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The Long Lost Treasure

This summer, I was on a quest for the long lost treasure.

I wasn’t quite sure where I would find it, who it would be with, or if I would even locate it. I felt a bit like a character out of the Goonies movie, from 1985, which is of course dating myself. I have been doing a lot of soul searching the past couple of years and for some reason, this past summer led me to go on this journey.

Most of my highlights this summer were surrounded by people not faraway places. I know that sounds odd, because I do love to travel, but I felt like since the pandemic I missed out so much on spending time with the people who bring warmth to my heart. I also felt a tinge of wanting to reclaim my youth.

So if you are up for it, join me on this journey as I lead you to the lost treasure.

Quest 1: We started as a family camping in Leo Carillo, Malibu at the start of summer. It definitely symbolizes childhood innocence because we have been bringing our girls here since they were four years old. We hiked the rocks, which didn’t seem as big anymore, we braved the cold water, we found the sea cave that we led 6 little ones through years ago. It was a nostalgic camping trip for sure as I looked at my daughters who are taller than me and honestly less afraid of the world than I was at 12 and 14 years old.

Sweet memories were made there and a reminder that our kids really do grow up so quickly.

Iler Woods urban garden, potatoes, garlic, peaches, and so much more.

Quest 2: To start our long hot summer days when we returned, we harvested our peaches, made peach jam, peach cobbler, and ate peaches until they were nowhere to be found. As we waited for the most opportune time to pick the peaches, It reminded me how precious food is and how lucky we are in this country to have such an abundance of food.

I also realized that my garden needs more tending to and some years we reap an abundance of one fruit or vegetable, other years, we have to work a bit harder just to enjoy a pepper or two.

How true that is in life. Some seasons are easier than others, some daily tasks can be so much harder than others.

Quest 3: In July, we got to spend one glorious week in Dana point with my mom, our girls, and cousins.

Beach hopping was our quest and we enjoyed the time as a family. There were definitely some highlights. From trying new yummy foods, playing fun card games, admiring the ocean, we got that salt water therapy.

We went to our favorite beaches and reminisced. We were so bummed the sun hardly peeked out of the clouds, but it also reminded us to be flexible. Plan A, B, and C sometimes don’t work in a day. Pivot to another letter in the alphabet, you are sure to find joy in a situation.

Quest 4: Hosting a Jingle and Mingle neighborhood get together for Christmas in July was another highlight.

Handwriting invitations, delivering it to our neighbors mailboxes, and anxiously awaiting the meeting was exciting. With both of my daughter’s moving into teenage life, I wanted to show them the spirit of Christmas is more than Santa, more than the childhood excitement.

We were so surprised when neighbor, after neighbor, came to our backyard and we chatted about putting together a Holiday themed neighborhood display. The idea has gained momentum and we can’t wait to share with you what this Holiday season is going to look like! It was a sense of community that I feel so many of us are needing these days.

Quest 5: Mid July, We traveled to Arizona to visit Scott’s family.I am always reminded of the simplicity of visiting when we go to Prescott. I take time to enjoy the sunsets, the beauty of the mountain landscapes, and our family we have there. We LOVE to enjoy cooking and baking, and it always feels like the warmth of holidays even in the 100 degree plus weather.

Quest 6: Attending family birthdays, having lunch with friends, enjoying 24 hours with my uncle and gaining such great life wisdom, all of these moments kept getting me closer to the Lost Treasure.

Quest 7: We had one more camping trip before our summer began to wind down. We made the trek to Lake Tahoe and camped in Ed’Z berg Sugar Pine Point Park. If you have never been to Tahoe, this part of the lake is absolutely stunning, less crowded and a magnificent view of the forest and the lake.

My cousin and his family were able to join us. On the second day our kids found this public dock. I was watching from the shoreline as our girls ran and jumped off the dock holding hands.

The Long Lost Treasure for Erin Iler

At that moment, I realized this was the Lost Treasure. I had to jump off that dock, I had to have the feeling of the initial shock of cold water, the adrenaline rush of doing it!

This was a family tradition growing up. Every year when we went to Bass Lake, my dad on the first day would have us run and jump off the dock. He would tell us “Welcome to Freedom.” It was a cleansing feeling, knowing that there was not a care in the world, just jumping into the water and floating. All the stresses of the year were gone and the moment of just enjoying life was there.

So, I told Scott, "This is something I need to do. I need to do it in honor of my dad, for our girls, and just to know that life is so precious."

So, I rounded up 4 adults, and 4 teenagers. Let’s just say it took some coaxing to get everyone on board. If you have ever swam in Lake Tahoe, you know the water is far from warm. I wouldn’t even say cold, probably more in the freezing department.

WE all walked down that very long dock with the kids buzzing with excitement. One saying he was going to flip off the dock, another said running was better than walking. My cousin’s wife telling me, "I am only doing this for you Erin."

We asked a random lake goer to film us as we got up the courage to jump off. All eight of us got towards the end of the dock and on the count of three we ran clear off the dock into the cold water. The drop was much longer than what I remembered as a kid! The adrenaline rush was more intense as well.

But when I popped up from under water, everyone was smiling, cheering, and I didn’t see any worry in anyone’s eyes. I needed that polar plunge. It might sound cliche, but I felt my dad surround me at that moment. I knew he was right there with me, even after being gone for 16 years.

The Long Lost Treasure I was searching for was a physical place, but it was more than that.

It was a collective feeling of warmth, being connected to family who have passed, to friends and family who are present. It was melding my childhood memories to forming new memories. It was understanding that people you love are more important than anything you purchase.

I told my girls that my bucket is so full right now. Although each year there are new challenges, these collective summer memories are all tucked away tightly in a file in my brain. I watch the video, look at the silly photos from all our summer adventures, and I am beyond thankful for what I experienced this season.

So, if you find yourself scrolling through social media, wishing you would have gone on a fancy vacation this summer, pause and think what you did get to do. Most of our memories were local, they were with people who we felt connected with. We had time to enjoy the small moments.

Happiness is not about getting all you want, it is about enjoying all you have. -Author Unknown

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Aug 20, 2023

Beautiful story, thank you for sharing! Your children are so blessed to have such a loving and creative family!

Aug 20, 2023
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Thank you Teresa for these kinds words! We love your support!

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