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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Living Learning Update November 07, 2017 at 06:23PM

via Instagram Our new NJ home for the next week at Turkey Swamp Campground #livinglearningmobile

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Roadside Repair

So much to write about after spending the past 10 days on a Hawaiian adventure,  but today  I’m going to skip past all that and  write briefly about how impressed I was with how Craig handled our first truly mechanical breakdown ‘on the road”.   With the exception of the flat tire on the tow dolly, this is the first time we’ve had the “Oh Crap” moment while driving the BlueBird.  It started with a cling cling cling in the engine area while we were climbing up the Kumewaay Highway about 20 miles before Alpine, California.

Craig quickly pulled the bus over onto the shoulder.  I climbed out and could clearly hear the clinging coming from the front grill.  When I got back into the bus, Craig had the doghouse opened and it was steaming!

I knew there was not much I could do but stay out of the way as he pulled out the toolbox and went to work!  I was totally amazed.  I was worried that he would burn himself as I watched the steam float to the ceiling.  I almost brought him a T-shirt so he didn’t ruin his new Hawaiian shirt, but decided against it.    Instead I brought him some paper towel to wipe off the sweat dripping from his brow.  He was grunting and groaning as he removed parts and tried to get into contorted positions that this repair required.  An hour or so later,  he explained to me that a bolt had broken that secured the alternator.  He was able to successfully retrieve the broken part and create a makeshift mechanism to hold the Alternator back in place from an Allen Wrench without interfering with any of the other working parts of the engine and fan!  

To me it was nothing short of Magic!  
How did he  even know where to look to find the problem?   
How did he think of a solution?  
How did he feel empowered enough to feel confident that his solution would hold well enough for us to drive away and not do more damage!  

Craig had said many times - that if the engine blew on the bus, that would probably be the end of the bus, since the  repair cost would be more than the cost of the bus. So I knew this was a high stakes repair.

Craig has also said many times - the bus is his maker project!  I’ve seen him tinker on this project or that project from fixing the water pump to designing a solar system for the roof of the bus.   But none of these jobs had been on the side of the road with vehicles whizzing by and none of them had happened at a point of physical exhaustion after a sleepless night.  We had just taken a red-eye from Hawaii and driven 100 miles in the jeep to retrieve the Bus from the long term storage area in Holtville (our last camping venue).

Well after our impromptu 2 hour repair project,  we pulled back on the highway.  By then it was obvious that darkness would soon be upon us, so we decided to forego our plans to arrive at our Oceanside Campsite and pulled into  the Veijas Casino and resort in Alpine, California about 20 miles down the road. (Yeah for free parking!)   This amazing man  got what he needed next -- a big hunk of prime rib, a tall beer, and a good nights sleep!

All I could think of is “I have married the most amazing man! You are my super hero!"
I have always known Craig to be a very capable patient man.  But I have often wondered what would happen if we got into a situation like this!  Well if this was a test - Craig passed with flying colors!

The bus is now snuggly parked in Guajorne County Park in  Oceanside, California AND we have electric hook-ups  for the first time since we left Tucson over two months ago.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Connecting with Today

I can’t believe it’s  been two months since I’ve written an entry in our travel blog.  Actually I’ve written several entries  (in my head)  but circumstances have not been conducive to getting them out on the blog.   This morning,  I’m feeling compelled to break the pattern of writing blog posts in my head, and get my thoughts out on ‘digital’ paper.

I’m afraid that that my thoughts are a bouncing all over the place this morning.  Hoping that writing a bit will help ground me today.  

The bus is parked in Quartizite, Arizona with a bunch of its cousins (we’re at a convergence of  other Bluebird owners).   

The hum of our generator makes it feel a bit like a truckstop, but looking out the window it’s easy to tell we’re at a Wanderlodge owners rally.   There are about 50 or so other Bluebirds circling the communal fire pit in the first row and a second row of Bluebirds has started as new arrivals trickle in.  This is the  second  time at the annual Bluebird rally at “Q”  (Quartizite); we were here last year for the 10th anniversary.

Craig has taken his morning coffee to join the huddle of men that have gathered by the firepit.  It feels like this is where all the big decisions that will shape the day will be made.  The lack of women is noticeably obvious.  

The silly side of me wondered if all the women were off ‘marching’.    (Today, in Washington, and around the world, women are marching in protest and solidarity - on the first full day of Trump’s presidency).

I can’t help but wonder who that SMART woman was that thought of the timing of this strategic move.  Redirecting some of the press cameras away from our new president on his first full day in office - even for a bit -- reminding him about the impact that 50% of the population can have!

Feeling a bit isolated by the lack of like minded colleagues  around me  and a bit jealous of the millions of women who are surrounded by their sisters today.   The Bluebird Rally  is certainly a ‘man’s event’.  Whether it be the “men’s tech talk”  or the caravan of jeeps who will take the 60 mile off road trip to the Desert Bar, the daily schedule is planned by men for men.    It’s okay;  men as well as women are entitled to plan events that revolve around their needs.   I’m not sure why,  but I’m not feeling inspired to join the “women’s morning walk”  or “women’s craft time” this morning.

Perhaps it’s because  the reality of the day - first day with our new president is one that makes it impossible to avoid thinking about.  I’m not going to get political here and will instead just note it as fact.  We have a new president.   The future feels uncertain.  Trying to be hopeful that the power is in the people.  But don’t want to bury my head in the sand either!

Maybe part of this blog post is similar to Ferdi Serim making this Facebook post.  

Thinking about the many old journal’s and diaries with entries like
Temperature  54 degrees.. Price of milk  $2.89 a gallon

What is it that I would put as a measure of what today was like?
What quantifiable?   

One optimistic indicator I could record is our solar energy use!

Craig just  joyfully announced that our solar panels are generating 300 watts right now-- an all time high.  Definitely indicating that the recent redesign he made to allow the 4 panels on the top of the bus to tilt is working much better than the previous design (where the goat rail and the storage pods shadows were challenging our ability to generate optimal energy)

Craig has a new strategy of running the generator in the morning instead of at night to recharge the batteries  to about 80 percent (which will happen more quickly and efficiently in the morning at the point where the batteries are the most discharged).  

Craig is an amazingly talented man who loves to figure out things like optimizing solar energy use or optimizing our bandwidth availability.  He’s constantly tweaking things to make life on the road work for us.  Since we are both working from the road -- these are important indicators for us!   Without  bandwidth I couldn’t be able to meet my daily responsibilities as an online teacher  and Craig wouldn’t be able to keep systems at his school running remotely.

So… the beginning of this 3 week period boondocking in the desert has me worried a bit.  It’s going to warrant strategic use of our ‘bandwidth’ as well as increased awareness of our use of electricity and water.    I suppose its good for us as humans to experience a lack of abundance and to work on conserving!  But it does feel a bit like being on a ‘diet’ -- planning our daily allocation!  Dieting (whether it be food, energy, and bandwidth)  tends to put me in a more fragile mood.    And perhaps the fact that  I’m dieting in all three of those domains right now is contributing to my strange mood today.

I miss the free flow of seeing my family and friends whenever I want, and having to do ‘binge visits’ to see the grandkids  like my recent two week  visit back east.   But I’m also thankful to have an amazing life partner who brings me on new adventures and causes me to stretch and grow.