Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed genealogy and the family lore my grandmother whispered as if the whole county didn't already know. My grandmother Naomi made gossip an art. She often proudly reminisced that as a teenager she gently opened family letters above a kerosene lamp so that she could read the latest happenings. Then she would seal the envelope back together before being caught and whipped for such a crime.

It has been no surprise to me as I have grown older that I am undoubtedly my grandmother's child in numerous ways. Her love for knowing family legend was passed to me across her kitchen table. Her love for writing it down was passed to me from her soul.

This summer I spent a great deal of time in Arkansas. In one visit I took the chance to attend a writer's conference from a local author and teacher. While I could list numerous lessons I learned in that week, perhaps the most impactful was my narrowing down of what words I wanted needed to write. I've heard it said that you should never embark on the journey of writing a novel unless you feel deep down you cannot go on unless you share that story. I've always had an idea bouncing in the back of my head but was too afraid no one else would care. I shared this with Gwen, our instructor. She gave me the confidence that I would have readers and that I should--I must--put this book into focus.

I came home to Texas and thought.

Then my fingers could not quit wrestling. They had to write this story. I have written two chapters--both of them are Chapter One. It is a book my soul cannot live without telling, yet I fear deeply that I will not tell it adequately.

As I have researched for this novel, I have spent countless hours with my grandma's brother who has provided (a bit unknowingly) a plethora of stories from which I have pulled. I have also had late nights and early mornings sitting here at my dining room table browsing the latest hints on ancestry.com. My dad's phone records would show my influx of calls telling him I found a headstone related to the lore or an infant child we never knew about or a picture of kinfolks we had never laid eyes on before.

Today as I studied our family tree I found that my great-great-grandmother was born in a little community north of town called Jethro. You may know my parents own Jethro Farms and suffice to say I lived the first 18 years of my life right there in Jethro where my great x2 grandmother was born in 1879.

While I have always known we go generations deep in North Franklin County, it is reminders such as these that make me think about the land on which I came of age. It amazes me the trees I rode my horse through were trees where my great-great-grandparents may have met. It fascinates me that the river we played in was a river that for so many generations provided for my family. It fills me with daydreams that the very dirt beneath my feet for the most formative years of my life was the dirt that my great-great-great grandparents cultivated to merely survive. It is the dirt on not just where I was raised, but it is the dirt of home. Roots so deep that try as he may my husband has yet to pull them completely out of Jethro. Land where when I take my last breath and my body longs for rest that I pray it finds its peace back in that very dirt where I can take my place alongside my ancestral legends. And, honestly, I pray too that when that day comes the lore told of me pales in comparison to what I have learned of them.

I thank those of you who read this blog. I do not post regularly, and it has never been my intention to gain a wide audience or payments for writing it. I prefer writing when it's good. When it's something that strikes me. For now my writing is centered on my book, but as you see today sometimes I need a break. Occasionally I need to write in a new format and feel more casual. So thank you for allowing me this outlet to put thoughts on paper and explore ideas. And, if you're curious about this book I'm writing, here is a prelude to give you a taste. It is historical fiction. I will stress fiction. I don't need crazy kinfolks pulling out their old ways on me. But much of it is of course history too. I will let you decide on which side each word falls.

It was all over the news that summer: records from the Great Heat Wave of 1936. Maybe it was a record worth recollecting; maybe it was a slow news day. Either way the news reporter sent to our local nursing home to get recounts on this heat wave 60 years later sent a chilling shock into our home. At first no one could blink for fear they would miss the story unraveling. I stared at my dad who held his breath as his grandfather was the first resident interviewed.

“Sir, do you remember the summer of 1936?”

Stone cold and not looking up from his afternoon dominoes, my great-grandfather gave a hard no.

Taking his cue that the old man either didn’t remember or didn’t care about the summer of 1936, the reporter went to the next table. There he found a few folks who enjoyed a reminiscent chat a little more than my grandma’s folks. At least when it came to 1936.

Grandma was always telling stories of her kinfolks from the old days. But those kinds of things you just tell family. And probably family doesn’t really believe it anyhow. When she marched into our house that evening, that smirk meant both she had told us so and yet could we believe anyone else almost found out. We lived out in the country so we didn’t have neighbors within any sort of earshot, and it was probably for the best since she didn’t even make it to the door before she let in on everything she had told us forty-eleven times about 1936, “And that old man just sat there like he couldn’t even remember yesterday. Oh, he remembered that summer. He remembered. He could lose all his memories and half his toes and he’d still remember 1936.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Turkey Plant

The summer I graduated high school and turned 18, my dad forced me to get a job on the line at the local turkey processing plant. While I had looked for any other job in our small town, none were to be found. So I spent those summer months netting turkeys. Hard hat. Hair net. Smock. Gloves. Rubber Boots. Ear plugs. It was real cute.

My dad had worked at the turkey plant throughout high school and again when he returned from serving 5 years in the United States Air Force. My dad's dad had retired from the turkey plant. He was a manager on the loading dock. Worked his way up one minimum wage hour at a time. 

The job wasn't too difficult by way of thinking and processing. But it was a grind on productivity. If I close my eyes I can still see turkeys getting backed up on the conveyor belt and my partner pushing them through the tunnel to me as fast as my little hands could go. I can still feel the movement of tying a loop of netting and sending the turkey down the line. I can still hear the silence that would fall as portion by portion of the line would escape to their 15 minute morning break. I remember the chants as the cardboard sign would be carried around announcing the end of the first side which meant we would be done for the day in 2 hours. 

I knew my time there was brief. 3 or 4 months tops. Then I was off to college and the whole big world. But it was not lost on me that the people I ate lunch with every day had been having that same lunch in that same spot for 35 years. And they'd keep having that routine long after I was gone. The turkey plant was a summer experience for me. For them, just like for my grandfather, it was life.

It wasn't until my 3rd year of teaching, 7 years after that summer job, that I finally came face to face with the reasoning behind my dad's demands of me to net turkeys for a summer. I sat in a parent conference with a sweet mom who was trying to find the best accommodations for her son. When a time for the next meeting came up, a teacher suggested she just come see us during our planning periods. A lump caught in my throat and my heart stopped. I had worked with this mom at the turkey plant; I knew she could not stop working to drive 30 minutes one way for a meeting in the middle of the day. She was not given that type of luxury working on the line. Quite convenient for us teachers, but for a mom trying to make it. No. That couldn't work. She just stared blankly.

I quietly asked if we could all just meet early one morning. I could not look at the mom, but later she came to my room to thank me. It was not some great insight I had on education techniques or the wisdom I wish I had had. It was the sounds of a turkey processing plant that could not escape my mind. While it had been brief, that summer had changed my life. Until that moment I did not even know how.

Skip forward almost a decade. Yesterday my husband and I went in for our scheduled hearing to protest our most recent tax valuation. We had been working on this protest for weeks. We had driven around and observed the comps. We had researched the tax values of the homes in our neighborhood. And the bottom line was that most of the homes in our neighborhood are *shock* similar to ours. We had a couple facts to argue, and we did, but I calmly asked them to consider the principle. 

We should have a home similar to our neighbors'. But they raised us all 10% in our valuation. If our homes are similar and we are all raised 10% every year, then when does that stop? If I go up 10%, they go up to 10%. It will never end. I assured them nothing in our home had increased in value that much in 1 year (we were also raised the 2 prior years as well). I asserted that I believed they were only valuing supply and demand and not the actual home. The appraiser said I was correct.

I argued that by increasing our home prices by 10% every year is pricing us out of our own home. That this gives no incentive to live in Midland, Texas. Just because all of the new jobs in Texas are in the Permian Basin does not mean I should pay 10% more every year in property taxes. In fact that should perhaps decrease my individual share if more people are here to split the costs.

Everyone agreed. But I was told to go to Austin and protest. Their hands are tied here. They're just following the law.

The 3 men on the panel made a motion, seconded, and passed no change to our 10% increase before we could even speak. 

As I left in tears I asked Cash, "What is the purpose of being here? Why would I live in Midland County? You make extraordinary money, but at the end of the day it is no more than half that pay somewhere else. They raise taxes. Then they raise the value of the homes. Then they put up 500+ million dollar school bonds. Then they pass road bonds. Then they add a new fee for new homes being built. If it isn't the county, it is the city. If it isn't the city, it's the church. If it isn't the church, it's another non-profit. Everyone always needs more. Wants more. I simply cannot give enough. I can't do it anymore. And if I can't do it, how is a single mom on the other side of town supposed to do this?" And I can't shake that thought.

I'm a pretty basic white suburban mom. I stay home and drive a full size SUV in which I take said kids to Mother's Day Out twice a week. We go to church north of the Loop and wave at the neighbors when we get home on Sunday afternoons. 

But what about the people who aren't in our bubble of white suburbia? What about those who can't take half a day off work for a hearing on their ridiculous tax valuation? What about those whose new valuation would truly price them out of their homes? No one is talking for them. No one is saying, "Hey, hold up. These folks and their families matter too."

It took me back to standing next to a metal worktable, hair pulled back, pushing a thousand turkeys a day waiting for that cardboard sign. It took me back to that parent meeting seeing the look of I wish I could for my kid but I just can't be here during 3rd period. It took me back to the days when I felt my voice was nothing but shy and less than.

Yesterday gave me sour grapes. I was reminded of the greed that oozes from every pocket of our government. That if you have then they want more; if you have not they don't even want to hear your voice.

I'm a raging conservative Republican by day. But as the days have gone on, I've realized that I'm just raging by night. Today my blood boiled at such a high rate that for the first time in my naïve little life I disavowed the voices in the Republican party saying that they will cut our taxes. Bull. Our city is 95% Republican and not a single Democrat would ever be elected in our local or state elections. Yet here we are with every single one of them approving tax increases across the board.

For the record I don't believe the Democrats either. They say tax the rich to help the poor. Listen, folks in my neighborhood are being taxed to death. We can't afford more of your taxes. At some point we all run out of money if you tax us enough.

I don't know. I simply don't know what to do. I really love sweet tea, but anymore of this from both sides on every stinkin' issue and I am going to have to find a harbor lake stream xeroscaped lawn to throw it in. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

And There She Grows

In June I sat under my parents' pavilion with my teenage niece and nephew. I was staring a 600+ mile drive in the face the next day and longed for another set of arms in the front seat that could throw snacks and drinks at the kids as I kept it on 10 and 2ish. After some begging and promising of half my savings account, Addison decided she could in fact take 3 weeks out of her summer plans to make a trek to the desert.

So for 3 weeks (and 2 days) I watched my niece. When we left Arkansas I had seen her still as the little girl I've always known. By the time we got back I realized she was no longer the child I had remembered. Yet she wasn't quite a young woman either. My mind circled this through time and again. Not a girl. Not a woman. What does it mean to be right there in the middle?

lawn concert

helping in the backseat

I think society lets boys grow up faster. Whether that is anti-woman or unfair or even completely true, I am not here to debate that. I simply think it is how it is.

Addison is old enough that she was able to watch Henry and AnnLouise for an hour at a time. She could help get them down for naps. She could shop for clothes with me and actually articulate what she knew looked good together. She talked on the phone with her friends in the most mature conversations. For instance she asked a friend what her sister's major at college would be and followed along in depth as another friend shared stories of her family's vacation. Addison is not a little girl.
makeup with Ashlee of Let's Face It Makeup Studio

Then she would not think about taking off her pajamas until I told her she simply must change before we went into public. No unicorn fleece PJs at HEB today. When my other nieces came to town, all younger than her, she played so sweetly with them. And most often I felt she played with the older two as though they were friends and not kids she was strapped with watching. Together they created backyard families and plastic meals and made-up games that didn't even make sense. The imagination of a child still lingers in her mind.
catching a ride to Mimi's

imagination central

I found myself hoping her imagination stayed. Not only Addison's but all 6 of the kids in my backyard. My heart yearned for them to keep their innocence. Their daydreams. Their childhood. Yet I could almost see Addison's youthfulness slip away as the expectations for her to help with a task lured her back inside.

It kept me up at night wondering when little girls become young ladies. What day does that happen? When do they play pretend in the backyard for the last time? And then, what, the next day they just sit on the porch and watch while they talk about boys? How do we hold their childhood dearly and then know when we can let it go?

I wonder the last time my mom called me in from the backyard? One day I was back there shooting hoops getting yelled at to come eat supper. Today I'm doing the cooking and yelling and so forthing. Or when was the last time a friend stayed the night with me? Did I have a friend over one night and the next day decide I just don't have slumber parties anymore? 
camping in Ruidoso

only brave one to pull out the rubber rat when geocaching
A few things in life we have definitive time frames for. Graduations, weddings, births. Those days we know the next day will look different. But coming of age doesn't have a timeline. It has memories and pictures, but it doesn't warn you that's all childhood is about to become. Coming of age lingers through the teenage years. It gives you dreams of things to come while holding you captive with innocence. It makes you want to move on but desperately cling to what you know. It gives you the space to venture but yanks the rope to bring you back.

These meandering teenage years and the confusion they bring are just settling in on Addison. My hope for her is that she clings as long as she wants to childhood, not allowing the pressures of middle school to grow her too fast. But as time does to all of us she too will eventually be pressed into a new age. When that day comes, I pray she stares down womanhood and embraces all of its wonderment and beauty. And then I pray we open our cradled arms and watch her soar.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Life and Lessons from the Pitcher's Mound

Last September I wrote about our family hosting a minor league grinder. In April we were ecstatic that he was heading back to Midland. However, we knew our time was likely fleeting as he had had an awesome season last year and even started Spring Training at Major League camp. When time is limited but you don't know by how much, you try to make every moment count.

On Friday the kids were at MDO, so Cash and I and our favorite baseball player went out for pizza and bundt cakes. It was a chilly, rainy day--rare in Midland in May--and we savored a chance to just get to hang out with him. Not a worry in the world except for his poor buddy scheduled to pitch that night in 45 degree weather.

We had planned to go watch him Saturday when he was scheduled to pitch, but he came out of his room that morning still in a state of shock and excitement that he had been called up to Triple-A with a flight out in less than 24 hours.

And that's how fast it goes.

One day you're eating pizza talking about the weather. The next day you're cramming all you can into 1 suitcase and saying goodbye to everything you know right now.

Yesterday morning I had to work, but I went into the church about an hour late so I could say a proper goodbye. The kids and Cash took him to the airport and wished him well on this new phase of life. And there he went. That evening I turned on MiLB TV and saw him in the Las Vegas dugout giving a high five to a new teammate who had just hit a grand slam.

Last night I went into his room to turn off the air. I just stood there and caught a lump in my throat wondering how time really did pass so quickly. In June last year we had 24 hours to prepare this room before a stranger walked into our home. By this May I couldn't hold back tears as I turned off air and lights and whispered goodbye to the 5th member of our family.

I've spent the past day reflecting on motherhood. Naturally. What an odd turn for Mother's Day weekend. I thought a lot about his momma who must say goodbye every Spring. I thought about how she sent me a message in March when she finally had the strength to wash his sheets again knowing he wouldn't be there for so very long. How she had stood in a room just like this so proud of him yet missing him so deeply.

I thought about my mom. How she is always there in Ozark, Arkansas. I never doubt it. How I get to go "home" and it always feels like home. How it has been 15 years since she stood in the driveway and watched me head out to conquer the world. I knew nothing (and she knew that), but there I went ready to learn it all. And for 15 years I have driven back up the gravel driveway knowing that once I cross that cattle guard I will smell fall scented candles and know I'm home.

I thought about my husband's mom. How she watched her 2 boys get married and begin to make a life with a different woman. How she watches Henry and reminisces that it was just that long ago when that was Cash saying those same things and getting those same spankings.

And I thought about what it means to be a mom myself. How we put up a crib not even 4 years ago and it is already in the attic having cradled 2 babies in that short time. I thought about these moments of sitting on the back porch watching them hammer dirt and knowing this is the very time that is passing by. How it will feel like it has been 10 days when I walk into their rooms and turn the air and lights off. How we'll stand in the kitchen and give a hug and wonder who in the world will cook for them or buy ice cream for them or cheer them on as they go into the next phase of life. How we are now the comforts of home for someone; the ones who will always be right here when they long to come back one day.

I learned a lot about baseball this past year. Perhaps though I learned more about life. I heard him talk about pitch counts and a girlfriend and buddies and GoT. But I heard his momma talk about him. I saw in her that goodbye doesn't mean life is over. It is just starting again. She taught me to allow others to invest in your kids and be a part of their lives. She reminded me to celebrate people for whom they are without their jerseys more than for whom they are with them. She encouraged me to embrace this phase of motherhood and be there in the little moments of right now.

We gained much more than a 5th member of our family through minor league baseball. We gained perspective. On time. On motherhood. And on strikes. It depends on your view. From the batter's box a strike seems too fast or too inside or a missed opportunity. From the pitcher's mound it looks like a fist pump.

This year I learned to give time and motherhood a fist pump. Every day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Get Off My Coattails

Late last night I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across a public figure who declared 7 or 8 times that fetal tissue is not a person. She then signed it from those who have "abortions and miscarriages." Since planning my own unborn child's funeral over 2 years ago, I have not weighed in on this hot topic. Until now.

You see, for 2 years I've struggled. Something I once was staunchly against I was now doing. Kind of.

The doctors shared the statistics of a girl with LUTO: 100% of them die. We had two choices. We could either give birth at 20 weeks and let her pass being premature. Or we could give birth at 40 weeks and let her pass of suffocation. Both are terrible choices and neither do you want to make for your child. At last we chose 20 weeks. If given the same circumstances again, I'd still choose 20 weeks.

Many of you know at 18 weeks we discovered God miraculously healed her. She was born at 38 weeks happy and healthy with Prune Belly Syndrome. She turns 2 years old next month.

Since then I've praised God for His miracle and spent as much time hating myself for choosing an abortion. I hated it was called an abortion. I hated I had to make that choice. I hated I DID make that choice. Thank God that choice did not have to be lived out. For a long time after that I wrestled with where I stood on abortion in general.

I wrestled because had it not been for a political debate we would not have had to make a decision before 20 weeks. I wrestled because when faced with this dilemma myself, my choice didn't seem fitting for an ultra-conservative, Bible-belt mom. I wrestled because the wild politics forced us to have to deliver in a different town with a different doctor during the most crucifying time of our lives because abortion isn't allowed in our town. I wrestled because for the first time in my life I walked in shoes I had never worn and my eyes were opened to another side of the coin.

I hated the pro-life group who put up a billboard next to my OBGYN's office, because I wanted my child so deeply. Yet here I was seeing this sign about my terrible choice when my choice was death or death. I hate that billboard. It pierced my heart deeper with pain than you can imagine. I still see that sign when I go to the same building for labs for that same child. It still pierces my heart. And, honestly, I think it is distasteful and the folks who put it up have no idea the suffering they've caused every mom in my shoes. No idea.

So for 2 years I have kept quiet about abortions. Mostly because I didn't fully understand how I felt anymore and somewhat because it felt grey. And maybe somewhat because I was embarrassed I chose 20 weeks.

But last night I saw this tweet forcing together abortions and miscarriages. I saw line after line repeatedly stating fetuses are not humans. And my rage and emotions that have built up for 2 years exploded.

Abortion is wrong. Not because you don't get a say in your body. Go for it on your own body. But because you don't get a say over life and death for that child. At least you shouldn't.

Abortion for babies who are going to die at any stage in the pregnancy aren't abortions. That needs to be law. If hospital boards and legislators on either side of the aisle had a shred of human decency they would quit calling a delivery of a child with a fatal medical condition an abortion. I have cried my own tears and I've cried with friends whose babies never could make it out of the womb yet medically were considered to have had an abortion. We could not deliver our beloved daughter with our own doctor because our local hospital has policies against abortion. Great. Love that. Just separate medical issues of the child from behavioral issues of the mom.

Lastly and most importantly, abortion activists who market themselves as "pro-choice" better get off my coattails. I harbored a lot of grief for far too long wondering about my own beliefs. It hit me: my choice was out of love and had to be done while abortion activists make decisions like mine cloudy for their own gain. If we quit having elective abortions, then my child's medical condition wouldn't have been a moral issue. She could've gotten the affection she deserved because our minds and medical boards and governing bodies wouldn't have had clouded judgments of what an abortion is.

I have heard the cries from the left about a mother's choice. I have understood the argument about a young lady in poverty who finally gets some attention from a man and the outcome would be a single mom who can't do it on her own. I shutter remembering a woman who said she needed Jesus followers at the backdoor of the abortion clinic more than at the front door. I have heard them. I mean really heard them. And I 100% believe we as Christians need to get to that backdoor. We need to love women so hard that they know their worth before, during, or after an abortion. We need to pick them up with such mighty hands they choose to go and sin no more.

But I don't believe you get to choose what you want with no consequences. No matter your morality, it will hit you one day. I don't believe abortion has anything to do with a mother's choice. I think that's such a poor marketing scheme that these groups use to justify themselves but ultimately has killed millions of children all in the name of making themselves feel okay. I believe the church should step up and help, but I don't believe you get a free pass for an abortion until they do. And I believe abortion activists need to quit hurling themselves onto the traumatic endurance of having to choose the most ethical way for your child to die because she has an incurable medical condition. Get off my coattails. I let you ride them for 2 years, but today I start fighting back.

Also, P.S. The little girl who was supposed to be "aborted" and is now almost 2 is quite the sassy thing. And she's tired of abortion activists using stories like hers to legitimize their abhorrent behavior. You won't want to get in her way.

Friday, January 4, 2019


I have a few minutes this morning before the running and screaming and chaos begins, and I wanted to share some thoughts that have been on my mind lately.

When I was single and a teacher, I didn't realize it then but I had grown a bit embarrassed of myself. How did I end up like this? How did I let myself become a teacher in this small town? I could've gone to this school or that if I had only tried harder. I could've lived there or had those friends. Yet there I was. A teacher. And I wasn't okay with it.

Fast forward to 2013. I was a newlywed in a new state and ready to conquer the world. I went to work for a bank...as their trainer. It was awesome. I love learning, and I did a ton of that. I got a couple promotions and met so many people. One of the last things I did before I left the bank was create a leadership training. I should brag, because it was cool. Within it was a poverty simulation, an overnight camping trip to Palo Duro Canyon, a day serving our troops, and time spent with Texas legislators. The bank supported me 100% and gave me the resources and connections to do this. It was even featured in one of the banking magazines, and I still can't get over it.

At the bank I wrote other trainings, some that were one-offs and some that were departmental. I appreciated the opportunity and the accolades, but what I couldn't put into words then was that it wasn't whom I was at my core. I enjoyed banking. But God made me a teacher. And I didn't realize it then, but my heart was longing for where it began.

A few short years later I was having Henry and felt strongly about staying home. Of all the decisions we've made, this was the very best decision of mine and Cash's married life. It still is. Watching my children grow every day and being in every moment with them gave me a new purpose in life. I'm not saying you can't experience that if you don't stay home, I'm just saying it was what I needed. I needed to be shown there is purpose in my life even when it is not glamorous. That even without a title or accolades, I am still important and doing God's work.

Through staying home I found my identity in Christ alone. When I had nothing exciting to share at social events or had throw up running down my yoga pants, I learned my value in the world is different than my value to God. When Henry hit 2 and became half-child half-monster and I could not figure out his attitude, I learned I don't have every answer. When we were told our child would never live and I had to walk into a funeral home and buy her urn, I learned I had no strength beyond Christ alone. It was somewhere amongst the depths of despair and the mundane of fixing breakfast before a playdate that my heart and my head learned nothing else matters.

Last year I started a part-time job at our church. I could list 3,000 reasons why I love it. But I can sum it with this: God made me a teacher.

Today that makes me proud. That is whom God made me to be. Instead of trying to find a place in this world I created myself, I find joy in exactly what God created.

I now have dear friends who are doctors and judges and stay-at-home-moms and bankers and teachers and crossfit instructors and choir directors and farmers. They all really rock whatever they do. Not because of their title. Because that is whom God made THEM to be.

So 2019, I'm ready for you. 2018 taught me to own who I am and who God created me to be. 2019 will be the year I rock it.