I’m coming to Oz!

The most amazing thing has happened: I’ve been asked to go to Australia for work! Work-covered plane tickets! A chance to meet new people in my company and customers who use our products in a different geography! A chance to work and temporarily live in a radically different location! It’s like winning the lottery – except still having to work.

I leave Minneapolis on October 31st (no Halloween parties for me *sniff* I’ll get over it BECAUSE AUSTRALIA), and I’ll be all over the place for two and a half weeks: Melbourne and then across to Western Australia to work in Perth and Kalgoorlie. I’m thrilled to be able to represent my company, and to see different parts of a country that I never imagined I would be able to visit any time in the near future.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Two weeks ago the Hubby and I flew down to Orlando, Florida to spend a week with my Mom at Universal Studios.

We stayed at a hotel on the Universal park campus and were a short bus ride away from the gates. The hotel is called Cabana Bay Beach Resort and it was… an experience. It’s styled after Vegas resorts of the 1950s-60s: classic cars parked outside of the main entrance, posters bearing over-the-top Beaver Cleaveresque-like messages like “Have a SWELL day” plastered up throughout the hallways and elevators, 50s music and retro commercials playing in the main dining area, a Jack LaLanne exercise studio and a bowling alley.

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On my way to DC

Who has two thumbs and is blogging at 30,000 feet?

Laptop selfie of moi with a "thumbs at me" pose

I needed one hand free to click the “shutter” for the laptop selfie, so you’ll just have to trust me on the whole “two thumbs” claim.

Everyone at my workplace has Monday off for Labor Day. I was feeling wanderlusty (heh – that should be a real word) and had three days with not much planned that couldn’t be put off. I browsed airfare to see if I could get anywhere close to Red Rock country; I’ve been wanting to get back to Arches or one of the other big parks in the southwest. Moab, Utah would have been good, but flights were in the $700-$900 range, which was more than I wanted to spend for a spur of the moment get-away.

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From the Draft Bin: Moving Mom

It’s amazing to me how much writing I do that gets thrown out, abandoned, forgotten or taken out back with a shovel and buried. I have written volumes will never, ever see the light of day or be stored anywhere on a computer. These are the cathartic writings, the nonsensical, the mopey drunk poetry, the overly passionate or sappy, the erotic, the angry screaming devoid of logic, the hurt, pathetic whining. The ugliness, the ecstasy, the doubts, the fragile dreams, the hate – these that are or have been part of my human experience have lived here. These are mine – creations that are rarely revisited, if they are saved at all.

I have a relationship with writing – it is there with me through the good times, the horrible times, and the bored, listless times. When I don’t know where to turn, I have writing. When I am in agony I can write, and almost blindly the pain flows from my fingers onto the page. Afterwards I still hurt, but the pain is now a thing that can be examined from an outside perspective. I have wielded my writing skillfully and clumsily; it has been my salvation, and once my damnation. I love writing – and just now I refuse to not be romantic about it!

But there are also the more generic false starts – or the true starts left incomplete. There are articles started with the best of intentions that grow obsolete in the fast-paced environment of instant communication. There are events that I have attempted to describe, but upon editing I felt that I failed to capture them adequately, truly or objectively. There are writings that I have doubted would be well-received in a public venue. There are articles that I wanted to write, started to write, but in the end was unsure of how to bring everything together.

What I’m saying is…I have a lot of shit in my draft folder.

And while I was digging around in there, I found this one about the first leg of last year’s adventure in moving mom out to Maryland. I like the photos of the planes. I think it stayed in draft because I had lofty dreams about capturing the entire move. But that’s okay.

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Last Wednesday began the great cross-country adventure of moving Mom to Hagerstown, Maryland. My contribution to the entire process was pretty minimal. Mom had nearly everything packed by the time I arrived on Wednesday, and she had hired movers to pack everything in a truck, get it to Maryland, and bring everything into the new house. I showed up on Wednesday, did some light cleaning at the old house, helped wrangle animals and drive the 13 hours east, ran some errands in Hagerstown, hung out with Mom and my sister, gave my brother-in-law a hug and then flew back home on Sunday.

That’s the TL;DR version. On a more leisurely note:

I flew down to southern Illinois on Wednesday morning. The waking up at 4:30am for the 7:05am flight kinda sucked, but I enjoy plane travel and being in airports so the suckiness was offset by travel excitement. There are no direct flights to Carbondale, IL. When I have flown down in the past, I have landed in St. Louis, Missouri and then either driven a rental car from the airport or been picked up by Mom. However, the drive from St. Louis to Carbondale is about two hours, and because time and resources were precious this time I did something different.

Cape Air runs a short distance plane service between St. Louis and smaller airports in Illinois. For $50 I was able to book a flight on a “puddle jumper” from St. Louis to Marion, Illinois, which is only a 20-minute drive from Carbondale.  It was a neat process. When I exited my plane from Minneapolis, I had to find a courtesy phone and let an agent know that I had a Cape Air connection. A driver was sent over to where I had made the call, and then I and one other person were escorted down to a shuttle on the tarmac and driven over to the Cape Air gate. We had a chance to see parts of the airport that I usually don’t see.

Cape Air Cesna planesThe planes parked outside of the Cape Air gate.

The plane that I would board, headed for Marion, IllinoisLook at this little Cessna! It’s cute ‘cuz it’s tiny!

Flying in the Cessna was a blast. Only I and one other passenger were on my flight. When it came time to board we were led across the tarmac and climbed on board the small plane. The captain said to sit wherever we wanted in the eight- (or was it ten?) seat cabin, so I sat in the row directly behind the copilot’s chair and was able to see the entire instrument panel. This was the first time I have seen someone actually fly a plane. It was awesome to watch the pilot steer with the yoke and rudder pedals, move the throttle levers during takeoff, and to see the controls and indicators adjust with the movements of the plane when we were in the sky.

When we landed in Marion I was met by my Aunt and Uncle, of whom I see far too little. They drove me directly to Carbondale and delivered me to the chaos that was churning at Mom’s soon-to-be-sold house. They left almost immediately, and I promised that we would stop by their house to say goodbye before we left town. The atmosphere at the house was explosive. Four moving people were hauling the last of boxes and heavy furniture to the moving truck. Mom was rushing to pack the last of the recently-used necessities, and all of the rooms contained bits and pieces that needed to be collected – the detritus that is unearthed when one moves furniture that hasn’t been moved in years: paper clips, lost storage bin lids, an old photo, loose change, dust bunny-covered pens, and so on.

I began collecting and sweeping and mopping. The owners did their final walk-through, but last minute packing and cleaning kept us much later than intended. We had to leave from the house and drive directly to the next town over for the closing, which meant we ran out of time for goodbyes to my aunt and uncle. *sniff* We left from the title company and immediately began the road trip east.

Last of the Vacay Writing

It’s time to catch up with the last several days of the big vacation! I left off with Wednesday’s night snorkel. For those just joining, the Hubby and I spent two weeks in Caye Caulker, Belize with our friends who live on the island, Dave and Noelle.

Thursday, May 9th

On Thursday it was my birthday! I magically turned into a crotchety old lady of 34; the transformation was amazing, I tell ya. To celebrate we went on a full day snorkel at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve with French Angel Snorkeling. I already posted the video of the loggerhead turtles that Noelle and I saw, but we did so much more than that! On the boat ride out we saw seahorses, tarpon and a huge pod of dolphins. After we saw the sea turtles we made our way over to a deeper part of the reef, and that’s where I had the HUGE FUN! The ocean floor was about 30 feet down and I free dove all the way to the bottom! Later there was a coral tunnel that the guide showed us that was about 20 feet down from the surface. The tunnel was only about eight feet long by about four feet in diameter but it was a real thrill (and a bit of a squeeze!). I went through twice and both times there was a school of large grunts hanging out as I went through. It was really magical.

Dolphins

Dolphins! There were at least twelve, including one very curious calf! [Read more...]

Night Snorkeling

Wednesday was a very slow day. All of us – me, the Hubby, Noelle and Dave – were feeling a bit ill from Tuesday night’s dinner. We think it was the slow-cooked black beans – they were undercooked and I found a couple of websites warning about the toxin phytohaemagglutinin that is found in some beans. Whatever it was, there was trouble in paradise, and we spent much of the day lounging about the house and teasing Noelle about poisoning us.

By late afternoon we were all feeling better and so we ventured out to The Split for some food and swimming. The Split is the north point of Caye Caulker, and the party destination for tourists and islanders alike. We grabbed some food and drinks from the Lazy Lizard Bar. I had the house special, a Lizard Juice. Don’t ask me what was in it – it was frozen and alcoholic and it turned my tongue bright green, so I hear.

The snorkeling at the Split was kind of magnificent. There is a bunch of concrete and wood in the water that the fish have turned into nursing grounds. There were the ever-present grunts, but also parrotfish, tang, wrasse and a myriad of other brightly-hued fish.

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Jungle Ruins: Lamanai

One of the goals of the trip was to visit some ruins. We had plenty of options: Altun-Ha, Caracol, Cerros, Xunantunich – and those are just a few of the ruins that are known in Belize.

We ended up visiting Lamanai, an archeological site in Orange Walk District (northern Belize) that was occupied between the 16th century BCE to 17th century CE, with its heyday occurring several hundred years before and after the start of the Common Era.

01 Water TaxiOur trip started with a 45 minute water taxi from Caye Caulker to Belize City with Dave and Noelle.

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Snorkeling the Reef

On Saturday I wasn’t quite scuba-diving ready; still a bit congested – but I was starting to salivate over the nearby barrier reef. From Dave and Noelle’s veranda you can see the waves breaking over the reef in the distance. I wanted to get into the water! So we decided to start slow – a snorkel one day and then a dive.

We ended up booking two tours on Friday night: a dive for Sunday (on the hope that I’d be well enough to go) and tickets for a Saturday 10:30am half-day snorkel trip to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve from French Angel Expeditions. Our guide for the snorkel was Ash and he was pretty awesome.

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French Angel Expeditions snorkel shop

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Exploring Caye Caulker

I woke up on Friday feeling better – still with a head full of snot, but not tired, no joint weakness, and a normal appetite. Our hosts had to run into Belize City for the morning, so the Hubby and I decided to walk into town and explore the north end of the island. We walked up the front path that runs along the beach. There are a bunch of seaside resorts, rental homes and hostels that way and we eventually passed by the water taxis and popped up in “downtown” Caye Caulker. We saw a number of interests plants and animals along the way.

DSC_0158A plover strolls along the shore. [Read more...]