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

Being Selfless in a Selfie Society

Recently, I attended the funeral of a friend. He and his wife Cathy had the kind of love story that we all strive for. They had been married for 40 years. During his eulogy, it was said that he woke up every day and asked himself, “How can I make Cathy happy today?” He obviously was a very smart man. He knew the secret to a happy marriage.

I remember way back in middle school (we called it junior high back then) we had required reading lists for English. One of the stories that really stayed with me was “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. If you haven’t read it, you really should. The short version of the short story is this: A young married couple doesn’t have much money but they want to give each other a gift. The only thing of value that she has is her beautiful, flowing hair. The only thing worth anything that he has is a pocket watch. But, they love each other and want to show it. Unbeknownst to each other, she sells her hair to buy him a chain for his watch. He sells his watch to buy her combs for her hair. In the end, they have two useless gifts but they realize that their love for each other is the most precious gift of all. They are willing to give up their most prized possession to show their love for one another. It should be no surprise that my favorite Christmas movie is a variation of this story, “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.”

I love you!

I love you!

In our selfie-obsessed society, it’s often hard to see past our own needs. But if both partners are asking, “What can I do today to make my spouse happy?” I think many more marriages just might survive. If both partners are constantly giving to the other, instead of just worrying about their own needs maybe more people would feel cherished instead of slighted, and feel safe instead of defensive. How can you make your partner happy today?

Happy trails,


Posted in death, friends, Love, Marriage, Oklahoma, Women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Life Doesn’t Come with Rollover Minutes

Recently, my husband Justin and I lost our close friend, Travis unexpectedly in a plane crash. He was only 43. When tragedy strikes close to home, it’s natural to go through a variety of emotions. Of course, the first one was shock. It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he is really gone and that we won’t see his smile or laugh with him again. Somewhere in the flood of emotions came extreme sadness- both for us and for his sweet wife and for his children.

In my soul searching, I started thinking about what’s really important to me- like my family and friends. I guess a lot of people do that in times like this. My own incredible husband and children would be at the top of the list. I know a lot of people have the realization that “life is too short” when they lose a loved one. I’m no different.

But I’ve had a few other realizations lately, too.  In addition to really examining what matters to me, I have a very clear picture of what doesn’t matter to me. I see, crystal clear, what I don’t want to waste one minute of my life on. Things like arguing about politics, drama about petty things, fighting, negativity, hate, and being concerned with people who don’t have my best interests in mind have no place in my life. I won’t give them a second thought.


Where you invest your love, you invest your life

There are 525,960 minutes in a year. I don’t know how many of them I have left. But I do know this. I want to spend them with people who want to be with me. I want to spend them laughing. I want to travel to as many places across this amazing world, taste as many cuisines, and meet as many people as I possibly can. I want to love and be loved. I want to grow closer to God. I want to find true peace within myself. I want to continue to learn, share, grow, help others, become a better person, and so much more! I have a finite number of minutes left. Why would I exchange one minute of this precious life for anything negative? I won’t. Life doesn’t come with rollover minutes and from now on I will carefully measure how I spend each one.

Happy trails,


Posted in death, life carpe diem | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

I Love You and From Now On I’m Going to Act Like It

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you ever really look at yourself? Are you proud of the person you’ve become or do you see a work in progress? Do you see years of mistakes and bad choices or have you forgiven yourself for not being perfect? No one is perfect, you know. Do you see silky smooth skin or years of hard-earned laugh and frown lines? Oh, the stories those fabulous lines could tell. Psst…. you’re beautiful, you know. Not all of us are beautiful compared to the current impossible, Photoshopped, injected, nipped/tucked beauty standards but we all are in our own way. Do you believe that? Do you know that you’re beautiful? Can you tell yourself that?

When you look in the mirror, do you hear any negative tapes begin to play in your head? You aren’t pretty enough. Your nose is too big. Your eyes are too small. Your forehead is too wide. Your chin is pointy. You could stand to lose a few pounds. Your hair is the wrong color. Whose voice is that? Is it yours? Is it a parent’s/ex’s/bully’s/frenemy’s/ or a combination of all of the above? Who first told you that you weren’t good enough? Or pretty enough? Or thin enough? Or enough? Who the hell were they to tell you that? Why did you believe them? Why did you let their voice become that voice in your head telling you that now? Why didn’t you just chalk up their opinion to being invalid and forget it?


Love yourself first

In order to ever feel love, real love, it has to start with you loving yourself. You can have friends, family, or a loved one that treats you like you are precious and special. But, if you don’t believe that you are precious and special, you will never really believe anything they say. You will constantly seek attention, adoration, and validation from other people but it will never be enough. You’ll want more, more, more but it will never give you what you seek. No one else can make you happy if you aren’t happy. Their words will feel good for a moment and then they will ring hollow. It will be like filling a bottomless pit. Until you learn to love yourself, you will never feel worthy of love, therefore, your heart will be a black hole. Loved ones may try to fill it but their compliments, love, adoration and affection will fall right through. The key to filling that hole is learning to love yourself. You must believe that you are precious. You are beautiful. You are worthy. Stop playing those negative tapes in your head from those who did not have your best interests’ in mind. You will eventually realize that you don’t need validation from others. While it’s nice to hear compliments, you can have faith in yourself so you don’t put so much stake in what others think of you. It doesn’t mean being cocky or thinking that you’re better than anyone else. It means really knowing that you have value. You deserve to feel loved and that starts with you.

This can be especially hard to do if you’re in a relationship that isn’t healthy. If someone is constantly making you feel inferior, it’s definitely hard to work on your self-esteem. When someone takes every opportunity to point out your flaws, call you names, or tear you down when you’re feeling good about yourself, it can be pretty devastating. But, you have the power when it comes to how you allow people to treat you. If you have those in your life who are mean to you, why are you allowing them to be there? What is their motivation when they tear you down? Are they doing it to control you? Are they doing it to make themselves feel superior? It doesn’t really matter. You deserve to be treated with kindness. You teach others how to treat you. Teach them to treat you with love and respect.

Are you a kind person? Don’t you deserve to be treated the same way? Would you say the things you say to yourself to anyone else? Treat yourself as you would someone you love. This isn’t an easy place to start. But I promise, if you don’t quite love yourself yet- it will be worth it.


Love, Me

Start by refusing to allow the negative thoughts in your head. Forgive yourself for past mistakes. If you have regrets, apologize to others if necessary. Stop destructive behaviors. Start by accepting that you are a good person, worthy of love, and that you are going to make peace with yourself. Find something positive to tell yourself every day. Do nice things for yourself. Make a list of your good qualities. When others compliment you, don’t dismiss it- simply smile and say, “Thank you.” Once you do these things and realize that you are worthy, you’ll be able to feel love from others so much deeper and richer than ever before. You must start here. If you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy, you’ll be waiting forever. It starts with you. It was always you.


You Have the Power

Happy trails,



Posted in friends, Happiness, Love, Self-esteem, Uncategorized, Women | 2 Comments

I’m Still Team Jen

I’ve never been much of an Angelina Jolie fan. I vaguely remember long ago reports of her wearing Billy Bob’s blood in a vial around her neck and something about her kissing her brother. Then, I recall the whole Jen vs. Angelina hullaballoo when “Brangelina” was born. I never bought a t-shirt but if I had, I would have been Team Jen.

Team Jen

Team Jen! Photo borrowed from this site:

Now, I keep hearing about Angelina’s “brave” choice to have her ovaries removed after having her breasts removed a couple of years ago to reduce her cancer risk. Oddly, I can’t help but feel some kinship with her. I may soon be faced with some of the same decisions. Don’t worry, I won’t be issuing any press releases when I do. I know that some people are annoyed with her “TMI-oversharing.” If you feel that way, you should probably stop reading now. I actually understand why she’s sharing her story and why I feel it’s important to share mine.

Just as in hers, cancer runs in my family. Maybe it runs in yours, too.  Because I wanted to be proactive about my health, I started getting regular mammograms before my 40th birthday. Last year, my results came back and they wanted to do some additional testing. It’s apparently hard to read my mammograms because of my dense tissue. I had an ultrasound and then they ordered an MRI. All came back clear (whew!) but I decided to meet with someone in the high-risk program to get a risk evaluation completed.

After a five-month wait for an appointment, I met with a nurse who is one smart cookie. She completed a risk assessment based on my health and family history. The general population has a 12% chance of getting breast cancer. Based on my assessment, my current risk is 31%.


BRCA Risks

After some discussion, I decided to be tested for the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 next month. If I test positive for either gene, it will mean that I have either an 80% or 60% chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 70 (factoring in my family history).

As if that isn’t enough to deal with, these same genes also increase the chance for ovarian cancer. About 1% of the general population will develop ovarian cancer, which is notoriously hard to diagnose in early stages. In contrast, those with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a 39% or 17% possibility of developing ovarian cancer.

So, for anyone who hears the choices that Angelina has made and thinks it’s crazy to have perfectly healthy breasts and ovaries removed, what would you do if you knew you had an 80% chance of developing cancer if you did nothing? What about a 60% chance? Where do you draw the line? What is an acceptable cancer risk? Is 31% acceptable? I haven’t decided yet.

For now, I’ve joined the high risk surveillance program. That means that every six months, I’ll rotate between having a mammogram and an MRI. They’ll keep a close watch on me to check for any early signs of cancer. Next month, I’m being tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. If I’m positive for either one, it will mean that I have either an 80% or 60% chance of developing breast cancer and a 39% or 17% (depending on which gene) of developing ovarian cancer before the age of 70.

Depending on the results, I’ll decide what comes next. If my results are positive for the gene, I may opt to have a prophylactic mastectomy, which is a preventive surgery. I can make that choice now but I’m waiting for more information before I decide. Because of my high cancer risk, insurance will pay for it.  I would be able to have reconstructive surgery, too (possibly at the same time). This would reduce the cancer risk to about 5%. I’ll also have to make a decision about the ovary surgery.

Even though Angelina is (and now I am) sharing a lot of personal medical choices, I think it’s important for women to really think about why. It isn’t because I’m trying to gross you out. I’m taking charge of my health. I’m not just burying my head in the sand because cancer is scary. I’m not waiting for it to happen to me because I know it could be coming at me. I bet it you asked any of my friends who have had cancer, if they knew they had a high chance of getting it and they could do something to prevent it, would they? If they could avoid radiation and chemo and reduce their risks, would they? I bet they would. I will have some important decisions to make in the coming months, depending on the outcome of the genetic testing. Please keep us in your prayers.

I strongly encourage you to take charge of your health. Everyone has a story, a family history, and not everyone would make the same choices. They are yours alone to make. This one is mine. But, please, be diligent about your preventative exams. Get tested. Get your mammograms. If something doesn’t look or feel right, please get it checked out. Early detection is key and could save your life. If I can make a choice that will prevent something that has a high chance of happening to me so that I may be around to watch my children grow up, I’m going to do it. Whatever will increase my chances of being here for my family is worth the pain. I guess I’m still Team Jen but in this case it’s my team I’m on. Sometimes, sharing is caring and I hope you’ll see that this is the case. I care about my health and I care about yours.

Happy trails,


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Everything Changed In a Heartbeat

In the blink of an eye. In a New York Minute. In a flash. Literally, in a heartbeat. Your life could change, never to resemble what it was before. Ten years ago, it happened to my dad. Like any other day, he went to work. Unlike any other day, we received a call several hours later saying that he had collapsed and they were taking him to the emergency room.

Dad and Me

My Dad and Me

Once we arrived, they ushered us to a family waiting room. I had been in this very same room a few weeks before when I came to see a co-worker whose grandson passed away after a tragic accident. I knew that his was the “bad news” room.  The doctors came in and told us that my dad had suffered an aortic dissection. The main artery to his heart had torn and he needed emergency surgery. John Ritter died of this same thing. About 60% of people with his type of dissection don’t survive surgery. Thankfully, he did. We waited days for him to wake up, not knowing how much damage was done or what he would be like when he woke up. It was determined that while his body was naturally trying to heal the tear in his aorta, clots had traveled to his brain and caused a stroke. He would be partially paralyzed on one side of his body.

The dad that I knew left us that day. A new one woke up days later.   After seven months in the hospital and various rehab centers, he came home. My mom retired earlier than she expected to care for him. While there are immeasurable challenges that he faces every day (and certainly my Mom, too, as his caregiver), there are some pretty amazing lessons that I have learned from this life-altering experience.

Life may not go according to plan. In fact, it rarely does.  It’s great to plan for the future but it is probably a great idea to have a back-up plan. It’s also a good idea to have a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Flexibility is critical. When life throws something unexpected at you, the real test will be how you respond.

The next lesson that I’ve learned is that you have to make the most of every day. You’ve probably heard it before when Robin Williams said it in Dead Poet’s Society. Carpe diem! Seize the day! You never know when it may be your last or the last time you get to spend with someone you love. If there’s something you really want to say, a trip you want to go on, a class you want to take, a book you want to write, a friend you have been meaning to call or have lunch with, forgiveness you need to seek or extend, an adventure you want to have-do it. Do it now. Make it happen. Don’t wait. You may think that you’ll do those things later, or that you have plenty of time but what if you never make it that far?

Last, don’t waste time mourning the life that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. You have to move forward with the life you have. Yes, I wish my dad were healthy and that he’d never gotten sick. But, this is the hand we were dealt. I feel blessed that 10 years later, he’s still here. My oldest son, Kyle was just four when he got sick. Over that past 10 years, he’s been able to have a great relationship with his PaPa and my dad has enjoyed watching him grow up. If my dad had left us 10 years ago, he never would have met my wonderful husband or my six-year-old son, Griffin.

My dad has many health challenges and it’s tough for him and my mom. But, we are lucky to have him. We are thankful for every day that we get to spend with him because it feels like a bonus, knowing that we almost lost him. I don’t wonder about what “could have been” because the fact is that this is how life turned out. For me, wondering how it could have been different only leads to pain. I have to accept what cannot be changed and move on.


Do it now.

My dad getting sick was definitely a life-altering experience for my family. It was a complete shock, since he had always been healthy and it had no warning signs. Of all that I have learned, I know that my mom is my hero and is stronger than she gives herself credit for being.  Through it all, my awesome brother, sister-in-law, mom, husband, and I have pulled together and make a pretty good team. Life isn’t always fair. But you have to live it in such a way that when the rules change, you’re ready for whatever comes your way. Most importantly, look for the good in the bad. It’s always there. Sometimes, you may have to adjust your vision.

Happy trails,


Posted in family, friends, Happiness, Love, Oklahoma, Women | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Finding Compassion in a Conflicted World

When I was a little girl, I remember walking home from elementary school one day. An older neighborhood boy was perched on the corner fence, waiting on us smaller kids to walk past. When I got near him, unprovoked, he kicked me in the shins. I ran the rest of the way home, blonde ponytail bouncing, hot tears streaming down my face. My protective older brother, Keith immediately demanded to know why I was crying. I told him what had happened and who the culprit was. My brother said, “Come with me” and grabbed me by the hand as we marched over to the boy’s house. He knocked on the door and when the bully answered, my brother informed him that he was going to just stand there while I kicked him back as hard as I could. Then, I did. He never messed with me again.

Bubby and me

My brother, Keith and me, back in the day. (Note the sweet Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders satin jacket)

It never occurred to us, back in 1980-something to grab one of our dad’s guns on the way over to our mean neighbor kid’s house. It just wasn’t the way we were raised or the way the world worked back then. We merely wanted to teach him a lesson and I’m quite sure he learned one. Even though we were raised around guns, we were taught a great respect for them. I don’t know when things changed or where the world went wrong. It seems all too common to hear about people skipping all of the available options when it comes to conflict resolution and heading straight for “kill”. When did people stop caring about the sanctity of human life?

I see so many people (especially online) flippantly make comments about killing others or wishing someone would die. Does someone have different political views than you do? Disagree with our President? Someone say negative things about your favorite movie? Feel disrespected by someone? Did some idiot cut you off in traffic? Meet someone with differing religious views? By all means, why not wish them dead? It seems to be the norm these days.

Could there possibly be another solution? How about changing the channel, walking away from the computer, or turning off the political rhetoric? What if we could all come to the realization that we are all entitled to our own opinions regarding politics and religion as long as they don’t infringe on each other? What if, instead of engaging with the idiot in traffic, we simply changed routes? How about refusing to participate in unwinnable arguments and spewing hate? What if, instead of trying so hard to impose our views on others, we simply started showing compassion and kindness instead? Or, what if we actually embraced each other’s differences instead of fearing them and learned something from one another?

I realize that peaceful personal dispute resolutions may not always be possible. But, over the decades, people have used some pretty creative solutions: Arm wrestling, sing offs, dance offs, the Dozens, fighting, wresting, drag racing, mediation, or just good ol’ communication. While I’m teasing about some of these, there are so many viable ways to solve our differences. If we’d only respect each other a little more- even if we don’t always like each other or agree- maybe we could start to see that every life has value. Ending someone’s life is a permanent choice for a temporary moment of anger.

Often, I just have to back away from the 24 hour news cycle, all of the bad things in the world, the negative reports, and focus on what’s real: my friends, my family, my church, and those relationships that matter the most to me. Sure, there are bad things in the world but there’s plenty of good, too.   I can’t allow myself to be entrenched in the bad or it starts to feel like everyone is out to get me.

Perhaps we all need to lower our defenses a bit and realize that even if we disagree with someone, they may still be an intelligent, valuable, kind, caring human being but only with a different point of view. Or, sometimes, they really are just a real jerk who we need to try to avoid. Either way, lives still matter.  Communication and compassion go a long way in a world that seems to have lost its way.

Happy trails,




Posted in Love, Uncategorized, Women | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments