Tagged: Life Update

Travel, Conferences and Other Work

While updating my expired ssl certificate, I realized I haven’t posted here since just after the first of the year. What have I been doing in all that time?


According to TripIt, I’ve traveled 30 out of 78 days of 2013 to 9 cities and 2 countries. That’s 38% of my time spent away from home. Most of it has been work travel, including trips to Mozilla Mt. View and SF offices as well as Madrid to meet with Geeksphone and Telefonica. While I was in Spain, I was able to wander a bit and take some photos, including of the Angel Caido:

Monumento del Ángel Caído

Mother Daughter Vacation

Early in March, Sherri and I took our mothers to Hawaii. This was extremely special for me and I’m so grateful we were able to make it happen. Those of you who know me well know that my mother and I have had a long journey together, one during which we have not always been close. What I learned on this trip is that love is less about staying connected 100% of the time and more about doing the hard work to find each other again when connection is lost.

Mothers and Daughters

If you want to see photos from the trip, here are mine and here are Sherri’s.

Mozilla, Conferences and Other Community Work

Life at Mozilla continues to be hectic as we work on launching Firefox OS. I’m thrilled that we’ll developer phones will soon be available for us to distribute (and for the public to buy).

Another key reason I’ve been quiet here is that January and February was consumed with a lot of Syndicate tasks. Kirsten and I worked to finish transitioning the role of treasurer from me to her and we also completed and submitted our IRS 1023 form (application for tax-exempt status) and other tax paperwork. I can’t express what a relief it is to finally be caught up on many of these tasks.

At the same time, I’ve been helping to plan Barcamp Portland,  the Open Source Day at this year’s Grace Hopper conference as well as Open Source Bridge.

In the middle of all that, I managed to re-work our OSCON tutorial on event planning into a 30 minute talk for this year’s PyCon US (video). I had a great time giving the talk and attending the conference in general. PyCon organizers and volunteers do a great job making their speakers feel welcome and prepared. Thank you!

Health, Home and Caretaker Duties

Sherri and I are still struggling to stay on top of all the duties caring for ourself, her mom, our six animals and two houses entail.

Maintaining Mom’s health requires constant attention and frequent medical appointments. We are taking her for bloodwork and a port flush every two weeks (but not at the same time). Despite therapy, she continues to need blood transfusions about every six weeks (and this is an all day affair). And then there are her regular medical checkups.

When you combine this with the bodywork Sherri needs to manage her chronic pain, and my weekly allergy clinic visits, I feel like one or the other of us is nearly always running off to an appointment. Meanwhile, I feel guilty every time I realize that all six of the pets are behind with their own annual medical check-ups.

However, slowly we are figuring out how to make things work. This includes learning when and how to call in and build extra support and when to take breaks and practice self-care. Even thought it’s difficult, I don’t regret where we are now.

Next Couple of Months

It’s not going to get any less busy until at least late summer. Barcamp is less than two weeks away. By the time that event concludes, we’ll be in full planning for Open Source Bridge. I’ll have some more work travel coming up, although I’m still working out the details. Events that I am planning to attend are Write the Docs (April), AdaCamp and Open Source Bridge (both June), World Domination Summit and OSCON (both July), and Grace Hopper (October).  If you’re planning to attend any of these, let me know so we can meet up!

Oh, and if I can managed to get in to the allergy clinic on time I might actually finish the building phase of my immunotherapy.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2013

Last week I posted my review of 2012. This post talks about what I’m looking forward to about 2013.

Settling in to Our New House

We were completely done moving into the new house by the end of October, but we’re far from being completely settled in. Our two spare rooms have stacks of unpacked boxes. My half of the home office is setup, but we’ve barely started on Sherri’s half and there are stacks of stuff to be sorted all over the place. That said, the rooms that are setup are looking awesome. Oh, and I’m very much looking forward to our first Spring and Summer here so we can see what blooms in the yard. Hopefully we’ll be able to plant a veggie garden this year as well.

Making Progress on My Asthma and Chronic Cough

Moving to the Pacific Northwest has not been great for my health. A short-while after moving to Portland, I started experiencing severe respiratory allergies (to dust mites and mold) and an increase in asthma symptoms. In fact, my symptoms were so slight prior to moving to Portland, I didn’t even know I had asthma or allergies! The allergies manifest mostly as congestion and decrease in breathing ability. I’ve also developed an unshakable cough. I’ve seen nearly a dozen doctors and specialists in the process of treating my cough. Together, we’ve ruled out pretty much every cause aside from allergic sinusitis/rhinitis, asthma and a slight predisposition towards respiratory infection. In a way, that’s a good thing. I don’t have lung disease or a serious viral, bacterial or fungal infection. (Did you know you can get a fungus ball in your lungs?). What I do have is difficult to control asthma and an immune system overreacts to two allergens that are, unfortunately for me, ubiquitous in this climate.

Having exhausted most other options, I started immunotherapy last month. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is a treatment for allergies where you receive a series of injections of the very proteins you are allergic to (e.g. dust, mold, insect stings, pollen; it doesn’t work for food allergies). The injections start out at a low concentration, and increase gradually over several weeks. Know one knows exactly why allergy shots work, but we do know that they fundamentally change how a person’s body responds to allergens and reduces its response over time.

I’ll admit to not feeling a lot of optimism that this treatment would have an effect. I’ve tried a number of different medications over the last couple of years and nothing has made more than a dent in my cough. However, my pessimism seems to be unfounded. The allergy shots are already giving me quite a bit of relief. My sinuses are clearer, my lungs feel better and I’m coughing less.

Now, I’m not out of the woods yet. I still have quite a way to go before immunotherapy is complete. And, my body is so used to coughing at the slightest trigger, that it’s going to take quite some time for it to unlearn that response, even if we completely address what got it going in the first place. Nevertheless, for the first time in a long while I feel some hope about improving this chronic illness. That motivates me to stay on top of my treatment plan and to slowly work in regular exercise.

Getting Regular Exercise

I’ve always had trouble maintaining a regular exercise routine for more than a couple of months at a time. And over the last couple of years, my respiratory issues have made any kind of regular exercise feel impossible.But now I’m making progress on my cough, and so it’s time to get back to regular exercise. My basic plan for this is: home treadmill (we now have a Precor 9.27), fitbit and yoga. I’m particularly excited about the treadmill. Having it in the room next to my home office means I’ll be able to make use of it throughout the day, taking the breaks I should be taking, and won’t have to face the cold, wet Portland winter or a neighborhood completely lacking sidewalks to do so. Plus both Mom and Sherri will be able to use it as well.

Oh, and if you’re a Fitbit user, send me a friend request!

Family Trip to Hawaii

In March, we’re heading to Hawaii with both of our moms. I’m really excited about the opportunity for the four of us to spend time together and get to know each other better. Oh, and if all goes according to plan, our trip will coincide with Dori’s 70th birthday!

Events & Speaking

This year I will continue my involvement in Open Source Bridge, BarCamp Portland as well as the Open Source Day at the Grace Hopper Celebration. I will also be speaking at PyCon, and perhaps a few other conferences (we’re submitted to OSCON again). I’m very much looking forward to all of these events, especially OSB because it’s our 5th year, which I consider an important milestone.

Reconnecting with a Spiritual Community

A number of colliding factors prompted me to stop practicing with our Zen community a few months before Sherri and I got married. I have yet to find another faith community to practice with. In truth, I haven’t been seriously looking. In part this is becuase it’s take a long time to heal from my experiences and I just haven’t been ready. But I think I am now. There’s a Unitarian community in our neighborhood, and I think we’re going to start there and see how things feel.

Seeing Firefox OS Launch

Since switching to my new role on Mozilla’s Technical Evangelism team, I’ve been working exclusively on efforts to get developers involved in Firefox OS. I’m very much looking forward to making more progress towards the successful launch and growth of this initiative.

(Oh, and if you’re a developer, designer, ux, other other techie person and you’re interested in contributing xapps for our Marketplace, get in touch with me. If you know html, javascript and css you can create apps!)

Reading Challenge

In 2012, I set a reading goal for myself of 24 books. Two per month seemed like a perfectly good challenge. Well, I read nearly double that amount. In part this is because I “read” a lot of audiobooks. I do this while walking or doing chores. It’s nice to be able to read when I otherwise wouldn”t be able to. And in some cases, switching between a written book and a spoken book helps me understand the material better (and Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice makes this seamless). In any case, clearly last year’s goal was too conservative, so this year I’m setting a goal of 60. That’s more than one book per week and I’m not sure I can meet it. But it’s important to set reach goals every now and then. Want to join me? Head on over to GoodReads, sign up for your own challenge and send me a friend request.

What about you?

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

My Year in Review: 2012

When I first started thinking about what would go into this year’s, only two words came to mind “good” and “riddance.” In many ways this year has been an awful one, full of new stresses and challenges. But as soon as I started drafting this review, I realized I accomplished a lot and that a lot of good things came out of the turmoil. So instead of saying “good riddance” to 2012, I’m saying “thanks for kicking my butt and making me realize what’s really important in life.”

That said, here are the highlights from Christie’s Twenty-Twelve:

Grew Our Household

Dori poses with the Christmas tree
Dori poses with the Christmas tree.

By which I mean that Sherri’s mom came to live with us permanently. Starting in January a series unfortunate events occurred in Mom’s life. As a result her health declined dramatically. She was not thriving in the retirement community where she was living. We were spending a lot of time driving out to East County on the weekends to check on her and then worrying about her during the days in between. We realized we could do a lot more if we saw her every day. We decided to ask her to come live with us, and she said yes. It was quite a journey getting to where we are now (more on that later). But now that we’re here, I know absolutely it was the right decision. Mom’s health has stabilized. She’s looking better, she’s feeling better and is more alert. Living together ultimately means that we are getting more quality time together as a family, for which I am amazingly grateful.

Bought a House (My First)

View from the deck of our new house.
View from the deck of our new house.

When we decided to invite Mom to come live with us, it came with the recognition that our current house was simply not suitable for her in terms of available space or accessibility. Plus Sherri’s daily commute from North Portland to Wilsonville was becoming unsustainable in terms of time and wear and tear on Sherri’s body. As last as July I remained convinced that we didn’t have enough of our ducks in a row to move, let alone buy a house. However, someone very wise told me that I just had to envision myself in a new place and that the ducks would align themselves. Sounds pretty woo-woo, I know, but it worked. I came home that day and told Sherri I was emailing the real estate agent and mortgage broker to whom we’d been referred. The fifth or sixth house we viewed was the one. I’ll never forget turning to Sherri and saying “this is it; we’re making an offer.” It was like falling in love. If I had know how much back and forth we’d go through in the coming weeks, I might have gone running and screaming from the property instead. But, we made it through and closed in mid-September and moved in shortly thereafter. I still think every day how lucky I am that we found this house and that we were able to buy it.

Completed Year One at Mozilla

Firefox Doughnuts
Firefox Doughnuts at this year’s Winter Coder’s Social.

My first year at Mozilla was certainly not without disappointments or difficulties. However, I’m still finding it worthwhile and am excited about my new role on the Technical Evangelism team working primarily on Firefox OS over the next year and beyond.

Won an Award

O'Reilly Open Source Awards
With Sarah and Edd at the O’Reilly Open Source Awards.

To my great delight and honor, O’Reilly presented me with an Open Source Award for demonstrating “exceptional leadership, creativity, and collaboration in the development of Open Source Software.”

Attended, Organized and Spoke at Some Tech Events

Me speaking during our tutorial at OSCON.
Me speaking during our tutorial at OSCON.

I think I participated in handful of events this year, as attendee, organizer and sometimes speaker. Chronologically, they were (and yes, I’m having to reference my calendar to write this):

Organized Code ‘n’ Splode & Women Who Hack

This year I continued organizing Code ‘n’ Splode and also founded a new group called Women Who Hack. Women Who Hack is similar to CnS, but takes a different approach to supporting women and genderqueer folks working in tech. Our meetings are held on weekends, are less structured and impose a more restrictive attendance requirement (men are not welcomed to attend). So far attendance for the group has been good and feedback has been positive.

Had Some Travel Adventures

Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral
Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA.

This year I traveled more than I have in year’s past. Mostly this was due to many trips to the Bay Area and other places (Scottsdale, Baltimore) as part of my work with Mozilla. But, Sherri and I also managed to take two big trips together (Orlando and New Orleans) as well as a weekend trip to Bend, Oregon for my birthday.

Read Many Books

2012 Reading Challenge Results (as of 28 December)
2012 Reading Challenge Results (as of 28 December)

I plan to do a whole post about the books I read in 2012, so here I’ll just mention that I blew away my reading goal of 24 books by reading almost double that. You can see all of the books I read on my Goodreads challenge page. (And if you’re a Goodreads user, send me an invite!)

Saved Money, Paid off Debts

Thanks to mine and Sherri’s generous tech salaries, 2012 was a good year financially, despite the ongoing uncertainty in the greater economy. I paid off the last of my student loans, financed a newer (used) car at a good rate, saved 10% of my salary, and bought a house. I am proud of myself for accomplishing these things, but I also recognize that I am extremely fortunate to have the job that I do and to be paid what I am for doing that job.

Those were the highlights of my 2012. Stay tuned for a post about how 2013 is shaping up and what I’m looking forward to most.

On legions, syndicates, bridges and other projects

Holy sleep deprivation, Batman, I have been busy! My last life-update-type blog entry was a month ago and it feels like three.

A few weeks ago I made weekend trip to the Bay Area to visit and catch up with some dear friends, including my brother Will. I got to see the house that my friends purchased last year (their first), was treated to some awesome homemade vegan chili, and also got to visit many fine felines. Oh, and the weather was fantastic, as in mid-70s. So nice to have a break from Portland’s grey chill, even if I did come back with half a dozen mosquito bites.

Armstrong the Royal Cat
Armstrong the Royal Cat

Thanksgiving was really nice. Sherri and I spent it here in Portland and hosted for the first time as a married couple. About a dozen people participated, including ourselves. Sherri and I prepared an entire Thanksgiving spread ourselves, and then each of the guests brought something as well, so there was plenty of food and many leftovers. Having a long weekend to do not much of anything was really nice. As is our new tradition, Sherri and I went to the Red Cross on Black Friday to donate blood. My donation and recovery went much better this time. I delivered my pint a bit slower this time, which might have had something to do with it (5.5 minutes instead of 4.5). We also managed, somehow, to watch the first six Harry Potter movies. This was done in preparation of seeing the seventh, which we plan to catch in the theater soon.

I’ve been very focused at work developing a new feature set that we’re releasing next month. The office is getting more and more crowded as we continue to hire. I’ve been trying to go in earlier to get some work in before the din really gets going. Pretty soon I’m going to need to upgrade my headphones to some noise-cancelling ones. All in all, I’m finding life at this startup to be manageable, which I’m thankful for. Though I still can’t decide if introducing the office to nerf gun warfare was a good idea or not.

ShopIgniter Card, Front
Our ShopIgniter business cards arrived from the printer last month

Another bit of news this week is that Legion of Tech announced a resolution to last year’s embezellment. I’ve put in a considerable amount of time over the last couple of months working toward closure on the situation, so it feels good to have it finally wrapped up.

The Stumptown Syndicate is now up and running. We’ve filed articles of incorporation, have a PO Box and a bank account. This allowed us to open registration for Open Source Bridge, months earlier than we ever have been able to before. We still have a lot of work to do on the Syndicate (bylaws, strategic planning, fundraising, etc.), but just getting the organization up and running in a bare-bones sense feels really good.

Work on the house continues. The contractors wrapped up just before Thanksgiving (yay!). We’ve picked out paint, in lots of colors, all no-VOC paint from Yolo Colorhouse that we purchased from Ecohaus. We have all the painting supplies (sand paper, brushes, rollers, tarps). Now all we need to do is paint! Oh, and we’ve managed to pull up the carpet from two rooms (my office and living room).

In between other projects, I’ve started scanning old photographs. This is one of my favorites:

Christie with Mom, circa 1983
Christie with Mom, circa 1983

I think I’m around 3 years old in that photo. My mom looks so, so young. I’m older now (by more than a few years) than she was in this photograph.

BarCamp, Home Insulating, and Rainbows

I keep thinking I should write here and then realized I don’t really have the energy to do so. The last month has been incredibly business, with lots of community activities, some pretty heavy deadlines at work and major home improvements.

Perhaps the most time consuming community activity was running BarCamp Portland 4, which took place at the end of October. Despite being exhausted, I had a really good time and the event went really well. I got to try out a few new facilitation techniques that I learned at the “Art of Presentations” class I took in early October at Portland Center Stage. Attendance wasn’t as great as at previous BarCamps, but I think most people had a good time. I only went to one session and it was one that I lead, a Q&A about Legion of Tech. The rest of the time I spent running around answering volunteer’s questions and just hanging out with good people.

Organizers at the end of the day
BarCamp Organizers at the end of the day (photo courtesy @akfarrell)

Planning for Open Source Bridge is now in full swing. I’m co-chairing this year, along with Reid Beels. I’m really excited about this year’s core team, which I think has a great combination of skills and is going to work really well together.

There’s another project Reid, Audrey and I are working on that isn’t quite ready for prime-time, but which I hope to announce soon (hopefully this week).

I’ve also been spending a fair bit of time on Legion of Tech business, including wrapping up some unresolved business from last year and managing board elections.

All this is going on while I’m working at a startup, which has been intense, but manageable. Oh, and I got a small raise in the form of coffee subsidy: we got a fantastic espresso maker for the office. Seriously, it’s fantastic. I wish I had a photo of it to include in this post.

On the home-front, things have been a bit chaotic as well. During the summer, we applied for EcoTrust’s Clean Energy Works program. Our house qualified and work began last week. We have a storage pod in our driveway, and our living/dining rooms as well as my office are nearly empty. The insulation team has been drilling giant holes in our walls and filling the space with cellulose insulation. Once they finish up, the plaster team will remove the old wallpaper and paint and then repair the holes. Sherri has been amazing through this process and has really been doing the most of the work coordinating with the contractors and doing the majority of the packing. That’s really nice for me since these things really stress me out. I did manage to pack most of the office, however, which you can see below.

Prep for Home Insulation
Prep for Home Insulation

November is VeganMoFo, the Vegan Month of Food. Sherri has been writing a vegan food blog for sometime now and we’d talked several times about moving it, along with her other blog, from blogger to a WordPress installation on my server. Vegan MoFo gave us the incentive to get it done for the start of November. We bought a copy of the Thesis WordPress theme framework and Sherri and I have been working together to skin the re-named food blog Vegan Nosh. I think it turned out really well. This weekend I updated my personal homepage from an outdated WordPress installation to a single, static page. Since I have no plans to start freelancing again any time soon, I took down the now defunct CK Web Development blog and put up a static page there directing people to my homepage.

Vegan Nosh
Vegan Nosh

Phew! I’m getting exhausted just talking about it all.

But, it hasn’t been all work. Sherri and I have managed to spend some quality downtime together amid the madness and enjoy the beautiful Autumn we’re having.

Crisp Autumn Morning
Crisp Autumn Morning

And we’ve even managed to catch a few rainbows.

Amazingly Bright Rainbow
Amazingly Bright Rainbow

And 2010 is off to a roaring start

2010 started busy and shows no signs of becoming less buy any time soon.

Job Stuff

I’m now nearly five months into my new job at FINE Design Group. I’ve launch one project for Blackstone Winery and will launch another one shortly. In addition to my programming work at FINE, I’ve also been able to flex my system administration skills, which I has been nice. I’m also about to wrap up my contracting gig, which will be a big relief. It’s been very difficult working these two jobs simultaneously while trying to keep up with my volunteer commitments.

Volunteer Stuff

This year I’m serving on the planning team for the second Open Source Bridge conference, happening here in Portland during the first week of June. This year I am serving as Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. The conference went really well last year and I’m very much looking forward to this year’s event. We just opened the Call for Proposals (so get yours in!) and are about to finalize our venue.

Photo courtesy of @turoczy
Photo courtesy of @turoczy

I’m happy to announce that I am now a Legion of Tech Board member! For those who don’t know, Legion of Tech produces free events for the Portland tech community, including BarCamp Portland and IgnitePortland. Part of my duties as board member is to help plan this year’s BarCamp, which will be co-located at the University of Portland with CodeCamp. Very exciting stuff!

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve continued my role on the Communications Committee with the Zen Community of Oregon. We’re working on a new website (design and custom content management system), and really stepping up advertising efforts for our Portland Program.


Sherri and I have started working on the garden for this year. So far we’ve managed to completely clear the blackberries (again) and have one of the raised beds prepared. In fact, last week Sherri started sowing peas at either end of the bed. But this is just a start. We plan to use all four raised beds this year, the entire area around our deck and also to expand last year’s winter squash patch. With luck, we’ll send our un-used hot tub off with a friend and use that space entirely for greens. I also have tentative plans to build a new compost structure.

Blue Beauty

In December, I bought a friend’s 1972 Toyota Corona Mark II. This is definitely a project car. Like any vehicle nearly 40 years old, it needs a lot of work. I’ve wanted to learn more about working with cars for a long time. So, I’m as excited as I am daunted by this particular project. I know I don’t need to do it all myself, however. I think I’ll be working on this a lot more when the weather warms up.

1972 Toyota Corona Mark 2
1972 Toyota Corona Mark II. Yes, the car is older than I am.


I’m not sure where I got the idea, but around Christmas time I started folding paper cranes with the idea to make 1,000 of them. I’m at 62 (hey, I’m 6.2% done). I’ve also been learning how to make some geometric origami structures. I’ll be adding items to my Origami Set on Flickr as I complete them.

Morning Crane
Crane #50 out of 1,000.

The Year in Review: 2009

What did Christie do in 2009? Briefly: I said goodbye to a good friend, moved in with my beloved, got even more involved in the awesomeness that is the Portland tech community, practiced some Zen, and found a new job. For the long version of the above, keep reading…

2009 started out with a quiet weekend trip to Eugene (trip photos). When I tell people that Sherri and I took a mini “vacation” to Eugene I usually get very puzzled looks that tell me Eugene is known to be boring and why would we go there for vacation. But Sherri and I wanted an economical, mellow trip. And we both like college towns. We found a lovely bed and breakfast at which to stay. We explored the campus, including the natural history museum and art galleries. We enjoyed the vegan pizza and playing cards with some of the locals at Sam Bond’s garage. We drank champagne and watched tv in bed. It was a nice way to begin the year together.

Rescuing a Worm
Christie saving a worm from certain death on the Oregon State campus

In February it was revealed that our openly gay Mayor Sam Adams had had a relationship with a teenager before he became mayor (at the time he was a city council member). It’s still not clear what activities did or did not happen before the person in question turned 18. Anti-Adams groups called for his resignation (and now recall). Many more people turned out in support of the Mayor. Sherri and I were two of those people. I’ve never been much of an activist, politically or otherwise. Actually, this was the first rally of any type that I attended. I found it energizing. Adams said later on that he was prepared to resign in light of the scandal, but changed his mind after seeing so many people come out to support him. Participating in the rally made me feel positive about community involvement. It made me realize that my, seemingly inconsequential actions could indead add up to make a difference.

In April, I attended my first weekend workshop at Great Vow Monastery, called “Working with the Inner Critic.” Much of the workshop focused on using voice dialogue to identify and work with the Inner Critic. Rather than banishing the inner critic, we learned techniques for putting what she has to say in context and then making our own decisions, from our true selves. During the workshop, I learned just how much my inner critic, and another very fearful self, hold me back, particularly in my professional life. I found the workshop to be fairly transformative. So transformative, in fact, that I came home and had Sherri help me cut off all of my bleached blonde hair. After nearly a decade of doing crazy things to my hair with chemicals, it was time to just be Christie again.

Less than a month after the Inner Critic retreat, I moved in with Sherri. We’d been planning this move for nearly six months. While I’m finding that home ownership can be overwhelming at times, Sherri and I have slipped into domestic routine very easily. Most of the pre-moving concerns we shared have evaporated under the warmth of being together so consistently. I revel in the simple pleasures of meal-making, playing with the cats and reading together before bed.

This year I spent a lot of time thinking about my own decision to go vegan, how to talk to others about veganism, and how to be a force for positive change towards veganism within my community. I talk a bit about what prompted me to want to be more activist in the blog post “Vegan is More than a Strange Diet.”

In early June, we said goodbye to Atari the Wonder Cat. I miss him still.

Shortly after Atari’s passing and partially in his honor, I got my first tattoo. It’s a flash style heart that says “Vegan” inside of it.

This year I got even more involved in the awesome Portland Tech community. I started to co-lead Code ‘n’ Splode meetings. I participated in a few other user groups like PDXPHP, Ruby Brigade and Javascript Admirers. I volunteered for Legion of Tech events Ignite Portland and BarCamp. Perhaps the highlight was speaking and coordinating the volunteers at the first ever Open Source Bridge in June.

I often travel for my birthday, but this year I decided to stay in Portland. Sherri surprised me with tickets for the musical Rent. I’d never seen the theatrical production before, but had seen the movie and knew the soundtrack by heart. The seats were awesome. We enjoyed strong, tasty cocktails before the show. It was a most excellent evening.

On the weekend after my birthday, Sherri and I traveled to Sacramento to visit with my family. While in the area, we spent a few hours in Davis, where I went to college. We visited the farmer’s market and I gave Sherri a tour of campus. We had a good time despite the fact that it was over 100 degrees that weekend.

Jesse's Memorial Tree
I was surprised at how much Jesse's memorial tree had grown. I almost didn't recognize it.

To celebrate Sherri’s birthday, we spent a week on Hawaii’s Big Island (photos). The trip was somewhat exhausting (we scheduled many activities), but still fantastic. Hawaii is simply gorgeous. I can’t believe all of the native plants we saw: lilies, orchids, mangos, bananas, all growing in the wild. And, I swam in the ocean for the first time (albeit with a life jacket). And with Dolphins! We know we’re going back, and probably this year.

Sherri and I recharge with some shaved ice after a morning spent swimming with dolphins.

During our time in Hawaii I had some downtime to reflect on my freelancing career and decided that upon returning to Portland, I’d start looking for full-time employment. I found a web developer position at an agency here in town within a month. Next week, I will have been there three months! I enjoy where and with whom I work.

A women in our Sangha fosters cats and kittens for OHS. She often posts their photos and progress on Facebook. Shortly before leaving for Hawaii, she posted about two kittens, a tuxedo and a black and white striped tabby. I told Sherri these were my two favorite colorings of cat, and she suggested we go meet them. So we did. And I fell in love right away (they’re kittens after all). We’ve named them Puck and Oberon (from Mid-Summer Night’s Dream). They’re doing very well.

Two new additions to our family: Puck (left) and Oberon.

One of my 2009 goals was to establish a retreat practice. I didn’t manage to make it to a sesshin, but I did attend a Beginner’s Mind Retreat. It was a very good experience. I wouldn’t say it was easy; it wasn’t. Any time you a required to do sitting meditation for 8+ hours a day isn’t going to be easy. But I did notice that I felt at home at the monastery and was able to begin to relax into the container of practice that it provides. I look forward to (if one can look forward to) my first sesshin (week-long silent retreat), which I’m planning for mid-2010.

In October, right after completing my Beginner’s Mind retreat, I received the Five Grave Precepts from my teachers Hogen and Chozen. My mother, step-father, two of my brothers and a number of our friends attended the ceremony and celebration afterwards. I was honored to be supported in this way. Sherri also took Jukai during this same ceremony and it was lovely to share this aspect of practice with her.

Precepts and Jukai Ceremony

I made the tough decision to spend the holidays in Portland, for the first time with Sherri, but away from my family of origin. It was nice to not have to travel, and to get to spend these special days with Sherri and with my Portland community. But it sucks that these good things come at the expense of missing my family and not getting to spend the holidays with them. I envy those who are fortunate enough to see their families more often.

Thanksgiving was quite lovely. Our Sangha holds it’s annual holiday party on Thanksgiving day with a giant potluck out at Great Vow Monastery. This year I think there were at least 70 people, including two friends that came with Sherri and me. At least a third of the dishes that other people brought were vegan (a great improvement over previous years). The residents put on quite a marimba concert. Some of us played a strange board game from the 70s called “Social Security.”

Thankgiving at Great Vow
Thanksgiving at Great Vow. Everyone gathered in a circle for the meal chant.

Christmas was just as lovely, although more low-key. I worked at home on Christmas Eve, knocking off in the early afternoon. Sherri and I stayed at home and open our stockings and gifts on Christmas Eve. Sherri and I both had the week between Christmas and New Year’s day off from work. We spent the time at home working on projects, took a few yoga classes and mostly just rested.

Getting ready to exchange our Christmas gifts

A few days before the end of the year, Portland received a few inches of unpredicted snow. Because we were home already (both having the week off from work), Sherri and I went out to play shortly after it started snowing.

Surprise snow makes Christie happy

This year we opted to stay in for New Year’s Eve. Sherri made a wonderful Japanese food themed feast. I even lent a hand by making some cocoa mochi (turned out okay, but I think I prefer other kinds of mochi).

Sherri preparing burdock root for our NYE feast

Despite the fact that it was a very busy year, we managed some fun day trips. Some of the highlights were Ecola State park and Canon Beach, Lincoln City on Memorial Day weekend, a visit to Kiyokawa Orchards for apple tasting, and a couple of visits to Hood River.


Returning to Full-Time Employment

When I started freelancing over two years ago, I was very excited about my ability to do so. I looked forward to choosing my own work hours, working from wherever I wanted and for whomever I wanted. I envisioned that I’d enjoy the wide variety of tasks required for freelancing: business development, managing client relationships, accounting, etc. Additionally, I thought I’d have the freedom to learn new skills and contribute to side projects.

Freelancing has actually gone fairly well for me. I’ve never been without work (indeed, I seem to find more than I can do). I’ve made a decent living. Being a freelancer allowed me to move from San Francisco to Portland without a disruption in income. I’ve built new skills and have completed some large projects.

But over the last several months I’ve felt a kind of fatigue creep upon me. I never quite feel like I’m off of work. Having my own office space at home and working from coffee shops helps somewhat, but the inconsistency in working environment is also draining. Isolation is also a significant issue. I miss working with people. In particular, I miss working with other developers. Co-working and participating in user groups helps tremendously, but I’ve found that it’s not a substitute for going into the office everyday and working side-by-side with your colleagues.

Perhaps the biggest factor in my decision to return to full-time employment is that I don’t enjoy being a jack-of-all trades as I much as I thought I was going to enjoy it. I don’t particularly care for marketing, business development and accounting. And because I don’t care for those activities all that much, it’s going to be a struggle to become adept at them. I’d rather focus my energies on becoming a better developer and really honing my craft.

All of these thoughts came to mind at the end of August while Sherri and I were in Hawai’i. Apparently there’s nothing like a tropical vacation to put things in perspective. I knew it was time to try something different so I started looking for work as soon as we returned.

The search went well and this week is my last week of full-time freelancing. I’ve accepted a full-time, on-site developer position at FINE Design Group. I start next Monday. I’m pretty thrilled at finding work so quickly and at a company who’s environment I think will suit me well.

So Much Happening in June

Whoa, so the calendar turned over to June and my list of events and todos exploded. Below are some of the things Sherri and I have in the hopper for this month.

(And, yes, I’m referencing my Google Calendar as I write this post. It’s the only way I manage to keep track of everything.)

Open Source Bridge

The Open Source Bridge conference is third week of June and I’m participating in a number of ways. First, I’m speaking. My two talks are titled: Open Source Tools for Freelancers and Re-Factor Your Brain: Meditation for Geeks. Though I have no idea what to expect, I’m excited about giving both of these talks. I love sharing what I know with others, particularly when I’m sharing information that has really helped me. The second talk on meditation is one of the early evening sessions and I’m not sure what the turn out will be. But then I think it doesn’t matter. If only a few folks show up, I’ll have an opportunity to have an even more direct, intimate experience with those people.

In addition to my speaker and attendee role, I’m serving as on-site volunteer coordinator for the conference. This means recruiting and organizing volunteers ahead of the conference and then managing them on-site during the conference. We had a volunteer orientation tonight which was well attended. Tomorrow I’ll be wrangling even more volunteer’s during Lunch 2.0.

Friends and Family

Two really good college friends and one of my brothers are visiting from California at the same time during the second week of June. I’ve seen all three of these people since moving to Portland in 2007, but this will be their first visit here to see me. It’s been hard to live so far from my family and close friends. I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing Portland with them. Sherri and I still have boxes everywhere that we have to deal with, but we’re happy to be able to provide a comfy place to stay.

Zen Community Stuff

Originally I had planned to attend my first Beginner’s Mind Retreat this month at Great Vow Zen Monastery. However, once the events and family visits started to pile up, I made the tough decision to postpone until early Fall. But there’s still plenty of ZCO things going on in addition to our weekly group meditation and dharma talks. I’ve been working on a new website for ZCO which we’re hoping to launch this month or early next (after some delay due to me being sick and moving). In addition, we’re having a founder’s dinner and benefit for Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple on June 21st. Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple will be our Portland center. We’ve outgrown the space we share with Dharma Rain at the Portland Dharma Center, so we’re avidly looking for an appropriate property (and avidly raising money for the purchase said property).

Birthday and Sacramento Trip

My birthday is in the fourth week of June. I haven’t quite decided how I would like to celebrate. Traditionally I take a trip for my birthday, which Sherri and I are doing. My birthday falls in the middle of the week, so we’re going to Sacramento to visit with my folks the weekend directly following. I’ve thought about seeing Rent, which is in town for just that week. Or having a dinner out. I’m still undecided.

I’m not looking forward to visiting Sacramento during the summer when it’s sure to be sweltering. But, it will be nice to see my mother and step-father and to show Sherri around a bit. We’re probably going to take a mini trip to Davis (my alma mater) show I can show her the campus and the town. We might even do the farmer’s market thing.

Other Events

There are a few other events that I’d like to attend, if possible: Northwest Pride on June 13th and 14th; the Portland Buddhist Festival, also on June 13th; the Sumer Coder’s Social on June 20th.

Bronchitis, Moving, and Gardening

Life since early March has been a bit of a blur. A large part of this was due to the fact that I came down with a bad cold that turned into a lingering case of bronchitis. I’m  new to this kind of respiratory distress and so I waited way too long to go to the doctor. Eventually I did and my doctor diagnosed me with a mild case of bronchitis and sent me on my way with a handful of new prescriptions. Albuterol, a steroidal inhaler and even vicodin for the cough. On top of my normal regimen of allergy medications, I feel like a walking pharmacy. But the drugs appear to be working, albeit slowly. I’m feeling more energetic, am able to breath clearly and an coughing.

In the middle of all this bronchitis stuff, I moved in with my partner Sherri. I do not recommend moving while sick if it can be helped. I hired movers, but even then it took me forever to pack my tiny studio and even longer than forever to get it unpacked (we’re still opening boxes and sorting through stuff). But I love living in a house again (for the first time, really, since leaving my parents home when I was 17). Having all the extra space available is wonderful. Having a yard is a privilege I adore. Though, I’m realizing how expensive home ownership and maintenance can be. We spent several hundred at Home Depot this month just to get the yard and garden in shape. And we’ve still so much to do.

But the garden is simply lovely. The state of the yard when I moved in was fairly over grown. The blackberries emanating from the corner of the yard were threatening to take over. The raised beds built last year were either unfinished or completely full of weeds. The first sunny weekend available to us, Sherri and I attacked the yard with furry. I demolished the insidious blackberries. We yanked weeds out of the beds. We bought dirt, lots of dirt. So much dirt in fact that Sherri did not think it would fit in my little Toyota pick up (it totally fit, barely). We filled the beds and mixed in compost. Because it’s already so late in the season, we opted to buy starts, most of which came from the Portland Nursery. In fact, we went a little crazy with the number of starts we bought and had to get creative about where to put them. We have a half dozen varieties of tomatoes (including one called pineapple that I’m very excited about), peppers, summer squash, some heirloom eggplants, bush and pole beans, winter squash, a melon and an heirloom cantaloupe, and various greens. I take great delight in watering everything each morning, looking for signs of new growth. I August and September we’re going to have more fruits and veggies than we know what to do with! We also planted a handful of annuals and perennials in the front yard.

During Memorial Weekend, Sherri and I were supposed to attend a couples retreat together at Great Vow Zen Monastery. But, Atari is in the middle of treatment for a urinary tract infection and may also have diabetes. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving town while his diagnosis was still up in the air. So, we elected to stay home. Knowing that we were now going to be in town, a good friend from college decided to visit. We ended up taking two mini road trips, one to Hood River and the other to the Coast, with a detour to pick strawberries. Sherri good some good photos and also wrote about it here and again here.

Somehow during all of this I managed also to give a talk on CodeIgniter at the April meeting of Code ‘n’ Splode and I volunteered at this year’s BarCamp. I also finished a volunteer project that I’d been working on — the website for a friend’s NGO, the International Cardiovascular Health Alliance.

Things aren’t going to get any quieter anytime soon. Next month I’m volunteering for and speaking at OSBridge, a conference for open source citizens. My Zen community is also holding a founder’s dinner for our Portland Center. Sherri and I will be attending and helping out with that. Because I haven’t seen my family since Christmas, Sherri and I are going to Sacramento the weekend after my birthday. I’m not looking forward to the sweltering Sacramento heat, but it will be nice to see everyone and get to show Sherri my old ‘hoods. We’ll probably take a side trip to Davis so I can show her the campus and town. I’m sure it will be a shock to me how much Davis has grown since I left (it always is).

And all of that is happening in June!

Update: Here’s a photo of the garden: