Our Lisbon Meetup Begins :)

Since I work for a distributed company, I only get to see my coworkers in person twice a year. Last year my team met up in Durham, and this year it’s Lisbon. Another team is here at the same time, and another team will be coming halfway to the week so I get to see lots of my Automattic buddies. 

There is just something super exciting about knowing that your friends and coworkers are all on planes and trains and busses, heading your way for a week of in-person collaborations, learning and fun.

This picture shows where James and I are hanging out at our co-working office for the week. We are working outdoors as we wait for our teammates to arrive. 

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2016 WordCamp US

You know I love WordCamps. And this one is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!!! Here I am sitting at the registration dest in Philadelphia, trying to catch my breath after 24 hrs of meeting/greeting/dining/drinking/collaborating and learning with fellow WordPress lovers. Best community EVER!!!

I’m keeping this short and sweet because there is still a lot more to do over the next two days, but wanted to check in to say how awesome this is. If you are in the Philadelphia area, come join us 🙂

These pics are a glimpse into the gathering. There were 1,800 super friendly and intelligent WordPress lovers in the room at lunch today, and a lovely jazz band playing. This is a pretty impressive event. #wcus

Reading Animal Signs

been-there

Since the holidays are around the corner, my mind is on gifts. I thought I might share a thought for the nature lovers in my life.

One of my favorite gifts I have ever received was a children’s book written by my friend Jen Funk Weber. It was entitled Been There, Done That: Reading Animal Signs. It’s always nice to have creative friends, but I particularly like Jen’s work, perhaps because I know her dedication to writing, her humor, her love of kids and her passion for the great outdoors.

Jen lives in Alaska, along with her husband, who is a photographer. She is big on writing and cross-stitching. Since I’ve been friends with Jen for over a decade, I’ve heard lots of tales of her remote life. In fact, I remember when she got excited about getting a mailbox (at the end of a mile-long driveway, I think it was). Now she didn’t have to take the 45-minute drive into Anchorage to check her mail. Whoa. And I thought I lived in a remote area with a 30-minute drive to the nearest fast food chain. Nothing compared to Jen’s world.

Over the years I have learned a ton about nature thanks to Jen. This book is an example. In this book, a young child shows another how to look for animal trails. The images are beautiful, and the text is engaging. Here’s a review I wrote for it last spring:

As a parent, educator and nature enthusiast, I found this book a real treasure. The simple sentence structure and clear images don’t overwhelm, and new words and concepts are introduced naturally. The story had a cute ending, tying humans to nature. While the story itself was enjoyable, I particularly appreciated the quiz and extra information at the end of the book. It makes it very simple to structure an educational unit for a classroom or for a homeschool science curriculum. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about nature.

So there it is. The book is in hard copy, soft cover and Kindle editions. If you don’t want to buy it, I still recommend finding a copy in a library. It’s pretty awesome. And if you are already a fan and just in case you are curious, there’s always hope of a sequel… Jen was pretty interested in animal trails, taking lots of pictures of them, when we were together last spring 🙂

If you are so inclined, check it out. Bet you won’t regret it. And once you read it, feel free to come back and comment about it, letting us know what you think.

Where Have I Been? See if You Can Tell

It’s a game for you to play if you want.

** Edited to add that Hudi is definitely the winner in the family category, and Tina is the non-family winner. Great job! You all guessed a lot of these! Answers are now in the captions. **

“Never apologize for not posting in a while. It just calls attention to it.” That’s advice I often give bloggers. And I believe it, but I also relate to the guilt they feel as they put up a post after a long absence. And confession is always a good thing after an action that instills guilt. I get it.

For me, this time, I felt overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to post about.  So many experiences and life events I wanted to share. I got some out there, but ran out of time for the rest. So I’m going to do it all in one shot now. Get the images up and move on, feeling caught up.

So I’m going to make it a game. 

According to Google, I have been on 43 trips so far this year. See if you can:

  • Tell where I was
  • For bonus points – name the event 🙂
  • And for SUPER bonus points – feel free to add a story or anecdote from the occasion 😀

Please describe which image you are referring to when you post your answers. 

To make things a bit easier, I only did occasions from mid-April through October.

Ready? Steady? GO!!!!

I will post the answers in captions next week — or as the answers are given if I have time.

Customer Service and Life Tips

Those of you in my arena know there is no other way of saying this. I have the best job in the world. For me. I have the honor of providing tech support to WordPress users around the world. And I have an amazing company behind me (Automattic) that understands that the way to provide the best support is to provide support for the supporters.

Support gets tough sometimes. Like today. My brain just wasn’t up to par. My heart wanted to help people, but my brain wasn’t spinning at warp speed, and I was out of sorts.

I know why.

In the past two days I was informed that one young person in my world-circle had an untimely, unexpected death, and another person who is greatly loved, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

And I received a message about some unsettling behavior from others close to me. Behavior that dredged up a lot of past hurt and unfairness, making me want to retaliate, even though I knew that wasn’t the answer.

Bottom line? I was plain ol’ distracted, even while trying to focus.

I usually am very patient and have a knack for empathy. Today I was lacking in both. Really not cool for customer support. It was unsettling, and I felt like a failure.

But guess what?

My team had my back.

And my faith gave me support. By the end of the day, I was all right (and I even helped some people in the meantime).

How did this happen? By having caring people in my life.

When I was stuck (even on simple issues), my teammates backed me up, offering helpful answers and tips to help the people I was helping. And they never ridiculed me or made me feel sub-par. When I commented on the tough day I was having, they responded with cyber hugs and cyber coffee 🙂 (We work in places all around the world so it’s all cyber). No judgement at all.

This is an amazing thing in the work force, I am finding. In a world where the underdog is crushed, it’s incredible to find a space where everyone’s goal is to be kind and helpful. Amazing. And inspirational. I certainly hope I give that help to others.

While I never reached top-notch performance in the day, I was able to move on and provide quality support thanks to my knowledge that I had a team behind me.

I found out that one of the more difficult people I was dealing with today was really not mad at me personally. They were frustrated because of a work situation they were in. I really struggled to be patient with them as they swore at me through an issue they were having, and after we fixed their issue, they stayed on the chat line, venting to me about the pressure they were under. Thanks to my co-workers, I was able to have the patience and empathy to listen and support.

Because really, while we love WordPress and support it, the bottom line is that we care about the people who use it even more than the product itself. Thanks to my team and their support, I was able to dredge up the patience and understanding to convey that, even on a tough day.

When the work day ended, and the realities of life one again hit my brain, I went to my ultimate source of comfort. A daily devotional with Bible passages. Coincidentally, today’s section of reading was one of my absolute favorites, and it ties in with dealing with the harsh realities of life as well as customer service. Great stuff.

I have this color coded passage hanging on my wall at home. It’s from Galations 6 in the Holy Bible. I use the version called The Message:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.37.29 PM

  • As always, thanks for helping me keep my sanity is also due to my greatest friend –my husband, Chris, who is always there to listen to me vent, remind me of passages like the one above, and point me back to the path of helping others when I go astray.

Nobody Warned me About the Forties

IMG_20160531_160410432_HDRAnd I kind of wish someone had. It’s a horrible decade. It’s a beautiful decade. And I think I can summarize that in my day today. It’s kind of a step-by-step thing so if that kind of writing bores you, x out now 🙂

The featured image? The only relation to today was that it was actually taken while I worked today. To show my dad my setup, which will have to suffice for the next week since I accidentally left my real monitor in our other house. First world problems, I know. But it’s still not totally cool.

Yesterday was a great day. It was a holiday (Memorial Day), and I was filled with a sense of thankfulness for the veterans in my life even as I chose to work instead of joining the locals at the parade. I was happy to cover while some of my co-workers spent time with family and friends. And I still had a great day. That contentment paved the way into my day this morning, which started off swimmingly.

With a slight downer. A friend wanted to get together with our three sons and us before we broke apart. I had the harsh realization that we would have that option for literally two evenings before November. And even then, it would never be in this home again. Ah, well. Life goes on.

I was already ahead in my personal work goals, and we had some interesting issues at work that we (my team-mates and I) resolved. I LOVE it when I can really help people. Noon came, and I had an enjoyable team meeting over Zoom, with 16 co-workers from around the world. I love seeing their faces. Do you see a common thread in this paragraph? I’m intensely into my job, and I love it. It’s the job I began in my forties (when I was 42, actually).

So work was happening, life was going, and as my meeting began I kissed my middle son and waved to his girl as they headed out to Pennsylvania for work training. That letting-go part of parenting that’s still a bit unnerving. And the mail came. It contained info about housing for college for my youngest baby, who is starting college this fall.

Zeb’s leaving and Hudi’s mail ripped my heart a little, but mostly I’m proud of them and happy for them. My meeting ended, and I entered another meeting in which people volunteer time to write lesson plans so inner city kids can learn how to create websites. Nobody has time for anything, yet these people meet weekly to volunteer their expertise to help others. It always inspires me. Good, good people. And one of them is a friend I get to spend a week a year with at Bible camp. So fun to work with her there.

That meeting ended as I headed out for a walk with a friend who has been a buddy for 20+ years. What a gift she is in my life. I have now officially moved, and I’m technically back in town visiting, so we spent a good bit of time dredging up memories of our kids as they grew. She also learned details of my son’s recent engagement. Such joy! But bittersweet since we had to shorten our visit as people came to check out our house for possible rental.

It went well. I think they like it, and we only want the house to go to people who really appreciate it. We’re good with this family. But it also symbolized a clear cut with our decades of reality in the place we have called home.

No time to dwell on that. They left, and I immersed in work again (how lucky am I to have this job where I can work flexible hours like this?!?) for a while. Then Lauren came in to update me on wedding plans. We hit the Internet–hunting for party favors, table decorations and wedding gowns. It was while we were doing this that I found out that a good friend got a job she was interviewed for. And I found out another friend died. So as we celebrated weddings, work, moves and life in general, we also found ourselves donning fancier garb before heading to the funeral parlor for viewing hours.

Before we did anything else, I checked in with my parents. Both of whom have had some stints in the hospital for different issues (they are both home and well on the road to recovery now). While I was on the phone, my husband was on his phone, talking with our son who had made it to his destination in PA, but was reporting a bit of car trouble. Chris talked him through some options. Then we had a nice dinner and headed to our cars.

I stood in line at the viewing. It was particularly heart-wrenching because the grandmother in the family had also passed on, so it was a double funeral. Wife and mom. The line was long and somewhat slow, and I looked at the faces of people I have seen for nearly three decades. Good people, hard-working, honest people. People I’ve been thrilled to have my kids grow up amongst.

And I realize, once again,  it’s kind of hard to leave.

I also realize that the memories that make it so hard to leave are some of the greatest gifts one might receive. That young man smiling at me, telling me all is okay since his mom is now in a happier place? Yeah, that was the kid who talked to me non-stop on the school bus on the fourth grade field trip. That man ahead of us in line? He not only went to college with me, but he was one of the best teachers my son was privileged to have.

People hugged, people laughed, people cried. We have lived, we have loved, and now we are moving on.

The memories and joy will remain. Blessings. Gifts. Not always easy.

I didn’t realize the emotional upheaval one faces in the forties. It’s kind of exhausting, but brilliantly so. This is my day. This is my life. I’m so thankful. 🙂