The Dude Ranch Diaries: The Intro to My Terribly Wonderful and Wonderfully Terrible Experiences in the World of Agritourism

The summers following my freshman and sophomore years of college, I spent living and working at dude ranches out west. The first summer was set in northern California, and the second set just west of Denver, Colorado. A “dude ranch” by definition is not a ranch full of dudes, but an upscale, yet rustic ranch vacation for singles and families alike. It is a form of argritourism, to be fancy. It was on these ranches that I experienced the most wonderfully terrible, or terribly wonderful experiences of my life. Either way, it is not one or the other, but most definitely both. Though I could probably fill a book with these stories, (I’m already working on one for Kentucky) I’ve decided that this blog is where I would like to share them, and now is the time to start writing.

Each volume will have the consistent title of: “The Dude Ranch Diaries” and a subtitle such as the unnecessarily extended edition I included for the intro. They will be posted on Friday nights, filled with love, laughter, and lunacy to ease you into the weekend. #flashbackfridays They will exist until I run out of stories. I’d say there’s a good six months worth. Some will be longer, some shorter. Some will be stories of hope, and others will seem hopeless at times. Each story will start with the setting so readers will have an idea of which summer it was (i.e. “One day in the hills of northern California…” or “Fog spilled over the ranch that called itself home just west of Denver…”) One final important detail is that these posts will NOT be in any specific order. They will be posted simply as they come to mind to create an eau du spontaneity, and perhaps even to (in a sense) protect those involved – not that they need protecting.

Because it is real people’s lives that intersect with my story, I will be using pseudonyms for all the people and places in these excerpts. I apologize in advance if you do not like the way that I portray you or if you have a different perspective of how these stories happened (then I encourage you to write your own story, because all of our stories matter).

What? You ask, is so important about those five months out of the 353 months of my life? Well…

It was on those ranches that I became friends with people I never expected to, and experienced true community.

It was on those ranches that I learned about who I didn’t want to be, because at times, I became that person.

It was on those ranches that I met some of the most, dedicated and passionate, but down-on-their luck people.

It was on those ranches that I met families that were up-on-their luck, but still took the time for a summer-dude-ranch employee to share her story, hopes, and dreams.

It was on those ranches that I got to be a country girl that loved horses, rocked cowgirl boots, and acquired epic line dancing skills.

It was on those ranches that I clung to my beliefs like a security blanket.

It was on those ranches that I let go of some of my beliefs like a red helium balloon drifty slowly, and then swiftly away.

It was on those ranches that I remembered how important it is to love while you can, because you never know exactly how long you have with another.

It was on those ranches that I learned how to swear and “stand up for myself”.

It was on those ranches that I learned how deeply you can care for someone, even after only knowing them for a couple of days, or a week, or a few months…

It was on those ranches that I learned how not to treat people.

It was on those ranches I experienced life like each day was the last.

But ultimately,

It was on those ranches that I learned how to love. 

So buckle up! (You think I’m kidding, but seriously, buckle up!) It’s gonna be a wild ride.

Silent Night

Disclaimer: Here lies the final Christmas carol reflection of the holiday season. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I pray that you and your friends/family have a love and joy-filled Christmas. May you also enjoy the blessings of a Silent Night.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace (2x)

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber. Lyrics by Joseph Mohr. Originally in German.

For easy listening: 

I am so thankful for today. God’s present to me this year is quality time shared in His Presence. I’ve always wanted to spend a Christmas free of all the nuances – I’ve always desired to have Christmas be about Christ. So often we get lost in the buying of gifts, preparing of food, activities, and family time. So often we think that Christmas is about family. And though it is a nice time of year to gather with those we love, if we think Christmas is solely about gifts and family, then we are truly missing the point. Though we can vibrantly experience God’s love through each other, we must not forget to approach the source – For He loves when we graciously seek Him.

Jesus humbly came to be PRESENT among us on Christmas. Our Heavenly Father wanted to spend time with us so much that He sacrificed His comforts and came down in the form of a dependent babe to experience life with us.

And so on this Christmas Eve, all I ask is that you will put off your comforts – whether it be food, drink, Hallmark movies, or family traditions – for a moment, and reflect on the true beauty of Christmas. Try taking ten minutes of silence, and reflect on the following questions. Then with your responses, take a moment and thank God for all the ways He has calmed, moved, loved, and blessed you this past year.

  • In what ways has God provided inner calmness despite the busy and troubles of the past year?
  • What light are you drawn to? How does God evoke bright joy and bright hope in your life?
  • What about God and His Presence makes you literally quake? How is God moving you?
  • What comes to mind when you hear the lyrics “loves pure light” and “redeeming grace”? How has God shown you His love this season? What redeeming grace moments have radically changed your faith walk this year?

Dear God,

Thank you for being present with us. Thank you for leaving your comforts behind to be Emmanuel – God with us. What a beautiful name. Help us to leave our comforts behind as we seek to draw nearer to you. Draw us close to you. I pray that throughout the next few days  you will grant us time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, whether we do so in community or on our own. Thank you for coming. We love you Lord. We need you Lord. As we journey into a new year, may we continue to focus on Your Presence by seeking out time with you, and by being present in the lives of those around us. Thank you for being the perfect example of love.

In your Holy and Beautiful Name, Jesus,



When You Walked Into My Life

When you walked into my life,

You opened the door to possibility.

All the dreams I didn’t know were possible,

That I kept walled in,

That I kept locked in,

So they couldn’t hurt me,

Came rushing free.

. . .

When you walked into my life,

I remembered all my dreams.

In sleepless nights,

I began to ponder all of the possibilities.

Now I understand why they say,

Love hurts,

Patience is pain,

A raw life is not easy.

. . .

When you walked into my life,

Along with you came a hope,

Along with you came a joy,

That I didn’t even know I was capable

Of feeling.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t concentrate.

But oh how I long for you,

To walk into my life again.

If Only in My (Kentucky) Dreams

I dreamt of Kentucky last night.

Waking up was surely a fight.

As I found myself traveling back to where I want to be.

The people I planned to visit, I miss so dearly.

. . .

I headed to Kentucky without even a place to stay.

My subconscious surely knows how much I’d love to get away.

Mamaw and Papaw had said I could stay with them.

But would they be ready for a visit on the whim?

. . .

Stress found its way into my dream as I forgot to tell my job…

That without notice from my vacation time I would rob…

Distracted by all my favorites, I kept forgetting to text my boss…

Being that it was my old job, I wouldn’t dread the loss…

. . .

I suspect this dream was sparked by a card in the mail.

From a Grateful’s customer making my happy heart feel so frail.

The people I served there were much more than customers.

For the love that they’ve shown, my heart still a’stirs.

Grown-Up Christmas List

Disclaimer: With hope of personally refocusing myself on the peace of Christ this season, I’ve decided to create a Sunday night devotional that includes some of my favorite Christmas songs, followed by a short devotional. Each song will include lyrics, a youtube link for easy listening, a meditation/inward-seeking questions and a short personal reflection. My second-to-last song is: Grown-Up Christmas List.
Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee.
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well, I’m all grown up now,
But still need help somehow.
I’m not a child but my heart still can dream.
So here’s my lifelong wish,
My grown-up Christmas list,
Not for myself, but for a world in need:
No more lives torn apart,
Then wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And every one would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath the tree.
Well, heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.
No more lives torn apart,
And wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And every one would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
What is this illusion called, the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth!
No more lives torn apart,
Then wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And every one would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
This is my only lifelong wish,
This is my grown-up Christmas list!

Songwriters: Linda Thompson / David Foster
Grown-Up Christmas List lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

For easy listening – Amy Grant’s version –

What wishes are on your grown-up Christmas list this Christmas?

Absorbing the message today about “Peace” at the Cloquet Vineyard, I realized something valid. I spend way too much time focusing on others (not always a bad thing) and how they are doing. And the reason that I do this is because I don’t think that I am enough. It is so easy to ask my friends and even the strangers I encounter each day at work, how they are doing, as long as they don’t reverse the question on me.

It would be so easy, this Christmas, to replicate this grown-up Christmas list, and wish that people would have compassion for each other, or that there would be world peace. Those are great Christmas wishes, but are they want I truly want? This last week before Christmas, as you hustle and bustle around fulfilling the wishes of everyone you meet, take a moment for yourself and write a list of what you truly want for Christmas. So I’ll ask one more time:

What wishes are on your grown-up Christmas list, this Christmas?

Sometimes we need to believe in the Magic of Christmas for ourselves. Because we too are enough.

My grown-up Christmas list:

  • An all-expense, worry-free, peace and adventure-filled trip to England, Scotland, and Wales.
  • An incredibly, generous scholarship to the seminary of my dreams.
  • Some Spiritual mentors.
  • Deep human connection (preferably in the form of a Jesus-loving, handsome male suitor).
  • A puppy! and money to pay for said puppy! (Maybe a golden retriever/german shepherd mix? or a golden-doodle?)
  • Horses!
  • The ability to write my memories and experiences in an alluring and enticing way, that changes the way my readers live and love.
  • A masseuse (which can come in the form of the handsome male suitor).
  • Focus, faith, passion, and presence on/of God in my life, and the lives of those I encounter.
  • A year of absorbing what it is to be “Beloved”. (My 2018 word of the year.)

Californian Heim

Maybe he was just a window,

That lead to a door.

A door I needed to knock on,

When I realized he was just a window.

. . .

As I knocked on the door,

It opened to a vast field,

Where a sun shone with rays of opportunity.

Opportunity I wouldn’t have know, had I not knocked on the door.

. . .

Heim means “home” in German.

A pseudonym I thought I’d use for him.

A spicy, sweet, Californian treat,

My heart wanted him “Heim” again.

. . .

But he was only the window,

He wasn’t the door.

I thought, but I was wrong,

He wasn’t the heim I was looking for.

. . .

Tucked away in the deep trenches of my soul,

There laid to rest the impossible dream.

Me? A pastor? Is that who you created me to be?

Tucked away in the deep trenches of my soul.

. . .

And then I found it! What I didn’t think existed.

The seminary of my soul that preaches not to its own, but to the twisted.

I jump through the window, and run through the door,

Into what I didn’t think existed.

. . .

A Fuller life is one I desire,

A Californian “Heim” to call home.

Though my travels there will be spare and sparse,

Into the Fuller life is where I will roam.

. . .

Anaheim pepper is what I was referring to,

When I cut his pseudonym short.

Anaheim California boy with a peppery blend,

My “Heim”, I thought would be home until the end.

. . .

But now I see where the truth really lies,

The man is not the home, but the place where he flies.

Maybe he was just a window God used to get me to the door,

That would open into the life He created me for.

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Disclaimer: I wrote this piece two months ago. (So a couple things have changed – mainly, I don’t work at the job I wrote about anymore, and through that I’ve found a little more peace.) I wasn’t going to post it at all, because I know my family reads my blog. But, this here is the Rah RAW Diaries. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t post the nitty-gritty details of my life. I mean, family is what causes us so much therapy in life anyway, and writing – well, it’s free therapy for me. So after ignoring this post for two months, I’ve decided it’s worthy of being shared. Who knows? Maybe it’ll serve its purpose, and help someone along the way.

If I don’t find my happiness in food, what will I find my happiness in?

I found myself thinking this the other day, after a fun-filled weekend celebrating with family. Towards the end of my “Sober October” journey, I managed to make it through the festivities with included temptations of wine, delicious options at a brewhouse, and mixed drinks at home with only a taste of a Rhubarb Old Fashioned. Considering I had family members on all sides egging me on to break my fast, I think I did pretty well. I was thoroughly tempted, especially by the presence of bourbon, and a Chipotle Stout that the brewhouse offered. Though I’ll admit, there were some kind souls who encouraged me to make my own decisions. Which of course, in the end, I did.

I don’t know about you, but I always struggle on the weekends when I get to hang out with family. I think it gets better with time, but somehow at the end of each reunion, I find myself feeling frustrated, and each time, slightly less… Me. Between my mother treating me like “her baby” always standing up for me, or making sure everyone hears my sides of the stories (Which I’m totally capable of doing myself, ahem) and well-intentioned rellies telling me how I should feel or things I should be grateful for, I find my stellar personality and inner strength dwindling. Phrases linger in the air as relatives confirm how they think I am like, “Now that you’re home, things must be going well,” or “Do you feel much better now that you have a job?” Then through the chit-chatter of everyone discussing their partners, people drop fun phrases like, “You’re lucky you’re single because _____,” or “Be thankful you don’t have to worry about _____,” and I’ll admit, I am lucky and I am grateful, but it’s not for the reasons you think. Also I don’t feel at home here yet, and I cry weekly, because I miss Kentucky so FREAKIN’ much.

Visiting with my step-uncle, I realized something… He was sharing with me about his new job, and how doing something that he was made to do epically changed his ability to enjoy life. Mentioning that even though he had good and bad days in his new employment position, it was like riding a wave two levels above where he used to be. I’m not there yet, was the first thought that went through my mind as he was gesturing the levels to me.

Perhaps I sound like a crybaby complaining when I should be grateful for my new job, but I’ve found it incredibly hard to celebrate anything since I’ve been “Home”. (Well, except for that one, amazingly fantastic day at McCarthy Beach in early July – I felt all the joyful feels that day.) “Change your perspective,” or “Fake it til you make it,” you say, and I’ll tell ya, I’m trying, I really am. That’s why I smile when you make comments, or speak for me thinking that I somehow need help sharing my story. I’ll smile and nod my head when you ask leading questions that assume that Minnesota is now my home again, when really IT’S NOT, or that I love my new job, when really I DON’T (well, not yet, at least).

Recently, Southland Christian Church in Lexington (one of the churches I attended in Kentucky) shared a message that included this key statement, “Love is not sentimental, it’s sacrificial.” This statement hit home for me. Life has always pulled me in one of two directions: 1. The places I want to be or go, and 2. The place where the majority of people I love, live. Well stated from my favorite book (The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks), “Love always requires sacrifice.” I am not home because of the gooey-gooey feelings that it brings to me. I still hate the cold weather, and the terrible travel conditions that its winter snows bring. The gray clouds that coat the skies for the the majority of the months actually depresses me. I am not here because Minnesota and I love each other, which honestly the past several months prove else-wise, I’m here because 1. God lead me here, and 2. The people I love live here. Being home for me is not sentimental, it’s sacrificial.22555507_1936436473280549_6922152182318886328_o

Next month, I journey back into the Trim Healthy Mama habits, as I let go of some of my comfort foods to find my way back to the healthier side of me, starting out as “No-Junk November” and hopefully leading through to the next year. This past month I have been eating terribly, because on the inside I have been feeling terribly. Low on money – eating what is cheap… I have a new job and I should celebrate, and though I feel a weight lifted, I’m not necessarily excited – ice cream… Enjoyed a weekend with the family as everyone else enjoys Old Fashions – carbo-load. It’s my first week of work, I’m in over my head and I will be for the next 3 YEARS (?) – pizza and breadsticks. And what do you know, I’m back to feeling like a blob on the couch. It’s like I’ve been hit by a car and broken all over again. But let me tell you, I’m so much better at dealing with physical pain than I am at this emotional stuff. It’s easier – people don’t judge you when you’re locked up on the couch with fractured ribs and a cracked sternum… However, when your heart simply hurts, because life is not at all like you hoped it would be, (as you settle into binging the lives of fictional characters) then people think it’s time to suck it up and move on, or get some fresh air.

I guess what I’m learning is nothing new. I need a job to survive, so that’s what I’ll do, and I’ll do it damn well too (because I strive to be good at my craft). But finding out I was employed was just a band-aid to my gaping wound. And what is my gaping wound you ask? God has placed a word on my heart for the past several months, and that word is home. Home is the word that sparked my first blog (Home is where the heart is) revealing that, to me, home means love. God has been reminding me to be-loved by Him, by showing me pieces that in HIS TIMING He will place into my gaping wound. He will not be using job, food, or social-media—shaped bandaids to mask the pain, but intricately-crafted pieces of love that in due time will allow me to to feel at home, finally.

home is not sentimental, it is sacrificial

What, who, or where makes you feel “at home”? And, how did God bring those things to life for you?

If you feel a bit adrift, like me, seek out God to find the ways that He is loving on you, and creating the pieces that fit perfectly in the puzzle of your life and heart.

Sorry on Rewind

How does one let go of their dreadful past?

Moments that came and went, yet somehow seem to last.

Words written and judgments thrown,

In your direction. Myself I wish to disown.

. . .

How do we let go of that which makes us cringe?

Of all the unhealthy things I wish to binge…

Anything to distract me from thinking of those judgments.

Tauntingly on rewind, those thoughts – my punishment.

. . .

Forgiven, I suppose, I cannot let go.

I hate who I’d been, though from that I’ve grown.

I know now not to compare myself to others,

As speaking into lives is the gift of another’s.

. . .

I can never take it back, as I have learned,

That Facebook messages cannot be burned.

Leaving my pride singed and disappointing my soul,

Never repeating it has been my only goal.

. . .

My sorry rewinded as I saw you again.

Heart beating swiftly, my mind began to spin.

Peace be still my heart, you didn’t seem to recognize me.

It is time for me to let go, this now I see.

. . .

This is my last and final apology.

To you and myself, a forgiveness doxology.

It was a mistake I made so opposite of who I hope to be,

Which is why I still do not want to forgive me.

. . .

Luckily, this is not how God works His plan.

Even my worst mistakes cannot make Him less than.

“So forgive yourself already, you know it’s’what’s right!”

Despite my inner darknesses, His light still shines bright.