Tuesday, July 26, 2016

One Year Left!

As I've mentioned, Thomas and I are officially under the one-year mark on our wedding countdown! In less than a year, my life will be completely different than it is now. I'll have a different last name, I'll live in a different place, I'll be looking for a new job, and, oh yeah, I'll be married. Huge changes are imminent for me.

Anyone who knows me and has loyally read my blog knows that my mental state leading up to a huge change is sketchy at best. I over-think every possible aspect of the change, often expecting the absolute worst to happen, often worrying myself sick. I get worked up into a tizzy, often feeling like my life is spiraling out of control. Situations that come to mind include starting college, choosing a college to transfer to, moving to Stillwater, starting student teaching, graduating, starting work, and now, getting married. The thing about these changes is that I'm absolutely excited about getting to the big event, but the details terrify me. Not once have I come to one of these huge changes that I haven't overcome. Have I faced struggles initially? Definitely. Have I downright failed? Never.

Think back to it, I was scared about living away from home when I started college, worried about getting along with roommates and thriving in PLC. What happened? I moved in, put my best foot forward, and dove in. End result? I graduated from NOC with high honors and incredible transfer scholarships. After graduating, I prepared to move to Stillwater, terrified that I'd get lost in the swarm of faces, end up broke, living a lonely, friendless life. What happened? I moved, found St. John's, and stayed driven in my academics. End result? God provided me with a renewed faith, incredible friends, great learning experiences, ample finances, and, best of all, my future husband! I could keep going, but you get the picture...

I can't know what will happen immediately after the wedding. I already know generally what'll happen, but I don't the logistics. I don't know where we'll be, what I'll do, or how married life will work. The biggest difference between this change and all the others is that I'm not facing this change on my own. Thomas will be right there with me, muddling through the tough times and being overjoyed about any small (or large) wins we come across. It gives me great comfort to know that even if I find myself missing my family, helplessly searching for a job, or whatever else, Thomas will be right there with me, being my personal cheerleader, among other roles, as I'll be with him.

In most ways, I'm excited! I get to live in a new place and make a home with Thomas for the first time. I have the opportunity to start a new career, hopefully finding something I'm even more passionate about, with potentially better earning/advancement opportunities. (No offense, but I'm somewhat ready for a different challenge.) I'm excited to be able to host my family in our new location. I'm generally just excited to be married, to not have to spend weekends scrambling to spend every viable moment with Thomas before having to fall back into the reality that we live 3.5 hours apart. I'm excited to not have to spend Sunday evenings feeling lonesome and full of dread. I'm excited to get to fall asleep and wake up next to Thomas (most) every night. I'm excited to build a life, and (God willing) a family with Thomas. I'm excited to become a wife, Thomas's no less!

I know, if I'm so excited and if so many good things await me, why am I letting myself become so wrapped up in these details? I guess it's just my nature, a trait I'll likely always possess. I know the only way to overcome these challenges is to place them in God's hands and move forward, letting him provide for our needs as only he can. I know I'll spend the next year or so at varying phases of transitioning. I'll be sad thinking about all the times something will happen that'll be my last to experience it as an unmarried woman. I'll be sad thinking about all the events from my nephews' lives that I won't get to share as easily (if at all) after I move. I'll be a nervous wreck until I know where Thomas will be relocated. I could potentially be even worse after he moves, depending on where he goes. But I'll also get to plan the wedding, attend shower(s) in our honor, and find a million little reasons to celebrate the fact that Thomas and I are about to be united in marriage.

The next year will be a mixed bag of emotions, not only for me, but likely for everyone around me...especially the people who will have to deal with my sometimes fragile emotional state. They'll likely lose patience with me at some point, but will still (hopefully) love me unconditionally and want me to be happy. (I love them so much for this...I'm DEFINITELY not an easy person to love!)

Here's to this next year, with all of its ups and downs! I'm praying and hoping that there'll be far more ups than downs. I'm praying that I'll truly savor each moment, trying my best to be fully present wherever I am, and in whatever I'll be doing. I'm praying that Thomas and I (our families, too) will handle these changes gracefully. I'm praying for a good year, full of great new opportunities. If you would, join me in this prayer that these good things will continually come our way, and we'll overcome any struggles we're presented just as God intends us to!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Early July Fun Stuff

Okay, as promised, I'll tell you all about our celebrations since I came back from out east! Coming back home was nice, but the next few days were packed with cleaning and preparing for our Fourth of July celebration (held on the 2nd). In the midst of cleaning, a trip to OKC had to be made to procure supplies/food from Sam's. It was a welcome break from our preparations! (Note-The squash dish I posted yesterday came from our desperate attempt to cook an easy meal that wouldn't create a ton of dishes!) We had lots of help from my sisters and their families, as always. One of the stars this year was Cody, who was energetic enough to man the weedeater and mow the last half of the lawn. It's nice having the nephews be old enough to be of substantial assistance to us! Kyle also did a great job of helping Mom and me in the house. It was great to have extra hands around! Since everyone was over and helping, Mom and I decided to have a lasagna dinner for us that night. It was extra easy as I made it the night before and just had to bake it that night. It was definitely well-received by all!

The following day, which was the BIG day (the 2nd) was full of last-second prep work. I made a couple of batches of our traditional grape sherbet that morning while Mom finished some tidying and my dad and Thomas sprayed outside for bugs. Everyone was over at some point helping, which is probably why it seemed like the morning and early afternoon flew by! The first of our visitors, Thomas's parents and sister, were well-received by everyone. Even if it had only been a few days since Thomas and I had seen them last, we were still excited to see them here! I took Elizabeth (who had never been here) on the grand Kubota tour of our property. I think she enjoyed seeing our farm and cattle. Little by little, everyone showed up! I'm not sure how many people came over, but we had a crowd. Jeremy headed up grilling the hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken, which all tasted great! I also was able to visit with Liz, Jake, and Evan, which I hadn't done since December. As always, the fireworks show was spectacular! Most everyone cleared out by 11:30 or so, and I collapsed into bed a little after 1. Whew!

The next morning, we promised the Liese's that we'd meet them for Mass at Bison. As it turned out, Fr. Ed was feeling ill, so our deacon held a Communion service for us. We were finished around 8:15 or 8:30 (it started at 7:45), and decided it was time to grab some breakfast. We headed back to Enid and beat the Sunday morning rush at IHOP. We had more great laughs and conversation. I've said it before, but I so love how well our families get along! It truly is an answered prayer, among many! After breakfast, we bid them adieu as they hit the road back to Dallas.

Afterward, my parents, Thomas, and I came back home to get some much-needed rest. After a short while, Thomas and I had to be up and at 'em again to have our final marriage prep class. It was a great time as always. I admire them greatly and am quite grateful for investing in us! Now, we're awaiting our Pre-Cana day later on in August, after which we'll be pretty well finished with all of our preparations!

When we came back home, we feasted on leftovers and continued to relax. Gina and Emily and their kiddos came over also. While they were over, Dad decided to pop in the first "Back to the Future" movie. We found out quickly that Wyatt and Andy liked it (Cody and Kyle have enjoyed it for quite some time). Wyatt was heartily disappointed to have to leave before finishing the second movie later on that evening. They came back over the next day and were able to finish the trilogy. Wyatt especially loved the fantasy side of it! I loved seeing them enjoy a classic!

The day of the 4th was still full of lots of happenings. The men were busy installing their new toy, a hydraulic car lift. Meanwhile, us ladies decided to start planning supper for the evening, steak, Hasselbeck potatoes, salad, and brownies. Jeremy once again came through with being our resident grill master and grilled the steaks to perfection. Unfortunately, Thomas had to head back to NWA before we enjoyed that meal. After dinner all three families piled into our respective utility vehicles and drove up to a nearby hill where we could sit and watch all of the area fireworks. That alone provided us with an hour or so of entertainment! We came back to the house to eat some dessert (brownies and grape sherbet) and for the boys to set off the fireworks Dad set back for them. All in all, it was a great Fourth of July!

The days following the fourth were much less eventful, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Otherwise, my excitement didn't pick up until the following weekend. Thomas still had to return his apartment key to his Stillwater apartment, so he came down to return it. While we were in town we were also able to have lunch with our best man, Nick! After lunch, we hopped over to Enid to catch the evening portion of the annual Carr pool party. The pool felt great in the oppressive July heat. I loved getting to see Tonisha and her family once again!

In other great news, we've scheduled the next phase of our marriage prep, the pre-Cana day sponsored by the archdiocese. It'll have to be a lot quicker than we anticipated only because of the difficulties of Thomas living a state away, so it's on the calendar for August. In the same vein, we also scheduled engagement photos! We're going to take photos in Stillwater, and I'm excited to see the end result!!!

Possibly the biggest exciting thing that has happened is that we are now officially under the one-year mark!!! In less than one year, I will be a married woman. Wow! After months of lamenting the fact that there's little we can really do to plan for the wedding, we're finally at a starting point! I'm still trying not to let myself get so caught up in the details that I forget what it's all about--me getting to marry the man of my dreams!!! This probably warrants a post of its own, which will come around at some point in the near future!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sausage & Squash Skillet Meal

I'm LOVING our summer garden we have! As I had hoped upon planting, our staples of squash and zucchini are not disappointing me this year! Granted, they grow like mad in the Oklahoma heat and humidity, so we're at the beginning of looking to find creative ways to use it up. (You can hardly pawn it off on anyone...everyone grows it and is overrun with it too...) One night, my mom and I thought up this simple dish that was a huge hit for us! Hopefully it'll work for you/your family too!

1 tube Italian-style Sausage (JC Potter)
1-2 Squash, sliced thin                                      
1-2 Zucchini, sliced thin                          
1 onion, chopped                                               
Olive Oil/Butter (if needed)
Assorted Seasonings: 
    Salt, Pepper, Garlic Salt, Italian Seasoning, Oregano, Seasoned Salt, Cajun Seasoning, etc.

In a large skillet, fry sausage until no pink remains. Place sausage into a paper towel-lined bowl/plate, leaving grease in skillet. In the same skillet, add in the squash, zucchini, and onion. Add some olive oil or butter, if needed, to coat everything. Season as desired and let cook over medium heat until squash and zucchini are tender and onion is translucent. When vegetables are fully cooked, pour sausage back into the skillet and stir everything together. Season mixture to taste.

Recipe Notes: 
-I’m sure you could use any type of sausage, but this is what we had on hand and thought it tasted good in this dish. Full-blown Italian sausage would be great, I'm sure, but we don't like it much at our house, so we don't use it. Turkey sausage or even ground beef would probably be fine too...basically any ground meat you have on hand would work. 

-Everything in my seasoning list is merely a suggestion. If you want to try something else, feel free to...this is just what we had on hand that fit our taste. 

-As you probably noticed, there aren't any hard and fast measurements here. This recipe can be stretched or shrunk as needed to suit everyone's appetite. At a minimum, I'd suggest at least 1 good sized squash and zucchini as well as a 1 lb. tube of sausage. Otherwise, do what you want! Mushrooms or other garden veggies might be good additions too! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Okay, I'm finally back from my adventures out east. I have lots of other adventures that have taken place since then, but those are for another time. I should preface this post with the fact that this is in no way intended to be a political post. If you have any negative comments/thoughts regarding what I'm about to write about, I'm really not interested in hearing them. Sorry, not sorry...the situation is what it is. With that in mind, here is my story about visiting Connecticut.

I should start by clarifying the exact reason Thomas's family was converging on Connecticut. Thomas's uncle, Jay, was getting married to his partner of 25 years, Mark. There it is. Now that that's out in the open, we can proceed.

My trip started with the drive to NWA, which was uneventful as usual. Thursday night was a calm, relaxing night for Thomas and me. We went for a swim in the pool at his complex and finished some last-second packing, since we had to leave no later than 6:45 to catch our flight the next morning. Nothing too crazy at all. The next morning (Friday), we woke up, got ready, stopped in for a quick breakfast from the Braum's drive-thru (breakfast sandwiches and hash brown tots w/ OJ). From there, we were off to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which was only about 25 minutes away. We made it there without any issues, parked, and toted all of our bags up to the airport. I should mention that I haven't flown commercially since I was a baby, so I was out of my element when it came to finding our gate and going through security. It turns out that it was pretty simple, especially at such a small airport. Once Thomas showed me where everything was, I felt pretty confident about the whole process. Everything was made much easier by the fact that we managed to fit everything into carry-on bags. (I wasn't crazy about it, but I begrudgingly made it work.) Boarding the plane was simple, and our takeoff was smooth. I slept quite a bit on the flight, and woke up about the time they started distributing drinks. (No snacks, since we were on a baby plane.) We hit a little turbulence, but nothing too crazy. We flew into LaGuardia Airport, which marked my first time to be in NYC! I was pretty pumped, especially once we came upon the skyline!

All smiles and ready to embark on our journey!
We made it!
When we exited the plane and emerged from our gate, I quickly realized that we were in a completely different place. The building was a swirl of people of all cultures, noise, and general chaos. Our first order of business upon landing was to locate the ground transport terminal so that we could board our shuttle to Connecticut. This had been a small snag earlier in the week whenever Thomas realized that our ETA was in Central Time, not Eastern Time. The shuttle service assured him that we'd be fine upon landing, but never secured a definite time. By the time we hoofed it over to the ground transport terminal, it was about 1:30 EST. We went through two different lines before a lady informed us that we narrowly missed the previous shuttle and would have to wait about 1.5 more hours for another shuttle. She printed our ticket, which gave us a departure time of 2:10 PM (only about 40 minutes later). Since there was a little uncertainty, Thomas said that we both needed to stay close to the terminal in case they called for us sooner. We were both fairly hungry, but weren't really able to go anywhere. Besides, the best places to eat were past the TSA checkpoint. Oh well.

We waited somewhat impatiently for our shuttle. In the meantime, we watched CNN coverage of Brexit (I'm still a little lost on all of the implications of it...), texted our respective parents, and got hungrier. As time went on, Thomas became more and more impatient with the shuttle service. (His breakfast sandwich was wearing thin.) Steve tried his hardest to give Thomas bright sides, like the promise of food upon our arrival in CT. Thomas and I both became hangry, although I tried to contain myself a little bit more for Thomas's sake. Finally, around 3:30, they called our name and escorted us to the shuttle. Our driver pulled up, looking fairly frazzled, and asked us in broken English where we needed to be dropped off. Our destination for dropoff was Southbury, CT. The driver was initially concerned about this (Thomas almost lost his mind), but eventually loaded us up. Thomas was seated in the very back, next to a lady who was having a loud, explicit conversation with someone named LaShanti. Meanwhile, I got to ride shotgun, which is good because I tend to get carsick in the winding roads up east. The first fifteen minutes of the ride included us hearing all of the lady's convo with LaShanti, our driver pulling up directions on Waze (whilst driving in Queens), and the driver having various phone conversations in Arabic. Traffic was thick and our driver was somewhat erratic on the roads...the shuttle also smelled weird. All of these factors, combined with mental fatigue and hunger (we were going on 8 hours since our last meal), were making me feel queasy and ready to be done traveling. I prayed pretty intensely during that drive, mostly to keep me from thinking about how hungry I was and to keep my sanity. Around 5:30 we were finally dropped off, but at the wrong location. We were a mere half mile from where we were supposed to be. Thomas had the driver take us to the real dropoff location, where Diana and Jean (one of Thomas's aunts) picked us up. The two of us were hangry, tired, and done with that shuttle. They greeted us with hugs, smiles, and pizza. (Guess which one we were most excited about!) I think they were being extra positive since we had such a rough day so far. I tried my hardest not to misdirect any of my irritations on them. By the end of the drive to Jay & Mark's house, we were both in a much better mood!

Citi Field...one of the few highlights of the treacherous drive to CT.
We were greeted by Steve, Elizabeth, Jay, and Mark. It was about 6 PM, and a rehearsal dinner was going to be held at either 6:30 or 7, I can't remember which. This meant that Thomas and I had limited time to unload bags, change clothes, and freshen up a little bit. Diana and Steve took us in their rental car to the dinner venue. Luckily, there was a cocktail hour, so it was alright that we were a little later arriving. I've never been so happy to see an open bar and appetizers in my life. I could have had about anything, but I settled on a glass of wine, which was exactly what my nerves needed by that point. I admittedly felt a bit out of my comfort zone since I knew only Thomas's immediate family members who were there, which amounted to 7 people out of the 50-75 who were there. Dinner was lovely, as was the Connecticut climate. Temps were in the mid 70s with no humidity. I loved it! I met quite a few people, mostly family friends. I also had a great conversation with Elizabeth, which was easily one of the highlights of my whole day. The only downside to the evening were the mosquitoes, which were out in droves that evening. As usual, I ended the night with about 10-15 bites on my legs/feet. We all were staying at Jay and Mark's, which was also where the ceremony would be held, so upon returning, it didn't take us too terribly long to settle in and crash.

We all slept pretty well that night. Okay, we did until Thomas woke Elizabeth and me up at 6 AM with the pump from his air mattress, which deflated through the night. I know, it was no picnic for him either, but still. Saturday morning was jam-packed with last-minute preparations. Jean and Mark's sister Jennie were busy all day creating beautiful flower arrangements. Everyone else stayed busy preparing things outdoors for the early evening ceremony which was held in their meadow. At some point, Thomas, his parents, sister, and I stepped out for a quick lunch. I loved seeing the quaint little town and wished that I had more time to sight-see. After lunch, Diana drove us around Lake Waramaug. I was in love with the gorgeous homes and scenery it had to offer. We made it back just in time to start getting dressed before pictures at 5:15 that afternoon.

The photographer was brought in from Colorado, no doubt one of their friends whose work they admired. She posed the whole family from both sides together for what she called a "Vanity Fair Cover Shot". It was unconventional, but she swore it looked amazing. I'm pretty pumped to see the finished product! It was weird to be included in their family pictures, but it was also a lot of fun! After pictures, we all shuffled over to the meadow to be seated for the ceremony. It was fairly quick, all things considered. I think it only lasted about 20 minutes. Afterwards, we gathered around their pool for a cocktail hour. I still stuck with wine. (It's an easy go-to, and I know what I'm getting. Also, bartenders really can't mess up a glass of wine...) I chatted more with Thomas's cousin, Nicole and lots of family friends I had met the night before. It was great...the endless appetizers made everything even better! After some time, we were whisked to their immediate yard, where dinner was served. It was an intricate, four-course gourmet meal, but was absolutely delicious. After the meal, we listened to the cabaret singer they hired to perform. Because dinner ran long, her act was unfortunately cut short. Because of that, Elizabeth and Mark's nieces took it upon themselves to hijack the music and play some songs we could all dance to. It was tons of fun and only made Thomas and me that much more excited for our wedding! We crashed hard yet again.

About the only picture either of us got from the night.
We look pretty glamorous, if I have to say so myself!
There was a brunch held the next morning, but Thomas and I couldn't go because we had to meet our shuttle so that we could make our 2:30 flight from LaGuardia. We were pretty bummed about that, but were happy to have had a smoother ride back to NYC. Our driver was less erratic, we were the only ones in our shuttle, and there was much less traffic. We also had eaten well before leaving...I made sure of that! We even soared through security. We sat down at our terminal around 12:15 PM. We joked that we probably could've attended the brunch after all! As time passed, we grabbed some lunch and kept waiting. Our flight was already a little bit delayed, but we weren't worried. Well, then it was about 10 minutes til boarding and our plane was nowhere to be found. Hmm...

A nearby couple remarked that our plane (which was coming from NWA, where we would be heading) had to stop in Nashville to refuel. Um, what? Who missed that in their pre-flight checklist? Oh well. Then it showed up that departure was pushed back til almost 4 PM. Yeah, we probably could've attended the brunch after all. Thomas's family was on their way back to LaGuardia to catch their flights, all leaving around 6 PM. We were about 20 minutes from boarding when departure was pushed back to 4:30 ish. Someone said that everyone was ready to go, but they needed to find a captain for the plane. What?! How do we not have a captain? Weird... We kept occupying ourselves until I finally had to get up to find a snack, mostly for my sanity's sake. I was getting really sick of the terminal and needed an excuse to leave. I was about ready to make my purchases, but called Thomas to check on something, when he informed me that our flight was canceled. Never mind, I put everything up and left immediately.

I realized in those moments that I don't ever want to be responsible for telling people their flight was canceled. People turned on that poor guy quickly. He was the recipient of lots of misdirected anger/frustration. We received an 800 number to rebook our flight and take care of accommodations. By some miracle, Thomas got through almost instantly. At this point I realized two things: 1) I'm really glad that Thomas spends tons of time on the phone at work and has great phone business skills. 2) I'm REALLY glad we only had carry-on luggage. Both of these factors played to our advantage, because we had nothing holding us back at the terminal, and he got right to work negotiating new flights for us to take home. Since the airport in NWA is only a regional airport, there aren't a ton of flights going in or out with much frequency. (About once a day each way is typical) This and the fact that Thomas wouldn't accept a flight without room for us both were limiting factors in our options. Ultimately the hotline booking agent snagged us a couple of seats on a flight leaving Tuesday morning at 6:50 AM, getting us back by 8:30 AM (CST). It would be a couple of days more than we anticipated, but it was the best we could do. Besides, since it was an issue on the airline's end, they were responsible for covering any extra expenses we incurred. We thought quickly and determined that we could stay at Jay & Mark's NYC apartment in the interim, as it would likely be nicer/less sketchy/safer than any hotel they'd put us up in.

While we waited in line to get our new tickets printed, we told our families of the developments. At this point, his parents and sister were somewhere in LaGuardia about to board their flight back to DFW. It was about 6 PM, I think. We finally reached the front of the line and were sent to a nice agent who got us an even better deal. She looked through her computer and determined that if we were okay with taking multiple flights, she could get us back to NWA as soon as late Monday night. It would only put us about 9 hours ahead of our original plan, but it was better for Thomas in terms of his work life. One option was to leave LaGuardia the next morning heading to Chicago (O'Hare), then to DFW, then to NWA. After checking even further, she found an option to get us to O'Hare that night, then to DFW and NWA the next day. We opted for that plan and ran with it. We happened to have ample time to go back through security and wait at the terminal for our 9:30 PM flight. (It was about 7 at that point.) Even better, Thomas's cousin Nicole lives in Chicago and she had already offered her spare bedroom to us in the event we made it there that night. After clearing security, we happened to run into Jean, who was about to board her flight to DFW. We also found out that Nicole's flight to Chicago (supposedly leaving by 7:30 or 8) was severely delayed due to mechanical issues. A short while later, Thomas and I found food and waited some more to find out that Nicole's flight wasn't going through as planned. She exited the plane and got on the standby list for our flight...it was a long shot, but worth it, as she snagged a seat! Her luggage situation was ironed out about as well as it could have been. We finally left LaGuardia about 10 or 10:30 that night, and I was ecstatic to leave that horrid place.
Thomas, Nicole, and me...courtesy of Snapchat.

Throwing up the deuces to LaGuardia!

Picturesque O'Hare airport! What a sight for sore eyes!
Upon landing, we claimed our carry-ons that had to be checked because it was a full flight and opted to leave quickly, as it was about 11:30 or so. Nicole was going to get a Lyft driver, but realized that they jacked up the prices due to the late hour, so we found a taxi. I'd never ridden in a taxi before that night, but found it to be a good experience overall. She also ordered us a pizza to eat upon our arrival. It was so nice to be able to spend the evening in a home and sleep in a bed after our whirlwind day. Thomas and I realized that after it was all said and done, we DEFINITELY could have attended the brunch that morning...

We had a 2:30 flight out of O'Hare, so Thomas wanted to get there as soon as possible. Sadly, this didn't allow us any time to explore Chicago...I took it as a sign that we needed to return to visit Nicole! Our best bet of getting to O'Hare in a quick and economical fashion was to take the El Train. I had never ridden in a subway either, so that was another exciting adventure! We made it to our gate around 12:15. I was equal parts happy to be early and disappointed to be spending even more time in an airport terminal. Our late "breakfast" of cold pizza (our choice, just to be clear) was running thin, so I treated us to chocolate from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. We were well on a sugar high afterwards, but decided we'd earned it after the trying last few days. Also, his parents were taking us to dinner upon our arrival in DFW, so we didn't want anything too heavy. The O'Hare to DFW flight was pretty uneventful, although less exciting because we didn't have adjoining seats. My seatmates were uninteresting as one slept the whole way and the other played computer games the whole time. I eventually slept a little bit too.

What happens when your 1-quart bag splits down the side...you resort to painter's tape to make do.

Chicago skyline from Nicole's rooftop!

Cool building across the street from Nicole's apartment!

I slept in the airport too.
As can be seen, Thomas wasn't mad :)
I was very excited to arrive in DFW if only because I was in familiar territory for the first time during the whole trip. I knew the layout of the town and plenty of people to call in case of emergency. Our dinner that night was amazing, mostly because it wasn't airport food. Also because we had Steve and Diana's company :) We had a six hour layover and still had three hours left after dinner, so they decided that we needed to drive around so we weren't so cooped up in airports again. Diana drove us all around Grapevine, TX, including their lovely residential areas. We happened upon a small, yet gorgeous botanical garden tucked away in a neighborhood. It was nice to have fresh air!

Courtesy of my Snapchat...

Isn't it lovely?!

Literally the largest koi I've ever seen. 

What an oasis in the middle of the bustling city!
Around 8:30 or so, they dropped us off so we were well on our way for our 10:10 flight. We waited patiently at our gate, when we found out that our flight was going to be delayed first because of some weather and then later again because our flight crew needed to eat. Ultimately, boarding time was pushed back to almost 10:40. We were a little on edge because of the added delays (it felt much too reminiscent of the day before), but our worries were all for naught. It was the shortest flight of all, thank God! I feel like we barely reached cruising altitude before we began our descent. It was the only flight that we didn't even bother with complimentary beverages. We finally left the NWA airport around midnight Tuesday morning and ended back up at the apartment by 12:30 or 12:40. We both slept well!

These are our "we're so happy to be back in Arkansas" faces!
The next morning Thomas went off to work and I headed back home around 10:30 or so. I drove quickly and busted my tail to get home before anything else could happen that sabotaged my travel plans. Whew!!!! What a trip! I was very happy to finally make it home and sleep in my bed, although I did miss Thomas. (Of course I did...I always miss him when I leave!)

A few takeaways from the trip:
-It's annoying to constantly tote around carry-on bags, but it has its merits.
-I don't EVER want to work at an airport. It's a high-stress environment. I especially don't want to have to work at a boarding gate and have to tell people their flight was canceled. I felt really bad for the guy who told us that at LaGuardia...LOTS of people were unnecessarily mean/rude to him when he was really just the bearer of bad news.
-An addendum to the previous note, people in airports often SWEAR they need to be at a certain place and have unmovable plans awaiting them. Oftentimes, they're not telling the full truth. I overheard a lady who swore she had to be in Arkansas with her daughter the next day for college orientation. Later, she told me that it was the optional introductory day and that they didn't have to be there til the day after (Tuesday).
-When traveling, it's best to be flexible when making plans. It'll get you much further than you'd realize.
-Never let yourself get too hungry, it'll make stressful travel even worse.
-Mad Libs make for great fun during layovers!

This easily provided hours of entertainment!
-Never trust "charging stations", electrical outlets or USB ports in airport terminals. I was let down more times than I care to count by outlets that didn't work and was left with an almost dead phone because I was constantly roaming. Also be wary when wi-fi is advertised. It's almost NEVER free...
-Throughout all the twists and turns of this trip, Thomas and I never once got into an argument. We made it through everything and when we made it back to Arkansas, we were still happy and loving. If we can make it through that and not want to kill each other, I think we're going to make it just fine! It was a very good test of our relationship that we passed with flying colors!

Of course, lots has happened since then...namely the Hladik 2nd of July party. I'll tell you all about that next time! Until then, stay cool in the heat!