Lindsey & Tom’s Wedding

Back in November, my cousin Lindsey and her husband Tom got married at the Hard Rock in the Riviera Maya, a beautiful stretch of coastline along the Caribbean side of the Yucatán Peninsula. The region, known for its all-inclusive resorts, is dotted with palm trees, lounge chairs, and trimmed with white sand beaches. For three days we concerned ourselves not with how much we ate or drank, but wondering if we were taking enough advantage.

One morning I was lying on a chaise lounge under a palapa when a server came by with a tray of drinks. “Daiquiri?”

It was barely 10 a.m.

“Well, since you’re here…” I said. “Kirk? You want another before lunch?”

We grinned. Ridiculous.

In fact, that was the biggest question all weekend. “Another drink for you, señorita? Señor?”

Sure, why not.

Cheers, Lindsey and Tom! ☼

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Kelly.

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Mom & Dad.

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Sisters, undoubtedly.

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Kirk & me.

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Kelly & Chris.

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My cousin Kristin’s son, Harrison.

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Kirk, and my cousin-in-law, Ryan.

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Mom & Kelly.

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Maid of Honor, Kristin, fulfilling duties.

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Dad.

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Bride & Mother of the Bride, my aunt Karin.

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Dad, what…

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Harrison, loving limes.

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Checking out grandma’s iPhone.

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Four generations.

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Unofficial wedding photog.

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En route to the reception.

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My grandma, Omi. Believe she’s 90?

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Mr. & Mrs. BenGera!

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Dance party.

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Student Debt Free

“I did it.”

It was Wednesday morning. Kirk and I were sitting at our desks in our home office.

“Did what?” said Kirk, looking up from his computer.

I spun my desk chair to face him. “I paid off my loans.”

“Just now?”

“Just now. $1296.82. Last principle payment.”

“Are you serious?” He cracked a big smile.

– – –

I graduated college in 2008 with $55,000 in debt. For a few years I floated from job to job, and bounced back and forth between global hemispheres. I wasn’t making much money, and could barely afford to make the minimum payments on my loans. I was so discouraged by the amount I owed that I avoided checking my accounts — it was too depressing. The task of repayment seemed insurmountable. After a call to my loan administrator, I found out if I kept making only minimum payments, it would take me 18 years to pay off my debt.

Drag around that baggage until I’m 40? No thanks.

In 2011, Kirk and I made our way to California in search of sunshine and surf. After about a year of getting settled and starting our own business, things started happening. San Diego Home Photography heated up. I scored some writing and photography work with Carlsbad Magazine. I pulled evening shifts at a wine bar.

After four years of making minimum payments, I was able to make my first extra principle payment. I was so excited I wrote this and danced in my kitchen. At this point, my debt was at $45,000.

For the next three and a half years, I worked my ass off and kept spending to a minimum. Going out to eat and buying new clothes were low priorities, as was shopping in general. Travel was my weakness. If I would’ve stayed put for a while I would’ve paid my debt off sooner. (In 2014 alone, we took nine trips.) Oh well, I’m a sucker for seeing new places, and my family during the holidays.

No matter. It’s 2015, and I’m student loan free. And just before the big 3-0. That feels pretty damn good.

– – –

“Aw, I wanted to prepare! Champagne and confetti…” said Kirk.

I smiled. “It doesn’t matter.”

“We have to celebrate,” he insisted.

What would be nice, actually, is a little fanfare from the loan companies. Send Ed McMahon over with some balloons. Or mail a certificate of congratulations. At least something on the payment received page, like this.

“Come on,” said Kirk.

A minute later I was standing in the front yard holding a room-temp bottle of André. We hardly ever have sparkling on hand, but thanks to the previous weekend’s festivities (mimosas + morning MSU football), we had an extra bottle. How serendipitous.




Cheers. ☼

Yoga Promo Video

In our seven-ish years spent in the working world since Kirk and I graduated with BAs in Telecommunications, Information Studies & Media (I know, who named that degree), we’ve both veered away from what had been our primary subject of study: video production.

I gravitated to still photography and freelance writing. Kirk ended up in project management and software development. Our separate ‘career’ paths, if you call them that, have brought us not only further from our passion for film and video, but also from the creative collaboration that had formed the foundation of our relationship from the get-go.

“Remember when we used to film stuff together?” I asked Kirk, earlier this year. “And sit behind our computers editing, for hours and hours…”

“And set up the projector and screen to show previews at waterski tournaments?” he said.

“We designed DVD jackets…”

“Sold advertising to ski camps in Louisiana…”

“Went to that hip-hop concert in Lansing to ask the band if we could use their music…”

“Filmed waterski nationals in Kentucky…”

“Yeah.” I laughed. “And even got ourselves an intern.” (I mean you, Cory Woolf (; )

Kirk and I were long overdue for a creative, collaborative project. Video, specifically.

– – –

This spring, after kicking around some ideas, Kirk proposed a video about yoga. Yoga is rather tame subject matter, and fairly easy to shoot. I practice yoga. At a studio, in fact, who’s owners might want some marketing material.

Andy and Tamara, owners of Vinyasa Arts (and teachers and teacher trainers, themselves), were excited by the proposition. They even knew what kind of video they wanted: an informational/inspirational promo about their teacher training courses.

Over a period of a couple months, Kirk and I planned out the project, filmed a handful of times at the studio, then knocked out the post-production.

We started with creating interview questions and putting together a mock script. We shot b-roll of Andy’s and Tamara’s classes, and interviews with their teachers-in-training. We looked through the footage, transcribed the interviews, sought out the narrative. We put together a rough cut and overlaid b-roll. We watched it over and over, trying to find the flow, bouncing ideas off each other, finessing the cuts, the music, the story.

Working together.

It’s been a quite a few years since we’ve done this whole video thing. (Our equipment is just as old, too.) The end product isn’t without flaws, but no piece of work ever is. We produced something, and delivered it. For that, we’re stoked. ☼

Investment Property No. 3

Sherwin Avenue, a two bed one bath condo, is officially in the books. Its story is different from Lunt Avenue’s (property no. 1), the empty canvas of a place in which we lived for a year, taking that long to paint, rewire the electrical and install a kitchen. Nor was it like Farwell Avenue (no. 2), the spacious exposed-brick beauty that required barely lifting a finger before it was move-in ready.

Sherwin Ave was the ugly duckling with good bones, the one that needed a lot of cosmetic work in a very short amount of time.

On a Friday at three in the morning, Kirk, his parents and I left Michigan in a car packed full of tools, food and sleeping bags. At ten o’clock Kirk signed on the dotted line at a title office in Chicago. At noon we unlocked the front door.

The place was a mess. It needed a serious deep cleaning before we could even paint. A million little things needed fixing or replacing, including door locks, light switches, outlet covers and bathroom fixtures.

The tasks on our To Do list carried different levels of importance. Many were style and taste changes, things we liked that someone else may or may not prefer. As the list contained much more than we’d ever finish in four days, we needed to constantly remind ourselves that we weren’t moving in, and focus rather on what our tenant would deem important. “It’s a rental!” became our mantra.

“We should replace the bathroom light. It could use an update,” said Kirk.
“Sure, that would be nice,” I said.
“It does still work though.”
“And it’s going to cost a lot anyway to buy another light/exhaust fan combo unit…”
“Do we really need…?”
“Nope.”
“You’re right.”
“It’s a rental,” we said together.

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Some tasks proved trickier than others, like fixing the microwave panel or rebalancing the noisy ceiling fans. Some situations left us scratching our heads, like discovering our unit didn’t have a gas meter. Others, still, required eschewing embarrassment and relying on the kindness of fellow humans.

Saturday afternoon, a lightning storm took out our power. We needed to figure out how to fill the air mattress to keep Kirk’s parents from sleeping on the hardwood floor. Blowing it up the old fashioned way would’ve resulted in four light-headed adults dropping like flies onto said floor. What to do…

We went out to dinner. We brought the mattress and pump to the restaurant. The storm still hadn’t abated. As the lightning illuminated the windows and the thunder rattled the panes, we politely asked the server if there might be an outlet we could use to fill our air mattress. ‘Maybe a little further away from the other patrons because it’s really loud and obnoxious,’ we said, smiling sheepishly. She looked at us, slightly puzzled, but with every intention to help if she could. The manager came over to our table. He told us his first thought was we wanted to sleep at the restaurant.

No, no, we laughed. We have a dark, half painted mess of an unfinished condo we are going to sleep in. Just not directly on the floor, if you can help it.

No problem! he said.

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[View from the condo’s back porch.]

– – –

Tuesday. After working four 18-hour days with us, Kirk’s parents headed back to Michigan. His dad needed to return to work the next day. (He was on vacation. Yes. Toiling away with us to fix up this property. Saints, both him and Kirk’s mom.)

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Kirk and I scrambled to finish painting, cleaning, and putting the place back together. On Wednesday at 1 o’clock the washer and dryer were installed, at 2 pm a cleaning crew infused new sparkle into the floors and furnished the last bit of elbow grease Kirk and I couldn’t conceive of mustering. At 3 pm I shot photos. At 5 pm our tenant arrived.

She had seen the place two days prior, when the kitchen was still draped with plastic, when the floors were covered in paint cans, brushes, tools… and there was crap everywhere. When envisioning living there required a really good imagination.

She walked into the kitchen, surveying the space. “It looks fantastic.”

We smiled. We kind of thought so, too.

She signed the lease. We handed her the keys.

Property no. 3, in the books. ☼

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[Kirk and downpayment #3, the day before closing.]