Thursday, April 10, 2014


First of all, thank you all for your prayers.  Four days after my last post Neal and I went to look at a home we stumbled upon on Craigslist [in Newport News].  Two days after that we were meeting with the landlord and signing a lease to rent her home!  After several months of searching (we'd been looking online for a couple months before actually moving) we're thrilled to have found a home that meets all of the criteria on our checklist....even things we were willing to compromise on!  That can be nothing other than God orchestrating things.  Now that rental-house-hunting is over, there has been a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.  I'm sure Neal can tell a definite difference in my stress level.
Also, now having moved home, and gotten settled in fairly well, it is crazy to me how much busier we are here in Virginia than we ever were in Washington.  I attribute a lot of that to having a lot more things to split our time between here.  In Washington we only had each other, our jobs, our small group, and the people we chose to hang out with.  Being back in Virginia, simply adding family back into that equation, means that we've added at least seven other households we're regularly involved with, which equates to eleven other people.  Yeah.  That's a lot.  Add on top of that weddings, holidays, and other life events, and we're definitely staying busy. 

And don't get me wrong, being busy isn't always a bad thing.  But I'm very conscious of busyness.  I don't like being busy and having nothing to show for it.  I can bear being busy when it means building relationship and sharing and enjoying life with others, but I cannot stand being busy just for the sake of filling a schedule.  It's pointless to me. This busy season is also forcing Neal and I to be much more deliberate about giving each other undivided attention.  We're so used to giving each other all of our attention pretty much all the time, and that simply doesn't happen anymore.  Though, maybe the Lord has it this way to prepare us for future seasons.  Who knows!

Despite all of the many many changes and busyness in our lives right now, we are still super excited to be back in Virginia and to have the opportunity to share in life with all of our friends and family!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Back to the Grind

The fun part of moving is officially over, folks.  We're officially back in the grind of "real life."  Neal's working.  I'm working.  And days are full.  We haven't found a place to live yet [boo!].  Our belongings will be in storage, at no cost to us, until April 23 so we're trying our hardest to find a place to live and move in before that date creeps up on us. 

Speaking of finding a place to live, I feel like we're looking all over kingdom come.  We've literally looked in every city between Gloucester and the North Carolina border.  We've looked in Gloucester, Yorktown, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Chesapeake.  Part of me feels like we must just be extremely picky, but then I remind myself that things like air conditioning, enough room to fit our belongings (and trust me, we're not looking for something huge), or a place that allows Cooper to live there is not asking too much.  While I know that we're being financially responsible by not buying a home before we're ready, searching for a rental, to no avail, really makes me want to buy a house NOW despite the fact we have no money to put down on a home [and refuse to finance a home with no money down].

That being said, please pray that the right home for us will come available and it will be clear to us that it is where we are to be living!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Home Sweet Home

I put off posting the last few posts [from the last few days of the trip] for a couple reasons:  a) I was too exhausted every night to add pictures to the posts and b) we had decided to come home early and wanted to surprise folks.
Dinner with the family in Indiana.
So, we spent Friday night and Saturday in Indiana and we were originally going to also spend Saturday night and then just drive home (about 10 hours) on Sunday.  Then it occurred to me that Sunday meant church and church meant basically all of our family would be in the same building.  So Neal and I agreed we'd drive through the night on Saturday, get to Gloucester, changes clothes, and go to church.  I wanted to surprise my parents but figured since we were staying with my grandparents, seeing all of my relatives right before we left, and staying at their house, that'd it be pretty much impossibly to surprise them.  Thus, my parents and family in Indiana were the only ones who knew we'd be home early.

We got to my parent's house at 7:00am on Sunday morning, hung out a bit with my parents, took showers and started our trek to church.  My parents always pick up my Aunt Nancy so she got in the car and was pretty surprised to see Neal and I.  Then we went to church where we surprised Neal's Uncle Billy and my sister (who is very easily interrupting her teaching Sunday school, with the pastor's permission, was pretty dang hilarious and totally worth it).  Then, we waited.  We knew Neal's parents would be at church because my Dad had asked my mother-in-law to sing with him that morning.  We waited and waited and debated hiding.  Then finally they arrived.  Neal's Mom walked in and like 10 people were standing around the door, she joked about their bieng a new welcoming committee, then she saw Neal she let out a shriek and it was so great! I loved it.  His Nanny and Dad were equally excited and, well, it was just great to be with everyone again.  We saw lots of friends also at church and gave and received so.many.hugs.

Lunch at Juan's on Sunday after church.
After a couple days of being home, we're still exhausted, but it just feels right to be home.

We had so much fun on our trip, but we both agreed we will never drive cross-country again.  It's so exhausting.  We did agree there a few places we want to go back and visit, and we day.

Please pray for us as we search for a home to rent. We want to be out of my parents' hair as soon as possible for their sake, and, well, we just don't want to live with my Mom and Dad forever.

Thanks for following along our journey and praying for us along the way.  It meant so much to have so many people invested in us and this huge move.  Also, a huge thank you to those of you who gave us information about cities we were visiting (where to stay, what to eat, what to avoid, etc.). 

Began Sunday driving through West Virginia, ended the day reading books to
Kinslee in Gloucester.  Couldn't have asked for anything better :)

Day Seven

Today we covered five states.  We started the day out in Mississippi, drove through Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky and ended the day in Indiana.  We're thrilled to be in Indiana with my grandparents!  We haven't been out here to visit since February of 2012 and this is only Neal's second visit.
Delicious almond turtle from Mississippi.
We were supposed to have dinner with my grandparents but thanks to hitting Nashville around 5:00pm on a Friday (we got stuck in rush-hour traffic) and forgetting there was one last time change, we didn't make it to Indiana until 9:00pm.  We were able to still sit up and chat with my Grandpa and Grandma for a couple of hours and briefly catch up about the trip.
Coop tried so hard to be as close to us as possible at all times.
Tomorrow we'll be spending the day here in Indiana.  We'll be exploring their town, particularly giving Neal a tour of the construction around the new Ohio River bridges being built going into Louisville, and then going to dinner with the family (we're talking almost 20 people....and no, that's not the whole family). 

Beautiful Kentucky sunset.
Sidenote: The bridges we're going to check out tomorrow is a project that Neal's company put in a bid for and I secretly wish his company would have won the project so we would have had the opportunity to live here.  But, that would've meant we never would've gone to Washington, so I'm also thankful that the Lord is in control and I'm not because our lives would've been completely different.  


Day Six

Well, today was a pretty dang cool day. Nothing too exciting happened on our drive. Actually, we've been very fortunate and haven't had any bad weather or traffic on the trip [so far].  We drove from San Antonio to Sumrall, Mississippi today.   But before we left we got up early and went to "Dawn at the Alamo."  We thought it'd be a reenactment but it turned out to just be more of a story-telling/narration/memorial for the Battle of the Alamo.  We ended up leaving after about half an just didn't really engage us.  Bummer.

Oh, and let me tell you why Sumrall is so significant.  One of the very first things I decided when we agreed to drive to Virginia was that we had to stop and see Hayley and her family in Mississippi. Hayley is my first best friend. When we were little (think 3 and 5) we lived around the corner from each other and spent a lot of time walking down the street holding hands, having sleepovers, swimming, playing Barbies, and doing all the other stuff little girls do together. Hayley's Dad was in the Navy so they moved to California right before her 6th grade (my 4th grade) year. After Cali, her Dad retired and her family moved back to Mississippi. Since she moved we've only seen each other a handful of times, the last being six years ago when I went to Mississippi for Hayley's wedding.  Since then, I've gotten married and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (who's now 3!). Despite the infrequency of our visits, I'm pretty certain we'll always be each other's 'best friend.'

Anyways, I was super excited for Neal to meet her and her family and for me to meet Hayley's daughter, Ella Beth!  We got to Mississippi around dinner time so we all went to dinner at Cowboy Jim's.  Hayley gave us the option of southern seafood (we ordered catfish) or lasagna.  Neal immediately said, "Seafood!"  Haha. 
Ella Beth, Hayley, and I.
Neal had a great time getting to know Hayley's husband, Reggie, and I had a great time catching up on life with Hayley and her Mom, Mrs. Donna.  After dinner we went back and hung out at Hayley's house for a while.  The next morning, Mrs. Donna came back over and we all caught up some more.  These people are so sweet and I'm blessed to have had them in my life for 21, going on 22, years.  It's amazing to me how the Lord brings people together.  Who would've guessed that 21 years later Hayley and I would still be in touch?  It was wonderful getting to meet her full-of-personality "country princess."  She was hilarious and so stinkin' smart! I'm also so happy Neal finally got to meet everyone!  And he, of course, fell in love with their rural, country town.  That being said, the likelihood we'll be making a visit sooner than 6 years from now, is pretty high....and I love the idea of that!
We saw REAL, lush grass for the first time in DAYS.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day Five

The first half of the day was boring.  Neal drove all day and I slept for almost half of the drive.  Oops.  The drive was the same thing we've been seeing for the past two days.  That was until we got about half an hour out from San Antonio at least.  Then we started to see signs of life again (i.e. something besides desert and cattle).  

We got to San Antonio, checked into our hotel, got ready, and immediately went to the River Walk. Which, by the way, we were smart and booked a hotel right along the River Walk.  It was so gorgeous! We walked around, ate lunch/dinner at Casa Rio, walked around some more, went to River Center, took a river tour, checked out the Alamo, then walked around some more before heading back to our hotel. 

On the river tour.

Oh, and tomorrow is the 178th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo and [we learned on our tour] that every year they do a reenactment of it at the Alamo.  I think we're gonna try and get up and early and go.  I mean, what are the odds we're here on the same day? Pretty stinkin' cool!

Tomorrow we'll also head to Mississippi to visit a friend and her family who I grew up with and haven't seen since her wedding, six years ago,and Neal has never met.  I cannot explain how stinkin' excited I am to see her!

Day Four

We started today out in Arizona.  We hung out with Rach and Stephen for a few hours this morning and finally got on the road a bit before noon.  This was definitely the most boring drive.  It was just desert for miles upon miles. 

And, oh yeah, we had our first Whataburger experience this afternoon.  Sorry, In-N-Out fans, but it was WAY better.  It still wasn't Five Guys good, but it was leaps and bounds above In-N-Out.

 We witnessed this beautiful sunset in New Mexico.

The first bright sunset we've seen in a LONG time.
And before we left New Mexico, we'd been told we had to eat a green chile burrito.  Well, we were almost to Texas and we were running out of places to stop.  So we googled this place and found a Mexican spot called "Go Burger." Is it just me or is a Mexican place called Go Burger weird? Well, we got there and I sent Neal to order us burritos. Well, the place was CLOSED! Neal then comes over to the truck and tells me the lady said she'd make us some anyways. He comes back to the truck with, I swear, like 10 pounds of burrito.  OHMYGOSH. They were delicious but they were so.stinkin.HUGE. We each only ate like a third of our burrito.  Definitely glad we tried 'em though!

We drove and drove and drove and stopped in Van Horn, TX for the night.  Next: San Antonio!

Day Three

We did a lot of desert driving today. The drive between LA and Phoenix was so boring. But, before all the boring driving, we started our day in Los Angeles. It was pretty neat. We visited the Santa Monica Pier first thing. It was cool to see and experience when it was so calm, quiet and wasn't bustling. We preferred it that way. We're not big-crowd-lovers. Coop thoroughly enjoyed running around on the beach like a lunatic. And we got in a lot of laughs watching him [literally] run circles in the sand.

Next I requested we drive down Rodeo Drive. It was kind of amazing. And beautiful. Beverly Hills was gorgeous!  Next we drove down Hollywood Blvd. which still had a large portion blocked off from the Oscars yesterday.
It was 75 and sunny. GORGEOUS.

Lastly [in LA] we went up to the Griffith Observatory. We didn't actually go in but we took a walk on the trails and had a great view of the Hollywood sign! 
Even Cooper got a photo with the Hollywood sign.
After LA we drove to Arizona. We were able to have dinner and hang out with two of my cousins and their families that I haven't seen in, um, maybe 12 [or more] years? It was pretty great. I'm so so glad we were able to make that happen!

Also in Arizona, we met up with our friends, Rachel and Stephen. They were flying in the same day after a family vacation to Disney World so we met up with them Monday night and hung out at their apartment. They so graciously allowed Neal and I to crash on our air mattress at their apartment. It was so good getting the chance to see them because it just doesn't happen often enough! Also, we've been friends for 11 years and it was kind of surreal staying at Rach's place in Arizona with my husband. Sometimes it's still crazy that we're all adults. Just sayin'.

So wonderful seeing this girl!
Oh, and I have to mention the weather.  If Virginia could get a clue and lean more toward today's weather in California and Arizona (75° and sunny) rather than their own weather (cold and snowy) we'd be really happy folks.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day Two: California

Whew. Today was full of a lot of really really really windy, steep roads.  Despite the crazy roads, it was a beautiful drive.  Ya know those tourism commercials for California depicting all the different aspects of the state? Turns out, they're accurate!  California is vastly different depending on the part of the state you're in, but, so far, it's all been gorgeous. 
I've never seen as many vineyards in my life. Literally.
Honestly, as I'm sitting in our hotel at 9:00pm, it's hard to differentiate between what we saw today and what we saw yesterday.  It's only day two and the days are already blending together. Yikes.  What I do know is that Cooper was awesome today.  He's settling into not being up front with us the entire time.  He actually slept for most of our drive today.  
But, by far, the coolest part of the day was San Francisco.  I woke Neal up right before we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.  We went to the Golden Gate Bridge Park and took some more photos, looked at the exhibit, bought a souvenir, and just took it all then.  We weren't going to spend much time in SF, but then it occurred to me they have those really cool cable cars! I wanted to at least see one before we left.  We drove down to the bay and after taking it all in, we both agreed we could spend a full week in San Francisco, and in the future we probably will.  We loved it!
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
One of the cables on the bridge.
Pretty dang cool, even with all the fog.
California friends, now is the time to avert your eyes.  We went to In-N-Out for the first time today after hearing they have the best burgers to be found.  Well, we don't agree.  Eh. I'm glad we can now say we went. But, really, it's not that great.  Sorry, Californians!
 Tomorrow we're exploring a little bit of Los Angeles, and then it's onto Arizona!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day One

Day one, complete.  Today we drove a total of 579 miles.  We left our apartment at 6:00am and got to the hotel in Arcata, CA at 5:25pm.  Considering we stopped nine times today, that's actually really good time.  It only took us an hour and a half longer than the GPS said it'd take.  With nine extra stops, that's pretty dang good time, in my opinion.  

Cooper really wanted to be up front with us even though we kept making him "back up." He's pitiful.
Entering Oregon.  Neal liked this bridge a lot, so this is a favorite photo of the day.
Voodoo Doughnuts. Yum!

Bacon Maple Bar. Heaven in a doughnut.
Neal's maple, custard filled doughnut. With a MUSTACHE.
We made it to California!
Pacific Coast in Northern California.

Now, let me tell you about our dinner.  When we first started planning our trip I called my Dad.  We'd decided we were going to stop near Eureka, CA on the first day and I remembered my Dad telling me about this restaurant he loved [and still talks about], near Eureka, despite the fact it's been nearly a decade since he's eaten there.  Neal and I had the pleasure of going to the restaurant tonight.  It's called Samoa Cookhouse and it is delicious.  Honestly, when we got there, we kind of thought my Dad's review was a bit overrated.  That was until we sat down and they started bringing us food.  Almost as soon as we sat down we had homemade soup, homemade bread, and ice water brought to us and we dug in.  Then they brought us salad, followed by rice, peas, baked ham, and short ribs, followed by chocolate and strawberry cake.  The food's served family style, everything is homemade, and it's all you can eat.  It's a no frills place but it is so stinkin' delicious.  During dinner Neal said, "Why haven't we done this yet?" We both agreed if we lived near this restaurant we'd eat there often, especially with family.  Gosh. Sorry about that rant.  Bottom line: It was delicious and if you're ever near there, go eat at Samoa Cookhouse.
So much food.  But so much GOOD food.
Today was awesome.  We agreed if every day of this trip goes as well as today did, then we have an amazing trip ahead of us.  The scenery only got more and more beautiful as we drove south.  Oh, and we saw so.many.sheep. I feel like 90% of the sheep population is residing in Oregon.  And, in California, we saw a lot of elk! That was pretty dang cool. 

We're off to Los Angeles bright and early tomorrow. Please continue to pray for safe travels for us, we appreciate it so much!