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.

 

SEO Presentation

On July 19, 2013 I gave a presentation about SEO to the Asbury Park, NJ WordPress Meetup group, hosted at Cowerks. (I’ve actually been working out of Coweks for the last two weeks. If you ever need a coworking space while at the Jersey Shore, this is it.) It was a ton of fun.

Here are the slides, for your viewing pleasure:

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Edit: A similar presentation was also given at the Philly WordPress Meetup on July 23, 2013. (I feel like I’m on tour.)