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A Look Through the Memories in My Childhood Scrapbooks

December 6, 2017

I’ve always thought of myself as a collector of memories, not necessarily things. The exception is when the things are symbolic of the memory itself. I’ve written about how I’ve kept many of the letters and cards I’ve received over the years. But it wasn’t until recently that I went through my old scrapbooks.

I have two scrapbooks from my childhood. The first is a Cabbage Patch Kid album that contains memories from elementary school. The second “Special Memories” book is all about the teenage and middle/high school years.

When I was looking through my scrapbooks, I found so many things — newspaper clippings, political campaign buttons, prom photos, and all the things you may expect a kid to treasure at some point. I also found items I completely forgot I had.

I read once that you should think back at what you loved as a child if you want to find your passion, or feel lost or unsure of your future path. The truth in this statement came through loud and clear as I looked through my scrapbooks because so many of the things I kept related to writing.


Here’s a look at  some of the memories I uncovered in my elementary through high school scrapbooks.

My elementary school held award assemblies where students received recognition for academic efforts. I never excelled academically, so the only awards I received were for citizenship. Things haven’t changed much; I still excel at time on task and my behavior continues to be excellent.

My dad spent the majority of his career working in academic administration at San Diego State University. He always gave me the mementos he received from attending different events. In 1984, he heard Walter Mondale, the Democratic presidential candidate, and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, speak on campus. The admission ticket he gave me is below. My spelling was always atrocious (“knot” and “neet”?!?). You can see why I only received citizenship awards in school.

My sister, Ellye, and I loved going to the San Diego State Aztec football games with my dad.

Hard Rock Cafe opened in the United States in 1982 and later that decade, the restaurant became really popular among my peers. I became obsessed with the restaurant and wearing the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt that was so popular. The chain opened its first San Diego location in 1988, and going there for the first time was probably the highlight of my year.

Sophie and I attended Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2015. At the time — and until I flipped through my scrapbook this year — I had no idea I was at Disneyland on its 35th anniversary: July 17, 1990.

On January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm when the United States attacked Iraq in the first Gulf War. Clearly I felt the need to mark the occasion on my EarthWorks daily recycling tips calendar.

I really disliked high school; always feeling like an outsider. But I found my niche on the student newspaper staff. I was so excited to be “hired” as a reporter for my high school’s Serrandipity newspaper. This is when my love of journalism and writing really took off.

I’m not sure why student journalists needed a press pass as I don’t recall many “privileges of the scholastic press.” But I was so thrilled to have one, and these were the first of the many press passes I’ve had over the years.

In the fall of 1992, I was a senior in high school and the nation was consumed with a presidential election unlike any before. This was the year that featured an established sitting president (George H.W. Bush), a rogue third-party candidate (H. Ross Perot), and a young Baby Boomer named Bill Clinton. I volunteered for the Clinton campaign and must have switched to Perot at some point, since I found both campaign buttons in my scrapbook.

I’m trying to encourage Sophie to keep a scrapbook of her special mementos. I think it’s harder now, in today’s digital age, to think you’ll never have access to memories. But I’ve learned so much about myself looking through these scrapbooks. So I hope Sophie takes my advice and looks through her collections of memories 30 years later.

My Running Journey: From Zero to Something

November 1, 2017

When I was growing up, physical activity was not my forte. I was an indoor kid who spent hours holed up in my room, writing stories and letters to pen pals, running a mail-in newsletter and sticker club (way before the days of the Internet), reading books, and listening to music. And I was perfectly happy and content doing just this. Never did I have a desire to go outside to play or participate in sports like soccer and basketball (both of which my younger sister, Ellye, was a pro in).

When I went to middle and high school, I was confronted with the dreaded hour of Physical Education (PE). Oh how I despised PE. I was always the kid picked last for every sports team. And I constantly lamented about why I had to learn games like flag football (really?!); softball (I was terrified of the ball hitting me); soccer (that was Ellye’s sport); and tennis (okay, I actually liked tennis).

But the worst – the absolute worst – was the required running of the mile each week. I HATED running with a passion. Mostly because it was hard for me. I wasn’t great at physical activity (clearly), and I was never conditioned to run/jog because I never played team sports as a kid. Every week I would try, and tell myself I could run like the wind (with the “Chariot’s of Fire” theme or Christopher Cross’ song in my head). And I always struggled. I couldn’t catch my breath and my legs got so tired and weak, to the point that I ended up walking nearly the entire mile. I was the slowest kid in the group, always coming in last, and always feeling like a failure.

When I went to college and realized I had freedom of choice, a good friend took me to her gym, where I slowly began to realize that exercise wasn’t actually a torture device. The elliptical machine and stationery bike became favorites, while the treadmill remained an enemy. Whether it was with my friend or on my own, I committed to working out a few times each week. After college graduation, my gym membership evaporated, working full time happened, and a family (house, kid, dogs, husband) made life tougher to navigate.

Over the years, I secretly wished I could be like the people I’d see running on the streets, where it looked easy and simple. I would watch Sophie run one mile every morning at her former school’s daily running club and I envied her. I loved (still love) the idea that running is simple — just your mind and body working together. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or equipment. All you really need is a good pair of shoes and (if you’re like me) some earbuds and a great playlist.

But then I’d remember the times I tried running when I was young and convinced myself I physically could not do it. It was too hard, I thought. Or I can’t breathe right. Or my physical body wasn’t built for the activity.

Then one day — October 8, 2016 — something changed in me. I had been in Indiana a little over two months, and I was thinking differently about my life and began learning new things about myself. I also loved the outside environment and nature that surrounded me. I physically longed to be in the green grass, among huge trees, nature and falling leaves (something that did not exist outside my door in San Diego). On that day, I decided running was something I wanted to do. So I laced up and went for a run.

That first run was not impressive, nor was it easy. I walked more than I ran, and I doubt my distance was even one mile. But I did it. And I knew I wanted to continue. So every week, starting at only twice per week, I went outside and ran/walked.

I’ve run in winter and under falling snow. I’ve run in spring when the temperature is near perfect, and the trees are starting to grow green leaves. I’ve run in 90 percent summer humidity that almost felt like I was wading through a thick cloud. And my favorite is the shorter season of fall, where I’m surrounded by brown, yellow and red trees and fallen leaves on the ground. I love physically feeling the differences in the seasons, and running has helped me experience that.

My running has been an interesting journey. I learned from my physical therapist this past summer that the physical form my hips and legs took while running was wrong, and probably a huge reason why I wasn’t progressing and why I’ve been experiencing hip bursitis pain for years. Thus began the conscious effort to correct the way I’ve been walking for 41 years. The breathing can still be an issue. But I’m now able to run longer and walk much less.

I never started running because of a big health goal or to run a marathon. But I love that my body feels like it moves easier and my heart rate drops down to normal much faster than previously. My mind feels clearer when I’m outside in nature (even in the humidity). And in a surprising twist, I actually feel anxious when I haven’t run for a few days.

But most of all, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve consistently stayed with running for an entire year. And I’m happy that the sad girl who could barely handle running in school is finally getting the chance to prove that she is, in fact, physically capable of conquering the mile.

Celebrate Fall with Apple Desserts

September 27, 2017

Fall is my favorite season — apples, pumpkins, falling leaves, cooler weather, sweaters, boots, and warm scented candles. Now that we’re in Indiana, I can actually enjoy these seasonal hallmarks. In the spirit of fall, I’ve rounded up my favorite apple dessert recipes for you to enjoy.

apple desserts collage

Apple Butter Jam apple butter jam1

My Grandmother’s Apple Cake apple cake1

Honey Apple Cake apple cake with writing

Do you have a favorite apple dessert recipe?


Summer Bucket List: How Did We Do?

September 14, 2017

We’re well into September at this point, which means summer 2017 is officially in the books. I’d say we had a pretty nice first summer in Indiana. And we made pretty good progress on the summer bucket list, with only three items remaining.

Here’s a look at some of our summer fun.

We picked strawberries, and some fresh veggies.

Spent a lot of time swimming.

Caught fireflies for the first time.

Sophie went to Girl Scout camp, as well as some local arts camps.

Even I got into the camp spirit.

We watched the sunsets and explored the outdoors.

Hosted a lemonade stand as part of Lemonade Day 2017. These two girls raised more than $100 and donated it all to a local non-profit that helps college students in need.

We took in a few outdoor concerts.

Celebrated the Fourth of July by going to the parade, enjoying barbecue and watching fireworks.

Had a backyard camp out. Well, Sophie and Bryan had the camp out. I took photos, joined them for dinner and slept inside.

Went to the county fair.

Went to the sunflower maze.

Painted rocks and hid a few in town.

Sophie enjoyed some cousin time when my brother-in-law and two nephews paid us a visit before going to the eclipse.

Sophie and I eagerly awaited the eclipse, which would have brought 94 percent coverage in Terre Haute — that is if the clouds hadn’t rolled in five minutes before the eclipse time. It was still pretty neat to see nature think it was dusk though.

We visited family in San Diego and had some cousin time.

And before we knew it, back to school time had arrived. It was a fantastic summer!

My Top 100 Favorite Songs and the Power of Music

August 31, 2017

I recently set out to create a list of my top 100 favorite songs. This was NOT an easy task.

At first I thought, “100 songs? I can probably come up with maybe 50.”

But as I began filling up the list, my thoughts changed to, “How the heck can I narrow it down to only 100?!”

I went back and forth, debating whether I had too many songs from my favorite artists (Dawes, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Eagles), and stressing about whom I was missing on such a critical list. I added and deleted, and then deleted and added more. I was still playing with the list up until the moment I hit “publish” on this post.

My taste in music is not typical for someone whose formative years were the 1980s and 90s. I guess I’d consider my favorites genres in the realm of folk rock, indie rock, country, and the Laurel Canyon – 1970s singer/songwriter era. I often wonder if I was born in the wrong decade when it comes to music.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the groundbreaking songs and musicians of 1980s pop, New Wave, rap and hip hop. But you won’t find much of that on my top 100 list because those are not the songs that resonate with me. Now if I was making a list of the most influential and groundbreaking songs in music, that would be a different story entirely.

So after much deliberation and still some uncertainty, I managed to collect 100 songs that I could listen to over and over again.


As I was creating this list, I realized even more what an incredibly powerful force music is in life and how many memories (both good and bad) are associated with song.

I remember my college friend, Aimee, frantically telling me I had to listen to this song “Ironic” that she recorded off the radio and on a cassette tape. “Oh my gosh,” she said in hysterics. “This is EXACTLY how I feel!” That was 22 years ago, but it feels like last week.

I’m reminded of the time my friend, Becky, and I went to see the Foo Fighters play at a little club in San Diego, back when nobody knew who this band was. The club was nearly empty and very few people even knew the drummer from Nirvana was in this band.

I remember walking past the San Diego State Open Air Theatre when I was just starting as a freshman in college, and hearing Tears for Fears play inside.

And even today — 16 years after September 11, 2001 — I cry every time I hear Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Grand Central Station.”


So without further ado, I present my list of top 100 favorite songs. They are in no particular order (that would be a real challenge). And yes, there are repeat artists; but I’m okay with that. These are the songs that describe me best. They are the tapestry of my life.

If for some reason, you cannot access the Spotify playlist, leave me a comment and I’ll work on adding the songs to this post.

What songs would be on your top 100 list? Are any of your favorites on my list?

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