Epic Road Trip Pt 4: Coming Home

I know you’ve all been such troopers sticking with me through my ramblings about road trip after road trip. Probably you’re just grateful that you’re not anywhere near my laundry pile right now and are ready to hear about something more interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to that. But until we tackle the biggest and most important trip of the batch: our trip home to Atlanta for my birthday.

I’ve mentioned in an off-handed sort of way a few times that I’m a Maryland transplant from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born there, but my family is originally from New York, so I spent most of my childhood feeling slightly displaced. I don’t say “y’all” more than about four times a year when I’m so tired that I’m probably actually trying to say something else anyway. I have no Southern accent. I can put on a decent one, but it’s really not natural at all. (Actually, when I’m really groggy, I sound like I’m from Brooklyn. You can thank my grandpa.) I don’t speak slowly or like to be outside in the Summer (ok–Southerners don’t really like this. They like their air conditioners.) I don’t have a fried chicken recipe that I swear by or eat chitlins or do much frying in general. I have no relatives who fly confederate flags from the backs of their pickup trucks. While I do know how to make a nice pitcher of sun tea, I don’t like to tell people that I’m fixin’ it.

Deep, deep, down, I think I’ve always wanted to try a hoop skirt.

It wasn’t until I moved to Maryland that I began to actually feel Southern. Most likely this is a result of many a heated argument that my husband and I have had regarding whether Maryland can be considered “the South.” He’s from here and defends this little state’s Southern-ness (yes, not really a word, but it’s been too long a day to care) tooth and nail. He argues that they wanted to secede from the Union, but mean ol’ Mr. Lincoln incarcerated the entire voting body so they couldn’t vote to do so. He’ll remind you that it’s technically south of the Mason-Dixon line. He’ll even quote a president as saying that Baltimore was a city of “Northern charm and Southern industry.” (Nice, huh?)

It wasn’t until I moved here that I started getting defensive about what’s really the South. Here’s my argument: None of the cashiers at the grocery store strike up a regular conversation with me while I’m unloading my cart. Eighty percent of the restaurants and fast food chains have pepsi products (shudder) instead of Coke. “Sweet” tea up here tastes like unsweetened tea where I come from. For that matter, in the real South, when you ask for a tea, they just bring you a sweet tea (a fact that used to drive me crazy when I lived there and wanted a cup of hot tea and had to phrase it as such.) Every building there has central ac–no matter how cheap the rent is. The grocery store’s policy is that they carry your bags out for you and you’re not allowed to tip the guy. There is a Waffle House on every exit. The Braves are, and always will be, America’s team. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already convinced.

Just try to tell me this doesn’t make you want to be a Braves fan.

We usually compromise by agreeing that Maryland is not the “deep” South. For the health of our marriage.

All this is to say that after our miraculously short drive down (13 hours down driving overnight), I was ready to soak up every last bit of my semi-Southern/semi-New York Italian & Irish hometown and family as possible. We did it right folks: two Waffle House trips, a Zaxby’s stop (how I wish they’d open one up here!), two big family parties, and going directly from our air-conditioned rental car to similarly arctic conditions wherever we were going. We had a blast.

The best part, though, was seeing my family for the first time since Christmas. We were supposed to go down for Easter, but between my surgery and the husband’s new job having just started, there was just no vacation time. We made dinner with my mom and sister, stayed up late talking and drinking tea (hot tea with milk and sugar for the record–Irish style) as we’ve always done in my family, and watched baseball movies.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I'm so lucky.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I’m so lucky.

We also had a family party to celebrate all of the birthdays from August and September (5, if you’re curious. Although we added the one October kid in to make it 6). I adore our family parties. There’s something about being just this one simultaneously very important and not really important at all person in a loud, loving, swirling mass of aunts, uncles, cousins, and children of assorted ages. I feel more grounded, more me, and more at home than I do just about anywhere else.

As long as I can remember, we would have one birthday party a month for any family members born during it (hey–it’s expensive to feed that many people,) except for the horrible, sad gap between New Year’s and Easter. There are only four birthdays during this gap and because we’ll have just lugged out the big bucks to afford Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s parties back-to-back-to-back, we have to take a break. It took me years to realize that I would often sink into a mild depression during this time of year because I needed the madness of my beautiful and crazy family to recharge. Turns out, I needed the physical closeness and volume and food and jokes and hugs to feel connected to my sense of self.

Our modern secular culture would not like my family or my reliance upon it. This culture constantly tells us that we’re supposed to be entirely self-reliant, self-contained, and self-important. Our identity should never be wrapped up in someone else, it says. We must be independent! Chase our dreams! Sacrifice for no one!

But guess what? Our faith teaches us that being interdependent, being consistently generous, and emptying ourselves for the love of others is how we get to Heaven. What my family taught me, without knowing it, is that it is better to be part of the love and madness of a family than to be self-contained. They taught me that sacrificing my eardrums and my personal space and spending hours over a hot stove to prepare a meal for twenty-something people to show them that I love them is the best thing in the world. When I’m home, I am just one very loved but singular component of the great, big, wonderful thing that is my family, for which I would give whatever is required of me.

My family prepared me for my vocation as a wife and, hopefully some day, a mother. Because the unconditional and sacrificial love that I’m overwhelmed by and surrounded by during a regular family dinner is a sign, a dim reflection, of the beatific vision that I’m stumbling towards, Heaven. And it’s a great thing if I can focus on yearning for that Heavenly home the way that I yearn for this earthly one.

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Epic Road Trip Part 3: Of Sweat & DJs

Turns out that taking 6 major road trips, most of them out of state, in about a month’s period of time makes me very sleepy, behind on laundry, and least surprisingly: a slow writer. Whoops!

Where were we? I believe we’d just arrived back home from the Catholic Marketing Network show on a Thursday night (late, late at night) to discover that our air conditioning was still not fixed. Turns out, I am a Georgia girl after all. A wilting little flower who needs her cool, dehumidified air blasting from every direction lest I sweat through my clothes, gross everybody out, and whine everyone to death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying hard to offer up my suffering for the Holy Souls and I do pretty well with pain, exhaustion, and seemingly endless cleaning, but make me sweat when there’s nothing to dry it off and cool me down…and I’m a big old baby.

This is me. But cuter. Also, the illustrator’s blog that I found this picture on looks adorable.

The AC had been out in our townhouse for the entire week with no windows having been open or fans being blown (we were fortunately gone, remember?) It was a sauna in there. And my husband, the only person on earth who hates humid heat more than (or even as much as) I do, was my hero. He rigged an old ac unit that we’d been trying to sell on craigslist all summer to blow directly at our pull-out couch where we slept for the rest of the weekend. Because his Friday morning phone call to the leasing office only elicited a weary, “We’ll get there when we get there and it probably won’t be today” type of response. (In his defense, he was shaking so hard with trying not to lose his well-earned temper with the couldn’t-care-less office staff that he had to just hang up to keep from yelling at them. He has more patience than I do.)

So we sweated out the weekend and probably learned some really valuable lessons about how much we’d like to spend as little time in purgatory as possible. Actually, I’m hoping that at least the 24 hours of that where the weather got well into the 90s will count towards our stints. Of course, this brings up the question of if my vocation is to get him into Heaven, should I be turning off the AC more frequently? Oh, I hope not.

This is what I should have been picturing while we melted. I just love pictures of Holy Mass like this.

To wrap up a rather boring and gross half of the story: He called the office again on Monday morning asking not if, but when TODAY our air conditioning that had been broken for over a week would be fixed. And this time it worked magic. He must have been speaking to the right person, because not only did they come to fix it right away, but they also fixed our alarm, our blinds, and will supposedly be giving us a new microwave touchpad that we did not ask for or complain about very soon. Actually, I kind of like our weird microwave. It has buttons for baked potatoes and popcorn. I don’t know why they want to fix it. Suffice it to say that he got all the things fixed just in time for us to pack our bags back up (still no unloading from the last time, just washing dirty clothes) and head back out on the road.

Leg three of our adventures took us back up past where we’d just been and all the way to New York. A college friend of my husband’s was getting married at a beautiful college chapel just north of the Bronx and it was the most beautiful weather for a wedding ever. I prefer to cover my head in the presence of Our Lord, so after much awkward shuffling trying to figure out whether it was, in fact, a Catholic chapel (we were trying to see if the Blessed Sacrament was reserved there–it was, but waaaay on the side and boy were the bride’s parents confused at my leaning around door frames looking for a tabernacle), I grabbed my spare hat from the car and we rolled in.

After a lovely wedding that we were grateful to have been a part of with only one pretty dramatic appearance of the bride’s ex-boyfriend from across the country who is still friends with my husband, we settled into what was the most delicious reception ever. The food was fancy, tasty, and was passed around on plates the entire time. Maybe it’s low-brow to admit this, but I’ve never partaken of anything so fancy-shmancy. We parked ourselves by the kitchen door so we could get first-dibs, of course.

The reason that I harp on the wonders of the food is that eventually I’ll have to tell you about the horror that was the MC for the reception. Yes, I said the MC, not the DJ. Because there was a separate DJ who played music that, while not at all my taste for either listening to or for dancing to at weddings or elsewhere, many people there seemed to enjoy. The gentleman with whom we took exception was, it turns out, only there to yell into his microphone every three minutes (if someone was giving a particularly sentimental toast) or every thirty seconds (if music was playing), “PUT YOUR HANDS UP! LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE HAPPY COUPLE! CLAP YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW OR THEY’LL NEVER BELIEVE YOU LOVE THEM!” I mean it. He wanted us to clap our hands and yell, “Woohoo!” every. thirty. seconds. We just wanted to dance.

This is kind of what it looked like to me. Fair warning, I wasn’t brave enough to follow the link after the google image search. I have no idea who this guy is supposed to be. Besides creepy.

We love to dance. I am a very blessed woman who has a husband who loves, loves, loves to dance with me at weddings. I’m usually the one who needs a rest first. But you can’t really dance when some dude is screaming in your ear about how you need to let go of the handsome man you’re dancing with a CLAP! The last straw, however, was when said MC took it upon himself to really bring the party to the crowd by shoving through all of the guests on the dance floor while bouncing up and down screaming some more about clapping. And by shoving through the crowd, I mean rubbing himself up against any female in a pretty dress, myself unfortunately included several times. At long last (by which I mean after two rub-bys during the first half of a single song), we stepped outside to get away from the flashing lights madness and had ourselves a nice romantic dance by our lonesome (or is that lonesomes? I need a grammar nazi to help me out here.) And that’s how my husband refrained from punching the MC’s lights out for the rest of the reception.

Also, in a flash forward to real-time, I think I just discovered my new calling: golf. Or more specifically, hitting golf balls at the driving range while someone else bends over to replace my just-hit ball instead of me. We went for the first time last Saturday and it was one of the most fun and cathartic times I’ve had in a while. I guess I just really like hitting stuff for no apparent reason while a man in a big cage drives around and picks up after me. (Read into it what you will; I’m not sure there is a defense.)

This was me.

Anyway, as it turns out, I’m pretty good at it! Or at least I’ve got great beginner’s luck. Now, I don’t understand what I was doing well enough to impress anyone with the distance or technical details of my golf-ball-hitting-glory, but my husband and the male friends we went with seemed pretty impressed. And just so you don’t think I’m bragging or anything, I royally stink at duck pin bowling (strange Maryland thing, the oddness of which deserves its own post,) tennis, watching football, braiding hair, and not burning things that I bake. Now it’s ok to say that I was pretty good at hitting the crap out of some measly golf balls, right? Right. I can’t wait to go hit some stuff and not get in trouble or have to clean up again. Spoken like a grown-up.

Epic Roadtrip Part 2 & 7QT at the Catholic Marketing Network

Last we spoke (read? wrote?) my husband and I had just arrived back from leg one of our Epic Late Summer Road Trip. That was our anniversary trip to West Virginia. I mentioned at the end of that post that I was actually writing while on leg two of said Epicness. Here’s how it went down:

When we arrived back home on Sunday night, we made a horrible discovery: our air conditioning had gone out at some point during the weekend. It was probably a toasty 86 degrees on the lower level of our townhouse and who knows how much hotter upstairs. Not fun, but thankfully it was a pretty nice night outside so we managed with fans and enjoyed the rest of our evening while frantically unpacking/re-packing into a larger suitcase so we could set off the very next afternoon immediately after work (and reporting the broken ac to our leasing office bright and early) for leg 2…New Jersey!

Why were we so excitedly venturing to New Jersey? To attend the wonderful and oh so glamorous Catholic Marketing Network trade show. I’ve mentioned before that I run a Catholic bookstore/giftshop and that it’s pretty much the best job in the world. I get to do a million things a day including filling the store with all kinds of magnificently solid Catholic goodies. And it’s so amazing and fulfilling to know that every decision I make is focused on what will help the people who come to our shop to grown closer to Our Lord. Seriously, best job ever.

A picture from last year’s show. The woman in the red shirt is actually my sales rep from Ignatius Press whose name is also Therese. She’s really thrilled that this picture of her butt has been on the CMN website for the last year.

So try to imagine how much fun I was having in a conference center in New Jersey packed to the gills with beautiful statues and pictures, handmade rosaries, books, books, books galore, and hundreds of amazing new kids stuff just waiting to be scooped up and placed on our shelves. I have a very serious suspicion that Heaven might look like this for about an hour at a time (unless, of course you can’t get sick of good things in Heaven…at which point in the theological debate I’ll pass you over to Jen.)

I feel like I could probably go on ad nauseum about all of the amazing stuff I found there and what a fun time I had on day one (when I actually got to explore and browse instead of running around like a maniac skipping lunch trying to get all of my orders placed before the show floor closed and I had to drive back home right away.) I’ll try to keep it to just a couple of fun things, ok? Feel free to skip past if you’re soulless and don’t like totally awesome shiny new stuff from fun new companies that will make beautifully organized new displays in the children’s area of our store.

LIGHTBULB! Since it’s that time of the week, let’s do this 7 Quick Takes style and cheat a little. Deal? (Sorry, there’s probably no scrolling past this now.)

–1–

Father Juan Pablo Vocations Doll

If you are Catholic and have small children, I absolutely encourage you to check out this new company called Wee Believers. They have dozens of adorable products that are great for even really small children including these vocations dolls. Fr Juan Pablo wears a full cassock (or as I call them, Priestly super hero outfits) and Sr. Mary Clara is just plain adorable. They’re plush and come with great books to encourage children to become comfortable with the idea of vocations to the religious life. Plus they remind US (not just kids) that priests and nuns (and brothers and sisters) are fun!

–2–

I’m cheating here because this is from the same company, but it deserves it’s own number and I don’t think you’ll blame me.

Plush MASS KIT. Seriously.

Yeah, that’s an entire Mass kit made out of soft materials for children to play Mass with at home. When I was a kid, all we had to use as a “host” was an Oreo. Seriously. This set has candles, a crucifix, and a thurible for crying out loud! It’s a thing of beauty. I wish I had a four year old boy to play with this with right now. Their website is here, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you use their search function to find a local Catholic bookstore near you to order this stuff from. Help out the little guys so you’ll still have a place to pop in and grab a couple of holy cards or a new miraculous medal from at the last minute.

P.S. I would LOVE to hear some great funny and/or adorable stories about kids playing Mass. There might even be a prize in it for the person with the best story.

–3–

Who needs a Cootie Catcher when you can have a kid’s Catechism Catcher?

This was probably my favorite new booth of the year: Arma Dei. I made fast friends (well, I thought so) with Monica and fell in love with just about every single one of her products. I didn’t even realize she ran a blog, I swear! All of her products are fun, color-able, inexpensive to make, and most importantly full of great Catholic “meat.” She has tons of great books and craft ideas that I spent a solid half-hour drooling over. A board member who came with me had to drag me away. I bought a bunch for the store including a set of playing cards that teach fundamentals of the faith (everything from 2=the two natures of Christ to 9=the nine precepts of the Church.) Amazing, right?

–4–

Battle Saints bracelets kick tush

You know those great saints bracelets that everyone wears? Well, this company was called Battle Saints and they make saints bracelets just like those, except the saints on them are specifically chosen because they’re the patrons of each of the branches of the military and of warriors in general. The idea is that a) you can purchase them and send them to a service man/woman that you know to give them some extra protection and b) you can purchase them for yourself and anyone else you can talk into wearing it to remember to pray for the service members through the intercession of the saints on the bracelet. Each bracelet comes with a folded up paper explaining the different patrons found on them and the mission of the organization. An especially wonderful part of what they do is to make a donation from each sale to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which helps wounded warriors when they return with physical rehabilitation, TBI, and post-traumatic stress.

–5–

Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Shining Light Dolls Collection

This company is brand-spankin’ new and is making the most wonderful new line of hard vinyl dolls. Right now all of the subjects are different apparitions of Our Lady, but she’ll also be making a line of favorite saints! (We ordered the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fatima, Knock, Czestochowa, Lourdes, & Kibeho for starters.) Since the dolls are a single piece and made of tough, durable plastic, they’re perfect toys for any age–even infants! I think they’d make great tub toys (there is a tiny air hole in the bottom that could potentially trap water in there…but you never know until you try,) and should be very easy to clean mud and/or drool off of. They also come with a great booklet and prayer card to teach your family more about the subject and come in really attractive packaging. Apparently they’ve become a collector’s item for lots of people. And they’re just so sweet! (P.S. I know they’re called Shining Light Dolls, but they do NOT light up. Don’t be confused!)

–6–

One of my favorite Catholic movies!

If you haven’t heard about Navis Pictures yet, you’re in for a treat. We already carried their movies, but this is just such a great apostolate that I had to share. Navis Pictures is an apostolate for young people that basically developed because one father in a homeschool group in CT had a professional background in film and a desire to get his kids actively involved in learning their faith. This is a production company that ONLY uses children 18 and under as actors to film amazingly solid Catholic films. The one I pictured above is one of my favorites because it really makes the beautiful faith of the martyrs of the French Revolution (that I–and most people–had never heard of) come alive. You’ll spend the first ten minutes of each film figuring out how old each of the characters is supposed to be, but you actually forget that you’re watching a group of relatively untrained homeschool kids and just become enraptured with the stories. There are a number of truly moving scenes in there too that words just won’t do justice. (i.e. the scene on the cover where they’re offering Mass on the field before battle and during the moment of consecration one of the older main characters looks so reverently at the Host and says, “My Lord and my God!” and if you watch carefully for the small children behind him who are probably barely old enough to totally grasp that their friend playing the priest is not, in fact, a priest and that this is only a pretend Mass, you’ll see the sheer love on their faces as they look upon Our Lord.) Sorry for the run-on sentence there. Just so you know, it hurts me too.

–7–

Our first batch of Glory Stories CDs and books!

Another one that you probably already know about: Glory Stories CDs by Holy Heroes. You might notice a trend here that most of these favorite picks are children’s products made by family-run apostolates. This is another started by a convert and her family. All of the kids help with the voices on the audio CDs and the stories are really top-notch. They gave me a demo of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini and Juan Diego CD to listen to and I was actually in tears on the drive home, it was so beautiful. Every family that I know that’s started a collection of these CDs has fallen madly in love with them. I actually had a group of nine year olds jumping up and down in the store with excitement (one almost knocked over some statues) when I told them we would be carrying them from now on! They also have lots of neat weekly Mass prep resources and activities. Enjoy!

Two other points of personal interest: While at the CMN show I was surrounded by Catholic celebrities (Fr. Michael Gaitley, Fr. Don Calloway, and Mother Dolores Hart for starters.) Among about 3 dozen other authors that I met, I got Teresa Tomeo to sign one of her books for me. I’ve never read her books and I’m not sure that I’m particularly dying to, but I do love to listen to her radio show on my way into work in the mornings. It puts me in the right mindset after schlupping through the Today show to get my weather report and Al Roker fix. It was pretty great to get to see her. Even if she was super busy and could only even look at me for a few seconds. I get it, Teresa. We’re cool.

Also, Dale Ahlquist held the door for me. Be jealous.

Coming…soonish: Part 3 in which my husband almost punches a DJ and we’re still really sweaty.

Mea Culpa & Epic August Road Trip Pt 1

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, guys. I know that a week and a half two weeks is supposed to be an inexcusably long time to go between posts unless you’re actively in labor/bringing home a newborn, saving the world from almost-certain doom, or just really really distracted by something shiny. I have none of those excuses, so I’ll blame it on a combination of still being relatively new to the blogging world (it isn’t a habit yet, I guess) and the fact that the husband and I have been on the first (and second) leg of our whirlwind Epic Late Summer Roadtripapalooza. Yup.

20130804_164801

This past weekend was our first anniversary (mushy and hopefully accidentally insightful post to come about that later) and to celebrate, we went away for the weekend. To West Virginia. Why West Virginia you ask (like everyone else in the last week)? Because it was close. And less expensive than the beach. And all we really wanted to do was to get the (pardon me) hell out of dodge and relax in a nice hotel room with air conditioning, clean sheets that we didn’t have to wash, our favorite shows, maybe a pool, and an unlimited supply of tolerable coffee.

What we got was possibly the most awesomely simple and perfectly us vacation ever. It was sublime, I tell you. When we arrived late on Friday night (I had to work late at the store until about 8, but we headed out from there,) our room didn’t seem to have the advertised microwave and fridge (which was necessary due to leftovers from dinner along the way–we waste NO food in this family.) So we called down to the desk and instead of just sending up an extra little microwave and fridge like I expected, they upgraded us to a whole new GIANT room! With a jacuzzi tub. A big one. That’s what I should have taken a picture of.  It was magical. The service at this place was unbelievably wonderful. They even dug up a vase for me to put the single biggest bouquet of flowers I have ever been given (2 dozen huge, lovely roses) into so I could enjoy them all weekend. They’re almost as amazing as my husband. Well, they were pretty great.

As if procuring for me the world’s largest and most breathtakingly beautiful flowers wasn’t enough of a reminder of why I love him, my husband handed me our itinerary while we were in the car on the way there. Don’t misunderstand and think that I’m one of those people who needs every second of every day completely planned out. I’m not. Especially not on vacation. But there’s also nothing I hate worse than the frustration of not having the information you need exactly when you need it. And until a few days ago, I have never owned a phone smart enough to gather that information for me.

So my thoughtful sweetheart of a husband made me an itinerary that was exactly my favorite kind (that I didn’t even know was a possibility until he started making them for me) and a perfect example of why we work together so well. It was simple and consisted of the addresses and phone numbers for the hotel, restaurant for our dinner reservation for Saturday, the church we’d picked out for Mass on Sunday, and a couple of ice cream shops in the towns we thought we might visit. It had only two times on it: our reservations for dinner and the time of the Mass for Sunday. It was perfect. With only one firm plan for each day, but lots of options for things to choose from on a whim, it was just the right amount of planned. And the fact that he had gone through all of the trouble to type it all up in lovely tables and print out not one, but two copies for me made me feel so cared for, so thought of, and so loved. I seriously got weak in the knees right there in the car. Best. Husband. Ever.

What we wound up doing was, to the untrained eye, absolutely nothing. And to the eyes that count, it was perfection. We slept in, we ate a delicious free breakfast downstairs, and took a walk around the tiny mall that we discovered next door to our hotel.  We got coffee, ran through the rain, and had a wonderful lunch at Waffle House. Again, the awful waffle might not sound like romantic anniversary food to you, but to this Atlanta-transplant girl who mourns the fact that there are only three Waffle Houses in the entire state of Maryland, all of which are well over an hour and a half’s drive from us, it was a happy gift from God. Sometime I’ll try to explain it, but for now, let’s just saying having a Waffle House within walking distance of our hotel nearly made my trip.

To a girl from Atlanta, this place just feels like home. Greasy, yes. But still home.

To a girl from Atlanta, this place just feels like home. Greasy, yes. But still home.

After a yummy lunch and a much needed soak in that tub, we relaxed, watched our favorite shows on the DVD player we brought. That’s right–he planned so well for me that he brought our DVD player from home complete with cables and a surge protector. Unfortunately we forgot the remote for the DVD player, so that meant pestering those poor but kind souls down at the desk again to see if they had a universal remote. Miracle of miracles: they had a DVD player and remote we could borrow! Seriously guys, this place was amazing. Boy, are they gonna love their yelp review.

Us watching "His Girl Friday" in the hotel room. Bliss!

Us watching “His Girl Friday” in the hotel room. Bliss!

Our dinner reservations were for an amazing restaurant attached to a vineyard just over the border in Virginia. The food was incredible (definitely the fanciest food this budgeting family will eat all year!) and so was the view. Check this out:

Our view from the table

Gorgeous, right? The rain just made all the colors really saturated and rich.

After a night of leftover cake, more movies, wine (oh yeah, did I mention he brought our own supply of booze and didn’t forget the bottle opener?), and generally resting up, we had another yummy breakfast and headed out to Mass. We’d done our research and found this pretty little chapel in Charles Town, WV run by the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, an order of priests which, as far as I can tell, only celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass (which we love and prefer ourselves.)  Mass was lovely and holy and we had a chance to meet with the brothers afterwards. They live in a little house right next door.

Pretty church that they're getting ready to renovate and make gorgeous!

Pretty church that they’re getting ready to renovate and make gorgeous!

We were able to walk from there to main street where we got lunch at a yummy Mediterranean place (complete with free hummus!) where I was able to have a dish that I’ve been searching for since my study abroad days in Greece many years ago. From there we explored Harpers Ferry, I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail in heels (ok, so it was just a little bit and the bridge that goes to Maryland,) and we got ourselves some ice cream and souvenirs. And then we headed home, playing a surprisingly addictive game of Words With Friends with my sister during the drive. (Ok, I found one thing I can do on this new gadgety phone.) We had a lovely dinner and ate our anniversary cake, which was oh so delicious. I’m not kidding. The huge tier of cake that took up most of our tiny freezer for a year was worth it. Check out how we re-wrapped it up and re-froze it since we were leaving for part two of our adventure the next day:

Re-cutting the cake

Re-cutting the cake

Wrapped back up!

Wrapped back up!

We are little pleasures people. And so blessed to be so. It turns out that the world is a pretty wonderful place when you can treat every little win like it’s a big one. A thousand little wins helps to balance out the worst parts of the hard days (of which there certainly are plenty). I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I actually love to make big lists of all the little happy things that make up a day. Like this post, apparently. I’m hoping that what I lack in timeliness, I make up for in lack of brevity. 😉

Coming soon…Part 2 in which we attend the Catholic Marketing Network trade show and get very sweaty.