Back to College

It was so wonderful having Hudi home these past 2.5 weeks. Lots of great conversations, catching up on paperwork, walks and relaxing together. Definitely a treat.

I’m loving the fact that he is so excited about going back. That makes it much easier to say goodbye. Finger Lakes Community College has been a great place for our family. I’m so thankful for the teachers and staff there. They provide a fun, safe place where our young adults can get a high-quality, affordable education.

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…. 😉

Strong Winds in Utah

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

So we didn’t go skydiving. But as you can see in this picture, at least it wasn’t a borderline call. It was very clear that it would be a poor choice for the day if we expected to  see a tomorrow (spoiler–we all wanted to see tomorrow). So no go. Now we have something to look forward to again in future visits.

But we got the local tour instead, and  it was fabulous. Ever since CJ was a baby, he was obsessed with trains so he took us to a treasure of a restaurant he found in Heber City. Trains everywhere (and yummy burgers). Even the servers had train hats.

After lunch we went up  Guardsman Pass, which had just opened after being closed all winter. The drive was a bit harrowing for those of us who have a hard time with heights (no guard rails, and lots of twists and turns with huge drop-offs), but CJ drove well, and it was breath-takingly beautiful.

At the top we enjoyed the views then went for a small hike further up and threw a few snowballs. Gotta love doing  that in June!

I think the most humorous part of the day might have been seeing several snowmobiles  hanging out on the side of the road. We wondered – is that in case there is a freak storm? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

The Best Laid Plans

Packing the carReally long post about our Utah adventure with lots of pics starting at the Enjoying the Trip for Real section below (click that link if you want to jump straight to that section).

We had a good plan. A great plan, I dare confess. But you know what they say:

 

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Originally our plan was this: Columbus, Ohio, then a hotel as we headed west, wherever we were, then Utah then Vegas, then California, then New Mexico, then a hotel somewhere, then Illinois, then South Carolina, then North Carolina then Maryland, then West Virginia, then back to Houghton, then home.

All in four weeks. This was all part of our Anniversary travel plans.

Now? – Hotel in Iowa, hotel in Wyoming, CJ and Lauren’s in Utah then hopefully a hotel somewhere then Missouri then a hotel somewhere then Houghton then home. Or maybe just a flight home.

It started changing a bit ago. We realized that California and Vegas might be better in a later trip, but we would decide that last minute. Then Ohio and New Mexico friends had some life happenings that made it a less-than-ideal time to visit.

No problem. We re-routed, but that made us hit South Carolina at a bad time for the people we were visiting there. So we shuffled, and all was kind of working out for Plan B, but the trip was getting shorter. Still fun, though.

On Thursday we left our home in northern NY with a carefully loaded vehicle, as we headed to our home in western NY, initiating our Grand Adventure.

We had items from the north house coming to the west house for the annual Memorial Day yard sale. This was carefully separated from items we were going to bring to Hudi and Zeb as we stopped at the camp they were working on at the tail-end of the Grand Adventure. And this was all topped off with items for CJ and Lauren, who we were going to visit near the beginning of the trip.

It was clock-work. From Thursday to Wednesday, we held the yard sale at the western NY home and did a bit of cleaning, and I did a ton of socializing. While I am happy living where I live now, it’s good to see my old friends again. On  Wednesday I drove over to Lauren’s family and picked up the wedding gifts that were set to make a cross-country trip to their owners. The plan was to leave at 4am on Saturday so we could get well beyond Chicago in daylight.

Thursday we continued to clean and socialize, then topped off the day by attending the WordPress meetup in Buffalo — we used to be regulars there before our move so it was nice to be back. Then Friday morning we loaded the car with our gear, the gifts for the Utah folk and with Hudi and Zeb’s belongings. It all went so smoothly I was able to visit more friends in the afternoon, knowing everything was in order.

Since I  had a full load, I drove slowly and smoothy, and all seemed idyllic as I pulled into the driveway and parked. We had a lovely last evening and got to bed early. By 4:10am  (yes, a little late), we closed up the house and headed out to the car, ready for the Grand Adventure. Only to find out that a horrible noise was emanating from under the hood. Chris checked it out and all of our power steering fluid was gone, aside from a few drips.

Nothing we could do about it in the dark so we went back to bed for a few hours. Later Chris checked it out (and those of you who know Chris know that if anyone can fix a car, it is he). No go. The trip was officially getting pushed off. I called a car rental, and they told me they had a car for us and would come pick us up. We planned to leave our own vehicle at a local place to get repaired. Plan C.

Then we got a phone call half an hour later. No rental available until Monday, and we were out of the pick-up zone. We’d have to get ourselves there. No problem, Fortunately the car was not dead in the water. We just had to keep pumping fluid into it. Plan D – Drive to the car rental, making sure we were there  by 8am when they opened to maximize our traveling time for the day, then drive back home, re-load the new car, drop our car at the repair shop so it could be fixed while we were gone then head out (hopefully by noon).

As a weekend worker, it didn’t faze me all that much. I just worked in the house instead of the car as originally planned. And this gave me the chance to see some of my friends one last time in church and on my daily walks. When I came back from Saturday’s  walk, it was only to discover that Chris had driven to the town half an hour away to get some necessary car parts for a patch repair. Things were looking up again. Plan E. We hoped to leave on Sunday. But that was not to be, either.

The patch worked in that the leak stopped, but the pump began having issues. The car was speaking languages I had never heard before. Not ideal.

Plan F – back to the rental option. But now we’re thinking  about it more. How can we make this more cost effective? The first move was obvious. Cut out the second half of the trip. No southern route. But how do we get the gear to Zeb and Hudi? That worked itself out. Friends of theres were driving down in a couple of weeks for a training, and they graciously agreed to take the essentials to our boys.  Then the car itself. We needed to rent an SUV since we were taking a bicycle out to Utah, but we could get a cheaper car on the way back. Or we could fly back to Syracuse then  grab our truck and head back to the western house another time to deal with our car. So many options.

Monday morning hit with questions still on our mind. At 7:10 we prepared to drive out to get the rental. Chris started the car, and it made no noise at all. No leaks, no pump issues. Nada.

Being  the tightwads that we are, we entered Plan F. Pack only our personal essentials in case we had to fly home, grab the kids’ presents and hit the road. After all, Chris pointed out, there isn’t a whole lot of turning between NY and Utah. It’s a pretty straight shot. Still, we planned on coming straight back after Utah since the car would most likely not stand up to the twists, turns and hills of the south.

All was great until Cleveland, OH, where the car began some very loud protests. We needed gas anyway so we limped off the road. When we re-booted the car a bit later, all was fine again. I did have the thought that perhaps the air conditioning we had on put too much stress on the engine. So we kept the air off and put down the window.

Enjoying the Trip for Real

I have to say that Plan F is a winner so far. We had planned to drive 8-10 hrs that day, but felt so energetic we easily hit 13 hrs and settled in a lovely, very affordable hotel for the night (yay, hotels.com!). Same deal the next day (except maybe 11 hrs of driving). Chris met wonderful people in the breakfast room (I was sleeping), and he heard then shared with me some fun travel tales, and we felt the camaraderie unique to road warriors. It makes me look forward to more time traveling by car in my future.

Chris particularly liked celebrating signs of Omaha and listening to the Counting Crows.

And I loved the windmills.

Windmill

We both loved the sculptures we saw  along the way.

The trip was blessed for sure. We were about 20  minutes ahead of the rush-hour traffic in Chicago (we saw it in our rear-view mirrors), had perfect hotels along our path, met friendly people, and dodged flooding (storms on the front and side of us, but not where we were). When the sun could have been pretty intense and challenging, clouds appeared and gave us shade. We even got a rainbow leading us to our hotel on one occasion. Perfection. The hotel doesn’t look like much outside, but it was very  pleasant inside.

Uncle John and CJ would have loved the trains by us.

The scenery was getting more and more incredible, and the queues were under control at work so I asked my team-mates if they minded if I took the day off. They quickly gave me their blessing. (I have the best job on the planet.) So we spent Wednesday gawking out the window, marveling in the beauty of creation from the greens and purples of sagebrush to the browns, whites and reds of the sand on the hills, amidst rock formations that rivaled the work of any sculptor I know. A crowning glory? The snow-capped mountains in the distance, which set my soul free.

Even better, each turn of the wheel was bringing us closer to CJ and Lauren. And the car was making it through the trip!

CJ was at work, and we had to drive right by the work-place on our way to their home so we stopped in only to discover that he was about to sign out  for the day. We were able to grab a bite to eat with him before he headed out to Salt Lake City for a Virtual Reality event, where he was demo-ing the game he has been working on with his co-workers. I was going to take a picture of him, but didn’t want to embarrass him in his work zone. Now Chris and Lauren say I should have.  Oh well, next time 🙂

Chris and I headed to the house to unload the gifts and reunite Lauren with her bicycle and the hatchet that Hudi gave her at CJ and Lauren’s wedding.

bicycle delivery

Yesterday we hiked the Stewart Falls trail with Lauren while CJ worked again. Aunt Anne would have loved the waterfalls.

Here’s a slow-motion view of those glorious falls:

I did a little bit of damage to my knee making going downhill a bit tricky on the way back. It was pretty funny. We were panting along, red as anything, trying to not limp too much (while going downhill, mind you. Not up-hill), and occasionally stepped aside while people grinned a “thank you” and RAN by us going up-hill. Talk about humbling.

My favorite quote of the day was from Chris:

We are cross training. Crossing our fingers and hoping we make it to the car.

After that hike, we walked through town a bit then stopped at this vintage ice cream place that I just loved. The ice cream rivaled European gelato. Not to start a fight. Just subjectively sayin’.

We were a  bit dirty when we got home so we cleaned up and rested (well, Chris and I rested. Lauren went off to choir practice). The kids came home at 9:30 or 10 and we yakked until midnight then I turned into a pumpkin.

Today we were supposed to go sky diving then tonight we were going to go swing dancing with friends. Sadly, the sky-dive place shut down due to high winds, and the swing dance plans fell through (might be a blessing with my knee pain), but you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s so awesome being with CJ and Lauren it just can’t go wrong. So instead of high-energy adventures, we are yakking, blogging, reading, and finding homes for the wedding gifts within this flat. Very nice.

I realized that since CJ has been working for most of this visit so far, I don’t have pics of him. Here’s one to rectify that (who has morning hair? lol):

IMG_3098

Now we have all taken off work for the rest of the visit so we can enjoy time together. And that, my friends, was the beginning of our Grand Adventure. The big question is — will the car make it home? Time will tell … That adventure begins on Sunday.

Why we Stayed in Lisbon for a Month

Lise arrives after a loooong cab ride (yay strikes)

Lise arrives after a loooong cab ride (yay strikes)

I blame our month-long stay in Lisbon on the fact that I have a cousin in Denmark (how fun is that to say?). The original intent of the trip was a 1.5 to 2-week stint. I was going to join my work team in Lisbon for a meetup for a week, and Chris would join me at the beginning or end. Then my cousin said she might be able to spend some time with us, too. The time we were staying stretched onward, and we finally realized that staying for a month in an apartment was not much more expensive than spending a couple of weeks in a hotel. No brainer. We booked. She visited.

We had a marvelous time with my cousin and her man. You’ve met her before if you read this blog. She played Monopoly with us last year. Thing is — I haven’t seen her live in about 8 years. This was such a treat! So much better than Zoom (although I’m grateful for that).

Lise and Chrissie on the Yellow Bus Tour touring the modern section of Lisbon.

Lise and Chrissie on the Yellow Bus Tour touring the modern section of Lisbon.

Chris and I are serious walkers, and Lise thought she was, too. But the hills in Lisbon proved a little too much for a post-leg surgery patient, so we hit the Yellow Bus Tour. It had horrible reviews, which made me a bit nervous, but we had a marvelous time. I do have to say that in the on-season and on weekends the reviews are justified, but for a low-key weekday in April, it was a fabulous experience.

We sat in an uncrowded bus and cooled off under blue skies while soaking in the history of the city — both old and new. We also enjoyed funiculars, trolleys and ferries as part of the tour. If a radio didn’t work, we switched our seat. No problem.

On the weekend we struggled to get room on the trolleys (hence the correct reviews comment earlier), but weekdays were bliss.

I’m not sure what part of the Wed-Mon visit I loved best (apart from just being with Lise in person). Perhaps it was sharing the wonders of a continent together — from the Moor Castle in Sintra to watching performers in the plaza. Or giggling over childhood stories. Or meeting her boyfriend (also named Chris. Poor Lise, hanging out with Chris, Chris and Chrissie). I guess it’s good that I’m not required to pick a favorite moment.

e, surrounded by Chris's

Lise, surrounded by Chris’s

Funicular Fun:

The funicular in Bairro Alto, Lisbon.

The funicular in Bairro Alto, Lisbon.

IMG_2255

Anyway, that time will always be a treasure in my memory. If you are into pics, check out highlights of our extended weekend:

Complete and Utter Chaos

IMG_1248

I think the game Chaos is sadistic. But some of my family members love it so I play. It’s probably good for me, helping me work on my memory.

Have you ever heard of it? Chaos is a board game from 1970.

It’s basically checkers. With up to four people. With identical pieces, and you have to figure out (in theory–keep track of) which pieces are yours.

Players are assigned a color, but the color is hidden on the underside of a piece. You can’t flip the piece until it’s in the home zone across the board from where you started. If you move someone else’s piece, they can call you on it, and you lose a turn. Oh, and you can’t move your pieces past the halfway point of the board until all the pieces are out of your home zone.

While I somewhat dread playing the game since I’m incredibly bad at it, I do have to admit then on the rare occasion when I do win (or even come in as a close second) I feel incredibly smart for a few minutes. It’s quite gratifying.

Last night I was doing all right. I came in last place on our first game, but was respectably close to everyone else. On the second game I lost first place by one move, so I was feeling pretty awesome. As an evening topper, I knew where all my pieces were on our third and final game. Or so I thought. I hit the home zone and discovered that it was someone else’s piece and mine was aaaaaaalllllllll the way across the board.

Extreme sadness.

But that’s the thing. Everyone gets a chance to shine. Systems win and fail. Jumps soar you across the board in one shot, or you can get gridlocked.

No matter what, it’s always utter Chaos.

While I would still prefer playing a word game, I have to admit that the evening was enjoyable. I found a video on how it’s played:

Fortune Cookie

fortune-cookie

It’s impossible to be perfect. And this fortune cookie note I got reminded me that it’s okay. How reassuring is that message? My immediate reaction was “Hey, this is how I want to be for others” in my role as a Happiness Engineer. Then I remembered that since it was my fortune cookie, this was about me. And I realized that the statement is plain old true. It has been true in the past, is true in my present, and odds are high that it will be true in my future. This makes me feel really fortunate. And it makes me think about the importance of helping people in general.

My job, my marriage and my family are all arenas in which I feel particularly blessed. And this fortune philosophy is a main contributor to why my life is so awesome.

Work? WordPress is a seriously powerful program. Every day I help people with networking issues, SEO, site building, writing-sharing, advertising, account changes, etc. I know a lot and do not feel as if I’m not qualified for my job. That said, I sometimes find myself facing situations in which I don’t have an answer. Every day I’m learning more. But I never feel isolated or backed into a corner where I can’t be helpful thanks to my co-workers.

We all have experience in different arenas. If I have a question about analytics or MX records, then a ping to a co-worker will bring someone with experience in those fields to help me (and I help them where I am strong). No judgement from anyone. Just helpful attitudes (and I’m over two years into this job, so I’m not being idealistic. That’s just the beautiful reality of my work environment). Together, we provide answers to those who come to us for help.

I can help because I am helped.

Family? Again, every family member has a strength, and we work together to create good as a unit. I think back especially to the years I was bed-ridden (rough pregnancies and a few surgeries that laid me flat for long periods of time). My in-laws moved in to help us with parenting and household maintenance (as did my friends and members of our church, who provided meals and childcare until my in-laws arrived). We ran a daycare back then, and my husband became licensed so he could cover for me when I was down. My children were young, but they pitched in to help where they could. This made my healing happen faster, and when I was back on my feet, life was manageable, and I didn’t have to deal with the chaos of backlogged tasks.

Again, I could help others (eventually, after I healed) because others helped me.

Marriage? If anyone knows every single weakness I have, it’s my man. But I am very fortunate in the fact that instead of using those weaknesses to knock me down, Chris takes his own strengths to help me grow in those areas if I’m capable. Or to cover for me if I’m not capable. I try to do the same for him.

So there it is. My fortune reminding me of how fortunate I am. I hope I always remember that and reciprocate.