So - I'm back from a whirlwind trip. Actually, two. One vacation, and one for work, with a little vacation thrown in!
First, I took my niece, Kayla, to the Grand Canyon. Also along for the ride? One of my best girlfriends from Germany, Donna. She still lives in Garmisch, but came to the States to see me and visit her family in Texas.
For all of us, it was our first time seeing The Canyon. It was a fantastic, wonderful, brilliant and ECONOMICAL trip! We actually drove to Williams, AZ, and took The Train into the Grand Canyon. If you have kids and you want to take them to the Canyon, I highly recommend you click on that hyperlink and see the Canyon this way. It was worth every penny.
A few insights:
1. If you live in California, or anywhere there's a Trader Joe's (honestly, once you shop there, you will never step foot in a supermarket, again - swear!), do this; take $60 out of the ATM. Go to TJ's, Buy bread, some veggies, cheese, some snacks, clementines (tangelos), grapes, etc. Pack it all the cooler - but, you know, don't make the sandwiches. Store all the veggies separate (obviously). Get your car packed, and get on the road.
Why am I telling you this, dear reader?
Ask me how many meals I paid for, out of pocket, in four days.
You heard me.
Continental breakfast was included in the hotel, we ate snacks on the road the first night (we got in late). Dinner one night in Williams, AZ, then dinner one night at our friends' in Phoenix. We had picnic lunches all along the way, but especially in the Canyon - kids, there is NOTHING like a picnic in the Grand Canyon! I'm telling you, I learned all I wanted to know about "how to budget on the road." from Dad and...Donna. She rocked it out, budget-wise! THANK YOU, DONNA!! You know, when I was a kid, all I did was complain about "Sandwiches from the cooler? AGAIN?"
Now I understand.
2. Do not try and offer your niece as payment to the 'train robbers' when you tell them you are out of money. We did this, and it was frowned upon by other patrons on the train.
We, of course, nearly had a heart attack with laughter.
3. Do not expect a 6-year-old to walk 2 1/2 miles around the outer rim. She will complain that her legs are tired and they hurt. I told her "They'll hurt worse when I break 'em.".
This, as well. Frowned upon.
Okay, really. Seriously. I can't remember what day it was, but shortly after Christmas this year, I woke up and realized that I am definitely fulfilling God's purpose in my life. Kayla needs a positive female role model in her life, while her Mom is away. At least, right now. You see (and I was telling this to my friend, Travis, in an email just yesterday) - I have been praying for Him to send me my husband. I mean, really praying, fervantly, that He'd send him - on his schedule, not mine. My prayers sounded something like, "Lord, you know where my heart is. Just send him my way. A good, Christian man that makes me laugh. That's all I need. However, if he loves country music, drives a truck and has an education, that'd be neat, too. Oh yeah, Lord. Whenever you have the time - I know, I know...I'm patient. You're busy."
However, I won't lie when I tell you that, secretly, I was saying, "Where. IS. HE?"
Anyway, back to that day I woke up. And I can't tell you what day it was. But, it's almost as if God said, "Yeah. Toma. I got your back. I'll get to that. But first, I need you to do this."
Little did I know just how much joy 'this' would bring me...
So, shortly after returning from the Canyon (one day, to be exact), I turned around and flew to South Carolina for a workshop. So happy that the Army checked my address book, because Dad and Kath have retired there, so I not only got to see THEM, but I got to see my entire family (Dad's side)...also, while at Ft. Jackson, I got a hot second with Matthew Yentes, a childhood friend, and his partner, Pat.
Last - and certainly not least, I got a few nights with Goose & The Family Twigg. Goose (Kim) is my best friend from Japan. Her hubby, Nathan, just deployed...so it was MORE than fantastic to see her and get all kinds of Twigg Kid love!!! Here's a few quick shots of that end of the trip
...but before I do that, just let me stop here to mention just how thankful I am to have a job that DOES make me travel like this. I may complain about the constant plane rides, bad hotel beds and missing Chester, but there is no way I would ever be able to afford to see my family and friends like this! It's such a blessing! It will be 13 years this June that I've worked for the Army...
and I get to take care of those great men and women that take care of my freedom. What a gift! God bless our troops and keep them in His care!
Song Verse Today: "In his mind a man plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9