Category Archives: Uncategorized

game changers

These tips will be old news to many of you… but they’ve absolutely changed my life in the past month and I am mad at all of you who knew before and didn’t tell me. My whole world is different now.

1. Labelled Alarms on iPhone • So, a sweet friend taught me last summer that I could just yell to Siri to set my alarms and that has been fantastic. Siri, turn on my 6:30am alarm. Done. Fabulous. THEN, I learned I could change my alarms to SONGS to trigger specific duties. Abby is now programmed to yell, “TIME A-GET RYLIE!” when she hears the Indigo Girls’ Closer to Fine at 3:32pm on weekdays. But then I’d have a few regular alarms (set to Mumford’s I Will Wait- the intro to that song will make anyone stand at attention) and I’d have no idea for the first 30 seconds what I was supposed to be remembering or who I was supposed to be driving where. A song would just randomly start playing and if Abby didn’t yell, I was lost. Time to make this smart phone work for me.

Sure enough, you can label your alarms. SERIOUSLY. Now my alarm goes off, MY PHONE TELLS ME WHY, and I know if I’m supposed to head to the bus stop or simply sit a pray while listening to Patty. Genius.

Again, mad at all of you for not telling me.

 IMG_4665 IMG_4700 IMG_4701 

2. Guided Access on iPhone and iPad • Here’s an official tutorial link because I can’t take screen shots of this awesomeness.

Ok, THIS ONE. Yes. Our kiddos love to look at the photos and videos on our phones (though, I am told this works on iPads as well). Within seconds, their sweet lil’ fingers have pressed the wrong button and they’ve deleted a month’s worth of photos or exited out of the game or changed the language to Swedish. Unhelpful. Also, annoying.

Guided access TURNS OFF THE HOME BUTTON and disables any other part of the screen you choose. You triple-click the home button to activate guided access on any page. To exit, you have to triple-click again and enter a password.

Katie’s tip: make sure you lock your phone to portrait orientation. That’s the button on the far right with the padlock in the center. This makes your screen stay in portrait mode even when your kids tip it on the side (like, when they want to watch a video and hold the phone like a tv screen). This keeps all of your off-limits areas actually off limits. For example: when you’re looking at photos, the trash can is in the lower right-hand corner. I’ve cropped that area out on guided access. The kids cannot delete any of my photos. BUT, if the orientation is not locked and they can turn the phone on its side, the trash can becomes available again. Lock it.

orientation

So, this has lots of applications, obviously… but the main idea here is that it keeps your kids on one screen and makes certain areas (that you choose) off limits. Love.

And there you have it. favorite features from a new-ish (one year) smart phone user.

What else have I been missing?

 

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stitch fix #2, 3, & 4

Shall we catch up on a little Stitch Fix action, friends? With my Lent-blog-fast and our eternal winter here in Michigan, I have received a couple more boxes but haven’t shown you the goods. Let’s do that and make the world right again.

ssff1

Remember how this works? You sign up HERE and fill out a survey on your sizes and preferences. They give you a delivery date and a beautiful box magically appears on your door with 5 items inside and a note from a stylist. Your account is charged $20 whether you keep anything or not. That $20 is credited towards any items you decide to buy, and you have 3 days to decide once your package arrives. If you purchase all 5 items, you get a 25% discount. Whatever you decide to return goes in a pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope- EASY. Basically, you risk $20 on this adventure. I’ve received 4 boxes and have kept at least one thing from each box.

Everything always comes so nicely packaged. Such a treat. There’s tissue paper and envelopes and belts tied around clothing… makes this mamma’s heart so happy. Truly.

sss1

Stitch Fix #2

stitchfix1

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When the navy 41Hawthorn Abriana Cardigan showed up, I was thrilled. It was exactly what I had asked for… a simple, lightweight wardrobe staple. I took the tags off immediately, threw it over the Tart tank from Stitch Fix #1, and headed to the bus stop. I also kept the Kut From The Kloth Guiliana jeans, which in the real world are Josephine jeans. Not sure why they change the model names on the jeans, but that’s been true in every box I’ve received.  The Guiliana/Josephine jeans are a solid, dark navy wash.

The Kensie Sweater was a no- too tight and not well-made for the price. The sweater itself was lightweight and wonderfully soft, but the faux-blouse pieces underneath kill it. Much more of a Target-type piece than a boutique piece. I did love the red blouse, but honestly, folks- there is something wrong with my arms. I have little tiny chicken arms, but all the shirts I’ve tried on in the past 4 years have been too tight around the upper arm. So weird. I blame my children. The LA Made Shirtdress was super cute and SUPER comfy, but a size too big on me up top. Ahem.

For fix #3, I asked for another pair of KFTK jeans (since we had the sizing right and I love the fit) and a dress or two to choose from for spring.

Stitch Fix #3

stitchfix3

My happiest of days… when this Pomelo Sedona Shirtdress showed up in my life. Lots of folks have had trouble with the fit on this dress/tunic, but the medium was perfect and loose on me. I wear it both over jeans and over tights. There is an attached belt that I tie in the back instead of the front, making it hang more like an artist shirt than a dress. I’m not exaggerating when I say I wear this twice a week. It’s quality weight fabric with a little shimmer to it. Love. LOVE.

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I’ve had a different stylist for every fix, but they are obviously reading my comments and taking not of my requests. I received and kept a regular pair of traditional-wash denim jeans (labeled Kut From The Kloth Simmons for Stitch Fix but Farrah on the actual jeans). I also kept the rayon Daniel Rainn Ishara Lace Detail Blouse. The color of this blouse is gorgeous- the ipHone is not doing it any favors. It’s also like nothing else I own, so it was a good addition to the slightly-more-dressy side of my small closet.

rainn

The 41Hawthorn Sugar Dot Fit and Flare Dress was SUPER cute and Curt is still not speaking to me for sending it back, but it was just a tad too short for me to be comfortable. I wanted one more inch in the torso and a couple of inches on the hem. I think (LAWD), I THINK, I am past the age of wearing skirts that are above the knee. *sigh* I promised myself I would only buy things that I absolutely love and that fit me NOW. Therefore, no dress. The Pomelo Cutout Top was too wacky for me with the cutout in the back. I couldn’t do it. I tried, but I couldn’t do it.

For Fix #4, I asked for a jersey skirts and maybe a jean jacket for the summer.

Stitch Fix #4

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Fix #4 arrived with a pair of Kut From the Kloth Lacie boyfriend jeans (which are actually the Catherine model) that I already owned (thanks to a killer sale on Amazon) so those were returned. The maxi dress was cute and well-made, but just not my style. I wanted to keep the Pomelo Jersey Top because it is the softest thing I’ve ever felt in my life, but Curt was bugged by the cross-over detail in the front. I knew I wouldn’t wear it much if he wasn’t a big fan… though I considered keeping it to sleep with like a security blanket. I think it’s made of angel breath and clouds.

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(photo credit to Rylie who told me to “LOOK DOWN”) I kept the Lily Poppie Swing Skirt… it’s sooooo soft, beautifully lined, and the perfect length for me right now (points to Stitch Fix for totally reading my notes about wanting longer lengths). It’s also the exact navy of the 41Hawthorn Cardigan from Fix #2. I also kept the green sleeveless Collective Concepts Button-Up Blouse for the same reasons as the Rainn blouse from Fix #3… dressier than my usual but still within my comfort zone. No picture of me actually wearing that one and I don’t know why. Next time.

For the next fix, I asked for a little more Bohemia and a little less Classic Prep.

I love getting to try these clothes on at home- SUCH a luxury for me way out here in the sticks. I think I’ve got one more fix in me before I take a break for a couple months. I do love the surprise and the ease of “shopping” with them. I’ve added some very nice, very practical items to my drawers without stepping foot in a mall… and that basically make my year.

If you’re on the fence, I think you should go for it. You should. Be specific about what you like and be really, really honest about your sizing. It’s a good time. Remember: while I’ve always opted for clothing ONLY, Stitch Fix also does accessories like jewelry and scarves and bags. Lots of choices! Los of fun!

[Stitch Fix did not pay me for this review. I signed up because a friend referred me, and I paid for the clothing myself. That friend who referred me received a $25 credit to her stitch fix account when I received my first box. If you use this link and follow-through with your own first box, I will receive a credit as well.] 

STITCH FIX #1 review


stitch fix #1

Soooooo, I jumped on the Stix Fix train. I did.

The idea here is simple: you fill out an extensive survey covering your sizes, style preferences, and cost boundaries and they send you 5 items. It costs $20 per box, which covers shipping both ways and is labeled as a “styling fee.” Once you receive your box, you have 3 days to try your items on and decided what you like or don’t like. Keep what you want and send back the rest in the pre-paid mailing envelope they provide. Your $20 is credited towards any items you keep.

TexasNorth is 35 miles from town and a good 45 minutes from Target or Old Navy. I do 95% of my shopping online, which saves me from driving to multiple stores and saves the stores from dealing with me and my children. Online shopping is a win-win for everyone involved.

So, a pretty box mailed to me with clothes from brands I can’t get here in town? Try them on in my own home and match them with other items already in my closet? Absolutely. Sign me up. Stitch Fix was not a huge stretch for me in the risk category. I was pumped.

stitch fix #1

The box was so lovely. All five of my pieces were wrapped neatly in tissue paper and tied with the belt from the Yumi dress. There was a card with an invoice and letter from my stylist, Alicia, as well as a small card for each item with styling examples. Very nice presentation.

blouse

This Daniel Rainn blouse was a surprise love. The cap sleeves and straight cut fit perfectly. I was weirded out by the blue and black combination and just couldn’t get past it. This was Curt’s top pick, but I knew I wouldn’t wear it as much as it deserved. SENT BACK.

cardigan

This Tea N Rose cardigan was super fun, but too small. It was exactly what I was looking for: a basic cardigan that would wear through winter and into spring. The arms were super tight, which is weird… but simply a fit issue. I totally want the ballet flats in the example photo. SENT BACK.

dress

I wore this navy and red Yumi dress for 3 hours the day I received my package. Gideon immediately stole the belt and turned it into a tow rope for his construction trucks, but I couldn’t have used it anyway. I have a long torso and dresses with belt loops are always too short in the waist. The dress fit great without the belt. It took me three hours to decide that I just really needed one more inch in the waist for it to completely rock. Without the inch, it looked like I was trying to squeeze into a junior’s dress. It was a FABULOUS thick jersey, 100% lined… really, really nice. I put it on with my black biker boots and felt ready to go out on the town. This was SENT BACK with tears in my eyes.

jeans

In my profile I requested some grownup jeans, and Alicia listened. She sent me a pair of KUT jeans, which I loved but they were at least a size too big and quite long. The card said “Katherine” jeans, but the tag attached to the jeans said “Natalie.” The “high rise” label was a bit deceiving… they fit lower than “mom jeans” and higher than “sketchy jeans.” Very nice weight, fabulous dark color, normal boot cut. Great jeans- but big. These were SENT BACK, but I requested them in the next box in a size down.

striped tank

This olive and white Tart Remi Striped Tank was the item I kept. It’s perfect under a navy cardigan and more interesting than any other solid shirt I would normally choose. The fabric is super soft, fairly thin, and drapes well. Since I have no chest, I will have to tack down the crossover so we don’t have any wardrobe malfunctions, but otherwise it’s perfect. So, my $20 styling fee was credited toward this purchase.

If I had returned everything, I would have forfeited the styling fee. If I had kept everything, I would have received 25% off the total.

Loved the whole thing. Even if I had kept nothing the first time around, I would still be a fan. It was so fun to find the box on my porch and then try everything on at home in normal lighting with access to my own wardrobe at the same time. Great concept. Great service.

Bring on box #2! 

[Stitch fix did not pay for this review. I signed up because a friend referred me, and I paid for the clothing myself. That friend who referred me received a $25 credit to her stitch fix account when I received my first box. If you use this link and follow-through with your own box, I will receive a credit as well.] 


2013 book report

Today is a snow day. It is a literal winter wonderland outside. I briefly considered showing up at school with all three children ANYWAY and just dropping them off, but I think we can make it a little longer. #famouslastwords #imtired

Before January completely takes of and 2013 is forgotten, I want to record the books I read last year. This list is taken directly from my Kindle files, so it’s missing the hard copies I read… but this is the jist of my efforts. Y’all know I love to read. It’s a fast and furious passion. Books are often finished in a day or maybe two, even if they are absolutely terrible (seriously- some of the plots that get pushed through to publishing are just absolutely ridiculous). Doing more than half of my reading digitally has helped me to curb my greatest vice: reading ahead to the end FIRST and then settling in for the long haul.

I hope we can still be friends. 

It’s an awful habit, I know… but I am so much calmer if I know where things are headed. I pay more attention instead of trying to read fast to get to the resolution. At any rate, it’s much more difficult for me to do on my Kindle than with paper, so I consider myself on the road to recovery. I do still very much prefer hard copies of books, but the Kindle allows me to store digital highlights (which I love) AND “go to the library” without my children in tow (lovely).

I will spare you my pages and pages of highlights from all of the books, but suffice it to say that while there are ridiculous things being published there are still, in fact, absolute masters of language and storytelling out there. I’ve included just a few examples for you below the list of books and authors. The books in red were my absolute favorites, for various reasons. The few I remember being angry I had to keep reading on principle alone I marked, as well.

[Thursday, I want to talk about this essay… so read ahead if you can.]

reading

Books read in 2013

  1. Gone Girl, Flynn
  2. Same Kind of Different as Me, Hall & Moore
  3. Dark Places, Flynn
  4. Outliers, Gladwell
  5. Beautiful Lies, Unger
  6. Bad Things Happen, Dolan
  7. The Other Wes Moore, Moore
  8. The Tipping Point, Gladwell
  9. Imperfect Birds, Lamott
  10. Dinner: A Love Story, Rosenstrach
  11. My name is Memory, Brashares
  12. Fragile, Unger
  13. Wait For me, Naughton
  14. Homesong, Crews (eh)
  15. The Girl From Long Guyland, Reznik (eh)
  16. The Secret Keeper, Morton
  17. The Storyteller, Picoult
  18. The Time Keeper, Albom (blah)
  19. The Kitchen House, Grissom
  20. These is My Words, Turner
  21. One Thousand White Women, Fergus
  22. The Light Between Oceans, Stedman
  23. The Dead Don’t Dance, Martin
  24. When Crickets Cry, Martin
  25. Chasing Fireflies, Martin
  26. Maggie, Martin
  27. The Mountain Between Us, Martin
  28. The Four Corners of the Sky, Malone (absolutely hated this)
  29. Sweet Mercy, Tatlock
  30. The Sisterhood, Bryan
  31. When I Found You, Ryan Hyde
  32. Where the River Ends, Martin
  33. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Stein
  34. The Devil in the White City, Larson (crazy scary)
  35. The Red Tent, Diamant
  36. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce
  37. A Land More Kind Than Home, Cash
  38. The O’Briens, Behrens (blah)
  39. Alice I Have Been, Benjamin
  40. The Silver Linings Playbook, Quick
  41. The Birth House, McKay (eh)
  42. The Virgin Cure, McKay (eh)
  43. The Last Original Wife , Frank (eh… bad run here of blah books)
  44. When Mockingbirds Sing, Coffey
  45. Firefly Lane, Hannah
  46. Wild, Strayed
  47. War Brides, Bryan
  48. Falling Together, de los Santos
  49. The Peach Keeper, Allen
  50. Beautiful Ruins, Walter
  51. Every Shattered Thing, Ramirez
  52. The Engagements, Sullivan (no)
  53. American Rust, Meyer
  54. The Woman Upstairs, Messud
  55. The Lost Husband, Center
  56. Mockingbird, Erskine
  57. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman
  58. Me Before You, Moyes
  59. Orphan Train, Kline
  60. The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield (amazing, classic)
  61. Little Bee, Cleave
  62. True…Sort of, Hannigan (best ever)
  63. The Husband’s Secret, Moriarity
  64. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson
  65. The Space Between Us, Umrigar
  66. The Rules of Inheritance, Smith
  67. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Janzen
  68. The Rosie Project, Simsion
  69. The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes
  70. The Last Letter from Your Lover, Moyes

Audiobooks

  1. Eleanor & Park, Rowell (perfect in every way)
  2. Someday Someday Maybe, Graham (loved)
  3. Before I Fall, Oliver (eh)

Quotes

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen :: “But my friend wasn’t Catholic! I thought he had to be buried outside the fence!” exclaimed the ex-soldier. “Yes,” said the priest. “But I scoured the books of church law. I couldn’t find anything that said we couldn’t move the fence.”

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave :: A story is a powerful thing in my country, and God help the girl who takes one that is not her own.

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield :: Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman :: “You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud :: But who I am in my head, very few people really get to see that. Almost none. It’s the most precious gift I can give, to bring her out of hiding. Maybe I’ve learned it’s a mistake to reveal her at all.

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel by Matthew Quick :: You need to know it’s your actions that will make you a good person, not desire.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin :: Sleep cures tired, but it has no effect on fatigued.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus :: The white man builds his forts and houses, his stores and churches—his flimsy fortifications against the vastness and emptiness of earth which he does not know to worship but tries instead to simply fill up.

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner :: Sometimes I feel like a tree on a hill, at the place where all the wind blows and the hail hits the hardest. All the people I love are down the side aways, sheltered under a great rock, and I am out of the fold, standing alone in the sun and the snow. I feel like I am not part of the rest somehow, although they welcome me and are kind. I see my family as they sit together and it is like they have a certain way between them that is beyond me. I wonder if other folks ever feel included yet alone.

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore :: You never know whose eyes God is watchin’ you through. It probably ain’t gonna be your preacher.

Do you have any recent favorites?

 


picture it

[Got a little story for ya, Ags.]

There are no pictures of my college graduation. That year, 1999… fourteen years ago this week, was the dawn of the digital camera for my family, and my graduation was the maiden voyage. We should have thought that through a little better.

Let’s say a “delete all” command was accidentally imposed. Surely, that doesn’t mean ALL the photos are ACTUALLY GONE.  Actually, that’s exactly what it means. Hence no photos. Picture me, in a gown, with a very Texas-humid frizz halo under a graduation mortar and you have a pretty good idea.

There are three things I remember most about my graduation. The first I have already shared. The second is the mental picture of my family in the brand new Reed Arena, high up in the mezzanine seats behind me and to the right. We students were threatened with our lives if we snuck out early, but that didn’t stop the A through Ms from taking a “bathroom break” during the ceremony- with their diploma- and never returning. Their parents’ seats, oddly enough, began to empty out at the same time.  Soon, more than a quarter of the seats in the house were empty as families began to jet across town to dinner resevations and beat the rush out of the parking lot.

But I was an ‘S’, you see. Nowhere for me- or my parents- to go until the very end. So I sat. I read the book I’d brought along, and in time, shuffled down the aisle, up the steps, and across the stage. And, glory be, if I didn’t hear my parents yelling for me as I came down the other side of the stage with diploma in-hand and freedom in the other. Oh, I heard them loud and clear.

Had they moved down to be closer? To get the good shot over the railing? Had they come down from the rafters and claimed a recently-vacated seat to see the gleam in my eyes?

No.

The Sebeck family was still high and comfortable in the mezzanine… a vast ocean of empty seats all around and below them, smiling and cheering to beat the band.

That’s the second memory, though I have no proof. (The camera, remember? Memory 1? Yes.)

The third memory I have of my graduation is actually the one I most wanted to share with you today. I’d forgotten about the second one until I sat down to write and now I can’t stop laughing. Give me a second.

Ok.

In December of 1999, I returned home from my California internship ready to walk the Aggie stage. Arguably more popular than a diploma from A&M is the Aggie Ring. Students not on probation and with 90 hours are eligible to receive their class ring and instantly join the ranks of Aggie former students around the world. It’s an incredible day. I have been across the ocean and across town and found Aggie family instantly all because of the tell-tale gold glimmer on their right ring finger and a tentative, “I’m class of 1999… do you know what that means?” It’s a family. A huge, crazy, old-fashioned family, and that ring is the glue.

When I returned home for my graduation I found myself looking at my hard-earned ring and realizing it was a little worse-for-wear thanks to my work in the chaparral of the San Bernadino mountains. It deserved a good cleaning before walking with me through gradation, but I had no clue how to take care of gold.

On my home from a dentist appointment (like ya do when you’re back home), I stopped in a down-home jeweler off the beaten path and rang the bell near the cash register. A silent but definitely grumpy and bearded man emerged from the back room and came up to the counter.

“Hi!” I said cautiously. “I’m back home and getting ready to graduate… and I’d really like to shine my ring before the ceremony… it’s kind of special, I know a lot of people don’t do gold rings right now… but I went to A&M and it’s kind of a big deal there and anyway I’m just wondering if you can show me how to clean it? What to use? I don’t have any idea and I don’t want to ruin it. OH MY WORD if I ruined it I would cry.”

Pretty sure I lost him after my enthusiastic “Hi!” Without speaking, he motioned to my ring. I placed it in his bear paw of a hand. And then he left… like, turned around and went back to the cave he came out of… with my ring.

I just stood there… maybe possibly about to cry because it had taken everything in me to simply stop and walk in and ask for help like a normal person… and that man scared me.

I stood my ground and waited. After about 10 minutes, or 10 hours, he returned. There was no sample bottle of cleaner, no polishing rag… just a white box. He walked to counter and, again without a word, opened the box to show me a ring. MY ring, but barely recognizable. he’d shined and polished and buffed it to its original glory. And he’d put it in a box, and he put that box in my hand, and he waved me toward the door.

Now I was maybe definitely crying. “Thank you so much! What do I owe you?”

He was already in the doorway of his back room, but he turned and finally spoke. “Nothing,” he said. “Class of ’72. Nice to meet you and congratulations.”

Family. 

It takes all kinds.

By my brother’s graduation in 2002, we had worked out (most of) the kinks with technology. I can’t convince my folks to raise the resolution on their camera for fear of RUNNING OUT OF SPACE on their 8G memory card, so the jpg is only about 42k, but there we are. Baby steps, people.

2002graduationpolaroid

Do I know what your major was in college?

Mine was Outdoor Education (specifically, ropes courses).

Margie!

Curt picked #13

for the book giveaway!

That’s you!

(Don’t count my comment.)

It’s in the mail!


giving thanks

give thanks

 

May your day be full.

Full of thanks, full of giving, FULL.


latigo

Deep in the hills of Southern California…

past the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

but before Julian and their famous apple pies

right in the middle, on Highway 78, sits Young Life’s Oakbridge

where I worked from 2000, 2001, and 2002.

And under the cabins are garages where we’d hide our ropes course gear and our extra mattresses and our lawnmowers.  And on the workbench near the tree trimmers and work gloves, you’d probably find Mago- one of the kindest men I’ve ever met- reading his Bible and checking off the chapters as he finished on a large piece of poster board hung on the back of the workshop door.

Mago was the first in his family to come to America from Mexico. He was a young father, a quiet man, and was never not smiling. Never.

About 6 months after I’d been at Camp, Mago radio-ed me to meet him in the circle driveway. He was waiting there for me with a long braided rope he’d made himself (of course), and as I approached, he began to swing it around his head. Calmly. Most natural thing in the world. Then, in a split-second, he reversed the whip’s direction and it cracked the sound barrier.

Hear me when I say it was cooler than Indiana Jones.

“You want to learn?” he asked me.

Um, yes.

My right shoulder still hurts thinking about it. But, I eventually got it and became a part of our two-man gang Los Latigos (The Whips). The next day, Mago brought me a wooden handle and some nylon rope and we braided a whip for me to keep.

“Mago. This is insane. How do you even know how to do this?” I asked.

“This? Oh. Well, before I come here… I was a shepherd. For sheep. So, this is why I know.”

Of course.

OF COURSE YOU WERE A SHEPHERD.

There are many things I miss about California, but Mago is in the top three.

This past weekend, I found the whip under the baseball gloves and grabbed the handle with glee. It’s been 13 years, but I still remember how.

latigo