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One of the benefits of being married without any kids or pets is that Drea and I can up and go on little mini-getaways pretty much whenever we please. It’s freaking amazing.

Since we’re both roller coaster junkies (although in different ways – more on this later), I decided a trip to Hershey Park would make for a fun getaway.

Since I don’t have too much vacation time built up, we had to go on a weekend. I knew we were taking a chance since Saturdays are the busiest days at amusement parks, and paying $45 a pop to stand in long lines in the heat can make for a pretty miserable day. But thanks to some enthusiastic recommendations and some research of my own, I had faith in Hershey.

We made the short drive up to PA and checked into our hotel. Drea wanted to stay at the Hotel Hershey and partake of their famous Chocolate Spa, but seeing how this costs as much as, say, a Mercedes, I instead booked us a nice room at a Quality Inn in nearby Harrisburg. :)

We grabbed some Red Robin for dinner (de-lish), and arrived at the park around 8:00 Friday night for the “preview plan”, where they let you into the park for a few hours the night before your big day. We rode like five roller coasters in just over an hour. We barely waiting in line for anything. Not bad for a Friday night. Things were looking pretty good for our main trip to the park on Saturday.

I think it’s safe to say our already high expectations were exceeded the next day. Hershey Park is obviously well-managed, and the whole place runs like a well-oiled machine. A free tram takes you from the parking lot to the gate. The park itself is well laid out and immaculately kept. Trees and bushes provide shade for the walkways and queueing areas. Rides and attractions aren’t just plopped down haphardly, but seem to be thoughtfully positioned to complement the landscape. Employees are efficient and surprisingly friendly. The whole atmosphere of the place makes you feel like a valued guest, not just one in a herd of cattle. I was impressed to say the least.

As mentioned before, Drea and I have differing tastes in roller coasters. Simply put, she likes going upside down, but hates that free-falling sensation you get on a steep drop, where you feel like you’re plummeting to your death. (I love that feeling.) As such, I was unable to talk her into getting on this:

That’s Fahrenheit, Hershey’s newest coaster that features a 97 degree drop. (That’s 7 degrees past vertical.) She missed out – it was off the heezy. :) Maybe next year?

After knocking out most of the coasters, we spent some time in the waterpark, which was a little crowded but still fun. Around 4:00, we decided to call it a day. I’ve found to my great dismay that my stomach can’t tolerate roller coasters like it used to.

We had a fantastic time. Hershey impressed me from top to bottom. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it an annual trip.

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In order (hopefully) to enhance this blog’s functionality as an archive of our lives, I thought it’d be fun to post my reactions to books I’m reading. I particularly enjoy hearing/reading book reviews of people I know. (One I recently enjoyed was our friend Steven’s reaction to The Shack by William P. Young.) If one of my personal friends likes a book, I find I’m much more likely to read it myself. So maybe this will inspire some of our blogstalkers (who we appreciate!) to check out some of these books themselves.

These won’t be reviews, per se, only my personal reactions. I won’t pretend to know what the crap I’m talking about when it comes to literary analysis. (Drea, having majored in English lit, and having many more difficult books under her belt than me, is clearly the literary genius of our family!)

So, without further ado, “In a Sunburned Country”.

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I was introduced to Bill Bryson’s books by my dad, who gave me a book about Bryson’s hiking adventures on the Appalachian Trail, called A Walk in the Woods. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I ordered a copy of In a Sunburned Country. All I knew was that it was about Australia. I was naturally intrigued.

Bryson took several trips there a couple years ago, and this book is essentially a combined travelogue of those trips. Australia is such a huge country that, even in several trips of considerable length, Bryson evidently barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do there. However, he did visit all the major provinces of the country (which could almost be separate countries themselves.) The result is a nicely proportioned preview of the whole Australian continent, complete with Bryson’s signature humor and wit.

I should expound on his humor a little. Bryson was born in Iowa, but lived in England for most of his adult life, only recently returning to the States. An avid appreciator of the “finer things” (expensive wine, the outdoors, seemingly boring museums), he has a certain witty, lofty, British-esque way of critiquing our Americanized, fast-food culture, which is present even in the Australian outback. (He was appalled to find a McDonald’s in Alice Springs.) While you’d think this would come off as snobby, he maintains a charmingly dignified yet self-deprecating humor in his analysis. I love it.

On one trip, Bryson takes us with him on a train ride from Sydney all the way across the continent to Perth, decidedly the most remote major city on Earth. On another trip, he and a friend drive 1,200 miles through the brutal heat and emptiness of the outback to the famous Ayers Rock (Uluru). He praises the unbeatable weather and friendly atmosphere of Sydney, and considers in wonder the sheer distance between Alice Springs and the next sign of civilized life in any direction. He marvels at the many distinctly Australian ways to experience excruciating death, including the tiny, lethal box jellyfish, the world’s most venomous creature. He enjoys the small-town charm of Australia’s rural farmlands, and takes in the glory of the Great Barrier Reef.

All of this he intersperses with relevant snippets of Australian history: its beginnings as a British prison colony, the numerous failed attempts of settlers to conquer (or even effectively explore) the outback, the bizarre story of a prime minister who went for a dip in the ocean in 1967 and was never seen again. (How crazy is that?)

Bryson is also the kind of writer that beckons your interest in the most presumably boring topics. One example in this book is a multi-page tangent in which he talks about some rocks in a bay that have been miraculously preserved in their original state for millions of years because the bay water’s unusually high salinity has prevented the kind of damage from the elements that would have otherwise altered the rocks. Now this, I imagine, sounds like a total snooze-fest for probably 95% of people my age. But Bryson makes it interesting. I can’t explain why.

Australia is so intriguing that a book on it could almost write itself. But Bryson’s masterful storytelling gives the book that page-turning appeal that left me wanting more when I finished it. I laughed out loud several times, and Australia has now been bumped up a few notches on places I want to visit. A worthwhile read for sure.

This was a terrific weekend – and that’s an understatement. Disclaimer: this may be a long post. :)

The concert
Friday night was the long awaited Sara Groves/Derek Webb benefit concert for Blood:Water Mission. It was fantastic. Sara, who I have aptly named “The Groves”, and Derek are super passionate, super real, super talented people. They did not disappoint.

(Another disclaimer: the following pictures were taken with Drew’s old point and shoot…not my sweet Nikon. :) )

 

We saw some friends there! (Fisch and Megan were also there, but I forgot to take a picture.)

 

As Drew mentioned in his previous post, going to this concert may have been a providential thing for us. Derek Webb spoke right to Drew’s heart regarding this election, and Sara Groves spoke right to my heart reminding me of the kind of woman I want to be. Plus, the entire concert was to benefit Blood:Water Mission, a great organization that we want to be more involved with. There were displays and a great photography exhibit, which I will write about soon in the photoblog. Overall, a great night.

The engagement

After the concert was over, Drew got a call from his sister and my dear friend, Allison. He put me on the phone with her. The conversation:

Allison: Hey Drea! So I was wondering what you were doing on December 27th.
Me: Uhh, I don’t know…why?
Allison: Because I was wondering if you’d be a bridesmaid in MY WEDDING!
::screaming ensues on both ends of the phone::

That is right, friends, Allison and Rich are ENGAGED! Let’s tell the world! :) We couldn’t be more excited for them.

Kinda blurry, but you get the idea. :) That thing is blingin’!

 

 

The wedding
Saturday morning, we woke up at 4am and drove to Raleigh, NC for an old friend, Amy’s wedding. We got to ride with Allison, Rich and Kristen the whole way, which made the trip fly. Plus, the engagement kept us busy for a few hours :)

 

Stopping in a fast food bathroom to freshen up…

The wedding was lovely, but it could not have been hotter! The ceremony was in a gorgeous rose garden…with no shade. A little torturous. I realllly felt for the groomsmen in full out tuxes!

 

Amy and Matt had to be the cutest couple I’ve ever seen. They were SO HAPPY. The ceremony was totally them, and the reception was really laid back.

 

 

The boys were a little sad it was only root beer.

There was a pimpin’ disco ball!

 

Congratulations Amy & Matt + Allison & Rich! Long live good weekends!

Before I begin, let me just come out and say that I support Barack Obama. I know that it’s practically unheard-of for a Christian (much less a Southern Baptist church member) to support a Democratic candidate, but there you go. If I’ve learned anything from George W. Bush, it’s that the Conservative Right isn’t always, well, right. But I’d better hop down from that soapbox for civility’s sake.

Most of the people I work with and go to church with are conservative, so I try not to start up political conversations with people I’m sure to disagree with, or I at least try to be gracious in my disagreement. I care about most of these people, and would hate to give up good relationships with them over a political disagreement.

However, I do enjoy a friendly debate. I think political and even theological debates can be productive and enjoyable if there’s respect and civility from all participants. But this is where things tend to go south. I think the reason why politics and religion are considered taboo is that we forget that we can disagree and still get along. My political views are based on my human (read limited) interpretation of the world around me. While there are certain positions I doubt I’ll ever change on, I can’t insult another person’s intelligence or character if they disagree with me. There are godly and sound-minded people on both ends of the political spectrum. Neither conservatives nor liberals have it completely right (or completely wrong).

Plus, there’s the inescapable truth that no matter what side you’re on, you’re still casting your vote for a freaking politician. To further expound on this thought, let me borrow a line from Derek Webb:

“You can always trust the devil or a politician to be the devil or a politician.”

Now don’t get be wrong; I really like Obama. I think he represents a much-needed change in our political system, and it’s evident in the way he’s run his campaign. (For more on this, check out this guy’s reaction to meeting him before his campaign began.) Barack Obama is undoubtedly a different kind of politician. But he’s still just a politician, indeed, just a man. His ability to solve our problems is surface-level at best. Even his greatest efforts to improve our nation will be motivated, to some degree, by political expediency.

Maybe it was providential that Drea and I saw Derek Webb in concert this weekend. I have a lot of respect for this guy. His more recent music has a decidedly social/political orientation, but he’s also quick to remind us that political ideals are not the answer to our deepest issues. Hearing him speak at the concert reminded me of one particular truth: that the commands of Jesus to care for the poor and love our enemies have nothing to do with any political agenda. They have everything to do with His desire for us to reflect His love and servanthood in our interactions with the world. Who I vote for should be merely peripheral in light of this greater task. (I’m paraphrasing Webb’s words here.)

It’s for this reason that I believe it should be even easier for Christians to get along despite political differences. We have a common ground that transcends everything.

I guess my point is that for Christians, political discussion and action is worthwhile, but not nearly as worthwhile as our greater task of sharing the love and message of Christ. It would be a terrible shame to see this greater task overshadowed by our preoccupation with secondary political and moral issues, which I fear is the path we’re headed down.

So here’s to a ceasefire on the political front, and a renewed focus on the task, which will be the same whether we put a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.

Cheers!

I would like to preface this post with this: I am not pregnant. Now that that’s out there, let’s continue. :)

This was such a great weekend. But we can’t blog about it yet. There’s something we’re not allowed to tell just yet. To keep you guessing, here’s a hint. Three of these five things happened this weekend: a concert, a pregnancy, a wedding, an engagement, a birth. Guesses? :)

And because I want to start blogging more pictures, here’s a picture from this weekend (which may help in guessing the above events).

 

Stay tuned for our fun weekend.

I’ve begun to wrestle with some things recently. Things I thought would be long gone after marriage. Things that are hard to realize. Especially when they are about you.

I was talking with my dear friend Anna last weekend about being a female and finding your fulfillment. For some reason, our hearts just scream for attention. Everyone thinks that marriage ends these voices. But it doesn’t. My fulfillment does not come from Drew.

I am not complaining about my life. I have a super gracious husband, a budding career and more encouragement than a girl could need. But those things do not satisfy me. Even if I think they do for moments, or days or even weeks…they run out. Drew is not immortal, friends scatter and careers end. And I am left alone with my poor, screaming heart.

This morning, I went through my normal blog-stalking routine. I came across this post. She’s on to something.

Perhaps I am naive to think that God will fulfill my heart, that he cares or even exists. But one simple look at my life makes me care less about being viewed as naive. He’s real. He cares. He fulfills. I’m the proof.

Two things I want to post about today: vacuum cleaner reality check & pool woes.

1. Vacuum cleaner reality check
Saturday evening, Drew went to his gig at The Westlawn Inn and I opted to stay home and do some long-overdue cleaning.

I picked up, scrubbed the kitchen sink, did two loads of laundry. When it came time to vacuum, I pulled out our little Shark and went to town. I was a vacuuming machine. Under the couch, under the bed, in our closet, the bathroom, the kitchen the laundry closet, the doorway; I left no corner untouched. When I was done, I sat down and gloried in the cleanliness.

It was then that I realized: I had vacuumed our entire house without ever having to plug into a different outlet. That’s right, friends. Our apartment is so small that the small cord of our vacuum cleaner reaches to every corner. It was a little bit sad.

2. Pool woes
I have been dying to use our apartment pool. When the leasing office announced they were handing out pool passes, I was the first one to go get them. I can’t wait to get a tan – this summer I don’t have to worry about tan lines in a wedding dress! Plus, we didn’t get to use the pool last summer.

The pool officially opened last weekend, but I was gone all weekend for Amanda’s wedding. No big deal, maybe I could go one evening after work. Nope, my accounting class started this week, so no evening swim. The weekend – yes, I will go then.

Saturday morning, Renata and I had a meeting with a bride and Drew came along. It was perfect pool weather. After our meeting, Drew and I grabbed some lunch and SPF 45 (for Mr. Pasty-Pale) and drove home, excited for our first pool experience of the summer. As we hit Rt. 50, a giant bolt of lightning diminshed my dream. The rain poured down in buckets and the pool would have to wait another day.

Sunday afternoon. This is it. Nothing is standing in our way. Let’s go. We pack up our new, yet-to-be-used beach towels, and head down to the pool, pool passes in stow. We arrive. There are no lawn chairs left, as people are sunbathing. No one is actually IN the pool. They all just stared at us. Drew and I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be on display while in the pool, so we turned around and went home.

We have something every evening this week. This weekend we will be in NC for a wedding. So no pool. Very sad.