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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?

Welcome to 4th Grade

August 17, 2017

When I sat down to create my annual first day of school photo collage, I realized this was Sophie’s eighth first day of school. While she just started fourth grade, I’ve been documenting her first days since she entered preschool at 2 years old (turning 3)!

I love seeing how she’s grown and her changing style over the years. It may be that nobody cares about Sophie’s first day of school but me (which is fine), but I’ll continue writing these posts so I memorialize the milestones and have the photos in a place other than my computer and the cloud.

I told Sophie that when she starts her freshman year of college in nine years (!!), I hope she’ll take a selfie and send it to me so we keep up the tradition. She laughed at my suggestion, but seeing as how she continues to indulge me in the first day photos, I like to think she’ll comply when the time comes.

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 fourth grader.

We continue to love the bus to and from school, and that it picks up and drops off right at our driveway. I love that the bus driver is waving too.

Sophie’s school has a back-to-school night the evening before school starts so we can meet her teacher and see the classroom. This is nice since there’s really no opportunity for that as the kids either take the bus to school or parents go through a car drop-off line before school.

Here’s hoping 2017-18 will be a great year!

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Painting Rocks and Creating Little Moments That Matter

August 10, 2017

There’s a line of dialogue from the movie “20th Century Women” that struck me when I first heard it, and continues to stay with me today. Annette Bening says to a friend of her teenage son:

“You get to see him out in the world, as a person. I never will.”

I think about this so much as Sophie — who is now a full-fledged tween turning 10 later this year — grows and matures every day. She’s no longer the kid I wrote about last year or even six months ago. She’s becoming her own person, independent and wants to make her own decisions. Her interests have changed. The clothes she picks are trendy. She likes pop music, watches YouTube and creates videos. Even the things she recently loved doing — like playing at the park — are not as fun to her as FaceTiming her friends.

This is all normal of course, and part of growing up. But as a parent, it’s a strange thing to observe — your own kid changing before your eyes; becoming her own person, independent from me. And that’s when I think about Annette Bening’s line and I realize I won’t see her as a person in the world without the lens of mom. And it makes me a little sad.

I wonder if we’ll continue to bond. How will our relationship change? How can I foster her independence while also staying close? Will I be a good mom as she gets older? I worry she won’t want to spend time with me, or do the little things and partake in traditions we always did.

So last Sunday afternoon when we had some free time, I told Sophie we were going to work on a summer list activity: paint rocks. After a few heavy sighs from Sophie and exasperation she wasn’t going to use the iPad, she went into the backyard to gather rocks while I set up the paint and brushes on the kitchen table.

And then we sat together and painted colorful rocks with designs that ranged from rainbows to mountains, and a mushroom house to a Bacon Man (Sophie’s creation). We painted and talked and laughed, and listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter. And when we finished we had a pile of beautifully-designed rocks, and feelings of happiness.

Sophie may be growing up and not wanting to spend time with me in the same way as before. But it’s moments like this I try to hold on to as they occur. She still asks (almost daily), “Which rock is your favorite?” (hers is Bacon Man, of course!). I like to think the time meant something to her, too.

The idea behind the painted rocks is to hide them in neighborhood parks for others to discover. We’ve hidden three so far, and plan to hide more. But for now, the rocks sit on the center of our kitchen table — a lovely reminder of a bonding moment between mom and daughter. I’ll take it!











Currently I’m … Giving You a “Catch-up on Life” Update

August 4, 2017

I sat down to write a blog post and realized I haven’t written a post in more than a month. So before I dive into a more traditional post, I wrote a catch-up post on what I’ve been doing lately.

Doing …

We’ve been enjoying summer and checking off items on the annual summer bucket list. Even though Sophie starts back to school next week, I still consider summer to be in full force until after Labor Day weekend. I’ll have a full post about how we did on the summer list with photos come then.

We’ve been trying to get outside as much as possible — swimming, walking and going to the park. Terre Haute has had a relatively mild summer; not quite as hot and humid as last year. We went to San Diego for a week to visit my family. Ironically it was more humid the week we were in San Diego than it has been here in Indiana.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing the last few months (clearly not on this blog). I’m excited to write regularly for two local magazines, and I’m writing several stories about life in Indiana for national publications. Stay tuned for an update on that project later.

Inspired by …

I had the pleasure of interviewing two inspiring Indiana State University graduates who started a loaded French fry food truck and ended up solving a big problem for college students in Terre Haute. I’m excited The Good Men Project published the piece, and you can read it here: College Entrepreneurs Open a Food Truck and Solve a Problem in Small Town America. One of the reasons I love Terre Haute is discovering the hidden gem stories to tell, like this one. Would love it if you check it out!

Thinking About …

Fall! I know it’s just the beginning August, but I’m already excited for the return of autumn. I started when we bought back-to-school supplies last week since Sophie starts school next week. And then I was seduced by the autumnal candle sale at Bath and Body Works. Although I refuse to burn my candle haul until September, smelling them scents make me long for the end of the month.

And of course, fall television premieres is always a good thing since I’m running out of shows to watch (see the next section of this post). And maybe it’s the “cooler-ish” weather we’ve been experiencing, but I just can’t wait for the leaves to change color and to physically and environmentally experience my favorite season.

Watching …

Oh television, how I love thee! The big hit recently was finishing “The Wire.” I never watched the show when it was on HBO in the early 2000s. I really liked the show, and can see why it’s become so acclaimed over the years. I’m already longing for the return of “Better Call Saul.” The thought of waiting almost nine months for season four makes me sad.

We are enjoying “Ozark” on Netflix. Already looking forward to season two. And I’m liking “American Crime,” which I’m watching for the first time.

I watched season one of “The Leftovers” and “Fargo.” Both were good, but not sure how much more I’ll go with “Fargo.” Just not sure if it’s my thing. So I’m almost out of shows to watch. Recommendations please!

Reading …

I’ve been making progress on my summer reading list. I loved David Carr’s The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His Own, and Joyce Maynard’s Under the Influence.

I also bought two books that were not on my list that: The Velveteen Daughter and Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. Looking forward to starting those after I finish The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit.

Listening to …

Everyone was raving about the S-Town Podcast, so I started listening to that on the airplane ride back to Indiana. It’s pretty fascinating and hooked me in right away. It’s sometimes tough for me to find the time to listen to podcasts since I’m not in the car nearly as much as I was in San Diego. And when I run and walk the dogs, I prefer music. But when I do listen, I’m loving the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, and her sister’s new podcast, Happier in Hollywood.

Eating/Drinking …

I just made a batch of my Creamy Tomato Soup using tomatoes I picked from The Pickery, a certified organic u-pick vegetable garden here in Terre Haute. It was – quite honestly – the best batch of tomato soup I’ve ever made. I shared the soup recipe and wrote about the origins of our traditional Sunday dinner in a local magazine. Read the recipe and story here.

What’s currently going on in your life these days? Got television, books or podcast recommendations?









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