My Favorite Dad

On February 4, 2018, my Dad passed away after a long illness. The past few days of funeral planning has been in a word: exhausting. But with the sadness has come many good memories, laughter going through old pics, and relief that my dad isn’t sick anymore. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions.

As we planned the funeral, we met with the pastor of the church I grew up in. I had written out some words I wanted him to share. He carefully read them,  looked at me, and said, “This is a eulogy. It will be a lot better coming from you. I think you need to deliver it.”

I didn’t want to do it. I prayed and prayed about it. But then. I knew he was right. I needed to say those words. But how? Even though I’ve spoken in front of people many times, it wasn’t at my father’s funeral. That’s a whole different story.

I logged on to Facebook last night and I saw that one of my friends had just changed her cover photo. It said, “God is within her. She will not fall. Psalm 46:5”. It spoke to me. I kept repeating it. I also kept repeating, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13”  My friend Heather delivered an amazing eulogy at her mother’s funeral and I asked her for pointers. I knew I would only be able to do it with God’s help.

Today, somehow, I made it through. Here’s what I said:

It feels a little like I had two Dads. The first one was manly-man George that I had up until 2005 when he nearly died from an aortic dissection and subsequent stroke. In true manly- man style, he fought and survived something that most people don’t.

The Dad of my early years was a tough, motorcycle riding, booming voiced, hard-working, a little rough around the edges kind of guy. When I wore too much blue eye shadow in middle school, he let me know (which in hindsight was actually really good advice). Once, when there was a worm on my Mom’s salad, he didn’t just let the waitress know, he complained loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, much to my teenage embarrassment. He taught me to ride a motorcycle before I could even touch the ground on one. When my brother was racing bicycles at a local track, my dad had me racing Big Wheels. We used to roar through the neighborhood on our three-wheelers, much to the delight of our neighbors. He wasn’t raising me to be a sissy. When I’d go out with my friends as a teenager, instead of telling me to be careful, he’d say, “Don’t stick any beans up your nose!” Also good advice. When I moved out on my own, he gave me a toolbox of everything I’d need to fix anything in my apartment that was broken and I did. He taught me to shoot a gun, respect my elders, to do the right thing, and to love the Lord. He tried valiantly (and failed miserably) to teach me to drive a stick shift. Sorry Dad. He used to go camping with his family and friends to a place called “Deer Camp” but I don’t think they ever even looked for deer. It was just an excuse to get away and do “man stuff.” Since he was a manly-man he didn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve but he showed he loved me by always keeping my cool Mustang convertible in good working order, getting up when it was still dark to go to work hard for our family, and mumbling that he loved us kids every once in a while.

Dad Becky Jen

After 2005, my dad was different. I don’t know if it was his brush with death that prompted the change but he became so sweet and kind.  He worried about me when I’d travel for my job and always wanted me to call when I reached my destination. He told me he loved me ALL THE TIME. Our joke became that I was his favorite daughter and he was my favorite daddy. He told me that he was proud of me. So even though the past 13 years during his illness were so tough, in a small way, they were a gift. They showed me the softie that my dad was on the inside. They gave us a Dad who could more easily share how much he loved us. He didn’t quite lose his feistiness, though. When I would wear my favorite distressed jeans with holes in the knees, he’d say, “You look real pretty, Jennifer, but can’t you afford nicer jeans by now?”

I’m thankful for the 13 bonus years so he could meet my wonderful husband Justin, 9-year-old son Griffin, and see my 17-year-old son Kyle grow up. He loved being the “World’s Greatest PaPa” more than anything.


I came home from the cemetery to discover that my 9-year-old had written this on my car today.

I’m so grateful for all of the years I had with my Dad. I’m thankful that he expected a lot of me as a kid because it made me strong. I’m happy that he pushed me to try challenging things when I was growing up because it made me tenacious. I appreciate that he taught me to try and try again because failing is part of life and so is getting back up. I’m even thankful for the past 13 years because it showed me what true love looks like- my mom lovingly stuck by my dad with kindness and grace even when times were unimaginably difficult. They showed me that you never give up on those you love. I’m most thankful for the gift of all the time we had with my dad because he was truly one of a kind.

I’ll miss you, my favorite dad.

Happy Trails,




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Be Somebody

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want to share something that’s been on my mind lately. I think we often underestimate the impact that we can make in this world. We may not all be the next MLK but we can start to make a difference today right in your community or circle of friends. The next time you see a need, instead of thinking, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Realize, you are somebody.


You don’t have to be wealthy, have tons of time on your hands, or even have everything in your life in perfect order to help others. All you have to do is practice saying “yes”. Commit. Realize that you can do it!

When you give to others, the rewards you’ll receive are far greater. So, the next time you see a need, don’t just say you’re sending support or send a prayer (those are a good start). Push yourself to do more. If you have the means, provide a meal for a friend who’s sick (gift cards are always appreciated if you don’t cook), give a few bucks to a worthy GoFundMe or fundraiser, volunteer your time to a cause you believe in, host a party for a friend’s start up business, volunteer to babysit/pet sit, or find any other way you invest your time.

If you literally can’t find any time or money, even sharing events on social media for an organization that’s important to you can help. Something as small as a handwritten note card through snail mail can brighten someone’s day in a way that a text can’t.

The next time someone takes that hard step to ask, “Can somebody help?”

Be somebody.

Happy trails,


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Totally Kosher Pumpkinbutt Day

The summer after I graduated from high school, I got dumped by a guy I really liked. He wasn’t especially nice to me but he was handsome, and at the time, I didn’t have great self-esteem so that was enough. He didn’t officially break up with me, just kind of stopped calling. I was heartbroken. I moped around, certain that at 18, I was doomed to a live of solitude and loneliness. Perhaps I should just convert to Catholicism and become a nun. Did I mention that I may have been a tad dramatic in my teen years?

Anyway, one day, a knock at the door turned out to be my two best friends Carla and Sheila, who are still dear friends to this day. They had come to kidnap me. Perhaps they knew I was wearing out my Nelson cassette tape (“I can’t live without your love and affection…”). They drove me to our favorite spot at the lake. They came bearing pizza and a giant cookie cake that said, “Totally Kosher Pumpkinbutt Day!” What is that you ask? Well, it’s a holiday that they made up-just for me.

Totally Kosher Pumpkinbutt Day (not actual cookie cake from 1990)

They wanted to get me out of the house and to show me that even though they understood my sadness, they needed me to know that someday, things were going to be totally kosher again, Pumpkinbutt!  Who gets their own holiday? Me, that’s who. Because I have the best friends ever.

I’ve been listening to the Jen Hatmaker podcast and the first series is all about girlfriends. One continuing theme is that friendships take some work, like all relationships. You must nurture them or you will drift apart. I have some friends that no matter how many years go by, when we see each other, it’s like no time has passed. Those friendships are so special to me.

Life certainly gets in the way sometimes but I do think it is important to invest in your friendships. Even a quick message or text just to let them know they’ve crossed your mind can mean a lot. I know it makes me smile when I get those messages. Some of you may disagree but I still think there’s nothing like a good phone call just to check in. You just have to answer the phone when I call. Ha! My sweet friend Casey goes really old school and sends handwritten notes occasionally to let friends know they’re on her mind. I must confess that a note makes me feel really special and I’ve stolen her idea a few times. But, best of all is when I go through my calendar and schedule a bunch of lunches and dinners with my friends. There’s nothing like one-on-one time to catch up and really spend a special hour or two just finding out what’s going on in each other’s lives.

So, how do you nurture your friendships? What have your friends done for you that made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy trails,

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#100HappyDays Challenge Complete

For the past 100 days, I have posted a photo of something every day that makes me happy. Believe me when I say that parts of the past 100 days have been quite tumultuous. They haven’t all been 100% happy days. But, I learned something a while ago. Life is what you make it. If you wake up every day, moan about the alarm going off, kick the cat on the way to brush your teeth, tell yourself that you hate mornings, yell at people during your morning commute, and dread beginning your work day, you are probably not going to have a very good day. But if you wake up and realize that every day is a gift, a clean slate, and a new opportunity, you will most likely have a better day.


Happiness doesn’t just happen to lucky people. Happy people have sad parts of their lives, too. Happiness is a choice. When you decide that you are going to be happy, it isn’t a magical shield that keeps out all of the bad things in the world. Bad things are still going to happen but the way you deal with them will change. Instead of an unlucky person constantly searching for elusive happiness, you can become a happy person who sometimes has some unfortunate things happen to them. You get to decide which kind of person you are. Try to start each day thinking, “This is going to be a great day!” Even if it turns out not to be an awesome one, look for the happy moments. That’s what the #100happydays challenge is about.

71% of all people who try it quit the challenge because they say they don’t have time. Who doesn’t have a moment each day to focus on being happy? I believe the world could use a LOT more of us focusing on the happy moments. This is my second time to complete the challenge. But I’m not going to stop looking for the good in every day or to stop believing that every day can be a happy one. What’s good in your life?

Happy trails,


Posted in family, friends, Happiness, Oklahoma, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Day I Ran Into My Friend’s Abuser

The day I ran into my dear friend’s abuser, I had just finished a lovely dinner with my family in celebration on my son’s birthday. We were walking out and he was walking into the restaurant. I stood, frozen, unable to speak for what seemed like an eternity.

I had imagined this moment many times before. This town isn’t that big. I knew he was out of jail because he had only served less than a year of his 10 year sentence. He served less than a year for lacerating a liver, breaking three ribs, collapsing the lung, and the kidnapping of someone that I love. I wonder if his crime had been drug related, would he have served more time?

In my visions of our meeting, I imagined that I would say something sarcastic like, “Beat any women lately?” I just knew that I would confront him. A throat punch would be a nice touch. I had been friendly to him before I knew there was a monster lurking inside. If I ran into him, I would want to make it clear that that I know who he really is.

Photo courtesy of Real World Survivor

Photo courtesy of Real World Survivor

But, instead, I stood paralyzed. Oh my GOD! Is that? It is. I know it’s him. I whispered his name to my husband. My in-laws and son wanted to know what was going on so I filled them in. My sweet yet feisty mother in law said, “That’s no man.”

I just stared as he walked toward the table of friends, his arm leading the pretty unsuspecting blonde. Does she know what he’s capable of? Is this their first date? Has he hit her yet? Should I have said something to her? What if she already knows and believes his lies?

I stood by the door and stared at the back of his head. I felt sick. I prayed for her safety.

Happy trails,


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That Ain’t Right, Y’All

I was clearing off my coffee table last night when I came upon a memorial service program for my friend’s husband’s service that I attended this past weekend. He was 35 and died suddenly and unexpectedly. His handsome, smiling face with his arm wrapped around his family beamed back at me from the program.  He had already earned his PhD and was always learning and teaching.

I walked over to another stack of papers on the bar in our living room and right on top was a program from a memorial concert that I attended for our friend Danny two weeks ago. He died suddenly in April. He was 47. He could sing Billy Joel better than Billy himself.

Just two months before that, one of my sorority sisters suffered the devastating, sudden loss of her husband. He was 48. Every time I saw them together, they looked like newlyweds.

Last fall, another close friend was killed in a plane crash, leaving behind his amazing wife and three great kids. He was 43. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and made the best bbq sliders on the planet.

All I could think as I picked up the programs and reflected on the gaping holes these four men have left in the lives of those who loved them is, “That ain’t right, y’all.”

Photo credit-Elephant Journal

Photo credit-Elephant Journal

Losing someone you love is never easy. When they’re sick, you may have time to prepare but the effects are still devastating. When they’re older, you may be able to console yourself with the fact that they lived a great, long life. No matter the manner of death, you may always wish you had just a few more minutes. But when their lives are suddenly cut short, how do you make sense of that?

I don’t think you can make sense of it. Even though it is hard to accept, death is a part of life. Eventually it will come for us all. The best we can hope for is to have as much time as possible with those we love. But even more than that, the quantity of our years is less important than the quality of them. If we are very lucky, we get a happy long life.

A pastor at one of the services I attended had the best advice: If God is good (and He is) then live, love, learn, and let it go. Whatever is weighing you down, or holding you back, you’ve got to let it go. Life has so much more to offer. Don’t waste it.

Happy trails,


Posted in death, life carpe diem, Oklahoma | 1 Comment

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Staying Positive in a Negative World

You probably already know that if you eat processed and/or fast food every meal, unless you have the metabolism of a 15-year-old boy, it will eventually catch up with you. But, seriously, can I get some of that metabolism? Most of us can’t eat complete junk on a regular basis without gaining weight, becoming sluggish, and almost quite literally feeling our arteries clogging. So, we watch what we eat with perhaps a cheat meal here and there because we know that it matters what we put in our bodies.

But what about other items you consume? Do you give them the same consideration? Do you ever stop to think about the things you’re watching, listening to, or reading and wonder, “Is this good for me?”

That may be a tough balancing act in this election year. We want information but as national news media outlets crave sensational headlines, the antics that pass as news often seems to resemble more of a schoolyard brawl rather than civilized interactions by adults.

I find myself enduring as much as I can stand, just to stay informed, and then turning it off. I have my limits before I have to unplug and retreat to my happy place of music and uplifting books. I’ve really been trying to measure everything I do lately by asking myself, “Is this making me happy? Is this making me a better person?” If the answer is no, it is time for a change.


The world definitely has a lot of issues. If you’re looking for the ugly side, you can most certainly find it. But I also realize that there are those in the business to blow those problems out of proportion in order to keep people panicked and tuned in. An old media phrase says, “If it bleeds, it leads” and in this 24-hour news cycle, that has never been more true.

If you find yourself feeling depressed, hopeless, powerless, angry, or helpless, maybe a helpful exercise would be to examine the kind of media and the amount of news you’re consuming. Look for a healthier option once in a while. There’s a lot of good in the world. When hopelessness sets in, it helps to turn off the noise and just connect with people who care about you, whether that’s your family, friends, church, or community.  Staying informed is responsible. Allowing it to negatively impact your life is a clear signal that it’s time to consume more of the healthy stuff and step away from the junk.

Happy trails,


Posted in Happiness, Self-esteem, Women | 2 Comments