working around town

Being able to work from anywhere has been such a wonderful new thing for me!  During grad school I had a lot of flexibility, but I ultimately needed to run experiments, go to meetings, and just generally show as much of my face as possible around the office.  Now though, I can seriously work from anywhere I can take my laptop and where I have wifi access 🙂  I often make the availability of caffeine products a requirement of my location too…but not always 😉  I will update you all soon on what I’ve been up to exactly…it has been a fun ride so far 🙂  (Teasers!  Eeep!)  🙂



The McDonald-Jones Mother-Son duo see Seattle!

Brett and his lovely mamacita, Patti, spent a weekend in Seattle recently!  (We all seem to love traveling to Seattle haha)  🙂  They visited downtown Seattle, Pike’s Market, the world-renowned Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition, and the EMP Museum.  The next day they explored Microsoft Research and some of the great areas along the lake 🙂  I’ll let Patti tell the story though so here goes…a guest appearance 🙂 …

I had such a wonderful time – thanks to the awesome hospitality and tour guide talents of my son Brett.  He really went absolutely over the top to give me a sample of the Seattle experience – having never been there before.  His room-mate and co-conspirator in making “Cool-things” also provided a warm welcome and generous gift of time (they both definitely did not have) to give me the opportunity to sample local culinary delights, breath-taking sights and all around conversation and fun!  The place is beautiful and it was such a pleasure to spend a moment with these two absolutely amazing and grounded people.

It was a whirlwind week-end.  In on Friday eve and out on Monday Morning.  Brett picked me up around 5:00 in Raj’s car, then went to house to find Raj, and all went out for sushi – think it was called Oto Sushi – they ordered for us – way to much – gorgeous presentation – we ate all of it.  Then went for walk to Juanita Bay as the sun set over the water.  Back to house tried to watch TV picked Covert Affairs (I like it and so does Mallory) – Brett style – meaning projected on the entire wall – but alas too too tired – just went to sleep.

Slept forever the next am.  Finally out the door at noon headed to Pikes Market, (first he showed me the park filled with majestic pines just steps from the house) had famous Piroshky (pronunciation I am not sure of) after waiting in the famous line.  Then a walk through the very busy Pike’s Market.  Saw such fun things, fish being thrown, flowers more grand and cheaper than I have ever seen in my life (Kristin should get married there just for the flowers).  Bought some fun souveniers – Pikes Market Sign and jewelry.  We stopped to enjoy the little band – Tallboys, Brett bought their CD, despite the fact that they had not showered in sometime.  (we listened to the CD all weekend).  Then headed to have my first sample of coffee made with fresh roasted beans, that was so GOOD! Have picture of the coffee top.  Then walked , stopped at Patagonia, bought nothing, headed to a combo of Chihuly exhibit, Sci-Fi & Music Museum.   Bought a magnet from Chihuly – as I love love love stain glass and his art.  Also got some great pictures of Brett in the Chihuly Garden with the Space Needle in the background.  I kept with Brett’s help trying to figure out where Frasiers apartment and view would have to have been – even if it was imaginary – but alas after much observation and speculation and several Google searches came to the forgone conclusion – that it the view was made up – just like the show – as they only filmed there once.  Oh well, I immediately  returned to believing in my imagination that Frasier was real and happened in Seattle.

Then went back to water front, had a drink and great conversation about life and jobs and futures and such.  Headed to get Raj and had dinner together at a terrific water front restaurant.  Raj insisted on picking up the tab – so kind of him. Then back to house.

Sunday was off to a great and totally cool start.  Headed for a special “take your mom to work day” at Microsoft – he rented out the whole place for me, only a few stragglers were there.  He made me a Microsoft Latte – good – then to a personal presentation of IllumiRoom at a mom’s level of sophistication and pace – i.e., SLOW – I got an amazing demo and backdrop explanation.  Saw where everyone worked.  So much fun for me to be there and so meaningful!

Then out on a long hike – close by. It was so good for me!  Got great  pictures.  Then we were too late to hit the St. Michelle Winery – will have to go back – so went to festival in Kirkland (actually I am confused about where everything was- cause I never looked at a map).  Headed back to house, tried to figure out where to go to dinner, Raj could tell that Brett was super tired – and me too – so suggested we order pizza, get some wine and stay home.  So he ordered, we ran the grocery store to pick up the wine, got some great chocolate too – then had a leisurely dinner on the patio under the pines, in the still air – quiet music and conversation.  It was a truly memorable evening and wonderful way to celebrate my visit and life!

Then Monday, up at 5:00 off to airport and work – for everyone

~ Brett’s Mamacita

























blog_MJSeattle_27Pictures by Brett and Patti


Chicago and Michigan ladies weekend!

I spent a great weekend in Chicago and Michigan visiting with my old college roommate Melissa (and bridesmaid, eek!  LOVE weddings hehe) and my mother-in-law, Patti.  The pups and I drove up to the Chicago Suburbs and then I took the train downtown to meet up with my old roomie.  While the pups played together (and lounged on Brett’s childhood bed hehe) Melissa and I walked around Millenium Park, grabbed Chicago style hotdogs, walked along the river and up and down Michigan Avenue…getting some yummy popcorn along the way 🙂  The weather was a bit cloudy but the temperature was just perfect for a day spent strolling the city.  That night Patti and I had a lovely dinner and relaxed at home.  On Sunday, the two of us drove north to New Buffalo, Michigan and had a great day exploring.  We browsed our way around the small downtown area, had lunch at one of our favorite New Buffalo establishments, and spent some time relaxing on the beach before heading back home.  Patti was really brave and went completely out into the water..(the water was cold(ish) and rough!)…I stayed on the beach and talked with Brett on the phone hehe  🙂  It was such a lovely weekend!  🙂































Patti and I think that the pin board of the dog silhouette would be a great DIY project.  I’ll have to see if I can formulate something like that in the coming weeks 🙂  Also, can anyone spot by crazy sandal tan in the last photo?  😉

Photos taken by Mallory and Patti


The whole truth about our summer, a.k.a. how we live at a distance for 4 months

While it may have not been completely apparent (though maybe sort of?) based on the summer’s blog posts, Brett and I have been living and working in completely different states since early June.  Brett, as he did last summer, has been working with Microsoft Research from Seattle, Washington while I have been working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

We have decided officially though…that even though we made this work for another summer, living at a distance is not how we would like to continue our married lives together.  This summer, with a little luck, will be the last one that we need to spend across the country from one another.  We have been able to make our relationship work though and have both had really successful summers.  We both hear many comments about distance relationships…about how we just couldn’t get married last summer and then live apart (well…we did)…about how it would put a huge strain on our relationship (well…we’re fine)…and the ‘oh my, how do you ever make that work?!’ comments (well…we do).  Honestly, the hardest part about living separately over the summers is moving back in with one another!  haha!  🙂  We both are forced to become super independent over the summers and then we force each other to move as a unit when we come back together.  But…like I said before, we have done this before and we are fine!  I just can’t help but wonder why we get these sorts of comments when couples comprised of military personnel have been figuring out how to live apart for a while now!

None-the-less, I thought I’d share how we make it work over the summers, when we are living more than 2500 miles from one another.


Mal and Brett’s tricks to a distance relationship:

1.  We keep ourselves busy with our own hobbies.  When we are each busy doing things that we like, we have less time (and brain power) to feel lonely.  When each of us isn’t feeling too lonely about having to live so far apart from one another, we can continue to thrive as individuals and can thus continue to thrive as a couple.

2.  When we’re keeping busy we keep one another ‘in the loop’.  Though some long-distance couples (I’m thinking of military ones here especially…) may not have this luxury, Brett and I do.  We both, at almost all times, have our cell phones nearby.  I’ll text Brett when I’m heading out for a run with the pups and he’ll let me know when he’s leaving work and off for an evening activity with friends.  We both feel more involved in the other’s life if we know (at least vaguely) what they are up to at any given moment.  (We especially love updating one another on the things definitely not worth updating about)  🙂




3.  We skype or facetime at least every few days.  Seeing one another has been really important for Brett and I when we’re living apart.  It is easy to just chat quickly about our busy days and kind of forget that our spouse is on the other end of the telephone.  Some days our schedules don’t synch up enough to enjoy some face-to-face time (there are two hours of time difference between our two summer ‘homes’) but this becomes a priority at least a couple times a week.  Sometimes it means that we’ll skype one another right as I’m heading to bed and we’ll keep it running through the night.  Then, in the morning, I get to wake up ‘with’ Brett and I’ll turn off the skype call before I head off to work 🙂  On the weekends though (once again…if our schedules permit) I’ll get to keep the skype call running until he wakes up and throughout the day.  A couple of times we’ve even watched tv ‘together’ this way 🙂


4.  We’re patient with one another’s bits of crazy.  Brett and I have found that some personality quirks are magnified when we’re living long distance from one another while others are suppressed.  For example, my tendency to worry seems to grow when Brett and I are living apart.  Brett is super supportive during my bouts of worry 🙂  Brett, on the other hand, isn’t any better at doing things while talking to me on the phone when we’re living across the country than when we’re living in the same zip code 🙂  But we make it work.  Sometimes our schedules get in the way a bit…but we stay flexible to one another 🙂

5.  Be patient with one another and always apologize if you are mean.  I know that this one looks a lot like #4 but it really is one of the most important things that we’ve had to remember.  Sometimes, one of us just has a bad day.  It usually has very little to do with the other person but this bad day is hard to keep out of the tone of limited conversations.  If one of us is rude to the other, the important thing is to say we’re sorry and move on.

6.  When you are together, go on adventures!  Whenever Brett and I are able to be together for a weekend (yep…never longer than that for the summer), we have a great time together 🙂  We explore the city we’re in.  We try new places to eat and new things to see.  We show each other our favorite spots around town and we find brand new ones.


And that’s it!  We made it work using these easy tricks last summer when we moved 2500 miles apart, came together to get married, and then headed back across the country from one another and again this summer (except that getting married part…we already did that 🙂 ).  I wouldn’t say that it is easy-peasy but we make it work.  I’m just glad that we don’t have to for much longer!

Do you have any tricks for long distance relationships?  (whether they are usually long distance or not!)  🙂

Girly Wednesday ~ xx ~ creating a tribe

A few weeks ago I talked about a random act of kindness that I found while touring around Huntsville with Brett.  I have recently seen even more examples of strangers offering love and care to a neighbor.  On my last trip out to Seattle this summer (more on that in the next few days!  Eeep!  Teasers!), I spent 7 hours stuck in the Huntsville, AL airport.  We boarded on time, all seemed well….I was even told to turn off my cell phone in preparation for pulling away from the gate.  And then…a maintenance issue cropped up.  One of the baggage workers discovered smoke in the cargo hold of the aircraft.  They called maintenance and then we all waited about 45 minutes for the maintenance worker to arrive.  They tried to fix our plane for another hour before suggesting that we de-plane, leaving our stuff on board.  We all started scrounging for food/drink in the small, Huntsville airport and waited…and waited, and waited, and waited.  For 3 hours we waited while they updated our departure time for a only slighter later time and then for 2 hours after that we waited while they decided our plane would not fly tonight but thought that maybe another plane would come from Dallas and we could take it back.  And for another hour we all knew that a plane could take us from Huntsville to Dallas that night and and that it might leave before midnight.  Hotel vouchers were handed out and we hurriedly switched our now long missed connecting flights to the next day.  This is the not so fun part of the story.

The fun part of the story is what happened during all of that waiting.  To start with, there was almost no complaining.  I tried to start some mild, negative-talk-bonding while in line to change my connecting flight about how it was ridiculous that no one dealing with our plane or with us passengers had any power in all of the timing decisions of flights that had happened that night (seriously…this business model is absolutely ludicrous!…but back to the story) and no one wanted to join in.  Maybe it had to do with most of the flyers (not me included) being on business travels and not pleasure travels but still….I couldn’t find anyone who would just complain even a little.  I wasn’t even directing my negative energy towards any of the wonderful people in the airport who were helping us out, just to the wide open space of ‘this sucks’ situations… and still, no one wanted to join in!

What was really amazing though was the tribe that formed.  A group congregated in the bar and periodically throughout our 7 hours in the airport, laughter would ring from that group of passengers.  There were also several small children traveling with us.  One of them, a 3 month old infant, was held for at least 2 hours by a woman who had been a complete stranger to the child’s mother just hours earlier.  This woman stepped in to help hold bags as we moved on and then off the plane while the mother tended to her baby, but also walked around the gate area cooing the child to sleep while the mother was tending to changing her connecting flights.  Another child with us was a 16 month old with a very young father.  The toddler cruised around the gate area, bouncing from passenger to passenger while his father tried to follow around behind.  After a few hours of this though, the father was exhausted.  He finally started allowing others to help.  As the 16 month old came near, we’d shoot him a funny look to make him laugh.  The toddler would leave us his water bottle or ask it to be opened, just to take it back and cruise to the next spot.  When his dad was figuring out how they could fly out the next morning instead of brave half the night in the terminal, a few women sat around the toddler on the floor and played games with whatever objects people had in their pockets and purses.

There wasn’t much to do or consume in that airport either…the main restaurant was closed and there was only a few small refrigerated cases full of food to feed us all.  Electricity outlets were also in big demand as everyone played with their phones for entertainment during our wait.  We took turns using the few working outlets, charging our phones in preparation for the rest of the wait and the flight to come.


Besides the fact that the wait was super boring and we spent much of it thinking that we’d get to board the plane again in half an hour…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  To the other passengers…I’d get stuck in an airport with you all again, any day.