And the toaster wins!

My mom offered all kinds of advice when she was alive. When I was younger I didn’t listen to much of it, but as I grew older I found her wisdom to be most precious. On one of those occasions she told me to never give my children more than two presents for Christmas–a toy and some clothes. “Keep Christmas simple,” she said, “and you won’t overspend.”

I’ve kept to that formula for years and yet, between grandparents and other family members, my children always have more than two presents under the tree. Since I can’t seem to stop the inevitable, I do set a limit for my children spending money on each other–no more than $20.

This year, my daughter lamented that buying for her younger brother was impossible. “Every video game he wants cost more than $20.”

“Then don’t buy him a video game.” I hate them anyways, so I never see a reason to buy one.

“Then what should I get him?”

Wandering through the store, we found ourselves in the kitchen appliance aisle. My gaze fell on the many toasters being displayed and I smiled. “Why not get him a toaster?”

I’m not a big toast fan. In fact, I hate dried bread so owning a toaster had never been a priority for me, but my youngest son would come home from the farm all the time saying how much he loved that grandma gave him toast at breakfast.

“You’re right,” my daughter said, laughing. “That’s the perfect gift for him.”

I was pretty confident his sister’s gift would go over well, but his exuberant reaction still blew me away on Christmas morning.

“I’m just gonna try this, then I’ll be back.” He ran upstairs with the toaster, ripping it out of its packing as he went.

I guess denying him toast at home for the past thirteen years of his life really was a painful thing to endure. 😉

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Yes, being a mom has made me crazy in more than one way

This week has been one emotional roller coaster for me. But hey, since 2020 has pretty much been the meanest year ever it decided why not give us one last bang, literally, to finish it off.

Many of my readers might already know my daughter was in a severe car accident this week. She was t-boned in an intersection by a large truck going at a high rate of speed. Thankfully my daughter was alone when it happened for there was no passenger side left to our truck.

I received a call from a man notifying me that my daughter had been involved in an accident. I have no idea who the man was but he was so calm I figured it must be a fender bender and my daughter was afraid to talk to me.

I drove to the street address given, reminding myself the entire time to stay calm and not yell at her. A good mommy would wait to give her a stern talking to after I’d dealt with the fall out of her probably being a distracted teenager.

All thoughts of calm whooshed out the window when I turned onto the street and saw all the flashing lights of police vehicles and two ambulances. Out of my mind, I parked the car and ran across the street, giving very little thought to other moving vehicles. I couldn’t see my daughter for all the smashed glass and metal.

Calling her name, I shrugged off a police officer who tried to stop me. I had to know if she was still alive. And in that moment I realized no matter how difficult she can sometimes be, I desperately wanted her alive and talking back to me. Thankfully, my wish was granted. Some might think that makes me a masochist–I mean nobody can drive a stake through your heart with their words better than your own teenager–but they’re yours. It’s a weird relationship for sure. They drive us crazy but, when push comes to shove, a mom will give anything to always have that crazy with them.

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Worth The Read: The Traitor’s Reliquary by Chris Moss

Besides being a fantastic read, I had the pleasure of editing and designing the interior of The Traitor’s Reliquary. This fast-paced fantasy is filled with hilarious moments woven among a compelling story of betrayal, fate, and the many sacrifices made along the way to right a wrong done a thousand years before.

I know my family has heard me talking about his book for months, but it’s finally out and I couldn’t be prouder. The Traitor’s Reliquary is the first book in the series, something you’ll be very happy about when you read it. What comes next will be on everyone’s mind. Click on the book cover below to pick up your copy today.

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Being kind even when faced with adversity – it can be done

Over a month ago my youngest son was slapped by another boy in the lunchroom of his junior high. While the incident upset my son he managed to keep enough control over his emotions to not retaliate in the heat of the moment. The other boy was suspended for his actions but told the principle that he had heard my son spewing some pretty ugly and racists things.

My son has never been to the principle’s office in his life so the phone call to me made the situation even more harrowing in his young mind. He denied saying anything offensive to anyone, and quite honestly I struggled to believe he did it too. Of all my children, he’s the one I’ve never heard swear and is always telling me I shouldn’t swear either.

By the next day the truth of the matter finally came out. The boy had lied when he said he heard my son saying offensive things. It had started with a female classmate who told her boyfriend she thought she heard my son say something who then turned around and told his group of friends, but embellished the supposed words even further. In that group of friends was the boy who slapped my son. The stupid game of telephone had definitely gone awry that day.

With the facts in place I simply told my son, “You only have one choice. You have to pretend like it never happened. It’s the only thing that will take the air out of the situation.” Even I wasn’t going to ever say anything, but the young man who slapped by son surprised me last week. He apologized.

I blinked in shock when my son told me. “So what did you say?”

I hadn’t prepped him on how to respond because I never thought it would be something my son would ever hear.

He shrugged and took another spoonful of his after-school-bowl-of-cereal. “I shook his hand and said ‘it’s okay, we’re good.'”

I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about the importance of being kind even when others are not. Yet, my son’s response to the whole thing surpassed what I hoped my children would be like when faced with adversity.

If I’m honest, I don’t know if I could be as magnanimous after being hit for no good reason. On the other hand, I appreciate the young man’s courage for having the humility to approach my son, admit he was wrong and ask for forgiveness. The level of maturity both boys showed changed my mind about never blogging about this incident. They are a good example of what we all should be like.

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Lapping with my teenager

I discovered lap swimming when I was eighteen. With the help of many high school swim-teamers I even became a fairly proficient swimmer. My joy of swimming rubbed off on my daughter. By the time she was seven years old I could no longer deny her pleading to join me in my morning swims. The little fish had no trouble going back and forth across the pool, but her little seven-year-old arms weren’t as fast as me no matter how hard she tried. So I was always the lead swimmer in whatever lane we ended up sharing.

At eight years old she decided it was time to turn into a proper teenager. She didn’t like me trying to fix her technique anymore, so I found an age group swim team for her to join. I continued to lap, but I was on my own again while my daughter began honing her skills through the help of coaches.

More than eight years has passed since we last swam together. And the last four years, since our last move, I haven’t been able to get in the water much with the sparse time available to lappers at our local city pool. But during the Thanksgiving holiday, my daughter kept begging me to go and workout with her. Of course I had brought my swimsuit, so I really didn’t have an excuse not to.

At the pool, she hopped in the water with the biggest grin. “I get to go first, because I’m faster than you now.”

I laughed. “At sixteen? You better be, or you’re a very sad high school swimmer, indeed.”

Oh how she crowed after our eight-lap warm-up. “I can’t believe how slow you’ve gotten. I almost lapped you.”

But I got the last laugh. I picked the next sets we would be doing for our workout. “Six one-hundreds, rotating between freestyle and breaststroke.”

Her jaw dropped. “Mom!”

“What?” I grinned. “You better make your freestyle fast, or I just might be lapping you every time we get to breaststroke.”

That’s the great thing about being the mom–you know all you’re children’s weaknesses. Breaststroke is the only stroke she has never been able to find any speed with. And lucky me, it’s the stroke that came the most naturally of all. And this momma is not above fighting dirty, though I must admit I was super proud to experience her growth first hand. Even if it meant she left me eating her bubbles most of the time.

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The importance of obedience

About five years ago our family went on a river rafting trip on the Green River. We entered below the Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah, and for the most part the rapids were pretty mild. Which is a good thing since our youngest at the time wasn’t even eight.

While floating down the river and its many bends a sign appeared ahead.

“Stay to the right.”

After less than quarter mile we noticed another sign.

“Stay to the right.”

The rapids ahead looked far worse on the right than they did on the left, but my husband and I decided to follow the signs. We paddled into the rougher water. The boat behind us decided to stay on the smoother side. They had even smaller children with them so at the time I could understand their hesitation to follow what the signs told them to do.

Once we rounded a sharp bend the reason for the signs became clear. The rapids on the left increased exponentially, raging right into a large rock jutting out of the left side of the river. By staying to the right, my husband and I floated our family right past the danger with ease.

However the boat behind us, unable to row out of the raging rapids, slammed into that large rock. The rubber raft folded like a taco on impact, launching every person into the water. Thankfully, they all wore lifejackets. But we, and many other rafts, had a heck of a time fishing everyone out of the water, especially the small ones before the crashing rapids drowned them. That day those people lost everything they brought with him on their trip–well…everything except their lives.

We have warning signs all around us. They often come in the shape of older, wiser people telling what we should or should not do. Remember that the next time a parent tries to warn you about something or sets down a rule you don’t like. They’ve been down the part of the river you’re on right now, and they are just trying to help you avoid as many rocks as possible.

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The importance of pushing through the hard

Besides working in the world of writing I also teach piano lessons. And, like I’m sure a lot of music teachers can testify, most of my students are beginners. It’s not that beginners are bad it’s just not very challenging for me. I’ve notice my students’ desire to quite tends to happen right around the jump from level one to level two. Up to this point, the piano students fingers haven’t had to move around too much beyond a set five-finger pattern, but that all changes in level two. The need for the student to shift their fingers multiple times in a piece increases. With eighty-eight keys to contend with, it’s an inevitable skill every pianist has to master. Yet learning to hit the same note with different fingers seems to put kids into a tailspin. Of course with this struggle I often hear, “I want to quit.” While I truly believe no student of piano should ever quit, it’s hard if you’re not a determined parent to keep them going. Hence, why I live mostly in beginner-ville. Sadly, level two isn’t the only place that sees many students jumping ship because of the rise of difficulty. There will be several plateaus with sharp inclines of skill level ahead. But I think learning to play the piano is a lot like reality.

Our lives are full of challenges, and though quitting might look like the most comfortable of choices, more than likely, it will be the worst thing you can do. You will not grow. You will not improve if you never push yourself to overcome hard things. There is a motto I hear often on the online platform I use to workout called Dailyburn. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it cannot change you.”

I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken. So don’t wish for your life to be easy, not if you truly want it to become something special by the end of it.

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Ramping up the sweat

When my mother passed away over five years ago, I kept telling myself that I was okay. And probably to most people I looked like I was. After all, I got up everyday, took care of my family, my job–putting one foot in front of the other. Then Covid hit. Trapped in a house day in and out, I became increasingly aware of my physical appearance. I used to be such a gym rat, working out constantly. But since my mother’s passing, the desire to do so had decreased until I pretty much didn’t work out at all anymore–and it showed. The tailspin had been such a gradual one I didn’t even realize I had been in one.

About five months ago I decided to stop making excuses. Nobody but me could do something about the fact that I didn’t like who I had become. I joined Nutrisystem to help me correct my bad eating habits and I went back to work. And I mean work–going all out like I used to in my twenties and most of my thirties. I thought that first month was going to kill me but I kept fighting. And over time, my ability to go even further grew. Hitting 40lbs of weight loss this week was a huge milestone for me. Looking back at the struggle and realizing I didn’t die gives me the courage to keep moving forward. Just another blessing that has come from all this pandemic craziness.

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A butt kicking dose of farm life

A couple of weekends ago, we received a call for help from my ranching in-laws. They had 1400 feet of 6 inch PVC pipe that needed to be laid in trench they had dug to deal with the overflow of their artesian well during the winter months. It had frozen out at the ranch that Saturday morning. My husband’s father didn’t think he would be able to get in the pipe in by himself in the few shorts weeks he might have left before winter truly set in.

It took the entire Saturday of me lowering each section of pipe down into the hands of my husband and father-in-law. And though I did my best to ignore the growing ache in my arms and back from the effort, I know my husband and father-in-law’s job was much harder. The mud in the trench was pretty deep in places and had to be shoveled out in others where the dirt walls had collapsed.

The saddest part, I’ve spent months getting my body back into shape, pushing myself to the limit in every workout I do, and still I wasn’t strong enough to not hurt the next day. And I’m not talking oh-I’m-a-little-stiff pain. Oh no. This was a I-didn’t-even-know-it-was-possible-to-hurt-in-so-many-places-at-once pain. I didn’t even want to get out of bed, yet I can guarantee my father-in-law got up the next day and still took care of the daily farm chores. He’s in his seventies and can work circles around me. Ugh! Farmers and ranchers don’t need weights, gyms, or personal fitness instructors to workout, their daily routines are already extreme enough.

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A special kind of family

This week, my youngest son played his last football game as a youth. Next year he will enter high school. That thought alone blows my mind. My baby will be a high schooler? How in the world did I get this so old so fast?

Last season, his team made an incredible come back to take the state championship for their age division. Though the boys played far better this year during the season, we were not going to be granted that same miracle this year. As you all know, I hate losing, but losing here, early in the playoffs, was worse, because it might very well be the last time my son plays together with the bulk of those boys.

My son is actually a year older than most of his teammates. Because he can make weight in the lower division, and we really love the coaching staff, he has dropped down to be with this team for the last three years.

I take comfort in the fact that there were a few others who also dropped down. So next year during Freshman football training camp it won’t be a total sea of unfamiliar faces, but how I will miss the boys we had to leave behind.

In our family we play a lot of different individual sports, but football is the only team sport we play. For all the frustration that can come from having to depend on others to accomplish wins in a team sport, it also creates deep bonds that seldom happen in individual sports. All that shared blood, sweat, and tears welds together one heck of a family. A family that I hope does even better next year, even though I won’t be there to witness it.

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