Favorite Christmas Song

And this here is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever: [audio:https://onblueundercanvas.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2009/12/whitechristmas_thedrifters.mp3|titles=”White Christmas”|artists=The Drifters]

‘Tis the Season…

Christkindlmarket Ornaments

…to be on the brink.

The brink of finding just the right gift. Of having just enough time. Of just getting it all done.

For me and Kirk, we’re on the brink of titanic change. In addition to the usual holiday madness, we’re shedding jobs and gaining boarding passes. Moving out of a two bedroom and into two suitcases. We’re throwing security- whatever that is – under a truck, and taking off for Down Under.

I’m going to miss Metropolis, my favorite coffeehouse.

Today, after seeing my jacket, the barista said to me, “You snowboard, hey?”
I said ya.
Ever been to Tyrol Basin?
Actually, yeah, I went to snowboard camp there when I was in high school.
Very cool.

Things are so familiar here in the Midwest, the people genuinely friendly. That’s why, despite how cool Australia is, I don’t think I could ever go expat. Besides, I kinda like my family.

Friday was Kirk’s last day of work, and Saturday was mine. And this past week has been full of parties:

Monday 14th: J. Alexander’s Holiday Party at Zella
Wednesday 16th: Manning Productions Holiday Dinner at Cyrano’s Bistro
Friday 18th: Kirk & Lauren’s Going Away Gathering at Duffy’s
Monday 21st: Melissa’s (co-worker) Birthday Dinner at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba

In addition to the holiday soirées, this was Hardcore-Hook-A-Renter week. With the slight drop in price, we’ve had a lot more foot traffic through the condo. When I ask how he (yes, all guys) had found about the place, the story was always the same: “Oh my fiancé/girlfriend/wife found the ad on craigslist. Said she loved the pictures.”

Typical. What can we say? We’re photographers. We make sh*t look good.

Problem is, these people show up – at least the first prospective tenant – and we get questions like, “So… where’s the rest of the place?”

Haha. Maybe our pictures were a little too nice.

Regardless, I’ve got another guy coming to look at 4pm today. His girlfriend called me out of the blue earlier this week, “Is it still available?!” she exclaimed. She was in Atlanta, soon to be moving to Chicago. “I already fell in love with it, but my boyfriend wants to come and see it. Is that OK?”

Sure sister. I think this couple might be the ones, although nothing’s a done deal until the cash is in hand. No matter how emphatically someone says aloud “YES I WANT IT!”, I still can’t hear you. The only true 100% affirmative is silent. Stack of green paper from me to you. Ah, you mean yes.

I’m so excited! I think it will all work out. All Kirk wanted for Christmas was the condo to be rented, and I hope Santa’s going to deliver. Then off we go… And when we get back?

TC & Michelle’s. They offered to have Kirk and me stay with them this summer after we get back from Australia. Their giant red house sits on a lake, in which floats a slalom course. Waterskiing it is, all summer!

Not to jump to New Year’s Eve toasts, but cheers to 2010, a year to be of Awesomeness.

Hugs for Pelicans

Florida was lovely.

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It’s so warm and soft around the edges, with its toasty sand and swaying palms.  Those darn pelicans, so big and cuddly sitting on their pier posts, they never let you get too close.  All I want is to give ’em a big hug.  There’s nothing unwelcoming or extreme about the Sunshine State. (Minus Miami, I’ve heard only weird things about that city.)

I’ve been going to Florida on a semi-regular basis for most of my life.  Doing so has lent itself a familiarity, making trips there feel more like visiting the summer cottage than traveling one thousand miles across the country.  In addition to the more or less consistent frequency, my destination is always the same:  my grandparents’ condo in Fort Myers.

Omi & Opa on the Lanai

They have a beautiful rectangle of space overlooking the blue.  Ten stories up, they are situated on the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River as it enters the Gulf.  An endless stream of fishing boats, sailboats, and pleasure yachts flow past the condo, dawn to dusk.  Gulls, ibises, herons, and osprey fly in V’s or solo past the lanai screen.  If the binoculars are nearby, I’ll train them on either bird or boat, delighting in my nearness to the nautical.

My mom and I picked this particular time of the year to go to Florida to coincide with my grandparents’ migration. They’re snowbirds from Wisconsin.  Since we arrived a few days before they did, we were able to pick them up from the airport, help them unpack and get settled in.

Between shifts of cleaning, cooking and organizing, my mom and I adventured out to do beachy things.  One afternoon we rented a Hobie Cat for an hour and tacked back and forth off Fort Myers Beach.  The boat never heeled over because the wind was mild, but we kept along at a good 3 knot clip.  That was fine with Mom – she was a bit hesitant about the idea at first.  You know, taking a big boat out on the high seas with her inexperienced wannabe sailor of a daughter.  I heard later that it was my Dad who persuaded her with an argument to the effect of: “Why not?”

Rigging the Hobie Cat

Ingenious.

After our sail we ate conch fritters and grouper caesar salad outside at a restaurant on the beach.  We shopped the strip.  My parents, having been there before, described the town of Fort Myers Beach as Spring Break! meets Wisconsin Dells.  Oh so true. To prove this point, in one of the T-shirt shops we found cotton halter dresses printed “Eagle River, Wisconsin”.  What?  This is Florida. Why the home-of-the-the-frozen-tundra paraphernalia? After asking the clueless foreign employee at the counter, we could surmise only this:  Some factory in China must have mixed up the addresses.  Fort Myers?  Eagle River?  Eh, just throw ’em in the same box.

Every morning after waking up, my mom and I took a brisk walk.  A nice path meanders around the grounds of the Sanibel Harbor Resort, which sits right next to the condo complex.  Following our walk we’d do sets of crunches on the living room carpet.  Then finally, breakfast.

The islands managed to steal us away from the mainland a couple days.  After shopping on Sanibel one afternoon, my mom and I had lunch – a seafood platter – at the Mucky Duck on Captiva Island.  Afterwards we walked past the palms that bordered the restaurant’s outdoor seating area to the beach and waves beyond.  I stretched out on my towel to read, and mom took to the sand to go shell-hunting.

Nights were spent taking dips in the pool & hot tub, drinking Godiva White Chocolate on the rocks, and playing a variety of games with my grandparents.  Mom played this game called “Poof” on a backgammon board with my Opa.  After that she’d wrangle me and my Omi to the kitchen table to play Würfel, a dice game similar to Yahtzee.

Most afternoons my Opa sat outside on the lanai, enjoying the view.  I’d usually join him for a while around 3pm, as the sun started to pull shadows long behind the plam trees and the resort below.  He’d ask me, “So how do you like it here?”

Being from the midwest, the summer cottage was always my favorite place to go.  But this… this is the best of both worlds.  The warm, the sun, the palms and pelicans and the home-away-from home feeling.

I’d say, “Opa, it’s just beautiful here.”  He’d reply, “Well, you have to come back more often!”

Absolutely.

P.S. Mom and I went kayaking in the mangroves, and snuck up on a big group of manatees. One’s nose surfaced right next to us, followed by his tail pushing on our kayak and lifting us up!

Over October

October is a month for reminiscing:

Of school days, be it class halloween parties or mid-terms. Carving pumpkins, haunted houses, group study sessions at the library. Homecoming football games, crisp leaves, that rustic cold air smell, and for all you Big Bend Elementary school alums, the “Turkey Trot”.

I turned 24 this month, not a memorable number of age by any stretch. Even so, it’s a milestone, marking a distinct yet elusive spot on the life timeline: limbo.

The convergence of October and the mid-twenties brings me into a not-there-anymore and not-there-yet suspension. I’m not a kid in school who gets to trick-or-treat nor am I a parent indulging the activities of the former.

Lacking a society designated generation costume, I’ll lean on this theory for the moment: You are what you do. In light of this tangible context, here’s what I did in October:

  • worked my tail off trying to save some money for Australia
  • took photos of fall leaves in Rogers Park
  • had two fillings put in my mouth: one for a cavity, the second for a faulty filling
  • finished the paper edit of my Abraham Project video
  • cleaned out the mountains of crap from the second bedroom in the condo and painted the room yellow
  • endured pain in my teeth for a week, commenced breakdown at the possibility of having to drop nearly 5K on root canals and crowns
  • set up editing suite in new yellow bedroom
  • traveled out to the suburbs with Kirk to go to a pumpkin farm; found the most exciting part to be not the gourds but the giraffes and wallabies in the “exotic” animal tent
  • relieved of pain in teeth, relieved of potential financial ruin
  • completed first video edit of interview footage for Abraham Project video; total length: 43 minutes (target length? 10 minutes! Ouch.)
  • celebrated my birthday by going out with Kirk and playing darts at a Wrigleyville bar, followed by dinner at Geja’s Cafe, a fondue place
  • became sick with and cured of a cold/flu (still unsure of what it was) within a 12 hour timespan
  • baked a pumpkin pie, despite the cavity
  • tracked down my sister on her Urban Sociology class trip to Chicago; jumped on the Green Bay Lamers coach bus to ride along with her for the leg of the tour between UIC to University of Chicago
  • trimmed the AP video down to 25 minutes
  • pulled the trigger (with Kirk’s cash & my emotional support) and bought the Canon 7D DSLR
  • baked 3 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies
  • and topping it all off – yet to be completed – a trip to Florida with my mom, visiting my grandparents

October was fairly productive, mildly celebratory, erratically emotional, schemingly adventurous and mostly enjoyable. Onward march through limbo, into November.