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…. 😉

Our Lisbon Meetup Begins :)

Since I work for a distributed company, I only get to see my coworkers in person twice a year. Last year my team met up in Durham, and this year it’s Lisbon. Another team is here at the same time, and another team will be coming halfway to the week so I get to see lots of my Automattic buddies. 

There is just something super exciting about knowing that your friends and coworkers are all on planes and trains and busses, heading your way for a week of in-person collaborations, learning and fun.

This picture shows where James and I are hanging out at our co-working office for the week. We are working outdoors as we wait for our teammates to arrive. 

2016 WordCamp US

You know I love WordCamps. And this one is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!!! Here I am sitting at the registration dest in Philadelphia, trying to catch my breath after 24 hrs of meeting/greeting/dining/drinking/collaborating and learning with fellow WordPress lovers. Best community EVER!!!

I’m keeping this short and sweet because there is still a lot more to do over the next two days, but wanted to check in to say how awesome this is. If you are in the Philadelphia area, come join us 🙂

These pics are a glimpse into the gathering. There were 1,800 super friendly and intelligent WordPress lovers in the room at lunch today, and a lovely jazz band playing. This is a pretty impressive event. #wcus

Reading Animal Signs

been-there

Since the holidays are around the corner, my mind is on gifts. I thought I might share a thought for the nature lovers in my life.

One of my favorite gifts I have ever received was a children’s book written by my friend Jen Funk Weber. It was entitled Been There, Done That: Reading Animal Signs. It’s always nice to have creative friends, but I particularly like Jen’s work, perhaps because I know her dedication to writing, her humor, her love of kids and her passion for the great outdoors.

Jen lives in Alaska, along with her husband, who is a photographer. She is big on writing and cross-stitching. Since I’ve been friends with Jen for over a decade, I’ve heard lots of tales of her remote life. In fact, I remember when she got excited about getting a mailbox (at the end of a mile-long driveway, I think it was). Now she didn’t have to take the 45-minute drive into Anchorage to check her mail. Whoa. And I thought I lived in a remote area with a 30-minute drive to the nearest fast food chain. Nothing compared to Jen’s world.

Over the years I have learned a ton about nature thanks to Jen. This book is an example. In this book, a young child shows another how to look for animal trails. The images are beautiful, and the text is engaging. Here’s a review I wrote for it last spring:

As a parent, educator and nature enthusiast, I found this book a real treasure. The simple sentence structure and clear images don’t overwhelm, and new words and concepts are introduced naturally. The story had a cute ending, tying humans to nature. While the story itself was enjoyable, I particularly appreciated the quiz and extra information at the end of the book. It makes it very simple to structure an educational unit for a classroom or for a homeschool science curriculum. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about nature.

So there it is. The book is in hard copy, soft cover and Kindle editions. If you don’t want to buy it, I still recommend finding a copy in a library. It’s pretty awesome. And if you are already a fan and just in case you are curious, there’s always hope of a sequel… Jen was pretty interested in animal trails, taking lots of pictures of them, when we were together last spring 🙂

If you are so inclined, check it out. Bet you won’t regret it. And once you read it, feel free to come back and comment about it, letting us know what you think.

Where Have I Been? See if You Can Tell

It’s a game for you to play if you want.

** Edited to add that Hudi is definitely the winner in the family category, and Tina is the non-family winner. Great job! You all guessed a lot of these! Answers are now in the captions. **

“Never apologize for not posting in a while. It just calls attention to it.” That’s advice I often give bloggers. And I believe it, but I also relate to the guilt they feel as they put up a post after a long absence. And confession is always a good thing after an action that instills guilt. I get it.

For me, this time, I felt overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to post about.  So many experiences and life events I wanted to share. I got some out there, but ran out of time for the rest. So I’m going to do it all in one shot now. Get the images up and move on, feeling caught up.

So I’m going to make it a game. 

According to Google, I have been on 43 trips so far this year. See if you can:

  • Tell where I was
  • For bonus points – name the event 🙂
  • And for SUPER bonus points – feel free to add a story or anecdote from the occasion 😀

Please describe which image you are referring to when you post your answers. 

To make things a bit easier, I only did occasions from mid-April through October.

Ready? Steady? GO!!!!

I will post the answers in captions next week — or as the answers are given if I have time.

Customer Service and Life Tips

Those of you in my arena know there is no other way of saying this. I have the best job in the world. For me. I have the honor of providing tech support to WordPress users around the world. And I have an amazing company behind me (Automattic) that understands that the way to provide the best support is to provide support for the supporters.

Support gets tough sometimes. Like today. My brain just wasn’t up to par. My heart wanted to help people, but my brain wasn’t spinning at warp speed, and I was out of sorts.

I know why.

In the past two days I was informed that one young person in my world-circle had an untimely, unexpected death, and another person who is greatly loved, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

And I received a message about some unsettling behavior from others close to me. Behavior that dredged up a lot of past hurt and unfairness, making me want to retaliate, even though I knew that wasn’t the answer.

Bottom line? I was plain ol’ distracted, even while trying to focus.

I usually am very patient and have a knack for empathy. Today I was lacking in both. Really not cool for customer support. It was unsettling, and I felt like a failure.

But guess what?

My team had my back.

And my faith gave me support. By the end of the day, I was all right (and I even helped some people in the meantime).

How did this happen? By having caring people in my life.

When I was stuck (even on simple issues), my teammates backed me up, offering helpful answers and tips to help the people I was helping. And they never ridiculed me or made me feel sub-par. When I commented on the tough day I was having, they responded with cyber hugs and cyber coffee 🙂 (We work in places all around the world so it’s all cyber). No judgement at all.

This is an amazing thing in the work force, I am finding. In a world where the underdog is crushed, it’s incredible to find a space where everyone’s goal is to be kind and helpful. Amazing. And inspirational. I certainly hope I give that help to others.

While I never reached top-notch performance in the day, I was able to move on and provide quality support thanks to my knowledge that I had a team behind me.

I found out that one of the more difficult people I was dealing with today was really not mad at me personally. They were frustrated because of a work situation they were in. I really struggled to be patient with them as they swore at me through an issue they were having, and after we fixed their issue, they stayed on the chat line, venting to me about the pressure they were under. Thanks to my co-workers, I was able to have the patience and empathy to listen and support.

Because really, while we love WordPress and support it, the bottom line is that we care about the people who use it even more than the product itself. Thanks to my team and their support, I was able to dredge up the patience and understanding to convey that, even on a tough day.

When the work day ended, and the realities of life one again hit my brain, I went to my ultimate source of comfort. A daily devotional with Bible passages. Coincidentally, today’s section of reading was one of my absolute favorites, and it ties in with dealing with the harsh realities of life as well as customer service. Great stuff.

I have this color coded passage hanging on my wall at home. It’s from Galations 6 in the Holy Bible. I use the version called The Message:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.37.29 PM

  • As always, thanks for helping me keep my sanity is also due to my greatest friend –my husband, Chris, who is always there to listen to me vent, remind me of passages like the one above, and point me back to the path of helping others when I go astray.

Nobody Warned me About the Forties

IMG_20160531_160410432_HDRAnd I kind of wish someone had. It’s a horrible decade. It’s a beautiful decade. And I think I can summarize that in my day today. It’s kind of a step-by-step thing so if that kind of writing bores you, x out now 🙂

The featured image? The only relation to today was that it was actually taken while I worked today. To show my dad my setup, which will have to suffice for the next week since I accidentally left my real monitor in our other house. First world problems, I know. But it’s still not totally cool.

Yesterday was a great day. It was a holiday (Memorial Day), and I was filled with a sense of thankfulness for the veterans in my life even as I chose to work instead of joining the locals at the parade. I was happy to cover while some of my co-workers spent time with family and friends. And I still had a great day. That contentment paved the way into my day this morning, which started off swimmingly.

With a slight downer. A friend wanted to get together with our three sons and us before we broke apart. I had the harsh realization that we would have that option for literally two evenings before November. And even then, it would never be in this home again. Ah, well. Life goes on.

I was already ahead in my personal work goals, and we had some interesting issues at work that we (my team-mates and I) resolved. I LOVE it when I can really help people. Noon came, and I had an enjoyable team meeting over Zoom, with 16 co-workers from around the world. I love seeing their faces. Do you see a common thread in this paragraph? I’m intensely into my job, and I love it. It’s the job I began in my forties (when I was 42, actually).

So work was happening, life was going, and as my meeting began I kissed my middle son and waved to his girl as they headed out to Pennsylvania for work training. That letting-go part of parenting that’s still a bit unnerving. And the mail came. It contained info about housing for college for my youngest baby, who is starting college this fall.

Zeb’s leaving and Hudi’s mail ripped my heart a little, but mostly I’m proud of them and happy for them. My meeting ended, and I entered another meeting in which people volunteer time to write lesson plans so inner city kids can learn how to create websites. Nobody has time for anything, yet these people meet weekly to volunteer their expertise to help others. It always inspires me. Good, good people. And one of them is a friend I get to spend a week a year with at Bible camp. So fun to work with her there.

That meeting ended as I headed out for a walk with a friend who has been a buddy for 20+ years. What a gift she is in my life. I have now officially moved, and I’m technically back in town visiting, so we spent a good bit of time dredging up memories of our kids as they grew. She also learned details of my son’s recent engagement. Such joy! But bittersweet since we had to shorten our visit as people came to check out our house for possible rental.

It went well. I think they like it, and we only want the house to go to people who really appreciate it. We’re good with this family. But it also symbolized a clear cut with our decades of reality in the place we have called home.

No time to dwell on that. They left, and I immersed in work again (how lucky am I to have this job where I can work flexible hours like this?!?) for a while. Then Lauren came in to update me on wedding plans. We hit the Internet–hunting for party favors, table decorations and wedding gowns. It was while we were doing this that I found out that a good friend got a job she was interviewed for. And I found out another friend died. So as we celebrated weddings, work, moves and life in general, we also found ourselves donning fancier garb before heading to the funeral parlor for viewing hours.

Before we did anything else, I checked in with my parents. Both of whom have had some stints in the hospital for different issues (they are both home and well on the road to recovery now). While I was on the phone, my husband was on his phone, talking with our son who had made it to his destination in PA, but was reporting a bit of car trouble. Chris talked him through some options. Then we had a nice dinner and headed to our cars.

I stood in line at the viewing. It was particularly heart-wrenching because the grandmother in the family had also passed on, so it was a double funeral. Wife and mom. The line was long and somewhat slow, and I looked at the faces of people I have seen for nearly three decades. Good people, hard-working, honest people. People I’ve been thrilled to have my kids grow up amongst.

And I realize, once again,  it’s kind of hard to leave.

I also realize that the memories that make it so hard to leave are some of the greatest gifts one might receive. That young man smiling at me, telling me all is okay since his mom is now in a happier place? Yeah, that was the kid who talked to me non-stop on the school bus on the fourth grade field trip. That man ahead of us in line? He not only went to college with me, but he was one of the best teachers my son was privileged to have.

People hugged, people laughed, people cried. We have lived, we have loved, and now we are moving on.

The memories and joy will remain. Blessings. Gifts. Not always easy.

I didn’t realize the emotional upheaval one faces in the forties. It’s kind of exhausting, but brilliantly so. This is my day. This is my life. I’m so thankful. 🙂