All About Startups

We are all about startups these days. The RV trip was the perfect opportunity to reflect on where we were headed and decide if we wanted to try something new. We decided that we did want to try something new and lately we find ourselves starting up and starting out. Here are a few of the startups in our lives:

Tierra Verde Farm
This is THE start-up. This is the Farmers Marketreason we moved to Savannah. During the RV trip Kevin decided to leave his career as an IT Executive and build a greenhouse. He wanted to grow quality vegetables year-round in a sustainable way for a local market. And he’s doing it. The most recent news is that Whole Foods in Savannah is now carrying his product. He also has steady business from several restaurants and a dedicated following at the local farmers’ markets. (And Suzanne is now spoiled and can no longer eat tomatoes that have traveled more than 12 miles to get to her dinner plate). Visit Tierra Verde Farm’s website and Facebook page to see what Kevin is up to.

http://www.tierraverdefarm.com
http://www.facebook.com/tierraverdefarm

Retired Retrievers
Suzanne couldn’t let Kevin have all theLadybird Adopted 1 startup fun. Instead of starting something that makes money though she started something that costs money*. Oops, maybe she should have gone to business school with him! But it’s totally worth it. We both love old dogs and when we saw a need for someone to advocate for senior dogs in Georgia and the surrounding states, Retired Retrievers was born. We’re going to be a low volume operation for awhile since Suzanne works full-time and has other activities in her life, but one dog saved is one less dog who spends his last days alone in a shelter. We’ve helped some wonderful dogs so far and you can read about them on our website.

http://www.retiredretrievers.org
http://www.facebook.com/retiredretrievers

*Kevin would like to point out that his startup is not technically making money either.

Plenty
After almost 10 years at Event 360, Suzanneplenty logo has moved on to new adventures as a Fundraising Consultant for Plenty. The best part is, she gets to continue working with a team she knows and loves and continue doing work that matters. Plenty may be a startup company but it’s a team that has worked together for many years and already has a track record for helping nonprofits harness the potential of peer-to-peer fundraising. Visit our website or Facebook page to read more about what we do and what we care about.

http://www.plentyconsulting.com
http://www.facebook.com/plentyconsulting

Our New Home
And last, but not least, we recentlyHouse bought a house and are starting up a new home! We weren’t in a rush to buy something but we found a house we both liked at a great price in a great neighborhood and we made an offer. We love it! It’s a wonderful house and we have some awesome new neighbors. After spending 7 months on the road last year and then moving across the country, we’re looking forward to staying in one spot for awhile. If you need our new mailing address, let us know.

So that’s what’s going on in our lives. We hope you and yours are well during this holiday season and we look forward to seeing you on down the road!

How’s Savannah?

The number one question we’ve been asked lately is, “How’s Savannah?” This is, of course, a valid question. It’s been six months since we packed up our lives in Seattle and moved across the country (after having packed up our lives to roam around the country in an RV). We really couldn’t have gone much further geographically or culturally and stayed within the continental United States so it’s only natural that inquiring minds want to know: How’s Savannah?

Savannah

Well, Savannah is…a lot of things. Too many things, in fact, to talk about in one blog post. But we’ll get started here with a quick overview of what we’ve seen so far of Savannah and the surrounding area.

Savannah is a great place for runners. Forsyth Park and Daffin Park are two of our favorite places to run. They’re both about 2 miles from our house. Heading to either park, running a loop or two and then running home makes for a great run. There are several running clubs in the area and plenty of road races. Kevin ran a half-marathon in the spring and we have a few more races on the calendar for this fall.

Half Marathon Waiting for Daddy

Savannah is a great place for cyclists. Well, kind of.  Or, it will be. The Savannah Bicycle Campaign is doing a lot to make Savannah more bike friendly. Suzanne is part of a women’s cycling group called the SpokeModels and she has participated in a few local races since we’ve moved here. The local army base, Hunter Army Airfield, is right down the street from our house and they are really nice about letting cyclists on base to ride their perimeter road, which makes for a great 10+ mile training loop.

Spokesmodels

Suzanne and her bike

Savannah is on the water. One of our requirements when deciding where to move was that our new city must be on or near the water. Besides being on the Savannah River, Savannah is also just 10-15 minutes from the Atlantic ocean and there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, boating, swimming and more (And the water is warm! Coming from the west coast it’s strange to be swimming in 80+ degree water in the ocean).

Napping in a Kayak Enjoying the breeze Boating Beach Dog

Savannah has a sense of humor. We were on our way to Tybee Island the first time we saw these guys and read their tagline. We could not stop laughing. There’s not much else to say about this.A-Team A-Team

Savannah is close to Hilton Head, which is important because our beaches on Tybee Island are not dog-friendly, but Hilton Head’s beaches are (before 10:00am and after 5:00pm during the summer). Our regular Saturday morning routine is to get up early, drive to Hilton Head, walk the dogs on the beach, go for a swim, eat breakfast at the Island Bagel Company and then grab a coffee at Starbucks and head home.

Hilton Head Hilton Head

Savannah isn’t too far from hiking and camping opportunities. It’s not the Pacific Northwest or the Tahoe Rim Trail but we’ve had some fun backpacking adventures since moving here. We’ve seen a few waterfalls, had some great day hikes and slept under the stars more than once.

Hiking Hiking

Savannah has a lot of history. Don’t worry, we’re not going to try to cover it all in one blog post. Just trust us, there’s a lot. Here are a few photos from Fort Pulaski. And did you know that the Girl Scouts originated in Savannah? Neither did we until we moved here. Suzanne loves the Atlanta->Savannah flights that are full of Girl Scouts making their pilgrimmage to see the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Lowe, founder of the Girl Scouts. Pre-teen girls don’t tend to have a lot of airline status so Suzanne’s usually at the top of the upgrade list on those flights.

Fort Pulaski Fort Pulaski Fort Pulaski

That’s today’s update on how Savannah is. Next time we’ll talk a bit about why we moved here in the first place (and maybe about some of the delicious restaurants we’ve discovered!) For today, we’ll leave you with these pictures of our four-legged kids. Oh wait, some of you don’t know that we have a new family member. Yes, Noah is our newest addition! We’ll talk about Noah and how are paths crossed with his in a future post. Penny pretends that she doesn’t like Noah, but really she does. And Gonzo, of course, loves everyone, especially his bird. See y’all on down the road!

Noah and Penny

Gonzo and da Bird

Life Lessons From an Old Dog

It’s been almost three years since we pulled up in front of a house in Monroe, WA to meet Wylie, a 10-year old yellow lab whose parents were moving out of the country. We had initially agreed to take him on a week-long trialFamily Photo July 2011 visit because he was blind and neither one of us had any experience with blind dogs. But we knew as soon as we pulled up in front of the house and saw his sweet face as he sat there wearing his red bandana that the trial visit would probably turn out to be something a lot more permanent.

And today, we can say that taking a chance on that old blind dog was one of the best decisions we ever made. Today we said good-bye to Wylie and, as we sit here and reminisce through our tears, we are trying really hard to be grateful for the time we had with him instead of being heartbroken about the fact that he is gone. We’ve known for a few months now that things were probably heading in this direction, but it doesn’t make it any easier when the moment actually arrives.

Wylie taught us a lot during his time with us and we want to share some of those learnings with you. Here are some life lessons from an old dog:

Take care of each other. Molly and WylieA few months prior to adopting Wylie, we adopted a senior chocolate lab, Molly Malone. Molly came from a shelter and we don’t know what her life was like before we met her, but she had a severe case of separation anxiety. Once we adopted Wylie, however, Molly never again panicked when we left the house. It took her a few days to adjust to sharing us with another dog, but she quickly leaned on him for emotional support and took comfort in his friendship. And while Wylie was comforting Molly, she comforted him in return. By snuggling him she let him know that he wasn’t alone, she kept him grounded and made him feel safe and secure. Even though he couldn’t see her, he knew his best friend was always there.

Be kind to everyone you meet. Wylie and KevinWylie never met a person or an animal he didn’t like. And whether it was his first time meeting them or his hundredth time, the reaction was always the same: a rapidly wagging tail. The first time we met Wylie his birth mom, Tina, told us that she believed he still had a lot of love left to give. And she was right. Wylie brought an incredible amount of love into our lives and into the lives of everyone he met. He was the kind of dog who could (and did) teach small children not to be afraid of dogs. He was gentle, he was loving, he was kind.

Change is only hard if you make it hard. Wylie went through a lot of change in his last few years. He left his lifetime family and came to live with us, which meant learning to navigate a new home, as well as Hotel Pillowlearning to navigate relationships with his new canine and feline siblings. About a year and a half after he arrived, we packed everyone up and headed out in an RV to travel the country for 7 months. Every time Wylie stepped out the door of the RV he was in a new place with new smells and new potential hazards for a blind dog to navigate. Then, just when he thought we were settling back into life in Seattle, he lost his best friend Molly, we moved him across the country (which meant a week in the car and a different hotel room each night), he had to learn to navigate another new home, and then we brought a new dog into the family. If anyone had a right to complain about change being hard, it was Wylie. And yet, he never did. He just went with the flow and took everything in stride.

When you hit a wall, step back, take a deep breath and head in a new direction. (Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.)  Wylie bumped into a lot of walls in his life, literally. He also bumped into a lot of tablesSuz and Wylie and chairs and doorways and trees and fences and people and dogs and anything else a blind dog could bump into. But the beauty of Wylie is that he just kept moving forward. He didn’t lie down and give up. He adjusted his plans and tried a new path. While it was painful to watch, especially at first, some of the best advice we ever received was to let him bump into things so he could figure out where everything was. It was amazing to watch him feel his way around and try a new path when the first one didn’t pan out the way he had hoped. Definitely a life lesson we should all remember.

In addition to learning some important life lessons from Wylie, we also ended up with some really great friends because of him. His other parents, Carey and Tina, are people we anticipate having in our lives for many years to come. Our paths may have crossed because of a sweet old blind dog, but they are a wonderful couple we now call friends. We are grateful that they trusted us with their sweet boy and, even though they moved halfway around the world, we have no doubt that our paths will cross again.

Norms Dog Bar, November 2010

Oh – and because we typically don’t know the history of our old dogs – we also don’t usually know how cute they were as puppies. Since we are friends with Wylie’s parents, however, we do have two very cute puppy pictures to share. (Seriously, could he be any cuter?!)

Wylie as a puppy

Wylie as a puppy

And a few more things about Wylie…he loved his pillows, he loved his fan, he loved his Molly. He loved to eat and he loved his treats. And he had a strange love of peeing in the water. It was pretty much inevitable that if we found a lake or an ocean for him to wade into, he would soon squat down and pee. We haven’t found any dog-friendly beaches in Savannah, but a few weeks ago we did find one about an hour and a half south of here on Jekyll Island. Wylie had a fun day at the beach, he was loved on by some cute little girls who came over to meet him and he was able to pee in the water one more time.

Wylie 5.26.13

We know that by adopting geriatric dogs we will go through this grieving process more frequently than most people. But we believe it’s worth it. There is something so special and wise and gentle about old dogs and they give us far more than we could ever give them. We will forever be grateful for the time we had with Wylie, even if right now we are heartbroken over our loss.

Goodbye, sweet Wylie. We love you. Say hello to Molly for us.

Thoughts from a Marathon Runner

Note: We typically write our blog posts as a “we”, but as Suzanne prepares to run her 18th and 19th marathons in the next two weeks she wanted to put together her thoughts around what happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

LA Marathon, Mom and SuzWhen the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart on January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds into flight, I was in the third grade. It is the first national tragedy I remember experiencing. As we processed the tragedy around the dinner table that night as a family my dad said, “You will always remember where you were when this happened. That’s how it is with tragic events like this. You will always remember where you were when it happened. ”

It’s true. I’ve lived long enough now to know that this is true and my dad was right.

Similarly, I was at a conference in Minneapolis last week where Event 360 CEO Jeff Shuck was making a point about outliers when he said that if someone asked you to remember a day from last year you wouldn’t remember an average day. No, you would remember an outlier. You would remember a day that stands out from all other days. Monday was definitely one of those outliers for me, as it was for many others across the country and around the world.

This Monday will stand out from last Monday. It will stand out from next Monday and the Monday after that. In fact, it will stand out from all other Mondays that I can remember. It will be a day remembered in history and it will be a day that changed the running community forever.

Having been a runner for most of my Mayor's MIdnight Sun Marathon, Cheryl and Suzlife, I can say that the running community is one of the most supportive communities I have ever known. There is something about enduring shared challenges that brings people closer together. I have had conversations with strangers during marathons that I never would have had if we had been sitting next to each other on an airplane or a subway. I have shared intimate moments during marathons with people I will never see again. I have seen through running the kindness of which people are capable and it is that kindness that gives me hope for the future.

My immediate reaction to Monday’s tragic events was – what is wrong with people and what is wrong with the world? After thinking through it some more, however, I have come to realize that Monday’s tragic events showed more of what’s right with people and with the world than what’s wrong with them.

Yes, someone intentionally set out to hurt other Austin Marathon, Kevin and Suzpeople. It’s horrible and unconscionable. But when that happened, other people immediately jumped in to help. People were kind. People were selfless. People were brave. People who had been strangers just moments before came together as a community and helped one other. So although a lot of bad happened on Monday, a lot of good happened too.

My Event 360 colleagues and I make a living by making the world a better place. And, because we work so hard to take away peoples’ pain, I cannot fathom doing something that would cause people more pain instead of less, and yet it happens. Try as we might we will never control all of the bad in the world. What we can control, however, is the good. We can be kind. We can be selfless. We can be brave. We can show the world that there is still a lot of good in it, just like the runners, spectators, staff and volunteers of the Boston Marathon did on Monday. They reacted to the bad by creating more good. They were kind, they were selfless, they were brave. My heart goes out to them and I will always remember where I was when this happened.

We’re Alive!

We realized the other day that those of you we don’t speak to on a regular basis might think we’re still wandering around the country with Wylie and Gonzo, towing a trailer with our 4Runner and staying at La Quinta Inns (they’re very pet-friendly!) The last time we posted – which was more than 2 months ago – we were still en route to Savannah, Georgia. Has it really been that long? Well, we’d finally like to let you know that we arrived. And here is what’s been keeping us busy…

10 Things That Have Happened Since Our Last Blog Post

1. We adopted another dog. Meet Penny. She’s a 9-year old yellow lab who found herself at the Humane Society of Greater Savannah. She’s one of the most normal dogs we’ve ever had. Other than a little separation anxiety she is healthy and happy and we love her a lot.

Pennys Sweet Face

2. We’re in the process of selling our city house (aka Kevin’s house) in Seattle. We do still have our country house (aka Suzanne’s house) and that’s still rented out. The couple who rented the city house while we were on the RV trip decided that they wanted to stay there in the long term. So they are buying it from us and we couldn’t be happier to see it going to such nice people.

DSC07094

3. Speaking of things for sale, the RV is also on the market. We are sad to see it go but we are on to our next round of adventures and don’t have room for it. Right now it’s parked at the Jim and Ginny Connell RV Park in Lake Stevens, WA (okay, it’s not really an RV park, it’s their driveway, but they’ve been kind enough to let us store it there).  Send us a note if you have any questions or want more details – you can also check out pictures of it here.

Picture 112

4. We participated in a mud run. More specifically, we participated in the National MS Society’s Muckfest MS in Jacksonville, FL. Wow, what an incredible event! It’s an 18-event series and Jacksonville was the first. Check out the calendar to see if there’s one near you. We highly recommend it! We’re already talking about participating again when it comes to Atlanta in the fall. Who wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday morning playing in the mud with their friends – and – experiencing awesome obstacles like the “Oh Crap!”? No, really, that’s the name of it.

Muckfest

MuckFestMS2

5. We have learned to appreciate the simple things in life. Like running water, for example. And a real bathroom. And multiple rooms where we can each have our own space. Not that we didn’t LOVE our time in the RV, but somewhere along the way the adaptations we  had to make to live life on the road became the norm to us. Now that we live in an actual house that doesn’t need to be moved or have tanks that need to be dumped, life just seems so simple. And, let’s be honest, now that we have running water we’re showering a lot more frequently these days too.

Home Is

6. Suzanne became a cyclist. Yes, in addition to playing in the mud she’s also playing on two wheels. And not only that, but she has started making cycling infomercials as well. Here’s the first one in the series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iHOxsEh1Wc. (Kevin gets credit for being the videographer and Penny gets credit for being the extra). We’ve participated in a few local cycling events here in Georgia but Suzanne is really training for the La Bella Preme’s Women’s Cycling Challenge. It takes place on June 1 in Malibu, CA and is a fundraising event for Girls on the Run of Los Angeles County. If you’d like to donate to Suzanne’s fundraising efforts please click here.

Suzanne Mooney

7. Gonzo became an indoor cat. While we were on the RV trip he was staying with our friends, Rebecca and Alan, and he was an indoor cat for those 7 months. Prior to that, however, he had been an indoor/outdoor cat. When we arrived in Savannah a decision had to be made. After about a week of going back and forth (and listening to him meow loudly while staring at the door) we decided to let him go back to being an indoor/outdoor cat. That didn’t last long. One very painful encounter with some other neighborhood animal and one very expensive vet bill later, Gonzo is now an indoor cat. For good.

Gonzo 4.3.13

8. We celebrated our first St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. St. Patrick is actually the Patron Saint of Savannah, so they go all out. (There’s even an event a month ahead of time to kick off “the St. Patrick’s Day season“). We’re both Irish and we’re both used to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a big way, but it is a big, big, deal here. And, we made an even bigger deal out of it by wearing matching t-shirts. Well, at least Suzanne and Penny did. Kevin was representing for Molly Malone by wearing the green Molly Malone t-shirt Suzanne got him in Kentucky during the RV trip. We miss our Irish girl.

Savannah St. Patricks

9. Wylie celebrated his 13th birthday! We really couldn’t love this old guy any more than we do and we appreciate every day we have with him. It’s been 2 1/2 years since his wonderful family entrusted him to our care and we feel so lucky to have him in our lives. We recently skyped with his birth mom in Australia (Hi Tina!) and hope to do so again soon. We not only got a great dog out of the deal but we got some really special friends too.

Suz and Wylie

10. And… drum roll please…Kevin’s business loan was recently approved by the bank! Tierra Verde Farms will soon become a reality. This is the main reason we moved to Savannah. Kevin will be growing high-quality hydroponic vegetables for the local market (and for his wife, of course). More information on that venture very soon!

DSCN9645

So as you can see, we are alive and we have been very busy. We hope you’re all doing well and we hope you’ll visit us in Savannah at some point. Now that we’re settled in we’ll try to write more frequently. See y’all on down the road.

On the Road Again

After spending five weeks at theThe Toad is now the Tow-er Jim and Ginny Connell RV Park in Lake Stevens, WA, we are back on the road. When Kevin’s sister Katy came home for Christmas and discovered that even though we were “home” we were actually still living in the RV in their parents’ driveway (instead of moving into the house) she diagnosed us with Stockholm Syndrome. We laughed it off but maybe there was some truth to that. In total we lived in the RV for 8 months and after all that time it was difficult to say goodbye. (No, actually it wasn’t difficult at all. We are thrilled to be moving into a house that doesn’t need to be driven to the dump station once a week to have its tanks emptied).

On the Road AgainSo here we are, back on the road. We’re heading towards Savannah and our next life adventure. This is a get-across-the-country-quickly roadtrip, not a sightseeing roadtrip. We’ve had long days and short nights and just one quick stop to see friends. We gave Tricia and Dean about 5 hours notice yesterday that we would be coming through Kansas City and they pulled together a delicious BBQ dinner for us in record time. It seemed like they’d been preparing for our visit for weeks instead of hours. Spending an evening with friends was a nice break from the pedal to the metal pace we’ve been keeping as we watch the country fly by.

It feels really strange not to have Molly Mollywith us on this trip but we’re traveling with a picture of her on the dash and she’s definitely here with us in spirit. Wylie is still the same wonderful, loveable, dependable Wylie that he’s always been. He’s snoring in the back of the 4Runner as we write this post and he’s been having fun testing out hotel pillows across the country. The new addition to the team for this trip is our cat, Gonzo. We didn’t know how he’d do in the car because, if you remember, he stayed behind with our friends Rebecca and Alan during the RV trip. But it turns out that he’s a really great traveler. He spends most of his time sleeping in the lap of whoever isn’t driving. We think he’ll be glad to get out of the car and settle back down into a normal routine, but for now he’s going with the flow.

Lap Cat 3000We don’t have a ton of pictures to share because we’ve been moving so quickly, but we did stop to take some pictures of the snow the other day. The section of road between Billings, MT and Cheyenne, WY was especially treacherous. For miles at a time we never saw asphalt, just snow and ice. Kevin’s ninja driving skills saw us through safely though. And we’re happy to be heading south now towards warmer weather!

We should be arriving in Savannah tomorrow just in time to find somewhere to watch the Super Bowl. We’ve rented a house and we’ll be able to move right in when we get to town. We’re not sure how long we’ll keep the blog going now that the RV trip is officially over, but we do plan to keep you updated for awhile as our adventures unfold in Savannah.

We’ll see you on down the road (And hopefully, we’ll see you in Savannah. We have a guest room, come visit!)

Sweet Molly Malone

Today is a sad day for Team Vaya Con Perros. We had to say good-bye to Molly Malone. It was sudden and unexpected and we miss her terribly. When we responded to this ad in August 2010 we had no idea how quickly “old lady chocolate lab” would work her way into our hearts and our lives:

Chocolate Lab

We feel fortunate to have had 2 1/2 years with Molly and she will always be with us in spirit. Her last months were spent traveling the country, meeting new people and snuggling with her best friend Wylie. We couldn’t have asked for a more gentle or loyal companion. We’ll see you on down the road, sweet Molly Malone.