Writing Buddies

Chrissie and Linda Stanek

In my last post I was highlighting a beautiful wedding in Ohio. The next day was incredibly awesome as well. That was the day Chris and I got together with one of my favorite children’s books authors and her husband. Okay, I might be a little prejudiced. She has been my writing partner and friend for over 15 years, but seriously, her writing is amazing. It was such a treat to spend time with her. This visit was the second time I had met her in person, the first time I met her husband, Ken, and it was the first time she met Chris.

Since they were only about a half hour from our hotel, we decided to meet at a restaurant for lunch and then figure out the day. Lunch went way too fast, and we were really enjoying talking with each other so we relocated to their house. It is a lovely dwelling that feels open and cozy at the same time. I would love writing in that environment.

To my delight, Linda has a passion for cats. She often fosters pregnant feral cats as a hobby. I had fallen in love with her last batch of kittens from her posts on Facebook and was hoping to get a chance to meet them. Unfortunately, I just missed them, and they had moved on to find forever homes by the time I got there. However, she did have four other cats of her own. We sat and talked with each other all afternoon, and the cats casually strolled in and out amongst us, stopping for occasional pets — as cats do.  

Linda has written several books and lots of articles, but I have a favorite. It’s called Night Creepers, and I just love science in it. So much so that I asked to purchase a copy for my granddaughter, who is due in early August. Not only did Linda agree to let me have a copy, but she gave it as a gift, signed it, and also gave me some of the other books she and another writing partner of ours (Jen Funk Weber) had written. Is that an amazing friend or what?

Books by Linda and Jen

Perhaps you remember Jen. I wrote about time with her on Marco Island a few years ago.

Back then I had written:

Once upon a time, about 13 years ago, I was an aspiring children’s book writer. On my journey through the world of writing and publishing, I discovered some of the best friends a person could have. It all began on a forum.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: SCBWI forum to be exact.

In the huge, international world of writers, by some random quirk of fate, six of us found each other, and we’ve been close friends and critique partners ever since. Linda Stanek lives in Ohio, Jen Funk Weber lives in Alaska, Linda Covella (we call her Elsie to differentiate her from the other Linda) lives in California, Dale Ibitz lives in Connecticut, Mary Beth Schewitz jumps between Chicago and Florida, and I jump between northern and western NY.

A group does make one stronger. In writing and real life. …

It is such a blessing to me to see how our group has stuck together over the years. It’s true that now we only communicate a few times a year, but we are there for each other always. Case in point – the visit to Linda and Ken’s lovely home.

The afternoon mimicked lunch — it flew by. Ken is super interesting. He was a crew chief for the Goodyear Blimp and had lots of interesting stories to tell. Who knew that when I was a kid watching the blimp on TV as it hovered over Super Bowls and Olympics, a future friend was on board? Life is funny that way.

I remember hearing about Linda meeting Ken — she was writing an article about blimps. It was really fun to see the article she wrote for Highlights for Children framed on the wall in her office. (Fun fact: That magazine once paid me for one of my articles, but it’s been over 10 years, and as far as I know, still hasn’t been printed. If you see an article on Edvard Grieg written by Christine Pollock, let me know 😉 ).

blimp article

We chatted the day away – talked about life in general, travels, dreams, writing, art, school talks, public speaking in general — all sorts of stuff. They shared a curio cabinet with us, and I really loved how they collected soil from different places that were special to them. It added a lot as we heard stories about the places. Ken also shared stories and interesting details about the model planes he built.

When we got hungry we headed out for a yummy meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant then still couldn’t finish the day off. Back to their house for more talking. Finally we hit a point where we had to reluctantly say goodbye and get back to the hotel since we had to head home to NY the next day.

That day was a day I will treasure for long time, and I hope we all get to visit together again sometime soon.

** Bonus note – our writing buddy, Linda Covella (the only one in our group I haven’t met in person) recently got an recognized for some of her work:

Linda Covellas book

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.

Travels

Day 30/30 –  On this final day of the month of November, I am reminiscing and am thankful for our travels. This year Chris and I said we wanted to travel to 25 places in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. This left us with lots of happy memories I’m so thankful for. I will do a full writeup at some point on my other site, but for now here are some of my favorite memories:

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  • For November (the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US), I’m trying to blog about something for which I’m thankful for each day of the month.

Ducks at Dusk

Duck

Day 5/30 – Today I’m thankful for summer memories which include visuals of ducks at dusk. Especially when I get to observe them in the quiet company of some of my favorite friends.

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  • * For November (the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US), I’m trying to blog about something for which I’m thankful for each day of the month

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!