Readers… we’re almost there. I can’t even believe it myself. We’ve hit 10 of the 50 states in the last 3 weeks on this crazy journey together, and as we’re literally coming to our final destination in a few short hours, I’m struck with ALL the feels.
One, without question, is gratitude. Thank you Lord. Man, we have been so blessed in our health, our love and respect for each other, and our kiddos, but also in our business. Without Arbonne, really and truly, there is none of this. The Lord is amazing, and surely He could have given us this life in another way, but I’m fairly confident that without Him working in my life, I would be in a completely different place and life.
It hit me so clearly this morning when I was reflecting, for whatever reason, on my last relationship before Thomas, that I was absolutely plucked out of my life’s path and saved. And I mean that in the ‘saved from myself way’ and I mean that in the ‘saved by Jesus’ way. Before I even knew the Lord at all, He was working in my life to bring me to Him. Talk about a love story! I was literally stopped in my tracks and corrected, and it has made all the difference. If I hadn’t left that abusive relationship, I would likely still be in it or in one like it. Instead, I met Thomas. And I was healed. And I grew. And I changed. And I became brave. And I said yes to a business opportunity that the ‘me’ before that would NEVER have been brave enough to pursue.
That opportunity was a blessing then, and as I roll into state number 10, after the amazing adventure we’ve been on for weeks, I know that the Arbonne opportunity blesses us more today than yesterday, and even more tomorrow. Thank you, Lord, for that opportunity above all the other blessings, because it has allowed you to bless us and SO MANY MORE through that one blessing, countless times over.
The other big feel that’s rolling around in my heart right now, and I am well aware that it comes straight from the enemy, is fear. Man, the closer we get, the more the enemy shows up. Isn’t that always the way? But the more fear rears it’s ugly head, the more I’m convicted that I’m on the right path. The enemy’s entire goal is to keep us all from our biggest, God given potential. So when fear shows up the biggest, you know you’re onto something big. And man, all of the sudden… ticks, and snakes, and brown recluses, and black widows, and all kinds of other things I don’t even know about yet are swirling in my head. It’s dang near constant now, and I have to say, my dream farm is looking less and less awe inspiring and wonderful.
But I know fear is a liar.
And I know God is bigger. So say a prayer for us- okay, for me- that I find a way to see his blessing in this too. Pray for me to overcome.
Don’t worry, if you’re reading because you’re wondering what happens after Chicago, I’m getting to that. I just wanted you to know what’s going on for The Thinker. This would have been a life changing trip if it didn’t end in an extreme life change. So stay turned, I’m sure there will be more feels as this all unfolds.
So for our last day in Rockford, we spent it very much like we spent the first day in Rockford- regrouping. When you go from being stationary for a week, to being back on the road, you’ve got to get a few things checked off the list.
For one, all laundry has to be complete. This is the kind of day where you end it by stripping everything off your body and putting it right into the washer to start the next day with zero things in the hamper. Then there is the arduous task of discovering where your children have been putting every little toy, sock, hat, crayon, and sweatshirt during the time that you’ve been visiting. Now that task is hard enough, when you’re not trying to decipher which things are yours, which things are Grammys, which things are garbage, and which things are the garbage that Grammy has decided are not garbage. There are a lot of things to sort out. Grammy is very thorough in her ‘thing’ collection.
We made a trip to the store to stock up the fridge, of course, and we made a trip to Farm and Fleet to stock up on… actually, I’m not sure what we needed to go there for. I’m pretty sure it was just so that we would start to feel a little bit more like farmers. But whatever the reason, we managed to waste about an hour there.
After lunch, Gage napped, I worked and Thomas readied the trailer and packed, while the kids played down in the basement. Of all the days we spent in Rockford, only the very last one was rainy. I’m told that’s unusual for the time of year, and the spring they’d been having. So thank you Lord for tourist weather!
That evening, we had the pleasure of having dinner at Lino’s, which is Italian food, with Thomas’ Aunt Sarah and Uncle Nobel and their son (Tom’s mom’s sister). Lino’s was the last restaurant to check off the list for Rockford, so I’m glad to say that we were thorough. Sarah ordered sausage pizza (not deep dish) for the table to share (day three of pizza, but NO ONE was complaining), and Thomas and I ordered the lasagna for dinner.
Okay people, if you’re anywhere near the Rockford area, you need to stop reading right now and head on into Lino’s and order those two things. The Lasagna was easily the best lasagna I’ve ever had, and Big Tom makes a mean lasagna!
You know what I usually hate about lasagna? Ricotta cheese. Most lasagna has too much of it, if you ask me. And it’s not that I don’t want ANY of it, but imagine if you could take away about half of it and replace that with bomb mozzarella instead! Come on, you know your favorite part of lasagna is the top layer of mozzarella! And it’s a bummer when there just isn’t enough of it to fall into every bite. Well, Lino’s has solved this problem.
And then the pizza- again, let’s just put deep dish in a whole other category, because it’s really just a different beast. The sausage pizza was freaking amazing. Probably my favorite non- deep dish pizza I’ve ever had. The sausage was on point, and the sauce and cheese was perfectly measured. It was just done right.
So Lino’s gets a big thumbs up. And the company wasn’t bad either! Sarah is a joy and she’s very easy to be around. Just like Aunt Marie, it’s rare that I’ve had the chance to sit and chat with her for longer than a wedding allows, and so it was quite nice.
The next morning we were up and doing our best to get the heck on the move. The rain had stopped and left a wonderful muddy yard for my kids to slow us down in. We got the last of the things loaded up, and we said our goodbyes to a teary Grammy. As much as I know she was sad to see us go, I’m sure she must have slept for a week after we were gone. We sure did take over her house and we’re so grateful for so much quality time with her.
We drove straight down to Champagne-Urbana area to visit with the Graham’s at Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch, and have lunch. Curtis Orchard is a big reason that we now own a farm. Thomas has been talking about the memories he made on this farm, with this family, for years. As a matter of fact, not even a month after he and I started dating, Thomas headed back to Illinois to go to Aaron Graham’s wedding- the oldest of the Graham children. Until this trip, that is the last time Thomas had been back to Illinois. So it was a special trip all around, and a special visit at Curtis Orchard.
The Graham’s run a small business off their property. It’s about 80 acres- so very much the same scale farm as we now have- but they are cranking out a full on experience. They have apple trees and produce basically anything you can possibly imagine you can do with apples. And in the fall, when things are in full swing, they have a pumpkin patch, store, cafe, maze, mini golf, kittens… the whole thing. I LOVE this idea! I have every intention of turning our property into someone’s memories and inspiration. I would absolutely LOVE to know that because of our farm, and the experiences that someone had there, they hoped to one day do the same for other families. I think that’s just so neat. And so we’re so grateful to the Graham’s for taking their road less traveled, and making a different kind of way in this world. I absolutely think it’s the coolest thing!
Debbie made us a beautiful lunch- that was amazing by the way- and we got the full tour! We saw the store and how cider is made. We saw the trees and got some great ideas as to how we can fashion different food producing trees on our property in the future. We got some great ideas, and we actually got some great perspective on what we want to do. It was so important for us to see what goes into a vision of this size. The type of work, the amount of work, and the quality of love that goes into the whole operation. It was really good to help mold our vision.
The truth is, we don’t know what we want to do. The vision is developing. The ideas are fluid. We’re kind of letting God lead us on this one, because we know He’s put us here for a purpose. I’m sure if we keep following our heart and Him, we’ll figure it out in no time. But this was a greatly helpful stop to start to clarify that bigger vision in our own heads, in the very least.
And boy did they hook us up! We’ve already tried the world’s best honey- seriously, they were voted world’s best honey in a taste test… like the WHOLE world- and I have to say, it is so different than anything we’ve recently bought at the store. It’s amazing. And I can’t wait to try the pumpkin butter! I love me some pumpkin flavored pretty much anything.
After several hours exploring, catching up and visiting with the many Graham family members, we were on the road again. This time, we were headed to Indianapolis, Indiana. Aside from a bathroom break on the side of the road about a dozen times, we were on a mission to get there by dinner. It didn’t help that we lost yet another hour- one more than will be normal for us- along the way. That always takes you from late to awkwardly late.
We arrived just as the sun was setting, to a delicious taco bar and a friendly face- another Aunt, Tom’s mom’s final sister- Carolyn. We all ate well, and the dogs had a huge fenced yard for the first time, to play in. We bathed the kids- boy did they need it after Curtis Orchard- and we put them to bed, before enjoying a local beer and conversation. Poor Carolyn, who had to work in the morning, stayed up until her midnight and our 11pm. But it was well worth it, because the kids slept in past eight in the morning and we didn’t get another chance to visit with Carolyn.
But when we woke up, Uncle Curt had returned home from Chicago. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him, but Thomas came into the house in the morning to the sound of our vlog playing on the computer. Curt was pretty much caught up on the new entertainment he had somehow heard about, and was our newest fan and subscriber. What a joy this man is. He played with the kids while Thomas and I had the chance to shower and relax for a minute. We intended to get a jump on the day, but ended up staying and visiting through lunch. He was just too much fun. I’m so glad that we’ll be closer to all this family now that we live out here. Holidays might just be a little less lonely than I’ve been fearing!
After we finally hit the road, we headed towards Greenwood, Indiana. Arbonne has a distribution center in two locations in the US. Irvine, California and Greenwood, Indiana. And when you’re in town, you’ve just got to get your products at green will call. I mean, how convenient! We just had to do it. And it was as simple and painless as I had expected!
Then we had about five hours to kill before we had a dinner planned- also in Greenwood- with MY side of the family! Yes, can you believe we both have family in Indiana and that there could still possibly be more family to see? It’s true! But what would we do for the day in Indiana? Google and Aunt Carolyn both agreed that we should make the trip to the Children’s Museum. Why argue?
Hear this Chicago: FREE PARKING at the museum! Yep, I couldn’t believe it either! But that certainly sets the tone for a good time if you’re hanging with Thomas- and I usually am. We headed right to the dinosaur exhibit. It was the coolest exhibit of the day, if I’m being honest. I was pretty impressed with it. It’s nice to see something different. You guys know we love museums, and so it starts to become a little like ‘if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’ kind of thing… but this was a touch different in some key ways.
- Everything was super interactive. You could solve mysteries and learn a lot by doing it. However, this made most of the exhibits either a TON of work for the parents, or more of a age 8-12 type adventure. I will absolutely go back there when all my kids are able to read and problem solve. Right now, we just working on don’t panic with your shoe comes untied, you know?
- Every different room/exhibit had costumes! So you could dress up as a dinosaur, or an astronaut, or a scuba diver, or an explorer. This also adds a little bit of a nightmare situation to a parent who is not trying to spend three weeks at this place.
- It’s huge! We did not see even half of this place in the two and a half hours we had to explore. There were five floors and we made it to part of level 3. I’m sure there is a lot of cool stuff that we didn’t even get to see.
- We were there until it closed at 5pm and they did the absolute coolest thing ever at close. The museum staff all gathered on level 5- which is where we happened to have rushed up to at the last minute to hit the ever popular carousel- and they turned on super loud music and handed out little flags to all the kids and encouraged them to start a parade that just so happened to lead right out of the dang building! As a parent, I was so grateful they did all the ‘let’s go’ work for us! And as employee’s, I’m sure they LOVE getting off on time! #winwin
Once the museum closed and we got back to our car, we realized that Indianapolis is a city that has traffic on Friday evenings. Well, heck, that made us nearly 30 minutes late to the dinner that was only 20 minutes away. And the dinner, that I thought was going to be a small group of family, turned into a family tree explosion.
Try to say with me for a minute…
My mom’s mom- Grandma Ginny- was from Indiana. She passed away when I was 18 and the only time that I had ever been out to visit before this, was when I was 12. So these are truly some long lost relatives! And due to the good ol’ facebook, I connected with one of my 4th cousins, whom I remember meeting when I was 12 (she was also 12), and she was the one who put together this dinner for us to all get to see each other. How cool! Gotta love social media.
Aunt Nancy (none of these people who I will refer to as Aunt’s are actually Aunts to me, so you can imagine why this was complicated for me to figure out) Uncle Gary, and Uncle Wendy (Wendell, and no, I am not named after him- but I do think it’s cool!), are my Grandma Ginny’s first cousins. So they’re my mom’s second cousins. My third. And Holly, who is Gary’s daughter, is my fourth cousin. Now Holly and I both have kids, so I figure her son is my 5th cousin, and our kids are 6th cousins to each other, but I’m not sure if you have to stop counting after a certain point. Sooner or later, we were going to hit Kevin Bacon.
They were all there (sans Gary who was in Florida) and Ann, who is Wendy’s daughter, was also there. She has three daughters- I had never met any of these lovely women- and one of her daughters has a son. So it was as layered as the lasagna we had for dinner. Yes, more lasagna, and still no one was complaining.
We tried to figure out when you’re supposed to apply the ‘once removed’ or ‘twice removed’ but we’re not sure how that all works, so we’re just going to stick with that story. We’re all cousins somehow.
So although we had heard a lot through the grapevine about each other’s lives, the connection through my grandmother had ended long ago. Social media was really all we had left in the way of a grapevine. But one way or another, through pictures and stories and everything else shy of a diagram, we figured out all the connections. It was very special. I know my grandma would have been so excited to have been there, and in so many ways, she was.
The weather was absolutely beautiful! The kids ran around outside, just like I had done nearly 20 years before. And everywhere we went, they continued to tell us that we must have brought the beautiful weather from California. Only we lived in Nevada. I guess if you live in the West, you live in California. It’s kind of like when you go back to St. Louis, for someone in the West, you’ve gone ‘back east.’ I’m sorry Sarah Linker, I get it now. Nevada is NOT California, and St. Louis is the Midwest, NOT the east coast. #rogerthat
That evening, we headed to Nashville, Indiana. Yes, there is such a place. And it is absolutely adorable. I didn’t get to see it in the daylight, but I can imagine it would be a place I’d like to stop through on our next trip up to visit family. We lucked out on the KOA we stayed at. We pulled in at almost 11pm, and because we couldn’t find a way to back into their very last available spot, they opened up one of their ‘deluxe’ spots to accommodate us. I wish we could have stayed there a while. The spot was beautiful- it had a swinging bench and grass!- and the Nashville wine festival was about to start the next day! Talk about missing the boat!
Onto Louisville, Kentucky in the morning- this morning- to visit with a business partner, and long time friend, Marina Tichenor. She moved from my home town five years ago- I can’t believe it’s been that long!- and is about to become a mommy literally at any minute. We saw their beautiful new home and had a delicious lunch together. We talked a little business, but mostly we talked about the South and what we’re in for. It all sounds pretty dang wonderful after seeing it through their eyes. AND, we are planning to come back up in two months for ‘steak-a-palooza’ and who isn’t excited about that?
We’ve been driving for the past two hours about, while I’ve been writing, and we quite literally JUST crossed into Tennessee. We’re officially here. It’s warm, it’s sunny, it’s incredibly green and lush, and it’s home now. How very strange and unfamiliar, and yet, it’s home.
I look over at Thomas, who has driven our family across 10 states and across 10 years, and I’m still just so dang grateful. I’m not sure how many snakes and ticks and spiders lie ahead- Lord help me- but I do know he’ll be beside me. And my three kiddos will be right behind me, laughing and playing like they are right now. And I know it will be good. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. I’m sure of that. Just like anything else worth having- it’s not easy. Just worth it.
Stay turned for more of what’s to come. And keep praying.