Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Challenges of Homeschooling

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:34 PM 0 comments
A while back I did a post on the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling. Now that we've been done with school for a few weeks, I can look back and talk about the top 10 challenges. As I said before, I love homeschooling! Just because we feel called to do it and it's a good fit for our family, doesn't mean that it doesn't come with its own challenges. This list isn't meant to discourage anyone from homeschooling, but to be realistic and balanced in what it looks like.

1 - Finding time to yourself. Yes, your children are always at home! But a little creativity and some exchanging with other homeschooling moms and you can find a few moments to breath.

2 - Getting past fears of being indadequate. Time and time again I hear moms say they don't think they're capable. "But what do you do when they get to high school? I wasn't good at that stuff when I had to learn it." There are endless resources and helps to homeschooling moms today, and if God's called you to homeschool, he will equip you!

3 - Fitting it all in. Homeschooling is time consuming, there's no question. So you teach, cook, grade tests, clean, do laundry, check work, and run errands. When you homeschool you learn to let some things go, and remember, your children are there with you. Teach them to help with chores and delegate, delegate, delegate!

4 - Normalizing being educated at home. When all their friends go off to school, homeschooled children sometimes wistfully desire to go with them, envisioning a non-stop playdate. Getting together with other homeschooled children, through participating in co-ops, play groups, and field trips, helps make it normal. Talking with them about what a public school day looks like may also help.

5 - Lack of support. Many friends and family don't understand homeschooling or take it personally that the school their children is in 'isn't good enough' for your children (even though that's not how you feel.) They will question, sometimes make blatant statements against homeschooling, and 'test' your kids. Equip yourself, be confident, and know that not everyone will understand or agree with you and that is okay. Answer them with kindness and keep on doing the right thing for your family. And you can forward them videos like this!

6 - 10 - I'm sure there are some more drawbacks to homeschooling, but I can't come up with them. These are the main ones I've come in contact with or seen with other homeschooling families. As with any challenge, there's always a way to meet it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:11 PM 0 comments
Patience is something I always thought I had before I had children. I could be patient at work, I could be patient sitting though dozens of not-overly-exciting college classes, I could even be patient in traffic.

But until someone is putting their own personal demands on you 24/7 (i.e. Motherhood), I don't think you can have a complete concept of patience. And once you become a mother, you suddenly understand why all those other mothers you've looked down on for all those years sometimes lost it with their children in the grocery store.

Don't get me wrong, I still cringe when I hear a mom in public berating her child or yelling at him. But I myself must admit, I've raised my voice a time or two.

What I often find, however, is that when I lose my patience, it typically has to do with what I'm doing, not what my children are doing.

Here's what I mean: Have you ever noticed that you don't mind that person meandering down the road when you have plenty of time, but when you're running late all of a sudden that person is being inconsiderate and in your way? The same goes with our children sometimes.

If my child wants me to pick them up or read to them and I'm not in the middle of some task (which hardly ever happens) I freely say "sure" and hang with them for a while. But when I'm fixing dinner, or working on a book, or folding laundry, I find little patience with their requests. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something?

I try to stay aware of staying balanced. Sometimes it's best to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes and spend that time. Especially since a mother's work is never done, and when she takes a break it would be nice if it were uninterrupted. But, my children need me to not only keep them in clean clothes and fix them food, but they also need me. My touch, my voice, my ear.

But balance also means not always giving in to them either. If I gave into every request with the utmost patience, I would never be able to teach them to be patient. Or considerate. Or selfless. Not to say that patience is a bad thing, but how we use it is important. Quite often, patience is needed in greater quantities when I tell my children "no." Then it's my job to stay patient while they ask questions, fuss, or complain. This is usually when we're tempted to lose our patience and yell or give in. But it's my job to back up my words with actions. If I said no, it's not going to happen. If I requested something be done, it will be done or there will be a consequence.

They may also get a consequence if they question or fuss too much (an innate tactic all children automatically know.) As long as I stick to my word and do so calmly, though, I've won the battle. And I've taken one more step on the road to a land called Patience.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moms for Moms

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 7:50 AM 0 comments
It seems that everywhere you turn these days you hear about mean girls. Movies, news show segments, magazine articles, and specials abound talking about mean girls and bullying between girls...and grown women. People analyze and speculate what makes some girls mean and try to make recommendations on how those the meanness is aimed at are to best handle it. If you are exposed to enough media, you might believe there aren't hardly any nice girls out there, looking for genuine friendships and willing to love and support.

I've been a big advocate of girlfriendships for a long time and believe they're an important part of life, especially during motherhood. Mothers can feel awfully isolated in our culture. Fear of judgement from other moms or past negative experiences can keep them from reaching out when they're discouraged or doubt themselves. But it is important to find friends who walk along side you on this journey of motherhood.

I'm very fortunate to have a group of women that I love and trust and can care my soul to. Some are women I get to hang out with once in a while and others are my confidants. But each of them are "nice" girls.

Recently, I've been enfolded into a whole new group of nice girls. I'm blessed to be going to the She Speaks Conference this year, a wonderful conference put on by the great gals at Proverbs 31 Ministries for writers, speakers, and leaders. Since registering, I've been drawn in through emails, websites, blogs, and a FaceBook group. It warms my heart and lifts my spirit to see women from all over the country who've never met each other lifting each other up in prayer and encouragement. These women embody the words: "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)

There are loving, supportive women out there who can be mentors, friends, and confidants. Don't settle for anything less! Eliminate (as much as possible) relationships with toxic people and cultivate those that are healthy. Then gather your girlfriends around a cup of coffee or ministry work and get bolstered up for all the work motherhood throws your way!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 4 & Final

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:59 AM 0 comments
This is the second half of chapter two. Sad to say, it's all I'm going to give out for now. (I hope it makes you sad!) Hopefully one day in the not-to-distant future I'll obtain a contract for this book and will have the whole thing out there!

Dana pulled into the field where a couple of dozen cars were parked. She still fumed. Brooke had talked the whole ride, trying to distract her. Dana was grateful for the company of her best friend. Otherwise, she’d go crazy tonight.
She used to like these parties. Everyone who was anyone would be there. She could hear the noise of people she used to consider her friends laughing and talking and getting drunk as she slammed the car door. She thought about getting back in the car, but one look at Brooke convinced her to stay.
Brooke’d had a crush on Max forever and he’d broken up with his girlfriend last week. Dana didn’t really have anywhere else to be, and the least she could do was let Brooke have her chance. At least one of them would have a good night.
The night went on like every other party Dana had ever gone to. The guys drank too much and acted stupid. The girls drank too much and threw themselves on the closest guy, the ones that weren’t attached anyway. Everybody knew everybody and who was dating who and who was willing to hook up.
Dana spotted Max, surrounded by some of his football buddies. She new Brooke had seen him too, as she stopped short and caught her breath.
“I’m fine,” Dana said. “Go ahead.”
“You sure?” Brooke asked, arching one eyebrow.
“I’m sure.” Dana gazed around the crowd. “I’ll find somebody to talk to.”
“You’re the best friend ever,” Brooke said as she squeezed Dana into a hug and then sprinted off.
Dana spotted Crystal and Kara on the other side of the fire. They weren’t too bad. She knew they wouldn’t be drunk. They were both nice, not catty like most of the other girls. They were cheerleaders, like her. Like she was, she corrected. Cheerleading and dating a bull rider didn’t go well together at Western Plain High School. She could still try out, but why bother?
“Dana!” Kara called out to her, waving. Dana waved back, forced a smile and strolled over. Maybe they’d feel sorry for her.
“Crystal, Kara. What’s up?”
Crystal rolled her eyes and took a sip from the red cup in her hand. She looked flawless, perfect skin, long, blond hair. Her jeans must be a size zero and the turquoise top she had on made her eyes even bluer. If she weren’t so nice, Dana would hate her.
“The usual,” she answered.
“Yeah,” Kara said. “I don’t know why we even bother.”
“Because there’s nothing else to do.” Crystal sipped from her cup again. Her eyes roamed around the field.
Kara looked at Dana. “What are you doing here? You never come out to these things anymore.” She brushed back her short brunette hair with one hand, using the other to move the clip that was supposed to be keeping it out of her face. She always wore a clip, but her hair always slipped out and encroached on her face. Dana had noticed a tiny scar by her hair line one time and wondered if that’s why she only half attempted to keep it pulled back.
Kara was pretty. She wasn’t stunning like Crystal, but she got asked out plenty. She usually said no, but in a gentle, thoughtful way. Of course, that didn’t stop the other girls from talking trash about her and the boys from calling her a tease behind her back. Dana knew the score though, the girls were jealous and the guys were ticked that Kara wouldn’t go out with them. She had heard a rumor about Kara dating one of the football players before she’d moved here, but not much else. Thinking about it, she couldn’t remember one date Kara had been on since Dana had met her.
Kara gave her the, ‘I asked you a question’ look. The door of the ambulance closing came to her mind. She did her best to not get peeved again at Bo’s complete lack of paying any attention to her. “Jeremy got hurt.”
“No!”
“What happened?”
Dana swallowed her hurt feelings and decided that she’d have to get over herself and remember that Bo’s brother was probably getting ready for surgery right then.
“The bull slammed his leg against the gate as he was coming out. That mad him off balance and he fell off. The bull came down on his other leg.”
“Oh, how awful!”
“Is he okay?”
Dana hooked her thumbs in her front belt loops. “I guess. They said they couldn’t tell how badly his left leg was damaged. They took him to the E.R. and were going to have to do some x-rays and other tests to know for sure. Most likely, he’ll have to have surgery.”
“Oh,” Kara said, leaning towards Dana, enraptured by the story. “That means no more riding.”
“Not for a long time, anyway. Like I said, they didn’t know anything for sure, but said he’d be off his leg for months.”
“Poor Jeremy,” Kara said. She looked out into the darkness and readjusted the clip in her hair again. “He’ll be crushed. And he’s been through so much already.”
Dana glared at Kara. What did she know? The only reason Dana knew about Stacy’s pregnancy was because of loose-lipped Aunt Flora.
Did Kara know something? Dana remembered that her friend had always seemed to hold interest in Jeremy. She’d always been more friendly to him than other guys, but Jeremy had dated Stacy forever. An image of Kara and Jeremy talking by his car in the school parking lot after the last bell a couple weeks back flashed in her mind.
Dana coughed. “Yeah.” Was there something was going on between Kara and Jeremy?
As Dana formulated a casual way to ask Kara, Crystal spoke up. “I can’t believe that happened. Jeremy’s been riding forever! From what I hear, he’s a perfectionist and is the bomb on the back of a bull.”
“Well,” Dana began, then hesitated. She hated to gossip. But was it really gossip? The facts were that Stacy’d shown up. But, she didn’t know for sure that Stacy being there had distracted Jeremy. Maybe he didn’t even see her.
But Crystal had a point. Jeremy had never messed up before. At least, not that Dana had ever seen. And of course it would have torn him up if he’d seen Stacy. And how could he not? She’d traipsed all around the arena with Stu, as cocky as a peacock.
“Well, what?” Crystal demanded.
Dana lowered her voice a notch and said, “Stacy was there.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 3

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:57 AM 0 comments
Chapter 2 part 1 (BTW, the book's title is: Riding the Wind)

Jeremy finally got his hand unwrapped and attempted to leap off the bull. The clowns were close by, waiting to direct the bull away from the rider as soon as he hit the ground. There was nothing they could do, though. When Jeremy loosed himself, he fell straight to the ground, instead of jumping off clear like he should have. The bull bucked twice before the clowns coerced him away and out of the arena.
Jeremy lay on the ground. He turned his head to the side and groaned. Bo stared in horror. As soon as the gate closed behind the bull, he raced in with a couple of the other bull-riders. The medical team, coming from another gate, arrived at Jeremy’s side at the same time.
The medical technicians seemed to be everywhere. They asked Jeremy his name and where he was. He answered, groaning and writhing in the process. Jeremy groaned and reached down towards his right leg. When he did, it drew Bo’s gaze away from the gash on his right leg. His breath caught in his throat. So much blood. Bo sensed the crowd gathering around his brother. He knew they were they, but no one spoke a word.
This was not like racing. No one liked to see an accident. Bull-riders weren’t encased and protected. They went flesh to flesh up against animals weighing over a ton, and the animal always won.
Bo looked into his brother’s eyes, identical to his own hazel eyes, as he leaned on the ground. He gripped Jeremy’s free hand. “You’re gonna be all right, Bro. They’ll take good care of you.”
He didn’t let go as they put Jeremy on a gurney and carted him out of the arena. He knew his first concern should be for Jeremy and finding his parents and Dana, but he couldn’t get Stacy out of his head. She had broken his brother’s heart, and now she’d broken his body. She needed to pay for it. And he would make sure she did.
*
Dana stood watching in horror as Jeremy was tossed around on and then under the bull he’d been tagged to ride. Not having any brothers or sisters of her own, she had adopted Jeremy as her big brother. He and Bo were close in age and close to each other and they were always together. He treated her like a little sister, teasing her and protecting her. He had even gotten into a fight with Bo once over what he said was Bo being disrespectful.
A small amount of relief washed over her when she saw Jeremy move. It even seemed that he might be talking to those close around him, although she couldn’t be sure from her vantage point. She could tell that he’d been hurt badly, though. He held one of his legs as the medical technicians hoisted him on a stretcher and carried him out of the arena. Bo stuck to his side.
She allowed a smirk to creep on her face. Her man. He must be so worried. Her smirk dipped down as her eyebrows creased. He knew the dangers of bull-riding and had seen many friends get hurt. She couldn’t imagine what he was going through.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jeremy and Bo’s parents making their way down the bleachers. Those around them called out.
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
“He’ll be okay.”
“We’re praying.”
Brooke didn’t think the Singers heard a word. Her own mind spun, slowing down her bodies reaction. She shook off the daze, grabbed her purse and Brooke’s hand, and began to descend the steps. There’s no way she’d be left behind. Besides, Bo would need her.
Focused on the Singers, Brooke raced down the bleachers and headed to the back area where she rarely ventured.
Oh, let him be okay.
Dana and Brooke rushed into the tent beside the ambulance that was always present in case something happened. Two guys crouched over Jeremy. Mrs. Singer wailed as she anxiously looked over the shoulder of one of the guys. She wrung her hands.
Mr. Singer stood beside her, resting a hand on her back. Dana’s eyes darted around and landed on Bo. He stood by Jeremy’s head and gripped his hand. She glanced at Jeremy, who lay with his eyes closed. His whole face was white and he had his lips pulled tight. A soft moan escaped and he shifted his body weight uncomfortably.
Dana’s eyes traveled down to see how bad his legs were injured, but couldn’t see anything through the technician and Mrs. Singer. She looked back at Bo and took a step towards him. He didn’t acknowledge her touch when she reached out for his free arm. Her anxious gaze met Brooke’s as her foot tapped nervously.
It seemed like an eternity before the two guys that she assumed were medical technicians finally pulled their attention from Jeremy. One looked like he wasn’t much older than Dana, maybe twenty. He had black hair, stood a foot taller than Brooke, and looked like he should be a football player. The other was shorter, maybe five-eight, and had short , sandy hair. He was rail thin and wore glasses. He looked older, more like her parents age.
“How…is…he?” Mrs. Singer asked anxiously, sobbing. “Is he…going to be…okay?”
“Ma’am,” the older one said.
Mrs. Singer calmed, sniffled and looked at the man with wide, teary eyes.
“The right leg was gashed by a screw on the gate. He’s going to need stitches.” He scrunched up his nose and paused before he continued. He sighed, as if he dreaded what he had to say next. “The right leg’s the real problem. The bull’s hoof came down on it after he fell. We’re sure the bones are broken, possibly crushed.” He hesitated again, scrunching his nose even more and adjusting his glasses. He sighed again, then continued. “We’ve seen only a few injuries like this before. There’s muscle damage in addition to the broken bones. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we get him to the hospital and run some tests. Most likely,” he adjusted his glasses again and looked at the ground, “he’ll have to have surgery and will be off his leg for at least six months.”
Mrs. Singer fell back against her much smaller husband and wailed. Mr. Singer’s right foot stepped back to brace himself as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
Tears pushed their way into Dana’s eyes. The thought of Jeremy off his feet for that long was unbelievable. No walking. No driving. No bull-riding.
Jeremy groaned and turned his head away. Bo leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you listen to them. You’ll be fine.”
Dana’s heart sped up. He was such a good guy. And such a good brother. She loved those things about him. Looking at him, concerned about his brother, encouraging him, she felt the all-to-familiar butterflies perk up and start flying around in her stomach. She also felt the fire of desire ignite. It was crazy, but all she wanted to do at this moment wrap her arms around his neck and dive into a thirty minute kiss.
What a cad! How can I stand here thinking about making out with Bo while his brother lays on a stretcher there in excruciating pain, facing surgery and a complete life change?
She mentally kicked herself as the medical technicians moved Jeremy into the back of an ambulance.
“I’ll ride with him, Mom,” Bo said.
“Do-“ Dana began. She stopped as her words were cut off by the slamming of the ambulance doors. He hadn’t given her a second to speak. He hadn’t even looked at her. Acknowledged that she was there. The flames of desire she’d felt for him moments before turned into an angry, raging fire. Regardless of what was going on, the least he could do was pay her an ounce of attention. Tell her to meet him at the hospital. Or that he’d call her later. Or a simple thanks for being there.
But no, he’d not so much as glanced her way. Dana fumed. Brooke must have sensed the change because she squeezed her hand. Dana glanced at Brooke, then let her gaze fall on Bo’s parents. She watched her crumpled face and his stoic one as the ambulance pulled away. Once it drove out of sight, Mr. Singer pushed his weepy wife towards the parking lot. Dana put her arm on Mrs. Singers’.
“I’ll meet you at the hospital, Mrs. Singer.”
“Oh, no, dear,” Mr. Singer said. “You girls go on and enjoy yourselves. It’s going to be a long night and there’s no telling how long it will take.”
“Oh, I…” Dana flounded. She never did know how to talk to Bo’s father. He was quiet and hardly ever said a word. “Really. We want to be there. It doesn’t matter if we’re up late.”
Mr. Singer gave her one of those looks adults give you that says they think you’re about five years old. “Bo will call you tomorrow, Dana. The family needs to be together right now.”
Dana wanted to argue with the man. She wanted to yell at him that he had no right to keep her away from her boyfriend. She wanted to tell him off and show up at the hospital anyway.
But that wouldn’t do her any good. Mr. Singer was Bo’s dad and she didn’t want to get on his bad side. She wasn’t sure what he could do if she made him mad, but from what Bo had told her, he could be awfully stubborn. She didn’t want to take her chances on him keeping her from seeing Bo.
Besides, she was mad at Bo. How dare he complete ignore her?
Fine! I’m not going where I’m not wanted. Dana turned on her heel and stomped off to her car, Brooke following behind. She tossed her purse in the back seat, huffed into the driver’s seat, and waited for the passenger door to close. She turned the engine on and then turned it back off.
“Dana?” Brooke asked. “Are you okay?”
Dana glared out of the windshield. “Fine,” she spit.
Brooke waited. Dana glanced at her and rolled her eyes. “I’m fine.”
Brooke looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
“Okay, I’m ticked. I can’t believe he didn’t even talk to me!”
Brooke’s eyebrow lifted a little more.
Dana let out a scream and laid her head on the steering wheel. “Fine! I know. His brother was hurt. Great. But does that mean I’m chopped liver?”
“Dana,” Brooke said gently.
“Oh, all right. Whatever.” She looked at her watch. Only seven-thirty. Now what? She didn’t want to go home. An empty house would be unbearable.
“What’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Dana’s head pressed into the steering wheel. She rocked it back and forth.
“Max’s having a party. Why don’t we go?”
Dana didn’t feel like going to a party. She didn’t feel like going home either. She wanted to be with Bo, but that wasn’t going to happen. “Fine,” she said. “We can go.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 2

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:05 AM 0 comments
Second half of chapter 1

Bo looked into Dana’s eyes. Man, she was beautiful. Her blond hair flowed down her back and over her shoulders. He loved that blond hair. He loved to run his fingers through it and hold a handful of it. He loved those full, pink, soft lips. He loved kissing them. Oh, and that red tank top. He definitely loved that. He dared not focus on it, though. She had this thing. Before each ride, when things were getting geared up, they looked at each other across the arena. She never had trouble finding him, and her thin, beautiful body, gorgeous face were hard to miss. Especially since she always sat in the same section with his mama, who’d been sitting in the same place since she came to the rodeos to watch his dad ride.
He wondered again how in the world he landed her. She was gorgeous. Way out of his league. He thought about the day they met as she held his gaze across the arena.
One the last day of school last year, she’d parked her cute little red car next to his beat up blue pickup. He’d known who she was since the day she’d first stepped into his school five months before. Everyone knew Brooke Ackerman, the new girl from Virginia.
He’d seen her standing beside her car talking to one of the other cheerleaders as he walked across the parking lot. His mouth went dry, which he knew had nothing to do with the blazing sun and eighty percent humidity. No way would he ever have the courage to talk to her. He could ride a bull. But he couldn’t find two words to say to this goddess.
The other girl left as he approached and he held his breath as he waited for her to slip into her car and drive away. But, she stood by her driver’s side door smiling and staring him down with her piercing green eyes.
He couldn’t see those green eyes now, but he knew them by heart. He’d looked into them that day, all sparkling and chipper as she introduced herself, and he’d looked into them every chance he got since then.
He shifted in his saddle, but held her gaze. He didn’t mind. As long as she didn’t expect him to blow a kiss or do some silly sign to tell her he loved her. That stuff made him want to gag.
As he shifted, another blond caught his eye. His teeth clinched involuntarily. She wouldn’t. His eyes narrowed as this blond, with short, wavy hair, came into focus. It was her. How could she show up here? That –
The announcer called up the first rider. Bo had drawn the fifth spot, which meant he had to get ready. He forced his thoughts back to the huge wild animal he would spend eight seconds taming. At seventeen he had already built himself a good reputation in the local riding circuit, and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that for anything.
Bo sat on the huge animal, encased in a box that didn’t allow him to move much. At least the bull he’d drawn wasn’t known for being wild. Not that any bull made it easy to stay in position for the time needed to earn a score, but he knew he wouldn’t face his most difficult challenge today. He double and triple checked everything. Everything that was supposed to be tied, was. Everything that was supposed to be loose, was. He gripped the rope at the bull’s neck. He held on to the side of the shoot to steady himself with his other hand. In a few seconds, the gate would open and every muscle in his body would be concentrating on not getting thrown to the ground.
He listened for the familiar sounds leading up to the release and watched with a keen eye. The slightest disturbance of his concentration could mean injury or disaster. He’d been doing this too long to make a stupid mistake.
A buzzer sounded. The gate swung open. The bull darted out. Bo’s one hand held on as his body rocked up and down and side to side. There was no format or rhythm to it, but he matched each move the bull made with his own. It tried to fling him off this way and that, but he would not be beat. Five more seconds.
His body jerked side to side, frontwards, and back. He controlled every muscle. Every movement. Every action. He reacted to each movement the bull made and held on. Two more seconds.
He allowed only the slightest bit of his attention to leave from his task at hand. He would ride this bull, but he also needed to hear that buzzer. Eight seconds were as long as he needed to stay on, and not a bit longer.
There it was. The sound every bull rider lived for. Eight seconds. A successful ride. Bo loosened his grip and skillfully leapt off and away from the erratic animal. Two clowns worked their magic to entice the bull away from Bo and towards the exit gate. He pumped his fist in the air, knowing his score would be good. Only now did he feel and hear his heart racing. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. What a ride. What a rush.
He returned to behind the walls of safety to wait on his score and watch the rest of the riders. Some of them slapped him on the back. They were all competing, but they were also family. Most people didn’t understand bull-riding. Those who did were bound together by the love of the sport and everything that came with it.
Bo accepted every handshake and congratulations when they announced his score, landing him in first place. His heart thudded in his chest. Five riders down. But, with twelve riders to go, he hadn’t won anything yet.
His brother Jeremy was one of those twelve and would give Bo a run for his money. Jeremy had been the one who’d taught Bo most of what he knew about bull-riding. He almost always outscored Bo. He used to, anyway. Before this stuff with Stacy.
He could spit nails at the thought of that girl and what she’d done to his brother. He hoped Jeremy hadn’t seen her. He glanced at Jeremy and knew. He had. Bo recognized the tight jaw and lowered hat.
Bo watched Jeremy as he began to get ready for his own ride. He had to say something. But what? Don’t worry about her, man. There are plenty more chicks out there. No. That wouldn’t do any good. Nothing would change what had happened.
He walked over and said the only thing he could. “Hang on tight, man.”
Jeremy looked at him and nodded, then turned back to the bull he sat atop of. The wild animal snorted and knocked against the box. Jeremy probably shouldn’t be on that bull, but if someone tried to tell his brother not to ride, he’d let ‘em have it for sure. Jeremy had lost enough. He wouldn’t know what to do without riding.
The buzzer sounded and the gate opened. The bull lurched out of the gate sideways. Immediately Bo knew something was wrong. Jeremy leaned to the side. He tried to unwrap his hand, but he couldn’t get it loose. The bull flung Jeremy’s body left and right.
Bile rose in Bo’s throat as he watched his older brother and best friend being tossed about like a piece of meat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fiction Preview

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:04 AM 0 comments
Chapter 1
Dana stepped out of her car, closed her eyes, and inhaled. She inhaled the smells of hay, manure, hot dogs, popcorn, flowery perfumes and brut colognes. She heard intermingling sounds of country music blaring on the loud speakers, old rodeo veterans swapping the same old stories, kids running around playing, and animal brays and snorts. Each smell and sound was distinct, but they also melded together to make up the essence of the rodeo. Her heart sped up.
She looped her fingers through the belt straps on her Wranglers. A year ago, she didn’t know what Wranglers were. And she never would have been caught dead in a pair of boots. Well, not these kind of boots. Not Justin. Not ones bought at the same store that sold bright, multi-colored cowboy shirts and horse riding accessories. Not ones that shouted, “I’m country and proud of it!” No. The thought had not crossed her mind at that time.
She bit her lower lip. So much had changed in the last year. She hadn’t lived in Texas then. And she hadn’t been dating a bull rider.
A door closed. Her eyes popped open and she glanced over the car’s roof. Her best friend Brooke’s dark eyes met her gaze.
“You gonna stand there all day, or what?”
Dana returned Brooke’s smile, flinging her long, blond hair back over her shoulder. Her friend’s accent was pure Texas twang. “No, no. I’m going.”
Dana walked to the front of the car, matching Brooke’s gait as they headed towards the arena entrance. They ignored the usual whistles and “hey, baby”s as they traipsed across the field .
Once inside the gate, Dana set about finding her boyfriend Bo’s parents. She scanned the crowd on the bleachers. His mother’s heavy set frame topped with puffy bleached-blond hair and lively cackle stood out like a polar bear in the Amazon.
Dana spotted her on the right side about halfway up the bleachers. I should have known. Does she ever sit anywhere else?
She didn’t. She’d once told Dana she wanted to make sure her boys knew exactly where to find her when they looked up from the pens.
Mrs. Singer turned, her bleached-blond hair bobbing as she talked, arms flailing, to the lady behind her. Probably another wild on-the-road story.
Bo’s mom worked as a short distance truck driver, which amazed Dana, and always came home with some story about some truck driver who was having an affair in Oklahoma, or got caught with something illegal, or fell in love with and married a waitress at a truck stop. The tales were endless and only partially believable. Mrs. Singer didn’t lie, but she elaborated a lot for effect.
Dana waved to Mr. Singer, who sat quietly beside his boisterous wife. He worked in a factory where noise prevented much talking and was used to being quiet at work and at home. He waved back and motioned to the seats they’d saved. Dana tipped her hand to let him know that they were going to get drinks first. He smiled and she turned to look down the arena.
Before she took a step, she spotted the stalls where they lined up the bulls drawn for the next run. The tingling started in her stomach and radiated down to her toes and up and out to her fingertips. He’d be there. Somewhere among all the other bull-riders. There he talked, laughed, and prepared. Her eyes scanned the area around the stalls, but she didn’t see him. Her face fell.
After they’d gone to concession, Dana’s held a cold soda as she and Brooke climbed the bleachers and joined Bo’s parents. Mrs. Singer lifted a hand to Dana, but never stopped talking. Mr. Singer had become engrossed in a conversation with a man seated below him.
Brooke tugged on Dana’s arm and whispered, “Did you see Stacy Athens?”
“No.” Dana’s eyes darted around. “Is she really here?”
“She is. She walked by earlier, when you were looking for Bo’s parents.” “And?” Dana lifted her right eyebrow.
“And nothing. She was with Stu Wells. And she looks the same as ever. Well, except that she hung onto Stu’s arm and every word he said instead of Jeremy’s.”
Dana shook her head. What was up with that girl? She had dated Bo’s older brother Jeremy for two years. They had been inseparable. Everyone thought they’d get married right after graduation. But then something happened. Dana knew more than most people, having been around the Singer’s house, and that meant Brooke did, too.
Three months ago an obscure aunt at a family dinner had let it slip that the Singer’s were going to be grandparents. It was the first time Dana had ever seen Mrs. Singer speechless. Bo’s mom pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes and glared at the big-mouthed aunt. Nothing else had been said about it. Since Dana knew it wasn’t her, she assumed that Stacy had gotten pregnant.
Two weeks after the dinner slipup, Jeremy and Stacy broke up. Rumors flew around school. Dana never said anything and Stacy never gained any weight. She had her suspicions about what happened, but couldn’t let herself think about it. Now Stacy had shown up at the rodeo where Jeremy would be riding on the arm of another guy. Knowing Jeremy, that would burn him up. She sure hoped he didn’t see her before he rode.
The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers, announcing the transition from horse-riding to bull-riding. Dana clapped her hands together and scanned the area where the bull-riders were once again, this time having the vantage point of being up higher. She knew she’d find him because he’d be waiting for her. Searching for her. He always did. This was their time. Their moment.
She found him and they locked eyes. His tall frame stood at just over six feet. His dark, sandy blond hair had mad highlights that most girls would kill for. That beautiful hair now sat mostly hidden under his black cowboy hat. He wore a green and blue shirt and, she knew, a pair of dark Wranglers and black boots with spurs and steel toes. She knew, even of what she couldn’t see, he was all muscle and beautiful everywhere.
She stood there looking into his green eyes and the rest of the world disappeared. She didn’t move. He didn’t move. For that moment, nothing else mattered and nothing needed to be said. They were completely each others. And that’s all she needed to know. Then his eyes shifted off to the right and his jaw tightened.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baking Adventures

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:19 AM 0 comments
So, my baking and healthy food adventures continue. The banana bread turned out fantastic! All the kids like it but my pickiest. I'm having a hard time staying away from it, and so will be delivering the leftovers to my in-laws today.


The pizza turned out good, too.












The dough was a little dense for my liking, but the kids ate it up! I'll try letting the dough rise longer than the recommended 30 minutes, and possibly look at other recipes for fluffier dough.


Then (the cooking adventures continue), I fixed eggplant parmesan for the first time (Betty Crocker cookbook again.) The kids tried it under protest, but I was told "it wasn't horrible." Not a bad first response to kids who don't like to try new things. Hubby asked for a second helping, which was definitely a good sign. He's always very honest about how my new recipes turn out - and I wouldn't have it any other way!




Not sure we'll be doing any baking today, but it's hubby's birthday and since we're going out to eat tonight, I might try rolls tomorrow.






Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Home Made Food Adventures

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:18 AM 0 comments
Today's home-made food adventures include:

Banana bread (using Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe) It took 5 minutes to put together and is cooking as I work on other things.

And... Home-made pizza crust! I have some leftover spaghetti sauce (also made from scratch - 1 lb hamburger, 3 cans tomato sauce, 1 can tomato paste, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Marjoram, and garlic to taste, with a few tablespoons of sugar). My kids love homemade pizza the days following spaghetti. We usually use whatever bread we have around the house, but as I continue to try to make better and better food choices, we're making our own pizza crust today!

Here's the link to the recipe. Will let you know how it all goes!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Challenges of Homeschooling

A while back I did a post on the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling. Now that we've been done with school for a few weeks, I can look back and talk about the top 10 challenges. As I said before, I love homeschooling! Just because we feel called to do it and it's a good fit for our family, doesn't mean that it doesn't come with its own challenges. This list isn't meant to discourage anyone from homeschooling, but to be realistic and balanced in what it looks like.

1 - Finding time to yourself. Yes, your children are always at home! But a little creativity and some exchanging with other homeschooling moms and you can find a few moments to breath.

2 - Getting past fears of being indadequate. Time and time again I hear moms say they don't think they're capable. "But what do you do when they get to high school? I wasn't good at that stuff when I had to learn it." There are endless resources and helps to homeschooling moms today, and if God's called you to homeschool, he will equip you!

3 - Fitting it all in. Homeschooling is time consuming, there's no question. So you teach, cook, grade tests, clean, do laundry, check work, and run errands. When you homeschool you learn to let some things go, and remember, your children are there with you. Teach them to help with chores and delegate, delegate, delegate!

4 - Normalizing being educated at home. When all their friends go off to school, homeschooled children sometimes wistfully desire to go with them, envisioning a non-stop playdate. Getting together with other homeschooled children, through participating in co-ops, play groups, and field trips, helps make it normal. Talking with them about what a public school day looks like may also help.

5 - Lack of support. Many friends and family don't understand homeschooling or take it personally that the school their children is in 'isn't good enough' for your children (even though that's not how you feel.) They will question, sometimes make blatant statements against homeschooling, and 'test' your kids. Equip yourself, be confident, and know that not everyone will understand or agree with you and that is okay. Answer them with kindness and keep on doing the right thing for your family. And you can forward them videos like this!

6 - 10 - I'm sure there are some more drawbacks to homeschooling, but I can't come up with them. These are the main ones I've come in contact with or seen with other homeschooling families. As with any challenge, there's always a way to meet it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience

Patience is something I always thought I had before I had children. I could be patient at work, I could be patient sitting though dozens of not-overly-exciting college classes, I could even be patient in traffic.

But until someone is putting their own personal demands on you 24/7 (i.e. Motherhood), I don't think you can have a complete concept of patience. And once you become a mother, you suddenly understand why all those other mothers you've looked down on for all those years sometimes lost it with their children in the grocery store.

Don't get me wrong, I still cringe when I hear a mom in public berating her child or yelling at him. But I myself must admit, I've raised my voice a time or two.

What I often find, however, is that when I lose my patience, it typically has to do with what I'm doing, not what my children are doing.

Here's what I mean: Have you ever noticed that you don't mind that person meandering down the road when you have plenty of time, but when you're running late all of a sudden that person is being inconsiderate and in your way? The same goes with our children sometimes.

If my child wants me to pick them up or read to them and I'm not in the middle of some task (which hardly ever happens) I freely say "sure" and hang with them for a while. But when I'm fixing dinner, or working on a book, or folding laundry, I find little patience with their requests. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something?

I try to stay aware of staying balanced. Sometimes it's best to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes and spend that time. Especially since a mother's work is never done, and when she takes a break it would be nice if it were uninterrupted. But, my children need me to not only keep them in clean clothes and fix them food, but they also need me. My touch, my voice, my ear.

But balance also means not always giving in to them either. If I gave into every request with the utmost patience, I would never be able to teach them to be patient. Or considerate. Or selfless. Not to say that patience is a bad thing, but how we use it is important. Quite often, patience is needed in greater quantities when I tell my children "no." Then it's my job to stay patient while they ask questions, fuss, or complain. This is usually when we're tempted to lose our patience and yell or give in. But it's my job to back up my words with actions. If I said no, it's not going to happen. If I requested something be done, it will be done or there will be a consequence.

They may also get a consequence if they question or fuss too much (an innate tactic all children automatically know.) As long as I stick to my word and do so calmly, though, I've won the battle. And I've taken one more step on the road to a land called Patience.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moms for Moms

It seems that everywhere you turn these days you hear about mean girls. Movies, news show segments, magazine articles, and specials abound talking about mean girls and bullying between girls...and grown women. People analyze and speculate what makes some girls mean and try to make recommendations on how those the meanness is aimed at are to best handle it. If you are exposed to enough media, you might believe there aren't hardly any nice girls out there, looking for genuine friendships and willing to love and support.

I've been a big advocate of girlfriendships for a long time and believe they're an important part of life, especially during motherhood. Mothers can feel awfully isolated in our culture. Fear of judgement from other moms or past negative experiences can keep them from reaching out when they're discouraged or doubt themselves. But it is important to find friends who walk along side you on this journey of motherhood.

I'm very fortunate to have a group of women that I love and trust and can care my soul to. Some are women I get to hang out with once in a while and others are my confidants. But each of them are "nice" girls.

Recently, I've been enfolded into a whole new group of nice girls. I'm blessed to be going to the She Speaks Conference this year, a wonderful conference put on by the great gals at Proverbs 31 Ministries for writers, speakers, and leaders. Since registering, I've been drawn in through emails, websites, blogs, and a FaceBook group. It warms my heart and lifts my spirit to see women from all over the country who've never met each other lifting each other up in prayer and encouragement. These women embody the words: "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)

There are loving, supportive women out there who can be mentors, friends, and confidants. Don't settle for anything less! Eliminate (as much as possible) relationships with toxic people and cultivate those that are healthy. Then gather your girlfriends around a cup of coffee or ministry work and get bolstered up for all the work motherhood throws your way!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 4 & Final

This is the second half of chapter two. Sad to say, it's all I'm going to give out for now. (I hope it makes you sad!) Hopefully one day in the not-to-distant future I'll obtain a contract for this book and will have the whole thing out there!

Dana pulled into the field where a couple of dozen cars were parked. She still fumed. Brooke had talked the whole ride, trying to distract her. Dana was grateful for the company of her best friend. Otherwise, she’d go crazy tonight.
She used to like these parties. Everyone who was anyone would be there. She could hear the noise of people she used to consider her friends laughing and talking and getting drunk as she slammed the car door. She thought about getting back in the car, but one look at Brooke convinced her to stay.
Brooke’d had a crush on Max forever and he’d broken up with his girlfriend last week. Dana didn’t really have anywhere else to be, and the least she could do was let Brooke have her chance. At least one of them would have a good night.
The night went on like every other party Dana had ever gone to. The guys drank too much and acted stupid. The girls drank too much and threw themselves on the closest guy, the ones that weren’t attached anyway. Everybody knew everybody and who was dating who and who was willing to hook up.
Dana spotted Max, surrounded by some of his football buddies. She new Brooke had seen him too, as she stopped short and caught her breath.
“I’m fine,” Dana said. “Go ahead.”
“You sure?” Brooke asked, arching one eyebrow.
“I’m sure.” Dana gazed around the crowd. “I’ll find somebody to talk to.”
“You’re the best friend ever,” Brooke said as she squeezed Dana into a hug and then sprinted off.
Dana spotted Crystal and Kara on the other side of the fire. They weren’t too bad. She knew they wouldn’t be drunk. They were both nice, not catty like most of the other girls. They were cheerleaders, like her. Like she was, she corrected. Cheerleading and dating a bull rider didn’t go well together at Western Plain High School. She could still try out, but why bother?
“Dana!” Kara called out to her, waving. Dana waved back, forced a smile and strolled over. Maybe they’d feel sorry for her.
“Crystal, Kara. What’s up?”
Crystal rolled her eyes and took a sip from the red cup in her hand. She looked flawless, perfect skin, long, blond hair. Her jeans must be a size zero and the turquoise top she had on made her eyes even bluer. If she weren’t so nice, Dana would hate her.
“The usual,” she answered.
“Yeah,” Kara said. “I don’t know why we even bother.”
“Because there’s nothing else to do.” Crystal sipped from her cup again. Her eyes roamed around the field.
Kara looked at Dana. “What are you doing here? You never come out to these things anymore.” She brushed back her short brunette hair with one hand, using the other to move the clip that was supposed to be keeping it out of her face. She always wore a clip, but her hair always slipped out and encroached on her face. Dana had noticed a tiny scar by her hair line one time and wondered if that’s why she only half attempted to keep it pulled back.
Kara was pretty. She wasn’t stunning like Crystal, but she got asked out plenty. She usually said no, but in a gentle, thoughtful way. Of course, that didn’t stop the other girls from talking trash about her and the boys from calling her a tease behind her back. Dana knew the score though, the girls were jealous and the guys were ticked that Kara wouldn’t go out with them. She had heard a rumor about Kara dating one of the football players before she’d moved here, but not much else. Thinking about it, she couldn’t remember one date Kara had been on since Dana had met her.
Kara gave her the, ‘I asked you a question’ look. The door of the ambulance closing came to her mind. She did her best to not get peeved again at Bo’s complete lack of paying any attention to her. “Jeremy got hurt.”
“No!”
“What happened?”
Dana swallowed her hurt feelings and decided that she’d have to get over herself and remember that Bo’s brother was probably getting ready for surgery right then.
“The bull slammed his leg against the gate as he was coming out. That mad him off balance and he fell off. The bull came down on his other leg.”
“Oh, how awful!”
“Is he okay?”
Dana hooked her thumbs in her front belt loops. “I guess. They said they couldn’t tell how badly his left leg was damaged. They took him to the E.R. and were going to have to do some x-rays and other tests to know for sure. Most likely, he’ll have to have surgery.”
“Oh,” Kara said, leaning towards Dana, enraptured by the story. “That means no more riding.”
“Not for a long time, anyway. Like I said, they didn’t know anything for sure, but said he’d be off his leg for months.”
“Poor Jeremy,” Kara said. She looked out into the darkness and readjusted the clip in her hair again. “He’ll be crushed. And he’s been through so much already.”
Dana glared at Kara. What did she know? The only reason Dana knew about Stacy’s pregnancy was because of loose-lipped Aunt Flora.
Did Kara know something? Dana remembered that her friend had always seemed to hold interest in Jeremy. She’d always been more friendly to him than other guys, but Jeremy had dated Stacy forever. An image of Kara and Jeremy talking by his car in the school parking lot after the last bell a couple weeks back flashed in her mind.
Dana coughed. “Yeah.” Was there something was going on between Kara and Jeremy?
As Dana formulated a casual way to ask Kara, Crystal spoke up. “I can’t believe that happened. Jeremy’s been riding forever! From what I hear, he’s a perfectionist and is the bomb on the back of a bull.”
“Well,” Dana began, then hesitated. She hated to gossip. But was it really gossip? The facts were that Stacy’d shown up. But, she didn’t know for sure that Stacy being there had distracted Jeremy. Maybe he didn’t even see her.
But Crystal had a point. Jeremy had never messed up before. At least, not that Dana had ever seen. And of course it would have torn him up if he’d seen Stacy. And how could he not? She’d traipsed all around the arena with Stu, as cocky as a peacock.
“Well, what?” Crystal demanded.
Dana lowered her voice a notch and said, “Stacy was there.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 3

Chapter 2 part 1 (BTW, the book's title is: Riding the Wind)

Jeremy finally got his hand unwrapped and attempted to leap off the bull. The clowns were close by, waiting to direct the bull away from the rider as soon as he hit the ground. There was nothing they could do, though. When Jeremy loosed himself, he fell straight to the ground, instead of jumping off clear like he should have. The bull bucked twice before the clowns coerced him away and out of the arena.
Jeremy lay on the ground. He turned his head to the side and groaned. Bo stared in horror. As soon as the gate closed behind the bull, he raced in with a couple of the other bull-riders. The medical team, coming from another gate, arrived at Jeremy’s side at the same time.
The medical technicians seemed to be everywhere. They asked Jeremy his name and where he was. He answered, groaning and writhing in the process. Jeremy groaned and reached down towards his right leg. When he did, it drew Bo’s gaze away from the gash on his right leg. His breath caught in his throat. So much blood. Bo sensed the crowd gathering around his brother. He knew they were they, but no one spoke a word.
This was not like racing. No one liked to see an accident. Bull-riders weren’t encased and protected. They went flesh to flesh up against animals weighing over a ton, and the animal always won.
Bo looked into his brother’s eyes, identical to his own hazel eyes, as he leaned on the ground. He gripped Jeremy’s free hand. “You’re gonna be all right, Bro. They’ll take good care of you.”
He didn’t let go as they put Jeremy on a gurney and carted him out of the arena. He knew his first concern should be for Jeremy and finding his parents and Dana, but he couldn’t get Stacy out of his head. She had broken his brother’s heart, and now she’d broken his body. She needed to pay for it. And he would make sure she did.
*
Dana stood watching in horror as Jeremy was tossed around on and then under the bull he’d been tagged to ride. Not having any brothers or sisters of her own, she had adopted Jeremy as her big brother. He and Bo were close in age and close to each other and they were always together. He treated her like a little sister, teasing her and protecting her. He had even gotten into a fight with Bo once over what he said was Bo being disrespectful.
A small amount of relief washed over her when she saw Jeremy move. It even seemed that he might be talking to those close around him, although she couldn’t be sure from her vantage point. She could tell that he’d been hurt badly, though. He held one of his legs as the medical technicians hoisted him on a stretcher and carried him out of the arena. Bo stuck to his side.
She allowed a smirk to creep on her face. Her man. He must be so worried. Her smirk dipped down as her eyebrows creased. He knew the dangers of bull-riding and had seen many friends get hurt. She couldn’t imagine what he was going through.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jeremy and Bo’s parents making their way down the bleachers. Those around them called out.
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
“He’ll be okay.”
“We’re praying.”
Brooke didn’t think the Singers heard a word. Her own mind spun, slowing down her bodies reaction. She shook off the daze, grabbed her purse and Brooke’s hand, and began to descend the steps. There’s no way she’d be left behind. Besides, Bo would need her.
Focused on the Singers, Brooke raced down the bleachers and headed to the back area where she rarely ventured.
Oh, let him be okay.
Dana and Brooke rushed into the tent beside the ambulance that was always present in case something happened. Two guys crouched over Jeremy. Mrs. Singer wailed as she anxiously looked over the shoulder of one of the guys. She wrung her hands.
Mr. Singer stood beside her, resting a hand on her back. Dana’s eyes darted around and landed on Bo. He stood by Jeremy’s head and gripped his hand. She glanced at Jeremy, who lay with his eyes closed. His whole face was white and he had his lips pulled tight. A soft moan escaped and he shifted his body weight uncomfortably.
Dana’s eyes traveled down to see how bad his legs were injured, but couldn’t see anything through the technician and Mrs. Singer. She looked back at Bo and took a step towards him. He didn’t acknowledge her touch when she reached out for his free arm. Her anxious gaze met Brooke’s as her foot tapped nervously.
It seemed like an eternity before the two guys that she assumed were medical technicians finally pulled their attention from Jeremy. One looked like he wasn’t much older than Dana, maybe twenty. He had black hair, stood a foot taller than Brooke, and looked like he should be a football player. The other was shorter, maybe five-eight, and had short , sandy hair. He was rail thin and wore glasses. He looked older, more like her parents age.
“How…is…he?” Mrs. Singer asked anxiously, sobbing. “Is he…going to be…okay?”
“Ma’am,” the older one said.
Mrs. Singer calmed, sniffled and looked at the man with wide, teary eyes.
“The right leg was gashed by a screw on the gate. He’s going to need stitches.” He scrunched up his nose and paused before he continued. He sighed, as if he dreaded what he had to say next. “The right leg’s the real problem. The bull’s hoof came down on it after he fell. We’re sure the bones are broken, possibly crushed.” He hesitated again, scrunching his nose even more and adjusting his glasses. He sighed again, then continued. “We’ve seen only a few injuries like this before. There’s muscle damage in addition to the broken bones. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we get him to the hospital and run some tests. Most likely,” he adjusted his glasses again and looked at the ground, “he’ll have to have surgery and will be off his leg for at least six months.”
Mrs. Singer fell back against her much smaller husband and wailed. Mr. Singer’s right foot stepped back to brace himself as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
Tears pushed their way into Dana’s eyes. The thought of Jeremy off his feet for that long was unbelievable. No walking. No driving. No bull-riding.
Jeremy groaned and turned his head away. Bo leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you listen to them. You’ll be fine.”
Dana’s heart sped up. He was such a good guy. And such a good brother. She loved those things about him. Looking at him, concerned about his brother, encouraging him, she felt the all-to-familiar butterflies perk up and start flying around in her stomach. She also felt the fire of desire ignite. It was crazy, but all she wanted to do at this moment wrap her arms around his neck and dive into a thirty minute kiss.
What a cad! How can I stand here thinking about making out with Bo while his brother lays on a stretcher there in excruciating pain, facing surgery and a complete life change?
She mentally kicked herself as the medical technicians moved Jeremy into the back of an ambulance.
“I’ll ride with him, Mom,” Bo said.
“Do-“ Dana began. She stopped as her words were cut off by the slamming of the ambulance doors. He hadn’t given her a second to speak. He hadn’t even looked at her. Acknowledged that she was there. The flames of desire she’d felt for him moments before turned into an angry, raging fire. Regardless of what was going on, the least he could do was pay her an ounce of attention. Tell her to meet him at the hospital. Or that he’d call her later. Or a simple thanks for being there.
But no, he’d not so much as glanced her way. Dana fumed. Brooke must have sensed the change because she squeezed her hand. Dana glanced at Brooke, then let her gaze fall on Bo’s parents. She watched her crumpled face and his stoic one as the ambulance pulled away. Once it drove out of sight, Mr. Singer pushed his weepy wife towards the parking lot. Dana put her arm on Mrs. Singers’.
“I’ll meet you at the hospital, Mrs. Singer.”
“Oh, no, dear,” Mr. Singer said. “You girls go on and enjoy yourselves. It’s going to be a long night and there’s no telling how long it will take.”
“Oh, I…” Dana flounded. She never did know how to talk to Bo’s father. He was quiet and hardly ever said a word. “Really. We want to be there. It doesn’t matter if we’re up late.”
Mr. Singer gave her one of those looks adults give you that says they think you’re about five years old. “Bo will call you tomorrow, Dana. The family needs to be together right now.”
Dana wanted to argue with the man. She wanted to yell at him that he had no right to keep her away from her boyfriend. She wanted to tell him off and show up at the hospital anyway.
But that wouldn’t do her any good. Mr. Singer was Bo’s dad and she didn’t want to get on his bad side. She wasn’t sure what he could do if she made him mad, but from what Bo had told her, he could be awfully stubborn. She didn’t want to take her chances on him keeping her from seeing Bo.
Besides, she was mad at Bo. How dare he complete ignore her?
Fine! I’m not going where I’m not wanted. Dana turned on her heel and stomped off to her car, Brooke following behind. She tossed her purse in the back seat, huffed into the driver’s seat, and waited for the passenger door to close. She turned the engine on and then turned it back off.
“Dana?” Brooke asked. “Are you okay?”
Dana glared out of the windshield. “Fine,” she spit.
Brooke waited. Dana glanced at her and rolled her eyes. “I’m fine.”
Brooke looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
“Okay, I’m ticked. I can’t believe he didn’t even talk to me!”
Brooke’s eyebrow lifted a little more.
Dana let out a scream and laid her head on the steering wheel. “Fine! I know. His brother was hurt. Great. But does that mean I’m chopped liver?”
“Dana,” Brooke said gently.
“Oh, all right. Whatever.” She looked at her watch. Only seven-thirty. Now what? She didn’t want to go home. An empty house would be unbearable.
“What’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Dana’s head pressed into the steering wheel. She rocked it back and forth.
“Max’s having a party. Why don’t we go?”
Dana didn’t feel like going to a party. She didn’t feel like going home either. She wanted to be with Bo, but that wasn’t going to happen. “Fine,” she said. “We can go.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fiction Preview Part 2

Second half of chapter 1

Bo looked into Dana’s eyes. Man, she was beautiful. Her blond hair flowed down her back and over her shoulders. He loved that blond hair. He loved to run his fingers through it and hold a handful of it. He loved those full, pink, soft lips. He loved kissing them. Oh, and that red tank top. He definitely loved that. He dared not focus on it, though. She had this thing. Before each ride, when things were getting geared up, they looked at each other across the arena. She never had trouble finding him, and her thin, beautiful body, gorgeous face were hard to miss. Especially since she always sat in the same section with his mama, who’d been sitting in the same place since she came to the rodeos to watch his dad ride.
He wondered again how in the world he landed her. She was gorgeous. Way out of his league. He thought about the day they met as she held his gaze across the arena.
One the last day of school last year, she’d parked her cute little red car next to his beat up blue pickup. He’d known who she was since the day she’d first stepped into his school five months before. Everyone knew Brooke Ackerman, the new girl from Virginia.
He’d seen her standing beside her car talking to one of the other cheerleaders as he walked across the parking lot. His mouth went dry, which he knew had nothing to do with the blazing sun and eighty percent humidity. No way would he ever have the courage to talk to her. He could ride a bull. But he couldn’t find two words to say to this goddess.
The other girl left as he approached and he held his breath as he waited for her to slip into her car and drive away. But, she stood by her driver’s side door smiling and staring him down with her piercing green eyes.
He couldn’t see those green eyes now, but he knew them by heart. He’d looked into them that day, all sparkling and chipper as she introduced herself, and he’d looked into them every chance he got since then.
He shifted in his saddle, but held her gaze. He didn’t mind. As long as she didn’t expect him to blow a kiss or do some silly sign to tell her he loved her. That stuff made him want to gag.
As he shifted, another blond caught his eye. His teeth clinched involuntarily. She wouldn’t. His eyes narrowed as this blond, with short, wavy hair, came into focus. It was her. How could she show up here? That –
The announcer called up the first rider. Bo had drawn the fifth spot, which meant he had to get ready. He forced his thoughts back to the huge wild animal he would spend eight seconds taming. At seventeen he had already built himself a good reputation in the local riding circuit, and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that for anything.
Bo sat on the huge animal, encased in a box that didn’t allow him to move much. At least the bull he’d drawn wasn’t known for being wild. Not that any bull made it easy to stay in position for the time needed to earn a score, but he knew he wouldn’t face his most difficult challenge today. He double and triple checked everything. Everything that was supposed to be tied, was. Everything that was supposed to be loose, was. He gripped the rope at the bull’s neck. He held on to the side of the shoot to steady himself with his other hand. In a few seconds, the gate would open and every muscle in his body would be concentrating on not getting thrown to the ground.
He listened for the familiar sounds leading up to the release and watched with a keen eye. The slightest disturbance of his concentration could mean injury or disaster. He’d been doing this too long to make a stupid mistake.
A buzzer sounded. The gate swung open. The bull darted out. Bo’s one hand held on as his body rocked up and down and side to side. There was no format or rhythm to it, but he matched each move the bull made with his own. It tried to fling him off this way and that, but he would not be beat. Five more seconds.
His body jerked side to side, frontwards, and back. He controlled every muscle. Every movement. Every action. He reacted to each movement the bull made and held on. Two more seconds.
He allowed only the slightest bit of his attention to leave from his task at hand. He would ride this bull, but he also needed to hear that buzzer. Eight seconds were as long as he needed to stay on, and not a bit longer.
There it was. The sound every bull rider lived for. Eight seconds. A successful ride. Bo loosened his grip and skillfully leapt off and away from the erratic animal. Two clowns worked their magic to entice the bull away from Bo and towards the exit gate. He pumped his fist in the air, knowing his score would be good. Only now did he feel and hear his heart racing. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. What a ride. What a rush.
He returned to behind the walls of safety to wait on his score and watch the rest of the riders. Some of them slapped him on the back. They were all competing, but they were also family. Most people didn’t understand bull-riding. Those who did were bound together by the love of the sport and everything that came with it.
Bo accepted every handshake and congratulations when they announced his score, landing him in first place. His heart thudded in his chest. Five riders down. But, with twelve riders to go, he hadn’t won anything yet.
His brother Jeremy was one of those twelve and would give Bo a run for his money. Jeremy had been the one who’d taught Bo most of what he knew about bull-riding. He almost always outscored Bo. He used to, anyway. Before this stuff with Stacy.
He could spit nails at the thought of that girl and what she’d done to his brother. He hoped Jeremy hadn’t seen her. He glanced at Jeremy and knew. He had. Bo recognized the tight jaw and lowered hat.
Bo watched Jeremy as he began to get ready for his own ride. He had to say something. But what? Don’t worry about her, man. There are plenty more chicks out there. No. That wouldn’t do any good. Nothing would change what had happened.
He walked over and said the only thing he could. “Hang on tight, man.”
Jeremy looked at him and nodded, then turned back to the bull he sat atop of. The wild animal snorted and knocked against the box. Jeremy probably shouldn’t be on that bull, but if someone tried to tell his brother not to ride, he’d let ‘em have it for sure. Jeremy had lost enough. He wouldn’t know what to do without riding.
The buzzer sounded and the gate opened. The bull lurched out of the gate sideways. Immediately Bo knew something was wrong. Jeremy leaned to the side. He tried to unwrap his hand, but he couldn’t get it loose. The bull flung Jeremy’s body left and right.
Bile rose in Bo’s throat as he watched his older brother and best friend being tossed about like a piece of meat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fiction Preview

Chapter 1
Dana stepped out of her car, closed her eyes, and inhaled. She inhaled the smells of hay, manure, hot dogs, popcorn, flowery perfumes and brut colognes. She heard intermingling sounds of country music blaring on the loud speakers, old rodeo veterans swapping the same old stories, kids running around playing, and animal brays and snorts. Each smell and sound was distinct, but they also melded together to make up the essence of the rodeo. Her heart sped up.
She looped her fingers through the belt straps on her Wranglers. A year ago, she didn’t know what Wranglers were. And she never would have been caught dead in a pair of boots. Well, not these kind of boots. Not Justin. Not ones bought at the same store that sold bright, multi-colored cowboy shirts and horse riding accessories. Not ones that shouted, “I’m country and proud of it!” No. The thought had not crossed her mind at that time.
She bit her lower lip. So much had changed in the last year. She hadn’t lived in Texas then. And she hadn’t been dating a bull rider.
A door closed. Her eyes popped open and she glanced over the car’s roof. Her best friend Brooke’s dark eyes met her gaze.
“You gonna stand there all day, or what?”
Dana returned Brooke’s smile, flinging her long, blond hair back over her shoulder. Her friend’s accent was pure Texas twang. “No, no. I’m going.”
Dana walked to the front of the car, matching Brooke’s gait as they headed towards the arena entrance. They ignored the usual whistles and “hey, baby”s as they traipsed across the field .
Once inside the gate, Dana set about finding her boyfriend Bo’s parents. She scanned the crowd on the bleachers. His mother’s heavy set frame topped with puffy bleached-blond hair and lively cackle stood out like a polar bear in the Amazon.
Dana spotted her on the right side about halfway up the bleachers. I should have known. Does she ever sit anywhere else?
She didn’t. She’d once told Dana she wanted to make sure her boys knew exactly where to find her when they looked up from the pens.
Mrs. Singer turned, her bleached-blond hair bobbing as she talked, arms flailing, to the lady behind her. Probably another wild on-the-road story.
Bo’s mom worked as a short distance truck driver, which amazed Dana, and always came home with some story about some truck driver who was having an affair in Oklahoma, or got caught with something illegal, or fell in love with and married a waitress at a truck stop. The tales were endless and only partially believable. Mrs. Singer didn’t lie, but she elaborated a lot for effect.
Dana waved to Mr. Singer, who sat quietly beside his boisterous wife. He worked in a factory where noise prevented much talking and was used to being quiet at work and at home. He waved back and motioned to the seats they’d saved. Dana tipped her hand to let him know that they were going to get drinks first. He smiled and she turned to look down the arena.
Before she took a step, she spotted the stalls where they lined up the bulls drawn for the next run. The tingling started in her stomach and radiated down to her toes and up and out to her fingertips. He’d be there. Somewhere among all the other bull-riders. There he talked, laughed, and prepared. Her eyes scanned the area around the stalls, but she didn’t see him. Her face fell.
After they’d gone to concession, Dana’s held a cold soda as she and Brooke climbed the bleachers and joined Bo’s parents. Mrs. Singer lifted a hand to Dana, but never stopped talking. Mr. Singer had become engrossed in a conversation with a man seated below him.
Brooke tugged on Dana’s arm and whispered, “Did you see Stacy Athens?”
“No.” Dana’s eyes darted around. “Is she really here?”
“She is. She walked by earlier, when you were looking for Bo’s parents.” “And?” Dana lifted her right eyebrow.
“And nothing. She was with Stu Wells. And she looks the same as ever. Well, except that she hung onto Stu’s arm and every word he said instead of Jeremy’s.”
Dana shook her head. What was up with that girl? She had dated Bo’s older brother Jeremy for two years. They had been inseparable. Everyone thought they’d get married right after graduation. But then something happened. Dana knew more than most people, having been around the Singer’s house, and that meant Brooke did, too.
Three months ago an obscure aunt at a family dinner had let it slip that the Singer’s were going to be grandparents. It was the first time Dana had ever seen Mrs. Singer speechless. Bo’s mom pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes and glared at the big-mouthed aunt. Nothing else had been said about it. Since Dana knew it wasn’t her, she assumed that Stacy had gotten pregnant.
Two weeks after the dinner slipup, Jeremy and Stacy broke up. Rumors flew around school. Dana never said anything and Stacy never gained any weight. She had her suspicions about what happened, but couldn’t let herself think about it. Now Stacy had shown up at the rodeo where Jeremy would be riding on the arm of another guy. Knowing Jeremy, that would burn him up. She sure hoped he didn’t see her before he rode.
The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers, announcing the transition from horse-riding to bull-riding. Dana clapped her hands together and scanned the area where the bull-riders were once again, this time having the vantage point of being up higher. She knew she’d find him because he’d be waiting for her. Searching for her. He always did. This was their time. Their moment.
She found him and they locked eyes. His tall frame stood at just over six feet. His dark, sandy blond hair had mad highlights that most girls would kill for. That beautiful hair now sat mostly hidden under his black cowboy hat. He wore a green and blue shirt and, she knew, a pair of dark Wranglers and black boots with spurs and steel toes. She knew, even of what she couldn’t see, he was all muscle and beautiful everywhere.
She stood there looking into his green eyes and the rest of the world disappeared. She didn’t move. He didn’t move. For that moment, nothing else mattered and nothing needed to be said. They were completely each others. And that’s all she needed to know. Then his eyes shifted off to the right and his jaw tightened.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baking Adventures

So, my baking and healthy food adventures continue. The banana bread turned out fantastic! All the kids like it but my pickiest. I'm having a hard time staying away from it, and so will be delivering the leftovers to my in-laws today.


The pizza turned out good, too.












The dough was a little dense for my liking, but the kids ate it up! I'll try letting the dough rise longer than the recommended 30 minutes, and possibly look at other recipes for fluffier dough.


Then (the cooking adventures continue), I fixed eggplant parmesan for the first time (Betty Crocker cookbook again.) The kids tried it under protest, but I was told "it wasn't horrible." Not a bad first response to kids who don't like to try new things. Hubby asked for a second helping, which was definitely a good sign. He's always very honest about how my new recipes turn out - and I wouldn't have it any other way!




Not sure we'll be doing any baking today, but it's hubby's birthday and since we're going out to eat tonight, I might try rolls tomorrow.






Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Home Made Food Adventures

Today's home-made food adventures include:

Banana bread (using Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe) It took 5 minutes to put together and is cooking as I work on other things.

And... Home-made pizza crust! I have some leftover spaghetti sauce (also made from scratch - 1 lb hamburger, 3 cans tomato sauce, 1 can tomato paste, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Marjoram, and garlic to taste, with a few tablespoons of sugar). My kids love homemade pizza the days following spaghetti. We usually use whatever bread we have around the house, but as I continue to try to make better and better food choices, we're making our own pizza crust today!

Here's the link to the recipe. Will let you know how it all goes!
 

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