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.

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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!

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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.

Reading Animal Signs

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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:

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  • 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.

Proms, Grads, and Life – Our Week

I am sooooo behind on my blog reading and writing, and I miss you all! But it’s temporary and for a good cause. We have some really fun stuff going on in life. I’ll do a brief summary  of our past week here, then will post lots of pics in the future when I get more time. Consider these teasers…

In the past week we:

Enjoyed watching Hudi and his buddies get ready for the prom. They had a great time.

We enjoyed having Zeb’s girlfriend’s family stay with us for graduation weekend.

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We got to see the girls in our lives graduate (so proud of them)!

We met Lauren’s extended family. I didn’t take any pics during that fabulous meal, but it was really fun.

We took a load of stuff to our new-to-us home with Mom (no pic of that, either).

We went to Connecticut, where we saw some great friends and family, I got to see Kurt’s horse, and Chris sold a few mobiles.

We came home and finished filling out paperwork for college stuff for Zeb and Hudi.

We ran our local WordPress meetup, and got to hear a great talk on Search Engine Optimization from CJ. Although he lives in Utah, he’s home visiting for a few weeks.

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Also, I’m on a work rotation so I’m learning lots of great stuff about Jetpack and Akismet.

Here’s one of my favorite moments from the week. Love to see my boys together again and goofing around. You can’t see it well, but they were posing to show off their geek-belts. Zeb highlighted Pokemon while Hudi sported Legend of Zelda, and CJ had his piano keys:

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That’s why I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog-world. All great stuff, though, eh? What have you been up to? I guess I can find that out for myself, and hope to be catching up on my blogs soon, but feel free to tell me, anyway, in the comments 🙂