12 Things You Know If You're From Lowell, Indiana

12 Things You Know If You're From Lowell, Indiana

Hey, wanna go to the football game and then hang out at McDonald's?

The cozy northwest Indiana town of Lowell has a population just north of 9,000. In a place this small, you're bound to be tight-knit with the other occupants, even if it's just by means of similarities shared due to small town living.

Living in Lowell sets itself apart from other tiny Indiana towns by offering a host of interesting and unique activities and historical sites unlike any other, but only a true Lowell citizen will nod vigorously after reading the following most notorious facts about the town and its many amenities.

1. McDonald's is more than a fast food restaurant...it's a hangout.

Lowell doesn't have any clubs, cute coffee shops or movie theaters where we can mingle with friends and spend minimal money. So, we have to make the best out of the resources we have. McDonald's is centrally located, we can loiter, the food is cheap and most of our friends work there. It's perfect.

2. We live close to the city, but not close enough.

Allow me to clarify. Though we are about an hour, give or take, away from the beautiful windy city, we aren't nearly close enough to consider ourselves "city kids," despite the fact that we are considered the Chicagoland area. However, in case you didn't know, we aren't in the deep south. Even though we boast abundances of farmland and knowledge about tractors, we aren't exactly "in the country." This puts us in a tough situation that results in an odd salad bowl of kids who think they're country (cowboy boots, camouflage jackets, lifted trucks and Confederate flags) and kids who think they're city (think they're too good for the town, brag about their favorite artists being "underground," drown their social media accounts with pictures of Chicago and act like they live there). Transfer students are often confused.

3. We get the "The Region" geo-filter on SnapChat, but we're rarely listed as a town included in The Region.

A mass of counties in northwest Indiana are often referred to collectively as "The Region," hence the infamous geo-filter. However, if you visit multiple informational pages about The Region, the majority of them do not mention Lowell as a member of this super exclusive (that was sarcasm) group. Some of us are bitter, some of us don't care, and some of us only use the geo-filter ironically. Regardless, if you ever want to strike up a controversial conversation with a Lowellian, ask them if they think Lowell is part of The Region. Bring your popcorn and prepare for intense eye-rolling.

Also, I did not know the above t-shirt existed. Amazing.

4. We aren't entirely sure which businesses in downtown Lowell are still alive.

If you're from Lowell, you know that nowadays, downtown Lowell isn't exactly full of bustling economy and densely populated franchises. If it looks busy, that's probably just due to the shortage of parking spaces available on the road (and the fact that they're almost all parallel parking, and nobody has that kind of time on their hands). So many businesses have come and gone in downtown Lowell, it's hard to keep track of which are still in existence and which faded long ago. Except McVey's. That restaurant will never die.

5. The Lion's Den. Enough said.

If you're looking for a bright and shining beacon to tell you when you are less than 10 minutes away from Lowell, the Lion's Den adult superstore is here for you. With a building infrastructure that looks shockingly similar to a Pizza Hut, the Lion's Den is located conveniently right off the highway, which is how we know which exit to take off the interstate to get home. It is also placed strategically so that your parked car is a deer in headlights for anyone headed to the gas station or a fast food restaurant nearby. In other words, if you have a distinct looking car and any friends or family that would be ashamed of your presence at the store, you may want to think twice about where you park.

The Lion's Den also happens to be the site of every Lowellian's 18th birthday party. What I mean is, if you didn't go to the Lion's Den on your 18th birthday (you must be 18 to enter the store), you didn't have an 18th birthday.

6. If you like Mexican food, Mi Ranchito is the place for you.

Many a restaurant will advertise authentic Mexican food, but a single visit to Mi Ranchito will leave you scoffing at what other eateries claim is "authentic." There's nowhere else where you can get high quality Mexican food and the same positive, friendly atmosphere. Once you go Mi Ranchito, you never go back.

7. Football games are a social event.

Football games in Lowell aren't just for sports lovers, they're also for anyone who finds entertainment in clustering next to the concession stand to talk to your friends and plan on whether to go to Dairy Queen, McDonald's or Pizza Hut after the game (spoiler alert: no matter which you go to, it'll be packed and you'll have trouble even finding a seat). If you're from Lowell, this probably sounds like a satisfying fall Friday night for you. Also, let's not forget the unwritten rule that everyone must wear hillbilly gear to the game against Crown Point.

8. Our middle school resembles a juvenile detention center, and is often mistaken for one.

To be honest, even people who are just passing by Lowell would probably know this one. But this had to be on the list. Anyone from Lowell is used to being asked by out-of-town family and friends why there were so many cars at the prison-like building they drove past, and we have become accustomed to calmly explaining that the institution is our beloved Lowell Middle School, not a maximum security prison.

9. The honeybee killer.

One of the lesser known criminal cases, the 2010 debacle of the "honeybee killer" put Lowell on TV screens across the nation, probably for the first time. Lowellians can perfectly recall being released from school early and facing a next-day cancellation all because of a psycho in the cornfields, which is tragic, yet seems appropriate for a town like Lowell. Though rather terrifying, the catastrophe did create buzz in the small town that lasted for months (and is sometimes still referred to today).

10. We have more churches and cemeteries than schools.

Count them if you don't believe me. With 5 public schools and a cemetery and/or church on almost every corner, it's not hard to be a little disturbed when you cruise through Lowell. If you live in Lowell, you won't have too many choices for an academic institution, but if you're religiously inclined or need to plan a funeral, we've got you covered.

11. You can't go into town and expect not to see anyone you know.

Putting on makeup and decent clothes for a brief trip to Strack's or Walgreens is not uncommon. Who knows who you'll run into today? It could be a former teacher or coach, one of your mom's friends, one of your friends, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend...the possibilities are endless.

12. Legends about the old middle school will never die.

You didn't think I'd forget this one, did you? Anyone who has lived in Lowell for more than a few years knows that the ancient Lowell Middle School (the one that was demolished in 2011) housed countless urban legends, many of which revolved around a (potentially fictitious) story that a girl drowned in the basement pool (that the school allegedly had back in the good ol' days). Aside from the ridiculous stories that circulated during its lifetime, who could forget the fact that the school had dividers instead of walls, and lockers the width of bean poles? And if you remembered that, then your heart broke, at least a little, when the building was torn down five years ago.

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4 Times I Took A Punch From My First Career Job

You need to take a few punches before you learn their strategy.

I took a job that felt like the next best thing. It offered more salary than I’ve ever made, more responsibilities than I’ve ever held, and the opportunity to grow in skill and status. An excited novice in the company, I began with bright eyes and the highest of hopes. This was my first job in a career that I had dedicated my entire college education in. I was willing to continue to learn, even though I felt more than ready to start applying my textbook knowledge.

Life never hits harder than when we think we show up prepared. Here are four things that punched me in the face of perception and helped me realize my own potential and value in a new workplace.

1. You are your own boss of success.

Be your own worst critic. Evaluate yourself and be attentive and faithful to integrity. Make a conscious decision to act in benevolence, and practice honesty and principle. Instead of taking the energy to formulate excuses, own up to failure or flaw and build off of it. If you want to succeed, manage yourself closely.

2. Ask questions to learn your way up.

Ask Questions. While you are training (and even after!) be that kid to raise your hand and ask the questions the rest of the students pretend to know. Let your brain be a dry sponge: observe, and soak in. Learn the systems to start out. Be that as it may, also do not assume the processes and functions in use are always the best. Make notes and don’t be afraid to want to improve systems once you are familiar with the ropes. Take advantage of being the fresh eyes.

3. Workout and sweat the insecurities.

When we put ourselves in different environments with different stimuli, we learn about ourselves in new ways. We find out what makes us uncomfortable. We figure out how we work most productively. We learn our strengths and weakness. Weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and insecurities are like parts of our body we need to strengthen with exercise and good posture! If we want to grow out of them we need to start lifting the weights that will build mass and cultivate ourselves into willing, innovative, and confident workers. I’m learning my strengths, but more importantly, I’m learning where I’m weak.

4. Be appreciative.

Thank the people who train and challenge you. I’ve never heard of anyone disliking appreciation; let your gratitude be the buffer between who you are/where you’re at and who you want to become/where you want to go. After all, Gertrude Stein said “Silent gratitude isn't very much to anyone.”

It only took a few punches, but I believe I’m better for it. I was scared at first, because I was taking the next step in my career. Working a position in my desired career was a huge challenge because I had not yet learned to apply my education to the real world, which is forcing me to learn patience with myself. It’s new and exciting and I always look forward to what tomorrow may bring.

Cover Image Credit: www.pexels.com

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Foreign: A Short Story

As the water drips down my body, I lean my head back so the flow of the water can gently rush on to my face. I attempt to open my eyes but the water overtakes my vision. And then I hear it.

“MOM!!!” I take my head out of the shower and in a moment of panic, I shout

“What? Is everything okay?” When I don’t hear their voices call back, I turn the knob of the shower and finish getting out. Wrapping the towel around me, I rush into the room.

“What’s going on in here?”

“Mom, tell her to give it back.”

In a teasing manner, she mimics him “tell her to give it back.”

“Stop, it’s not yours!”

“Guys! Stop! I haven’t even left to go to work yet and you two are already arguing! How am I supposed to leave you alone? And whose is that? Where did you guys get it? We can’t afford anything like that!” And then they do that thing, where suddenly I don’t understand my own children.

“Es porque te lo rejalo la novia verdad?”

“Deja me en paz, Y damelo!”

“Como se llama? Pa-ula… verdad?”

And then I can’t take it anymore… “STOP! Give me the game. None of you are getting it, and for the last time, we speak English in this house, you guys know I don’t understand you!”

“But mom—“

“But nothing, now tell me whose is this?”

“Carl has a new friend at school and she’s a gir—“

“STOP! She just let me borrow her gamegirl, no big deal!”

I begin to calm down. “Carl, I don’t want you borrowing anything from anyone at school. If you break it, we can’t replace it, so please give this back to her first thing Monday morning, understood?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Alright, now I’m gonna go get ready for work, I want you both in bed by 10.”

And then I wait for it… In unison they begin their choir of complaints, “but mom!”

“But nothing! Bed at 10, and I’m asking Mrs. Fernandez from upstairs to come down and check on both of you to make sure you're asleep!” Defeated, they agree.

As I go back into the bathroom to get dressed, my steps seem to get more sluggish every time I walk. I look at the clock on the wall and it reads 5:15, 5:15 and then I plead asking the clock not to change and then 5:16. In a little less than an hour I’ll be back at the gas station, cleaning off the gum from the doors of the restroom. Watching as truckers pass by saying things that are supposed to creep me out but only leave me asking what the words they were saying meant, and then it’ll be 3am and I’ll be home again.

I kiss my kids goodnight, hopefully not goodbye, and they promise to behave. I go outside and see the landlord on the porch sipping on her coffee.

“Hey Susan!” She says in her thick accent

“Hi Mrs. Fernandez. Enjoying the beautiful day I see.”

“Yes of course, going to your second job already?”

“Yes, I told the kids you’ll be down to check on them to make sure they’re asleep by 10.”

“Of course! Don’t worry about it, you stay safe. What time will you be home?”

“Around three.”

“Ay, Dios I’ll be praying for you! Good thing there is no school tomorrow so you don’t have to go to work.”

“Actually, I have to be there at 7am. The janitors have to clean the kitchen at the school since the inspector is coming on Monday.”

“Ahhh well mija, in this world we have to do what we can to survive.”

“Don’t I know it! Well, thank you again Mrs. Fernandez. Hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Si gringita! See you tomorrow!”

I walk to my car, each step forward feeling as though I took ten steps back. As I approach my car, I see an officer hovering right over it and so I run.

“Excuse me! No, that’s my car! Please don’t give me a ticket!”

“Perdon? Es que senorita no se puede estacionar aqui, alli esta el rotulo”

“I’m sorry, No puedo- hablar.. esapnol.” He sees me struggle to get the words out and with a face of disgust, he looks at me.

“You no espeak Spanish? This isn’t America! Learn Spanish! I will let you out with a warning pero, the sign esays no parking okay?”

“Si senor, I’m sorry.”

And then he talks into his walkie and leaves. As I get into my car and turn on the ignition, I begin to drive as quick as I can. I look at the clock and it reads 5:45. As I turn into the gas station, I park the car in a secluded place and I close my eyes. As I feel the tears run down my face, I remember being back home in New York. The year was 2019, Carl and Kristin were only five years old at the time.

“Honey! Are you still asleep? I dropped the kids off at school, you should of seen their faces. They were so excited about their first day of kindergarten!”

“Babe, we need to talk.” It surprised me that he was already up and dressed. Usually he doesn’t get up until I have to leave to the clinic to meet my first patient of the day.

“Everything okay?”

“I got drafted.”

“What? But, I don’t understand I thought you weren’t likely to get drafted?”

“I know but there is so much going on and they’re trying to take anyone they can get.”

I took a deep breath. I understood that this wasn’t our choice and besides, he always comes back. He must have seen the worry in my face because then he adds, “but, don’t worry everything will be okay, I always come back.”

“Yeah, you better,” I say as lean my head on his chest.

“Can’t you take the day off? Let’s go do something just you and me!” He says

“Honey, I have a bunch of patients and you know I don’t get paid like I used to. We already lost our first house, we can’t lose this one too.”

“I know. Things are going to get better, don’t worry.” I laugh and then he laughs and for a moment it feels as though nothing is wrong. And then I look at the clock on the T.V. stand and it reads 10:00am.

“Well I don’t have my first patient until 1. What do you say I make us a big breakfast and we eat on the couch as we watch cartoons?” I ask in a convincing way

“This is why I love you,” he responds

As I’m cooking we’re both talking and laughing and he decides to turn on the radio.

“Let’s see if I can find any of the classics on here.”

“Honey, you could just put on Spotify or something.”

“Now you have been hanging out around the kids too long. Come on, the radio’s static noise brings back memories. Remember, when we used to hang out after school and listen to the radio until your mom called, yelling for you to get home?”

“Yeah, and that’s why my parents didn’t like you at first.”

And then our song comes on. As we’re singing along, we get interrupted.

“This just in. New attacks have been reported on parts of New York and New Jersey. We advise all residents of these two states to please remain alert of any attacks, and to not let anyone you do not know into your home. This has been a message from the U.S. federal government. Any further questions please visit us at www.-

And then he gets that call. “I have to take this, turn that off and try to relax before work.”

I nod, then go to the television and turn it on. I think about the twins, but then I remember they’re safe, the guards are all around the school. As soon as the T.V turns on, I regret ever looking. There were a lot of things I regretted that day. The gunshots on the television are so loud that it feels as though it’s coming from outside and then I realize it is…

My phone goes off and just like that, I’m back to reality. The days that followed were even more intense. My husband left and said goodbye for real this time and I kissed him on the lips not knowing it would be the last time. I took the kids to Texas to see my mother and even she told me that running away was the best option. We were always afraid to step foot outside and the kids had to stop going to school. I knew that if I left I would never be able to see my family again but I also knew that my children didn’t have a future there. We left, we left and seven years later we haven’t returned.

I scrape the gum off the floor and hear footsteps come closer and closer.

“Mira quien es, la gringa” I try to ignore him and then he kicks me.

“I’m talking to you, vieja tonta regresa a tu país, nadie quiere alguien de un país podrido”

And I knew this was just the beginning of our worries and this was going to be our new norm, because truth is I don’t belong but, I will keep fighting because my children do. As he walks away and goes back into his truck I release the tears and they gently run down my face. País podrido. Rotten country. The truth hits me and although I shouldn’t, I feel offended but what else can I do?

After that, the gas station is quiet and I hear the static noise of the radio and then our song comes on, but this time I don’t sing along.

Cover Image Credit: https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/04/29/immigration-detention-center_wide-cee013baaa0e724d9f5c333e1bc458f305c1d303.jpg?s=1400

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