by Debbie Altman

Vacation time away has always been important to our family. I must give much credit to my dear husband, Craig, as he has always been the one to plan them and set the time aside. He does all the planning, and I do all the washing and packing! 

Craig and I are very adventurous and our children were always on the edge as well, so we have had many crazy vacation adventures! You’ve heard a lot of them from Craig’s sermons. Some of his staff actually gets excited when we say we are going on vacation, as they can’t wait to hear our next story! His executive pastor just gets worried….

One of our first stories was going down Butt Breaker Falls, a rock sliding spot in North Carolina. We were with some friends, and the children were about 8 and 10. We should have been alerted to the danger when there were no families or small kids out there, just teenage boys with special pants they’d sewn that had reinforcement in the butt! 

So first Craig, then our son, Brent, then I gingerly walk over the very slippery rocks to get to the point where you will go down the middle, and not OVER the big boulders! We all made it! Our daughter, Dara, was a little scared, but no child of ours was NOT going to go!  So Craig walks out with her and as they approach the spot, they both slip and Dara lands on top of Craig and down they go! Dara’s weight pushes Craig down in the water just enough that he slams his knee on the way down, tearing something in his leg, and our friend and a stranger had to carry him up out of the gorge! We medicated him and threw him in the back seat as we drove home that afternoon. 

One of our problems is that we think we are younger than we are. Our other problem is we were always trying to be frugal so we could even afford the trip, so we couldn’t afford the extras, like the proper equipment! On one cruise vacation Craig didn’t get the fins for snorkeling, and on our way out to the “good spot” he yelled that he had to go back. Brent and I were obviously having too much fun to make sure he made it back without drowning. We later learned that he almost didn’t make it! He had cramped up and was exhausted, and had to get a lady scuba diver to rescue him, holding him around the chest and dragging him back to shore! 

Speaking of drowning…We were in Hawaii for our 25th anniversary, and I wanted to boogie board. The currents are very strong in Hawaii, but Craig and Brent had gone out and done fine. I notice the strong waves, but don’t hesitate to dive in, even when I see that everyone around me in the water is a teenage boy. I was determined to accomplish the feat! Suddenly, I realized I was dangerously close to the rocks.  I started panicking and praying!  I tried to swim away, but was doing everything wrong!  I hailed down an unsuspecting teen boy nearby and he came to my rescue.  The young man told me what to do and within seconds,  I was out of the current and started to paddle in.  Of course, this was not before the lifeguards on shore had sounded their very loud alarm alerting the whole beach that some stupid tourist had gotten in trouble again!  I didn’t hear the siren being in the surf, but the next minute I looked up, there was the most gorgeous hunk of man in front of me…(no, it wasn’t Craig, as gorgeous and hunky as he is….)  I was so embarrassed that I told the lifeguard that I was fine and he swam away.  What was I thinking?! Anyway, I took my time to get to shore hoping that no one noticed. When I arrived at our towel, my son and husband were rolling in the sand holding their bellies in laughter!  Thanks for saving me guys.  And thanks for your compassion when I almost died being smashed into razor-sharp coral rocks! 

Another time in Colorado, Craig signed us up for a bike ride. Dara and I thought it sounded too advanced for us, but as usual, Craig thinks we are all in superman shape and can do anything!  The kids were around 13 and 15.  So off we go.  Again, when we arrive, everyone else seems to have all this advanced equipment, and here we are just in our normal shorts and tennis shoes.  That should have had a clue. We now affectionately call that excursion the, “bike ride from hell.”  There were only two times growing up that our daughter ever said anything very disrespectful. But when she screams out, “I hate you, Dad!” you know we are on vacation!

Later that same day, we were walking through the gambling casino on the way to dinner in the hotel we were staying in.  We decided to let Brent put some nickels in the slot machine.  (Please don’t judge us here…)  Dara warned us that she didn’t think it was legal, (she had read the sign), but Craig insisted that it was okay if he was with his parents!  (We obviously don’t know about this stuff.)  As Brent starts to get very excited about all the nickels pouring out of the machine, a detective confronts us and tells us that we could be charged for, “contributing to the delinquency of a minor!”  (I can see the headlines now, ”Pastor arrested….”)  He paraded us through the casino to the horror of my teenage daughter.   After a very stern lecture, they decided to let us off!  And then my son asked the officials, “Can I keep the nickels?”  I’m surprised Dara ever went on vacation with us again!  

Honestly, getting away from the normal grind and distractions is one of the best things you can do for your family.  In later years we have had the opportunity to do some wonderful trips, but no matter the place, whether camping, or in Hawaii, it is the laughter, fun and adventure of being with family that will always be our fondest memories.  (Oh, did I say “camping?” Someday I’ll tell you about the ONE time we tried to camp!)

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.


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  1. Great Job Debbie!! This was so fun to read.

  2. This had me rolling with laughter, Debbie. Fantastic article. I love taking family vacations even though our children are grown. We already have our destination for next year.

  3. I can picture every single one of these, deb. love the family memories…how important they are. Thanks for sharing.
    P.S. remind me to NEVER play board games with you…I’m so competitive I’ve been told I cheat. Surely that’s not true!

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