Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Christmas to Remember... (picture overload)

I simply won't be able to accurately convey how wonderfully amazing yet absolutely insane this Christmas was. It will certainly be one that I will never ever forget for many reasons. I was so blessed to be able to take an entire week off of work to be with my amazing family and not only that but my sweet Ben was able to accompany me. I am so blessed.

Ben and I left fairly early on Friday, December 17 to make the drive to Charlotte. We made good time to Atlanta but once we got to Atlanta we found ourselves at a dead stop for nearly 4 hours as a semi truck accident had occurred. Not the funnest way to start a trip but it could've been much worse.

We finally made it to my parent's house late that evening and their home decked in lights was as welcoming as ever.

Home sweet home.

The next morning we went to a fabulous antique/junk yard where you rummage through old warehouses for antiques and collectables. I was totally in my element and had it not been for the freezing wind and snow flurries, I could have easily spent an entire day there.

Ben and I. Cold but oh so happy.

Sweet Emily and I with some of our treasures.

That evening my family as well as 4 other families in their neighborhood (who are good friends and we grew up with some of them) had what they called a "Progressive Dinner". Basically it's a 5 course meal that consists of h'orderves, soup, salad, a main course and dessert and you go from house to house for each course. It was really a neat idea thought up by my oh so creative mother. We had a really fun time! Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures of this joyous occasion but here is my little sister Hannah and I just before.

The next day we did some Christmas shopping!

Hannah and her boyfriend, Sully.

On Monday Ben and I along with my Parents drove over to another town in North Carolina where Ben's grandparents and aunt and uncle live and spent some precious time with them. I didn't get any pictures of this time either but it was such a blessing to be able to spend time with them!

Monday evening my parents took us to the Billy Graham library in Charlotte. It was absolutely amazing and very moving. If you're ever in the area, take the time to go. It's totally free and it will most definitely impact you.

It was decorated so beautifully for Christmas.

My sister with Ben and Jesse - dear family friends.

On Tuesday night my parents took all of us girls and our boyfriends to a restaurant in uptown Charlotte called "Cabo Fish Taco". We had a lovely time. We finished the evening with tarts and caramel salted brownies at Amelie's French Bakery in uptown.

Ben and I at Cabo.

Ashton and her boyfriend, Billy.

And Hannah and Sully!

All of us - minus Mom and Dad.

When we got home from dinner and dessert we decorated sugar cookies as it is a yearly tradition for our family.

On Wednesday evening we did our family Christmas as we were going to be in West Virginia for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Mom and Dad took us all to PF Changs and then we went home and opened gifts. It was such a good night! Mom and Dad totally outdid themselves this year.

My beautiful Mom and I at dinner.

All the Collins girls!

The Men.

Dad was pretty proud of this item he picked for Ben's stocking. Haha!

On Thursday we headed for the beautiful snowy mountains of West Virginia! It was quite a drive as there was lots of snow falling and Ben and I were in my car and my car only has front wheel drive. Not to mention, my windshield wiper fluid would not spray because the motor burnt out. Needless to say, it was quite a frightening drive through winding mountain roads in snow and ice and a cloudy windshield. We were following my dad but we had to make a few stops just to clean off the windshield. It was crazy.

We finally made it to our destination after all of that...ALIVE.
Look how Beautiful!

This is the house I lived in when I was little.

On Christmas eve we had a delicious dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's house, did lots of laughing and then all gathered around the piano as my uncle played and took turns singing and playing. It was really special.

Christmas Day started out to be wonderful but was cut short for Ben and I as we had to make an attempt to get out of the Mountains and back to Charlotte before the "Blizzard of 2010" made it's debut. Here are a few photos of Christmas day...

Just before we left.
We said our goodbyes, I did some pretty extensive crying and we got on the road at around 3:00 pm. We were going to drive to Charlotte, sleep at my parent's and then get up early Sunday and drive back to Florida as I had to be at work Monday morning. My Parent's and sisters stayed in West Virginia. It was so hard leaving.

The first portion of the trip was great- no snow, clear roads and my car drove fine through the steep mountain roads.

After we get out of what we thought was the most dangerous portion of the trip (ha, little did we know) we drove right into the middle of the freaking blizzard of 2010. Not even kidding. We made it to Virginia and as night fell, the snow picked up, the roads were blanketed with ice and snow and it was quite possibly the scariest drive of my entire life. I was doing all that I could to keep Ben calm as he was the one driving but I couldn't help but pray and utter "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus..." over and over again which in turn made him nervous and it just wasn't a good thing.
We finally make it to a town in Virginia called Wytheville and decided to pull of for a breather. Keep in mind- niether of us had ever driven in snow before in our lives. We live in Florida, people. We stopped, filled the car up with gas and went inside to sit and talk. I started bawling my eyes out as I was terrified to get back on the road. The gas station was packed wth people getting off the roads. Ben talked to someone from Philidelphia who stated "I wouldn't even drive in this". It was THAT BAD.

We contemplated getting a hotel but we were only 130 miles from Charlotte and with it being Christmas night, we just wanted to get there, sleep and then get home to Florida on Sunday. So, Ben made the decision to get back on the treacherous road and attempt to track it to Charlotte. As he was about to turn onto the ramp to get on the Interstate, I started crying and expressed my fear and with that, he made a U-turn and we got a hotel. He's so sweet. Thankfully we got one just before the place was bombarded by weary travelers with the same fear and smarts. I'm so thankful we made the decision that we did as there were SO many accidents along that stretch of road that very night. We heard of one fatal accident just two miles up the road and then the next day we counted more than 20 cars in ditches and in the woods. It was INSANE. I feel confident that we did the right thing.

Nothing like Christmas in a hotel.

The view from the hotel room the next morning. Gorgeous. Snow is so deceiving.

My car the next morning.
We packed up and got on the road around 10:00 am. We didn't want to leave too early as we wanted them to be plowed before we got back on. Smart of us. The roads were fine but we did see lots of fallen tress and wrecked vehicles which only solidified that we had in fact made the right decision to stop. We finally arrived in Charlotte around 12:00.

The entrance to my Parent's neighborhood. Gorgeous.

Mom and Dad's beautiful snow covered house.

Ben and I grabbed lunch and went back to my Parents to pack up our stuff and rest a little before we got back on the road. At this point, I wasn't sure leaving for Florida would be the wisest decision as we had already lost a good portion of the day and wouldn't get back until really late and the snow hadn't really stopped completely. If we didn't though, I would miss work on Monday. Stress overload. I texted my boss who was totally gracious and understanding.

Just when I thought I could de-stress and get some significant rest, my little sister calls me screaming and crying that they had just been in an accident and that they couldn't get my Dad out of the vehicle only for the call to be dropped suddenly after. My heart dropped to the floor, my stomach was in knots and I couldn't even see or think clearly. I finally got a hold of them again and they stated that the vehicle had ran off the road and was hanging off of an embankment over a creek and that my Dad couldn't get out of the car because anytime he would begin to make movement the car would begin to tilt and would flip over into the creek. Hannah sent me this photo...

And I lost it again. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I prayed and prayed and cried and cried and even fell down the stairs at my Parent's due to my panic attack. Ben was so sweet and supportive and called his parents and grandparents to pray. My Parent's friends who live in their neighborhood came over to be with us as well.

They did manage to have a wrecker pull the vehicle out and everyone was OK. It was a very scary hour though and I can't even imagine what my Dad was going through! I was so thankful and relieved. After all that my Dad still decided to drive home to Charlotte and of course Ben and I were there awaiting their arrival. I was never so happy to see my family and especially my Dad! Thank God for his safety!

Ben and I left Monday morning to head back home and we made great time! I think God had mercy on us after all that we had endured.

It was most definitely a "Christmas to Remember" and one I'm sure will be shared for years to come.

I hope you all had a safe and joyous Holiday Season!