Category Archives: nostalgia

Throwback Thursday: Best friend time

Buldog side viewI write about my friends a lot. I can’t help it. They are the most amazing people in the world. They are my family and I cannot imagine my world without them. Unfortunately, the years have scattered us across the country. Of our core group of 5, only one of them still lives near me. One spends a great deal of his time hiking in Colorado, one is trying to uncover the seedy underbelly of cyber security in DC and one is teaching Victorian sci-fi and horror in Georgia.

This summer my best friend and I got to spend four days bumming around DC with our reporter friend. It was amazing since it was the first time I’ve gotten to visit him in his new hometown (and it’s been his hometown for over a decade…yeah, I know, bad friend).

Last month, we all got together for another for another glorious four days in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. We rented a beach house, stayed up late, went on ghost tours and generally had a blast.

Then, just last week I got to spend part of my fall break visiting with my best friend in Georgia. Sure, she still had classes to teach, but in between those classes, we got to hang out at the coffee shop, go shopping, take my kids on adventures, eat a lot of super tasty food AND, most importantly, watch our favorite girly movies and talk, talk, talk.

One of our very first stops was Jittery Joe’s, a local coffee chain that has 16 locations: Nine are in Athens, four are in other towns in Georgia, one is in Tennessee and very unpredictably, one is in Japan. Athens actually has a surprising number of local, sort of chain restaurants, which I think is cool.

Jittery Joe'sWhen my best friend used to live around the corner from me, we spent countless hours at our favorite local coffee shop. Although neither of us are huge coffee fans, if we tried to count up all the spiced chais we drank over long talks about every aspect of our life, we could probably fill a swimming pool..and I’m not talking about a dinky backyard pool either. Because my best friend lived right around the corner and our local coffee shop was just right around another corner, my kids practically grew up there. In fact, they are friends with the owners’ kids, so they always loved going to the coffee shop with us. They’d bring books or electronic devices, share a cookie and let us talk for hours.

At Jittery Joe’s, we all fell right back into our old habits. Well, almost. The barista accidentally made a pumpkin spice latte and offered it to me for free, which replaced my usual chai. I also had to change out my usual cookie for a chocolate croissant. JJ’s has cookies, but they are flat and sort of hard. On my very first trip to Athens, my BFF warned me not to be fooled by the cookies because I would be horribly disappointed. As we share nearly identical sweet teeth, I trusted her. Thankfully JJ’s does have some good brownies, muffins and some passable croissants. The kids were happy playing their devices and I was thrilled to get some major best friend time in.

When my BFF was not teaching and we were not hanging out with my kids, we got more quality time in watching (and partially talking through) some of our favorite shows and movies. After my kids go to bed, we have a habit of putting a show we both love and have seen 100 times like Friends on in the background. We usually start off watching the show, but then start talking. Before we know it, three or four episodes have gone by with us only catching about half of what is going on, but not even remotely caring. We also like to hang out, browse the internet and read fun bits of information to each other. On our last visit together (when she came to see me before DC), we spent several hours reading hilarious book summaries and reviews to each other on Amazon. Yeah, I know, we are total geeks, but we both teach literature for a living, so this is big fun for us.

We also continued our tradition of watching movies our husbands don’t really enjoy. We re-watched Bride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. We broke out into songs in several places and debated the hotness of William Darcy (played by Martin Henderson) and Balraj (played by Naveen Andrews). It was a hard call, but in most scenes we went for Andrews. Of course, that could be because of our undying love for his character Sayid from Lost. While the movie was playing I found myself looking up the actors to see what else they’d been in. When we found out Henderson had played Brittany Spears boyfriend in her “Toxic” video, we had to watch that as well.

My Cousin Rachel was also on our to view list. Neither of us had seen it before, but she’d read the Daphne du Maurier novel it is based on and really liked it. We both really liked the movie and it lead to a great debate about our thoughts on Rachel’s guilt. One thing I desperately miss about my BFF living 10 hours away is our discussions about movies, books and TV shows.

On my last night in Athens, we also kept up a long standing tradition of watching a Mystery Science Theater production. Every Friday her husband makes popcorn and they watch either a Rifftrax or an MST3K. This time it was The Final Sacrifice. Like all movies featured on MST3K, it was horrific, but the jokes of Mike Nelson and his robot pals made it a wonderful, laugh out loud night. I love watching one of these movies the night before I leave because it makes the leaving just a tiny bit easier. Or at least it distracts me from it.

Junkman'sThis trip we did not get to do nearly as much shopping as I’d like. We weren’t able to get a babysitter and since dragging my kids clothing shopping is worse than a root canal (or so I’m told, I’ve never had one, but my BFF assures me, having done both, that this is true), we only got to pop into one store. Usually we get a few hours to shop all our favorite places in downtown Athens and I go home with an outfit (or two) more than I arrived with. My BFF is the best person in the world to go shopping with. She gives me an honest opinion every time and encourages me to indulge, which is something I rarely do. I, on the other hand, keep her desire to spend too recklessly in check. We perfectly balance each other out. Plus, we have a lot of similar taste in clothes. Since there was no way we’d be able to enjoy clothing shopping together, the only store we got to go in is the Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, a really strange and eclectic Athens institution. My kids love going in there because they have lots of unique items (and TOYS!). I love it for the same reason. The owner seemed really keen on showing us all the anti-Trump merchandise that had come in. I cackled a bit when he said the only good thing about Trump being elected was all the anti-Trump merch he was able to sell. I told him I was glad Trump was making someone happy.

As usual, the visit was over way too soon. It seemed like before I could blink it was time to load my car back up and head back home. My kids and I left at 7:30 in the morning and there were tears all around. My kids were crying because they were going to miss my BFF (and her amazing dog) so much. My BFF and I were sobbing because it will be five more months until we see each other again.

We’d gotten a bit spoiled seeing each other three times in the as many months and this stretch is going to be hard. Even though I know I will see her again on spring break and we will have an amazing time, it was just as hard to leave her on Saturday as it was the first time I pulled away from her house four years ago. She is my family and without her, home just doesn’t seem quite like home.

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Throwback Thursday: Friendcations

IoPI recently returned from a glorious and much needed friendcation at the Isle of Palms, South Carolina. For those of you who don’t understand my completely made up word, a friendcation is a vacation taken by a group of amazingly close best friends who, thanks to the cruel hands of time and career, have been flung all over the country and rarely get to see each other.

My particular group of best friends found each other in college. We all met in various ways during our freshmen year of college and quickly became inseparable. The core group of us are all from more than slightly dysfunctional families (and all but one of us have divorced parents). We went to college seeking knowledge, but it turns out we were looking for a bit more. We were looking for family.

And that’s exactly what we found. I have lived every significant event in my life with these people. I’ve also lived most of the very insignificant ones with them. At several times in my life, I think they are the only reason I kept going. I know with absolute certainty that I would not be who I am today without them. I also know that I cannot begin to thank them for all they’ve done for me or to express to them just how much I love them. But luckily, I know I’ll never have to. They already know. It’s part of what makes us, us.

Not only are we close emotionally, but for most of our adult lives, we’ve lived close to each other as well. Up until 4 years ago when she finally landed her dream job as a professor of literature at a wonderful university, my best friend in the entire universe lived right around the corner from me. Not long before then, another one of my besties and his girlfriend moved out to Arizona (and then Colorado) so that she could pursue her dream of getting her PhD in psychology. The third in our group actually moved away much earlier to pursue a career in political journalism in Washington, DC, but since he still has family in the state, we saw him a few times a year.

As of now, there are only two of us still in Indiana and it breaks my heart on a regular basis.

Thankfully, two years ago my Colorado bestie and his girlfriend decided to get hitched. Rather than have some crazy elaborate wedding with hundreds of guests, they invited only their closest friends and family members for four days of merry making and celebrating. We all jumped on planes and piled into the biggest, nicest vacation home I’ve ever stepped foot in for one of the best long weekends of my life. Not only did I have the honor of seeing two people I love very much vow to love each other forever (in a gorgeous lake side ceremony in the mountains), but I got to spend 4 solid days with the people I love most in this world (well, at least outside of my immediate family).

Over the course of those four days we tried to escape from a Phantom of the Opera-themed escape room, went on the best scavenger hunt ever, saw a fantastic burlesque show, played drunken Street Fighter at a video game bar, ate a ton of amazing food, helped prepare a few million pounds of food with very dull knives, had drinks at a super swanky bar I do not think we belonged in, played trivia, partied until hours of the morning I’d forgotten existed outside of shoving a bottle into a baby’s mouth, had some funky eggs benedict (my favorite breakfast food) at a super groovy brunch place, and ya know, went to a wedding.

It was so fantastic that we all decided we had to do it again.

DestinSo last year, right smack in the middle of September, my best friends and my Colorado besty’s wife’s best friends found ourselves barreling toward Destin, Florida. Once again we rented a HUGE house. This time it had not only a hot tub, but also a pool. The weather was gorgeous and we spent four days playing on the beach, swimming, hot tubbing, racing go-karts, chasing each other on water bumper boats, eating amazing food, playing D&D (did I mention we are all geeks to the core?), singing karaoke, and biking around town. It was amazing.

When it was time to get back in the car and drive home, I didn’t want to. I knew that the second the car pulled away I would start missing them all so much. And I did.

I went back to work the next day and thankfully it was a silent reading day in two of my classes (the entire period isn’t silent reading, just 25 minutes). I’d just started a new book called Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. I didn’t really know anything about the book, but I loved the cover. It turns out that in many cases you can judge a book by its cover. In the first few pages of the book I knew I’d found the perfect book for me. The book centers on four best friends who met in college. Four friends who became family and still lived near each other, supporting each other through everything. I swear Jansma wrote this book about my friends.

As soon as silent reading time was over and my students started journaling, I logged onto my personal email (something I rarely do at school) and sent my friends a message containing a quote from page 5 that perfectly described us: “Sometimes we missed those who hadn’t come to the city with us–or those who had gone to other, different cities. Sometimes we journeyed to see them, and sometimes they ventured to see us. Those were the best of times, for we were all at home and not at once. Those were the worst of times, for we inevitably longed to all move here or there, yet no one ever came–somehow only left. Soon we were practically alone.”

It was like Jansma knew us. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

This year, we once again got to take our friendcation. This time, we landed in Isle of Palms, SC. We all stayed in the beach house my sister-in-law owns. Although it lacks a private pool, it is right next to the ocean, so we still managed to have lots of fun. We explored downtown Charleston, went on a ghost tour, tried out a gastro pub, played D&D again, sipped super fancy beers in a roof top bar that one of my friends joked we were not young or pretty enough to be in before leaving to go to a complete dive bar where we were definitely the best looking people, and sang karaoke. Most importantly, we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and laughing and having the most fun in the world together. One of the best parts is that I actually flew into Atlanta so that I could ride to SC with my best friend, her husband and our wonderful reporter friend, which meant a full day of very exhausting traveling, but one spent with the best people.

On the way to the airport, we started making plans for next year. We all want to see the Big Easy, so I hope we can make it happen. I know that no matter what is going on in my life, I will make this next trip a priority. I miss my people too much not to.

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Throwback Thursday: Ghost tours

full graveyardI am a sucker for a ghost tour. Not because I believe I’m going to see any ghosts on the tour, but rather because I like exploring new cities after dark and hearing all the sordid tales that live below ground and don’t get told during the nice orderly guided tours through museums and official buildings. I like hearing the hidden history of places almost as much as I like the fact that ghost tours are almost always walking tours that let me explore parts of the city I might otherwise have glanced over or missed entirely.

I was introduced to my first ghost tour when I took a group of high school students to London. As part of a lovely tradition called May Term, students finished their finals in mid-May and spent the last two weeks of the year taking mini-seminar courses over topics ranging from the films of Alfred Hitchcock to orienteering to Asian literature. These courses, which ranged from 2-6 hours a day, gave students a chance for intensive study, often in a very hands-on way. During my 6 years at that wonderful school, I got to lead two May Term courses on trips to England.

It was during the second trip (which my best friend got to go on with me) that we all decided to take both a Jack the Ripper tour and a Haunted London tour. Both tours took place just as twilight was setting in. Even though we saw no ghosts (not that I thought we would), as we moved through crooked cobblestone streets and dark alleyways, I found myself giving into the “spook” and having a great time. There may not have been any jump scares, but picturing myself in Victorian England with the Ripper on the loose was fun. Our guides were very entertaining and could really spin a good yarn.

A few years later, I got another taste of ghost tours when I lived in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. I lived on historic St. George street, right next to the St. Francis Inn, which is one of the oldest inns in the country. St. George street is a mess of  brick road that is always filled with either tourists or horse drawn carriages. I can count the number of times I was able to turn onto the street and make it all the way to my apartment without getting stuck behind a carriage on one hand.

Although the carriages drove me absolutely bonkers, living in the heart of such a historic city, especially one with so many fun tourist attractions did guarantee there was always something to do, especially during the summer. While I never went on an official ghost tour while I lived there, many nights as my husband and I were walking back to our apartment after getting some ice cream at Kilwin’s or having dinner at The Columbia Restaurant, we would find ourselves walking behind one of the many ghost tours that haunted our street. It was impossible not to get caught up in some of the tales.

While leading students on another trip, this time to Scotland in 2015, our guide offered us a chance to go on a haunted catacomb tour. The stories weren’t really that creepy, but being down in the catacombs had its eerie moments. Especially while our local guide was telling us the story of a young boy who had perished in the tiny room we were all scrunched into (it was lit by a single candle). It wasn’t the story that made me jump and scream. It was the ginormous football player I’d brought on the trip who had snuck up behind me and grabbed my leg during the story that had me wanting out of that room.

All in all, my experience with ghost tours, while not even remotely spiritual, have been pretty darn fun.

small graveSo, when 9 of my dearest, if not geographically nearest, friends and I got together for a vacation in Charleston, SC a week ago and they asked what there was to do in the area (I’m the “expert” as I visit Charleston every year), one of my first thoughts was ghost tour. Since everyone was pretty keen on the idea, another friend found a tour company, bought tickets and we were on our way.

Unfortunately, since several people also wanted to visit a gastro pub and spend the night on the town, she booked us on the 6 pm tour. Even in September, 6 pm is not only well before the witching hour, but also well before it even gets dark. Unbeknownst to her, it was also the family friendly version of the tour. Our haunted look at Charleston, which our guide kept reminding us didn’t necessitate going into actual graveyards since the entire city is basically built on top of a graveyard, was not exactly spookified.

Even though the tour wasn’t even remotely scary, our guide was charming and had some great historical information to give. Unfortunately for him, he had a group of English majors, one of whom has her PhD in Victorian literature, so his story claiming that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Annabelle Lee based on his romance with a young Charleston girl (who supposedly still haunts the house they courted at), did not fly. And since we are such big geeks, we spent quite a bit of time after the tour looking up “facts” he gave us. Turns out a lot of them were sketchy at best.

Still, he did take us into a really cool graveyard at the Circular Congregationalist Church, which is the city’s oldest burial ground. He wasn’t supposed to. Apparently only one tour company has permission to give tours in said graveyard. But we promised to pretend not to know him if anyone questioned us. He told us some great stories in that graveyard and we got to see some super neat old graves, some of them dating back to the late 1690’s. On our way back to the meeting point, he also took us past St. Phillip’s Cemetery where the famous ghost of Sue Howard Hardy was supposedly caught on film mourning over the grave of her son.

While a few of my friends thought the ghost tour was a bust, I had a great time on it. I loved being out, walking the city with my best friends. I may not have been scared and I may not have seen a ghost, but I got to spend time with people I love and that’s all that I really wanted.

 

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Free Reading Friday: El Deafo

El DeafoIf my 100 book reading challenge on Goodreads and my Pop Chart Lab 100 Essential Novels challenge was not enough, I’ve also decided to take on the Pop Sugar reading challenge. Although I didn’t officially jump on board with the Pop Sugar challenge until two weeks ago, I went back through my Goodreads list for this year to see how many categories I could check off the new list.

Thanks to my rather diverse reading habits this year, I already have 80% of the Pop Sugar list done. I was in the school library last week talking to our librarian (who is one of my best friends) about the categories I’d yet to fill. When I mentioned that one of the boxes I had not yet checked off was a book by an author with a disability, she immediately headed for the stacks and came back with El Deafo.

Even though this is a graphic novel, it took me a bit of time to read. It’s a fairly substantial sized graphic novel and while it does not overwhelm the reader with words, the words Bell uses are weighty and really make readers pause to put themselves in her place.

This autobiographical graphic novel is Bell’s story of being born into the hearing world, but losing most of her hearing to meningitis at age 4. The book, which has all the innocence of young childhood, is an amazing look at how hard it would be to find oneself suddenly pitched into silence. And as if that was not hard enough for Bell, growing up in the 1970’s, hearing aid technology was overly clunky and anything but stealthy. So not only did Bell feel isolated from the hearing world due to her disability, but because of the large, bulky hearing aid pack she had to have strapped to her chest so that she could hear her teachers (who were using a microphone connected to it), she was an instant target for speculation and mockery by her peers.

Interestingly, my first year of teaching, I had a student in my 7th grade English class who used a microphone/hearing device. Thanks to the passing of a few decades, all her peers could see were the hearing aids in her ears, but every day during class, I had to wear a rectangular microphone device around my neck. The device, which was about the size of a Galaxy phone, although MUCH thicker, enabled her to hear everything I said in class very clearly. Unfortunately, as one of the science teachers found out, it was powerful enough to also follow teachers out of the room and into the bathroom, where the poor girl then had to listen to her teacher pee. Bell has similar situations with her device and her visual portrayal of it, immediately called to mind the red-faced embarrassment my colleague felt when she realized our student really could hear everything, pretty much all over the school, if it was not turned off. I can only imagine the conversations that young lady heard over the years.

Bell takes readers on a journey through her elementary years, which find her struggling both to find a way to “hear” everyone in her world, but also to make friends. Making friends is hard enough for the new kid in school, which Bell is when her family moves after her kindergarten year. Bell shows readers how those difficulties are compounded for students with disabilities.

However, through it all, Bell shines. Her alternate persona, El Deafo, becomes a superhero sweeping in to save the day. In doing so, she manages to save herself.

A simply wonderful book that I think every teenager (and adult) should read.

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Throwback Thursday: broken bones

gross toeI am 42 years old and I have only ever broken one bone. I’ve had enough sprained ankles for a dozen or so people, but I made it just over 23 years before I broke a bone. And that was only a toe.

I was in my first year of teaching. I was in my bathroom getting ready to chaperone a middle school dance. The upstairs bathroom in my townhouse was rather oddly shaped. There were two doors–one entrance from the master bedroom and one from the hallway right at the top of the stairs. The side closest to the hallway entrance had a single sink. On the other side, just inside the door to the master bedroom was the toilet and the bathtub/shower combination. In between was a linen closet. However, unlike any sensibly built linen closet, this one stuck out just enough from the sink as to make it slightly awkward to maneuver around. I was in a hurry and when I turned to head back to the my bedroom to get dressed, I slammed my second toe right into the wall of the linen closet.

That stream of unexplained profanity you heard in Indiana nearly two decades ago around 6 pm? Yeah, that was me.

In addition to the delightful pain shooting up my entire leg, my toe instantly exploded into a deep purple. I knew it was no good. My ex, who had a bit more experience with broken bones than I did, took one look at it and pronounced it broken.

Seeing as I had a dance to chaperone that there was no way of getting out of, he grabbed the medical tape that my father (a paramedic) had so kindly given us when we’d moved into our new place, and did his best to wrap my toes in a way that, while still excruciatingly painful, at least helped stabilize them. I downed several ibuprofen, got dressed and headed to school.

I spent most of the night sitting in a chair near the door to make sure everyone paid and no one tried to leave before the dance was over. Until that moment I hadn’t realized anything could possibly make a middle school dance more uncomfortable and awkward.

I found myself reflecting on this story Thursday night when I came around the corner in my kitchen and slammed a different toe (my second to pinky) into a metal step stool that one of my kids decided to drag into the kitchen. The stool is just short enough that it was hidden behind the kitchen counter, but one of my children had left it in just the right position so that one of the legs was sticking out just a tiny bit. It was impossible to see and impossible not to run into.

I instantly got a familiar jolt of pain and a horrible shiver that went up my entire leg. This time, since my children were still awake and in the next room, I managed to hold in the curse words. My hope was that I’d just stubbed it, but as the second wave of tingles shot up my leg, I was pretty sure it was broken.

I was surprised when, over an hour later, although it still hurt like the Dickens, it was not turning colors. I figured it must just be a really nasty stub, took some ibuprofen and went to bed.

The next morning, I found the deep purple I’d been expecting. Since it was Friday, I had to hobble to school. Thankfully we have a super fantastic athletic trainer who agreed to take a look at it before school started. He poked and prodded at it, did some sort of tuning fork voodoo on it and proclaimed it not broken…YEAH!

I did, however, severely sprain it and pull the ligaments in it, which explains the pain. He taped it for me and sent me on my way with advice to ice it and re-tape it (he even supplied the tape).

Today it is a little less colorful and a little less painful, but my utter lack of grace is still showing.

Hopefully once this disaster heals it’ll be at least another couple of decades before I do this again!

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Throwback Thursday: The Enchanted Forrest

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I really don’t have many memories of living with both of them. Just some hazy pictures that might not even so much be actual memories as remnants of stories or actual pictures I’ve seen from my earliest years. One very real memory I do have moving from Indiana to California via Amtrak train. It was quite an adventure, which for the most part I enjoyed. I do remember getting some sort of turkey with brown gravy dinner that I thought was disgusting, but other than that, I loved our tiny little sleeper car (which did not seem tiny to me) and watching the country fly by before my eyes.

This trip, while exciting, meant starting a new life in California with my mom, step-dad and little brother. And that meant leaving the rest of my family, including my dad, behind. That part was beyond awful. I spent 46 weeks out of most years with my mom in Southern California, but for 6 glorious weeks every summer, I got to come back home and be with my family.

Those 6 months were, without a doubt, the most exciting of the year. Since my dad got me for such a short amount of time, he made sure not to waste a single second of it. It was 6 weeks spent in an almost non-step quest for fun. Sure, my dad had to work during that time, but he was a paramedic and usually worked a 24 hour shift followed by 2 full days off. That meant that of the 6 weeks I came to visit, he only had to work about 2 of the weeks, plus, he always took off vacation time, so really he only worked a handful of days during my visit.

While we did have “normal” days where we stayed at home, watched TV, played in the yard or ran errands, we had just as many days where we went to parks–both the natural and themed variety. Despite the fact that back in SoCal, I had Disneyland pretty much in my backyard, I LOVED visiting theme parks with my dad and anyone else in the family who wanted to tag along, which usually meant my aunt and grandma.

My favorite destination was definitely Six Flags Great America, just outside of Chicago. Not only was it a day filled with delicious (and completely unhealthy) snacks, rides and tons of souvenir stuffed animals, shirts and knick-knacks, but it also meant a long drive with my family where my dad would tell stories, we’d sing songs and he’d let me hold the money for the toll roads. It was heaven.

As much as I loved Great America, since it was a bit of a drive, we usually only went once each summer. However, that hardly meant only one day of thrill rides for me. Not too far away from my dad’s house there were a couple small, locally owned amusement parks. My favorite was the Enchanted Forrest, located in Porter, Indiana. My aunt and I used to ride the Mad Mouse roller coaster until I had screamed myself hoarse and was ready to puke. As much as the crazy jerks terrified me, I loved it. I also was crazy over the Tilt-a-Whirl. And don’t even get me started on the mini-train that we could ride all around the park.

The Enchanted Forrest actually hosted corporate type events all the time. I remember one time the steel mill my grandpa worked at rented it for the day and we got to go along. Not only did we get to ride all of the rides, but there was a huge company picnic. Another year, my dad’s fire department had an event there and while we didn’t quite have the whole place to ourselves, I felt so important being there with all of the firefighters. The Enchanted Forrest was the first place where I drove a go-kart. It was also where I began my love affair with skee-ball. Since it was located right next to the Indiana Dunes, even when we weren’t going to spend the day there, we drove by it quite often on our way to play at the actual Dunes.

Sadly, it closed in 1991. I had just started high school and was not old enough to drive there to hang out with my friends, but too old to ask my parents to go with me. I did, however, watch as it transitioned into an entirely new theme park: Splash Down Dunes Water Park. I went off to college before it was actually finished, so I never went there. It was odd to watch one of my favorite childhood playgrounds become something so very different.

I only came home for college one summer. Once I returned for the start of my sophomore year, I never lived near the Dunes again. I didn’t even realize that SDD closed in 2009 and then was reopened as Seven Peaks Water Park. I know my aunt still went there with her kids, but out of habit she still called it Dunes water park. Apparently as of June of this year, even it has closed down due to guests getting chemical burns from the water. There are currently no plans to reopen it.

It’s odd to think that a place that has brought so much fun to so many people for almost 60 years is closed. Even though I’m not a huge fan of water parks, I hope that they are able to fix the problem and that it does reopen. Families need places like The Enchanted Forrest and Splash Down Dunes and Seven Peaks Water Park to build those memories.

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Throwback Thursday: The State Fair

poopThe sun is beating down mercilessly. The smell of fried dough and cow manure lingers in the air. The air is filled with the cacophony of thousands of voices and calliope music.

Yes, it is state fair time again!

My dad took me to my first fair when I was about 8 years old. Although we probably had state and even county fairs in Southern California, I’d never heard anyone talk about them and my mom definitely did not take us. Granted, we had two pretty impressive amusement parks practically in our back yard (Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm), and we spent a considerable amount of time there instead. I have always been a HUGE fan of rides and games of chance, so finding out that NW Indiana had rides, even on a small scale was amazing to me.

Every year my grandpa would save up all the aluminum cans he could (my family drank a LOT of soda). When my plane touched down for my annual summer visit with my dad, one of our first stops would be to visit my grandparents. We’d pile in my grandpa’s truck and take the cans to the recycling place. I got to keep every penny so I could spend it on games at the fair. My folks always paid for the rides and the food, but the games were all on me. Well, until I ran out of money anyway. Then, just the right smile could usually get me a few extra dollars.

Although neither my dad nor my step-mom usually rode the rides with me, they never complained when they spent hours waiting at the bottom of rides for me to get off the ride and get right back in line. The Gravitron was a personal favorite, but it made my step-mom absolutely sick. I also really liked The Flying Bobs and the fun houses. If there was a ride, I pretty much went on it. And the games…don’t even get me started with the games.

I cannot even count the number of completely worthless “prizes” I won playing carnival games. Aside from the countless low quality, knock-off stuffed animals that were never comfortable to actually snuggle with, I won several goldfish, plastic blow up toys, small square mirrors with band names and unicorns on them and so many really cool hair clips. Or at least I thought they were hair clips. I could not understand why my mom threw such a fit when I came home with these absolutely beautiful feathered hair clips. While she didn’t make me throw them away, she refused to let me wear them to school and I was ANGRY! It wasn’t until I was a grown adult going to the fair with my friends that someone told me my elegant “hair clips” were really roach clips…which I still didn’t understand as I had no idea that the tiny bit of a joint that was hard to hold by hand was called a roach. In hindsight, I get why my mom was not thrilled with her 10-year-old bringing them home.

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to take our kids to the state fair. We hadn’t taken them since my daughter was still in a stroller, mostly due to the outrageous cost of everything at the fair and the unbearable temperatures in early August. This year, however, we had an absolutely lovely Saturday and I fooled myself into believing that it probably wouldn’t be that expensive.

Boy was I wrong!

This year we managed to snag some free parking, so I was pretty proud of us. And, on our way to buy tickets at the gate, two different groups of people gave us free tickets, so we only had to pay for our kids. Unfortunately, anyone over the age of 5 is $12 a ticket, which meant we dropped $24 before we even entered the fair.

Although I still love rides at amusement parks, there is something about the temporary nature of fair rides and my growing understanding of my own mortality, that makes me steer clear of the rides now. I haven’t been on a ride at a fair since I was a teenager. I also stay away from the games now as I have no need for the chinzy prizes. I prefer to spend my time at the fair looking at the exhibits in the buildings, petting cute animals and tasting yummy, although horribly unhealthy food.

I tried to steer my kids away from the midway, which was not easy. While neither of them were really excited about the rides (my son is kind of chicken), they both really wanted to play the games. My husband and I managed to persuade them that most of the games were rigged and it was next to impossible to win. We almost succeeded, until they saw the duck game in the special kiddie section of the fair and heard the barker cry out “everyone wins!” I forked over $10, my kids reached in, pulled up 3 ducks and *surprise*–each one a prize. I figured my daughter would go for one of the knock off big-eyed Beanie Babies. I don’t know why I was such a fool. My daughter could not possibly want a practical toy like another stuffed animal for her bed. No, both she and my son wanted giant, blow up poop emojis. Yes, that’s right, just like their mother, they won totally useless, rather disgusting prizes. Not only did they carry them around the rest of the fair (which got us all kinds of looks), but they ate their dinners holding on to them AND they made so many poop jokes that I thought I might lose their minds.

One our drive home they even started squabbling about their poops. They’d gotten tossed into the back of the SUV and my son was very worried that my daughter might get his poop instead of her own. This meant that when we got home, he convinced my daughter to let him draw glasses and teeth on her piece of poop so there would be no question about whose poop was whose.

Even though we had a pretty good time at the fair, as a grown up, I now have a very different view of the fair. We ended up spending over $100 for about 3 hours–and considering I only had part of a bison burger, part of a slushie, part of a fried cheese stick and two bites of a grilled cheese sandwich, I feel I might have gotten cheated (although I did stay on my diet).

 

 

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