Thursday, September 27, 2007

SawGrass Plantation

Justin and I spent this past weekend with 9 awesome couples from our church at SawGrass Plantation in Gainesville, Alabama. Rachel forwarned us that it was a “step above sleeping under the stars,” so our expectations were low. I mean, l-o-w. A hunting lodge in rural West Alabama is not exactly the Ritz-Carlton. We brought our own sheets and covers and were told not to walk in the home barefoot, and that the showers weren’t even really worth the effort. So, we were pleased when we pulled up to a country home with a huge cedar A-frame addition on the front and a big horse barn to left – a far cry from the grim picture Rachel had painted.

Gainesville is about 2 hours or so from the big city of Birmingham, and is in one of the poorest counties in the state of Alabama. Sumter County is a part of Alabama’s “Black Belt.” Originally named for the soil ideal for growing cotton, it is better known these days for the slave descendants who remain on the land. SawGrass Plantation is used by Rachel’s family as a hunting lodge. With around 2000 acres, including 6 ponds, it’s perfect for tuning in with Mother Nature and… being a redneck. For those of you who know me personally, being a redneck is not exactly what I do best. Although growing up in Alabama my entire life, I am a city girl.

We made the trek to SawGrass with our friends Maghan and Hal. Justin loaded the console in the back with a gallon of Milo’s sweet tea and Zapps potato chips for a snack. We were just getting geared up for a week end of un-healthy eating. After polishing off the last of the sweet tea, we were more than ready for a “pit stop.” Out of pure desperation, we stopped at a gas station on the Boligee exit of I-20/I-59. Maghan and I shared the ladies’ room with a woman with a very lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and upon leaving the store, Maghan overheard her say, “Look at them white folks!” We rushed back to the car practically holding hands, and looking out for each other, and for our husbands. We survived. ;-)

After about 30 minutes or so of driving through “the sticks,” we were glad to see our friends Martina and Camron and Rachel and Jared already getting things settled in at SawGrass. Over the next few hours, Bret and Lanie, Ben and Bethany, Michael and Martha, Ben and Jamie, and Mike and Jessa arrived and claimed their beds. After pigging out on Dreamland barbecue and the amazing snacks that everyone brought, we settled down long enough for Bret to bring us a great lesson about God’s plan for our marriages and where we fit into the journey through His story. While everyone else drifted off to sleep, Jessa, Justin and I stayed up until 3:30 discussing human anatomy and quantum physics… ha! That would be really funny if you knew us.

Saturday morning breakfast was as good as any I’ve ever had. Rachel made an amazing sausage and cream cheese casserole with crescent rolls as a crust and a topping. YUM! Afterwards, we “suited up” for horseback riding (I even wore my cowboy boots), but the weather had other plans for us. Just as 5 of the horses were saddled up, the heavens opened up and the rain came down in sheets.

Me and Buddy, the horse.

Maghan, me and Jessa during the rainstorm.

Justin waiting the rain out.

The rain set the stage for some good ole redneck muddin.’ This was a first for me. The sport of muddin’ consists of riding around on a 4 wheeler and/or a stripped out Suzuki Sidekick (in my case), splashing mud on the other vehicles around you, and getting covered in mud in the process. Being in the Suzuki sidekick, I was somewhat shielded from most of the mud, but I still pulled mud splatters out of my hair for hours. For those of you who aren't familiar with this sport, let me help you with a pronunciation guide. Muddin' is pronounced "mudn"... almost as if it's one syllable. If you say "mudd-ING", you will be made fun of in the dirty south. I know this from experience.

Me and Jessa after muddin.' Believe me, this picture does not do it justice.

A big thank you to Camron for your amazing driving skills, to Ben F. for riding the racing 4-wheeler and getting the ultimate mud award, to Jared for paving the way for a good afternoon in the mud, and to Justin, Michael and Jessa for being such great partners in this adventure.

Mike, Jessa, Camron, Me, Justin, Ben and Jared

After tossing around a football with Justin, Michael and Jessa, we relaxed in front of the television to watch some football. Then we watched some football. Then we watched some more football. Then we listened to football AND watched football at the same time. After Auburn beat New Mexico State and Bama lost an SEC heartbreaker to Georgia (sad), we all gathered in the cedar room for a great time of singing in the dark. “Dark” at SawGrass was darker than any “dark” I’ve ever experienced. It was great to be able to worship with friends who share our love for Christ.

After such a nice worship experience, we could have never predicted the highly intense game of CatchPhrase that followed. Allow me to give you some background. For as long as we’ve had a Sunday night small group of young married couples, no matter who is present, the guys ALWAYS win EVERY game. I seriously don’t think there has been one single solitary game that the girls have won. Nevertheless, the girls will not give up the competitive spirit. A few highlights include Rachel’s valiant effort to describe the famous actor Hairy Armpit and the moment when Mike Mullen stopped the game because, even though we were on the wrong track, he liked the energy he was getting from all the answers. For those that were not there, I cannot describe how much fun we have playing this game. It’s truly an experience in itself. Oh, and by the way – guys won. Again. HOWEVER, the girls have put together a “stratego” for victory which is destined to be foolproof!

The Sunday morning biscuits were delicious. Am I the only one out there who has never heard of putting Caro syrup on biscuits? This was another first for me, and not one I’m likely to repeat for a very long time. I’m not even sure what Caro syrup is actually used for, but I’m pretty sure it’s NOT to put on biscuits. ;-) Everyone chipped in to help clean up the cabin, and with so many hands, it didn’t take long.

After one last trip to the barn to see the horses, we were off. Headed back to the big city. The “real” world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After a month’s hiatus…

Hey y’all! I know there are never good excuses for not posting… ESPECIALLY since I’ve been absent to the blog world for more than a month now. I also know that no amount of groveling will make up for not being there for all of you over the past month, but will you forgive me? Please? Please? So here’s what I’ve been up to…

After the lemon episode discussed in my last post, Justin and I went on the Great Car Search. I gave Justin a list of “approved” vehicles, and he did all the research. Upon reviewing Justin’s research, we both determined that the best car for me was an Acura TL.

My requirements – White exterior with tan leather.
Justin’s requirements – Navigation system.

Seems simple, right? WRONG! We searched coast to coast and found one… ONE car that met both of our requirements. With my planned vacation coming up, the decision to drive to Virginia Beach was easy. Whoa, VIRGINIA BEACH?! Yes! We rented a car from Hertz that we could return in Virginia, and we hit the road on a Friday afternoon after work. We made it to Virginia Beach the next day after spending the night in North Carolina. Amber, too bad you don’t live there anymore! We would have definitely stopped by to say hello. Anyway, the car looked great, and because we had a cashier’s check from our bank in Birmingham, the transaction was quick, easy and painless! We were only in Virginia Beach for about an hour or two before we resumed our journey… only this time, we were off to Florida. This time we spent the night in Georgia just north of the Florida line. Yes, Lindsey, we DID drive through Jacksonville, and I would definitely have called if I had your number. I thought about you nevertheless!

My grandparents own a beach home in Sunnyside Beach, just east of Panama City Beach, and it was great to pull up to my home away from home on Sunday afternoon. We spent a few days at the beach and enjoyed a few meals at a new favorite restaurant, The Great Southern Café in Seaside. We spent an evening on the lawn in the Seaside Town Square and listened to a mediocre oldies band, but the atmosphere was great, and we had fun watching little kids dance, and doing a bit of dancing ourselves! The days off work were rejuvenating, but I still wasn’t ready to get back into the swing of things on Thursday.

The following days were spent mostly at the office, but I enjoyed a night of Bunko, Girls Night with the girls in my Small Group at Sips N’ Strokes, opening season of College Football (ROLL TIDE!), and then, the day we had been waiting for – MOVING DAY!

On September 10th, Justin and I closed on our new home in Ross Bridge. Everything went really well, even though we’re still knee-high in boxes. We’re so glad to be in our own home, and are happy to be “nesting” again. I can’t wait to fill in the spaces that need a decorator’s touch. We love our new neighbors! There are a lot of young couples on our street, and everyone seems to be excited about getting to know everyone better!

Saturday was my 28th birthday, and even though I worked all day, the weather was absolutely perfect and Alabama won, so it was a beautiful day! J Justin gave me a professional decorator to help with the house, and Mom and Dad bought me a Coach handbag. I am blessed to be surrounded by such generous people! Justin also took me to dinner a few days prior to a restaurant here called Firebirds. We had been there a few times before, but it was ESPECIALLY good this time. The highlight of the dinner was the Crème Brule Cheesecake dessert. Combining my two favorite desserts was an absolutely brilliant move on their part! J In fact, I wish I had a piece of that right now. So delicious!

This weekend, we are going on a retreat with our small group at church, and Justin and I are so looking forward to spending time with 9 awesome couples from our church that we have grown to love! So, here’s a shout out to the Mills, Mullen, Craig, Penter, Hovater, Woodward, Grizzle, Faucett, and Walters families! We love you and can’t wait for Sawgrass!

PS. My photodocumentation of the above events will follow. My internet has slowed so much that right now, my goal is just to get this posted. The cable people have been trying to get it back on track for 2 whole days now!!! Posting this blog should be the least of my worries… yesterday I wasn’t able to check my work e-mail AT ALL!