A Year in Fort Wayne

One year ago today, we pulled into the driveway of our house here in Fort Wayne. “Well, we’re home,” I said to the girls.

“This is NOT home,” Emma said quietly but forcefully from the backseat. This is a sentiment she would echo by variations for months. It was no secret: Emma did not want to be here.

It’s hard to believe that we have been here one year. Things looked so different then. We were raw with emotion, still stinging from how Michael had been treated at his last job, trying to reset our mindframe from thinking we were going into mission work overseas, and just generally mourning our beloved Kentucky, the only home my girls had ever known.

We were filled with worry over the unknowns: Michael’s new job, the girls going to public school for the first time, what kind of job I would find, and how we would make financial ends meet on about 40% of Michael’s old salary. Two or three of us were worried that we wouldn’t have friends here, and at least one of us was convinced she would never be happy again.

A year later things look very different.

The girls have thrived in their new schools. Sofia learned that she loves school lunches, for whatever reason! They both made plenty of friends. They have been involved in extracurricular activities that have stretched and grown them. They don’t dread the upcoming school year.

Michael has done very well in his job at Purdue Fort Wayne. His boss thinks he is amazing, and she isn’t wrong. He has a lot less stress than with his previous job, which is a major win. He likes what he is doing and is already looking at ways he can turn this job into a career

I have not one but two jobs I love, which I have waited more than a decade to be able to say. I really enjoy teaching at Purdue Fort Wayne, and the student evaluations from last semester were fantastic. And my job at the hospital…I don’t even know where to begin. It’s just the best.

Looking back, I can see God’s goodness and faithfulness. I couldn’t at the time, but I do now. He had already been preparing our hearts to leave, and He ended up giving us an easier transition than we had prepared for. He has provided protection, comfort, and everything we needed. Coming out of Purdue years ago, all I wanted was to be a college professor. He has even provided that, a dream I thought would never be realized.

I asked the girls for picture ideas about what makes this house a home. Emma suggested “Home is where the blankies are.”

Sofia submitted this picture of Beaker and Freckles in the midst of the move.

Michael volunteered the swing set.

For me it could be any of a dozen things that have moved with us from house to house, including this clock Michael bought in Greece 17 years ago that has hung in all 9 of our homes.

When it comes right down to it, home is wherever God has blessed us to be as a family.

Thanks for a first great year, Fort Wayne. We are looking forward to many more.

Vacation Day 7 — Going Home

Last night after I wrote my blog, Michael and I sat out on the porch swing of Cabin 76 and watched a thunderstorm with this guy. He’s good company. I would adopt him if I could, but I think management would frown on that. You know, stealing and all.

This morning we packed up to go. Well, I actually had most of the packing done the night before, but we had to finish in the morning. We ate our leftovers from the Apple Barn Grill and packed our lunches for the day. Emma and Sofia played videos games for a few minutes. All too soon, it was time to go.

We spent a long, rather stressful day on the road. We did manage to have our picnic lunch at a rest stop in Georgetown, KY, just before the rain started. The girls even managed to climb a tree. It then stormed on us from Georgetown all the way back up to Fort Wayne. That’s like…I don’t know, a million hours probably. It was a long time.

It was a really great trip. It was definitely our best time down in that area, and probably one of our all-time best vacations. We gave ourselves plenty of time to do what we wanted and relax as well, and the result was pretty perfect.

It is always hard to leave a good vacation. Oak Haven Resort in particular is hard to leave. It’s so welcoming and inviting, and it just makes you want to stay a little longer. At least it makes us want to stay a little longer.

Interestingly, though, we had a really good homecoming this vacation. But I’ll talk about that another time. Those thoughts need to percolate a little longer. For now, I leave you with this moose who oversaw our comings and goings for the last few days. May he see you off to good days as well.

Vacation Days 5 and 6

Two words: vacation cake.

That is our second Flory family vacation tradition. Ever since Michael and I went to Las Vegas in July 2005 (which I believe was our second domestic vacation), we have been taking cakes with us on vacation or buying cakes when we get to our destination. That first vacation cake was a double layer carrot cake from Albertson’s in Tucson. Since then, they have come in many varieties from many places. This year we bought two small cakes: one orange cream and one Neapolitan. They were delicious.

These last two days have been very low key and relaxing, which is exactly what we wanted in staying at Oak Haven. Wednesday had a rough start, though. We forgot to give Sofia Dramamine before the 25 minute drive to breakfast, and the poor thing was terribly car sick by the time we arrived at the Smoky Mountain Pancake House. She never threw up, but we were all four convinced she would. Michael dropped us at the restaurant, where a nice hostess brought her a Sierra Mist for free, and Michael went in search of Dramamine nearby to purchase. When he came back successfully, she and I went out to the car to relax and reset, which Michael and Emma went in and ordered breakfast. We joined them when she felt up to it a little later.

We spent a good portion of the day tubing down the Little Pigeon River. We went through a company called River Romp, although our excursion wasn’t exactly what you would call a “romp”. The river was low and slow, and we drifted along at a rate of about a mile an hour. We only went 2.5 miles. Sofia was bored 20 minutes in, but she stuck it out like a trooper. Emma loved it.

We floated right through lunch, so we ordered Pizza Hut as soon as we got back to the cabin. We swam down at the resort pool with an ever-growing number of teenagers before going back to the cabins for showers, vacation cake, and bed.

This morning we had breakfast at the Apple Barn Grill. We received lots of strange looks from patrons as we played Uno while waiting for our meal (not our first time), but the wait was well worth it. The girls had sprinkle pancakes, Michael had cinnamon roll French toast, and I had country eggs Benedict. It was amazing.

The girls and I went to the Spa at Oak Haven for manicures. That was the first time we’ve all done done something like that together.

We just all hung out for the rest of the day. We played board games and card games, pool and foosball, and swam and soaked in the hot tub. Michael and I sat in the porch swing during a brief rain shower. We reminisced and we looked forward.

One more day.

Vacation Days 3 & 4

Posting on day 5. Figures.

As a little bit of back story, Michael and I have two traditions when we travel. The first is that we keep a journal of where we have gone, when, and what we have done. We have two notebooks filled with travel memories. For me, that is just as meaningful as the pictures we take. They include the stories that go along with the pictures, and that’s what I really want to remember. This trip, I’m blogging instead of journaling.

Day 3 was Monday. We had breakfast at Pancake Pantry, which is one of our favorites. Michael and I had crepes, and the girls split two pancake plates: one chocolate chip and one M&M.

After our super sugary breakfast, we took the aerial tram up to Ober Gatlinburg. The tram operator claimed it is the safest method of travel, but I have trust issues with trams and lifts and the like.

We bought the wristbands that let you do everything up on Ober Gatlinburg, so we did as much as possible. We did the mountain coaster, during which Sofia kept yelling at me to stop using the brakes. We did the alpine slide, and maze, the rock wall, ice skating, the mini golf, the chair lift (in a storm), the carousel, and shopping. It was great to not be on a time schedule.

We napped hard when we got back to the hotel. Everyone was worn out, and Sofia even asked if she could take a nap. We had dinner at No Way Jose’s Cantina, and then the girls swam at the hotel pool before bed.

Tuesday morning we ate our leftover pancakes and crepes at the hotel for breakfast. After packing the car and checking out, we walked to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. It is seriously one of the best aquariums we have been to, and we’ve been to A LOT of aquariums! Some of the highlights were the shark tunnel you walk under, petting jellyfish, and the many, many penguins.

Lunch was unremarkable: Wendy’s as we drove from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge. We did amuse a man sitting next to us as we talked about music from different generations and what qualifies as “old”.

Our next stop was the Titanic Museum, which was so much better than I thought it would be. They did a truly fantastic job putting that all together. One of the coolest parts is that they give you a piece of paper with the name and short bio of a person who was actually on the ship, and at the end of the tour you get to find out if your person survived or not. All of ours did.

From there we hit the outlet mall and Kroger before heading to Oak Haven Resort to check in for the next few days. Michael grilled steak while the girls played in the hot tub, and after dinner we all played in the beautiful game room. This place is amazing.

More in a couple of days.

Vacation Days 1 and 2

I love to travel. My family loves to travel. It’s something the family I grew up in did as often as possible. It’s something Michael’s family did a lot of. Michael and I fell in love while traveling in Greece 17 years ago. With all that tradition, it’s something that we have very naturally tried to instill in our children.

We are in Gatlinburg this week. We used to come down here at least once a year when we lived in Kentucky. Back in March when we gave the girls a bunch of options for where we might go this year (Disney, Universal Studios, the Bahamas, Amsterdam), they asked if we could come down here. Obviously we said yes.

We left yesterday morning after I got off work. We had a surprisingly low number of stops: picnic lunch at a rest area, gas, Starbucks. I slept some, but I still managed to be awake enough to drive about three hours, which shocked us all.

Last night was pretty low key: checked into our hotel, walked across to a restaurant call Land Sharks, and then back to the hotel for swimming.

This morning we went to Smoky Mountain National Park, which is one of my favorite places anywhere. We went horseback riding at the Cades Cove Riding Stables, which was fantastic. We drove the scenic loop through Cades Cove, stopping to see a few buildings and have a picnic lunch.

We had dinner at The Melting Pot. The girls loved the chocolate fondue for dessert, but neither of them was sold on the cheese. Afterwards we played some mini golf, which you can hardly avoid in this area.

It’s so good to be on vacation. I’ve spent months looking forward to this, and it’s just good to be away with the family.

Reflecting on Reflections

From my seat in the chaplaincy office of the hospital, I get to see some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

“But Diana,” you say, “your office faces west.  How can you see both sunrises and sunsets from the same office that faces west?”

An excellent question!  I’m glad you asked.

Directly in my line of sight is the back side of the heart institute, which has an abundance of windows.  Those windows face east, therefore reflecting the sunrises for me to see.

Reflections are tricky like that.

The Dictionary app on my phone informed me that a reflection is, among other things, an image, representation, or counterpart.  The reflection is merely a different view of an object, not the object itself.

This is an idea I have been thinking about for a few weeks.  I have a big birthday coming up at the end of this summer, and it has been causing me to think about more deeply about my life.  (Like I needed that.)

When I look in mirrors, I’m not always happy with my reflection.  I see my visible flaws: my nose that has always been crooked, the glasses that don’t sit entirely straight on my ears, the face that is considerably rounder now than four years ago when I was riding and biking 30-40 miles each week, and the double chin that I have carried through thick and thin.

Depending on my mood, the mirror may reflect some of my inner flaws as well: the temper I still sometimes struggle to slow, anxiety when I don’t spend enough time with my family, fear that I’ll never actually be good enough.

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”  I know what I want my heart to reflect, but I’m not sure it always does.  I want my reflection to look like love.  Love for my Creator God, and love for my neighbor.  I want to love other people as God loves me, faults and all.

Just one of the many things I want to work on as I near this next birthday.