People are amazing

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending my first day of the season on the slopes. I’m an avid snowboarder, heading up to the hill as often as I can each year. I didn’t waste any time this season and got myself up to Hunter Mountain in New York as soon as I was able.

We decided to get a slope-side condo for the night before so that we could be there as soon as the lifts opened. Hunter is a four hour drive for me, so it made sense.

The trek up I-87 was a tough one. I got caught in the storm that just wouldn’t stop. My windshield kept freezing over and I could only cruise at a steady 45 mph. It took a while, but as I exited the highway, my excitement climbed through the roof. I didn’t care how long it would take, I would get there.

A buddy of mine was meeting me there and was about 30 miles behind me. What I didn’t realize was that in the time it would take to go 30 miles, the storm would make the roads unusable. As much as he tried (and I mean really tried), there was no way that he was going to make it through the gorge the led to the mountain. After a few hours of chasing salting trucks and plows, he gave up, and got a motel somewhere in town, leaving me to my own devices in this slope-side condo.

I woke up as early as I could and headed out on my own. I was standing at the lift when they powered it on, and got up to the top before anyone else had a chance to ride the 14 inches of fresh snow we had received the night before. It was a gift from mother nature.

Instead of heading straight for the Black Diamonds like I usually do, I decided to take a long Blue that wrapped around the side of the mountain. I was the only one on it. Freshly groomed and wide open; it was the best first run that I ever could have asked for.

When I reached the bottom, I decided to take a little break. A bit winded and overly excited, I just wanted to take my time, and take it all in.

That’s when I met Robert.

Robert and I started a conversation about nothing. It was one of those conversations that you have with a total stranger that is polite, but excited about the moment. It stood out as pleasant, and the conversation moved smoothy. He invited me to join him and his lady on their next run. I was there alone, and he was being polite.

On the lift I told him about how my buddy didn’t make it up, and how I was considering spending another night because my car was snowed in, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to make the ride home. We talked about work. We talked about kids.

This was when Robert taught me something about humanity. As we approached the top of the mountain, he casually said, “you should stay in my room. I have a room for the week, but I have to leave for the night, and I’ll be back on Tuesday.” Having known Robert for a full 8 minutes, I was already able to tell that he wasn’t kidding. This complete stranger had offered up, out of complete kindness, a free hotel room for the night. For no reason other than he had met a nice guy on the slopes.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s not something that I would do. Maybe I’ve spent too much time living in the city, or maybe I’m more jaded than I thought I was. But offering a complete stranger your open hotel room for the night is not something that I would ever imagine doing. But he did it. Robert taught me a lesson.

We went our separate ways after two runs, and exchanged phone numbers. Two hours later, I got a text from him that he had left a key for me at the front desk. I didn’t really know how to thank him. So I gave him words:

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After the day was done, I realized that I really couldn’t take him up on his offer. The snow had melted a bit and the roads were clear. I had no reason to not try and make it home:

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I’m still speechless about the  whole thing. I want to be nicer in life. I want to help complete strangers. How do I pay this forward?

4 years ago, today.

We woke up early that morning. Earlier than we needed to. Nerves, wonder, fear, and raw emotion pulled us out of bed. We drank our coffee without tasting it. We pulled our shirts over our tired heads and we got into the car.

Once we got to the hospital, it felt like an eternity rolled into a single minute. Each tick of the second hand echoed loudly in the brightly lit room, and we knew that the pace of the day was set. It wasn’t long before the nurse called her name, and we all jumped to our feet. We jumped to attention.

The surgery could take as long as 9 hours, we were told. They were going to try to get it all, but there were no guarantees. It’s a delicate surgery, and there’s just no telling what complications they may run into.

And then they wheeled her off. She waved goodbye, and none of us tried to choke down our tears. “Mom”, I whispered. “See you on the other side.”

There’s no telling how long we were in there. There’s no way to recount the thoughts that ran through our heads. I can’t tell you how quickly time passed, or how slowly. I can’t tell you if it was hard or trying or a breeze. All that I can tell you is that I don’t remember a single moment from those hours until we were met by the surgeon.

“We did well,” She tells us. “We got most of it, and she is in recovery now.”

For all intents and purposes, the surgery was a success. They were able to remove the band of malignant tumor that spanned her peritoneum. They removed organs and tissue. They removed anxiety and fear.

“She’s going to have quite a long road ahead of her,” she said “I’m expecting chemo to be unpleasant, and it’s not clear how well she’ll react to the treatment. Now that we’ve removed such a large mass, we can expect that she’ll live a few more years.”

A few more years, she told us. Only a few more years.

When we found her in the recovery room, completely stoned, Mom said with all of her might “I knew I’d see you on the other side!” At that point, she still didn’t know if she had survived the surgery. Either way, she was the happiest that she had ever been. In that moment, she was with her family. She was home.

The following weeks were painful. Those painful weeks tuned into painful months. Chemo sucked. There is no break from chemo when it’s running through your body. There’s no break from yourself on chemo. We kept waiting for the low point, but each passing week, each passing treatment, was worse than the one before it.

Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. Those moments were dark ones, but like all dark moments, they’ve now passed.

The following few years, up until now, have been seeded with wins and losses. Cancer leaves and cancer returns. An amazing attitude, a default to optimism, and an incredible support system lead the way through the darkness. Mom has found herself. She has started to do less work and more soul searching. She follows her passions. She marries people. She buries people. She is a thought leader. She has come into her own. She travels. She laughs. She writes. She looks to the future as if the past doesn’t exist. She knows that her moments will create new moments.

She embraces life because life is precious. She excels at living in a way that none of us can comprehend.

4 years ago today she was wheeled away by the nurse. 4 years ago today we were told that she only had a few years. 4 is more than a few, and we are truly lucky.

Each moment that we have together is important. It’s so easy to take life for granted until you are faced with your own mortality. It’s easy to take your family for granted.

I’ve learned a lot from Mom about how to be alive. Moments are precious and if you don’t seize them, they leave you. If you don’t cherish them, they’re lost.

Being positive through the negative is important. If you’re not smiling, no one will know to smile with you. If you’re not bringing all of your passion to what you do, you’re not doing it right.

Mom has taught me that life is a privilege. Mom has taught me to speak my mind. To hug when I want to hug. Drink when I want to drink. Dance when I want to dance.

The world is better because of Mom and we’re all lucky to have her. I continue to learn from her. I continue to learn with her, each and every day.

Here’s to many more years of living the dream. L’chaim!

Support is Sexy

Since I began my job in March, I’ve had a hard time calling myself support. It isn’t that I don’t feel like support is an honorable job, because it is. It’s more that I feel like I do so much more than support our users. I do everything from training our new employees, to creating and editing both internal and external documentation, and even what amounts to business consulting over live-chat to help some of our users build the best web presence that they can have. Something about using the word support has always felt a little. . . a little less than what I do.

Maybe it’s a personal hang-up, but I’ve been the Director of Sales and Marketing for various organizations and a successful business owner. I never once thought of what I did as support. I trained support. I helped support do their job. I’ve just never really thought of what I did as support, until last weekend.

On October 18th, I attended a conference called UserConf, which has really changed the way that I see myself and what I do. This was a conference for a new breed of support. The modern breed of kick-ass, hard-working, super-smart, super-dedicated, and amazing support. These are the people that take start-ups and make them trustworthy. These are the people that you reach on the other end of the line, or email, or chat box, or twitter. These are the people writing the documentation to use their products. They are recording the videos, driving the product with suggestions, and helping you (with complete empathy) to change the world one pixel at a time. These are my people.

UserConf was more about the how of support and less about the why, with the exception of one presentation by Rich White of UserVoice. Rich touched on how acquiring users is no longer the road to success. It’s retaining users, and growing them, that holds the key. It’s showing real people that you are real. That you are trustworthy, helpful, empathetic, passionate, and in control. The only way that your start-up will set itself ahead of the pack is by providing the best customer experience. Loyalty drives us, and without support, we are nothing.

All of this is to say that I’m mighty proud of what I do. Just because I couldn’t previously accept the word support for what it is, doesn’t mean that I don’t identify as support. This word has taken on new meaning for me, and it’s a positive switch.

I’m passionate about helping WordPress.com users be the best that they can be. I’m proud to be a Happiness Engineer. I’m proud to call myself support.

Going Home

Since I was a kid, I’ve paid homage to a special place that I call home. This is a place that no matter where I am in life, I have the opportunity to step back. I have the ability to take a break from reality, relax, disconnect, and enjoy the things that are most important to me; without distraction.

At home, we don’t worry about the clothes we’re wearing, where we’re going to sleep, what we’re going to eat, or how strong the internet connection is. At home, we don’t worry about saying silly things, drinking too much, or offending our neighbors. At home, we listen to music loudly. We dance. We sleep. We relax. We spend time with family, friends, and people we’re about to know. At home, we’re at peace.

At home, we spend our time outdoors. We stay up late and wake up early. At home, we need no introductions because everyone there is the closest friend that you’ve never met. At home, we build community. We work for our food, and we share in the responsibility of making home, home.

At home, everything is communal. We laugh. We sing. We play our guitars and our drums until there are no hours left in the night. At home, we’re comfortable with who we are. At home, we’re all equal.

There is no email. There are no deadlines. Time seems to stand still as if a moment was supposed to last forever. Memories are made. Love happens.

At home, I’m me. I’m not dictated by a schedule. I’m not connected to the internet. I move slowly, and I take my time. I drink beer. I play games. I show my kids what it’s like to exist without creature comforts. I’m happy. The world is perfect.

I couldn’t exist without home. It’s taught me to be humble. It’s taught me to be patient, to work hard, to listen, and to take my time. Home has taught me to relax and to truly be myself, regardless of what others may think. Home is where my heart is. And I’m better because of it.

 

I’m ignoring my kids to write this

My world is about communication. There are tweets, emails, work notifications, chat rooms, Skype, Facebook, and any other ping, beep, bloop, or ding that you can imagine.

With so much to interact with virtually, I often find myself not interacting physically. This is a problem.

It’s our duty to be in the present. To be physically and mentally in our space and to enjoy the moments that we have. It’s wrong to be so completely tied into the digital that you miss things that are happening around you. This is something that I need to work on.

Between friends, family, work, and fun, it’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to forget where you are and what you’re doing.

On a larger note, I wonder how many of us do this. Even though we may just be stealing a few moments here and there to CHECK ALL THE THINGS, what effect does it have?

What are we teaching our kids?

If we’re so into many things at all times, what are we missing in the here and now?

How much attention can we really give to what’s important if we’re in a constant state of multitasking?