Remember Thanksgiving

Mondays suck.

There, I said it.

I’m typically not a gripe when it comes to starting an inevitable workweek, but there’s just something about Mondays that annoy me.

Take this morning, for example:

I woke up in the middle of the night to my son crying, “Mommy! Mommy!” I drug my body in its zombie-like state into his room only to discover that it was 6:30 a.m. — a mere half-hour before my alarm would sound. Grrr…

Thank you, Lord, for this big pile of leaves. It means I have a home in which to seek refuge, a chance for my child to experience the natural world and confirmation that the seasons still turn even when life gets too hectic to notice.

I later poked myself in the iris with an eyeliner pencil, and my watering eye promptly converted the right side of my face into an Alice Cooper look-alike.

My son, who apparently was having a less-than-stellar morning himself, took a step backwards in potty training when he had a meltdown, demanding a Cars pull-up over his big boy underwear. Not in the mood for a fight, I carried the Go Diego Go drawers in my fist into daycare when I dropped him off this morning.

And the banana I had for breakfast was bruised…

Wah. Wah. Wah.

How soon I have forgotten Thanksgiving. Just a few days earlier I leaned back on the couch with a plate of leftover dressing and paused once again to give thanks for my many blessings — a loving husband, a healthy son, a supportive family, a warm home, food on the table — important stuff that can easily go unnoticed and under appreciated.

I vowed this year to give myself a swift kick in the giblets if I ever take those things for granted.

We’ll all do ourselves some good to remember Thanksgiving, even as we stand on the brink of Christmas. I’m all for celebrating the birth of my Savior, giving over receiving and spreading a little holiday cheer, but it’s the spirit of Thanksgiving that keeps us humble and in the right frame of mind amid the chaos of daily life.

I want your momma’s recipe!

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. No doubt, many of you are in the throes of planning your feast, whether you’re in charge of deep-frying the turkey or the whole kit and caboodle.

I, for one, am still low enough in the family hierarchy that I’m not responsible for the big meal items, like turkey or dressing. My assignment? Green bean casserole.

That’s one step above bringing the canned cranberry sauce (no offense, sis) and a step below sweet potato soufflé.

Now that I’ve caught you with your cookbooks open and recipe cards laid out, how about passing along some of your favorite turkey treatments?

I’m in the (very) beginning stages of pulling together a cookbook for the NWTF and am in search of recipes.

In theory, it will be a collection of wild game culinary delights from NWTF members across the country, much like we did with Wild About Turkey and Wild About Turkey and More. But if you know me, I’m going to add some kind of twist … I’m just not sure what it will be quite yet.

So come off your super blend of spices that makes a venison steak zing. Let me have the ingredients to a creative leftover casserole that gives wild turkey a second chance on the table. Grace me with those side dishes that will stick to the ribs of the hungriest hunter.

Help me get this cookbook out of my mind and onto paper.

The first 25 of you who send your recipes to will go into a random drawing for a bunch of turkey hunting gear, including:
• H.S. Strut Squealing Hen Call
• H.S. Strut Ring Zone Li’l Deuce Glass Call
• H.S. Strut Ol’ Mama Hen Waterproof Box Call
• Quaker Boy Crankin’ Crow Call
• Quaker Boy H20 Easy Yelper (push-pin call)
• Gerber Magnum L.S.T. 3½-inch folding sheath knife
• random NWTF logo items
• and a handful of call lanyards for good measure

That’s more than $150 of stuff, if not for you, then re-gift them. Christmas is fast approaching, you know.

Don’t forget to include your NWTF membership number and contact info.

Of course I can’t guarantee your recipe will appear in the book. (I can’t even guarantee I’m going to pull this whole cookbook thing off!) But know that your recipes will be put to good use, if I ever get promoted on my family’s Thanksgiving meal plan.

A paid volunteer?

Is there such a thing as a paid volunteer?

Yes, if you work for the National Wild Turkey Federation.

What may be an oxymoron in most cases is a reality when you work for a nonprofit. Sure, I draw a paycheck from the NWTF, but I also volunteer my time and resources. A lot of NWTF employees can say the same thing.

Two of my favorite coworkers, Jason and Shannon Rikard, encouraged folks to “step right up” to the Wheel of Fortune. Players spun the wheel for chances to win a .22 Ruger, a heavy-duty generator or instantly take away a $100 book of raffle tickets.

Our annual Edgefield Chapter Hunting Heritage Banquet was last week. That’s the hometown chapter for NWTF headquarters. A dozen or so NWTF employees and a handful of folks from the community made up the banquet committee that hosted more than 400 people to a night of fun and fundraising.

We had a county fair theme, complete with Mason jar centerpieces, a popcorn machine pumping the air with buttery goodness and carnival games like a balloon bust. There were raffles and silent and live auctions, of course, but the overall atmosphere had a downhome feel.

Karen Cavendar, NWTF’s Wild Turkey Records keeper by day … carnie by night

It was a good time — and a lot of hard work.

I think it’s important when you work for an organization that equips, motivates and moves volunteers to do the grassroots, greased elbows work, you should know what it’s like to be a volunteer.


Most NWTF employees know what it’s like to set up tables and chairs in the early morning dew, ask for donations from local shop owners, sweep the floors of torn raffle tickets — each a gesture that speaks highly of the people who get a bi-weekly pay stub from Ol’ Tom. No job is too small to make an event, organization or our overall mission a success.

I had fun working outside the office with Women in the Outdoors National Coordinator Teresa Carroll (left) and Michelle Jones, communications administrative assistant (right).

Where credit is due

No blogger is an island.

It took several people to make Keepin’ Up With Karen a reality. And I’m a firm believer in handing out credit where it is due.

It’s an exercise that will keep me grounded when this blog gig launches me into super stardom. Totally kidding.

Meet the folks who helped get this crazy ride we’re on off the ground:

Go team! Keepin’ Up With Karen is made possible by (left to right) Matt Lindler, Jason Rikard, Karen Lee, Melanie Swearingen and Cliff Williamson Jr. And three cheers for you, blog followers, for making this more than worth our efforts.

Her official title is online content specialist, but I like to call her my director of strategic self-esteem. She’s my daily dose of sunshine at work and made me believe I’m worth listening to. (As in, this blog was her idea.) Melanie is my go-to gal for bouncing around ideas. She keeps me motivated to write and promotes my efforts to the masses. And that’s only a small fraction of what she does for and the NWTF’s social media.

Not only did Cliff set up the technical part of the blog, he continuously walks me through remedial Web, as I am legitimately computer challenged. I seriously mess up anything I touch that has a battery or plug, and I’m sure there are days when Cliff wishes he could issue me a chisel and stone tablet. But he’s a super patient fella who tolerates my inadequacies.

He’s the guy who took the mug shot you see at the top of the page, as well as several other images we’ll use in promoting this blog. (You’ll also find a new editor’s message pic in the upcoming issue of Turkey Country, courtesy of Matt as well.) Being photographed is not tops on my list of ways to spend an afternoon, but Matt makes it easy. Before I sound too much like a diva, let me introduce the next guy.

Photoshop is a girl’s best friend, and Jason is the reason why. He takes a good picture and makes it really pop by tweaking the tiniest details. Flyaway hairs? Gone. Pimple on my chin? What pimple on my chin? And my shirts never looked so well pressed. I guess revealing all the gory details defeats the purpose of Photoshop, but my boy deserves the props.

A blog is pointless without viewers. I appreciate you keeping up with me and reading what I have to say. I’m also proud you have shared my blog with others. It means a lot you find worth in my words. Thanks to you and your feedback, I don’t feel like an island at all.

My favorite veterans

I love old pictures. Not only do they look cool with their faded grays and sepia tones, it’s fun to hear the stories behind them.

Here are four of my favorites. I have them side-by-side in a frame at my house.

Meet my grandparents when they were beginning their lives together during times of war, conflict and unrest. Probably not so different than many young couples today.

These are my dad’s parents.

Granddad Lee served as Yeoman First Class in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was stationed in Mobile, Ala., and got a pass one weekend in 1941, when he hopped a bus to Chattanooga, Tenn., and married my grandmother on a Saturday before he headed back south to report for duty Monday morning. He remained stateside during the war, and built a life with his young bride that would last 61 years before my grandmother left for Heaven. Together, they raised four children who gave them eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

These are my mother’s parents.

Granddaddy Langham (everyone else called him Joe) was a Seabee, who spent time overseas during WWII and the Korean Conflict. He told us stories about his adventures abroad, always prefacing them with the statement, “Now this was before I found the Lord.” He became a Southern Baptist preacher, planting several small country churches along the coasts of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He married Hazel Clark in 1944, raised four children and enjoyed nine grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren before Grandmamma Langham passed away in 2000.

It’s fun to relive the romance and nostalgia of past generations, but I’m sure they dealt with many of the same difficulties today’s military families face. Funny how the good moments seem to erase the rough ones over time.

I’m not in the military, nor is my husband or anyone else in my immediate family, so I can’t begin to understand the challenges of those who actively serve our country in times of war and conflict.

I may not be able to empathize, but I can pray. Pray for their personal safety. Pray they have the same rock solid support my grandfathers had back on the home front decades ago. Pray they return to their families unharmed.

Hug a veteran today. Or at least shake his or her hand. What they did for our country, or what they’re doing now, undoubtedly leaves a lasting legacy for future generations.

Cooper’s tree stand

My son, Cooper, is almost 3 and at the age when he repeats what he hears. It’s amazing what his little noggin retains. He’ll pull some zingers from out of nowhere that make me believe he actually does have the ability to listen when it doesn’t pertain to bedtime.

His cranial regurgitations range from funny…

“Milkshakes make mommy’s bottom big.”

to sweet…

“Pop is in heaven now, not Alabama.”

And sometimes they just blow me away, like last weekend when we were visiting my sister. Cooper was drawing with crayons, held up the pad of paper and showed me this:

Remind me in several years to let Cooper hang my tree stands and not CJ, who would NEVER put his steps that close together.

“Look at my tree stand, Mommy,” he said.

Now here’s where we separate the parents from the nons. Those who never have had a child will ask, “Where’s the tree stand?” And those who’ve had a munchkin or two will simply nods their heads and blankly say, “That’s great!”

What really got me, however, was his follow-up statement:

“We’re going to need to move it sometime.”

Who knows how many times he’s heard his dad say he’s going to move a deer stand? Who knew Cooper was even paying attention?

I immediately forwarded the picture to CJ, who was on a work hunt in Ohio. Deer season is a busy time for him, meaning he’s gone from home quite a bit. Constant travel is hard on families, but you can’t complain when we both make a living doing what we love.

But moments like this one make what we do for a living, as well as who we are as people and parents, worth it. Our little Cooper may not choose to hunt when he gets older, but I feel pretty sure he’ll understand why we do.

I believe he already does.

The board is back in town

I know it’s the week of the quarterly national board meeting when I get the office-wide memo to clean up our work areas. Not that we exist in squalor, mind you, but it’s a gesture of putting on your best face. Like brushing your teeth right before a dentist visit. It’s just a nice thing to do.

Plus, I really need an excuse to de-clutter my desk — and my brain.

BEFORE: My cluttered desk is totally representative of my cluttered mind. But that’s about to change. Oh, and please notice the two cups of sweet tea, because just one will NOT get you through a workday.

Although I don’t sit in any of the board sessions or committee meetings, it’s still a time of anticipation. Decisions are made that affect our organization, my job for that matter.

That’s why I hope you will vote in the upcoming election. Information on the candidates is on pages 32 and 33 of the November-December issue of Turkey Country. The ballot is sandwiched between them.

Read up on the six hopefuls. Decide who you think is best for our organization. Vote for three. And walk it to the mailbox. It’s that easy. You don’t even need a stamp!

In the time it takes for you to read this blog entry and place your vote, I’ll have my desk clean and board-visit ready.

Then we’ll both have done our part to make the NWTF run as efficient as possible.

AFTER: Can’t you smell the lemon-scented Pledge? Ahhhh … thank you national board.