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Monday, September 22, 2014

Today I'll Remember

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”  ~Czeslaw Milosz

Five years ago today, Mr. Franklin lost his battle with ALS.

As I've watched all of the ice bucket challenges on Facebook--some of you people (ahem...Mr.and Mrs. Lee....) are quite creative with those--my mind always turned to him.

But the truth is, we can dump all of the ice that we want but awareness--true awareness--of this disease, unfortunately, can only be gained by watching someone you love go through it.  It is an awareness I would wish on no one.  Ever.

Today, however, I refuse to think of disease or death or sadness.  Instead, I will think only of good memories of one of my favorite people.

I will think of chicken gizzards and ass kickin' peanuts.  Forcing me to swallow the green Mexican pills that he was sure would cure food poisoning and him lining up the entire basketball team and making everyone drink an Alka Seltzer.

I remember sideways glances about jokes only he and I understood.  His uncanny ability to remember even the smallest details about every show animal anyone ever had.  Ducking chalk he sent flying when someone missed a parli pro question.  I'll remember him chasing us up the hill with scissors and paging people to the golf cart at his last sheep sale.

I'll remember that the man who would lecture me for an hour about not finishing my orange juice or who would make the boys run until they puked in practice was the same man that would get tears in his eyes and a quivering lip anytime you won a contest or said goodbye to leave for college.   He may have had a loud bark, but his heart was bigger. 

And even five years later, I still miss him every single day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cooking Up a Storm (Part 2)

Today we'll continue on with the recipe sharing we started on Monday.  How impressed are you guys with me?  I'm trying to expand the ol' recipe repertoire so that I don't run out of recipes the first week I'm a wife.

Actually, on a side note, once we are Mr. and Mrs., we're going to each pick out one new recipe a week out of all the cookbooks we've received for wedding gifts!  Very excited about that.  I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, back to the task at hand.

Crockpot Beef and Broccoli.  This recipe was excellent.  Absolutely excellent.  It's going to remain a mainstay.  I made a couple changes....I used fresh broccoli instead of frozen and I added some carrots.  Oh, and I used garlic powder instead of real garlic because I'm lazy.  Serve it over rice (I use brown) and enjoy!

Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocci Soup.  This is another in the win column.  It was easy to make and allows you to include a lot of fresh veggies.

Snickerdoodle Apple Cobbler.  This is a super easy dessert that The Boy from Texas absolutely loves.  It's almost like cheating because it is super tasty, looks fancy, but is SO easy!  Serve with ice cream for sure.  We like Blue Bell.

Lasagna Dip.  This is a great appetizer and think it would be awesome to take to a Super Bowl type-party.  I used beef instead of turkey (duh!) and it was really tasty!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Old Man's Birthday

Today is my old man's birthday.  It may be hard to catch him to wish him well....he has been at the State Fair for several days helping kids with show lambs we raised and then he's headed to a motorcycle rally with his cousins.  No, he has never had a motorcycle.  Yes, he attends this rally every year.  If you are there, you'll recognize him as the guy in the cowboy hat.

I thought I'd share an article I had published last year in Seeing the Everyday that I think sums him up pretty well.  Happy Birthday to my old man!

Best Gift

Ask my dad about the prohibition on admitting hearsay testimony at trial. Ask him about how many minutes a quarter lasts in girls high school basketball.  Ask him the weight of a typical Holstein cow. He’ll be able to tell you about them all.

These are examples of my father's best gift to me. Did my dad have some inner love for the Federal Rules of Evidence or high school sports or dairy cows? No.  He is a simple mechanic and rancher who did not play high school sports, has never been to court, and does not raise dairy cattle.  He had no interest in these things, but my dad had an interest in me.  And, because of that, he took an interest in the things that were important to me.

I remember shooting baskets and my dad coming out to rebound for me or make suggestions about my form. He had never played basketball, and perhaps in a private conversation he would tell you that Single A girls athletics were boring. But he was there helping. When I judged dairy cows in high school he helped me study for the test by asking me the average weight for each different breed.  We spent hours studying for that test.  That work and time together was special.  Our relationship wasn't the only benefactor of that time side by side - we were State Champions and Reserve National Champions.

His commitment to our relationship hasn't changed since I've become an adult. When I would prepare for a mock trial in law school we would talk about the issues in the case, the motions in limine, and how we planned on getting certain statements in. Again—with no legal background at all, he simply cared because I did. And when we got the evidence in and won the trial, he sat in the back of the courtroom, beaming with satisfaction. 

Even last month when I was running a 5k early one morning  Dad called the night before to be sure I knew it was going to be cold and that I could wear tights and a jacket to stay warm. 

Knowing that you have someone behind you, who supports your interests even when those interests are completely different than his own, is a gift,  maybe the best gift that a father could give. I know that my dad is always in my corner truly supporting every effort.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cooking Up a Storm (Part 1)

I've been cooking up a storm lately.  Up a storm.  Seriously, I think maybe I'm "nesting" since I'm only 46 days away from marrying The Boy from Texas?  I'm not sure, but I thought it might be fun to share a few recipes with you all this week!

Blueberry Scones  This is hands down the best new recipe I've made in a while.  I don't think of myself as much of a scone eater, but The Boy from Texas loves them.  I know, it's weird.  Here's this total rough and tough country guy ordering a scone like he's off to tea with the Queen.  But he likes them and I like him, so I gave them a whirl. These were also the very first recipe made using my new Kitchenaid mixer.  They were SO good!  I'm a huge, huge fan.  Use fresh fruit.  I used blueberries, but may try strawberries next time.

Crockpot Chicken Alfredo  I love anything that can be cooked in a crock pot.  I also love chicken alfredo.  This ended up being pretty good....I'm not going to say great, but pretty good.  I added broccoli to the recipe to try and give it some sort of health value.  Tip----add the broccoli about an hour before you are ready to eat.  I added it too early and it was really mushy.

Brown Sugar Baked Peaches  This was super easy and really tasty.  I made some for The Boy from Texas and he greatly approved.  We didn't add ice cream, but the bottom line is that ice cream makes anything better, so go for it.  One note....don't make extra because the peaches do not re-heat well.

Zucchini Carrot Oatmeal Muffins  I struggle with knowing what to eat for breakfast.  First off, I don't like to get out of bed early enough to cook anything.   Second off, I have a pretty sensitive stomach so I need something that's not too crazy.  Lastly, I'm trying to really up the number of veggies in my diet.  Enter these muffins.  They turned out really, really good and I'd highly recommend them!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Wedding Shower

I've got to admit....I really didn't want a wedding shower.  The idea of everyone feeling like they had to buy us something and me having to sit there and open presents with everyone watching me was sort of terrifying.  But when I had three people offer to host such a shower within 24 hours of our engagement, I knew this was happening!

And, as usual, they were right, I was wrong.  The shower was awesome.  It was amazing to catch up with ladies from so many different parts of my life all in one place, to hear their warm wishes and advice, and to receive so many absolutely perfect wedding gifts. 

There were lots of interesting moments.

The aunts misbehaved.  No one was surprised.  That one in the white was the ringleader.


Some of my favorite girls helped me open presents and show them around.... I remember babysitting one of them and selling sheep to the other two when they were little bitty things and now one is in high school and the other two are off to college.


Just like high school, Mrs. Filpi and Connie J. kept me focused, sane, and safe (Mrs. Filpi took the knife away from me more than once.)

Little Cowboy bought us a huge wire horse.  And then he instructed us it should live on the mantle.

 And then, in all its glory, there was the Kitchenaid Mixer.  I waited a LONG time to get this baby in my kitchen.  While being a bridesmaid, I've seen all of my girl friends get theirs and I've got to tell you, it was pretty dang awesome to take this baby home with me!

 I, like a doofus, didn't know what two items in the very first present were for.  It was from his grandma.  Said items were to be used in the kitchen.  Pretty sure she thinks I'm an idiot.

We took lots of pictures with the family (including the new mixer).

These sweet ladies put this entire thing together and are also some of the sweetest people I know.  Well, sweet might not be the word to describe the one in the black with the crazy hair, but ya know, we love her anyway.

These girls made a road trip to be there, which meant the world to me.  Cue tears.

This group.....well, they're family and that's pretty much that.

 Oh and there was a table full of cookies and fruit.  You can't go wrong there.

My entire life I feel like I've been an example of the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."  Never was that more evident than at this wedding shower.  Women of all ages, from multiple counties (and even states!), with varying backgrounds, who each know me from a different chapter of my life all gathered together to celebrate this whole wedding situation we've got going on.  I couldn't be more grateful.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

State Fair Did That

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”   ~Steve Jobs

This year I will miss the New Mexico State Fair for the first time in about 18 years.  I'm not happy about it, but between wedding stuff and job stuff there was just no way to make it work.  But this got me to thinking.....that fair prepared me for all of the things going on in my life now.

 Dream big.

The first time I showed at the State Fair, I came home with no sale slot and a 9th place ribbon.  I remember telling my dad that one day I wanted to raise a lamb that would win his class at the State Fair.  It was a lofty goal--even owning a lamb that would win his class was probably a stretch at that point in time--but it was something I knew I wanted to do.  And so we worked.  Me.  My family.  My ag teacher.  Friends who helped us.  We all worked harder and longer to improve.  I ended my State Fair career with several of those blue ribbons, a shiny belt buckle, and my very last State Fair landed me a winner with that lamb we raised ourselves.

State Fair taught me to dream big and go after what I want.  This skill has come in handy many times over the past 18 got me into law school, landed me a job at a Top 25 firm in San Francisco, got me this job at Texas A&M, and most recently gave me the courage to ask to be able to keep doing this job while living in the Panhandle.  It was a crazy request.....but it got approved and I'll be moving just before the wedding.  State Fair did that.

Find people who you can trust. 

I didn't meet Teacher Friend at State Fair.  We met at our local county fair and then went to school together.  But our friendship--which has now lasted about 21 years--was solidified in the dorms at the State Fair.  Every year, without fail, she would hightail it to the dorms the second her feet hit the fair grounds and claim us bunks in the best location---back corner, away from the doors, away from the showers.  I never once had to worry about where my bed would be located, because Teacher Friend was on it.

When people told me I needed to find someone that I could trust to handle details on the wedding day so that I wouldn't have to, there was zero question in my mind who to ask.  I know Teacher Friend will be all over it and make sure I don't have to worry about anything.  State Fair did that.

And know who you can't.

Conversely, I learned quickly, particularly after being successful in the show ring, that there are people you can't trust.  People who will say one thing to your face and another behind your back. 

And if you ask me, life's too short for dealing with those kind of folks.  I refuse to do so now.  State Fair did that.

It's important to talk to people about what we do.

I'm the first to admit that the "city folks" walking through the show barns asking questions can get annoying.  "Do they bite?"  "Will he kick me?"  "What is that thing on his mouth?"  "He's a boy because he has horns, right?"  "Can I have some of this hair you just cut off of him?"  Aye yai yai.  And normally this goes down right in the middle of the most stressful day of the day.  But dealing with this for over a decade taught me how to talk to people about showing and sheep and agriculture.

Turns out.....talking to people about agriculture is what I do for a living.  That's what I'll be doing on Monday that prevents me from going to the fair this year. I get paid to educate folks--albeit usually not city folks--about agricultural law.  It's the dream job and I really do feel like I've got a great background to do it well.  State Fair did that.

Make friends and keep them.
The best part of State Fair was seeing my friends from all over the state for a week every year.  It was sort of like a week-long slumber party with your friends.  (I mean, you slept in a cold, nasty dorm and hung out in a dusty barn all week, but it was great!)  Some of my best friendships were forged at that fair.
Over the years, I've been reminded of this over and over.  When I've needed rescuing after a near-death experience, I called a State Fair friend.  When I've needed help trying to prep materials for my ag law class, I called a State Fair friend.  I've been in their weddings, mourned with them and for them at funerals, and know the value of friendships that started when we weren't even old enough to drive.  State Fair did that.
Know what love looks like (and doesn't).
Ah, State Fair romances.  Many a broken heart started right there in the courtyard of the ol' dorms.  The truth is, we probably learned more about what love wasn't at the State Fair, but we learned a lot about what it was too. 
It was watching parents holding hands on the way back to sleep in two different dorms.  My dad taking me to the mall after I won Champion Cross to buy a new shirt for the dance.  Mr. Franklin waking up with me at 3 am to drench lambs the morning before the show.  Eric clipping legs on finewool lambs for umpteen years.  My mom with her video camera in the stands.  My brother coaching me from outside the ring.  Taking the Little Blond Haired Kid for ice cream before the sale.  High fives from Wade after things went well, and pep talks after they didn't.  There really was a lot of love in that big barn. 
(I'm not blind...there were a lot of major family disputes in that barn too....I remember and was involved in one or two of those babies).
As I look forward to marrying The Boy from Texas in 45 days (who's counting?), I'm glad to have seen examples of fair family relationships and hope that we can raise our kids in the same environment.  State Fair did that.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Remembering a Child

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain..." ~Rev. 21:4

I sat down on Sunday to blog.  I had several to share, a wedding shower to recap, photos from Blonde Oklahoma Girls' big day, random thoughts on world events....the norm.  But before I got started I stopped to check out Facebook.

There, I learned that one of the children to whom I helped grant a Make a Wish passed away.  You read about the impact his family had on me here and about his wish here.

And all of a sudden, I didn't much feel like talking about scones and bridesmaids dresses and wedding presents.

I recently read a wonderful article on suffering by my friend, Meg.  The entire article is phenomenal, but the following excerpt really hit me.

We can’t understand what God is doing any more than an infant can understand what his mother is doing–less so. We see the now, or even the 50 years from now. We see the splash. God sees the ripples. And not just the ripples on our lives but the ripples on the lives of those we love and those we hate and those we’ve never bothered to notice. God sees the ripples on eternity. God knows which miraculous cure will bring conversion and which painful death will draw hearts to him. He doesn’t give you cancer because you need to learn how to be a better person, but if he lets you suffer through it, he is working. This is the God who took the greatest evil of all time, the torture and deicide of Good Friday, and turned it into the greatest good for the human race. There is nothing he cannot turn to good.

This is what gives me hope. Not that God might work a miracle for me but that he is working miracles, daily miracles. This is providence, that for me in my comfortable life and for those suffering and abandoned, for every last person on this planet God is working miracles. He is holding them close and drawing them closer, even when they seem most alone. Because he knows what they need. This is the Christian answer to the problem of evil: God knows better than I. And he is working.

So what can I say to the mothers with empty arms, the broken victims of abuse and neglect, the refugees and hospice patients and orphans and addicts?

“I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that he is doing something. I don’t know what good will come of this, but I know that good will come. I know this the way I know how to breathe or which way is down: not because I can prove or explain it but because everything in my life cries out this truth. You are loved in your suffering. God weeps with you, hanging on the Cross for you. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what he’s doing. But I know who he is. He is good. He is love. He is for you. And there will come a day when all is made clear, when you’re welcomed into the embrace of the God who has been waiting for you since before there was time and you see just how all things worked for good. But until then, I will stand with you in the unknowing. Together we will hope and love and suffer. And we will trust in a God who is so much bigger than our pain.”
Miracles seem arbitrary and unfair because our vision is so short. But we worship an eternal God who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all. There is nothing he will not do for us. Ours is to trust that when we lie broken amidst the rubble of our lives, even then he is working. Even then we are protected. Even then we are loved by a Father who wills our greatest good, though it may be a long time coming. Wait in hope, my friends. My God will not disappoint.

Please keep the sweet family of my Make a Wish child in your prayers.  Peace be with them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Bachelorette Bash

Two days.  One lake.  Three boats.  Two jet skis.  Two houses.  Eight of my favorite girls. Three of my favorite boys.  Six of my favorite aunts and uncles.  One death defying leap off of the roof of a houseboat.  One of my favorite families.  One wicked hail storm.  One broken bikini top.  An undisclosed number of cute gifts at the lingerie shower. Two early morning runs by the lake.  Three phenomenal meals thanks to Aunt Evil Kineval and Queso.  All that adds up to the best Bachelorette Bash ever.
College Roomie taking it all in.

I love him.

These girls!

Jet ski time.
I got carsick after about 5 minutes.
Wouldn't have been a party without these two.

The bride had to do a little skiing.

This dude fell out of the boat.

LOKG rocking the cheerleader moves.
Go Pokes!

"The lake people."

My cheerleader attempt.
LOKG's leap.

They finally convinced me to go.  Please notice Mrs. Hepburn's face.
The jump.
Our amazing digs for the weekend.

I analyzed it all, held my nose, jumped like crazy and hoped not to die.  TBFT dove head first.

Relaxing in Big Bertha.

Group jump.
Our trusty pontoon boat Capitan.

Yes, there are boys there.  The groom included.  I've had several comments from people about how this is not right and it's not normal and it's not a bachelorette party.  Screw that.  Here's the deal, kids, I wanted to celebrate with the people who I love the most.  That includes the groom.  That includes BFF and his crazy brother.  That includes my uncles and the Hepburn men.  Ergo, they came to my party and I promise you a few Y chromosomes didn't ruin the fun.  And that's the beauty of life.....I get to make my choices and you can make yours.  Phew, let me step down off my soapbox now.

There are really no words for how loved I felt and how much fun I had at this little bash.  I had friends travel in from all across three states to be there.  We had not one, but two amazing lake houses offered to us for free.  We had multiple people come along just to drive boats and help organize skiing and tubing and swimming fun.  Also, turns out several of my friends are not "lake people" as BFF put it, but they loaded up, cinched their life jackets up and spent the day on the water because it was what I wanted to do.  Friendship at its finest.

And even BFF getting completely lost trying to find the dock, a huge hail storm we barely missed, The Boy from Texas' lost sunglasses, our failure to get a photo jumping off the roof holding hands for the wedding that said, "Taking the Plunge" and the subsequent rough morning taking engagement pictures didn't damper the fun. 

It was the best bachelorette party I could have imagined.  Thank you is not enough for all of you who helped make it so, but it's a start.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cousin Whitney Turns the Big 3-0!

Today Cousin Whitney turns the Big 3-0.  We've been friends since she was born 9 months after me.  She's one of the sweetest people in the world.  She couldn't be nicer.  She's hands down my favorite travel partner.  She knows what I'm thinking usually with just a look.  She indulges my crazy ideas that have landed us in four different countries, on bikes huffing and puffing our way across the Golden Gate Bridge, drinking in Hells Kitchen in New York City, you name it.  She knows just when to click the photos of me jumping everywhere we go.  She's just plain fun and I'm sure glad to have her in my life!

Happy Birthday to Cousin Whitney!