28 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 14

The Trip

We got up for the boy's first feeding at about 6:00 a.m., had a continental breakfast, and hit the road. We had intended to stop at any roadside attractions that seemed interesting, but we didn't end up visiting any except the world's largest indoor Burger King play area somewhere in Missouri. We did that just so we could get a picture of the boy in a crown and "Future Whopper Eater" bib in front of the play area. Posterity, you know.

After a full day of driving, except for food / gas / nursing stops, we arrived home around 8:00 p.m. Central time, unpacked the car, and climbed happily into our own bed. It had been a great trip, but we were glad to be home again.

The Blessings

A Safe Journey. Two weeks, 12 states, and more than 2,000 miles, and no car problems or accidents. The Lord was our keeper and the shade on our right hands.

Getting Home Again. Dorothy was right when she clicked her heels and fervently chanted, "There's no place like home." No matter how comfortable other beds are, there's just something nice about being back in our own bed tonight. And, thanks to my clever wifey, we came back to a clean house! She made sure that we tidied up before leaving, which was a great idea. I can't imagine how discouraged I might have been to return to a messy home.

I like to think that coming home is a lot like our ultimate homecoming, when we finally see our Lord face to face and hear what He has to tell us and understand Him face to face, rather than through a dim glass. Until that time, though, I'm happy to be in my temporal sojourning place with my beautiful wifey and marvelous son.

27 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 13

The Trip

I did something really stupid last night: I stayed up all night playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. I can't remember the last time I did that -- it was probably with the first Starcraft. A very addictive game, as you would expect from the folks at Blizzard. And not a quick one to beat, by any means.

Unfortunately, morning always comes at the same time, and we had to leave this morning. I realized at about 5:30 that it was getting late -- er, early -- and decided to take a quick nap on the couch. About two hours later, I ate breakfast, then we played one last game of Bohnanza and headed out.

Our drive was a good one, and after passing through the Alleghenies, we stopped for the night in Dayton, OH. This time, our comparison shopping for hotel rooms was a little more successful, thanks to our previous practice.

We had been looking forward to exploring Dayton, but by the time we got there, all we wanted was takeout and TV shows on the wifey's laptop. We were satisfied in these desires by The Royal Wok and The Office. Om nom nom and LOL, respectively.

The Blessings

The Interstate System. Like many blessings, this one is a double-edged sword. Arguably, more than anything else in our culture, Interstates have promulgated chain stores and restaurants, contributed to urban sprawl, and killed the small town. But they are also very nice, safe roads to use, and they enable travel opportunities that would have been considered the stuff of science fiction in the recent past.

I could drive from coast to coast in two days for about a week and a half's worth of salary if I really had to. Contrast that with the months of life-threatening travel by wagon or stagecoach that were the norm a century and a half ago, and then tell me whether the Interstate is a benefit or a detriment. Or think of those long, dirty, dreary train rides that would have been necessary to accomplish the same feat 100 years ago.

Say what you will about the Interstate System or Dwight D. Eisenhower, its father, we certainly enjoyed using it on this trip.

Wi-Fi. I love how ubiquitous free wi-fi has become all over the place: hotels, coffee shops... even McDonald's restaurants! No matter where we go, we never have to be off the grid for more than a few hours. Of course, like the Interstate System, this can be a double-edged sword, but as long as we use it wisely, wi-fi is a fantastic tool.

Online Map Services. Whether you prefer MapQuest, Google Maps, or some other service, these are a godsend. Where you used to have to spend hours poring over atlases and tables of city distances, you can now just plug your starting and ending addresses into the computer, and bada bing, you've got instant directions. Of course, the directions aren't any good if a highway doesn't actually exist in real life. But other than that, these are the next best thing to...

Global Positioning Systems (GPSes). In Virginia and Maryland, these are vital. Like, almost impossible to live without. Traffic volumes are so high, and construction is so frequent, that it is vital to have a GPS handy. This is especially true when you're going someplace you haven't been to very much before. Again, this is straight out of Sci-Fi. (In this case, literally! Arthur C. Clarke, author of such Sci-Fi works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, was also the originator of communications satellites, without which there would be no GPS.)

26 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 12

The Trip

Good morning, Baltimore! OK, so it wasn't technically morning when we got there. But I am also technically not Nikki Blonsky, so that's all right.

Today was fabulous from start to finish. We got up, played games, and then left for Del Ray, where we planned to enjoy some delicious food at Taqueria Poblano. Alas, it was Tuesday, and no estuvo abierto. Que pena. :-(

But we had no fear; Thai Peppers was near! They had a good Pad Thai and a passable curry, although not as spicy as the restaurant's name implies. Great lunch special, fast service, and very helpful people! Plus, they were open, which is always nice.

We were going to enjoy dessert at The Dairy Godmother, but it appears they copied off of Taqueria Poblano's schedule -- closed on Tuesdays.

Unfazed, we stopped by the Seven-Eleven for drinks and took off for scenic Baltimore. We spent all afternoon and evening at Fort McHenry and the Baltimore Inner Harbor, both of which are well worth visiting. We toured the USS Constellation, which was quite interesting though overpriced.

The Power Plant Live was interesting -- I'm not sure how to feel about it. On one hand, I love that the harbor development folks were able to keep some of the traditional structures more or less intact. On the other hand, I'm not sure that turning them into Hard Rock Cafes and Barnes and Noble Bookstores (with requisite Starbucks cafes inside) is much better than utter demolition.

Everywhere we went, it seemed like someone was after us to help retire the colors for the evening. I helped strike the big daytime flag at Fort McHenry, and two of our friends were asked to help lower the flag on the USS Constellation. This was a little bit ironic, considering that Baltimore was where "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written.

Dinner was at the devastatingly expensive but delectable Rusty Scupper. The crab cakes were worth dying for. Or at least worth killing someone for, since you wouldn't be able to taste them if you were dead. I think.

Finally, after our yumtastic dinner, we headed home. On the way back, we saw one of the most stunning night-time views I had ever seen: The six illuminated spires of the Washington D.C. Mormon Temple. It's kind of like the Sleeping Beauty Castle crossed with Orthanc. Quite pretty, but a little bit ominous. Out of place, too.

The Blessings

Food. I think we tend either to take food for granted or to take it much, much too seriously. Clearly, God intended food to be enjoyed; otherwise it wouldn't taste so good. But He also created it to be enjoyed without being completely abused as a feel-good panacea. This day was full of delicious foods in moderation -- a perfect blend of good things!

Freedom of Religion. I'm grateful to be in a country where all are free to worship as befits the dictates of their consciences. (Even the crazy Mormons.) It's nice not to have to worry about the secret police busting up our Sunday meetings.

America's Existence. As someone with a history degree, I have long tended toward scorn whenever someone tells me that God designed America's history and guided its founders and did all kinds of crazy miracles to set us up for a Bush-led theocracy.

The main reason I scoff is because my God is the same one whose son fled when people tried to force Him into the position of an earthly king. He is the one who proclaimed, "My Kingdom is not of this world." He is the one who rode into town on a donkey, not a war-horse.

And yet, when I look at the War of 1812, I am absolutely shocked to see the United States survive it. I see it as the one occasion when the flickering flame of our newborn nation was closest to being extinguished. And try as I might, I still can't see why it wasn't. How could the military might that overcame Napoleon's forces fail to crush a few upstart colonials who were whining about being pressed into naval service?

The answer: I have no clue. But I'm grateful they did fail, because it leaves me living in a free, prosperous country full of hope and civil liberties.

25 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 11

The Trip

In the morning, we went to the church to clean up. It went really quickly with my wife and me helping -- I was glad we'd decided to come.

Lots of games today. I find myself being really glad that our friends like games so much, because they give us all something to do together. I'm sure we haven't worn out our welcome here, and probably wouldn't for some time, but games make it a lot easier to spend a great deal of time together without feeling awkward or in the way.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading, and writing -- some of my favorite things.

The Blessings

Serving. One of the things I enjoy most is being useful. Back home, I am often too occupied to do a lot of physical serving in the church. So when I have the time and opportunity to do something like sweep and mop a fellowship hall, I genuinely appreciate it. It's great to see the work being done, and to know I am doing it for my Lord, and to know that others appreciate it as well.

In John 13, when Jesus washes his disciples' feet, it is tempting to think of it as Him laying a burden on them. In reality, though, I wonder if He isn't giving them another type of blessing.

Reading and Writing. These are things that get pushed to the back burner because they are important but not urgent. Meanwhile, other things that are less important but much more urgent vie for my attention when I'm not at work, engaged in church ministries, or otherwise occupied.

Vacation has been a great chance to get some things written and read. Of the things I read, the best was unquestionably Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which you need to read right this minute. Seriously, why are you still reading this? Please, for your own sake, go read Gilead right now. I mean it.

24 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 10

The Trip

Our college friends returned to Richmond last night, so our numbers were slightly diminished as we went to church this morning. The people there are very nice, and the teaching was pretty good too. I prefer the music back at our home church, but the songs were OK -- I just didn't know them too well.

After church, we had lunch at the Hard Times Cafe. It was yummy, but I probably ate too much, because all I wanted after that was to go home and take a nap.

In the evening, while our friends were at church, we went exploring in Burke, trying to find citric acid to make dishwasher detergent, as well as some other things. We ended up being disgusted at the Burke Wal-Mart's selection and pleasantly surprised with the Target that we went to as a last resort. They didn't have any citric acid, but they did have a fondue pot that we could use to make our special fried cheese cubes. We were quite pleased, and so were our friends when they came home and had the delightful cheese cubes for their bedtime snacks.

The Blessings

More Time With Wifey. One of the things I am realizing on this trip is that I simply don't get enough time with my wife. She is a lot of fun, and I love hanging out with her, but all too often, other things get in the way. I need to really be better at making dates with her a priority.

Chili. Is there a more perfect, more completely balanced food on earth than a well-made chili? I submit that there is not. And the Terlingua Red at Hard Times Cafe certainly counts as well-made.

Giving. Our friends had mentioned earlier that they wanted a fondue pot, so it was really enjoyable to be able to give them one -- and to give them something tasty along with it! There was a time when I sort of rolled my eyes any time I heard someone intone, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," but the more chances I have to give, the more I find myself loving it!

23 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 9

The Trip

In the morning, we went to the Alexandria Farmer's Market, whose Web site definitively claims that it "is thought to be one of the nation's oldest continually operating farmer's markets." It is unclear who is doing the thinking in this curiously passive statement, but I'm sure the sentiment still holds true.

After examining the various wares at the farmer's market, we window-shopped our way through Old Town and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. For lunch, we stopped at a Five Guys Burger, which was excessive and quite tasty, although the deliciousness was tainted with the knowledge that every bite of that greasy, greasy food was lowering my life expectancy by at least a few hours.

After lunch, we were off to Mount Vernon to see George Washington's ridiculously overpriced tourist trap home. It was lovely, but I'm not at all sure it was worth the $15 admission fee. Plus, I was excited about making a corn-husk doll, but the ladies at the corn-husk doll booth made it seem like it was just for little girls and not balding, overweight nearly-30-year-olds. So that was disappointing.

My favorite part of Mount Vernon was sitting on Washington's back porch and watching the Potomac roll by. The day was lovely -- just warm enough, with a gentle breeze to carry the chatter of passersby someplace far away. There was a sort of hushed stillness over the river as the sun crept across that clear blue October sky. I wonder if George and Martha sat out here a lot in the evenings. I know I would if it were my place.

The Blessings

Money. We don't have a lot, but we did budget some for this trip, and it's been nice not to worry about pinching pennies while we're on the road. The trip has also made me realize that money is great, but it's only useful if you spend it. The way I see it, there is very little value in letting your money sit around and make more money, unless you're able to enjoy some of it along the way.

Rivers. They're amazing things, aren't they? There is so much wonderful information about rivers that I don't even know where to begin being thankful for them. They prevent stagnation, enable transport, supply water to thirsty people, and look very pretty as the sun sets over them. They invoke images of adventure and excitement and wanderlust and peaceful resignation toward life's rolling waves washing over you.

Babysitters. One very nice thing about visiting far-away friends when you have a new baby: they are happy to take care of the little guy for you while you get some quality wifey time. This whole trip has been much more enjoyable because of their willingness to help us with our little one! It's another reason to be extremely thankful that these people are our friends.

22 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 8

The Trip

In the morning, we trekked out to Manassas, where the first and second battles of Bull Run were waged. It was a fascinating site, but also a little bit depressing, as Civil War memorials tend to be. War is hell, as William Tecumseh Sherman famously said. And as hellish as it must be to kill humans of any nation or culture, it seems even sadder, somehow, for countrymen to line up against countrymen. The bayonet charges, the volleys of rifle balls, the cannon shells and sabers cutting through soft flesh -- every bit of the violence seems infinitely more monstrous when brothers perpetrate it on each other.

In the afternoon and evening, my old college friend's wife arrived, and we took my baby boy into the District so we could take his picture in front of famous buildings. We got the capitol, the supreme court, the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson edifices, and the Smithsonian.

At the end of it all, the boy was pretty tired, and so were we, so we returned home to have a nice rest and to look forward to the day ahead.

The Blessings

My Son. His face fairly glows with curiosity and happiness. He is so easily entertained, and yet also so eager for knowledge and achievements. He is full of limitless hope and easy joy. He is at peace in his father's arms; he doesn't know yet that there is anything I can't protect him from.

There's a lot I want to teach him, but he has even more to teach me, if I pay attention.

Peace. Yes, we have been at war with someone or another for roughly the past nine years. Yes, between Bush I and Bush II, we have been engaged in conflicts in Iraq for more years than we were engaged in the First and Second World Wars. And yet, I am not fighting against my brother. I have not been conscripted, and I pray my son won't be either. There are still things to be thankful for, and the wars haven't touched us very closely.

The Bible says peacemakers who sow in peace will reap a harvest of righteousness. I think one reason that is true is because we weren't made to war. It is an outgrowth of selfishness, of covetousness, of selfish ambition. In short, it is an outgrowth of ungratefulness for blessings and of rebellion toward the One who made us to live in peace.

I know there will be trouble in this world, especially for followers of Christ. But nonetheless, with St. Francis, I pray, "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace." And I pray that the peace will be both political and personal, as people become reconciled with the One who designed them to love one another.

21 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 7

The Trip

A very good college friend of mine joined us today. Together with our hosts, we went to Old Town Alexandria for lunch at Gadsby's Tavern and a tour of Christ Church, where George Washington and Robert E. Lee attended.

In the evening, we played games, including Hearts (with Jack of Diamonds as -10, Ace of Diamonds as 5, and trickless as -5 -- best. variation. evar.) and Bohnanza.

The Blessings

Historical Stuff. As a history nerd, I absolutely loved seeing Old Town, and especially Gadsby's and Christ Church. It always fires my imagination to realize that I am occupying the same physical space that has been occupied by people I admire. Of those, Washington and Lee are both near the top of the list. Washington's undying commitment to the good of others and Lee's loyalty to his commitments, even in the face of disagreement with the South's ideological position, are the sort of legacy I would like to leave.

Games. Playing games with friends is one of my favorite pastimes. It's great to match wits with each other in a friendly, low-risk way. I think it really helps me to grow closer to my friends and learn to admire them more. Games also allow a social circle to become stronger and more stable. And, especially significantly for me, games teach you how to be happy with losing. They also teach you that losing isn't the end; it's just an opportunity to learn and improve.

Seeing Old Friends. They remind me that God works differently in each of His children. While we all long for the same heavenly city and for its Lord, Jesus Christ, He tailors our situations and journeys to maximize our growth and usefulness. For a long time, it bothered me that my friends all had to take separate paths from me. More recently, I have come to understand and accept that it is God's way of weaving a more diverse, more wondrous tapestry. I guess you could say I've stopped obsessing over His technique and started enjoying His artistry more fully.

20 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 6

The Trip

We just sat around the house in Burke, enjoying the company of our friends, blogging, and relaxing. In my mind, this is the sweetest part of any vacation. I enjoy seeing things and visiting new places, but sometimes you just need a sabbath rest.

In the evening, we walked to a grocery store and a nearby Caribou Coffee for a date while our hosts were at prayer meeting.

The Blessings

Great Friends. We love spending time with these people. They're the best kind of friends: the kind who you can pick up your relationship with at any time, no matter how long it's been since you last saw them or spoke with them.

Being Comfortable. It's not just anyone who can make you feel completely at home, so we are really blessed to feel that way right now. Our rest here has been rest indeed! We don't have to worry about intruding or outstaying our welcome or any of the other things that come along with visiting. We know they love us and want us here, and we know that we belong.

Fellowship and Encouragement. One of the nicest things of all is knowing that our friends share our values, our sense of humor, and most importantly, our love for Christ. Being with them is a constant strengthening for us. And it delights us to know that we encourage them, too.

Date Night! I always love spending time with my wife and baby. It's really fun to be able to go out for coffee and a walk together. And the umbrella stroller we're borrowing from my mother-in-law works great!

19 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 5

The Trip

Today was a sightseeing day. In the morning, we went into the District to see Ford's Theatre and visit the National Building Museum. Then, after a brief afternoon rest at home, we went back into the city for a tour of the West Wing.

Ford's Theatre was very interesting. we enjoyed their very nice museum, as well as a visit to the theater itself. While we were there, we watched a one-act play called One Destiny, which deals with the Lincoln Assassination from the perspective of the actors and managers at the theater. Not a bad show, though I have seen better.

The National Building Museum was gorgeous. The decor and architecture were quite impressive, as were the exhibits. The boy liked crawling around the enormous central room, which has been the home to many events from architectural continuing education classes to presidential inaugural balls. His mother and I perused the exhibits and were amused by the many offerings of the museum's outrageously expensive giftshop.

We took the requisite photos of the boy with several prominent landmarks, then went home to rest up. Wifey and I did get some rest, but the boy seemed quite out of sorts and cried a lot. We were afraid he would make a bad impression on our friend who was planning on giving us the tour.

We had pizza for dinner, then dressed in business casual and headed back into D.C. We took a little walking tour along Pennsylvania Avenue with Momma and Poppa and then met our friend at the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania around 8:20.

The West Wing was great, but it was even more fun to connect with an old friend and see how her life is going. We got some good pictures of the boy in front of the Press Room at the White House -- will enjoy those a lot when he's older.

In all, it was a wonderful day, but it left us pretty tired. We went home, cuddled up with a little bit of good-night Gilmore Girls, and went to bed quite happy.

The Blessings

Delay Averted. On the way into the city in the morning, Momma was driving. The GPS told her to take the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on the beltway, but she decided to go on the main highway instead. About two minutes later, we passed a several-mile-long line of cars at a dead stop in the HOV lane. We later found that they had been stopped so police could investigate shots fired at the Pentagon. Momma's split-second decision saved hours of our day and let us visit the theater and museum before heading home.

Getting to See the West Wing. As I mentioned in my last post, we had thought we wouldn't be able to visit the West Wing. So it was both unexpected and welcome when our friend was able to get us in after all.

Having a Happy Baby. I was afraid the boy would be cranky all evening, but after a good feeding and a nice nap, he was all smiles. It was great to have him with us and get to see his little eyes widen at the cars zooming by on Pennsylvania Ave.

Seeing an Old Friend. It's always a delight to me to see what God has been doing in the lives of friends I've spent time with in the past. I guess I find it so encouraging because it bears out the truth of Philippians 1:6 - "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

18 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 4

The Trip

One of the places my sweet wifey was most excited about visiting during this trip: IKEA. We had heard it was HUGE, so we decided to devote an entire day to visiting it. So that's what we did today.

We went to the Woodbridge IKEA, though there are others nearby, including one in Baltimore. At first, I wasn't sure what to expect. My wifey was certainly looking forward to it, but I was undecided. From the moment we walked into the store, though, I was hooked.

There was so much to love that I hardly know where to begin. Maybe a bulleted list would come closest to doing it justice:

  • The shopping lists. At the entrance of the store, there are shopping lists with little pencils for keeping track of all the items that interest you. Then, when you are done, you can go to a big warehouse on the bottom floor and pick out the box(es) of the items(s) that interest(s) you. This makes so much more sense than the you-are-at-the-mercy-of-a-capricious-salesperson ordering method used by most furniture stores! Plus, it cuts overhead and allows shoppers to move along at their own pace.
  • The merchandise transportation options. You can choose between a shopping cart, a yellow canvas bag (with a handy little dolly to wheel it along as it gets fuller and fuller), or a flatbed cart for moving large objects. And the shopping carts are especially amazing -- they are perfectly smooth, with plenty of bearings in each wheel assembly, and each wheel pivoting 360 degrees, with a zero-turn radius for easy maneuvering in cramped spaces.
  • The selection. There is a huge variety of well-designed and well-manufactured products for the home. Sort of like a cross between a furniture store and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
  • The food. We had lunch at the in-store cafeteria, where I had a shrimp-and-boiled egg sandwich and a vegetarian crepe... for like $4.00. And the desserts were buy one, get one free! Yummerz.
  • The toys. Found a really fun wooden train set just like the ones I used to love playing with as a child! It will be for the boy's second or third Christmas, I think. Also got him a plush soccer ball so he can start practicing now to be the next Pele.
  • The prices. Everything seemed really affordable -- and certainly more so than I have seen in a furniture store. In almost every department, I found something that knocked my socks off with its great value.
In short, IKEA is my new favorite. I'm so glad we don't have one near us, because it ranks right up there with used bookstores as the sort of place where it would be very easy for me to spend WAY too much money. Not much else to report for the day -- but I think this was plenty for us all.

The Blessings

Time With my Sweet Wife and Baby. I love being able to spend all day with my little family. They are really enjoyable! I especially enjoyed toting the boy around in our Moby wrap. It lets me cuddle him hands-free and allows him look around all he wants to, if he is facing forward. When he gets tired, I can turn him toward me, tuck his head into the wrap, and let him sleep while I continue walking. It's really fun being so close to him.

Time With Our "Momma." Our hostess is great -- it was very nice to be able to catch up with her as we made our way through IKEA's halls of wonder.

Good News From an Old Friend. One of our friends who works for the White House Office of Management and Budget had tried (alas, unsuccessfully) to get us scheduled for a tour of the West Wing. We weren't too depressed about missing it, but it would have been really neat to see the WW. And then, as we were moving through the bedroom section of IKEA, I got a call from her saying that she was able to set a tour up for us after all. What a nice favor from the Lord! :-)

Comfort. We talked a lot with our "Momma" about a recent death in our church back home. It was sweet to be able to comfort and be comforted by her in our mutual grief for the family. Even in times of grief, it is encouraging to know that God is using the situation to bring His folk closer to each other.

17 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 3

The Trip

It was time for the long haul. The last two days were really just practice for this true, all-day road trip. We left from Corinth at about 6:45, after grabbing a bowl of cereal, a couple of bagels, and a pocketful of granola bars. As we left the building, I think I may have heard a sigh of relief emanating from Room 102.

We drove through northern Mississippi, then through Alabama and up to Chattanooga, TN. We dipped briefly through Georgia, then headed through Tennessee toward Virginia. We had originally planned on stopping for lunch in Chattanooga, but as we drove, we became more and more anxious to get to Virginia before 1 a.m., so we elected to spend as little time as possible outside the car.

As we drove, we finished up our marriage study, looked for license tags from various states, and listened to a lot of Caedmon's Call.

We made very good time on this drive, and finally rolled into Burke, VA at about 10:30 EDT (which would have been 9:30 CDT). We visited for a little while with our dear friends, then, exhausted, climbed into bed. The boy woke up a few times in the night because he had slept so much in the car, but overall, we had a great sleep.

It was good to be there at last.

The Blessings

More Safe Driving. About 13-14 hours on the road, and no major incidents. God was certainly protecting us and keeping us from having car trouble.

No Emotional Explosions. Traveling can be a very difficult time for us -- particularly me. There's something about giving directions and deciding travel routes that makes me very defensive. That didn't happen a single time on this drive -- thanks in part, I'm sure, to Dr. Eggerichs.

Seeing Our Friends. They have been very influential in our lives. Their son and daughter were our best friends when we were growing up. Much of our courtship was conducted either at their home or near it. They encouraged us, did our marriage counseling, and had us over for lunch almost every week.

It's an amazing feeling to come home again, even when that home is halfway across the country from where it used to be.

16 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 2

The Trip

After the boy's first feeding (around 0530), we grabbed a continental breakfast at the Discomfort Inn (no bagels - par for the course, I suppose) and hit the road.

Outside, much to our respective reliefs, we found that our carseat had not been stolen. When my sweetie and boy were safely nestled in the car, I went back inside to grab some coffee and was hit on by two late middle-aged ladies who complimented my M&M pajama pants. One of them asked if I liked her nightshirt, which said, "Do Not Disturb."

No danger of that, I said to myself. To her, I said with a polite laugh, "Oh yes, it's quite clever; bye!"

Our drive to Corinth, MS was fairly uneventful, except that Google Maps advised us to take Highway 20 south out of Dyersburg, TN, despite the fact that Highway 20 does not exist there. This caused us some consternation, but also amused us and enabled us to learn more about the geography of beautiful western Tennessee.

We arrived in Corinth at about 2:30 and checked into Room 100 of the Econolodge, which was a good deal nicer than the Discomfort Inn we had stayed in the night before. After settling in, we went to visit Grandma at her retirement home. It was a beautiful building where she seemed to be fairly comfortable, and we talked with her for about 3 and a half hours.

After we were done visiting with grandma (it was getting close to her bedtime), we went with Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil to Pizza Grocery, where they had the shrimp and grits and we split a much more prosaic pizza. It was great to have some time with them, especially since Magen had only met Aunt Mary once and I hadn't seen Uncle Phil for about 18 years.

The night was a good one, except that the boy awoke several times. We tried to get him quickly each time so our anonymous neighbors in Room 102 wouldn't curse us unnecessarily.

The Blessings

Another day of Safe Driving -- hours and hours in the car, but no crashes or near-crashes.

Making It. Despite the best efforts of the Google Maps gremlins, we made it to Corinth ahead of schedule.

Happy Baby. The boy has been quite impressive on this trip. He hasn't fussed very much at all, and he has been a pure joy to me when I've gotten to hold him on our rest / fill-up stops.

Seeing Grandma. I haven't seen Grandma since before Grandpa died, and the boy had never met her. She loved having us visit; her joy more than rewarded our drive. It's sad to see her in so much pain, but nice to know that she is in a nice place surrounded by caring people.

Spending time with Aunt + Uncle. It was great to see my aunt and uncle. It was also really sweet of them to remember my birthday and have a birthday pizza come out afterwards. We really enjoyed visiting with them.

15 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 1

Blogger's Note: This is the inaugural post in my series of Vacation Blessings. I have obtained two weeks of paid leave from my place of gainful employment to relax, refresh, and reinvigorate. My wife, sweet son, and I are therefore road-tripping to see my Grandmother and Aunt in Corinth, MS, and then headed out to Burke, VA to see some dear friends.

The Trip

Got off work and headed west on I- 70. Drove a while and then stopped for the night at a Super 8 in Kingdom City, MO. We had initially thought of stopping at the Comfort Inn across the highway, but we intended to do some shopping around to ensure we weren't missing any fantastic hotel deals in the vicinity.

Our good intentions lasted through the second hotel we hit, Super 8. They offered us a room for $9 less than the Comfort Inn, and when I returned to the car to discuss the matter with Wifey, I found her tired and the baby cranky for lack of milk, so I took Super 8's offer.

Subsequently, we found out why it was $9 less. The room wasn't great, and Wifey was afraid to leave the boy's carseat outside for fear that someone would break into our car to steal it. We affectionately nicknamed the hotel the "Discomfort Inn." It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't nearly as nice-looking as the Comfort Inn had been. Overall, not a bad night, but nothing to tweet @Mom about.

The Blessings

Where do I start? Oh, yes: Paid Vacation. It is so nice to have three weeks (plus a day or two) of paid vacation / sick leave per year. I especially like that it is all combined into one lump of paid time off so I'm not tempted to be dishonest in order to use sick leave as vacation time. On top of that, I get to come back to a job I genuinely enjoy after my vacation is done.

Date Time. On the way to Kingdom City, we discussed our marriage, our relationship, our communication, and our attitudes with the help of a marriage workbook from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I don't agree with the man in some areas (such as his fundamental concept of gender and his belief that God designed marriages to have conflict), but I have found his ideas very useful in facilitating communication about our values, assumptions, and needs. His concept of "The Crazy Cycle" is especially enlightening.

We've only been looking at the material for a couple of weeks, but I already feel like I have grown a lot closer to Wifey and learned a great deal about what she needs in our relationship.

Reliable Vehicle. No breakdowns, overheating, bad brakes, or any other issues so far. We are so happy to have a paid-for vehicle that can reliably transport us and our stuff halfway across the country and back!

Anticipation. The beginning of a journey is always filled with hope, expectations, and happy thoughts about what lies ahead. Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I think about this verse about each time something goes differently than I had wanted. I think this concept is also what made it so hard when a seven-week-old baby in our church died a couple of weeks ago. But the verse also contains the flip-side of that truth: A longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Here's hoping that this trip fulfills our longings!