Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Go West... Bella!

Time to head west! We gassed up and made it from  New Jersey to Colorado in a little under a week.   We spent 1823 miles mostly on I-70.  We even decided to suck up the $113 tolls through Pennsylvania.

Craig drove 300+ mile days, and I worked from my mobile office - the passenger side of the bus.  Every once in a while I’d go sit on the couch for a change of scenery.  Craig has a great wifi setup inside so I get pretty much uninterrupted service as we bounce  from cell tower to cell tower.   Cell service is one of our biggest expenses from the road running us almost $400 a month for our phones and Internet.  But since we work from the road,  it’s definitely a must have. We have both AT&T  and Verizon for redundancy!  I’d say we mostly use Verizon, but for those times that Verizon is not available,  the AT & T backup keeps me from getting grouchy.

In one of my online meetings last week,  my colleague commented “I don’t really know what your lifestyle looks like. It’s hard for me to imagine.”  

I responded.  “Well this week is not really that glamorous.  It’s probably pretty much like yours - long work days, except that the view from my office changes as we move from state to state.  And sometimes the roar of the engine can make it hard to hear on a video or phone meeting.

I don’t have a water cooler to go hangout at when I need a break,  and don’t have much square footage to walk about and stretch.   I’m trying to remember to drink more water and stretch a bit when we stop to fill up our 200 gallon gas tank.    Our credit card company gets a bit nervous when they see $300 charges at a gas station.   

I sometimes feel that Craig must get lonely driving when I get into my work flow.   What type of work?   As a freelance educator, it changes.   This  week I spent most of my days either
-- working with my University of Vermont students this semester on Universal Design for Learning
-- working with my Marlboro College students this semester on Maker Centered Learning
-- working with  Tarrant Institute on the EMMA project (moving conversations about #makered forward in rural  Vermont schools)
-- working on my  various Create Make Learn projects
-- and a few other freelance projects.

One of the highlights of my week was getting text messages from  the new maker space  at Burke School as they were building  wind tubes as part of  a student leadership day  that I helped design.   

It was not quite the same as being there,  but today's technology does allow me to stay engaged with the #vted community as I travel around the country looking for new ideas and inspirations to support students and teachers.  Between Google Apps,  email,  chat,  text, and video conferencing,  I hardly feel the difference in time zones.

I was a little nervous about teaching my  Innovations in Education: Maker- Centered Learning class as a Marlboro College course online, but it has actually been a blast watching the tight sense of community form between this cadre of grad students as they create, make, and learn  miles apart from each other.

Craig reminded me to look up and enjoy the view every once in a while, and pointed out when we crossed state lines or changed time zones.

I decided to take little breaks and grab some footage to the view from my office window,  through the eyes of my 3 little dashboard companions.

As it gets closer to dinner time each day, I use an App called ALL STAYS to find a place that we can park the bus for the night and get some dinner.   The first night we snuggled BELLA between two trucks at a Rest Area, then truck stops, followed by an overnight at Walmart.

Overnight Tuesday  - Rest Area in Pennsylvania

Overnight Wednesday  Truck Stop in Indiana

Overnight Thursday - Truck Stop in Missouri

Overnight Friday - Walmart in Kansas

Friday night's entertainment -  a walk around Walmart!

One the last night, we found the very tiny Shady Grove Campground in a very tiny Colorado town called Seilbert (population 216).  We took a SHORT walk through town and spotted a small grocery store,  a post office, a wellness clinic, and some grain elevators.  Oh and a phone booth;  I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those!

Our overnight at Shady Grove Campground allowed us to dump and fill our tanks  before we changed over to street camping in Colorado for the next week or so.  With our Passport America discount, this cost us a whole $15! Craig remembered staying here when he was traveling with his dad, years ago.

On the sixth day we made it to Denver

Within a few minutes we were at our destination in Broomfield Colorado for a week of street camping right in front of  Warren and Allison’s house. The last time Craig had seen his son was last year at the same time;  so  he was smiling big time when we arrived.  

The first order of business was to move the Heady Topper and Citizen Cider that we had kept cold since it had left Vermont - over two weeks ago.  
It’s not the first time our children have asked us to babysit the beer and make sure it does not go down below temperature.  Who knew Vermont beer would become such a precious commodity!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Visiting our kids in the city

We’re on our way west!  We’re about 300 miles into our 3rd westward journey in the bus after spending a fantastic week in the greater NYC area visiting our children and celebrating our birthdays.

We arrived at Turkey Swamp Campground and were reminded how beautiful a campground it is -- definitely doesn’t match the name!   We enjoyed the colorful autumn leaves as we spent our first day decompressing from the busy weeks leading up to your journey west.  It felt so great to not have any meetings, commitments, or MUST DO today list.

The next day Craig decided to brave the drive into Brooklyn - which turned out to not be that bad (except for almost $50 in tolls round trip).  

We arrived just in time to see the twins head off to set up for their evening performance.

This gave us some quality time for a dinner out with the most wonderful daughter in laws a mom could hope for.

We arrived at the Shape Shifters Lounge in time to get some great first row seats for the live performance that Mimi and the Podd Brothers  where videographers and sound engineers were setting up to capture media for their upcoming album.  Despite the professional engineers doing their job,  I did capture a few pictures  and videos with my phone!  

I couldn't help but record the whole duet by Adam and Matt on the piano and add it to my collection of  my boys piano duets!

I’ll definitely update the blog  when their album goes live  -- or at least when they start to release some of tonights performance pieces.  You can follow along at #mimijazz  or at or

The next day included quality time with all 4 of the Brooklyn tribe before we grabbed the subway into Manhattan to treat ourselves to Beautiful - the Carole King musical on Broadway as a birthday present to each other!   The show was fantastic!  

After treating my boys to a home cooked breakfast in Adam’s apartment,  Craig and I returned home to Turkey Swamp, where we were scheduled to spend some time with Maggie and Peter.

Unfortunately I came down with a wicked cold, and spent the next day in bed while Craig got to spend some time with his daugher  and son in law before catching yet another theater piece - The Importance of Being Earnest at the Twin Rivers Theater.   It was the perfect show for him to see his daughter’s talent at work - as costumer for the show.

Thankfully Maggie had the next day off, and came down to the campground for a visit - so I got to see her, too!  

Then before we knew it the week had flown by, and it was time to hit the road for our journey west!

We decided to suck up the $$$ worth of tolls and ventured out on I - 70.

After spending a night snuggled in between the trucks at a rest area,  we’re back on the highway!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fall Breakfast in Turkey Swamp

via Instagram

Enjoying breakfast with a great autumn view at Turkey Swamp campground this morning
Thankful to have a campground within an hour of Maggie and Peter's place.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On the Road Again - Year 5

Has it really been 5 years since we gave up the apartment!

As we get ready to make another loop out of Vermont on our living learning mobile journey,  I'm reflecting on how it all feels a lot more -  now that I've been doing it for a few years.  I have a lot more data points to work with this time around, so   I've decided that I would try blogging more regularly,  process more,  share more.   Perhaps shorter posts, but more frequently.

Our last couple weeks in Vermont had us trying to tie up loose ends on lots of projects, so it was quite busy.  Leaving makes you feel like you need to get all your ducks in order - no more procrastinating on this or that!    As Mallets Bay Campground closes on October 15, we moved  over to Shelburne Camping Area  for a few weeks.    

Craig has been working on preparing the bus for our journey west, supporting me with my projects, and  practicing naps since his retirement (September 20)!

During our last week in Vermont, a wind storm made its way through Vermont and left us without power for 3 days.  This gave us a chance to test the Generator.  The power came back on just as we left for 3 days to network with colleagues at our annual Vermont ed tech conference!

I facilitated three conversations about Maker spaces in schools on Thursday;  Craig lead a conversation on Risk, Facebook, and FUD in the world of school IT departments; and on the last day,  I convinced some of my tribe to set up a POP UP maker space to fill a few last minute cancellations at the conference.

Exhausted but energized, we drove back to our campsite where Craig found an old friend from high school parked next to our bus!   They reunited while Craig did laundry and packed up the bus for departure.  Meanwhile I spent a good HARD long day organizing and packing EMMA away into her winter home.  For those who don’t know  - EMMA is my mobile studio for creating and making.

It was pretty emotional,  since I had just come back from a morning brunch with my sisters and my mom and an afternoon visit with these precious grandkids .

We started our tour with a short 180 mile day to the Walmart in Cobbleskills, NY  so we could pick up some packages from Allison’s family and deliver them when we arrive in Denver later this month.

We were treated to an amazing home cooked meal and great company at Sally and Lon’s new home.   Even got to meet their alpacas.

And tonight we’re tucked into our new home for the week - Turkey Swamp Campground  - a very nice New Jersey Campground which is driving distance to our kids in Brooklyn and New Jersey.   Looking forward to some decompressing as we switch gears and to some quality family time with our kids before we head west.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Visiting Hawaii Part 1

Our recent visit to Hawaii was absolutely amazing, possibly transformative, and a  just in time opportunity.   For a few years now,  we had considered the possibility of visiting Hawaii, and since the concept of “vacation’  is not one that comes easy to me, I have been keeping an eye out for work related opportunities in Hawaii.  

Thus I was quick to notice when a fellow Google Certified Trainer/Educator, Michael Fricano announced a call for proposals to present at the 2017  IGNITE Innovation Conference.

A quick look at our calendar revealed that these dates might work for us, and I submitted a few possible workshop ideas.  As soon as the conference  committee accepted my proposal, Design Thinking and Computational Thinking with Makey Makey, I started to plan our trip.

Since much of my focus lately has been around maker centered learning,  I started to search for makerspaces and schools that were interested in making as a way of learning on Oahu.   What I found was a very welcoming group of educators who allowed me to truly understand that ALOHA  was so much more than a greeting!   According to Hawaiian culture expert, Peter Apo
Aloha has emerged as a Hawaiian cultural concept that functions as a prism through which all other behavioral values that govern relationships are refracted .

Aloha, while having many manifestations, essentially is an unconditional extension of love, trust, and friendship giving the benefit of the doubt to the receiver. It is a particularly magnanimous cultural act in it’s intimacy as a personal greeting that is routinely extended to strangers which sets aside personal boundaries and welcomes the receiver into one’s personal space.   ~ Hawaiian Values and the Workplace

I had no idea that I was about to experience the most amazing feeling of Aloha - especially the part where my hosts would welcome us in their personal spaces!  The sense of welcome continues to fill me, back on the mainland, in a way that I can’t quite describe.  I feel that something transformational happened to me during this visit!  

And part of that  transformation was most probably due to the Hawaiian value of ALAKA‘I— the value of leadership. According to leadership coach, Rosa Say
ALAKAI is demonstrated when you “Lead with initiative, and with your good example. You shall be the guide for others when you have gained their trust and respect.” ~ Managing with Aloha
Throughout our visit we were to be introduced to amazing examples of leadership that earned our respect with their standards of excellence that exuded Hawaiian cultural values
-- values that I had not yet read about
-- values that I got to know by experiencing them
-- values that I found myself wanting to know more about

And since my visit to Hawaii I’ve been reading more about these Hawaiian values to better understand what I experienced during our recent visit.

Perhaps because I’m in the middle of teaching my University of Vermont course on Ed Tech Leadership..
Perhaps because I’m struggling with the divisive political culture of our nation...
Perhaps because I’m in a personal inquiry of how to balance my many passions in this stage of  my life/career...

Whatever the reason… I feel that this trip to Hawaii was a transformational ‘just in time’ experience.

It will probably take me a few blog posts to digest and reflect  on our visits to

  • Iolani School where maker-educators Michael Fricano and Matt Dillon lead us on tours of the maker spaces at both the elementary school and the high school
  • Kailua Elementary School where ed tech leader, Greg Kent, gave us a tour of his classroom/maker space and the gardens surrounding the school providing numerous opportunities of problem finding that a school makerspace can support

  • Oahu Makerspace where residential maker, Ross Mulai,  shared his expertise as he lead us around a community makerspace located in the industrial section of Honolulu near the airport

  • Numerous eateries and the most beautiful tourist attractions ranging from the powerful surf in Shark’s Cove of the North Shore  to the colorful fish we found snorkeling in the Hanauma Bay

Shark's Cove

Hanauma Bay

Even though the blog post on each of these visits are in progress,  I’ve been busy applying much of what I’ve learned and experienced to my current work supporting Vermont educators in their own pursuit of excellence in our schools to better serve our students.   In the next few weeks, I’ll be following up with additional blog posts  about the various parts of my learnings from our time in Hawaii.