Christmas especially could not be the same without the snow, the neighborhoods, visiting from home to home, decorated with twinkling lights.
She left the sunshine state for Washington, DC where she took a job with the government. There too, over a three year stint, she was not able to find the easy-going friends and warm family embrace that she enjoyed back here during holiday visits. In spite of simple wants and an easy-to-please nature, there was something missing in these big, important, popular environs.
Jen found happiness in meeting the man who would become her husband in DC. In spite of his Florida origin, during a trip to visit Jen's family in Buffalo, she was surprised to find her new beau actually fall in love with Buffalo and the surrounding area. This inspired her to rediscover and fall in love with her native area, in a new way. She had her "fix" - her taste of life elsewhere and was glad for the tools it gave her along the way, but now she started to imagine life back here, among her tribe.
Helped by a terrific job offer for her husband Tyrone, Jen thought she could find a career opportunity in human resources to meet her goals. DC's insane traffic, chilly demeanor, expensive cost of living and a basic lack of serenity supported the decision to move, as well. Vermont, Colorado and Western New York were their options. Buffalo was inevitable, so why not choose it now. They returned in late 2008. They could not be happier. Even their 'kids', Stella and Jackson, the couple's two cats, have adjusted well.
The move to Buffalo had a lot to do with having a safe environment, supportive of raising children. As Jen put it," Buffalo is a place where your kids can still play outside." Neighbors watch out for one another and children still feel safe and able to explore. This was one of the many fond memories which drew her back to the area.
When asked what she is happiest about after having returned, Jen includes snow storms, (getting stuck at home with family on the couch before a fire) as well as the terrific summers. She loves the festivals, concerts and other affordable ways to experience the culture and getting to know your neighbors. Whether it's the quick access to the rural, natural, wild environs of Western New York or the feeling that you are a regular at a neighborhood tavern, where people know your name, Jen and her husband are very happy with their decision. In addition, with the knowledge and interest in healthier living and eating, the many farmers markets, Clinton/Bailey Market, Guercio's and various other venues to obtain fresh, healthy, affordable food is very exciting for Jen and Ty, who love to cook.
Suggestions from Jen on how to make life better here in Buffalo include: refraining from negative comments regarding Buffalo unless you have suggestions to fix it and experiences elsewhere to compare it to, find more ways like the Powder Keg Festival to embrace the snow, find new ways to attract business and related jobs and utilize our rich heritage and culture to give people more reasons to stay or return. A common message is communicated by Jen and her husband Ty: Let's respect Buffalo for its unique history, culture and heritage, a love of the simple, basic gifts in life and the importance of good friends and family. Let's use this to build a campaign to encourage others to return and slow down the shrinking of our population. Maybe we can reverse the trend? There is no better place to do it and no bigger opportunity for it.
If you know others who would like to share their story for this column, please email Michael Weekes. Lets celebrate all the people, places and things that are great about our hometown!
Michael R Weekes is author of Everything is a Process, President of Whataboutquality LLC, a business process improvement organization, and co-founder of Fandemoneum, Buffalo's next great sports experience destination, coming to Buffalo in 2013.