Category: Life Update

Multiple Sclerosis

Last week Sherri and I met with my neurologist to review the findings of blood and cerebral-spinal fluid lab analyses. I received a diagnosis of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. If you ever watched The West Wing, you might recall this was the illness President Jeb Bartlett had and tried to keep secret.

Well, I’m not planning to run for higher office, so am free to share the news in this blog post.

(Side note: I almost titled this post Let Koehler be Koehler. Only West Wing geeks will get this.)

First, a request: We do not wish to receive treatment or management advice for MS, including anything related to diet or lifestyle. Portland is a center of medical excellence. We have many care practitioners skilled at supporting patients with MS, and I am confident in my care team. Later on in this post I’ll share ways you can help out if you would like.

While MS is not directly hereditary, having a first-degree genetic relative with MS does increase the incidence of being diagnosed with it. To our knowledge, I do not have any close genetic relatives with MS, but it’s hard to know for sure because there are adoptions on both sides of my family. We’ve done our best to notify genetic family members with whom I’m in contact. But if you’re reading this and weren’t one of the folks we contacted and you want to get in touch, please feel free to do so.

The only other advice I’ll give about MS is this: If you have never checked your Vitamin D levels, consider doing so at your next general check up. Low Vitamin D is correlated with MS, among other health issues, and mine was incredibly low for years. It’s up to a good level now, thankfully. To get it there and to keep it there I take 10k IUs D3 with 500mcg K2 daily and will have to do so for the rest of my life.

There is no cure for MS. Treatment is about managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. How MS manifests is highly personal and variable. Slowing the progression of the disease is about finding a drug that is well tolerated and balances suppressing the immune system enough to slow down the MS without slowing it down too much such that you acquire all the infections.

My neurologist has given her recommendations for disease-modifying (DMT) treatments for me. She’s suggesting a couple different kinds of oral drugs, which are in the middle of the scale in terms of efficacy vs. safety (those two things being inversely proportional). Her reasoning on the middle option for me is a function of my age (on the older side for onset of MS), that I have spinal lesions (those showing up first tend to make for more quickly progressing disease), but also that my symptoms have stabilized. e.g. I’m not currently in an active flare-up. We’ve started to research those and will decide soon which to try. Starting DMTs early is correlated with better outcomes so we don’t plan to delay.

I’m also starting a medication to help with my most persistent symptom, which is muscle stiffness in my legs and torso. I’m hoping this will make mobility easier and leave me less exhausted in the evenings.

The journey here

The journey to this diagnosis started at the beginning of 2021. Just after the Capital Riot, I experienced numbness and tingling in my right arm and torso. My last two fingers had very strange sensation, particularly when it came to temperature. They didn’t register cold at all and anything remotely warm (like drinkable tea) felt burning, electrical hot. We thought maybe I had pinched a nerve. This resolved in about a week, ten days. Then, a few weeks later, over President’s day weekend, when we had an all-day power outage, I took a stumble getting up from lighting the gas fireplace. Shortly after that I noticed altered sensation from my belly button down through both legs, with the worst of it being in my feet. Most noticeable was a feeling of numbness, like when a limb has fallen half asleep. In the evenings it would be worse, with it sometimes feeling like my feet and lower legs were swollen when they clearly weren’t. I’d get occasional zings of sharp, pokey pain, or patches that felt like they were on fire. I also noticed some loss of sensation in my groin and around my waist, though I could still go to the bathroom okay. Another symptom that I’d been experiencing for the several months now seemed possibly relevant: muscle stiffness in my legs and torso.

When the numbness didn’t subside after a couple of weeks, we made an appointment when my primary care doctor. She ran some blood tests. When those didn’t show anything obvious (like B12 deficiency), she referred me to a neurologist. During our first appointment, the neurologist did testing on the nerves in my legs to rule out local neuropathy. Everything with the nerves in my legs looked fine.

(If you’ve never had this done, it’s fascinating and kind of a trip. In one portion they put electrodes on you in various areas and run current through your nerves and measure the potentials to see if the signals are being conducted properly. In another, they stick acupuncture-like needs in your muscles, hooked up to a speaker. They wiggle the needle around, the most painful part of the testing, in my experience, until it makes contact with the nerve and then YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR the signals conducted.)

Next step after the local nerve testing checked out was to rule out central nervous system involvement via MRI. I had one session where we did MRIs of my brain, cervical, and thoracic spine, with and without contrast. Contrast helps the radiologist and neurologist identify the relative age of any pathologies.

My MRI showed lesions on my spine in the area of T8/T9, which correlates with the location in my body where I’d been noticing the majority of my symptoms. My neurologist observed that the lesions didn’t look new. This got us thinking back to the odd sensations I’d been noticing here and there going back at least to January 2020. Interestingly, my MRIs didn’t show any significant brain lesions (just once associated with normal aging).

The next step after this was to collect and analyze cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF) via a lumbar puncture (LP), also known as a “spinal tap.” I was nervous about this procedure. For one thing, I would mark the most invasive procedure I’d ever had to date. To collect the spinal fluid, a needle is inserted into the lumbar region of the spine. Those of you who know me, probably recall that I have had an intractable cough since 2009, which never went way following a particularly nasty upper airway infection. Sherri spent several hours trying to arrange for a consult with someone so we could get advice on how to best manage my cough during and after the procedure in order to minimize complications. It turns our our healthcare system, even with the really great private insurance we have now, is just not set up for this.

We opted for a fluoroscope-guided procedure performed at the hospital with partial sedation. The first time we got to talk face-to-face with the radiologist performing the procedure was when I was already prepped and waiting. He, an experienced practitioner, had never had a patient with my kind of cough before. The procedure itself went fine. Unfortunately, an hour or so into the recovery window, I had an episode of coughing. Mild by my standards, but significant for folks without a cough like mine. I had a mild headache, but otherwise seemed fine, so after the required observation time, we went home.

One of the most common complications of an LP is a spinal headache. If the puncture of the dura doesn’t seal properly, you can leak CSF into the surrounding tissue. This alters the pressure of CSF in the brain and spinal column and can cause an extreme headache and nausea. I had both and by 4-5pm that day, I was incapacitated with pain and barely lucid. We went to the ER later that evening. They administered Benadryl and Reglan via IV and I felt better. Enough we thought it made sense to go home. Around 6am the next morning I awoke with a mild headache but then had another coughing session and by 8am or so was incapacitated again. Sherri called the radiologist who performed the LP and arranged to have me admitted that afternoon for a blood patch.

A blood patch is the primary treatment for spinal headache following LP. They take some of your own blood and inject it at the LP site on the spine. The blood forms a clot at seals the CSF leak. Once the leak stops, the spinal headache tends to resolve within a few hours. In my case it did just that, thankfully. The hardest part was continuing to lay still, completely flat on my back, for more than four hours. Once I started to feel better I really wanted to sit up. Plus my hospital bed was positioned such that I could clearly see the room clock mocking me, even without my glasses! Luckily I had good company to help me pass the time. And ensure I didn’t try to sit up.

Anyway, just before my 41st birthday, and within a 48-hour period of time, I: had my first in-hospital procedure, my first ER visit for myself, my first hospital admission, and my first time using a bedpan! I do not recommend this to anyone as a warm-up to their birthday week. Or ever, really.

How you can help

Some sources say that people with MS have slightly less life expectancy than average. Some say it’s about the same as their peers, but of lesser quality. There’s no way to predict how things are going to be for me. We’re just going to have to do the best we can. What I do know is that the support of our community is and will continue to be super important.

Already in this journey we have leaned on family and friends to help us out. We will continue to need your support. Though, due to the unpredictability of MS, a lot of the specifics we won’t know until we arrive at them.

The first thing you can do is just stay in touch. Because of my ADHD and trauma history, this is particularly challenging for me. You are often on my mind even when you don’t hear from me. Reaching out always means a great deal to me, even if I am incapable of responding or reciprocating in a timely fashion. One way we’ve learned to work with this is to route communications and social planing through Sherri. So, if you want some face time with me, or us, talk to Sherri. If you’re having trouble getting a hold of me, email Sherri (sherri at

(I’m not sure if the contact forms on any of my websites are working as expected right now, so please use existing contact info for us, or get in touch via email[at]

If you’re local to Portland, I’d love to get together (in small groups) as Covid and my energy levels allow. And I’m sure we’re going to need help with things here and there. Running errands, taking care of things around the house, etc. We will communicate those requests as needed.

I think traveling is going to be harder on me from here on out and happen with much less frequency than it once did. So if you’re not local, let’s find ways to connect remotely.

We don’t have any specific financial needs at this time, but if that changes, we promise we will let folks know. My job with Cisco is going well, I continue to love what I do, and my team is extraordinarily supportive. I am able to work just fine right now and hopefully for a long time to come.

Gift cards have been suggested as one way folks can lend a hand, e.g. by giving us a prepared meal without us having to think about how it affects our budget, and we love this idea. We’re working on a link tree or something similar of gift card type things which would lighten our load. Stay tuned!

Join me in Supporting the Recompiler for Year 3

My good friend and colleague Audrey Eschright runs indie publishing company Recompiler Media, which produces the feminist tech zine Recompiler and a companion podcast of the same name that I co-host.  It also publishes important books such as the Responsible Communication Style Guide, edited by Thursday Bram.

Right now, Audrey is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund Year 3 of the Recompiler. If you’re able, please contribute what you can to this awesome effort. There are some fantastic backer rewards. If you select the “Community Builder” package, you’ll get a copy of the Responsible Communication Style Guide, the 1st edition of Community Event Planning, along with updates as we complete chapters of the 2nd edition.

That’s right! We’re doing a 2nd edition of Community Event Planning, our guide on how to organize community-focused tech events and if you support the Kickstarter you’ll get a copy of the new and current editions. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share even more of what we’ve learned about organizing community through events, including first-person accounts from organizers of all kinds of events. The new edition will include sections on selecting the best talks and activities for your event, budgeting (with examples!), logistics, inclusion, and building your team.

To celebrate the Recompiler and all its great content (and to inspire you to join the Kickstarter), we’re doing our first telethon! It’s this weekend, Saturday, 11 November from 10am-4pm PST. I don’t have the links to the livestream quite yet, but will update this post soon with all the relevant details. Stay tuned! One of the things we’ll be doing during the telethon is answering your questions so submit them here.

Please tune in on Saturday and join me in supporting the Recompiler for Year 3!

Wrapping up 2016 and planning for 2017

December is always a hard month for me. My sleep schedule is strongly affected by sunlight which is no fun during the dark Pacific Northwest winters. Being tired makes everything else harder. Now that we’ve passed the autumnal equinox and the days are once again getting longer, I feel hope and energy building once again.

What am I doing with that energy and hope?

I’m wrapping up a major open source governance and sustainability research and writing project. This is a client project I’ve been working on since the Spring and I’m very excited to have it nearing completion. I think it’s good, necessary work and I will be finding a way to share it widely in the months to come.

I’m also finalizing the details of my next major professional project. I’m super excited about it. I think it’s a great fit, both for me and for the organization I’ll be working with. I’m looking forward to starting that sometime next month. Full details coming soon!

My priority during the last quarter of 2016 has largely been one of self-care. Putting my oxygen mask on before helping anyone else put on theirs. I spent a good deal of it sick and then recovering from a sinus infection. I slept a lot, as I always do during this time of year. I went heads down to concentrate and wrap up client projects. I completed my second and final (for now) 3-year term on the Stumptown Syndicate board of directors and have handed off my duties to the new board. I secured my next big professional project, and thus an income for our family for the next while.

Now I’m planning what to focus on during the year ahead and how to make progress towards the efforts I mentioned the day after the election in my post Radicalized.

The most important of these efforts, the one which I think encapsulates all the rest is to help build self-reliant, self-sustaining communities.

One of the main ways I feel I can contribute to this is to continue building, practicing, and sharing basic life skills: gardening, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical. If someone in my community is having trouble getting services for their home, either because they are refused or because they can’t afford it, I want to be able to help. If you are in need of help in one of these areas, let me know and we’ll work together to figure it out. If you’re particularly skilled in one of these trades and are local and want to teach me some of what you know, please also get in touch.

Regarding direct community organizing, I’m figuring out what my role should be. I continue to feel worn out from the last several years of organizing Open Source Bridge and other Stumptown Syndicate related activities. And from organizing within the Mozilla community. I continue to struggle to reconcile how vile the tech industry is with how rooted I am in it. It’s not such an easy thing to simply leave the industry which has defined your entire career and adult life.

I’m working through this in a couple of ways.

First, I’m being very deliberate about the tech work that I do engage in and what I expect the result to be. I am no longer looking for a job or an employer to complete me or to serve as a second home for an indefinite period of time. I work on things where my expertise is needed, where I can make a worthwhile contribution in a constrained period of time.

Second, I’m making deliberate efforts to build community unrelated to tech. After some searching, we’ve found a spiritual community (an Episcopalian one) that seems to be a good fit and I’m looking forward to sticking around and seeing where that leads. I have a lot of reservations and conflicting feelings about Christianity, none of which I’ll go into now, but I’ll say this: something in me is rejuvenated each week when we partake in worship. And I need that kind of regular uplift right now.

Third, I’m reading and thinking a lot. I’m reading about labor organizing, systemic racism, social change, etc. I’m using that knowledge to locate myself and ourselves in history. To contextualize where we are at, how we got here, the different ways can respond, and where that might lead us. In addition to wisdom, I’m also looking for glimpses of hope and beauty here and there. I don’t know if I will ultimately do more organizing within tech, or if I will focus on contributing to community outside of tech, or both.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to share what I’m learning, here on the blog, on the Recompiler podcast, and in one-on-one conversations.

I do have a few concrete projects on the schedule for 2017:

  • I’ll continue to produce the Recompiler podcast. My main goals for this year are to continue improving it with consistent weekly publishing, timely content, as well as audio and narrative quality, and to grow its audience.
  • Write and publish a second edition of the Community Event Planning book. We’ve learned a lot since we wrote the first edition. I’d like to include that material as well as more case studies and first-person accounts from many different event organizers.
  • Revise and publish the open source governance research I’ve been working on for a client. Open source projects and their foundations have gained significant prominence over the last 10-20 years, but most people have no idea how they work. Whether you’re an individual contributor, or you’re directly involved in the running of a project, I think this is important knowledge to have.

Finally, I’ve included the following on my project board, in the “art & beauty” category: take photographs, make a quilt, grow flowers.

What about you? What are you working on in 2017?


I cried last night as the final projections were coming in and it became clear Trump had been elected the next President of the United States. I cried again, no, I sobbed, this morning before I even managed to get out of bed.

The thoughts flooded my mind and it was just too much. ACA is going to be repealed and I’m going to have to go back to work for a big employer. Can they find a way to legally invalidate my marriage? I don’t think so, but I’ll need to research. Is it safe for me to work for an employer not based in California, Oregon or a similar state where I can’t be fired for being queer? Another thing I need to look up. Is Roe v Wade going to be overturned? How soon could that happen? Which states are going to be too risky for me to travel to now? Religious freedom bills are almost certainly to become ubiquitous. How will this affect my ability to get essential services? How oh how are we going to get through the global fallout of a Trump presidency? Being a gender non-conforming queer woman is bad enough. Trans folks, PoC, immigrants, Muslims, are going to face so much more shit. How can I support and fight with them?

Eventually I calmed down and got out of bed. Sherri made me tea before she had to leave to teach and then I started processing with the rest of you all on Twitter. And now I sit down to write this post.

In selecting Trump, nearly half of my fellow voting Americans demonstrated their investment in upholding and restoring White, cis-male, heterosexual supremacy and hegemony. They demonstrated it was more important to them to send a big fuck you to the establishment than to opt for stability with a qualified but flawed politician. They demonstrated their discontentment with being knocked down a few rungs of the economic and social ladder. They demonstrated their commitment to ensuring they have someone below them on that ladder, no matter the collective cost.

I have compassion for why some people voted for Trump. There’s no doubt groups of whites are hurting, particularly in smaller cities and rural communities. But they are by no means the only ones who are. And if exit polls are even close to accurate (which they may not be), we know well-off whites voted for Trump in greater numbers than did poor whites.

Trump didn’t win this election because of his plan to improve life for all Americans. His policy positions, when they are coherent, are a mess. He won because of his vision to restore a way of life for a very specific group of Americans, at great expense to the rest of us. Scapegoating is a powerful tool, and Trump and the new Republican party used it well during this election.

This is why focusing on the “economic anxiety ” of whites, as I’ve seen portions of the media and my peer group do today, is a costly distraction. If white folks generally felt peachy keene about their social and economic status in this post-colonial, increasingly globalized world, would they have seen through Trump’s abhorrent isms and voted for Clinton? We’ll never know. But it doesn’t matter. White folks, as an aggregate, are never going to feel peachy keene about their social and economic status again. The world is changing. Whites are losing relative status, and right they should because they have disproportionately benefitted from the subjugation and oppression of others for far too long. Your disenfranchisement is not a free pass to have taken the morally indefensible action of voting for Trump.

Does it hurt to give something up even if you were never entitled to it in the first place? Of course it does. The hurt doesn’t justify your entitlement. And it matters what you do with that hurt. Unfortunately, humans have a strong tendency towards tribalism, hierarchy, and scapegoating. When we hurt, we want someone to blame, and we look to those we consider others. Immigrants have taken our jobs. Muslims are to blame for our lost sense of security. Queers getting married are responsible for our changing family dynamics. None of this is true, but the world is changing faster than most whites can comfortably adapt and they need to blame somebody. Whites are so convinced everybody else is to blame, they are willing to burn everything down rather than work together and improve things for all.

And there are powerful factions who have a vested interest in this being the case. Some people are going to get even more rich as a result of Trump being president. The evangelicals and men’s rights activists are going to rejoice in the restoration of patriarchal power we only recently started dismantling via equal rights legislation and other legal protections for women and queer folk.

I don’t have the energy now to go into how the Democratic establishment and liberal elite have also failed us, but they have. Nearly every single one of our institutions is complicit in getting us to where we are today.

So, what are we going to do about it?

We’re going to organize and build community, prioritizing on our local ones. We’re going to organize labor so we can engage in effective collective bargaining and other actions.

We’re going to organize to support each other in all the ways needed during the turbulent times to come. We’re going to make space to grieve, play, rest, and heal. As my friend @ameliabreau says: “caring is a radical act.”

We’re going to build coalitions across geography and demographics. We’re going to figure out how to get as many people as possible involved in dismantling the white patriarchy.

We’re going to have critical conversations amongst ourselves. We’ll employ compassion and empathy, but we’ll hold each other accountable. We’re going to recognize that the majority of white women voted for Trump and that there are likely “feminist” women among us who act as collaborators with the patriarchy whether they intend to or not. We’re going to hold our activist leaders accountable when they engage in bad behavior or act in bad faith. No more throwing WoC under the bus. No more.

We’re going to focus on building self-reliant, self-sustaining communities. We’re going to teach each other essential life skills and trades so we can survive and thrive in a world that is hostile to us. We’re not going to wait for an outside funding source or for the State or Federal government to rescue us.

I am still hurt, and I am still scared. But now I am energized. I am radicalized.

I hope you are too and that you’ll join me.

Life one year after leaving Mozilla

A year ago tomorrow was my last day as a Mozilla employee. Quitting was the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m working for myself and I love it.

Here are some projects that I’ve been working on:

Building a wood bookcase from scratch.

Bookcase I built from scratch.
Bookcase I built from scratch.

Watching and photographing the birds that visit our yard.

Pine Siskins have words at the feeder.
Pine Siskins have words at the feeder.

Recruiting and on-boarding several new Stumptown Syndicate board members.

Driving to California (accidentally during a snowstorm) to visit family. One of the things we did on the trip was visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I had never been to.


Starting a consulting practice, Authentic Engine. I have a few client projects now, and am looking to book more work for the Fall. Know an open source project wanting expert help with participation, leadership, or governance issues? Get in touch. I’m also available for contract programming (python, php). If you like stickers, I have those for sale too.

No endeavor is truly launched until it has stickers.
No endeavor is truly launched until it has stickers. And so it is with Authentic Engine. Buy some!

Learning audio recording and engineering and launching the Recompiler Podcast.


Handing off the organizing of Open Source Bridge to two new co-chairs!

Taking Bertie to the beach for the first time. He loved it. Although, we learned the hard way bulldogs really can’t exercise for very long because Bertie needed several days of recovery afterward.

Bertie's first trip to the beach.
Bertie’s first trip to the beach.

Seeing my favorite band, The Cure. Twice! Once in Los Angeles and again closer to home in Ridgefield, Washington. We had much better seats at the Ridgefield show and had a fantastic time.

The Cure performing Just Like Heaven, Ridgefield, Washington, May 2016
The Cure performing Just Like Heaven, Ridgefield, Washington, May 2016

Touring SpaceX. While we were in LA to see The Cure, a friend of ours arranged a tour of SpaceX. It was amazing. Couldn’t take any pictures inside, unsurprisingly, but managed to get a goofy selfie outside.

Smiling because we just toured a fraking rocket facility!
Smiling because we just toured a fraking rocket facility!

Attending Allied Media Conference, including the excellent Growing our Souls tour (my photos) of Detroit.

Me, at Project Heidelberg in Detroit, Mi
Me, at Project Heidelberg in Detroit, Mi

Shopping for individual health insurance plans three times. Yes, three times in one year. The first was before I left Mozilla because applying COBRA would have been prohibitively expensive (~$1,400 per month). The second was during 2016 open enrollment because our rates had been raised over $100/month. The third was last month when the State of Oregon abruptly put Oregon Health Co-op into receivership. Fun times! But, hey, at least thanks to the ACA, we can actually sorta find health insurance outside of a group plan. We’re with Providence now and we hope they stay affordable and in business for a while.

Gardening. Lots and lots of gardening. This year we planted lots of vegetables and added several new flower beds, populated mostly with plants I started from seed. It turns out I have a bit of a green thumb! Who knew?

An evening's harvest from our garden.
An evening’s harvest from our garden.


Flower beds in bloom. Most of these I grew from seed.
Flower beds in bloom. Most of these I grew from seed.

Photographing the flowers I’ve been growing. I don’t have a macro lens, but am faking it well, I think, with my 35mm and some close-up lenses.

Bee on Shirley Poppy, one of the many flower macros I've taken this season.
Bee on Shirley Poppy, one of the many flower macros I’ve taken this season.

Watching hot air balloons launch at the Tigard Festival of Balloons. I first heard about this festival shortly after I moved to Portland in 2007 and realized just before my birthday that it’s practically in our neighborhood, so Sherri got us tickets. It was challenging to get up at 5am to get ourselves over there in time for the sunrise launches, but it was so worth it.

Hot air balloons launching at the Tigard Festival of Balloons!
Hot air balloons launching at the Tigard Festival of Balloons!

Speaking at Open Source & Feelings on a really tough topic.

Reading and more reading. Soon I will have read all of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins‘ books and this will be bittersweet. I take solace in knowing I still have plenty left to read of Mosley’s Fearless Jones and Leonid McGill series and I’m only a little over half-way through Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. Plus you never know when you’re going to stumble across a great new detective series such as M.J. McGrath’s Edie Kiglatuk or Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc Investigations.

Feeling better about myself and being less stressed than anytime during the previous 4+ years. Our income isn’t steady yet and dealing with health insurance is obnoxious. But we’re making it work. I can say now that leaving a job that was steadily grinding me down was absolutely the right call, even if it felt totally wrong at the time.

Thanks everyone who’s supported me along the way and continues to do so! You make all the difference. If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.


Announcing Authentic Engine, my Empathy-Based Leadership Development Consultancy

Since I last posted on the subject, I’ve made quite a bit of progress towards starting the next phase of my career. I’m excited to share that with you all now.

One of the things I’ve learned through my 4 years at Mozilla and 8+ organizing in the tech community is that most everyone wants to contribute towards making stronger, healthier, more inclusive and resilient communities. The problem is that they don’t know how and the opportunities to learn and practice the requisite skills are few and far between.

So that’s what I’m going to concentrate on: Providing the leadership learning we need and hunger for.

logo-horizontal-250pxAs such, I’ve founded a consultancy, Authentic Engine, which will focus on providing empathy-based leadership learning and practice opportunities.

There’s a huge emphasis now in our community on improving Diversity & Inclusion, as well as safety and incident response (including Code of Conduct adoption and enforcement). These are important skills our community organizers need help developing and honing. Talented folks are leading efforts here and I look forward to working with them.

I have chosen something slightly different, although complementary. I want to help develop leaders, stewards, and organizers who cultivate wisdom over time and who will be equipped to adapt to the changing needs, stresses, and resources of their communities. I want to teach people how to lead and steward authentically, utilizing their unique combination of experiences, talents, and interests.

With Authentic Engine, I’ll help people develop into the leaders and stewards our communities need now and into the future.

Here’s what I hope to accomplish this year:

  1. Launch 4 (roughly one per quarter) 3-4 hour workshops, each on a specific leadership/stewardship topic. The first will be a guided exploration of what leadership is, what kind of leader you want to be and how to become that leader. The workshops will likely debut in Portland and I’ll bring them to other cities as there is demand. The workshops will not be free, but they will be affordable and have scholarship slots.
  2. Facilitate an on-going community cohort so that folks engaged in improving themselves as leaders and stewards have a support and peer-learning network.
  3. Provide at least 100 hours of one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Anyone who takes one of my workshops will get some amount of free coaching.
  4. Help 2-3 organizations improve or develop their leadership capacity. This could take many forms from counseling an ad-hoc group of conference organizers about how best to take the next step toward formal incorporation, to helping an open source project create a training program for its contributors, to customizing one of my workshops for in-house presentation. (More ideas further down.)

I’m excited about this work because it will bring greatly needed leadership resources to our communities, helping us all to improve sustainability and resiliency. I’m also thrilled because it will allow me to draw upon and apply the varied skills and experiences I’ve developed over my entire career. This includes:

  • managing technical teams and products
  • running a small business
  • serving on the working board of a trade association (501(c)(6)
  • founding and serving on the working board of a tax-exempt non-profit (501(c)(3)
  • developing software
  • writing, publishing, and podcasting
  • organizing communities around open source projects
  • coaching and teaching others
  • documenting and improving systems & processes
  • designing, organizing, and running participatory learning events
  • managing and responding to crises, including: embezzlement, intimate partner violence, food-borne illness, unexpected budget shortfalls, and more.

This is a huge venture to undertake and I’m excited about it. I hope you’ll be part of making my journey successful.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Sign-up for the Authentic Engine mailing list so you’ll be notified when I launch new workshops. Register to attend a workshop (once they are launched).
  2. Let me know which leadership/stewardship topics you’re most interested by completing this interest form.
  3. If we’ve worked together and you found the experience worthwhile, write and send me a testimonial I can post to my website (and/or recommend me via LinkedIn).
  4. Recommend me to folks who could benefit from my leadership development consulting services (see above for the list of things I have experience doing).

Most of all, continue to send me your encouraging words. These mean so much to me and really help carry me through the days that feel completely overwhelming.

Imagine a Tech Community…

Imagine a tech community…

That is inclusive to the point of radicalness, where people gather in solidarity at the edges.

Where everyone is able to contribute fully and authentically, whatever that means for them.

Where everyone has a part in making the community more prosperous and resilient. Where we plan collaboratively, thoughtfully balancing short- and long-term goals.

Where compassion and empathy are as present and valued as technical skill.

Where a code of conduct is an expression of shared values and but one of many tools we have and are able to use effectively to increase belonging among us.

Where expulsion is rare. Where those who transgress and those who are transgressed upon are supported alike. Where we work collectively to resolve conflict and division between us.

Where we are able to stand with the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised and strive to understand the world from their point of view. Where we create tech products together, that serve all of us better.

Where we are able to shift technology as a mechanism for concentrating power to one that distributes it and empowers all the world’s people.

Where we recognize that technological decisions cannot be divorced from their emotional, sociological and political contexts and we strive to take these factors into account.

Where we develop the wisdom to recognize when issues are primarily social/political not technological and we work to address them in their appropriate spheres.

Where we have the courage to speak up when we see destructive behavior because we know others will have our backs and we will not stand alone and become targets ourselves.

Where we love the difficult people as well as the easy ones and we give each the time and support they need.

Where we can gather and find fellowship in good times and bad times alike.

Where we recognize, honor and respect the great diversity in our backgrounds, life histories and worldviews. Where we strive to minimize the discord that might come from our differences and maximize the harmony of our share experiences.

…That’s the tech community I want to be a part of.

Life After Mozilla, or My Next Adventure

Portland in Fall. It’s my favorite season here.

It’s been 2 months since my last day at Mozilla. Hard to believe that much time has past and yet it feels like it’s gone by so quickly. Rainy, gloomy weather has arrived here in Portland, for which I’m very grateful after such a long, hot summer. My plan for my first weeks away from Mozilla, most of September, was to spend as little time on the computer as possible and to intentionally not think about my next career steps. I give myself a B at following this plan. At first I did great. I did a lot of work around our house, mostly in the form of tidying and organizing. I made a bookshelf from scratch and am very happy with how it turned out. I played a lot of Civilization. I read. I slept in. I played with the dogs and took photos.

Bertie is always around to remind me of the value of play.

And then I started reading & responding to my email.

More that a few of you were interested in how I was doing, what I was planning to do next and maybe I might be interested in this or that. It’s been amazing to hear from you, to know you value my skills and experience and want to be a part of helping me find what’s next. Not only amazing, but unexpected. Often I struggle with recognizing my own value and how I contribute to others and so explicit feedback is really helpful. Thank you everyone who’s reached out. (And know I’m still working on replying to you all.)

As good as it was to hear from everyone, it also meant that I started thinking about “what next” much sooner and in greater detail than I was ready for. I started having some conversations about projects that were exciting, but also left me agitated and unsettled.

Earlier this month I had a follow-up with my doctor that left me feeling down and depleted. It wasn’t a bad visit and was actually rather uneventful except that I left with an even longer list of asthma-related tasks to do. Pull up the carpet in our daylight basement (where my office is), have the air ducts cleaned, make the bedroom as sparse as possible, do this breathing training program, etc. And my blood pressure is a tad on the high side (in the right arm, but not the left?).

As my lack of accomplishment and I left the doctor’s I decided to stop by Powell’s as a way to cheer myself up. (I almost always want to browse books and it nearly always cheers me up.) I did a quick scan of the ‘careers’ section — which is a bit of gamble because there is so much there that’s either irrelevant (“You’ve just graduated, now what?”) or cheesy (literally, “Who Moved my Cheese?”) or just not applicable (there’s no “The Tech Industry Burned Me Out but Then I Found This Awesome, Life-Fullfilling Vocation and Here’s How You Can Too!”).

I did notice a copy of The Joy of Not Working. Huh, I thought, that sounds nice and bought it after scanning through the first couple of pages. I continued reading at home and finished that day.

What I got from the book was less factual information and more inspiration and permission to pursue the kind of work that would allow me the time to do lots of other things that I’m interested in and care about. The book’s primary audience are retirees and others who suddenly have time on their hands due to lack of employment (voluntary or otherwise). Zelinsky emphasizes the importance of cultivating many interests and community connections, not just ones associated with work. He explores just how much there is to experience in life and how much of that experience we sacrifice when we prioritize the 40+ hour workweek and how unnecessary it is to do so. Reading The Joy of Not Working made me realize a couple of things:

  • I definitely don’t want to work for someone else. Working for myself will give me the greatest freedom and agility.
  • I need to focus on fewer work-related things so that I can do them really well.
  • I need to give myself the time and the space (even if it’s scary) so that I can identity the work I truly want to be doing and how to make that possible.
  • I want to get to the point where my average work day is 4 hours so that I have plenty of do other activities that nourish my mind, body and soul.

Sounds nice, how to put this into practice? First, I identified the work projects that I would stay committed to: Stumptown Syndicate, Recompiler podcast, and whatever “working for myself” turns out to be. I’m either in the process of wrapping up or have already wrapped up my commitments to other projects. I’m not going to continue as a volunteer in any capacity for Mozilla (many feels about that, all for another blog post). Second, I’ve been making the space and doing the work to figure out what shape “working for myself” will take. I’ve thought a lot about what I’m good at and what I love doing and here’s what I’ve figured out:

  • I want to utilize and expand my experience facilitating teams, communities and organizations.
  • I want to apply and hone my aptitude for systems thinking, for motivating people to do awesome things, and for improving processes.
  • I want to apply my knowledge and love of business (nonprofit and for-profit) as well as tech.
  • I want to help businesses and organizations do better work with happier, healthier and more productive teams.

At some point I realized, “this is what consultants do!” And so I’ve been reading every book about consulting I can get my hands on. And things are clicking. I find myself saying, “I can do this. I should do this. I will do this.”

I have a name picked out. I have a marketing plan and continue to improve it as I learn more and more about marketing. I have a launch plan. I’m figuring out how to make the finances work while I drum up business. It might involve some crowdfunding. I’ll be reaching out to a lot of you for support, in whatever capacity you can provide it (hugs, referrals, a loan/gift/investment of equipment or cash, etc.). If you know someone doing this kind of work and think they would be willing to chat with me about their experience, please introduce us.

If we’ve worked together, or you know of my work so far, I hope you’re excited. I am certainly am. I’m excited about bringing the same kind of energy, vision and integrity to this new practice as I have to other projects. I’m excited at the opportunity to partner with all kinds of organizations do their work better, more prosperously.

If you want to know for sure when I launch, subscribe to my TinyLetter.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sure to keep making time for rest and for taking awesome photos of Bertie, Dora and the rest of the critter cadre.