We were invited to Jim McCarter's parents' home in Fort Myers again this year. By mid December I was really looking forward to a break from the rain and cold of Seattle.
With so much happening, a break at Christmas was more than a little appreciated. We made flight arrangements departing Saturday, December 22nd and returning a week later on the 29th. Jim's entire immediate family would converge on Fort Myers to enjoy sunshine, warm weather, pool, hot tub, and Christmas traditions. I packed one pair of jeans, the rest shorts and summer tops, and a bathing suit in anticipation of 75-80* temperatures. We had good flights to Detroit and Fort Myers arriving at Jim's parents' condo shortly after midnight Sunday morning the 23rd. Right away we celebrated Dr. James McCarter, the long awaited degree and a source of obvious pride for both his parents. This would be the first cause for family celebration during the next few days.
Royal Palms of Ft. Myers
John and Julie McCarter
Sunday morning was dedicated to jet lag and general catching-up with Jim's parents. We spent the afternoon finishing our Christmas shopping with many others at nearby malls and shopping centers. There were very few items on our list, and we acquired them with little trouble. That evening was spent wrapping packages and sorting through which ones would be opened when. Not everyone could be in Fort Myers on the 25th. The Modica family would not be arriving until the 27th so a second "Christmas morning" was planned for the evening of the 28th.
On Monday, Jeff, Kristy and Jack arrived from Chicago at mid morning. About an hour later Jon and Kathy came in from Cleveland. They all set up housekeeping in the condo next door to the one we shared with Jim's parents. When Jon and Kathy came through the door we got our second reason to celebrate, their engagement (not even 24 hours old). Although I have not known either of them very long, Kathy and Jon seem to know each other well and have a special bond that started in friendship.
Tuesday morning we had our first of the two planned gift-giving sessions. The gifts were clever, fun and sentimental. We held out a couple of gifts for opening after the Modicas arrival but the items seemed abundant as they spread way beyond the Christmas tree. Most notably, Jim's Mom gave me a pair of Black Hills Gold earrings. She remembered that two years ago, when we first met, I complimented her on her ring of the same origin and confessed to always having a hankering for such jewelry. The earring are beautiful and just the right size. She got them in Pigeon Forge earlier in the year.
The third reason to celebrate became known to us all at the Tuesday gift exchange; Kristy and Jeff are expecting their second child at the end of next July. Jeff found a great way of announcing the news using the "treasure hunt" method of gift giving. When Jim's Mom began reading the final clue, I knew what was coming (maybe everyone did) and I tapped Kristy on the shoulder. She just smiled and nodded. The room erupted in excited congratulations and applause.
For the record, Jim and I gave ourselves Christmas gifts before taking off to Florida. We each bought a new winter jacket with liners in anticipation of winter hiking. Jim's graduation gift to himself was an Olympus digital camera and all the accessories to make it very functional and smart. We gave ourselves a new home DVD player and began our quest for movies on disc and the replacement of video tapes. For me the best gift was the Ph.D. and having the privilege of seeing Jim's seminar and being a part of his dissertation effort in the past three years.
The day after Christmas Jim, Jeff, Kristy, Jon, Kathy and I took the tour of the Edison and Ford summer homes. The tour was a full half day and very interesting. The grounds and homes were decorated in Victorian style for Christmas. We saw antique cars, exotic trees, and Mr. Edison's laboratory that was built on the home site. The tour ended with a trip to a museum and gift shop. It was a nice diversion with lots of walking.
When the Modica's came we had a traditional turkey dinner and did the gift exchanging all over again with new players and new packages. The second go-around was even more fun than the first as the addition of Matthew and Allison added to the excitement. Many of the gifts on this occasion included very personal items that were made by Jim's Mom. We received two embroidered items, a sofa pillow and a framed Hattaras Light House illustration. Every one of the McCarter children received some similar embroidered item many of which were begun and finished many years earlier but only now framed and given.
  The next day the weather was warm so I took Matthew and Allison to the pool for an hour. I had a great time romping with them and even got some sun in the process. Later that day Jim and I took three large boxes to Mail Boxes Etc. and shipping them back to Seattle. Our many gifts and some clothes will meet us back home in a week or so.
Most of us managed to get into a family photo using Jim's new camera. Jon and Kathy missed the shot, but were added digitally after the fact. Another triumph for new technology as Jim's photo editing skills attest.
  One of the nice components of our trip was that I was able to schedule a run/walk into each morning, sometimes with Jim and at other times with him and his Mom. I also did some swimming on two other occasions. No golf this time however and maybe for the best since Jim's Dad was wrangling with some health issues during the week. I got lots of reading done and caught up on some back issues of magazines. I watched very little TV and got good restful sleep. I even managed to eat right the entire time, never over indulging once and having no regrets!
Saturday morning Jim and I had to return our rental car and catch a plane for home. A delay in Detroit for de-icing made the final leg of the trip take an hour longer. Not a great problem since we still got home at a reasonable hour that evening. Good planning prevails since we had a Sunday to decompress from the travel. Monday was the 31st of December so Tuesday was another holiday. Hurrah for a short week right after a one-week vacation!