Happy Thoughts…

On Ben’s nightstand we have a number of Janga pieces from our wedding. Rather than invest in a guest book that we’d smile at and tuck away, we decided to buy two or three boxes of Janga, and people wrote on those instead. Here are a few favorites:

Ben, Mary fears pirates! They terrify her! Don’t talk about pirates. She was one.
–Stephen

Be happy, be patient, be together.
–Georgesons

Always kiss each other goodnight.
–Jill and Jon Freezer

Live life! Love life! Love each other!
–Adam and Tess Shafer

Advice?? Find something to laugh about together EVERY day!
–Bouchelles

The secret–love each other and love God.
–Rasmussuns

You are now a family!
–Anelle Doxey

Have good glue. Work hard, play hard. Just do what you’re told. You’ll figure it out.
–Papa Jeff

Sometimes it’s really hard to feel like a good spouse when you don’t get to see/talk too/interact with the object of your affections…but today my memories are making me happy. These are my happy thoughts (see Peter Pan).

Christmas Countdown

I’ve partially completed my Christmas stockings, but I am debating between trimming them with ribbon or burlap…I love the sharp texture of burlap, but I’m concerned it would clash/detract from the pattern of the stockings themselves…thoughts? Here is a photograph of the partially finished product:

I wish I was schnazzy at taking pictures like Ben. He has mad skillz.

I wish I was schnazzy at taking pictures like Ben. He has mad skillz. Naturally the one on the left is slightly larger (for Ben).

Hm….Lately I’ve been alternately motivated and moody about everything, including Christmas. My family has so many lovely traditions that we participate in each year, and I want to implement traditions of my own…but it’s somewhat of a turn-off when you’re making up traditions for yourself.

For example, every year on Thanksgiving we complete our feasting and proceed to watch Scrooge. As far as we’re concerned, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is in the works! The day after Thanksgiving we set up the Christmas tree and all the other miscellaneous decorations we’ve collected over the years. My favorite decoration is my mother’s nativity set.

Nativity-Scene-Pics

We watch Christmas movies together throughout the month of December, and my mother reads Christmas stories aloud each night. Well, perhaps not so much since we’ve grown up a bit, but that is one of my favorite memories. We bake Christmas-y sweets (cookies, candy, hot cocoa, etc,.) and everyone is randomly (and secretly) assigned a family member to be their “special person” for the month whom they prepare an especially wonderful gift for.

On December 5th we celebrate St. Nicholas Eve–the night on which you set your Christmas list inside a shoe, and in the morning it has been replaced by candy!

Obviously not my own, personal shoe...but you get the idea.

Obviously not my own, personal shoe…but you get the idea.

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. We have a family talent show, and we roll the Christmas ball. We perform the nativity, and mom writes (beforehand) and then reads a family history Christmas story.

After the partying, we are permitted one Christmas present to open, and then we head to bed (except those specifically invited by mom to help get everything set up for Christmas morning).

Christmas stockings…I love that part of Christmas. We always have Swiss Colony Petit Fours in our stockings, along with a clementine and other fun nicknacks.

I always loved feeling this square shaped box in my stocking. So delicious.

I always loved feeling this square shaped box in my stocking. So delicious.

Finally, we open presents in age order, one at a time.

Mmmm…I love Christmas. I wish I could re-create all the things I love about Christmas in my own home. I’m excited that all my incoming Christmases will be Cragun-y ones.

Autumn Adventure

Two days ago, at this precise moment, I was rapidly chucking miscellaneous items into my large, cranberry colored duffle bag after making a last-minute decision to do something truly audacious: I had decided to drive the 5 1/2 hour-long distance between Buena Vista, VA and Danville PA–this distance between where I reside and where Ben is rotating. Now, at first glance such a trip doesn’t really sound that daring really. I mean, it’s only 5 1/2 hours, and the roads are relatively untraffic-ed (seeing as Danville isn’t a humming metropolis)…even so, this was a big deal, because I have never, not once in my entire life, done something so spontaneous and exciting. Nor have I ever driven such a distance (let alone by myself). Also, it was exhilarating because I knew that I was about to see Ben.

The weather was perfect for traveling. Not too chilly, but not warm enough that I’d need AC in my lovely, shabby little Ford focus. I wish I had the ability to take printable mental snapshots of my life as it unfolds. If I could, I’d share with you the vibrant golds, titian, and raspberry splashes of autumn dotting the landscapes, impressing me much as I hurtled by. So many farms, and as I drew closer to PA, so much glorious water! The Susquehanna river is now among my top five favorite watercourses in the United States. So vast, and so blue! I regretted being the driver rather than a passenger (driving does make it somewhat difficult to ogle prettiness), but even still I enjoyed what was before me.

I began driving at around 12:30 pm, and by the time I stopped for gas I was in Maryland (I drove through Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland before getting to Pennsylvania–four states in one drive! Very exciting–especially for someone who doesn’t travel much) and 1 1/2 hours from Ben!

My excitement to see my sweetheart distracted me from boredom, and I anxiously counted the miles. Finally, just as it began to grow dark, I entered Danville, and my ever-trusty, though somewhat the worse for wear, iPhone directed me through the narrow streets to Ben’s apartment. I truly adore my smart phone. It is such a lifesaver. I had panicked mildly about 52 miles before reaching Ben because an exit had been closed–but my handy-dandy iPhone navigated me through the mess quite gracefully. Enough of iPhones–

Finally I arrived at Ben’s apartment.  Golly. Being with Ben is such a special treat these days. We see each other so rarely that it always seems like something truly exceptional when we’re actually together. There is something about being beside Ben that calms and comforts me, even when I don’t necessarily think myself in particular need of either. Simply being with him supplies me with a composure and confidence that I experience only to a lesser degree when we’re apart. He makes me brave.

We enjoyed a truly delicious dinner at the Inn at Turkey Hill. I had mahimahi, and Ben (of course) had steak.

We sat in the far, left corner.

We sat in the far, left corner.

Ha–I swiped the photo from their website–but it shows precisely where we sat! It looked even charming while we were there–it was around 7 o’ clock, and there were lit candles on each table, and soft twinkle lights above us along the beams of the skylights. We both enjoyed our food tremendously (I should like to go back there again–it was THAT good), and I enjoyed being on a “fancy date” with Ben.

The following day was spent exploring. We found a small parking lot beside the Susquehanna river (intended for fishermen–but we parked there anyway), and we just gazed at the clear, fresh water. The autumn colors were so rich and vibrant. I couldn’t stop smiling.

My handsome fella beside the water.

My handsome fella beside the water.

Such a pretty day!

Such a pretty day!

Mmmmm, love dat man.

Mmmmm, love dat man.

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

So happy.

So happy.

Mmmm. What a lovely day. After adventuring, we came back to the apartment and enjoyed popcorn chicken and BBQ sauce while watching The Great Gatsby. It was perfect.

Then came the dawn.

Morning was hard. Ben had work quite early, and I didn’t want to wake up (even though we were squished together in a teeny twin-size bed). But I did, and we said good-bye. That wasn’t the hardest part though. The hard part was trying not to think about the fact that I was leaving Ben. It wasn’t dramatic or dreadful, but it was…hard. I packed my bag (less hurriedly this time), and pulled on Ben’s sweater to ward of the cold. That was a bad idea. The darn thing smells like him.

After scraping the ice of my frosty windows, I turned my little car around and began the drive back to B.V. That was the hardest part. I drove past the hospital and tears started sliding down my face. It isn’t always the good-bye that hurts. Sometimes it’s just the feeling of leaving and the feeling of being apart that aches. Just thinking about it makes my throat tight.

I put in a CD, and the music distracted me a bit. The longer I drove and the more distance that slipped between us made me feel quite lonely. Finally when I began driving into B.V. I felt faintly comforted by my surroundings. But then as I opened my front door I realized that I’d come home–but not completely, because half of my home is still in PA.

I can’t wait for Christmas. At Christmas we’ll be together again. 50 days…