little House Tour (Master Suite)

When we bought this house 2 years ago, it was 900 square feet.  Soon after, we found out we were pregnant and decided we might need some more room.  So we added on another 900 square feet to make it the perfect 3 bedroom, 2 bath home for us.

I thought a tour of the Little House might be a good way to start this blog.

We will do this in pieces because, let’s be real.  I have a 15 month old and having more than one room picked up at a time doesn’t happen. 

Let’s kick things off with the master suite (since that’s what Joanna always calls it on Fixer Upper, I am going with it).

Husband designed everything for the builder and I absolutely love it.   We went with grey and yellow for our colors.

The four windows make it so bright.


Husband’s antique desk is partially covered now in photos we have had to move from low shelves and little hands…ah, parenthood!

I am obsessed with gallery walls, and I love how this turned out. 

Husband had this bed when we got married.  We got a new Temperpedic mattress (it’s heaven) and the pillows were wedding gifts.

 


This little kneeler is something I found in Dallas shortly after seeing my favorite Saint’s (St. John Paul II) kneeler at a museum in Poland. It has become a little alter for my favorite saints.


When people come visit,they literally “ooh” and “ahh” over this bathroom.  We went with turquoise (towels) and tan.


The shower may be my favorite thing in the house.  We opted for a big shower and no tub and it’s fantastic.


And finally, our walk in closet. 


Stay tuned for more!  

A Little About Me

My name is Tiffany and Husband and I live in a little town in the Texas Panhandle in our Little House on 10 acres with our two adorable babies, two dogs, six cows, and a ram (of the sheep variety) who is currently visiting.

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Those adorementioned babies are our 15-month old son, a red headed tornado we will call BB here, and the sweetest 2 month old little girl who we will call LL.  They are by far our greatest adventure.

I am a New Mexican farm girl, Oklahoma State alum (Go Pokes!), Christian, lawyer, traveler, runner, football fanatic, and reader.  I love livestock, chocolate chip cookies, Texas Country music, and San Francisco.

 If I have the remote and there is no football and on, I enjoy Chopped, Fixer Upper, Chicago Fire, and re-runs of Friends, MASH, Grey’s Anatomy, and ER.  (Seriously, those were tv glory days!)

I have my dream job, working in agricultural law helping to educate Texas producers and landowners about their rights.

I am blessed beyond belief and am excited to share a bit of my big life with you.