AFK and Blogging

Well, technically I’m not afk if I’m blogging, but I am away from keyboard for work-related customer-support-type stuff. This was going to be an interesting time off, I thought as I headed into my 11-day break. It was one of the first vacations I had in a super long time that had no real agenda. And best of all, I was not feeling like I needed a break.

Now that I’m a few days into the relaxation time, I’m realizing I might not have listened to my body well recently. Twice now, I have slept almost 12 hrs at night, even after taking naps. I didn’t know I was quite capable of such sleep.

tired jet lag GIF

When I’m not sleeping, I’m reading, or yakking with visiting friends or hiking or shopping or watching movies. I’m also honing my CSS skills for fun, taking a Treehouse courses. And I’m indulging in writing time.

Did you know that I have fodder for blog posts that are a year old? How embarrassing. Over the next few days you will probably see me writing about a few past events that were year-highlights for me.

One of the things I love best is how it takes one down memory lane so you can re-live pivotal moments in life. And it’s handy when you want to share these events with people.

In the past two months I found myself using the resource a few times. Once I was trying to explain the beauty of the iceburgs on Lake Ontario, especially as they break up. Then I remembered I had blogged about it, and could easily share the images. Then one day Hudi asked me about my recipe for bread, and Mollie asked for my recipe for yogurt. That one was hidden in my recipe for sour cream, but it’s in there.

And sometimes it’s just for sharing goofy family stories. Hudi mentioned they had a Henry in their apartment, and Chris and I knew what he was talking about, but Mollie didn’t. We caught her up on the basic idea of Henry, but linking her to a record of the account while it was fresh in our brains really gave her more understanding.

I love blogging. And this week while I’m still afk, I am also indulging on reading other people’s blogs from my Reader. I’m off to do that now.

Porch Work

Working on the porch
Working on the porch

One of my favorite things to do in Massachusetts is to walk from my place down to the main lobby, grab a cup of coffee, and head out to the front porch for an hour or two of work. Since I work from home, it can get quite isolating.

When I’m on the porch, people come and go around me, and I love hearing all the different accents, and feeling the energy around me. Since most people are there on vacation, it’s a very happy place generally. There are lot of people from the New York city area, and I have to admit that I feel like I’m home listening to their accents.

I grew up on Long Island then moved to western NY, where I spent a few decades. I hadn’t noticed that I missed the accent, but when I hear the accents around me, it feels so right.

Chairs on the porch

Aside from the general conversations and energy mentioned, I love the view I get. In particular, I love when it’s raining, and I’m cozied on the porch, under shelter, listening to the rain fall as I work, looking at a beautiful view when I glance up. My image collection doesn’t have a record of that, so I will try to get that photo sometime in my future. But I bet you can imagine hills framed by rain and immerse yourself in the beauty of that mental image.

And then there’s one of my favorite parts of porch work. I have a work buddy who is there almost every day. It’s really tempting to offer treats, but I don’t. And yet, the little one still comes regularly to check things out. So fun!

The Buffalo Community

2018 Hudi and MollieWhen I hear the word Buffalo, I am immediately filled with happy memories of western NY. It holds my favorite zoo, memories of great evenings eating chicken wings–listening to jazz and small bands, jaunts to Niagara, awesome WordPress meetups and WordCamps, picking up my kids from the bus station, and the city’s airport was the origin point of many of my own journeys. All that to say I was really happy when I was pinged at work by a colleague asking if I wanted to work at an event in Buffalo. Now that I have moved to northern NY, I don’t get to go to Buffalo as often, and I miss it.

Homemade Yogurt at Hudi and Mollie's 2018Last Sunday, Chris and I threw our golf clubs, baggage and a futon into Zippy (it constantly amazes me to see what our Honda Fit can hold) and headed out.

On the way to Buffalo, we stopped in Rochester, where our youngest son now lives. It was such a treat seeing Hudi and Mollie thriving in their beautiful home, and the futon looks like its sole purpose of existence was to find itself in their guestroom. They served us some fantastic vittles (homemade yogurt with homemade jelly mixed in, mint iced tea, etc) and talked about their next stages of life.

Years ago, when we were homeschooling, we were part of a co-op where our kids attended classes of their choosing. Hudi took an international cuisine class from the food blogger, Rebecca Lindamood. It greatly inspired him, and he continued on with some private cooking sessions with Rebecca. Next thing we knew he was off to college to learn more about the topic. Hudi recently graduated with a degree in culinary arts and is now working as a banquet chef. We were fortunate to catch him on his day off.

After leaving them, we met with one of my colleagues at Bob-O-Links – a golf course that has lights so everyone can enjoy evening golf. We love Sam, and hadn’t seen him in a while so it was fantastic catching up with him. Since Automattic is a distributed company, we work together online almost daily, but the face-to-face thing is a rare treat.

Some of my friends from my former home figured out we were in the area and drove to join us for an evening on Monday. One more night at Bob-O-Links 🙂 Chris was very happy to have another night of golf and to see Bob, while I chose to walk around then sit and relax for a time of chatting with Pat. What a treat!

2018 Facebook Community Boost

We were there for the Facebook Community Boost event where the Ignite Buffalo winners were announced at the end of our time together. Through this event one million dollars plus mentoring were gifted to Buffalo Businesses. Seven finalists competed for $100,000 business grants (4 got them, and the other three got $50,000). And 20 other businesses received $25,000. You can see the winners listed on this event writeup.

It was a somewhat exhausting, yet completely inspirational event. My colleagues Zandy, Marjorie and I had pretty non-stop 1:1 sessions with people, helping them set up WordPress sites and WooCommerce stores. Chris was there for business sessions, and learned quite a bit, but he also ended up spending a lot of time helping us at the booth, answering questions. It was super exciting to see so many people interested in creating sites.

There was a final event where the finalists gave their pitches, and the judge’s results came in. My job was technically done there for the week, and I was tired. My plan was to stay for a couple of pitches then leave, but we all agreed that we couldn’t. It was all too well-done and inspirational. Marjorie, Chris and I ended up staying for the entire thing. Two hours flew by, and next thing I knew, we were cheering along with everyone else as the winners emerged from the list of finalists.

Heading back to the hotel we stopped in a local ice cream shop for dessert. (Food was available during the pitches so we had already eaten wings and delicious hors d’oeuvre’s that we called dinner.)

The server at Jerk’s was excited to see Marjorie, since he had attended the session she led earlier in the day. We  discussed business with him and his dad, who owned the delightful shop, then enjoyed malts and ice creams at a table outside as we watched trolley’s go by. What a perfect way to end the day. Wish I had gotten pictures, but I was embracing the enjoyment of the moment so I didn’t even think about it.

As the dad was cleaning up for the night, he was telling us about the changes he has seen in the recent years. It does seem like Buffalo is coming back to life with businesses. It was very encouraging.

The next morning I was able to relax and reflect on the visit a bit before we began our journey back home. One person that stood out to me during my time there was a woman who I met with to help set up a website to highlight her Om Nohm Gluten Free products. She was one of the finalists who had already received $25,000 and was so excited to have the chance to invest in her business.

During the week prior, I hadn’t had a ton of extra time, so while I glanced at my social media, I didn’t look at it too closely. I did on Thursday morning and discovered that the Rebecca I mentioned earlier (the one who mentored my son) had been posting about her sister – a finalist in this event. Guess who she was? Yup, the Om Nohm owner. How cool is that?

There we have it.
Community.
Helping each other.

It’s what it’s all about.

Dogs and Duckpin Bowling

IMG_5573.jpgI knew the bowling alley was going to be awesome when I walked in, and a beautiful, sweet dog greeted us. The greeting was the beginning of a very fun evening.

A year or so ago, Chris came back from a trip to Connecticut telling me about a great evening he had with his friends. They had been duckpin bowling, and Chris thought I should give it a try. I’d never heard of it, but thought the name was awesome. Turns out it’s definitely a legitimate thing, and I got a chance to play on a visit there last month.

Chris thought I might like it since I enjoy bowling, but I have physical limitations so I have to super careful if I play, and it often puts me in pain for days when I use a regular bowling ball. In duckpin bowling, my limitations are not an issue. The ball is slightly larger than a softball and doesn’t weigh much at all!

One of my favorite parts of the evening was watching Chris and his friends enjoy time together. They’ve known each other pretty much their whole lives. Since there were a bunch of us playing, and many had to work the next day, we were playing three lanes at a time and rotating. I love this image where by coincidence the three buddies were all taking their turns.

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The Swing Thing

IMG_4623.jpgSeven weeks ago tonight, Chris and I embarked on a new adventure. For the first time in both our lives, we attended a professional dance class. Why? Well, rewind three years.

I was out in Utah at my very first Grand Meetup (the one time a year everyone in the distributed company I work for gathers together to learn, collaborate on projects and enjoy some bonding over fun events). I had just finished attending a class on public speaking when I joined a group of co-workers in a East Coast Swing Dance class. It was so fun, the class went on for hours. Due to its popularity, the class continued a year later then again when we all met in British Columbia. Then again this year. They even added a new class for those who had been there the year prior, so we could learn more than the basics.

When I went home, I raved about it to Chris. Seeing that I was still excited about it after all that time, he agreed to look into lessons. So I started researching. It’s not that easy to find a dancing tutor or class in northern NY, I found. Local places didn’t respond to messages sent through the Internet or call back when I left messages on machines. Word of mouth requests got me nowhere.

Totally saddened/frustrated by this, I contacted Dennis, the co-worker that introduced me to swing dancing, and he kindly agreed to give Chris and me some lessons while we were all at a WordCamp together. Then I got ill, so that didn’t work out. Last February and last June, when we visited CJ and Lauren in Utah, we had made plans to go to a lesson and dancing with other co-workers, but those plans fell through as well. 🙁

IMG_4624.jpgWe looked into Internet classes, but they weren’t really working for us. Then, just when I was about to give up on it all, I hit the jackpot and found the Steve Ryan dance class 50 minutes from our home. With Zippy (a name we have started calling our car), that trip is a smooth one, and it’s 3/4 of the way to the resort we bought season passes for so we can snowboard so we can do both when winter hits 🙂 I lucked out in the fact that the class is Thursday nights, and my “weekend” is Thursday and Friday so I don’t have to work the next day.

The thing is that this is West Coast Swing (very linear). Not East. So it was brand new for me. And certainly new for Chris. We are both terrible (yet learning). But it’s super fun, and the instructor is patient, and the other class members are very kind. Many have dance experience so they share their knowledge, too, as we rotate partners. We are really enjoying getting to know new people and exercising in this fun way. Zeb and Bri have joined us a few times as well, and they are fun to practice with at home during the week.

Twice a month, there is a dance on Friday nights at the studio. I think we are almost ready to hold our own on the floor (with very basic steps). Anyway, our 7-week course is up, but we’re signing up again for the next round, beginning next week. We are taking the beginning class again, just to get solid on it, then right after that (during the next hour each week), we will take the advanced beginner class to learn more steps.

It was a long time coming, but well worth the wait!

 

Luke and Jessica’s Wedding

Bridal ShowerLuke was approximately a year old when my fiancé and I had the opportunity to babysit him (my fiancé‘s nephew). Little did I know at that time that the tiny baby I had in my arms would be celebrating his own walk down the aisle a little more than 25 years later.

Yet somehow there we were, packing our gear into our Honda Fit and heading off to Connecticut for an incredibly beautiful wedding. Zeb and Bri are staying with us for a while so they were able to come along with Mom, Chris and myself.

After dropping Mom and the guys off at the place we were staying, Bri and I headed to the bridal shower where we got to meet the bride officially for the first time. We played games and got to talk with Jessica, who seems like a lovely addition to the family. I didn’t any pics aside from this one since I was busy playing the games (and I won a Starbucks gift certificate in one game–lucky night!), but I can tell you that it was fun seeing all the love in the room.

Since the shower was an hour away, I got to spend some time chatting with Bri while we drove, which I really enjoyed.

The strangest thing happened that night. I didn’t get lost. Anyone who knows me will understand what an odd phenomenon that is. And yet it happened. I kind of liked it.

The day of the wedding was pure magic. I’ve never seen anything go so smoothly. We were able to sleep in and get a good rest then we all dressed up and headed to the venue where people laughed, talked, dined, and danced. Vows were stated outdoors under a pristine blue sky and under a trellis by a lake. Our grand-niece did a fantastic job being the flower girl. Here are some pics of the ceremony itself.

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The photographer took family photos and bridal party photos then we headed upstairs for the reception. Amazing food and awesome conversation!


Bri ended up with the bouquet (with some help from Aunt Susan). There was a funny moment when Zeb wasn’t aware of what was happening, but when he heard Bri got the bouquet, he made sure nobody else was going to get that garter. I do think his cousin, the groom, kind of helped him by aiming his way.

The night ended with a fabulous chocolate fountain and sparklers as the wedding couple went on their way. I already miss all our relatives and friends with whom we were able to catch up with there, but the memory of the enchanted time lingers happily on.

Here are some of my personal favorite pics of the day (click them to make them big if you want):

And finally, here’s a fun video summary of the day thanks to Google Photos:

 

Visiting our Kids at Camp Sandy Cove

Late night picnic

Remember going to camp when you were younger? Warm days spent learning fun things, getting dirty, singing silly ditties and playing pranks. Good times, indeed. Zeb, Hudi, Bri and Mollie still get to experience this annually as they work at Camp Sandy Cove in West Virginia (Mollie grew up attending the camp, which is super-fun). In my opinion, their camp is even cooler than most. Not only do you get to do the normal cabin/hiking/swimming sort of activity, but you also get to learn to shoot rifles, cook outdoors, do some high-flying on a trapeze, mountainboard and skateboard (among other activities).

The kids have been asking us to visit for a few years, and we really wanted to go, but it just didn’t fit in our schedules. We had planned to finally get there on the way back from Utah, but that all fell apart. Then we discovered an unexpected window of opportunity.

On July 3, the kids asked if we were coming the next day. Since we were moving a load of beds from our old house to our new house, and we had plans with friends on July 4 (plans we made last February) I told them we wouldn’t make it. Then the load moved super well, and our friends had to cancel. We realized we could make it. At midnight the kids confirmed it would still work for them, and by 5 am, we were on the road in our reliable new-to-us car.

Wahoo! Since we left at 5 am, and I worked on the road, I was able to put in a full work day by the time we reached the camp so I could immerse myself in enjoying time with the kiddos. We got there right in time for lunch. Sons and dad caught up (it was Hudi’s day off, and he was tired. I didn’t notice he was yawning in the image below until much later, and I didn’t get any other shots with just the three, so this will have to do. It’s real, anyway). We also got to officially meet Oliver, Bri’s hedgehog.

My guys (minus CJ). It was Hudi's day off, and he was tired.
My guys (minus CJ). It was Hudi’s day off, and he was tired.

After lunch, Zeb had some time before his next session so he did some skateboarding with Chris.

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I somehow didn’t get images of Zeb’s rifle-ry session that he taught, although it was fun to watch. After that, we attended Bri’s outdoor living session and made waffle smores and learned to tie different knots.

Mollie, Hudi, Chris and I went into town and perused through a few shops that were open on the holiday while Zeb and Bri finished their sessions for the day. We met up for dinner, and the campers put Zeb on the spot to serenade us all. This was a highlight of my day. They started off with a verse of “Sing us a song, Chief Zeb,” which I did not get on film because it was unexpected. Apparently when this happens, if the person called on does not sing the song, they pay a forfeit. Later Zeb said that he was thinking of not singing until they started in with “for your Mother, Chief Zeb, for your mother.” He said at that point he knew he had to do it. What a guy 🙂

Bri still had activities to cover after dinner so we hung out a bit as we waited for her. Zeb had designed this mountain board course, creating elements out of beds that were getting thrown away. He is so creative with scrap. Just like his dad. Some little children helped with the painting to make it look good. This was Chris’ first time on a mountain board, and he is now addicted.

Finally we were all together, and we decided it was too late for a movie. Instead we went out for ice cream, stopping for gas. As I wrote in a previous post, the kids had persuaded us that the Honda Fit was a great car. This is the first official pic of the Blueberry (as we call Bri’s car) next to our Blackberry.

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Sadly, due to the holiday, our ice cream place was closed, but that did not deter us. We each grabbed some treats from the gas station and had an impromptu night-time picnic that lasted until past midnight. So much fun being with those kiddos. It really cracked me up when they mimicked the person in the ad behind them as I took their pic. And guess what? I found Ring Dings! (which are sadly no longer available in our local store).

We spent the night at the camp instead of the hotel we planned on staying in because it was offered to us, and that allowed us to spend more time with the kids. Before we left, we got to see Hudi in action, doing his job.

Hudi in his element - the kitchen
Hudi in his element – the kitchen

That impromptu visit was a treat that is already a highlight of my summer. Love those young men and women!

Here’s a summary of the day thanks to Google Photos:

From Snow to the Snows — in June

Our final full day in Utah was spent on the ski/snowboard slopes at Snowbird. Yes, it was June 10. Let me say that again. June 10. And we were at the slopes. Can you feel hear my heart beating faster? Oh the joy of that day!

The altitude got to Chris a bit (on his fourth run of the day), and he was pretty wiped out after a mogul run 🙂

Lauren and I enjoyed the festival below as the guys boarded and skied.

We wrapped up a perfect day by heading back home and having a lovely dinner out. On the way home we saw a mini-cyclone. Since it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, we thought it was pretty cool. Later that evening we were treated to a view of the strawberry moon rising. So beautiful!

Sunday morning was sad. Don’t be fooled by those smiles in the pics. It was super hard saying goodbye to this incredible couple. We miss them so much already. That entire visit was a gift beyond words.

last day together
One last cup of coffee together. Then time to hit the road.

On Sunday, as we drove, I was forced to admit that if I ever do this trip again, I won’t even attempt to work in the car in Wyoming or Nebraska. The Internet was super sketchy–even with Cricket and Verizon hotspots. Thank goodness for good hotel wi-fi’s and a job with flexible work hours!

Sunday night was spent at a hotel in Nebraska — at a hotel that I will be fine never visiting again. Good news though. If you ever forget your key there, you can get into your room in less than half a second with a credit card 🙂

Monday found us spinning the tires towards friends/co-workers in Missouri. While the day started out nice and sunny, it changed. We didn’t experience any of the tornadoes that were appearing around the country that day (for which we were thankful), but driving was a bit tricky at times, and the hail was pretty loud.

bad weather

In the evening we made it to the home of the Jason and Kristen Snow. They are my co-workers, so many of you might have already met them if you have an upgrade and have used the WordPress live chat options. They also have a fabulous blog. They are nomads so we were lucky to catch them home. In fact, they left shortly after we did for their next Grand Adventure. How we love these two and their three dogs!

I’ve been told by many people in my life that they have never seen people like us. We work super hard then we stop on a dime and play hard. It’s all about balance. My co-workers seem to live by this standard as well.

We relaxed for an evening, slept, then all hit our work super hard for a full day. Barely a sound was heard as Chris did his art, I worked on mobile support for WordPress apps, and Jason and Kristen had meetings and worked on live chat and email support. One of their dogs cuddled close to give me moral support, and I loved it.

The company we work for is distributed, so the hundreds of workers at Automattic work all around the world, anywhere there is Internet. That is how I can literally work on the road as Chris drives. As long as I have Internet connection.

We get together with co-workers a few times a year (hence the Lisbon meetup I still haven’t written about, but I will. At least you know I was in Lisbon for that reason by this point if you follow the blog). But it’s a real treat to work alongside co-workers live in a small-group situation. Many peoples’ norm. Our anomaly. And we learn so much from each other. Very fun day.

Once the work time was over, we took the dogs for a walk to a family/dog-friendly brewery in the area. Talk about delightful! It was hard picking the perfect brew so we all got different flavors and shared sips.

I think my favorite story about this place is that they really celebrate mother’s and have a special day for moms every year. But they have that special day after Mother’s Day so there is no conflict with family celebrations. Love that!

One of the Snow’s dogs was interested in watching children play, another was resting, and the third spent its time eeking up on the bench and as close to Jason as possible. This cracked me up so I made an animation (staying away from the word gif on purpose to avoid controversy). Is this the sweetest thing or what?

Dog kiss

Seriously. Just look at the love. Heart melt!

dog love

We spent the evening at a burger joint that still has me salivating. But I forgot to take images. On the walk back home, we humored Chris by going on Rte 66. As the song says:

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way it’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66…

The next morning we rose relatively early and went to a fantastic coffee shop before leaving. This place has bands and church services at times, I hear, and it also has the best muffins I have ever eaten. Can’t believe I didn’t take a pic. I’m seriously slacking on my job.

Our plan was to drive to Columbus and spend the night. We drove through some hairy weather again, saw a massive fire (I’m guessing from some of the super-scary lighting we saw), but pushed on through to get to Houghton because our car was making some interesting noises.

Remember how we were worried about its making it through the trip? Yeah. We remembered that, too. We churned into Houghton at 3 am ET after 16 hrs of driving (Chris totally rocks. I was working about 9 hrs of it. He did all the driving). After sleeping a few hrs, we crept off to our home in northern NY. And made it!!!!

Back to Mom, my lack-of-beach, and local rainbows.

Now we are closing the chapter on the out-west trip for the year and starting to plan our next life adventures. Starting with a new-to-us car hunt. Anyone have a Honda Fit and/or Chrysler Town and Country you are trying to get rid of? You know how to reach me…. 😉