Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Home for the Holidays

The holidays are always a special time. Festive music fills the radio waves and malls. Bright, twinkling lights illuminate neighborhoods and public buildings. Hot cocoa and a roaring fire help keep inhabitants nice and warm on those cold, snowy days. (Well, that last one is more or less for those that live in the tundra that is the Midwest and Northeast of this country...)

Living in Florida means that I don't get to see my family that often. The majority of them are back in the Midwest, spread out between Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Day trips back home aren't really an option, seeing as that drive is a lovely 22 hours and some change. So I get to settle for seeing them during that magical, special holiday season.

It's been exactly one year since I was last in the great state known as Iowa. This summer I spent taking an epic three-week road trip out East with Cathy, so I wasn't able to fit in a trip back home at that time. But with Kevin and Erin visiting the week before break started, the perfect opportunity to visit home presented itself to me, nicely wrapped with a bow on top.

Now anyone who has ever lived in a state without any major metropolitan areas knows how expensive it can be to fly into small, regional airports. Round trip tickets from West Palm Beach to either Cedar Rapids, IA or Moline, IL were well over $500! The AmeriBudget doesn't quite allow for that type of expense! So I had to get creative. Luckily for me, both Kevin and Erin live in Chicago. A plan was hatched.

It was decided that I would buy a one-way ticket to Chicago, taking the same flight back as Kevin and Erin, and spend the night with Kevin. Then the next day, I would board the Megabus bound for Iowa City. This 4-hour ride would get me home with plenty of time to spend with my family and friends before having to head back down south. Everything worked out smoothly! The flights went well and the bus ride was very uneventful (minus the excessive amount of heat escaping the vents - but then again, I was back in the Midwest!) My parents picked me up and my vacation was underway!

One of the big differences between Florida and Iowa is that of the weather! The thickest article of clothing that I have in Florida is a zip-up hoodie, definitely not enough for the cold winds and blinding snow that seems to doom the Midwest every winter.This change in climate definitely played havoc with my sinuses and eyes, as the dry conditions and wicked temperatures caused my body to go haywire.

While I was home, I was able to see a lot of family that I hadn't seen since my last trip home. It was a pretty quiet Christmas Eve/Day. We put our tree up, decorated it with handmade ornaments that Matt and I made when we were little, and called it good. Lots of card games were played (I'm pretty sure I never won - not sure that's how that's supposed to go) and pans of homemade cinnamon rolls were devoured. Let's say that it was good to be home!

One of the definite highlights was being able to spend a little bit of time with  Brandon. I met Brandon in college through Camp Adventure. My last year in the program he was in my small group (let's just say that I'm responsible for all the awesome knowledge that he had before heading out for his summer in Japan). He's currently enlisted in the Navy reserves and spent about 8 months over in Afghanistan. The last time that I saw him was when I came back from Korea, so it had been about a year and a half. Being able to catch up with him was great! Can't wait for him to make a trip down to Florida!!

My time home wrapped up with a trip to Wisconsin and Illinois to see my mom's side of the family. My aunt lives in Madison and she treated my dad, brother, and I out to her favorite pizza place (which was delicious BTW!). While in Illinois, I was able to visit with my grandmother, which was great! She's still going strong and raking in the winnings at her weekly Bingo games! It was nice to catch up with everyone!

The holidays are always a time for families to reconnect. They enable those of us that are far away the opportunity to come home and be a complete family again. I'm hoping that it won't take until next Christmas to get me back home to the Midwest...

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