Aunt Ronda

Late last Sunday night I got a text from my mom telling me our sweet Aunt Ronda had peacefully passed after 10 months of fighting through her battle with pancreatic cancer.

When I was growing up, my extended family lived spread between Lubbock and the north Texas area. Once in a while we’d find each other all in the same place for quick family get-togethers and big celebrations. It was always wonderful seeing everyone, playing with the cousins and hanging out with the fun aunts and uncles.

Every time I saw Aunt Ronda—and I mean every time—she always had the biggest smile and the most positive attitude. She was the kind of person who saw the glass as half full and believed fully that there was always a silver lining. Her faith was rock solid and true, something that sustained her through so much. Aunt Ronda loved her family with all she had, and she was so proud of everyone in all they did: her husband, her kids, and all those she held dear. Her kind nature and sweet spirit is a bright light we will all miss.

I wish there were more time. I wish there had been more visits. I think we’re all comforted by the fact that she is no longer in pain and that she had loved ones waiting for her when she passed, like her daddy and her mother-in-law, my sweet grandmother. Today we celebrate Aunt Ronda’s life but we carry her wonderful spirit with us. I know the church will be filled with many hearts who cared for her and her family. I pray my Uncle Gordy and my cousins feel the love and support around them today and know just how much she meant to so many people. For me, I’ll miss her kind nature and sweet smile.

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Adventure Day: Pawhuska Trip #2

Weather in Oklahoma these days is no joke. We’ve had over a week’s worth of warnings, terrible storms, tornadoes, the works. In short, it’s been the pits and I’m hoping Mother Nature decides to take a break here real soon.

I planned a trip to Pawhuska to go back to Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile store the day after my birthday. We went through a downpour on the way up but ended up having a gorgeous day after all the rain passed. I made Pyro Man take me last year for the first time ever and I think I’m going to make this a yearly trip. It’s the perfect combination of things for me, things for him and we get to enjoy four hours of just us on a round trip drive together. Not to brag, but we travel pretty well together and I’m super grateful for that.

Food at the Mercantile is still amazing. No photos this time as we were both famished and ready to chow down, but I highly recommend the Chicken Fried Steak and their Ranch Hand Sandwich. I’ve got to try making this one at home, it was delicious! Pyro Man also requested we try PW’s Ranch Dressing at home, that stuff is not your everyday ranch at all! He also kept talking about their $0.25 sweet tea and must have had a gallon while we were there.

Definitely fueled up on caffeine and good food, we (read: I) shopped for some goodies before we headed over to try Charlie’s Sweet Shop. The Maple Pancake ice cream really does taste like pancakes, but I highly recommend the Huckleberry flavor. Superb and perfect for for summer.

We finally got to go on a tour of the Lodge which I have been wanting to do forever and ever amen! It’s not open all the time so I was thrilled we were able to plan a trip on one of those lucky days. The whole place is wide open for all to walk through and see. Open a drawer, any drawer and see all the props, tools, labels and whatnot. The pantry is a dream come true and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I found her back room full of all sorts of gorgeous plates, bowls, dishes and more. In short, I was kid in a candy shop.

So that part of the trip is fun for Pyro Man, but not as fun as the second half of our day, snagging for spoonbill. If you’re not familiar, I definitely wasn’t until a couple years ago, spoonbill or paddlefish are these massive fish, part of the catfish family, with giant bills that can get to be about 100 pounds. They don’t take bait so you have to snag them, there’s a whole technique to getting the hook to snag on. Yes, you can keep them through a tagging process and eat them. No, we haven’t done that, just catch and release for us. Not being much of a fisherwoman myself, Pryo Man filled me in on all the details, the rules, the tagging process as well as the release rules. Let me tell you, there’s so many things to know so if you think you want to just run out there and try this or that your husband might want to, read up on your states website to find out all the regulations first.

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We headed out to Kaw Lake, Pyro Man’s preferred spot to snag and changed into some fishing clothes. I forgot my tennis shoes and had to wear his. With my hat, his camo jacket and shoes, I looked like a bad doppleganger of my husband but better that than getting my good outfit all fishy. It turned out to be a perfect day to be on the water. All the rain had made the lake rise and the fish super active. Since then I’m sure the lake is overflowing.

We caught several and yes, I partook for a bit learning how to snag and reel. Pyro Man would help cast and when he got a hold of one he let me reel in to know what it felt like. I got a little 10 pounder and that sucker was pretty hard for me so I can only imagine how much more difficult a larger one would be. The last fish Pyro Man snagged is a crazy story. He got caught on some line and when he tried to reel it in he felt a giant tug and knew there was a fish on there. Get this, he reeled in an 80 pounder by snagging on a line that was still attached to the fish! How crazy is that?!

Had to end on that one because I just don’t think it gets better than that. Another two hours back home, crime podcasts playing and we were home. Days like that are always a joy because we’re both able to partake in things that interest us. I feel really lucky that my adventure loving husband wants to explore things that light me up and that he enjoys teaching me about the things that make him happy. Is there a better win-win out there? I don’t think.

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Long Distance Friendships

There is nothing new about long distance friendships. They've been happening for quite literally centuries with folks keeping up by letter until that grand ol' invention of the telephone. Since then we've moved on to e-mail, webcams and nowadays, Facetime and of course, social media. Thank goodness for internet! 

I've been very lucky to gain some beautiful friends over the years and it really took me a little bit to realize how difficult it can be to keep up with those wonderful friendships even with all the modern technology at hand. I'm not perfect but I have found some ways that have helped me keep those friends close even miles apart! 

10 Tips for

Maintaining Long Distance Friendships

1. Make the call/text/email  - If someone is on your heart, make the connection. Don't wait for a spare moment, just do it when you think about it. Even if you miss them, leave a message and get back with them when they call again. I reached out to my little sis from my sorority to say I think of her every time I use a blanket she gave me. One quick text and we were able to reconnect years after we graduated! I'm so glad I just sent the text and honestly, every time I reach out, I'm glad. Those people are on your mind and in your heart for a reason and you may never know how much that note can mean. Heck, that works for family all the time! Don't worry so much about the time that's past, just connect. 

2. Schedule your calls - Yup, I schedule my phone dates with friends. We're all busy and sometimes it's not the most convenient time to talk right that second, but offer up times to visit and schedule the date. Then make sure you put it in the calendar! If you're worried you'll forget, set an alarm and if you're concerned your friend my forget, just a send a sweet text to remind them, "hey! Are we still on for tomorrow?" 

3. Set a time limit (if you need it!) - When we schedule dinner dates with our girlfriends or plan a for day out together, it could take a couple hours and it's always delightful! Somehow changing the amount of distance between two folks and a couple hours on the phone can be difficult. There's not shame in keeping it short. When you call a pal, check the time, note how much time you've got and try to stick to what you need. If it's a short call, let them know you have a few minutes but you wanted to drop them a line. My sister is really good about calling any time she has the car to herself. When she's driving from client to client, she'll give me a call just to talk for a minute before the next meeting. It's not an in-depth convo, but it's a moment we get to share a quick "hello" and "I love you!" 

4. Be understanding if plans fall through - Like I said, life happens and sometimes things get busy. Don't get your knees in a knot if someone has to cancel. Trust that your friendship will be able to weather a cancelation and reschedule. Sometimes you have to give each other grace and a call comes maybe a month later than originally planned. It's okay! 

5. Text - I think this one is pretty obvious but in case you forgot, text messages can be a great easy way to keep in touch! Send a joke, a gif, some picture that reminds you of something or just a steady stream of a conversation throughout the day.  

6. Make that gal pal group text - One of my favorite group texts I have on my messages is with a great group of gals from work. Three out of six of us are in other states, two of us still work together and one is just minutes away in the city at a different job. Even far from each other, we seem to be able to share the funny moments in life, celebrate the high notes, lift each other when we need the support and just reach out for that friendly connection. We don't text all the time but we text and connect nonetheless! 

7. Get comfy - I have one friend I always Facetime. I'm not sure how we got started on Facetiming only but I can't image calling her any other way! When I see her on the screen, it's like she's right next to me and that is the best when you're long distance! We schedule our Facetime dates pretty far out and I make it a point to treat those calls like a friend date with favorite drink in hand, a comfy chair to sit in and total focus on my friend.

8. Don't be afraid to be honest - With my college roomie--yes, we're still best friends!--we call each other probably about every six to twelve weeks and when we talk, it's usually for a good amount of time! There's so much to catch up on but we're both pretty good about saying, "hey, I'm throwing in some laundry while we talk" or "ooh, don't mind the sweeping, I've got company coming later tonight!" I appreciate that ability for us to take care of little things while we visit. The hardest thing is making time to talk and catch up and if you and your friend are close enough, let them know you're listening while you stir sauce or wipe down counters. If it's a big task, it can wait, but if it's something mindless and it needs to get done, fold that laundry, lady! 

Real life after work look, messy kitchen and all, but who cares! I've got a friend on the other end of the line!

Real life after work look, messy kitchen and all, but who cares! I've got a friend on the other end of the line!

9. Book the trip - OK, travel can be expensive. I still don't know how all these college grads are traipsing around Europe after school or how people are able to live like nomads, but somehow they're able to purchase some plane tickets. Surely you can find a way to get to see your friends, too! I just booked a flight to Denver to see a dear friend and I'm hoping I can add Florida on the 2019 list for my college roomie although, she's coming to town this week! Someday I'm going to make it the Nashville for an MFA buddy and I always love staying with friends in NYC. Maryland, I've got to come soon soon because I miss the heck out of not one, but TWO friends up there! I try really, really hard to make visits happen with friends when I'm back in Dallas and I'm usually successful. There are so many more places to add and many wonderful people to see. 

10. The point is make it happen. There's nothing like spending time with those people who mean so much. Family is a wonderful gift as is the family that you choose in friendships. If you have ten minutes to scroll, you have ten minutes to call. If you have a second to send a text, just do it. The only way to keep friendships up long distance is to make them a priority as you do all the other things in your life. That doesn't mean all day every day communication, but it means making time for those people even if it's five minutes to send them good thoughts or share a funny memory. Just do it. 

Where are some of your besties and how do you keep up with them? 

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Happy Birthday, Big Sister!

She's a lawyer by trade, but I still say she could have made it as a Mupeteer. She likes a good steak and good red wine, but I happen to know an Arnold Palmer and a Chik-fil-a sandwich will also do the trick. She's the one I know can offer unbiased opinion and see all sides of a story. She's also the one who will fiercely defend her baby sister at a moments notice. 

That's right folks, it's my Big Sister's birthday! So let's wish her a good one! 

Happy Birthday to my Big Sister who, like all good big sisters, is always there.

I love you, Sarah! 

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy birthday to raddest Dad around! 

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He's bad to the bone, y'all. Just look at that hair. Don't think you get any cooler than that! 

Happy birthday, Dad! I hope you have a good one! 

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Let the Shopping Begin!

As a kid I loved shopping for Christmas gifts. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to do the surprising, shopping, and wrapping myself! Because it's Christmas, you've got to make this a whole experience with specials scents, good drinks and snacks and of course, Christmas music. Usually I like to wait until I'm really in the season spirit do all things Christmas, shopping, wrapping, etc. 

Well, that ship has sailed. No more waiting for the mood because let me tell you, the mood comes and goes. This is a crazy busy time of year and it's impossible to put off and wait. Now I'm starting to see the light in shopping early and getting things prepped before Thanksgiving hits the table. 

This year I'm really focused on the kiddos for gifts--with Janson back in school we're being more strategic in our purchases. I'm on the hunt for things I know the nieces and nephews will love but will also bring a little more practicality to their little lives.  

For my sweet little niece, she's takin' a shine to dance (I can't say my little heart doesn't explode just knowing this) so I've picked out a beautiful new leotard, tights, and some beautiful ballet shoes for the spring. I wrapped up the shoes in a sparkly pink stocking with a ballerina doll that I gave to her at Thanksgiving. I wanted her to have new ballet shoes for her first Nutcracker performance! The rest will be waiting for her under the tree. 

Definitely something she'll appreciate and get some use out of this spring! 

For my youngest nephew, well, he's a busy little guy and into a lot already. I spied some cute wooden race cars at Target and I've been thinking it might be wonderful to get him something that moves with him. How about a train set with a track? 

It's small so it doesn't take up much space plus it's something his big sister to help him build and play with, too. Best part is, if he loves it we can add on more tracks or trains for his birthday in April! 

I have three more precious kiddos to think about and I know how much their parents want to share more experiences with them than toys. I love that they enjoy getting their kids involved in activities--it makes me think creatively as a gift giver but knowing these kids, they love to go out and do just about anything! They've been gifted with museum school and and zoo school before and loved it! For their spring birthdays, I'm thinking some help with pool passes would be awesome! 

For Christmas though, we're going with Fandango gift cards! Take the kids to a new hot movie that's out and make it a family outing for everyone! Add some treats, popcorn, a soda, and you've got yourself a right nice afternoon.

We're also thinking about some favorite children's books for family read alongs. I found an awesome book, American Tall Tales, filled with great stories for my rough and tumble nephews. I'm sure they'll love learning about Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan!

I'm feeling pretty good about the kids gifts this year! Now it's time to start wrapping and baking up all the goodies that make it feel like the holidays. Cheers, y'all! 

What are some of your Christmas gift ideas this year? 

 

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Happy Fifth Anniversary!

Has it already been five years? Just like that, time is passing faster than I can imagine and I know we missed out on some memories these last two years, but we're making up for it now. Crazy as it sounds, I'm actually grateful for our long distance challenge. We learned a lot about what marriage is and what it takes to make it not just work, but to make it great. We took the challenge head on and saw it through to this, finally being home together again. So yeah, in some ways I am glad we had to climb that mountain together. 

But really, we're not doing this long distance junk again. That chapter is closed. For reals. I mean it. Done. 

Handsome, you're a peach, a darling, a Dr.-Pepper-Lovin'-man that drives me crazy but I love you. There's no one else in the world who can love me like you do. Many times you say or do the right thing and it makes me realize how much you know my heart. I count my lucky stars to have you in my life. Then you also do something wacky that makes me want to throat-chop you. Really, that's just balance though, right? 

My sweet, I hope we always laugh and keep communicating. I hope we continue to grow together and lean on each other through all our future challenges. I hope we celebrate big for all the successes and excitements that come our way. I hope I keep you on your toes and I hope you do the same for me. I hope you continue to take me on adventures and I hope I continue to be your home.  Mostly, I hope we continue to love, honor, and cherish one another. Always. 

Happy fifth anniversary, Pyro Man! 

I love you like crazy. 

Three cheers for celebrating our anniversary ON our actual anniversary TOGETHER in the SAME. PLACE!  Miracles do happen! 

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Great Uncle Wesley

All my life I'd heard about Great Uncle Wesley, my dad's uncle he never got to meet. He was the younger brother of my grandmother, Mother Prebble, and she gave Dad Wesley's middle name, Maldon, a name I still have no clue where they got. I'd seen his happy face in a vintage blue frame, smiling in his army uniform. The picture and his face just seemed to be a part of our daily lives, his story one that we talked about on days like today.  

2nd Lieutenant Wesley M. Green served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and worked with the famous Flying Tigers. His plane was shot done and he went missing in action during 1943. That's about all I knew until yesterday. 

My parents started cleaning through old letters and photo albums from Mother Prebble in the afternoon. Dad had some questions about Wesley and he picked Mom's brain a bit--She had listened to a lot of family stories from Mother Prebble and read through all those corresponding letters years ago. Plus, her mind is like a steel trap when it comes to family history. I can thank my mother for all the help on family tree projects growing up! 

In any case, I wandered into the room to listen to some of the letters and by the evening I was interested in seeing what other information was available online. After all, it's 2017. What isn't posted out there nowadays? So I asked my dad to look up some info about  General Claire Lee Chennault of the Flying Tiger Fame and his time in China between 1942 and 1943. Great Uncle Wesley served under his command and between General Chennault's history and some of the letters and dates we had, we were able to start searching a little more deeply into the webs of the internet. 

Wesley was a navigator for a B24  of the 425th Bomb Squadron, the 308th Bombardment Group in Kunming, China. My family always knew the basic information about Wesley's job and where he was and the day he died, August 24th, 1943, but we never knew what his mission was that turned out to be so fateful. That was our biggest question: what happened? 

Our search began. All we had to go off of were the letters Wesley had sent, pictures of him and his crew, correspondence with the other families missing their men and the telegram about Wesley missing in action. Wesley was declared deceased in November of '44, a year and a couple months after he went missing. His remains were identified in '46 and kept in Hawaii with his other crew members until '49 where they moved him to be reburied in his hometown of Wellington, Texas. He was one of four they were able to identify out of ten men, his dog tags were blessedly on him. 

Wesley sent his last letter to his sister on August 21st, 1943, which turned out to be a pretty bloody day for his station. Apparently a fleet of Liberators from Chengkung went to bomb Hankow that same day he wrote. See, these men were in charge of fighting off the Japanese by bombing trade routes, docks, airfields, coal yards, and more. Their purpose was to keep the Japanese from invading China by supporting Chinese ground forces. The history of this group is fascinating and it really opens your eyes to all the moving parts of this war. 

On August 21st, the Liberators went out on their mission with a promise of an escort of fighters to flank them. The escort was unable to join.  The Liberators made the decision to continue on with the mission, but where attacked by 60 Japanese fighters on their way back and lost all but one of their planes. This is where Wesley's story comes in; Three days later, in an attempt to destroy a supply line and avenge the deaths of their fellow men, Wesley's flight crew and six other planes were dispatched on a mission to bomb Hankow.  Wesley was to fly with his crew of ten in the plane, "938," unnamed since it was so new it hadn't been given a name yet. 

On their way, four P-40's flanked the grouping, saluted, and then flew ahead never to be seen again. After dropping their bombs on an airfield, the planes began making their turn to head back having accomplished their mission when a swarm of Japanese fighters came upon them. 

Wesley's plane was struck first. Three men from "938" parachuted out, no one knows who they were, before the plane began to smoke and spin out of control. The rest of the men and planes experienced what I can honestly describe as a harrowing experience.

At this moment I can turn your attention to the story published on History.net, originally in the Aviation Journal back in 2008. This article gave us this information from a firsthand account of 1st Lieutenant John T. Foster written by his son, Alan Foster. Lt. Foster was in one of the seven planes that left for this mission and survived. Out of the 73 men that went out on that mission, only 11 returned home.  

Without this article, we would still be wondering what happened to Wesley, what his mission was, where he was going, and why he perished over Hankow. I'm so glad we were able to read about it in detail, although the details are heartbreaking, to say the least. At some moments it seems as if you're reading a great story from a novel until it hits you that this is real. Real men were on those planes fighting for their country and had families, loved ones waiting for them to come home. This was a real man's history, not a fictitious character in a book, but a smiling face in a blue frame sitting atop his sister's piano.  

Wesley had wanted to share details with Prebble and his family but couldn't and wrote secret hints for her to figure out where he was going. He often referenced how much he wanted to tell her of his adventures. Sadly, he never got the chance and we never knew why until now. Wesley was a beloved brother, a light in his family's life with a good sense of humor, a star athlete, and a smart man with a bright future. What else I know about Wesley is that he wanted to serve his country and that his mission was important enough to risk his life for our freedoms. 

Mom read this account out loud with my dad and I wide-eyed in amazement, sometimes tearing up. Wesley's story is finally known and it's sobering to think this is only one of many for families across the US. 

Many men and women have laid down their lives in order for us to have the freedoms we have here in this country and continue to have today. Without the brave services of men and women like Wesley, I can't begin to think of what a world that would be. I do know that I am incredibly thankful for his services and his lineage. 

Home of the Free Because of the Brave. 

Happy Memorial Day to All!

May you remember the ones who have served this country bravely and given their lives so that we may live freely. 

 

Thank you, Alan Foster, for publishing the detailed description of your father's account. This story brought an answer to a question we'd wondered for years and more importantly, it closed a chapter left open since 1943. 

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Happy Birthday, Janson!

Happy Birthday to you, Pyro Man! 

You are one heck of a fella and I'm so happy to celebrate another of you!

I love all the things that make you YOU like your adventurous spirit, your love of the outdoors, and your brilliant brain. You're confident in who you are and you stand for what you believe. Your goofy side and easy nature pulls people in and your desire to help and give warms the heart. 

It figures my favorite pictures of you are outdoors--it's what lights you up!

It figures my favorite pictures of you are outdoors--it's what lights you up!

I couldn't be more proud of the things you've done and the path you've started blazing for yourself. You're a peach, my dear, and I'm so happy to be spending a birthday with you for the first time in a while! 

I love you like crazy, Handsome! 

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Creamy Chicken Crock-Pot

It's Janson's birthday week! It's been a couple years since we've celebrated his birthday together in the same place so I really want to make it feel like a special day for him. This week I'm planning on whipping up a few of his favorite meals.  Just wait 'til you see what kind of cake he asked for! I'm really excited to test it out! 

My husband can be a picky eater and yet, sometimes he will go for the more exotic of dishes at restaurants. I can't explain it.  Salsa? He loves it? Tomatoes and onions in a dish? All picked out, but he loves the flavor they bring. It's always interesting so when I hit a meal he likes, and actually eats leftovers of, it becomes a staple on the menu. 

This one is no exception. In fact, it's his favorite meal we make. It takes a little bit of time setting up, but it's worth it, trust me! 

Southern Living's Creamy Slow-Cooker Chicken

It's seriously one of the best crock-pot recipes around. Don't even think about skipping the browning part at the beginning--you just can't. Without those dripping, the sauce just isn't the same. 

We tend to dump a huge pile of mushrooms on top for Janson. I like to saute up some green and yellow squash with onions, carrots, a little bell pepper. You just dish up some rice, throw some veggies on the side of the bowl and layer the chicken and sauce in there. It's just....sigh....wonderful. 

We're definitely whipping this up this week and I'm sure it won't take long for us to finish off the leftovers!

What's one of your favorite dishes to make in the crockpot?  

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