The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

Where the Heart Is

Darden Family 2017

It’s been a little more than three years since our family hitched up the wagon and moved across country from Maryland to California. At the time, it seemed surreal, like more of a vacation than a move. Now, more and more, California feels like home.

Home means many different things to different people. Along this journey, we’ve met families who live in urban cities, families who live very remotely, families in desert towns, suburban families, families with huge houses, families with tiny apartments, and families with mobile homes. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting families from varied ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. They’ve welcomed us into their homes and we’ve welcomed them to ours, and I’ve learned a lot, especially that we are all doing the best we can with what we have and it’s enough.

Our family grew by one as my youngest brother moved in with us this summer to pursue his dream of acting. It’s been great having him here and part of what makes it feel a bit more like home.

We also had another move this year. Moving from our tiny two-bedroom apartment to a small three-bedroom house. I’m grateful for the extra space and I try to stay in that place of gratitude, but it’s easy to slip into comparing it to our larger home in Maryland. I remind myself that we are on a journey, not a race. Where we are right now is where we are supposed to be and it’s enough. In time, we’ll find our forever California home or maybe California isn’t meant to be forever.

As I move into 2018, I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned on this journey so far and all of the people and families who’ve entered our lives. I’m excited about the year to come. My goal is to remain heart open and to lead with gratitude. I’m also committing to writing more here and elsewhere. ūü§ěūüŹĹ


Written by Shara

December 30, 2017 at 11:34 am


Today, I had a reminder that even when you try to shut out hate, it’s never far away. Many times, it’s actually lurking around the corner, just waiting for your happy ass to skip through.

My heart was full of joy to see my baby girl back from her field trip to the LA Zoo. One of the moms chaperoning already warned us that the kids were hot, tired, and too through by the end of their excursion. So, I waited for the bus with great anticipation. The driver rounded the corner, drove two feet passed where I stood and pulled in to park at the curbside next to the school. I chuckled as I recalled the days of elementary school field trips on a bus with no air conditioning… windows down. I shared that anecdote with some of the other moms standing nearby.

What I didn’t share, although it made me smirk even more, was the memory of a classmate leaning¬†out of the window to spit just as our bus pulled off again. The snot/saliva mixture flew out of the window and into the one right behind him, landing in another classmate’s hair.

Ew! Gross!

Anyway, it was horrifying at the time (and forever changed my school bus game), but today, it was just a silly memory that made me smile.

So, we gathered our children and everyone disbursed back to their homes or vehicles. We have a five-minute ride home. We hopped in the minivan while my daughter was chattering away, talking about snow leopards, snakes, and gazelles.

She hadn’t buckled yet, so while I waited for her to get settled I grabbed my phone to check my messages. We were still parked and in between two other cars.

Then, a large black pickup pulled up to my rear driver side and honked the horn. I looked back to see a middle-aged man hand gesturing impatiently — seeming to ask if I’m leaving or staying, so I gestured that I am leaving. But, I looked back and my daughter still hadn’t buckled. She was fiddling with her window. So, I asked her to get buckled before I pull out. I stowed my phone and no sooner, he pulled up next to my window and yelled in a very angry tone, “Thank you, very much!” To which, I waived your welcome as he sped away.

Now, since I was parked across from the school. I can only imagine that he wanted my premium spot to make his after school pickup easier, but that means he’s also likely a parent with a child at the same school as mine. He should realize that as parents, we seldom hop into a car with little ones and pull right off. He should know this.

Also, having a blue lives matter sticker in the back window of his pickup, he should also be happy that I wasn’t driving while checking my messages. I was being safe.

He should NEVER feel the need to shout down a mom with her child in the back seat, over a parking spot. He should realize there’s plenty of parking on the streets nearby and try not to make an ass of himself. He should, but he didn’t.

His hateful attitude was trying to creep into my peaceful life, my happy existence.

That’s how miserable people are. They’re like the common cold or a stomach virus traveling through the air in a cough or sneeze. When you come into contact with these germs, you’ve got to wash your hands — cleanse your soul.

So, I prayed for him and continue to pray for our family and our community. God help us. Sometimes germs spread quickly.

Written by Shara

May 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Good Grief

Are there days when you just wake up sad?

I have those days sometimes where things just seem a bit melancholy. There’s no one thing to point a finger at — it could be the weather, a bad dream, no coffee, a late start. Any number of things may add to that feeling.

I think some days it’s a culmination of grief. Grief over loss especially — and not necessarily¬†a dramatic loss, like a death in the family, although that certainly adds to it. I’m thinking more about the loss of small things, like time as your mind wanders over how big your kids are getting, or the loss of opportunity when I think about ideas that I have that I’ve done nothing to advance. Even the loss of money can make me experience moments of micro-grief (I made that up, I think, lol) — wasted money, unearned money, unexpected bills!

My daughter experienced loss-of-money grief the other day. She had saved up enough money to buy a toy she wanted and it was really hard for her to save the money since she wanted to buy so many other things, but I told her that if she bought those other items then it would take longer to save up for this toy she wanted.

After losing her two front teeth, she finally had enough money for the toy and when we got to the store to buy it, they were sold out. She was bummed, but we went online to look for it, she was going to be even more patient and wait for it to ship, but she didn’t like the versions of the toy that were available online. She decided to go back to the store the next day to see if it was restocked and if not she would buy an alternate toy.

Her first choice wasn’t in stock yet, so she found an alternate that she was happy with and made the purchase. We had a playdate with a friend right after and she was happy that she got to debut the new toy with a friend.

However, on the car ride home from the playdate, she burst into tears, “This toy is so boring. Why did I spend my money on this?¬†I want my money back!”

Buyer’s remorse. Oh boy, did I feel sad for her, but I knew it was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes, we just want a shiny new thing to distract us, even when it’s not our first choice, we just want to spend money and have something new. Usually, in the end, those purchases¬†never feel good. Why did we buy it? We certainly didn’t need it. It wasn’t even what we really wanted.

I could have let her take the toy back to the store, even though it was already out of its packaging and played with, but I thought the lesson about making wise choices with money was more important.

That brings me back to grief…

Sometimes we lose things even more valuable than money. Sometimes we lose friends. Not necessarily to death, but sometimes a friendship just comes to an end. You know the saying that people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes you meet a reason or season person, and when the friendship ends you feel so sad because maybe you thought it would be a lifetime friendship.

I had friendships¬†end like that in high school, then another really close friendship in my late 20s, they were all sad experiences and I suppose that I grieved in my own way at the time — even without knowing that’s what was going on. After the experience in my 20s though, I did a lot more thinking and reading about friendships and relationships in general. I realized that I tried so desperately to hold onto relationships because ending them reminded me of the lost relationship with my dad, which I didn’t have any control over. That didn’t stop me nevertheless from blaming myself for that lost relationship and the others that would follow. So, in an effort to control the outcome, I tried holding on to friendships and relationships wherever I could without realizing that I was only one factor in a myriad of reasons why a relationship comes to an end.

Earlier this year, my daughter kept coming home from school and sharing that she had a sad day because a friend “broke up” with her. We talked about these situations a lot and it always seemed to be the same friend. I suggested that maybe things were meant to be with this friend and maybe not, but all she could do was to keep trying to be a good friend and let the chips fall where they may. I also suggested that she work on trying to have a good day despite the status of their friendship. I urged her to look to some of the other things that were going well in her day and focus on those things, even though there may be moments of sadness about losing a friend.

Don’t you know, earlier this week, while making dinner, my daughter shared with me that this same friend “broke up” with her again. She then shared, “But I didn’t let that ruin my day. I had a great day…” and she proceeded to tell me about all of the other things that happened at school.

Friends, I can’t tell you how much joy that brought me. Is it possible that my daughter has learned something at age 7 that took me 20-30 years to understand?

I mean, I know that she’ll experience greater friendship losses than a fickle classmate who’s in some days and out on others, but the framework is there for understanding that one, someone deciding not to be your friend is out of your control, and two, it will feel sad, but it won’t ruin your entire day or life.

After the recent presidential election, I lost some friends — some closer than others. It makes me sad to think about losing those friendships, and I still have to consciously have the conversation with myself about the life cycle of friendships. It’s grief or micro-grief for sure, but it’s good grief. If you can work through the sadness and understand that it’s all for a purpose — in most cases, to teach us life lessons that help us to grow and help others along their path of learning.

Today, while driving, I was reflecting on this good grief. It’s important to feel the sadness of a loss, that makes us human, but it’s also important to understand¬†that loss is an integral part of life — we cannot escape it. We must embrace it and learn the lessons that come along with it.

My prayer today is for God to comfort anyone experience grief, any level of grief — big or small, and that God sends an angel your way to hold your hand through the experience.

Light and love.

Written by Shara

March 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

My First Town Hall, CA-25

Being a newsie, as I’ve shared before, I look forward to the Sunday morning news shows and the arrival of my Sunday paper. It is a lot of information to take in, but I love to hear other people’s stories and learn about what’s going on in our country and in the world.

During the week, I don’t get to watch as much television news, but I do read news alerts and updates regularly. The weekend presents a great opportunity to get caught up and reconcile what I’m hearing nationally with what I’m seeing locally.

Since the presidential election, I’ve challenged myself to make more time to become involved in issues that deeply and directly impact the community in which I live. This local hyper-focus may come from a feeling of not having much of a voice at the national level. As it stands, I don’t feel that the current incumbent of the oval office has my family’s best interest in mind, nor do we have the level of representation that we need to better balance this out in either the House or the Senate. All I can say is thank God for the judicial branch.

Last week, I attended a public hearing to determine whether or not Los Angeles county would approve the massive expansion of a local landfill. Every person who showed up to testify in support of the expansion had received some monetary benefit — employees who earn a salary for working at the landfill, public officials who received campaign donations, non-profits and trade groups who receive donations and membership fees from the landfill, citizens whose families received scholarships from the landfill. They all showed up with glowing reviews and green-colored t-shirts and caps. The other side of the story was shared by residents living within the community directly impacted by the landfill. They shared stories of health concerns, air quality concerns, water contamination concerns, and corporate bullying and intimidation. I couldn’t believe that this was unfolding right in front of me — in my own small community.

The good news from the fallout of the presidential election is that more people, like me, are starting to become aware of what’s happening in their communities. I think, in the past, I was guilty of thinking that my civic duties ended after the vote, but not anymore.

There were so many people at the public hearing that it was standing room only in a junior high auditorium. Since the meeting had a hard stop at 9:30 p.m. and there were still more than 50 people waiting to testify, the committee has decided to hold a second hearing in April. It’s a really important issue and residents should have the opportunity to voice their concerns for consideration.

I hope the regional planning commission will take the residents concerns seriously. I understand the desire for a business to want to expand and grow, I’m a business owner myself. I just don’t think that growth should happen at the expense of anyone’s health and safety, and certainly not the least among us. Those in the community where the landfill is located aren’t wealthy, so they can’t speak with dollars, just words and visibility. If there are other options to bring about a win-win (like moving the landfill to a more remote, less populated location — I hear there is one already setup and ready), then those options should be fully explored.

Following that experience, my daughter and I got up early on Saturday and trekked about an hour out of town to attend a town hall put on by our congressman, Steve Knight.¬†In my opinion, the congressman did everything possible to minimize the turnout. He picked a remote venue (one not centrally located in the district). He chose to hold the event at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, doors opening at 7:45 a.m. and only the first 275 were allowed in with id. Not only does this discourage turnout, but it sends a message to the people he represents all over the district that he is not accessible and doesn’t care about their views.

The town hall was streamed live by the local television channel, so hopefully, lots of people got to watch, BUT it’s important for his constituents to have easy access to VOICE their concerns and ASK questions and GET answers. That doesn’t happen when all you can do is watch it online or on tv.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get into the town hall, but we were one of the hundreds who stood outside to share our concerns and rally support for another more centrally located town hall so that Rep. Knight could respond to why he says one thing to appease his constituents in person and then votes another way.

We’ll continue to stay engaged. We’re learning a lot. I encourage parents to get children involved in this process to learn how your local and state government work firsthand¬†and to show them how to let their voice be heard on issues of great concern. This IS what democracy looks like.

CA 25 Town Hall in Palmdale, CA.

CA 25 Town Hall in Palmdale, CA.

Written by Shara

March 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

I Did a 10-Mile Trail Run

A few weeks ago, I started running. Well, more like jogging. Actually, I probably walk more than I jog or run, but I manage to get a bit of it all in there.

A friend inspired me to start running during our conversations about a half marathon in Santa Barbara this coming June. I’ve never run a half marathon or anything other than short sprint races in middle school.

That was many years (and pounds) ago.

Last weekend, another friend invited me to do a training trail run with her. She’s an experienced marathoner and I’m always in awe of what she accomplishes. At first, she said we would do a 6-mile training run, but when we showed up the morning of the run, the training group leader said we would actually be doing a little more than 9 1/2 miles that day.


Ummmm, what? Is it too late to back out? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But, my friend was a great coach and motivator. She encouraged me the whole way and never left me, even when I suggested that she should save herself and leave me to rot.


In the first mile, our run took us up about 500 ft and on a steep incline. I truly didn’t think I would make it, but I kept going. Four and a half hours later we emerged down that same hillside and I was truly amazed.

I didn’t think this body could… would, but it did.

There were moments I wanted to puke. Moments that I cried. Moments that I vowed never to speak to my friend again. Moments when I doubted myself, my sanity, and even my ankle strength to carry me one step further.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

I persisted, we persisted and we finished.

My friend said to me that this run would be more mental than physical. She said that when you cross the finish line, there’s a feeling of accomplishment that no one can take away. You start to understand that any goal you put your mind to you can achieve.


I’m so grateful for the opportunity to push myself in this way, mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to my first race and crossing the finish line. Of course, I have a feeling that it won’t be the end, but more the beginning.

Written by Shara

February 12, 2017 at 1:29 am

Happy Birthday, Love.

Last night, we spent an hour at Target trying to find “a really special birthday gift for daddy.” My seven-year-old had a gift idea in mind when we arrived, but when she saw the options that Target had she felt they just weren’t special enough. I tried to calmly walk her through some other options, but she was fading fast and getting frustrated. The WHOLE of Target and NO-THING was special enough for her daddy.

That’s love.


Yeah, I know. I should have planned it out months ago, and there wouldn’t have been the last minute rush, but if you know me, then you know that’s just my flow. I thought about it last month. I had lots of great ideas, but the planning time got allocated to squeakier wheels, and here we are, December 8, 2016.

Today, I wanted to share just how much I love my husband. Although, I feel like I expended all my mushy note writing on our anniversary Facebook post last month. That was just 8 days after the election, and I was feeling kind of emotional anyway, nevertheless, all of it was heartfelt.

Last night, I binge-watched Insecure on HBO. The show is hilarious, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud. At 1:00 in the morning, I was thinking, “Girl, you are crazy, you need to go to sleep… the alarm goes off in just five hours!!”

Did I mention, I am NOT a morning person?

But, I finished Season 1 and then drifted to sleep. As I did, scenes from the show had me thinking that I’m so glad I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore. I mean we all would take a dip in the fountain of youth if we could, but there were a lot of tough lessons to be learned in those years. I’m sure there will be tough lessons in the years to come as well, but the show just reminded me of how I met my husband when I was only 23. We dated off and on for years and then finally married in my 30s.

It takes a while to figure some shit out.

I’m so glad that we figured it out together, though.

Last month, on our 9th anniversary, my son did some quick math on the car ride to school with my husband. “Cat’s out of the bag,” my husband announced when he got home. Apparently, my son figured out that we did NOT have our shit together BEFORE he was born.

It’s cool. I knew this day would come, I thought, as my Christian guilt started creeping up.

“Well, what did you tell him?” I asked, scared to know what was really said.

He told my son that he figured he already knew since he was in our wedding!!



Apparently, my son thought it was an anniversary celebration, not our wedding and let’s just say we really haven’t discussed it at length until now…

9 years later — as they stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder. ¬†My husband has been by his side since he took his first breath, whether we were together or not, he’s always been there for our son. I love this man.


So, as another year marches by, we’ll turn the page and start a new chapter. I love being your wife, your best friend, your companion on this life journey.

Happy Birthday, love.

Written by Shara

December 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Perceptions of Racial Reality in Media

On the way to school this morning, I asked my son to name one of his favorite shows (which are mostly cartoons) that had a girl or woman of color as the lead.

“What do you mean? Like Sandy in SpongeBob?”

No… close, but no.

I explained, think of a show with human characters or human representations in the case of cartoons. Is there one you can think of where the main character isn’t what we call White. I also explained that for some reason I don’t like the words White and Black as descriptive terms for skin color, they don’t truly represent the different shades and hues in our beautifully diverse world, but they do help to get the point across quickly.

He thought some more and couldn’t come up with any.

Then, I asked what about supporting characters. He quickly named Maria from Sesame Street, who he mentioned had recently retired, and another character from Rugrats. There! He sat back with a smile and kinda proud of himself.

Good job, son, but the conversation wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

We talked about how media shapes our perceptions of beauty and how he uses terms he’s learned through media to define beauty. Terms like “hot girls” which he almost always tends to use for girls scantily clothed with blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I asked, if this is the standard of beauty set by most of the media we consume, then what message does it send to girls who don’t look like this?

He didn’t know.

He thought some more and then said. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t need to see people who look like me on television to know I look good.


I know, son and that’s great, but much of that is because our society doesn’t use beauty as a standard of value or success for men. Not so for women. Can you see that?

Yeah, I guess you’re right, he agreed.

So, what do you think we should do about it?

I guess just like the saying goes, “we should be happy with what we have.”

Maybe, I said, but what about the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

I told him that the world needs his stories and that little boys and girls who have brown skin, like him, deserve to see main characters who look like them in their media. If we don’t see them, we shouldn’t sit complacently, we should ask for them and more importantly, we should create them.

Teenage Boy Sitting On Sofa At Home Watching Television

I’m having more conversations about race with my children, in a very intentional way.

Sewing seeds.

I need my children to understand the country we live in wasn’t necessarily designed for them, but it needs them. They have an important role to play now and in the future. If they don’t understand that perceptions are both created for and skewed by a dominant culture, then they might mistake this perception for their reality. But it’s not the whole truth, far from it.

Do you have conversations about race with your children? Are you scared to talk about it? I’d love to hear more.

Written by Shara

December 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm