Friday, January 2, 2009


What a trip.  I think Bruce and I are ready to NOT spend much time in the car for the time being.  We left around 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, stopped about 20 miles shy of the Virginia / West Virginia border on I-81 around 11 p.m. that evening, got up the next morning and then continued on to Wayne, PA to my aunt Leslie's house.  We got there around 11:30 a.m.  We spent some time with them and then Neal and Alex came over.  This is the last time we were able to see Neal before he deploys to Iraq.  We had an absolutely wonderful visit with them but it was definitely bittersweet.  We went out to lunch and then back to Leslie's.  We sat around until Gabriella started telling us about Wii Karaoke that she got for Christmas (seven year olds are WAY more technological than I was at that age - I feel like I missed out on a lot of cool toys).  Alex and I HAD to try the karaoke so we all went downstairs and tried it out.  Gabriella picked out songs for Alex and me and we sang duets and "song-offs" and danced along.  We really got into it.  At one point we turned around and the boys were gone.  Bethany went off in search of them and came back down and told us that Neal was explaining to Leslie what he was going to be doing in Iraq and Bruce was showing my dad his new iTouch.  Apparently Wii Karaoke wasn't as entertaining to the them as it was to us.  We went upstairs to find them only to have Gabriella drag them downstairs.  Next thing I knew she had them playing Wii Sports.  It wasn't anything special, but I really treasured that time with both Neal and Alex.  I know this is not going to be an easy 9 months with Neal gone and I'm glad we just got to spend time together in a "homey" environment.  And I think my family is really happy they all got to see them too.  Like my mom said - she's had church members go to Iraq before but Neal is probably the closest person to family she's ever prayed for every Sunday morning from the pulpit.  I started to crack when I said goodbye to them, but we were leaving for Jodi's wedding and I was distracted.

The wedding was beautiful, it really was.  There was something still about it almost.  It was cold and the air was crisp.  Everyone in the wedding party (with the exception of the bride and the groom's vest) was wearing black and everything was lit by candles.  It was beautiful.  The wedding just seemed perfect.  My oldest cousin read and her sister played the flute.  The ceremony didn't last long (my mom was officiating after all) and we all gathered in the sanctuary after for pictures.  It was fun because I was able to spend time with my dad's sisters and my cousins who I really haven't been able to see a lot recently.  I guess you don't realize how much you really do miss people until you see them after a long period of time.  I really do wish that Bruce and I were closer and could see everyone more often.  We went from the church to the reception.  All of the cousins (minus the bride and her sister, the maid of honor, of course) all sat at the same table with spouses / significant others and we had a great time.  Bruce really liked all of them (it was the first time he had met most of them) and that makes me really happy.

We left the reception before the midnight countdown.  My dad always has a hard time at wedding receptions (parties with DJ's or bands in general) because his hearing is really sensitive.  I think he spent too much time in rock bands in high school in college!!  But it's hard for him to handle loud music for extended periods of time, so we ate, drank, danced a little bit and then said goodbye to everyone and went back to Leslie's around 11:15 and rang in the New Year with Leslie, Steve and Gabriella.  They were surprised to see us before midnight but I think they were really happy we came - and we were too!!  My mom had gifts for Bruce and me, so we opened them and then watched Dick Clark and Times Square for the countdown.  It really was a fun night - we got the best of both worlds - big party and quiet celebration.  Fun!!

The next morning Bruce and I slowly started to get moving.  I say slowly because we were both nursing headaches (mine had more to do with change in weather and I think his had to do with the whiskey) and neither one of us particularly was looking forward to spending all day in the car.  It was one of the hardest goodbyes I've had in awhile.  Gabriella doesn't really like to say goodbye, so her having a hard time with it caused Leslie to get choked up, which caused me to get choked up and my mom to get choked up.  As we pulled out of the driveway I started to really think about Neal leaving for the first time and I was crying before we even got on the highway.  I had a feeling we were in for a long drive, but Bruce held my hand and I pulled out "The One Year Yellow Ribbon Devotional," a devotional that Alex, her mom, Sue (Neal's mom) and I are all going to do this year.  Bruce asked me to read it out loud so we could both do it.  I was bawling when I started reading it, but it calmed me down quickly and I felt at peace when I closed the book.

The first part of the trip was actually kind of fun.  Bethany had given us a Friends trivia game so I went through the game cards and asked questions.  We didn't follow the game or anything, but it made the time go by.  My dad had also suggested that we take I-95 back to Atlanta (as opposed to I-81) so we had a change of scenery from the two days before.  After we had gone through 400 questions, we listened to the "Walk the Line" soundtrack and sang along.  We stopped for a late lunch and to fill up the car and then drove again until we needed to fill up again.  Fortunately for our bank accounts and unfortunately for our muscles and sanity, we were getting almost 400 miles per tank of gas (good job Yaris!!) so we really only stopped every 5-6 hours.  That was rough.  Once the sun went down I turned my lap top on and I watched (Bruce listened to) "Friends."  It didn't really make the time go by any faster, but it was a little bit more enjoyable.

We FINALLY got home around 11 p.m. and we went straight to bed (after we fed Lilly, of course, who was a little perturbed that we didn't have anyone look in on her on Wednesday).  We woke up this morning and I brought Bruce to work, came home and watched TV while Lilly laid on top of me (I'm thinking she was making sure I couldn't go anywhere again).

I've been thinking about Neal a little bit more today.  I want to do today's devotional, but I think I'll wait for Bruce.

So for now I think I'm going to shower and get ready for dinner with Mark and Lavon tonight.  So here's to a relaxing and fulfilling start to 2009!!

Peace and Blessings,


  1. I am so glad you decided to use the Yellow Ribbon Devo during this time.

  2. It's been wonderful!! Thanks so much for the suggestion, Rachel!!


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