So THIS happened:

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Left to Right: Deborah Smolinske, Beverly Thomas, Brenda Rogers-Fiscus

After almost four years of working together remotely and never meeting in person at the same time, we finally did it!  

The NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana, was the perfect opportunity for the five of us to finally get together.  In fact, for the first time ever, we locked the PPTB doors and all took a vacation for a week.

Debi set off on seven-day road trip on the Friday before the convention, leaving from her home northwest of Chicago, heading up to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and winding her way down the Great River Road to Port Eads, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico.  

Brenda began her own road trip on Saturday with her husband and son, stopping for sightseeing in Springfield, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and other cities along the way.

Bev and her husband drove from their home in north Mississippi on Wednesday morning and arrived in New Orleans late that afternoon.

Needless to say, there was MUCH hugging and squeeing Wednesday night as Bev greeted Brenda and then Debi on their arrival in New Orleans just minutes apart from each other.

Molly flew in from Gainesville, Florida, late Wednesday night, and Jane flew in from Sarasota, Florida, early Thursday morning.  

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Left to Right: Molly O’Brien, Beverly Thomas, Deborah Smolinske, Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Jane Molaro

There was, again, much hugging and squeeing at breakfast Thursday morning!  We were FINALLY able to put voices, faces, and mannerisms with written words in Google Hangouts.

Since PPTB stayed at a different hotel than the convention hotel, we all wandered over to the Hyatt to check out things.  Then we had a planned meet and greet with some of our clients, where there was much laughter, storytelling, and general merriment.

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Front, left to right: Jane Molaro, Deanna Dean, Deborah Smolinske, Rebekah Lockwood. Back, left to right: Alan Peacock, Theresa Reese, Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Beverly Thomas, Molly O’Brien, Kelly Shainline, Lori Stokes

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Left to right: Theresa Reese, Jane Molaro, Molly O’Brien, Alan Peacock, Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, Holly Thuman, Beverly Thomas, Tana Adams

On Friday, Brenda presented a mini seminar called “Building Reporter-Scopist Relationships,” with her hecklers entourage in tow.  With a roomful of court reporters and scopists present, there was lively discussion about how reporters and scopists can connect and how to form and maintain a good working relationship.

Afterwards, PPTB had our own Eclipse training session.  We found a nice spot in the hotel and settled in with our laptops to dig into the nitty-gritty of some Eclipse features, play around a bit with the latest Version 9 Release Candidate, and discuss some punctuation conundrums and PPTB procedures.

It wasn’t all work-related, of course.  We all explored NOLA, together or in smaller groups.  We rode the trolleys and pedicabs, found new favorite restaurants, experienced the French Quarter, heard some great music, renewed old friendships, and met new people we’ve known online for many years.

Bev and Molly headed home on Saturday, leaving with a few tears but plenty of smiles too. Brenda, Debi, and Jane all attended the Masquerade Ball Saturday night and had a blast.  Debi left early Sunday morning, Jane departed in the early afternoon, then Brenda and her family left in the early evening after additional sightseeing.

We’re all agreed this won’t be the last time we get together.  There’s always the Eclipse Winter Retreat in Florida, the Eclipse Users Group conference in Las Vegas, NCRA in Colorado next year, and many more future events!

All in all, a most excellent adventure!

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