Because it wasn’t the easiest of days

I’m starting back to school this week. Our first teacher day was today- and my brain was not ready for the early alarm. I made it into school though- coffee and laptop, ready to go!

It’s not going to be an easy year, to say the least. The day was filled with a lot of “can’t”s- students can’t… teachers can’t… we can’t… and as a teacher of 20 years, I’ve had a lot of times that have been (get read for that word) unprecedented – 9/11, active shooter drills (and training- which is even more horrifying). However, this time- this issue is the most unprecedented of the unprecedenteds.

Even so- that actually wasn’t the most difficult issue of the day.

One of our beloved custodians, who has been at the school longer than I have (I’ve been there 17 years), died suddenly last night. We were told at the beginning of the staff meeting- and the next hour or so was a blur.

I didn’t know this man extremely well because he worked in a different part of the building, but I worked with his wife (who had been a custodian at the high school) for about 15 years. Over and over in my mind, all I could think about was how is she going to survive this?

And then— as I do— I spiraled to all of the losses that we (the school) have had over the last several years, and it became very overwhelming. I sat there, in my mask, and tried not to cry, hyperventilate, not to stand up and scream at everyone worried about scented hand sanitizer!

So I came home to my son.

And I hugged him. And giggled with him. And told him about Mark- who he vaguely remembered from times he toddled around school with me in the summers. We talked and ate dinner. When he went outside to skate, and my mood started to fall again, I went out to my flowerbeds.

My sunflowers are huge now- getting ready to bloom. And as I walked along the house and gazed on the beauty of nature, my heart began to lift.

The tallest two are taller than me… I know that’s not saying much, but still.
Almost ready to bud

There is something intensely therapeutic about nature doing its thing. Flowers blooming, tree branches reaching toward the sky. I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, but it fills me.

Tomorrow I go back to meetings. And I will think of my friend and her loss, I know. But I hope too, that I can focus on the life going on in front of me so that I don’t begin to sink under the weight of my thoughts. I want to reach up in hope, like the strong stems of the sunflower, and catch as much of the sun as I can.

The petunias and geraniums in my grill planter also looked very cheery tonight.

Lands of Lincoln pt 2 (southern Indiana)

Three states get to claim Lincoln as their “son.” Kentucky gets bragging rights because he was born there. Indiana gets bragging rights because he lived there for a few years when he was a boy. And Illinois (the self-proclaimed ‘Land of Lincoln’) gets the biggest claim of all because he lived there for most of his life.

Several posts ago, I mentioned going to Lincoln’s Birthplace National Monument in Kentucky. Today’s post will be about the next leg in the Lincoln journey – southern Indiana.

Being one of (at the time) only two National Historic Sites in Indiana, we of course had to go the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in the aptly named Lincoln City, Indiana.  After leaving the George Roger’s Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana, we headed south east. About an hour and a half into the trip we stopped for gas and I realized that I’d left my wallet at the George Roger’s Clark Memorial when we purchased our Christmas ornament (our classic souvenir for trips). So…. luckily I had enough gas to get back to Vincennes to retrieve my wallet.

Ugh — adventures can be a challenge… and I have a bit of a habit losing my wallet on trips (I also accidentally threw my wallet away on the way to the Smokey Mountains once… that was fun). However, despite our setback, we headed back in the direction of Lincoln City and went to the National Park.

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View of the museum from the flagpole (pictured below)

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Closer view of museum

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Looking out from the museum

The site is beautiful! There is a small museum, but the majority of the sights are outdoors. There is a lovely hike you can take that shows you various milestones in Lincoln’s life — it’s called “The Trail of 12 Stones.”

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Tombstone of Lincoln’s mother

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The “ninth stone” on the trail – taken from where Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address

Along the trail is also a living history museum of a replica of how the Lincolns would have lived in the early 1800s.

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That’s a real sheep, folks!

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They wanted to come home with us, but we didn’t have enough room in the car.

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The living room/kitchen – Gabriel couldn’t get over that the ceilings were so low. “Wasn’t President Lincoln really tall, mom?”

The whole experience there was wonderful. I’d really love to back again. The rangers are the museum were amazing. I didn’t realize that there was a fee to get in (only $5) and they only took cash for the fees. However, they let us in anyway without seeming put out at all. When we got home a few days later, we wrote them a very nice card and included a donation because of their generosity to us.

The most wonderful part about the Junior Ranger program that I’ve mentioned several times in this blog is how excited the rangers are to interact with the kids. We have been to almost to twenty sites operated by the National Park Service and without exception, every single one of them have been eager to talk with Gabriel, show him around and talk about the history and science behind the various places.

At Lincoln Boyhood the two rangers actually argued over who would get to swear Gabriel in as a Junior Ranger! In the end the settled on letting the intern do it since she had never sworn in a Junior Ranger before. It was so cute to watch her get excited about it!

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Our time at Lincoln Boyhood was wonderful! I also recommend stopping by Santa Claus, Indiana which is very close to Lincoln City. In Santa Claus it is Christmas all year round! Even in the June heat!

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We stayed at the luxurious Motel 6 in Dale, Indiana (that’s sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). It wasn’t much to speak of, but it was cheap and clean and had a pool! That was all Gabriel cared about! 🙂

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Dale, Indiana is a very cute little town that has TONS of “mom and pop” restaurants.

Thanks for reading about our adventures in one of the Lands of Lincoln!

Exploring Around Home Before it was Cool

The way things are in the world right now, I think it is fairly common for people to be exploring around their own areas since distance travel is inadvisable or even impossible. However, that was not the reason my son and I traveled around to some of the National Park Service areas in Indiana way back in 2013.

At the time my son was mildly… no, let’s be straight with each other… he was completely obsessed with being a Junior Ranger – going to the different sites operated by the National Park Service and getting a badge. He became very discouraged when he found out that many of them were very far away, and it would take us quite some time to save up the money to go to Mesa Verde in Colorado. To him it was as easy as jumping in an airplane, but for a single teacher, the cost of two airline tickets, car rental, food and housing for a trip that (let’s face it) my son might not remember as an adult seemed a little silly.

Consequently we started a bit more locally.  I write about our first trip to St. Louis (here), and then we went on to Kentucky (here and here). After our big trip with my parents to the Grand Canyon (here), we decided to keep it local, and sure enough… there were three sites operated by the National Park Service in Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Shoreline (which is now officially a “park”), George Rogers Clark National Monument, and Lincoln’s Boyhood Home.

The Dunes are way up at Lake Michigan, but the other two parks, were relatively close (by midwestern standards), so we decided to do a quick long weekend there over fall break.

Our first stop was in Vincennes, Indiana to learn about George Rogers Clark!

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The memorial looking south (the Wabash River is just to the west out of frame)

The outside of the memorial is relatively simple, but very beautiful. It was constructed on the site of Fort Sackville, where Clark (at age 25) lead American forces to capture the fort and claim the area for the Americans.

Inside the memorial is a large statue of Clark in his military regalia.

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The statue stands in the center of a rotunda

Around the statue are seven paintings that depict the taking of the fort and the aftermath of that venture.

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Clark (white horse) leading militia men

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Clark offering an alliance with the Native Americans 

The history behind this second painting is quite interesting – the Native Americans had forged an alliance with the British military, but Clark went to several tribes without guns and severely out-manned to offer peace. The Native American chiefs were impressed with his bravery and accepted the white sash of peace (not the red sash of war).

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Clark and his men crossing the Wabash River (in the winter) to surprise the British

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The taking of the fort

Clark was a crafty leader. He had a small number helping him, but he told his men to fire as rapidly as possible and to make a lot of noise so it sounded like there were more of them. He also had sharp shooters fire at the cannon holes in the fort walls so that they could not fire the cannons.

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The surrender

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Winthrop Sargent reading the ordinance dividing the northwest territory into Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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The last painting is of the founding of St. Louis – without Clark this exploration would not have been possible. 

Clark and his men helped the American cause – and that is why he is honored in Vincennes, Indiana.

A quote around the rotunda reads:

“Great things have been affected by a few men well conducted.” – George Rogers Clark in a letter to Patrick Henry

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Facing north while standing on the monument steps

Tune in later this week for more about our adventures in southern Indiana!

The Way Back

After several days in Arizona, we were finally headed back to Las Vegas to fly home. The flight from Vegas was much cheaper than Phoenix, but it required a much longer drive. However, there was the up-side that we could stop by the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.

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We didn’t have a ton of time, so we didn’t go into the museum because there was an entrance fee and we knew that it really wouldn’t be worth it for the amount of time we could spend there. However, if you have time, I’m sure the museum is quite lovely.

We did spend a little walking around and looking at what we could. Gabriel had lots of questions and my dad spent some time explaining a few things about the impressive structure in a way that my young son at least pretended to understand.

For those of you who don’t know about Hoover Dam, I’ll help explain some of the history to you.

The construction of the dam was of such a magnitude that nothing like it had ever been done. Over 100 people died during the construction, and it took only five years to complete it (two years ahead of schedule).

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Statue commemorating the lives of the builders – you can see the bypass behind it

The dam was originally called the Boulder Dam because it was proposed to build it in Boulder Canyon (it was then actually built in Black Canyon). There was talk about naming after President Hoover (the sitting President at the time); however, he was not a “favorite” President… what with the Great Depression and all that. Consequently for a while people called it both until the 1940s when it was approved to officially name it Hoover Dam despite the running joke that it might leave the country high and dry like its namesake.

The reason the dam was built was for hydroelectric power, as well as for irrigation to the surrounding area. Another interesting fact  is that until 2010 you could drive over it on your way out of Vegas until they built the bypass. The bypass led to a much more direct path across the Colorado River. Looking at it from the air, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

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Though we were a bit disappointed in not being able to go into the museum, we were very ready to start the final leg of our trip home to Indiana.

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Hoover Dam Bypass – officially called “Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge”– you know, because that’s easier to remember

Next week we’ll take a break from my adventures with my son and I’ll tell you about my road trip to the American West (at least west of Indiana).


If this is your first time to the blog – check out my other adventures as a single mom with my son!

St. Louis, Missouri
Kid-venture 2: Mammoth Cave
Scotland in Kentucky?
The Grand Canyon Adventure Begins
An Acrophobic’s Grand Canyon Experience
Driving around the Grand Canyon (Day 3)
There’s more than a canyon in Arizona!

I am She-ra!

Those who know me know that I am not known for my great home improvement projects. I am very good at making plans for things that I want to do, but whether it is travel, tattoos, or emergency necessities, there are always other things I find to do with my teaching salary than actually putting my plans to fruition. 

Like many people around the world, however, I found myself unable to travel, get tattoos, or go much of anywhere for an emergency to arrive due to the state of… things. Again, like many others, I decided to try some of the projects I’d always contemplated, but never had the time/energy/inclination to start. 

Last week I showed off my project of transforming a rusted out grill into a flower planter. You can read about that here if you haven’t already looked at that blog. I’ve also taken up landscaping and gardening in a way that I’ve never attempted before. A blog about that is coming, but I’m waiting until my sunflowers have blooms on them for that post! 🙂 

As for this blog: for about the last month, I’ve been very slowly starting to update my kitchen. I’d seen a former student transform her kitchen in a very inexpensive way by painting her cabinets. After a few conversations with her about tips and tricks, I landed on a really cool paint company, and a way to make my kitchen look updated for very minimal costs. 

Here is the “before” picture that I didn’t think to take until I’d already taken off a few cabinet doors. 🙂 I built this house with my (then) husband, and these were the cabinets were one step up from the particle board that came as the default through the builder. We built the house in 2003, so the cabinets are pretty outdated and had NEVER been cleaned, because that’s not a thing I think about. 

After looking talking with my former student Emily, I landed on the the Heirloom Traditions Paint company (I am not being compensated for mentioning them). The draw to this paint was their claim that there is no need to sand or prime your surfaces. 

In full disclosure, I was incredibly skeptic of this claim, but Emily had done her kitchen a few years before and still sang its praises, and I read several reviews online that nearly universally praised the paint for fulfilling its promise of no sand/no prime. By signing up to join their Facebook group I got a “free” sample of paint (pay shipping). So I ordered that, and began my project.

With the sample I painted one section of cabinet (and the doors). After waiting for it to fully cure, I was still satisfied with their promises and I went ahead and ordered the rest of the paint and got back to work!

My dearest friend, Clarissa, came over one Saturday afternoon, and together we painted the rest of the mounted part of the cabinets and did the first coat on all of the doors. I have a pretty small kitchen, but the two of us got the majority of the work done in just a few hours. 

Two coats on cabinets:

Another thing I had to do was to paint the hinges. Originally brushed brass, I wanted them to be black to provide a stronger contrast to the light doors. One of my biggest suggestions for future cabinet painters (that I received from a cabinet painter) was to label my hinges. Because the hinges over time can wear into the door, different hinges may not fit “just right” when you go to re-hang them. 

I went super high-tech and used post-it notes:

I sprayed the hinges with Rust-Oluem black. I let them cure for a full week before attempting to hang the doors back up just to make sure that the black wouldn’t rub off on the light grey doors. Make sure to clean your hinges really well, and it wouldn’t hurt to rub some sandpaper lightly over them just because of the oil that coats them. I had to re-spray one of the hinges because the paint didn’t stick.

I started the project (with the sample jar) on June 11th and finished it up the evening of June 29th. I worked slowly and had to order paint a couple of times and then wait until it came in. Also, other than the day Clarissa came over, I’d only worked for one or two hours at a time. If you had all your materials and a lot of drive, you could easily finish the project in a long weekend — just paint your doors and your hinges first to allow them to cure longer.

Next I need to make a decision on the countertops… maybe during the next pandemic!