Tribes and Families

Growing up in Missouri, Oklahoma was just a neighboring state away. I had family that lived, scattered all throughout Oklahoma, whom I saw each year at our summer family reunion. Little did I envision that I would someday move to the Sooner state and join the ranks of relatives who have lived here for decades.

A defining characteristic, historical, and continued aspect of living in Oklahoma are various Native American tribes. Many of my colleagues and local friends have tribal ancestry to the Cherokee, Comanche, and Chickasaw nations, just to name a few. The Optometrist and I have distant Cherokee roots ourselves, but since our ancestors didn’t obtain a roll number, the lasting and signifying documentation for tribal proof, our connection is one of observation, education, and appreciation. And even though I’ve lived here for over seven years, I would consider myself still a newcomer and novice when it comes to tribal history.

A few years ago I attended a Native American symposium and heard some of our Native graduate students discuss their perspective of what it means to be an American Indian student in today’s culture. One student’s comments made me take pause and reflect when he identified how Native students can often be categorized in one of two ways: 1.) culturally immersed or 2.) historically connected.

For the first, some have strong and deliberate familial connections to tribal ceremonies, traditions, and ways. For others, they appreciate their cultural background, but may not choose to participate in the more traditional activities.

This started me thinking…even though I don’t have any direct connections to any Native American tribe, I do have a sense of belonging and purpose with my great-grandmother’s family. For the past 90 or so years, our family has gathered each June to celebrate and strengthen our ties as a family. Older members have gone on to Glory, new ones join the ranks, and even though some last names have matriculated away from the reunion’s namesake, we carry the same blood in our veins.

Once more, last weekend our family gathered in the Ozarks to gorgeous weather to reminisce, tell stories, love on each other, take pictures, eat, and eat some more. This annual gathering always serves as a reminder about the importance of family, family traditions, and keeping these traditions alive.

Now in my mid-30s, I know the mantle will someday fall to me to help younger generations remember who their great-great-great grandfather was and why we gather the way we do. Thus, like the traditions of my Native friends, I want to be found faithful immersing myself in not only our stories and traditions, but maintaining existing connections and making new among members of our family – our tribe.

Book Review: Love Story by Karen Kingsbury


Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

For fans of the Baxter family, their story continues! The past 24 books in this broad series have focused on the Baxter children, their families, and friends over the years. But in Love Story, the patriarch of the family, Dr. John Baxter, is prompted by his grandson Cole to talk about his early years of meeting and falling in love his (first) wife Elizabeth for Cole’s school project about family history.

In addition to the Baxters, we are reacquainted with friends of the family featured in other books – namely Andi Ellison and Cody Coleman.

Revelations are shared that open lines of communication and offer hope of redemption given by Jesus. Themes include seeking God’s will, forgiveness, recounting struggles and losses from the past, but rejoicing in God’s gift of the present with optimism.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury’s books, visit her website

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy.



Learn: Spring 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of spring.

1. Summer = health

I know it’s not ‘officially’ summer yet, but once finals week and spring commencement are through (and they are!), my schedule slows down drastically and I’m on summer-mode. Once again, I’m reminded that summer me is the best me.

Mental health: Since I have a 12 month academic contract the slower pace enables me to use personal and vacation days without the worry of not being on campus or having to promptly respond to e-mail. I know this is somewhat self-imposed pressure, but I also know I’m not the only one. The lightning of my work load allows me time to run quick errands in the middle of the day, get caught up on back-logged tasks (a lot of academic library reading), and give myself more grace and time to enjoy creative pursuits: home renovations, trying new recipes, casting on lots of new knitting projects, and stocking up on books for pleasure reading.

Physical health: Living in Oklahoma in May is truly the sweet spot; consistent rain keeps everything green, fruits and vegetables are fresh, the humidity is blissfully low so I can enjoy crisp morning walks around the neighborhood, and attending my weekly lunchtime yoga class is a gift to myself for an hour to simply breathe, stretch, and be quiet.

Spiritual health:  Last year I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines. For Christmas I received her newest offering Present Over Perfect from The Optometrist and waiting until now to read it was such a providential decision. This now sets a summer precedent of cherishing her writing at the best possible time, when my soul is most receptive and uncluttered. On Mother’s Day she spoke at Willow Creek, her home church in Chicago, and her statement of I’m someone who…_____________ helped me rethink the way I give, love, and serve.

2. Faith in practice

Hearing Oklahoma Senator James Lankford give the commencement address during one of our May exercises was a special opportunity. He had several applicable words of wisdom and advice for those departing from our university, one of which was this, “If you have faith, and you live in your faith, walk in your faith.”  This has resounded deeply within me and has served as a good reminder to be proud of who I am as a committed Christian and a person of faith.

 3. I can get by with less.

Recently The Optometrist and I underwent some blood testing, which required a bit of overnight fasting. Leading up to the time of the blood work we were conscious about making diligent menu choices, but even after the blood work was complete and we were cleared to eat again I realized I not only did not want to eat rich/fattening foods, but I wasn’t as immediately hungry as I thought I would be. (This coming from the girl who often gets hangry, is really saying something.) Perhaps my metabolism is thanking me for changing things up a bit?

4. Steadfast love

I recently blogged about my goal of memorizing Psalm 103 this summer and am pleased to report this goal is coming along well! I’ve found the most meaningful and productive moments of memorization come as I am out on my morning walks, carrying around a printed copy of just this Psalm, breathing out this ancient text. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”

In both versus 4 and 8 David mentions God’s steadfast love and as I continue to read in the book of Psalms, I am now keenly attuned to each instance of this repeated phrase (and it happens a lot!). How thankful I am for God’s abiding, changeless, stubborn, and wholehearted love!

5. Savor, don’t hoard.

I’ve long had a tendency to save something I really enjoy and/or something that doesn’t come around very often: the final cookies in a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, please), and monthly magazines (Magnolia Journal is currently my favorite) are two that namely come to mind.

But my tendency is then to wait too long – the cookies grow stale before I’ve finished them and the new month’s magazine arrives before I’ve sat down to fully read the previous month’s.

So as the summer begins I’m reminded to fully live in the moment, savoring and enjoying the simple things, without guilt of the completion of a task, or worry about what’s to come. It’s been freeing and liberating!

Knit: (Me Made) May 2017

Did you notice there wasn’t an April knitting post? That’s because I didn’t complete any knitting projects in April! But boy, oh boy, look what I’ve made in May!

FOs (Finished Objects)


Pattern: Find Your Fade
Pay for pattern by: Andrea Mowry
Needles: US 4, 60″ circular ChaioGoo Lace fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Pollen, Fools Gold, Bramble, Salty Tales, Pheasant, Dragonfly, Bali
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

There for a while I was a little concerned about the abrupt segue between Bramble (white speckles), Salty Tales (definitely gray), and Pheasant (maroon) since these colors didn’t exactly fade gently between one another. However, I stuck to this original vision of how aspects of each color section would complement the other, and am so pleased with the end result!

Yes, it’s huge on my petite frame (massive, really), but it includes so many colors I wear and love, and I’ve already given it a spin in public during a blissfully cool evening!

I wouldn’t rule out knitting this again in the future, but would intentionally plan a more traditional faded color spectrum the next time.


Pattern: The Dish (my own creation!)
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles
Yarn: Sugar & Cream – Potpourri Ombre
Recipients: Church friends getting married this weekend!

Here’s how I made this one:
CO 46 sts; K6 rows for border; *(RS) knit across; (WS) K6, purl across to last 6 sts, K6*; repeat * for desired height, K6 rows for border, BO.

Nothing too original about this, thus feel free to use, if you’d like!

Added note: CO during one of our University commencement exercises and later knitted during our visit to the local cinema to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7 & US 9 DPNs
Yarns: Patons North America Jacquard – Fern Rose Jacquard, Cascade Heritage – Marine
Recipient: The Optometrist’s colleague’s baby

Baby #3 for our friends has resulted in a big boy, with big feet! Thus, I went up a needle size using my favorite, go-to baby booty pattern to accommodate his chubby little tootsies! (I forgot to take a picture before giving these away, but featured are the two skeins I used.)

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles & US 7 DPNs
Yarns: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Dragon Fly, Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk – Marine blue
Size: newborn
Recipient: TBD

Using small bits of sock yarn (there’s lots left over from the Fade) and creating new color combinations has brought endless creative joy and pleasure to make one-of-a-kind booties and hats. Since my US 6, 16″ circular needles were in use, I jumped up a needle size to make this a roomy, soft, and squishy fit for a newborn baby boy.

Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6 & US 8 DPNs
Yarns: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Salty Tales; Koigu KPM Black
Recipient: TBD

Again, using extra sock yarn, look – I created Zebra booties!

Pattern: Basic Norwegian Star Hat
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarns: Cascade 220 – Doeskin Heather, Space Needle, & White
Recipient: TBD

Color work always looks impressive but isn’t terribly difficult – it just requires some concentration. If you’re new to fair aisle/color work, this is a great pattern that can easily be adjusted to accommodate different head sizes (I CO 80 sts). Pick your favorite sports team colors, or a soothing blend of neutrals, like I did.

I was inspired by Episode 5 of the Yarn Hoarder Podcast when Amber showed this pattern in Chicago Bears colors of navy, orange, and white.

See What I’ve Sewn


I’ve already written a full blog post about the drawstring activity bags I sewed for our nephew and niece in May, but wanted to include these in my “me made May” report, too!

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Pattern: Oklahoma Cloth
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hobby Lobby, I Love This Cotton! – Dove
Recipients: Church friends getting married this weekend!

This will accompany my other washcloth, The Dish, in a small bundle of wedding gifts.


Pattern: Striped Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Cost: Pay for pattern by: Sox Therapist
Needles: US 1, 40″ Signature Needle Arts fixed circular needles
Yarn: Patons Kroy – Blue Striped Ragg
Recipient: The Optometrist

Using the Turkish cast on method, CO 10 sts and increased to 64 sts. Knitting these two-at-a-time, toe up, using Magic Loop on my beautiful, personalized Signature Needles (a birthday gift from The Optometrist).

I adjusted the two balls of yarn to have matching stripes which is visually pleasing! The feet will be knit plain/vanilla, then I’ll incorporate some kind of ribbing for the leg and cuff to add a little bit of ease and stretch.


As for future WIPs, I’m still wanting to knit my first sweater/cardigan and am narrowing down my pattern and yarn choices.  For all you crafters out there, what’s on your needles right now or what projects are inspiring you this summer?

Read: May 2017

All of my April reading projections were upended with access to new books in May: two memoirs, a sci-fi sequel, and a YA mystery!


Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler

After hearing Alyssa Mastromonaco’s interview on a recent episode of Fresh Air, I was curious to pick up her autobiography.  Filled with wit, candor, and gumption, she recounts honest, some humorous, and many less-than-glamorous stories about the hard work it took to coordinate, plan, and serve as President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (among many political jobs and positions held for a variety of politicians).

She significantly downplays her own abilities, but it’s evident that she just didn’t “arrive” or “happen onto” a position working alongside the leader of the free world. So if you’re remotely interested in political autobiographies, this is a refreshing and inspiring read.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

As soon as The Optometrist and I finished reading book 1 of the Themis Files, Sleeping Giants, in April, we quickly segued into reading aloud book two together, Waking Gods.

The cast of characters from Sleeping Giants returns, allowing the reader to gain more backstory and details of these individuals’ lives. We also learn more about the history of Themis, the other alien robots, and their descendants populating much of the Earth, while the Earth Defense Corps (EDC) tries to stay one step ahead of the robots to preserve as much of humanity as is possible. The story ends with a very obvious cliff-hanger, so The Optometrist and I are anxious to continue the series as soon as the third book is published (TBD)!

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!


Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman with Ken Abraham

My adolescent, teenage, and college years were punctuated with a soundtrack revolving heavily around Steven Curtis Chapman’s music (some of which was on cassette tape, ahem). Thus, when I heard about the release date for his long-awaited memoir, I immediately added it to my InterLibrary Loan requests.

This autobiography is filled with stories and personal photos of early influences growing up in a musical family, his initial launch into Contemporary Christian music as a songwriter, how he met and fell in love with his wife Mary Beth, his numerous successes and awards in the music industry, the birth of their three children, the adoption of their three daughters from China, the grief and heartache of the death of one of their daughters, and the faithfulness of God carrying him through each “great adventure” he and his family have encountered personally and professionally.

Themes of God’s love and the hope we have in Him alone make this a must-read for any fan of Steven Curtis Chapman!

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)


Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Addie, a politician’s daughter, was kidnapped from the governor’s mansion as an 8 year old girl and has suddenly reappeared at the age of 16 with her father now elected as President of the United States. Simultaneously, a series of public events in Washington, D.C., some political and some not, have been hacked or hijacked by a group calling themselves Cerberus, striking fear into innocent people. Always a brilliant computer whiz, the question remains, is Addie’s reappearance tied to these acts of political anarchy?

This was a great YA page turning mystery, perfect since May is National Mystery Month!

Book read via: home library (bought from our Scholastic book fair fundraiser)


Currently reading/soon to be finished in June: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Countdown City by Ben H. Winters.

Summer Vacation Drawstring Activity Bags

A few years ago the Optometrist and I met up with out of state friends who were passing through the area en route to Texas for a summer beach vacation, which I discussed in this blog post. I enjoyed making little drawstring backpacks for their three young girls, wherein I tucked activity pads for good measure.

This week our 7 year old nephew and 4 year old niece are journeying with their parents to their first beach vacation in South Carolina.

I’m still a super-duper novice seamstress, but I’m gaining confidence in using my Singer Classic sewing machine and sewing in (somewhat of) a straight line.  The most time consuming, thus frustrating, part of a project is cutting out fabric to uniform, consistent sizes. I think it’s time I invest in a larger cutting mat and sharper rotary cutting tool…

I used this helpful YouTube video from the Crafti Gemini called “How to Make a T-Shirt Drawstring Backpack for Kids” in her London 2012 Olympics series as my inspiration, but used stiffer material rather than jersey cotton.


Our niece loves My Little Pony, so I was excited I still had some leftover material to create hers. I omitted adding initials on the outside like I did before, but followed the 12.5″ size dimensions described in the tutorial, lined it with white muslin for a little extra stability, and added a little sewn pocket to the inside lining.

Meanwhile, her big brother just finished 1st grade, so he needed something more “grown up.” When at Walmart (the only option for purchasing fabric in our town), we saw lots of options our nephew would have liked: Star Wars, Batman, etc., but opted for the slightly faded Marvel comicbook fabric. His is closer to 15″ (it’s wider than it is tall, but I didn’t take exact final measurements), also reinforced with white muslin, and a internal pocket on which I stitched his initials. Once I added this small element, it inspired me to give more attention to other details, so I was very pleased with the end result and hope it will be sturdy for him to enjoy!

Inside each are a little surprise – a coloring postcard for Sweet Pea and Star Wars: The Force Awakens stickers for Little Dude.

Because, after all, what are aunts good for if not to send a care package for little ones to collect beach vacation treasures in drawstring activity bags?


1.) Literally taking time to stop and smell the roses.

2.) Neighborhood honeysuckle fragrantly in bloom.

3.) A cool morning walk.

4.) The privilege of having both my parents alive, still married, and them singing Happy Birthday to me over the phone.

5.) New summer reading lists.

6.) My soul awakening with the Psalms.

7.) Shiny silver hoop earrings.

8.) Re-watching a favorite, classic Disney movie on Netflix.

9.) Casting on a new hat.

10.) Baths with relaxing bath salts.

11.) Caring for the health of my fingernails.

12.) Eating the best hummus in town.

13.) Sharing a healthy smoothie with my husband.

14.) Running into dear friends downtown.

15.) Having our University president tell me “Happy birthday! How does it feel to be 24?”

16.) An inspiring podcast.

17.) The availability of taking a personal day from work.

18.) Restorative afternoon naps with Sylvester curled up by my legs.

19.) Sweet texts from dear friends out of state.

20.) Thoughtful cards from family and friends across the miles.

21.) Sherlock mysteries.

22.) Homemade birthday sushi made for me by my husband.

23.) La La Land piano score with hints of Debussy.

24.) Fancy, Signature Needles engraved with my name.

25.) An unexpected children’s book about knitting.

26.) Anticipating a care package from my BFF.

27.) New-to-me poetry.

28.) Adventuring through Middle Earth for the first time.

29.) Keeping score at a minor league baseball game, a.k.a. the most fun I’ve gotten out of $1.00 in a long time.

30.) Joyful, colorful, loud fireworks.

31.) Walking through well manicured gardens reminiscent of Narnia.

32.) Thoughtful and loving in-laws.

33.) A playful cat before nighttime snuggles.

34.) Clean drinking water that flows out of the faucet.

35.) Being good to my body & my body being good to me in return.

36.) The quietude of home and the peacefulness of bedtime.