2023 Word of the Year

It was New Year’s Eve and I had been unable to decide on a word for 2023. I was about ready to give you all together. But then, it came to me. My word.


This year, I want less. In a culture (and with a personality) that always thinks more is better, I want less.

I want less stress and less on my calendar and less procrastination. I want to spend less money and to eat out less and to worry less. I want less unnecessary physical stuff in my house and less unnecessary mental stuff in my brain. I want a year of less guilt. Less “shoulds.” Less trying to control things that are wholly not mine to control. I’d like to consume less sugar and have less screen time. To live with less anger and frustration.

So. Here’s to a year of less. My bet is that I’ll gain far more than I could imagine today by embracing a year of less.


2022 Book Report

This post does contain affiliate links–if you click the titles below, I’ll get a small commission, and your cost stays the same.

One of the best things I did this year was to get myself a library card and the Libby app. This has significantly increased my ability to read (and not to continue to spend money on books to add to the unread pile on the shelf next to my bed…) I credit these two things with reading 18 books–almost double the 10 book goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. As you’ll see, I don’t do much light reading. I also typically steer away from fiction, but that changed this year and I’ve enjoyed adding fiction books to my typical biography favorites.

I Take My Coffee Black – Tyler Merritt

I found this book because of two things. First, Tyler is dating Jen Hatmaker, whom I adore. Second, I saw a couple of videos he did in response to social issues and found them extremely compelling.

This book was a really remarkable combination of funny life stories, historical information, honest discussion of racism in the US, and hilarious one liners. I cannot recommend it enough. It is one of the best memoirs I’ve read.

Although I read this hard copy, Tyler’s voice is amazing, and I trust this would be a fantastic audiobook option.

Carrie Soto Is Back – Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is what got me started down what you’ll see is a Taylor Jenkins Reid rabbit hole. I really enjoyed this book. I found myself unable to stop thinking about Carrie and the upcoming tennis match she had on the way. I could picture everything like I was right there on the courts at Wimbledon. I really love TJR’s writing and highly recommend it.

Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Since I loved Carrie Soto so much, my sweet librarian got me every TJR book she had. This was the second one I read…I loved it too. It’s an amazing story with great family dynamics. The way that TJR can describe a scene and a person is just unreal. Highly recommend. I’d guess that a lot of people might like this book better than Carrie Soto–it’s close for me, but I’ll go with Carrie is my favorite TJR read thus far.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Listen. I fancy myself a pretty intuitive person. It’s rare for me to really be shocked. Hear me when I tell you that the twist in this book literally had my mouth wide open. My jaw was on the floor. I had to step away for a couple of hours just to process. I didn’t see it coming at all. AT ALL. I recommend if for no other reason than I’d like you to message me after you read so we can discuss.

One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I told you I went all in with TJR the last two months. This was another great fiction read. It felt a little bit Hallmark movie-ish to me, but not in a bad way. I found myself really torn in the middle of the story, which was interesting to analyze through.

The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom

Y’all. I don’t know if I recommend this book or not. It is a fantastic story that I could not stop listening to, but hear me when I say it’s heavy. You probably need to be in the right headspace before you read. I listened to this one on audible (excellent performance by the two readers) on a work trip. I still think about the characters and the stories. It is amazingly well-written. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say, there aren’t many happily ever after endings in books about slaves in the South. Parts of this book continue to kind of haunt me. Maybe that’s how you know it’s good? So…do what you will with that.

Enter Wild – Carlos Whitaker

I adore Carlos Whitaker on Instagram. He’s just the kind of person the world needs more of. This book was a really honest look into some of the struggles in his life and how he fought his way out of some difficult situations. I read this on Kindle, but his voice is so good that I am sure it would be a great audio book option.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

This was my first book of the year, and my longest book for sure. But it’s another really great story with writing that is unbelievable. It took me a hot minute to get into it–just know that it’s going to be written from two different perspectives and it goes back in time and then to the present day…it was just all hard for me to get my head around. But once I did, man I loved it so much. Again…turns out that WWII books don’t leave you with a fuzzy feeling, so just keep that in mind.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court & Changed the World – Linda Hirshman

I will recommend this to legal nerds only. Lots of legal discussion, talk about specific opinions, etc. But man, it was really interesting insight into the first female US Supreme Court Justices, their lives, their approach to the law, and the relationship between them.

How Did I Get Here – Christine Caine

There are few people who I think can preach as powerfully as Christine Caine. This book is a big ol’ sermon from her and it was really powerful. I listened on audio–she narrates–and if you’re a Chris Caine fan, you’ll absolutely love it.

Good Enough – Kate Bowler & Jessica Richie

I highly recommend this devotional, which I read for Lent this year. I adore Kate Bowler. I think she has so much wonderful insight on life and death and kindness and the world. This book contains 40 quick, easy-to-read, yet powerful devotionals.

Speak – Tunde Oyeneyin

Tunde is one of my favorite Peloton instructors. This book is her life story, and I loved it. I have so much respect for her and enjoyed hearing about what all she has been through to become the powerful woman she is today. She reads the audio version and it is great.

Not Tonight Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small Town America – George Mahood

Two British men come to America, buy a crappy van for a couple hundred bucks, and set out on a road trip. What’s not to love? This was an easy read but also had me chuckling out loud several times.

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet – Shauna Niequist

I love anything Shauna Niequist does. This book is no exception. Her style is short essays about her life and they’re just always fantastic. Highly recommend.

All The Forgiveness – Elizabeth Hardinger

Another heavy read (why do I do this to myself?) but great story. Again, the family dynamics that the author is able to describe on the pages just amazes me.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me – Mindy Kaling

Okay, here’s the book that’s the anecdote to all the depressing ones I’ve shared. Everyone loves Mindy. This book is cute and hilarious and easy to read. If you’re looking for a good beach read option, here it is.

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom – Rabia Chaudry

I learned about Rabia, as most people probably have, because of her involvement with the Adnan Sayed case. This book wasn’t about that, but the story of her life. It was fascinating. I’ve not read a biography by a Pakistani author before, so hearing about her family and food and traditions was really fun. Rabia reads the audio version, which I really enjoyed.

The Sun Does Shine – Anthony Ray Hinton

Ready for another not-so-light topic? Innocent men on death row. It’s an issue that this whole country should be up in arms over. I am grateful for Ray for sharing his horrific story. I highly, highly recommend. It’s honest and frustrating and inspiring all at once.

Okay now…your turn. What were your favorite reads this year? What must I read in 2023?

The Gift of Remembering

This article was published as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.

For many people, the holidays are a joyful time filled with gifts, treats, and family.  But for those who have lost loved ones, especially those who have lost someone within the last year, the holidays can be really difficult. 

I am glad that sometimes when I don’t have the words, I have carbs.  My kids and I recently spent the afternoon baking treats for friends of ours who will have a difficult holiday.  I really talked to the kids about the importance of remembering loved ones that our friends lose.  I know it matters, and I hope to teach them that lesson. 

There are practical ways to do this.  For example, I keep a paper planner (I am sure for the millennials there is some app for it too!) and when someone passes away, I write it on my calendar.  Then, the next Christmas, I make it a point to send a note or baked goods to the family.  Similarly, on the anniversary of the person’s death, I send a little note in the mail every year.  For some, this was my first year to do so.  For others, I’ve been sending them for decades.  It is simple, it costs next to nothing, and it takes very little time, but my friends tell me it really matters to them. 

As we enter this season of giving and celebration, I encourage you to take a moment to think about people form whom this season may not be filled with cheer. Then do something heartfelt to let them you know you see them, and you have not forgotten.

Give them the gift of remembering.

2023 Christmas Gift Guide

I have done these for years, and at least one person (hi, Emmy!) said they look forward to them, so here we are. Ha! Just a few of the things I’m looking at buying or we already own and love.

Many of these do include affiliated links, meaning if you order by clicking my links, I’ll get a little kickback to help with my own Christmas shopping.

With that…let’s roll!

Ordinary People Changed the World books. My friend Amy recommended these and I could not be any more excited about them! I love a good biography, and I’m confident my kids will too. They’re for reading level K-4, and there are so may great options of people to read about. There is a Strong Girls set, a gift set with the first four books, or you can buy them individually. My eyes are on Dolly Parton, Harriet Tubman, and Anne Frank! You can also pre-order an upcoming one on Dr. Temple Grandin, which will come out in March.

Then Sings My Soul album by Wade Bowen. If you’re a fan of the old, traditional hymns your grandma sang, this is the album for you. I listen to it with the kids almost every night! You can buy the actual cd, or on Prime music, or probably 100 other ways you techy people know that I don’t.

Little Buster toys. If you’ve got a ranch kid or stick show kid, these are for you. My two used some is their recent jackpot winnings to start their collection. Heads up, they’re kind of pricy, but seem to hold up really well.

Rolling cart with drawers. Braun calls this Mr. Rolly and requested it earlier this week to organize his legos. He then spent a solid five hours organizing them by color. The little shelf on the top is perfect for building said legos in one place. I’m a fan.

Art kit. Harper got this for her birthday and it has been a HUGE hit with both kids. It has a ton of different art supplies, which they love, and it is easy to keep them organized and stored in one place, which I love.

Dirt road dreamer hoodie. Here’s one on my list. I love this hoodie and have had my eye on it for a while!

Basketball goal. We will be starting basketball in a couple weeks (send help!) so this seemed like a great idea for the kids’ big gift this year. Here’s the one I’m going with. It’s on sale and the reviews look really good.

Mercy Watson book series. When my friend Cara recommends something, I don’t ask questions. I just add to cart. She told me these are perfect books to help kiddos transition to longer books with fewer illustrations. Reading level says K-3.

Yoto Player. This one also comes from my friend Amy. It’s basically a screen-free device for kids that lets them listen to podcasts, certain radio stations, and audio books. You just insert the card (like a hotel key) with the book you want and it will play. Her kids are big fans.

Cha Cha Chihuahua. My other friend Amy says this is a must have game for kids. Her kids seem extremely fun, so I trust their taste. It says ages 4 and up.

Uno. This is a huge hit in our house. Screaming is usually involved, but everyone loves it and I think it was good to help kids learn to identify numbers. My friend Kristin recommends Uno Attack, but I haven’t branched out yet.

Custom acrylics. If you’re a stock show family, my friend Dylan does amazing acrylics! She’s currently having a sale, so hustle over and get yours ordered. I get no commission here, but the cute models do belong to me.

Owala water bottle. I got one of these last Christmas and love it. They have several sizes and colors.

Beyond gloss. I’m hoping this lands in my stocking. The link is for my friend Britt’s Beauty Counter shop, so if you’re a make up person, there is lots of good stuff there.

Peloton. Y’all know I’m obsessed. They have sales going on right now for everything. I have a code to get you an extra $100 off a bike or tread if you’re ordering, so message me first! Also, I can give you another code to try the app free for 60 days.

The world needs more barns t-shirt. I ordered this for myself for my birthday from Raelynn and I love it so much! She has several different colors to choose from.

I Take My Coffee Black. I’ll do my annual book report soon, but if I had to chose one book to recommend, I’m going with Tyler Merritt. This book is hilarious and brilliant. He has a way of combining humor and history and difficult topics that is just amazing. I highly recommend. (On that note, I do want to mention two books I think everyone should read: Just Mercy and Love Does. You’re welcome.)

Breaking the Mold & Being Grateful for Your Story

Last year, I was honored to be a guest on my friend Bunny Terry’s “I Love New Mexico” podcast. How did I never put this in a blog post?!

We had a great chat about chasing your own dream and being grateful your story, even if it might not look like what we think it is supposed to.

It was really fun to get to share some of my own personal story, as I’m typically chatting about the law when I’m doing a podcast episode. To listen to our conversation, click here.

A “Get To” Life

This article was initially published as part of the Our Rural Roots Column for Progressive Farmer.

We were recently in Reno showing at the Nugget All-American sheep show and sale. At the beginning of the sale, they bring all of the breed champions to the stage, play the song “Auctioneer” and lift the curtain for everyone to see. It’s a really cool tradition.

It was the first time on the stage for my kids and me, as my son’s Reserve Grand Champion wether. It was double special as were able to share the stage with my Dad and brother who had our family’s Reserve Grand Champion Ewe. Our whole clan was on Cloud 9.

Right before the curtain lifted and the music played, the coordinator apologized for us “having to bring the sheep over for this.”

I laughed out loud. Having to? Who on earth would be complaining about getting to line up with their family on the champion row? There were a host of exhibitors back in the barn who would have gladly taken a spot on that stage. Until this year, I was one of them.

Since that day, I’ve been making a conscious effort to notice how often people seem to be living “have to lives” instead of “get to lives.” It has been shocking to me.

I heard it at the feed store when someone was talking about having to feed cattle in the mud, and I thought of how many ranchers in a drought pray for a porch full of muddy boots. A woman in the airport complained about having to sit in a middle seat on a plane to the beach, and I thought of friends who have never been able to afford to take their children on vacation. I overheard someone in a doctor’s office complain about having wasting time at this checkup, and immediately thought of women I know fighting cancer who would love to get to go to a routine doctor’s appointment.

This little exercise has really changed my perspective. When you are consciously trying to live a “get to” life, it’s amazing how many opportunities to do so arise!

Be a Good Neighbor

This post was written as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.

It was late one evening as we were driving home from checking cows. Everyone was tired. That’s when we saw our neighbors’ cows were out on the road. We immediately started to help gather them.

It’s what neighbors do. It is a lesson we all learn growing up in agriculture, and one we are working hard to teach our own children. We help others. Period.

I’ve seen neighbors stand in the gap for each other over the years. They’ve formed volunteer fire departments, served on fair boards, and carried caskets at funerals.

My neighbor sold me my first cow. Over the years, neighbors helped me practice speeches, assisted with science fair projects, and never told me no when I was selling a fund-raising item.

I’ve seen neighbors step in after a fire with a place to stay, after a baby with a casserole for the new parents, and after a death with the advice that helped save a legacy. Recently, I had a neighbor offer to fight a city official on my behalf after my dog was picked up and taken to the pound. I declined but appreciated the neighborly sentiment.

The bond is often particularly strong in rural areas, because often a neighbor is all we have. Still, we all know instances where those bonds get tested when ideals don’t exactly mesh or communications break down, or worse yet, pride gets in the way.

All I know is to teach my children that to have a good neighbor, you need to be a good neighbor. And, to practice what you preach. It starts with the fact that we are better together. Our relationships are deeper and our lives richer when we help others — no matter how tired we are, and no matter how many cows are out.

Old Friends

I read this quote from Shauna Niequist:

“I felt profoundly grateful for the familiarity, for knowing someone across decades, for having the kind of history that allows for shorthand, shared language, a thousand inside jokes, but even deeper than that, an awareness of one another’s hardest days, darkest wounds, scars, and secrets.”

I count many dear friends amongst my greatest gifts. But there is something extra special about the ones who have been around since I was a kid. Shauna described it so well. I catch myself being so grateful for conversations where no back story is required-they know because they lived it with me.

I’m blessed with several of these kind of friends. Like Shauna, I’m forever grateful for that familiarity.

Come On, Nana!

Last night, we stood on the porch during the storm and I was yelling “come on rain!” (Our house is very calm and quiet, obviously.)

Harper started yelling, “come on, Nana!”

I asked what she was saying.

She replied, “uh, mom, Nana is in heaven sending the rain.”

{Thanks be to God and to Nana, because we have 1.20” in the rain gauge this morning.}

“Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.” – Matthew 18:4


We’ve been praying for the Runyans since the moment we heard the news.

When my kids asked me about Mark, I told them he had the best laugh, gave the best hugs, and made everybody feel special.

He always treated me like one of his own. My guess is that most of the “kids” in Eastern New Mexico would say the same. The world is a better place because of Marky.

Just an example of his sense of humor, his fantasy football team every year in our league was called “The Runs” because he wanted to tell everyone “this week, you’ve got the runs” when you played him and “you got beat by the runs” when he won.

My gosh am I glad I got to know & love him for the last 30 years. He will be incredibly missed. Please, keep Lisa, the boys, and their families in your prayers.