National Conference of Network Members/Agency Owners Online Marketing

So, I went to another national conference for online marketing business owners/network members a few weekends ago. The conference was held at the Evergreen-Marriott Resort in Stone Mountain, GA. Room rates were reasonable, even better for me because I shared a room with fellow business owner Cecilia Ansola, the food was acceptable and the business owners I met were awesome!

I presented again, this time on Blogging for a Client or yourself. There are many people scared off by blogging, either for their own business or for a client, and I was able to provide a few tips and tricks that would help them along. Then, there were a few that knew there was no way they were going to blog for anyone! and they asked if I was available to contract work to - of course I said Yes.

I met new business owners, connected with some I had met in Las Vegas, and best of all I learned a few new things about keeping myself and my business on track.

My trip to Atlanta/Stone Mountain was strictly business, as was the remainder of my 'tour' through the south. But, I was able to fit in some time with family.

Leaving Stone Mountain on Sunday the 6th, I drove to Homossasa, FL and stayed with Mom at her camper. We spent the entire day, Monday, together...enjoying the scenery, walking the zoo (manatee park), talking and laughing and enjoying each other. Basically, Monday and Tuesday morning were my weekend because I left mid-day Tuesday for Port Orange/Daytona Beach area.

I arrived at my sister-in-law's place in Port Orange on Tuesday afternoon, and she was ready for me! Sweet iced tea, fruit, conversation - yes, she was ready to relax with me. Then came Wednesday. I put my laptop on the breakfast table and started working. I was able to complete a primary research project using my laptop and cell phone, write articles and site content for myself and a client, and enjoy the sunshine through the large windows of Lisa's front room - the occasional strange Florida bird would fly by and distract me for a moment, but it was a nice distraction.

Thursday was fun because Cecilia drove over from Orlando and we spent the day reviewing her businesses and what I could do for her. We reviewed our 2010 plans, helping each other to refine some of the details. I will be writing site content and blog posts for her, while she will be helping me to lose weight (she is a Take Shape for Life coach, having lost and kept off 40 lbs).

Friday was a 'normal' work day spent cleaning up files on my computer, recording notes from the conference, researching a potential market for my online marketing business. That evening was nice because Kevin, Allysa and I went to see Mannheim Steamroller in Daytona Beach. We finished the evening off with terrific Mexican food at their favorite restaurant.

The weekend was fun, too. I took out the laptop for a short time, but decided that because I was traveling Monday I would use Saturday and Sunday to relax and have fun. And I did. Lisa and I drove Kevin to the airport Saturday morning (he had to fly to Taiwan for a day), then we went on to a 'stamping class'. New to me, but I am always so impressed with Lisa's creativity and craftiness that I agreed to the offer - and I had a good time. I don't believe I will become a stamper of her caliber, the woman has as many stamps as I have beads, but I learned a few techniques that I will be using to make personalized greeting cards.

Sunday was spent drinking coffee, talking and getting to know each other, shopping for basic things, and overall just girl stuff - and it was great.

Monday I headed out mid-morning to Birmingham, AL. I was going to spend the night with friends in Alabaster, then meet with a client Tuesday morning, then head home after meeting with the client.

I met Martin at a coffee shop in Hometown (suburb of Birmingham) and we talked about his upcoming product launch via the internet. He's old school advertising and marketing, which means he's very leery of what the internet is all about. I took out my laptop and showed him some details about websites and blogs, advertising, landing pages, etc. He's still very uncertain. After about 3 hours I realized that I had to get back on the road or not be home before midnight. Saying my good-byes to Martin, he handed me samples of his product to try and assurances that he's much closer to putting the online marketing and website into action.

I rolled into our driveway at about 9 p.m. Tuesday the 15th.

I really enjoyed the road trip - it had been almost a year since the last one I had taken and I was getting itchy-foot to hit the road. I was gone for well over a week, but it felt like just a few days...until I parked in our driveway. Then I realized just how good it is to come home.

The trip was successful because I was able to work, pick up a few clients that should start using me by February 2010, and deepen the family and friend connections. It doesn't get much better than this.


Thanksgiving 2009

This year I spent the afternoon and evening at the Kelly house in Clarksville, Indiana. Rick and I decided that going to Warsaw was going to be too much for him to tackle. He's been working 7 days a week, 5 days out of town and at least 1 weekend day on a side job here in town. He's tired. We talked to Mike and Tammy and look forward to seeing them for Christmas.

Then, Rick asks me if I'm okay with him going hunting on Thanksgiving Day. Knowing that he hasn't been hunting but once this season, knowing how much he enjoys being in the woods and contemplating the issues of the day while sitting under a tree, knowing how much he want to fill our freezer, I realized that he would be a better 'Rick' if I let him go. That left me here, at home, wondering what I was going to do with myself on Thanksgiving Day. I had many options available to me, it was just a matter of deciding which one best suited me.

I could stay home - by myself - on a holiday that is best spent eating/dining/sharing with others.

I could serve meals at the local shelter - they put out a list of volunteer needs and I fit a few of them.

I could join a group of travelers and loners at a local club, meet new people, exchange interesting stories.

I could join the family of a fellow Toastmaster - she initiated the invitation to me as soon as she heard that we would be in town.

I could join the Kelly family.

I decided that I would join the Kelly family, at least those that were in town and able to gather at the Kelly house.

The Kelly's have become second family to me, and now to my husband. We've had a key to the house for over 20 years. When we lived in Indianapolis, Mary and Terry would visit with us on weekends. We traveled many times from Indianapolis to Clarksville and spent weekends at the Kelly house.

The house wasn't full this year, but was still warm and cozy. We all acknowledged the absence of Terry (Pop - died in 2008) and Jamie (Brother - died in 2004).

Mary and Erin cooked the meal. Here's Mary putting the finishing touches on the feast and not knowing I snuck a picture of her:

Dallas, Jamie's widow, joined us with her new husband (actually Kenny didn't want to join in the meal). Here Erin is frenchbraiding Dallas' hair for the evening.

Joe Heuser, joined the Marines on the buddy system with Jamie, still a Marine now stationed in Japan.

Kevin Kelly was there, with Buck, a friend and roommate.

Erin Kelly was there with her two children, Maresa and J.A.K. (Joseph Kaiser, called Jack).

We ate. We laughed. We played. Rick was able to join us late in the evening. Though he didn't get a deer, he looked calm and refreshed, so it was a good thing that he went hunting.


It's been an icky few weeks here...

Most of you know that I have Crohn's Disease, and a few of you will be surprised to learn this. Anyway, these past few weeks have been physically draining and I can honestly say - thank goodness I work at home! The hardest part of being physically drained is the mental tiredness that starts to set in.

Since I was first diagnosed in 2000, I have learned how to manage pain through mental diversion and meditation; Rick and I both have learned to be flexible with our traveling schedule, as well as simple things like accepting dinner or outing invitations; I have learned to adjust my daily activities to match my physical abilities; and in general I can handle minor flare-ups without difficulty - minor being relative, of course. Most minor flares last about 2 weeks because additional medications begun within the first few days start to work on my body. This time, though, I found myself taking the additional medications, but not getting relief until well into the 2nd week...meaning I'm just now getting back to feeling full functional.

After the 2nd week of having my body fight internal infection, reject foods other than water, iced tea, toast and potatoes, I'm tired physically. Into the 3rd week and my thinking slows down. Then I take two days to make a decision that should take an hour. Or instead of making 10 phone calls, I'm only able to make 2. Keeping organized is difficult and something I'm going to work on...meaning I'm in search of a different system for keeping my projects for work/clients organized well enough for me to stay on top of everything. I know, difficult request.

I have had a challenging project that I have been working on for almost 4 weeks now. Yep, at the beginning I have a flair, which means I'm going to be squeezing most of the project into this week. *sigh*

So, that's why I haven't updated here - I've been trying to focus on business, clients, blogs for business and additional revenue streams. Obviously not all at once - but one at a time.

Rick has been working out of town, coming home on weekends. He'll be out of town for about a year - and we're both glad of it because the pay scale in Illinois is much higher than here in Louisville and means that the stress of my making more than my initial revenue goal/week is relieved for a bit - which in turn is good because it reduces my stress.

So, that's it for now. My hope is that next week I can post something much more interesting, maybe about how excited my client was after receiving the results of the project he entrusted to me! Until then - be well, take care, and say a short prayer for me please.


Training via Webinar and 3 Things I Learned

On Friday the 30th I gave a training session via webinar to 27 business owners and learned a lot. The training was about Online Reputation Management. Another business owner and myself created the training early this year and presented it in Las Vegas in May to members of a national network - with great success and kudos given from attendees. 
Last month I received an email from the national network, asking if I could provide this same presentation/training via the internet and telephone. Of course I said Yes! Who am I to turn down the opportunity to teach, train and present? Three things I really enjoy about being a business owner.

So, I reviewed the powerpoint file from May and realized how much the internet has changed in these short few months. New statistics are available, new sites have been launched and flocked to, social media is exploding with Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. It is truly an amazing thing to watch because I know that there currently are no limits to what the internet can become.

The powerpoint file needed to be updated, and because the other business owner's name was on it I considered re-doing the entire training module. But after some thought I realized that it was effective in Las Vegas, so why mess with a good thing? I updated statistics, tweaked a few words here and there, and went with it.

During my introduction I made sure to credit the other business owner, mentioning that they are no longer focused on online/internet marketing, but that their expertise in Online Reputation Management was certainly evident in this presentation and that their contribution was invaluable.

The training lasted about 40 minutes and there were many questions afterward - all of which I was able to answer (yay!). Hey, sometimes there's a question that throws me and requires investigation - and yes, I know that "I don't know" is an answer, but I prefer being able to provide something more concrete if possible.

Some things I learned during the training:

  1. I really appreciate having face to face contact with my audience. Because I couldn't see their faces I found myself 'assuming' their reactions as I talked and pointed out things on each slide. It felt awkward because I couldn't respond to a reaction, a noise, a facial expression.
  2. My lower jaw locks up when I get anxious. This was an interesting development and something new. Even in Toastmasters I've not had this happen. But it did on the phone, and it did when I did an interview online via webcam. I felt the locking start about 3 minutes before the training was to begin, and to combat it I stretched my mouth as wide as possible ... repeatedly. This worked initially, but after about 15 minutes I could hear the change in my speak as my lower jaw got tighter and tighter.  I'll be looking for an answer to this in days to come.
  3. Although a webinar training module is supposed to be trainer talk, attendees listen - I like having interaction throughout a training session. I did not like having to answer questions at the end about items that were covered in the beginning. Hmm. The only answer I have for this is to layout the slides in a grid on the screen so everyone can see what the questioner is referring to. I'll have to look into how to do this the next time.
Overall I think I did well. I've not received emails or telephone calls about my performance, but I did speak with the moderator and she told me that she received emails from some attendees that gave good feedback and kudos for my performance. I hope evaluations are sent in because it's the only way I know that I can improve. Constructive criticism is vital to a presenter - it's the only way we can rid ourselves of annoying, distracting and ineffective ways of communicating.


Outlook Error Message: 0x80042109

I know you're asking - what the heck is that? Well, that is the error message I get when I try to send an email using Outlook and my business email address/server.

***Edited to add this solution***

This solution was not provided by a Verizon employee/technician, but by a fellow user on a forum. It appears to work, for now. I say this because there are other messages in the forum that say various solutions were temporary.  Anyway...try this:

  • Outlook 2007 Tools
  • Account Settings
  • Highlight email account to change
  • Select change
  • Change SMTP to read: outgoing.verizon.net
  • Select More Settings
  • Select Outgoing Server
  • Highlight 'Long on using' Radio button
  • Enter your Verizon user name and password
  • Select Ok
  • Test Account Settings - a test email is sent and you will either receive an error message or a notice saying it was completed and your email is now set up.
  • Select Next
  • Select Finish

Today is Thurday, October 29. This started Tuesday, October 27. Until then, I had been sending and receiving emails, doing business, using Outlook as my centralized organization system. Then, boom. I see that emails are stuck in the Outbox. I'm receiving just fine - but can't reply to an email, send to a distribution list, nothing.

I spoke with Verizon via their chat option. Using my desktop I was able to chat with the technician while she looked at my settings in Outlook on my laptop.  All settings were good, but she couldn't get it to work. We changed my outgoing SMTP to outgoing.verizon.net and it was not good! Changed the ports from 25 to 587 and it was no good! She then told me that Verizon does not support Outlook, that I would have to contact their Verizon DSL technical support, a pay for service. I don't think so!

I spoke with my hosting company. What a fabulous group of people they are - responsive, courteous, helpful. But everything on their end was good...so that meant it was either Outlook itself or Verizon.

I reloaded Outlook using my original installation disc. Problem still there!

I checked out Verizon's customer forums and found a litany of messages from irate customers who cannot send email using their 3rd party addresses.  That means no business can send an email while using VerizonDSL as their ISP! Holy crap!

Verizon support, locally, is fabulous. And their front line people are quite good. Just don't ask for assistance for anything more difficult than the basics of setting up a phone account.

VerizonDSL support is handled by technically adept people who don't speak English very well. I have encountered a few different accents, but haven't truly been able to communicate with anyone well enough to make them understand that this is a VerizonDSL issue - not my Outlook!

I wish I had a choice. VerizonDSL is the only high speed internet provider in my area. Heck, they came here in June of 2008 - so before that I was using dial-up and an unstable wireless system provided by my local town.

So, now here I sit. I can use my web-based program to send emails out - but can't use my contact list, address book, reply to existing emails, etc. I've just increased my work load and am not happy about it.

My hope is that there are others in this predicament willing to Twitter, Facebook, etc. about this issue and shame VerizonDSL (a company all about communication) into looking at their own system as the problem!

If you use Twitter, use hashtag #verizondsl so a stream can be followed.

*Sigh* okay, back to work - because I do have projects that need tending to, and as irritating and annoying as this issue is, I must take care of my clients.


Books are as necessary as food in the pantry

Don't believe me? Here is my dream room:

My husband stopped breathing when I showed this to him, almost panicked actually. I'm not kidding though. If we had the money and built a home it would have a library that was so filled with books that the only needed accessories would be two chairs and a lamp to read by.

Earlier this year I cleaned out my home library. And I do mean cleaned out. I donated many, many, many books to the local library and their donation spot didn't have room for them all!

I cried buckets. Books have been a part of my life - always. I felt like I was giving away old friends. I know, pitiful.

But it was necessary. I had accumulated so many books that there was a path made between the stacks so that I could reach my desk. It was bad.

So, Rick put his foot down (and rightfully so) saying that he wanted to remodel this room to make it a good office space for me to work in - but I had to clean out every book and piece of paper before he could do this.

That's how I happened to be on my knees, in the room, crying buckets and putting book, after book, after book into large plastic bags and copy paper boxes.

*Sigh* An experience I hope to not repeat.

Today the room is beautiful and spacious and not overloaded with books. Rick got a storage unit with doors for me to use for all my business books and files, keeping the floor free from the stacks. Of course, I just looked down and realized that I had put an entire stack of files on the floor earlier this week and they're still there - NO! I will not let them stay! I will put on my Today List the need to clean the stack.

Hmm...looking around, I think I'll also put on the Today List that I will organize my desk again.

And so it goes. Another day of realizing that I will never be neat, clean and utterly organized for more than a few days. Another day of realizing that this is how I work and as long as I go into action right after the realization I can prevent overload from happening.


Meet Herschel & Mavis....

Two domestic geese that decided our front and back yards were excellent grazing sources. Here they are in the back, catching sight of me at the french doors to the deck.
Herschel is gray, Mavis is white. Why? Because it makes sense. Trust me...I'm not going out there to check which is which.

Here they found the back missing fence area into the back yard.

They're quite vocal - letting me know that they're there, that in no way are they going to take any guff from me, and that my grass/weeds is really where they want to be.

Until I step out onto the deck, then stomp a foot. Those big wide butts waddle fast and furious! Quite amusing.
It was quite the experience, having Herschel and Mavis visit every morning, then every evening. It didn't take me but a day or so to realize that they lived on a pond about 1/4 mile from the house. I really don't know why they left the pond. And, honestly, was concerned that there would come a day when I would hear car tires squealing and see feathers and down floating on the wind.
Then, one day, they stopped coming by the house. No reason that we could see. At first we were concerned. Then we were happy - no more goose poop on the driveway, or on the walkway, or in the yard. Happy day!
We hear geese squawk and honk throughout the day, so we're assuming that Herschel and Mavis simply got tired of wandering and went back to their pond down the road.


Another Beautiful Day in Indiana

Sometimes I wonder why we moved to this area, then I remember the troubles we had in Indianapolis. Rick was so heartbroken and needed to be near friends and family to heal, while I was still stunned and shocked over the various things we experienced. Then I wonder why we're still here and I look out the window and sigh. It's another beautiful day in southern Indiana - mid 70's, lightly cloudy, occasional breeze. Yep, it could be worse :)

Now that my business has hit a tipping point - I have customers, I have projects in the pipeline, I will soon make enough money to tell Rick to look for other work - we've talked about our future. That in itself is nice to be able to do. We used to talk about our future. We used to have dreams and hopes and aspirations. I'll be the first to tell anyone that sometimes Life sucks the incentive right out of you - and that happened to us. Until a year or so ago.

So, we've talked and talked and pondered and talked some more. A few months ago we came to the conclusion that we no longer need to be wrapped in the arms of friends and family. That we can live our lives now and live how we want to. That means we'll be moving soon. We need to go south, mainly because Rick just can't handle the cold weather anymore. He's only 50, but has worked out in the cold since he was 9 years old and when he gets cold to the bone - well, let me just say it hurts to watch him try to move.

We'll be looking at the Port Orange, FL/Daytona, FL area because his sister and her husband live there and we all like each other. Also because the cost of living is reasonable, and after having visited there a few times I realized how much I like it.

Now, this won't be happening soon. The plan is to leave in a year or two. It truly depends on my business success. I have a business loan to repay, Rick has some work still to do on the house, and we both need to be on task and work toward the goal of having cash and being able to sell the house. The nice thing is that we're basically debt free - we have a mortgage and I have the business loan.

I'm going to stop here and go back to enjoying the pretty day - maybe I'll venture outside for a few minutes, catch a freckle or two :)


I'm Back! Really I am!

Really. Not kidding here. I know I've been 'gone' since February - whew, considering how cold, wet and nasty it got here you'd have been gone, too...trust me!

Anyway, in March I began posting weekly to my business blog. I know, that's supposed to be different than this one and it is. Okay, so I've also been spending time on Facebook. This is where the photos went, the notes about daily life, etc.

Then I realized that one thing missing is my posting to this blog. Not that I have many followers (all 2 of you are appreciated!) but instead that I used this place to write semi-regularly about stuff. You know, general stuff. Not focused on business. Not focused on keywords, not focused on increasing readership. Instead, just stuff about my life in general.

Having said all that, I intend to get back to posting semi-regularly again. I guess 7 months could qualify as semi-regular, but I won't say it. Instead I'll just start over and post more often.

So, overall life has been pretty darned interesting. Rick and I survived the winter of '09 and have since been making plans to move south. Our short trip to Port Orange, FL made us both consider our options of where we wanted to live.

Though we think southern Indiana/Louisville, KY area is stunning in beauty, and in general the people here have very large hearts - we both realized that the reasons we moved back to this area no longer exist. Rick has healed from the horrors of our experiences in Brownsburg. We re-connected with friends from the '80s. And now that 10 years have passed, we are ready to move on with our lives.

I have plans for my business. Plans that include multiple revenue streams, portability and a revenue goal to reach this time next year. My plans were put off by a year because of the national/international economy...but are now back on track. Once I meet the revenue goal I will tell Rick that we can look for a place in Florida and prep our house to be sold.

Okay, that's it for now. I'll return in a few days and post some pics of interesting things I've noted along the way :)


More pictures from ice storm 2009

The following were taken when the ice was about 1/2" thick on all tree limbs and branchs. And all of them were taken from my house in Georgetown, Indiana.

Pitifully droopy cedars, so sad hardwoods, icicles measuring 10"-12" long! and in the sun the sparkle is crazy :)



I know...finally, heh? So, it was cold and dreary and I used my 2 megapixel camera. Yes these were shot in color - they just look black and white because of the ice and clouds. My favorite is the Redbud tree comparison. Usually it stands proud and tall at about 15 feet...now it's pitiful at about 6 feet. The hardwood trees all remind me of a Dr. Seuss story - I think it's the Lorax one - where all the trees are so droopy and sad looking.

1/2" of ice atop the fencing

Redbud tree before


Still have Power and Heat, thank goodness

I can't say enough about the Harrison REMC crews. Last September they busted butts to get the county up and running after Hurricane Ike wiped out power lines and poles, and they're doing the same now. Most of our county now has power, while Louisville, KY still has more than 170,000 households that have no power and no heat. Yes, this county is small - less than 40,000 in the whole county. But it is large in square miles and rural.

Rick worked yesterday and today. He's working inside as a carpenter on a school in Milton, KY. Last night he said it was scary driving through Madison, IN - the main road is a corridor of beautiful trees. Now those trees are heavily laden and encrusted with ice - limbs snapping at any moment, limbs hanging to the ground with the weight of the ice. He made it home safe and called me today to say all is well on the site.

It seems that the Kelly house is still full :) Erin says it'll be another two weeks before she expects her power to be on and Kevin says he thinks it'll be at least a week for his place. Wow. Thank goodness for Mom's place, heh?

I've been busy working. Being self-employed does have its advantages - one of them being portability. I took the laptop and customer files with me to Florida and was able to complete a project while down there. Now I'm almost finished with a project and ready to take on new ones. I have 6 outstanding quotes, 4 of which will come to fruition. It's just a matter of funding - isn't that the lament everywhere?

So, why am I not in Florida you ask? I wish I had a straight answer for you. A part of me says "go, go, go now you fool!" while another says "it's nice to be home, to cook like I want to, to sleep in my own". Hmmm. Honestly, if the weather turns bad again I will probably go down to stay with Mom in the camper. Rick has already said he would stay home and go to work, making sure the pipes don't freeze. I will keep you updated.


Glad to have Power and Heat

Well, we've been home since Monday evening and it certainly has been an adventure.

We left Alabama early Monday morning. After watching the news and weather stations, we knew that an ice storm was headed toward southern Indiana/Louisville and we wanted to get home before the storm hit.

We got home early afternoon. And it was cold! Very cold! We got out of the truck and wondered why we came home!

We had an uneventful Monday night, with temperatures dropping and sleet.

Tuesday was snow and dropping temperatures with occasional icy rain and sleet.

Tuesday night, late, we lost power. I know this because we awoke to a very chilly bedroom.

We bundled ourselves up, lit some candles, found the flashlights and wondered what we were going to do next. Just how bad was this going to get?

At about 5:30 a.m. Rick drove down the road to get some coffee and to get an idea of what were in for. He comes home with a thermas full of coffee and some interesting information. The only store/station open is our little Marathon station that sits in the middle of Georgetown. Everything and everyone was without power. Everywhere. Huge trees were down and blocking the road. Limbs were snapped off and hanging on power lines.

At about noon we started calling friends and found one who had heat and power. They had room for us. So off to the Kelly house we go. Turns out Mary (mom) is in Washington state, so we kids snuggled in for the day. By kids I mean me and Rick, Erin and her son Jack and daughter Maresa, Kevin and Tina. More were expected to arrive by evening. Erin made a pot of potato soup. Rick took Erin's kerosene heater and headed home - our main concern was freezing pipes. We still had water, but the house was getting colder and without some heat source we knew we were in for trouble.

Rick calls at about 4 p.m. - hey, we have power! Yeah! Now, we're in a different county than Erin, Kevin and the rest. It seems that still today Erin and Kevin and all are staying at the Kelly place.

Louisville, KY still has 174,000 households without power.

Ice is caked on electric lines, weighing down trees, coating fences. At least 1/2 inch thick and in some areas a good 3/4 inch thick. We're losing trees left and right - large limbs are snapping with great force and crashing into roofs, onto power lines, onto vehicles.

For those who remember the blizzard of 77-78, this is much worse. Much worse because it is cold and icy and affecting many more people. Today alone 3 people in Louisville died from carbon monoxide poisoning - they didn't have the gas generator vented correctly. The death count is up to 10.

Yes, we're very glad we have power and heat. If it wasn't for the fear of frozen pipes we would head back to Florida and crash at his sister's place, again :)


Traveling and Business and Friends

My goodness, we have been busy!

The cold hit in December, with our traveling north to Warsaw for the holidays. Had a great time with family. Tammy cooked Christmas dinner - rib roast that melted in your mouth! Yum! We played games with the kids - pictionary. We laughed, we giggled, we had a great time.

Came home and Rick went back to work in the cold. The job for the next few weeks was putting on outside doors at a newly built school. Which meant that he was working outside, in the freezing cold and wind, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for three weeks. My poor husband was frozen every night, chilled to the bone :(

Finally, he comes to me and says "we're having a lay-off for two weeks starting the 15th. Let's go south and warm up!"

I told him that he was responsible for the details and I would gladly come along.

Today I'm sitting in the kitchen of a friend's home near Birmingham, AL. It's getting chilly outside, about 50 or so. But warm enough for me :)

We first went to Port Orange, FL to visit with his sister and BIL. I sat outside, on the lanai with my computer and worked while catching some freckles :) Initially it was a bit chilly, 50 to 60 degrees, but the sunshine made everything worthwhile! Alyssa and I went in to Daytona Beach and we drove on the beach in her cadillac; that was fun :) Then we went to a marina that rescues sea turtles - did you know that sea turtles can get as large as 8 feet long and weigh 1800 lbs? Wow. She showed me a beautiful light house on the point, long and tall and painted brick red. We didn't go in because time was running out and I needed to 'work' on my computer :) But we had a delightful day out, with opportunity to get to know each other. Being married to Rick for 18 years I finally got to spend some time with his sister - and I truly enjoyed myself.

Alyssa and I also found the local bead store, Imagine That!. I found some terrific matte blue beads, not sure what they are but the striation caught my attention. They're round, about 12 mm (I know, large for me!) and they were cheap. I think I'll stitch up some herringbone tubes and string them in between the 5 rounds. Then Alyssa found a strand of square, glass, pinkish/blueish/grayish beads. They're very pretty, looking almost ceramic. She grabbed them up and says "Char, do you think you can make something with these?" Of course I gladly said yes. My first project upon getting home will be to design her a necklace with these. Yes, I'll scan the finished project and post a picture before sending it off to her :)

We left on Tuesday and made our way to the panhandle. Mom is in her RV at DeFuniak Springs, just north of Destin. The 5 hour drive to Defuniak Springs was uneventful and boring - picture I-10 as a tunnel of pine trees for 4.5 hours of the drive. Blah! The cold followed us, so the first night in the camper was brisk - it got down to 35 degrees. Yes, she has a heater, thank goodness. The next morning we all realized that the camper is simply not made to hold three adults comfortably. Our original intent was to sleep in her outside room (a wonderful screened in 'room' attached to the camper), but the weather did not cooperate. Love you Mom, but we agreed it was too close for comfort :)

Rick and I rented a cabin at the resort for the next three days. It faced King Lake, a fishing lake known for large bass, and by Friday the sun was out and it was over 70 degrees. Yes, I caught a few more freckles while working on my computer. Rick met a fella in the cabin two doors down. He was from Iowa and had a boat so the two of them spent all day Friday on the lake. It doesn't matter that they didn't catch anything. All that matters it that Rick finally got a chance to fish in Florida :)

Mom joined us for all meals, whether we cooked in at the camper or took her out for lunch and dinner in town. We had a good visit. I think the last time I spent time with Mom was in Indianapolis sometime in September, so it has been a while.

We left DeFuniak Springs Saturday morning and headed north toward Birmingham, AL. We thought we were in for another 5 hour drive, but we were pleasantly surprised when 3.5 hours later we were rolling into the neighborhood. Dan and Karen live in a suburb of Birmingham. They're friends from Indianapolis and I haven't seen either one of them for about 4 years. Rick has spent some time with them at their cabin on a nearby lake, and at their home. He traveled for work last year and was able to fit in some visiting time. So it is a real treat for me to be here to spend time and catch up with the two of them.

So, that's how I ended up sitting in the kitchen of a friend's place near Birmingham, AL. We'll head home Monday. Rick is relaxed and warm. I am happy to know that my business is portable, and I did catch a face full of freckles :) We'll both be ready to tackle the world come Tuesday. Until then? We'll gladly talk and eat and drink coffee with good friends.

Until next time....bead happy, bead on!