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.

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:

 

Trails for Dog Lovers

I sat on a rock for nearly two hours last Thursday. It was just Star, Chris and me, watching waves roll in.  And it was heaven. Last month our friends Mary Ann and Ken showed us a park in our area that we had never heard about. Wehle State Park quickly became a new favorite. Before it became a NY State Park, it was owned by Robert G. Wehle–a sculptor and nature enthusiast who had a passion for dogs.

When you arrive at the park (which has no entrance fee), it’s immediately inviting. Picnic tables are nestled under trees, and there are huge lawns beckoning people to run and play. Signs tell of the history of the place (it was once a military training ground then later, a cattle ranch). There is a visitor’s center with more interesting details about the place. Outside that is a sculpture of a dog that is real enough that Star got all excited and tried to greet it as a new friend.

There is a road, right past the enclosed dog-run area that leads past an apple orchard into the trees, and at the beginning of the road there is a water spigot, with a dog bowl at its base. We walked the trail for nearly two miles before arriving at a pavilion on Lake Ontario. That led to a stone stairway that led to the  rock where we picnicked and rested. Since the area was relative small and somewhat closed off, Star was free to play and didn’t try to roam, making for a super-relaxed afternoon. Want to share the delights of the day (and our last visit there) with me? Here you  go:

 

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…. 😉

Utah Trip Day 1

img_0680I got waaaay behind on sharing our Utah trip, and I’d be willing to put money on the fact that most of you would fully support me on that. It’s because I was having so much fun relaxing with/enjoying the company of CJ, Lauren, Zeb and their friends. And even some of my friends 🙂

We arrived in Salt Lake City late Wednesday night. With only one slight incident. As we gazed in awe of the lights of the city, we noticed that the airport seemed a bit close for our altitude. Right when we should have been descending rapidly, the plan dropped suddenly then swiftly began an incline. Weird. It was enough to get an audible gasp and/or “whoa” from nearly everyone on board. For about five minutes we were stymied as we watched the airport slip behind us as we inclined. Then the pilot came on and announced that the landing was too tight so we were trying again with more room. Whew!

I had warned my husband that in a particular book he was reading there was a deep analysis of an airplane crash, and I recommended that he not read that part in flight. Apparently he forgot and was right in the thick of that chapter when the excitement occurred. Talk about timing!

CJ and Lauren were there to meet us, and they gave us a night tour of their world as we drove to their home about 45 minutes away.

Now CJ is a ski instructor at Deer Valley and he taught enough lessons to people with altitude sickness to realize that we might want to stay off the slopes our first day there. It was so delightful, sleeping in and chatting while we sipped Lauren’s amazing coffee.

Late morning, we headed back to Salt Lake City to check out a very pretty mall. It was right around the corner from where I had gotten my tattoo two years ago. I stopped in to see if I should have it touched up (that had been recommended to me by the artist two years ago).

While my artist was not available, her co-workers agreed with me that it still looks great and doesn’t need touching up, even two years later. Well done, Mina from Cathedral Tattoo!

At the mall we signed up for a Virtual Reality appointment at the Microsoft store, gazed at fish swimming near stores, enjoyed a fountain display.

Then we spent some time playing with Virtual Reality at the Microsoft store. It was truly amazing. I felt like I was petting a whale, I created 3-D drawings that I walked through, and I shot lasers at incoming alien robots that were attacking me. I’ve done VR in my living room, and this definitely took it to a new level for me. Fun!

After we went home, we played a bit more with our own living room games, and Chris and I took turns riding on a VR roller coaster. Curazy! Love it!

img_0651

We topped off the day by picking up Zeb from his house ten minutes away then going to Cafe Rio, where we met my fabulous co-worker, Velda 🙂 We were having so much fun that they practically closed the place down around us. As we said our goodbyes, CJ and Velda traded some Pokémon.

What a glorious kick-off to our almost-a-week of vacationing with our progeny.