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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tennessee Recap (and Let the Saving Begin)

This past weekend we took the last train to Clarksville, Tennessee.

Just kidding, we drove the whole way (1,000 miles roundtrip), plus a little detour to Lebanon to visit some friends of ours. (Hi, friends!) :)

The purpose of our trip? To visit our pastor and his wife and finally complete our premarital counseling. Since we've been married for, oh, 15 months now, we figured it was high time to get that done. Hey, does your leg hurt? It should, because I’m pulling it again! Actually last June we had a little car trouble (i.e., my vehicle died on the highway) whilst en route to Tennessee for our last premarital counseling session, so we finished it up via conference call. And our pastor still married us, so it’s all legit.

Anyway, this weekend was a nice, relaxed trip. We left in the chilly predawn hours Saturday morning and made our way through southern Illinois, sprinted through Kentucky, and then found ourselves quickly crossing the Tennessee border into, you guessed it, Clarksville!

Saturday night saw us at a huge church bbq, complete with firepit and dozens of my pastor’s congregants asking to meet the folks who drove all the way from Chicago to hang out with him and his wife. After partaking of some lovely bbq pork (I’m told they butchered a whole hog for this shindig. Not even kidding.), cinnamon-sugar laden donuts, and other sundry Southern hospitality, we retired for the night.

Sunday saw us up in time for Sunday school, where we attended a class taught by none other than my pastor. Or as he’s known in those parts, “Brother James.” It was the first time I’ve ever been offered complimentary donuts AND diet cola in a Sunday school class. Awesome, right? Right. Then it was up to the main sanctuary for church, where we began with the cutest (if that isn’t sacrilegious) baptism I’ve ever seen. The kid was about 8 years old, and he had the most earnest look on his face as they dunked him in the baptistry. It was so cool to see a little boy, smiling and dripping wet, proud to have shown the whole world that he’s saved by the blood of Jesus. Hallelujah! (There were a few of those shouted during church. It’s Southern Baptist, yo.) Then Pastor preached a great evangelistic sermon, which it’s really impossible to describe if you haven’t heard him. He’s got this booming voice, so between that and the passion with which he preaches, you’d think he was a Southern version of St. Peter. It’s great.

After church Pastor and his wife took us out for lunch to a nice Mexican place called Guadalajara. Free chips and salsa for all! And a special bowl of chips just for me… after the waitress saw how much I loved them, she literally brought me my own bowl! Southern hospitality again, FTW!

Full of yummy burritos, we drove to Lebanon and met up with our friends and their three kids, ages 8, 6, and 6 (yes, they have twins). After checking out their new house and meeting their adorable but slightly oily-skinned hairless cats, we just sat and talked, as adults are wont to do. The highlight for me was having one of the six-year-old boys read the book The Gruffalo to me out loud. What made it even cooler was that this little guy has struggled with autism for years and has progressed to the point where he can read better than most kindergartners I’ve met. I swear, it almost made me want to become a teacher. Then I remembered my shortage of the fruit of the Spirit known as patience and promptly thanked God that I have a job working with adults. Yay.

We finished up our visit with dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse. If you’ve never been there, it’s like Outback or Lonestar Steakhouse. There’s peanuts on the floor, and the rolls are like drops of baked happiness. The steaks aren’t half bad either.

Back to Clarksville we drove, and we arrived just after Pastor and his wife returned from evening church service. The four of us spent a good time visiting, and then the boys hit the hay around 10:30. Meanwhile, us girls stayed up talking until 1:30! I laughed, I cried, and I wished we lived closer.

Monday morning we drove back. Back to the frigid winds and overcast skies that are Chicago in every season other than summer. How can it be sunny and 75 in Tennessee (at 10 a.m.!) and turn chilly and rainy and barely 60 by the time we reach home? Sigh…

This trip solidified Tennessee as my third favorite state. If I were ever to leave Illinois, I would move to 1) Missouri, 2) Michigan, or 3) Tennessee.

Oh, and on the way home Doug and I decided to go on a month-long saving spree! Which means no spending money on anything except gas and groceries until mid-November! Oh, joy! Well, we realized we needed to save more money, and this seemed like the best way to kickstart that habit. You gotta start somewhere.

P.S. Any suggestions for free date-night activities would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


  1. I wish you well on your saving adventure!

    Here are some free date-night activities that we enjoy:
    -Visiting the bookstore (though this can be an exercise in willpower)
    -Playing board games (ones that are good for couples, probably not Monopoly or Risk--I can give you some suggestions/let you borrow some if you like)
    -Wheaton College is your friend (living near a college, you can usually find some kind of fine arts activity going on for free--a concert, a lecture, a sporting event, etc.)
    -Browsing at Costco or another stuff-on-display kind of store
    -Listening to audiobooks together (you can find these at the physical library, online through Overdrive, or borrow through interlibrary loan. I recommend the Von Igelfeld series by Alexander McCall Smith and the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley--FANTASTIC audiobooks)

    Most of these can be paired at home with fine coffee, tea, and dessert, all of which are significantly cheaper when prepared at home.

    Good luck!

  2. Hooray for Logan's! I'm so happy you were able to fit a visit into your trip.

    I second the "visiting the bookstore" suggestion. Unless you're greatly tempted by the coffee and treats available for purchase, picking up a good book or magazine at Barnes & Noble and enjoying it in the cafe is a great date (and no purchase is necessary).

    Do you have a few movies on your to-watch list? Write them all down, then see how many you can check off your list with visits to the library (as long as they're free).

  3. Thanks for the date-night suggestions, guys! Clearly I have some resourceful friends. :)

    @FarmerLenny: Hm, well, seeing as how I have an extreme lack of will power in the book-buying category, I think we'll avoid the bookstore and instead seek out some library entertainment. Cheap is great, but free is even better. The Costco idea isn't something I would have thought of. We'll try that out for sure. And I may take you up on that game-borrowing offer.

    @Mrs. G: I love the idea of making a list of movies we want to see! Doug says I'm the list queen, and I can't deny it. Maybe this month I'll make a list of all the things I'm NOT buying and then total up the savings. :)

    Thanks to you both for the great suggestions!

  4. Mall walks! It's always great for people-watching and you don't have to buy anything. I would also say yes to Costco, even if you stop by for a 1.50 hotdog and drink combo on the way out, it's still a cheap date.