January 31, 2012

Inn of the Mountain Gods

(you’re welcome for the free publicity, IMG. I expect my free room voucher in the mail any day….)

But seriously…

Last weekend we went on a Chaplain’s Marriage Retreat to a nearby casino resort, Inn of the Mountain Gods.

That’s the picture from their website

We’d never been on one before but several of my friends or BBs had, and we had wanted to for a long time, so we were very excited. In case you don’t know, the Chaplain’s office at your installation puts on these weekend retreats every few months at no cost to the families who attend. All of our meals and our room and materials (and childcare) were paid for. It only cost us the gas to get there and $10 we spend in the casino. :)

Of course, we couldn’t take the puppies with us, and kenneling them would have meant shelling out another $100 or so. We didn’t have to, though. The week before, SoldierMan had just finished building their luxury condo doggy duplex.


He still wants to put carpet in. But we shoved a quilt in there, had a wonderful amazing friend come and water and feed them while we were gone, gave them a couple of bones and we were off and away!

We opted to drive the Beast up there instead of the car. Oh, I haven’t introduced you yet….


That’s my new toy, aka The Beast. I don’t name cars, I think it’s kind of silly, but from Day One that’s what this jumped out to me as. Long story short, it was costing us more in monthly maintenance for the Exploder than it will be for the lease/warranty for the Beast. And no one, not even Dave Ramsey, can convince me it makes more financial sense to pay more money to maintain an old car just to avoid leasing a newer one.

whew. Now that I’ve got that off my chest….

We hopped in the Beast for the two hour drive north. Thankfully, we had just gotten the Hunger Games audiobook series. We wound up finishing Book 1 over the weekend. I’d already read them – ahem, twice – but SoldierMan hadn’t. We listened all the way there and arrived about 8:00 that evening. We had to wait for him to get off work before we could leave, of course.

I have to say, our room was much nicer than I expected. Considering we were staying for free, with a large group, I was expecting the base level room, and would have been totally fine with that. (Free, after all. Beggars shouldn’t be choosers!) So imagine my surprise when we were given a “Superior Room” with a balcony, robes and ginormous bathroom! I wish I had taken pictures of it but the only one I got was from the balcony:


Gorgeous, isn’t it?

That’s not the only pic I got in the room. Since the day before I had a small freak-out on twitter about not being able to find my Speedlight, I thought I’d do a small show-and-tell about why I was so anxious about it.

I wanted to take a picture to sort of symbolize how we spent our Saturday – locked in our room, alternating between listening to the audiobook and napping. I took two example shots:

With the regular built-in camera flash:

Washed-out, unbalanced, obliterated background, harsh foreground

And the same shot, using the speedlight and indirect lighting techniques:

The foreground is a little darker, but the light is more balanced throughout, allowing for more detail

It also allows you to play with the depth of field, like so:

Foreground focus

Background focus

SoldierMan was asleep and unaware of any of these shots.

I guess I should explain why we were sleeping all day. The retreat we were at had two sessions: one Saturday morning and one Sunday morning. Both starting at 0900, meaning if we were going to get up, get presentable and get to the buffet beforehand, I had to set my alarm at 0730. You better believe I made a comment about that on the evaluation card. There were no possible evening activities because the sun sets so early. And even though we had the afternoon, being January, there weren’t many outdoor activities that were A) open and b) under $50 a person. Plus, we were tired – SoldierMan especially had had a long couple of weeks – and we really just wanted to “be” together. So we plugged in the audiobook, made some coffee, and just relaxed. It doesn’t make for great pictures, but it was exactly what we needed.

Sunday morning we had the final session and breakfast at the resort restaurant. After they straightened out a small staffing issue, we had a delicious leisurely breakfast.

Waiting to be seated

The sessions themselves were fun. I hadn’t met our Squadron’s Chaplain yet, both he and his wife were there and they were very nice, very laid-back and really wanting us all to have a good time as well as learn. There was another couple from SoldierMan’s unit who we already knew and got along with, so that was fun. We only had time that weekend to go through half the sessions, but we were able to have some good discussions.

Be sure and keep in touch with your unit’s Chaplain’s office to find out when these pop up. There are a limited amount of slots for each retreat so you want to jump on them as soon as you find out about them. We will definitely be signing up for them as often as we can!


  1. Wow! That is gorgeous! I cannot wait to do those with Ben when we are married one day. I think they are such great programs and feel so excited to know the military offers them! And y'alls view was insane, the perfect backdrop to that weekend!

  2. I've heard about these and how much people love them! I wish we had time to go to one before B-man deploys!

  3. I would love to go to something like this but my husband is more likely to be organizing one than attending one! :)

  4. Wow, great scenery!!! I had a similar reaction to the early mornings of the retreat we went to last year. I enjoyed it, but is it REALLY necessary to start at 0900?! I was still in the "morning sickness" phase then too. Not cool.

    "Exploder." Heh. I love it when people call them that!! Mainly because you couldn't get me to drive one of those if my life depended on it. And I don't think Dave Ramsey would blame you for replacing an older, undependable car with a newer one. ;-)

  5. I took my husband to meet the pups. He said he was glad that Remy is medium sized! They were good,though, and I enjoyed playing with them.

    J and I do day trips to Ruidoso all the time, but I've never stayed at IMG. If you ever go back, in the main shopping area on Sudderth is a store called No Bones About It. They have all things dog, including homemade doggy cookies.

  6. I love attending Marriage Retreats!! I was even able to go on a spouses of deployed soldiers retreat. I am glad you were able to go!


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