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Roadside Views, Or Getting Lost and Found in Indiana

September 28, 2018

For most of my life, I felt like I was constantly in a hurry to get somewhere. Even when there wasn’t a destination in mind, I lived a rushed life. Maybe it was a side effect of living in a crowded city where I was surrounded by people and cars constantly on the go. Or perhaps it was my personality — always rushing to complete one task in order to move on to the next, hoping serenity would be just around the corner when the projects were complete.

I used to get so irritated with myself anytime I’d make a wrong turn or get lost while driving. But one day last year, I drove down the “wrong” street while on my way to a destination. And on that street was an amazing tree house. I immediately pulled over to take a photo. I thought about kids playing and hiding in it, and wondered what they could see from up there. I was so glad I went the wrong way. Had I not, I never would have found that tree house.

Since moving to Indiana, I’ve had many opportunities to get lost and venture onto new streets and towns, discovering so many unique sights along the way. Maybe it’s the laid-back nature of the Midwest, but now I look at those wrong turns as paths to discovering something I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I no longer feel rushed through life. And I purposefully drive on new streets, getting lost and seeing what can be found — constantly pulling over, getting out of the car, and taking photos of interesting things.

Here’s a look at some of my roadside finds in Indiana.

The tree house that made me rethink my point of view.

I was driving on Highway 46 to Bloomington, Indiana and stumbled upon this vintage garage. The property entrance sign reads “Tierra de los Sueños” (Dreamland). The owner was nice enough to indulge me in photographing his collection of vintage signs and cars.

The first contour-shaped Coca-Cola bottle was designed and manufactured here in Terre Haute.

A marker that signifies the Underground Railroad stop in the Lost Creek community in Terre Haute.

In the year 1844, the University of Notre Dame received its charter from Indiana. The first electrical telegram was sent by Samuel Morse from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to the B&O Railroad. The Great Flood of 1844 hits the Missouri River and Mississippi River. And Durham Farm was established here in Terre Haute. I wonder if it was as beautiful at sunset back then as it was the evening I took this photo.

A log cabin on the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus.

Americana on the Indiana countryside.

Happiness found in Fairbanks Park, overlooking the Wabash River.

I was intrigued by this barn-looking building with a red roof, a wagon wheel, paintings and a miniature barn replica.

Dumpsters never looked so cool.

Traveling on U.S. Highway 40, which takes you into Terre Haute, is the Clabber Girl sign. It is Indiana’s oldest billboard that was first put up in the 1930s, and it always has a working clock.

Happiness is right around the corner.

When I first drove by this fence, I did a double-take and backed the car up see this happy sight. This is the front of the Eden of Ryves community garden, a place for neighborhood kids to learn farming and sustainability skills.

Can’t wait to see where the road will lead me tomorrow, and what I might find along the way.

Welcome to 5th Grade

August 16, 2018

Last week Sophie started fifth grade. Fifth grade. The last year of elementary school.

I don’t remember crying when Sophie started kindergarten. Maybe because by that time, she already completed three years of preschool. But for some reason, starting fifth grade was tough for me. I think because it symbolizes the end of an era; the end of the elementary, or kid years.

Next year, Sophie will go to middle school, which she is SO excited about. I’m not at all worried about her being at a large school and changing classes. We’re used to large from our former city life. But I fell apart when I realized this will be the last year I can take a photo of her at her classroom desk at back-to-school night.

Everywhere I look, the signs show she’s getting older. I see all the activities for children around town – activities like storytime and community festivals, events that she and I always attended together when she was young. And it makes me a bit sad realizing she’s now too old for all those things. The little kids are not her anymore. I like that she’s getting older, asking new questions, and wants to participate in all these new activities and challenges. But at the same time, it’s bittersweet knowing all that time has passed and she’s a full-on tween now. I keep thinking about Gretchen Rubin’s extremely moving story about parenting, which she described as this: “The days are long but the years are short.” This is SO true!

I’m so incredibly proud of Sophie. Two years ago, she transferred to a new school — in a new city — where she didn’t know a single person. She’s done so well academically, making new friends, getting involved in different activities, and adapting to her new home. I wish I was as strong as Sophie when I was that age.

We’re now into the second week of fifth grade, and I have a good feeling about the year ahead. I make this first-day-of-school photo collage every year so we can look back at how far she’s come.

I use Picmonkey to create this if you want to make one for yourself. It’s my favorite photo editing tool, and it’s free!

First day of school for my fifth grader.

Riding the bus to and from school has been great for Sophie, and life-changing for me. We love our bus driver! Sophie forgot to pose for the obligatory “getting on the school bus” photo. So our driver made her go back for the photo. So glad he understands these priorities!

Sophie’s school has a back-to-school night the evening before school starts so we can meet her teacher and see the classroom. Here’s the last photo I’ll take of her at her classroom desk.

Cheers to a great year of school!

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Reflections on Two Years in Indiana

August 7, 2018

When I announced on this blog that we were moving from San Diego to Indiana, I started the post with the following paragraph:

In You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly makes the difficult decision to close her beloved The Shop Around the Corner children’s bookstore. It’s a decision that, she notes, was not an easy one as the shop was such a large part of her life since she was a young girl. When she tells the older and wiser Birdie of the plan, her friend replies, “Closing the store is the brave thing to do … you are daring to imagine that you could have a different life.”

Last month marked two years since we moved to Indiana. At that time, I never could have imagined the different life I have today. But I am so grateful for it.

On July 24, 2016, I drove away in a packed car, along with Sophie, two dogs, a cat, and a nervous excitement for the road trip and new life ahead. One of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had in my life was driving that four days across country, away from San Diego and toward Terre Haute. There was something incredibly freeing about knowing that all I had was the open road ahead and what was in the car with me. Even if I wanted to turn back, there was not a home to go back to (in the general sense). I don’t remember ever feeling that unconfined in my entire life — there was no going backwards; only forward, to a new idea of home.

On July 27, 2016, I pulled into the driveway of our new home in Terre Haute. I (literally) did not know one soul in town. I had no idea where anything was and had to use Google Maps to find the closest grocery store and coffee shop. I was a complete stranger in my new town. I slowly started meeting people, going to events around town, and joining Sophie’s  school PTO. A few months later, I was almost jubilant the first time I ran into an acquaintance at the grocery store.

About a month after we moved to Indiana, I wrote this blog post about my observations of Midwest life and how it differed from Southern California. So much of this still rings true. I’m still in awe of the lush greenery, towering trees, and vast open spaces around me. I’ve never in my life felt this “free” in my surroundings, and I love experiencing the four seasons and seeing nature change before my eyes.

I’ve come to love living in Indiana for other reasons too. Living here – and moving out of my bubble – has given me a new understanding and perspective when it comes to understanding friends, neighbors and those that may have different political affiliations and backgrounds. That new perspective led to my editorial about how moving from a blue state to a red state changed my life. Living here also helped me write other pieces, such as this one about how we can honor Anthony Bourdain’s legacy by embracing one of the guiding principles that was present through his daily work: going to parts unknown and getting to know “the other.”

It’s surreal to know I never would have these new perspectives and written these pieces had we not moved to Indiana.

Moving to Terre Haute also helped me take ownership of my health and wellness. And living here helped me fall in love with running, and how running throughout the seasons would become a life-changing experience. I now crave being outdoors and exploring new trails, parks and sights in a way I’ve never felt before.

While I’m an introvert at heart, I can’t imagine not sharing this life with the wonderful friends I’ve met here, and I’m so grateful for my new tribe of people. And while not every moment of our life in Indiana has been happy and stress-free, I am so grateful I have the life I do. My core feels home. I belong in this place — both physical and mental — with everything that symbolizes home to me.

If there’s one truth I’ve learned in my two years in Indiana, it’s this: with every change comes new opportunities, new perspectives, new experiences, and new people. I can’t imagine being in a parallel universe where I didn’t have this life. And while change is scary, it’s not something to necessarily fear. Because you never know what may be on the other side of that door to a different life.

Parenting: A Daily Lesson in Failure

July 12, 2018

There’s a scene in one of my favorite television shows, “The Killing,” where the main character, Sarah Linden, describes the never-ending cycle of failure and success that is being a police officer.

You try, but you have go to home at night, worried you didn’t do enough; maybe you missed something. You fail every day, and you keep coming back.

If you watch the show, you’ll see how this describes more than one situation for the plot and characters. But for me, this piece of dialogue perfectly describes how it feels to be a parent.

I’m going on 11 years of being a mom this November. And more often than not, I still feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. I do my best to choose my words carefully and parent to what works for Sophie. But I’m not perfect, and I slip up and feel like I failed. And all the work I did that day goes out the window.

I ask myself often: Are my expectations too high? Should I bite my tongue more than I do? Should I not have talked to Sophie about her attitude? Or maybe I shouldn’t have suggested she do/say/wear this or that?

Or most recently, why did I completely lose my cool over mayonnaise?

Let me explain.

Sophie was making a turkey sandwich for lunch. She cut the crusts off the slices of wheat bread (I held my tongue at the crust removal) and then began spreading Hellman’s on the bread. “I don’t know why people don’t like mayonnaise,” she said. “I love it!”

I agree with Sophie’s assessment of mayo, as the condiment accompanies my turkey sandwiches too. But as she finished making her lunch, she placed her tongue to the mayo-lined spreader and began licking.

“What are you doing?! That’s pure fat!” I shouted, horrified that plain mayo was going into her mouth. My reaction even surprised me. She looked at me stunned and started to cry.

After I realized what an idiot I was being, I (somewhat) calmly explained that mayo isn’t really something you consume on its own. It’s okay on sandwiches and in dishes, but it’s not a healthy snack or something to eat off the knife like peanut butter.

Why couldn’t I have said that instead of freaking out like a lunatic?

I’ve tried so hard to talk about food and exercise as tools to be healthy, and not in terms of fat and weight. I had a childhood where consuming sugar and “bad food” was akin to doing drugs and binge-drinking alcohol. As a result, I vowed never to do that to my own daughter. That’s why I was so ashamed of my behavior.

I apologized to Sophie for my reaction and we both moved on. She didn’t seem to harbor any ill will. But of course as I was laying in bed later that night, I was reminded of our interaction and I felt so bad.

Why is it that you can have a perfectly good day and then one interaction with your child sends it all into disarray? Whether it’s mayonnaise or a comment about an online game, or talking about behavior toward others, or not allowing hair dye … all these things inevitably lead to a downward spiral of negativity.

That’s when I come back to that writing from “The Killing.” I wake up fresh each day and try to do my best, and then evening comes and I feel like I failed.

Someone once told me feeling this way is actually a good thing, because it means that I care. I hope that’s the case.

I imagine this feeling never really ends (the joys of parenthood). But the worries and failures change over time. When Sophie was a baby, my family doctor described parenting to me as this:

When your kids are little, your biggest fear is they’ll run into the middle of the street and get hit by a car. But then they get older, and your biggest fear is they’ll be driving the car that hits the little kid.

Isn’t that the truth?!

So I’ll continue to try. And fail. And wake up every day and do it all again. Because I’m in this parenting thing for the long haul. And while the failures seem like they echo the loudest, I try to remind myself the successes are pretty powerful in their own right.

The Summer Bucket List 2018

June 21, 2018

We were a bit late getting our summer bucket list written this year. But it’s now hanging in our kitchen, and posting it today coincides nicely with it being the first day of summer.

We’ve been making a summer list since Sophie was 2-years-old and it’s one of my favorite traditions. But I wasn’t sure she’d be into doing it this year. She’s 10 (will be 11 in November), and her interests center more around spending time with friends, watching YouTube, and playing online games while FaceTiming friends. So I was pretty happy when she was the one who reminded me we need to keep up this annual tradition. And what was really neat is Sophie took charge and created all the items and wrote/decorated the entire poster herself.

Sophie has a pretty jam-packed summer with different camps and classes. But the Summer List gives us fun things to do on the days and weekends that aren’t planned.

Here’s what’s in store for this year:

If you’re looking for some Summer List inspiration, here’s what we’ve done in the past:

Do you make a summer bucket list? What are your summer plans?

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