Category: Albany

The most wonderful time of the year

I have been looking forward to Christmas time since….well, probably since last Christmas, really.  It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year for me.  I love the lights, the weather, the foods, the gifts, the music (I am one of those people who start playing Christmas music in October)…it’s just such a festive, beautiful time of year.  I always do everything I can to make the most of it. Because I enjoy the season so much, Christmas festivities always start very early for me.  I think that the kick off this year would probably be the Tour of Homes that I took Michael on for a date in early December.  I don’t know what it is about home tours, but I find them exceedingly fascinating and enjoyable.  I’ve always enjoyed riding around and looking at homes from the outside…perhaps it’s just the extension of that activity that I find so much fun.  Whatever the reason, it was a blast.  There were 7 homes and 1 historic church on the tour, although we only made it to 6 homes before it ended for the day.  But even so, it was worth our time.  All of the homes were gorgeous, and on top of that most were decked out in all of their Christmas glory.  There were also different restaurants from around town that were offering food tastings at all of the houses.  We had apple and cheese wedges and a fancy meat and olive sampler and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and key lime pie dessert shooters and lobster bisque and I’m forgetting the other one but they were all DELICIOUS.  Oh, and gawking at the gorgeous houses was pretty fun too, of course :).

The tour of homes was followed shortly thereafter with Michael taking me to see A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater, which was FABULOUS.  I’ve wanted to go see that for years, but could never muster up the willingness to bite the bullet and pay the steep admission costs.  But Michael finally got me there, and it was totally worth it.  The set was beautifully done, and the actors and musical numbers were brilliant.  This version of the classic story also had a marked “gospel music” feel to many of the characters and songs, which was a new and enjoyable twist to a very well-known story.

A week or so later was my company Christmas party.  Michael has gone every year since the tradition was started, but this of course was my first time.  The highlight of the Brightlink Christmas party is the gingerbread house competition.  There are 3 rules – things can be prepared in advance, but nothing can be assembled ahead of time; everything must be edible; and you only have 1 hour to assemble your house once the contest gets going.  Some of the entries have gotten quite impressive.  There have been nativity scenes, a barn, an iconic building on the Georgia Tech campus, and an angry birds fight that involved a blowtorch and flaming marshmallows launched in a catapult-like contraption, just to name a few.  Employees are generally paired into teams with their spouses, but since Michael and I are dating we were also put into a team together.  Before this year, the gingerbread house that Michael was most known for was “Snowpacolypse” – he knew he wouldn’t get a house standing, so he put a bunch of marshmallows over the battered gingerbread and said a snowstorm had come through.  Oh dear.  I had actually never before built a gingerbread house in my life, but I knew that I wanted to at least get one standing, lol.

What we ended up with actually far exceeded my expectations.  We decided on a “beach house” theme, and I spent a long time the weekend before prepping everything I could beforehand.  I even made the gingerbread – Michael said that it look liked it had been store bought, a comment which I considered high praise, indeed.  We dyed blue icing for the water, made some grey icing for the mortar on the walls, and used a variety of different types of food to make the designs and textures that we were going for.  Some of my favorites included dried dates for the stones on the walls, triscuits for the roof, green peppers for the trees, fruit roll-ups for the towel and hammock, and crushed up cheerios for the sand.  It was fantastic!  I was so very pleased with the result….winning “chef’s choice” (the caterer’s vote) was just icing on the gingerbread (pun very much intended, haha)!

And then, of course, I also hosted my own Christmas party before leaving for Albany.  It is becoming a tradition – this is the third year that I’ve done it.  It was a blast, as always.  And this time I didn’t try to cram all of the prep work into a single day, which meant that I had enough energy to actually enjoy it by the time that people started showing up.  We had a nice dinner, decorated gingerbread cookies, played some Christmas games, made some silly photos in front of the Christmas tree, and then did a white elephant gift exchange that was really a blast.  Last year about 2/3 of the gifts were some form of chocolate, so this year I forbade anyone from bringing that, and it seemed to ignite people’s creative juices when it came to white elephant gift-buying.  There were books, and funny hats, and blankets, and house decorations, and even a bungee-cord chair.  That’s the one I ended up with :).  I really do very much enjoy hosting, and I love Christmas, and so throwing this Christmas party has probably become one of my favorite events that I host all year.

After the bustle of celebrating Christmas in Atlanta, though, it was nice to have a toned-down week in Albany.  Michael came with me, but we had very little in the way of planned activities.  One night we all went out to see Christmas lights, my grandfather took us out to dinner once, I went clothes or grocery shopping with various members of my family, and we watched several movies together (if you haven’t seen Annie yet, go see it!  It’s fantastic).  And then Michael cooked dinner for my entire family the last night that he was here to celebrate my birthday, which was lovely.  He really blessed all of us a lot over the course of the week.  But overall, Christmas week was a pretty low week, which was just what I needed.  A little R&R is a great way to start a new year! 🙂

Thanksgiving 2013

Spending time with my family is one of my favorite things to do ever.  And around holidays it’s even better.  And this holiday season….for some reason, this holiday is even better than normal.  I have had such a sense of anticipation and excitement at the thought of seeing my family this year.  Perhaps it’s because last year was so darn difficult; this is a nice contrast.  Perhaps it’s because 2 years ago I missed being with my family because I was in Korea.  Perhaps it’s because this year we got to celebrate Matt’s blessing ceremony on top of the usual festivities.  Whatever the reason….the past few weeks have been simply laced with excitement and anticipation.

The highlight of family visits was definitely Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago.  While Georgia Tech only gives Thursday and Friday off, I was able to work out my schedule so that I had nearly a week off.  It took me nearly killing myself the 3 weeks prior, but the time off with my family made it worth it.  Although I must admit…I felt somewhat like Martha Stewart with all the baking I did while I was home.  Sugared peanuts, chocolate pecan pie, apple pie, fruitcake, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole….the list goes on, but I’m getting hungry, so I’ll stop :).
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, but the real Thanksgiving day was on Friday afternoon, when Chris and Julia and her parents came into town.  We haven’t all been together in a very long time, and it was really nice to get to see my Chris.  He only lives a few minutes away from me…I wish I could see him and Julia more often.  But the time we did have together was wonderful :).

Thanksgiving weekend was rounded out with Matt’s blessing ceremony.  It’s a coming of age ceremony, something my parents have done for all the kids; the best way that I can describe it is a Christianized version of a Jewish bar mitzvah.  Family and friends from all over came to celebrate Matt and speak blessings into his life.  It only lasted about 30 minutes, but it was sooo, so special.  I missed Josh’s ceremony because I was in Korea, and I was so grateful to be able to be there for Matt’s.

If you’re interested in watching the ceremony, I took a recording of it; you can watch it by following this link: http://youtu.be/O_2qvvKLFb0 .


Fall frenzy

I realized a few weeks ago that this year is probably the last fall break that I’m ever going to have.  It’s crazy to think that my academic career – after 12 years of high school and 8 years of college, I’m actually reaching the end of my formal education.  I’m not sure whether I should be happy or sad about that.  On the one hand, I love school and will miss the daily challenge it brings.  On the other, it’ll be nice to have a regular paycheck and evenings to myself! 🙂

Anyway, for my last-ever fall break, I went home to visit the family.  After so many years of not really wanting to come to Albany (I love the people, but I’m really not crazy about the town itself), it was a strange sensation to feel like I was actually coming home when I pulled into the driveway.  But strange in a good way…
I think the best think about fall break…is the fall-ness of it.  I love this time of year.  The vibrant colors, the brisk air, the pumpkins and apple pies and windy days and scarves and boots and bonfires….I could go on, but I think you get my drift :).  So I was pretty pleased when I got to go a place called Mark’s Melon Patch with my friend Stacie and sister.  It has pretty much all of the above and more – hayrides, mazes, homemade ice cream, the whole shebang.  Hope may have been an “oops” baby, but I can’t imagine life without her!  What a blessing family is!!  So overall, it was quite a lovely weekend home…my only complaint is that it was so short!  

Summers are for memories

Aren’t summers great?  Particularly when you’re a student.  Students’ summers are marked by lazy afternoons by the pool, vacationing over the weekends, and visiting friends and family.  My summers, even though I’m a graduate student, are still much the same.  I realize that this is probably the last summer I’ll have like that, so I’m trying to make the most of it!

Of all the great things about this summer, though, I’d have to say that my favorite part was reconnecting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while.  My summer is almost over now – I moved back to Atlanta to begin settling in for the new semester last weekend – which means that now I’m only left with the nostalgic memories.  Here are a few of my favorites:

My Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle had a big anniversary party / family reunion dealio around the 4th of July.  My dad and brothers couldn’t make it, but my mom and sister and I did.  We drove midway up to Atlanta, visited with Julia a bit, and then went the rest of the way up to Dahlonega, in North Georgia.  Oh my word.  That was so much fun.  It was at an absolutely lovely venue, and it seemed like everyone was there.  I’ve often wished that I could see more of that side of my family….but it’s always a blast whenever I do get to see them!  My my, it’s amazing to see how everyone grows up!  🙂

Bill and Rose Dery….what an incredible couple! 

Hope and Hope – these two cousins were joined at the hip all night long!

The whole clan.  Or at least most of it…I think 😉

My cousins + Daniel’s new fiancé! 🙂

That same week, I also got to see fireworks not once, but twice!  I suppose that somewhat makes up for the fact that this was the first 4th of July I’ve been home for in 3 years.  Other countries don’t find the fourth day in July nearly as important as we do…ergo, no fireworks ;).

My 2 youngest siblings were in a production of the Little Mermaid this summer.  Hope played the most adorable seagull / princess / ocean creature you’ve ever seen….and Matt, our little budding thespian, got the lead male role of Prince Eric!  We were all very proud.  Although i must admit, I was about ready to go postal any time I heard any of the music from the Little Mermaid by the end of the summer.  Too much of anything is never a good thing…. 😉

Hope is third from the left

One proud Grammie!

 I did my best to spend some time in the pool this summer, too.  I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked – work definitely kept me hopping – but I got enough to at least get a few good shots!  And my last weekend in town, a friend of ours took me and my siblings out on his boat.  My goodness, that was fun!  The excitement was just compounded by the imminent danger of the boat breaking down at any minute.  It never actually did, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t in a constant state of anticipation!  Ahhh, good stuff, it keeps us young, hehehe….

Aside from all of the good memories, it was definitely a challenging summer.  But I’m so grateful for it.  The Lord taught me so much, and grew my relationships with my family tremendously.  I feel energized and ready to take on another year at Georgia Tech….although I must also admit, I’m sooooo glad that this is my last year!! 🙂

(The pictures below are from an impromptu photoshoot I went on in a peanut field with my friend Chad.  I didn’t know where else to put them, so I just stuck them at the bottom :]).

The gem of Albany

People who say that there’s nothing to do in Albany really just haven’t looked hard enough.  I often say that boredom is simply a lack of creativity, and that statement is applicable even if you’re living in a small town like Albany.

Case in point: the Radium Springs park.  I found this beautiful gem nestled on the outskirts of the city a few weeks ago.  I could give you directions to it, but couldn’t include any nearby landmarks, as there is really nothing of note anywhere in the vicinity.  You are driving along, passing old houses and country roads, and then out of nowhere, you see a huge white fence – the entrance to my new favorite place in Albany.

Landscaped gardens, beautiful winding footpaths, majestic trees, whispering water running from Georgia’s largest natural spring…walking into the Radium Springs park felt like stepping into another world.  The remains of the historic 1920’s casino that used to be one of the main revenue generators in Albany only serve to add to the general allure.

I sat there, imagining the bustling business, the patrons lounging on the deck or frolicking in the water or strolling the grounds, and just drank it all in.  It was so peaceful and beautiful and relaxing and…in a world, wonderful.  I’m firmly of the opinion that anyone experiencing writer’s block or artist’s block or any other kind of block can come to Radium Springs and get a quick jolt of rejuvenation.  It’s just that lovely a place.  And while you’re at it, bring a picnic lunch.  And a book.  And maybe even a frisbee or a football :).

My friend James, who introduced me to the park

The daily grind

They say that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  If that’s the case, then I am becoming very dull, indeed.  Ever since I came to Albany, it seems that all I’ve been doing has been work.  I’ve been working for my dad’s medical transport business, and I often feel as if I’m trying to do the work of 2 or 3 people all by my lonesome.  I’m doing scheduling, and billing, and filing, and handling the phone, and administrative stuff, and yada yada yada….oh, and on top of that, I’m also driving an average of 3-4 hours every single day.  It’s been so unbelievably exhausting…but hey, at least I can’t complain about being bored!
I have been able to do a few things outside of work.  I went to Matt and Hope’s piano recital – they have really progressed by leaps and bounds!  I was super impressed.  Also, my first weekend back was Mother’s Day weekend, so the whole family (including my grandmother) went down to Pensacola for the weekend.  The kids and I had some little gifts and cards for mom and Grammie, and we had a nice dinner together, and basically just enjoyed each other’s company.  I went with Dad and the kids to the naval aviation museum, which was really fascinating.  Seeing all of the different planes was cool enough, but we also got to go on a hands-on science-y tour that was part of the museum which was super interesting.  I really enjoyed it. 


On Sunday, we went to church with the Chatraws, our old paster and his wife from when we went to Cornerstone Church in Americus, a loooong time ago.  That was wonderful seeing and catching up with them….strange how little they’ve changed!  Josh made a comment as we were driving down there, saying something to the effect of, “I can just feel the stress melting away the farther we get from Albany.”  I couldn’t agree more, and I think it was exactly what our family needed.  Because it was right back to the grind when we got back Sunday night!  It’s times like these when I’m so very grateful for my friends and family who keep me grounded, and remind me of God’s faithfulness when I’m apt to forget it.