UPDATE TO Mrs. Flinger October 16, 2015
Because the Universe has a wicked sense of humor, after this delcaration, my blog threw up all over my last upgrade.
So I'm starting over using Craft. Turning 40 and kid entering Jr High next year, sometimes it's just time for a change. These archives will still exist in the way the last child goes off to college and their room is the same for 20 years, but it's just time to move forward.
In which I write loud letters from the bathroom and think future things, not cyborgs Sep 10, 2014
I can’t tell you how many times I hear the Lost in Translation quote in my head. It doesn’t sound like the movie, it sounds like a dear friend of mine from my First Real Job at Portland Public Schools; “But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”
Jenna told me this when her own baby was only a few years old. I remember so vividly because I hadn’t had children yet, but the idea stuck with a tar-like dignity that warms in the sun on certain occasions.
Tonight was such an occasion.
The nine year old girl had asked for some time to take a bath; a legitimate luxury given the schedule most days. Tonight was a fine night to do so, so we answered with a “Of course!” like any parent who can finally grant their child’s ridiculously small wishes.
About thirty minutes later I sing-sang up to her that it is time to get out and hello, was it me she was looking for?
Then I started writing her pretend letters verbally, when I didn’t find her again.
“Dear Lolo, I’m in the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are ok. Love, Mommy.”
“Dear, Lolo, I am almost done cleaning up the bathroom where you just were. I hope you are in your room but have not heard anything. Love, Mommy.”
Silence. Maybe some nose laughter.
I continue with my nightly OCD, “Dear Lolo, I’m done with the bathroom and I’m concerned I have not heard from you. I might even clean the toilet. Love, Mommy.”
She appears in the doorway, filling it more than I remember her tiny self doing so, and laughs. She was, apparently, plugging her nose so she wouldn’t laugh so loudly that I could hear her. She thought my letters to her were hilarious. I am glad because I was nearing the brink of sanity. Or at least, the end of my todo list in the bathroom.
We continue on like this for thirty minutes or so while the boys play some rolling-ball game in the living room. I echo a letter to her, she replies back to me in kind. We “verbally write” each other various letters. At one point she forgets to sigh her “letter” and I “write back” with, “Dear Lolo, you know, it’s polite to sign one’s letters with love, so and so.” She replies, “Dear Mommy, sorry, I forgot. Love, Lolo.”
We giggle as we compile these letters to each other in the air.
I am astonished at how big, how human, how.. grown up she is.
I can barely contain tears when I hug her at last laughing, “We make great pen-pals!” She laughs, not seeing my wet eyes, “Yup! We’re very good at yelling.”
I can not believe how this baby, toddler, preschooler, challenging every step of the way, this person, turned in to, well, a person. She is all that I would ever want in a nearly-tween and more. She is a most loving kid, subject to moodiness and hanger, (hungry anger) and wisdom and ridiculousness. She is kind hearted and smart and witty. She loves her brother with ferocity. And yet, she keeps a sense of herself amidst the structure of life; this free spirit that I’ve always known since the minute she produced herself to the world. She is, and forever shall be, her own self. And by god I love that kid. That human. That person. With a tenacious ferocity of its own. Letter writing could never convey the magnificence of it all. But I still think she understood, and even wrote me back.
I love you biggest of all the loves in the world.
On Coaching: Can Corporate America work like a Team Sport? Aug 02, 2014
I’m used to being yelled at. “Point! Point your toes!”
“You’re overextended, bring it back, good, good, POP! MORE! Nice!”
These are words I heard coming from the side of four apparatuses growing up. I can still, to this day, call muscle memory from years and hours in the gym. I can answer, almost turrets like, questions about gymnastics.
“What is the olympic order of events from 1- 4?”
“VAULT! BARS! BEAM! FLOOR!”
“Who was the silver medal winner in 1985”
“The Romanain with the curly bangs! Ecaterina Szabo!” This one I know because I got my BANGS PERMED to look like her. While million of little girls where trying to be Mary Lou Retton with her gold medal, flashy smile and short bob hair, I was aiming for second place and wishing to be the girl NOT from the USA team.
(This reminds me to bring this up with my therapist this next week.)
As I work on a spec outlining Front-End Best Practices, I hear coaches yelling these old pieces of advice. Not figuratively, LITERALLY, I can hear them yelling “Point your toes!” “DROP NOW!” I’m working in the gym as my daughter attends her first gymnastics lesson.
I’ve been careful not to push gymnastics on her too hard or too early. I was mindful not to put my own passion on the little girl I had. I remember Mr. Flinger asking me if I’d want our daughter, if we had one, to do gymnastics. He was surpised when I answered honestly, on our honeymoon, I’d never push her in to the sport. In fact, I admitted, I’d be fine if she never did it.
Sitting here in the gym for the first time in twenty-three years, I’m nostalgic. I can still do one-arm cartwheels, handstands, some other easy gymnastics basics. Years after quitting competitive gymnastics, my body knows HOW to do a double-back or a full twisting vault; I just can’t physically DO it anymore.
I’m confronted with mortality of youth.
I watch the girls do backhandsprings on beam. “I can do that!” My brain yells at my legs. “COMON!” But my body; achy and older and heavy and tired, sighs, too exhausted to muster any mocking comeback.
So I continue to write my spec and notice in the background as each girl receives input for improvement. I can’t help but equate my work to this teamwork. Spending nearly two decades in sports, trains a person take and give helpful critique. Somewhere in my adult life, though, critique became harsh and competitive. Someone forgot to tell the corporate world we were a team*. I’m sure it’s not just the corporate world, I know this because several of the women from work today spoke of a variety of industries and experience where competition ruled motivation.
To quote Jillian Michaels, “Now that I’m forty, I just want to collaborate. I’m done competing.”
As I near forty, this theme presents itself more often. Listening to the coaches, I think how valuable input can be. I trained hours, days, years with the knowledge my practice, and guidance, would help me improve.
How do I convey this to the adult world? How do we get back to team sports as adults -in our jobs? Is it possible to succeed without crushing each other to make a point about how much better than someone else we are?
I’ll just sort of let that question hang out there and leave you with this:
*Views Mine, not my employers or anyone else’s.
**Points of clarity: I’m not talking about a specific team here, but a general attitude of the reward system of the American Dream. It’s more a discussion point to start than an accusation. At this point in my career, I’ve worked on a London team, Germany team, multiple types and sizes of business teams, and higher education. The idea that we can rise above our neighbor is “one of the great things about ‘Merica.” HOW we do that, is a question I’m asking. Gymnastics is an individual sport but we still celebrate and lift up our teammates. I get there’s more at stake here; people’s livelihoods and actual security, not just a happy feeling and a medal. But still, I wonder if there’s a way to achieve something as a person that is greater with a team than I could do alone.
Let’s call this middle age and all agree home-girl is thinking out loud….
The Universe is One Persistent Mofo Jul 12, 2014
Over a year ago, I started talking to someone about ADHD. I joined a group of other women and we talked about what it was like living with distraction, children, jobs, husbands, and the constant 32 TV monitors playing different channels in our heads.
One of the themes that started cropping up was the idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness, or the awareness of your thoughts and living in the present tense, has been shown to decrease ADHD symptoms. Meditation, it’s practical companion, has been shown to help cancer and diabetes, fix marriages, and save the planet from impending astroids.*
The last one is a theory but I’m sure someone is researching that right now. Maybe.
It’s been a year and a half now that the theme mindfulness has been cropping up. At first it was my women’s group, then it appeared in books I was reading. (Granted, with titles like Mindfulness and the Brain and You Are Not Your Brain, I knew what I was getting in to) but lately it’s picked up the pace of obviousness and is a bit more “in your face” if the Universe is like that, which it is.
Sometimes when you don’t stop to listen, The Universe will start yelling.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO HEAR BEFORE YOU START MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION?
Apparently the article in the Costco Connection this month was my last straw.
FINE FINE I GET IT NOW. I should probably start a mindfulness practice? And go back to Yoga?
Fine FIne Fine. Ok.
So today I went back to Yoga for the first time in nearly a year. A year of fighting the idea of stillness and breathing. A year of forgetting bout my core strength and my arms. A year of very few warrior stances or downward dogs. A year of being disconnected.
Luckily, my very favorite Yoga teacher started a new class down the street that has the best of both power and mindfulness. After some guided meditation, we started Vinyassa Flow. I started to remember I had muscles in my body somewhere. My arms burned and my belly got in the way during Karnapidasana, but the realization slowly sank in that regardless of how long I might ignore my own reality, it’s never too far to get to a Yoga mat in the middle of a room filled with other people working on grounding themselves, too.
I hope you’ll join me in this new series of Mindfulness Posts as I begin the journey to whatever it is that is Today. I’m ready to listen. Sometimes by sharing what I hear, the lesson sticks in my stubborn brain just a little bit more. And perhaps, maybe, I can help someone else who is not too far from their own message, whatever that might be.
I thought I was more Sandra Bullock, but really I’m more Emmet Jul 11, 2014
I used to joke that when I wrote my famous novel about my life (because it’s that interesting?) I would have Sandra Bullock play me in my movie. “I can see that!” friends I bribe with booze would say.
Lately the reality is setting in that I will a) never finish a book in a timely fashion and b) have zero original thought.
See, The Internet is awesome. It lets people express themselves. It allows us to connect on a global scale. It also takes all my brilliant ideas and squishes them because SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY SAID THAT.
I went to graduate school which means I understand I have no thoughts of my own and have to research everything to back up any claims I might make. Basically I paid a lot of money for someone to tell me I don’t know anything.
I’ve taken this concept in to my professional life. I know what I know, I know there’s a lot more to learn, and I know I have to use data to back up anything I might spout off if I want to be taken seriously. This means I spend a lot of time researching articles and reading ideas that have come before my own.
When I’m asked to submit an article to something awesome like HTML5Hub, I obsess over what I’m saying and ensure I’m not stepping on toes of ideas similar to mine.
This also means I have serious writer’s blockage.
Stuart Firestein, in his awesome Ted Talk “The Pursuit of Ignorance,” talks about this phenomenon. The more you know about a subject, the less you know about anything. It means that the more you go in your career or education, the more questions you have and the less likely you are to be confident that you know anything at all.
So at the end of all of this, my brain really feels more like an empty cavern without any original thought at all. The reality is I’m not Sandra Bullock, I’m Emmet.
In soft whispered voices Jun 30, 2014
Sitting on the edge of the bed of my seven year old he whispers to me, “I’m writing a book about a Koala and a bear. You know that bear that made us have a lockdown at school? Well, that baby bear and the koala have a story and I’m writing it. You would identify with the Koala, Mommy. It’s a traveling Koala.”
“Oh, I’d like that story, Bud.”
“Yea, maybe you stay for a minute and rub my back?”
“Ok, I can stay another minute and rub your back.”
“Wait, you can’t leave yet. I’m not asleep. Maybe you go downstairs and do five minutes of work and then you come back and check on me? Then you can do the laundry. But five minutes of work, ok?”
“Ok, Bud. Five minutes and I’ll check on you.”
You won’t be awake when we go in again. You won’t see us peering over your sleeping face and smile softly to ourselves. You won’t see us kiss your cheek or whisper “I love you” in your ear. But what you will do, which still amazes me, is somehow whisper, “I love you, too,” in your sleepy stupor.
Some of my favorite memories are happening this moment.
There’s Gold in Them Hills Jun 28, 2014
Two of my best girlfriends and I take an annual Moms/Kids camping trip. We started this at a “close-ish” park in 2009 with a toddler and a few pre-schoolers. We stuck close in case shit hit the fan and we had to call home for emergency needs like running another set of matches out because these ones don’t work. You know, big things.
Of all the years we’ve been doing this now, there are a few stories that stand out more than all the others. Sure, there is the annual whip-cream shot after waffles in the morning. And yes, there’s usually a craft and some roasting of things. There’s some bike riding (and bike smashing that one year I backed up over my daughter’s bike) and scootering. Kids learned how to bike while another learned to walk. But of all these stories the few we pass down each year go something like this:
“The Year of Raccoons”
The year we all slept in tents was an epic achievement. It was the first trip and I was daring this adventure with a newly turned two year old toddler. As would become the “norm”, Michelle and Laura arrived first and had their shit together. I, probably after a wrong turn, arrived late and sweating.
We set up camp and successfully fed children and wore them out effectively. After kids were asleep in each of the three tents, Michelle and Laura’s kids each in the smaller one near the edge of the camp and my two kids in Our Giant Red Tent Of Mansion. We sat in our pride sipping our beer when suddenly they came out of the woods; a thousand eyes. I kid you not, A THOUSAND EYES were glowing at us from the edge of the wood, not ten feet away.
We did the only natural thing any mom would at that point; squeal and jump on the table and call our husbands. The husbands did not find it necessary to save us from, what they assessed, were raccoons. Instead they sighed heavily and HUNG UP leaving us out in the woods with our raccoon perfect baby-meals and our gnaw worthy toes. I’m pretty sure one of us might have even said, “The Dingo is going to eat our babies!”
We had a very bright idea at this point, brighter than the sets of eyes closing in on us slowly. We grabbed the two older children and we placed everyone in the Giant Red Tent of Mansion. We crawled in next to the children to protect them, should a raccoon grow an opposable thumb and work the zipper, and waited until we fell asleep to the sound of tiny paws scampering by us to easier targets.
The children didn’t even bat an eye when they woke up that we’d all slept in the same tent. The evidence of the night before was kept to a small bit of trash strewn about and the blood-shot eyes of three tired moms.
We decided that from then on, we’d never visit that camping site again. And we kept to that for exactly two years. But, once we did go back, we swore to stay in cabins only. “Because raccoons still can’t unlock doors.”
Not yet, anyway.
“The Kids Gone Wild” year.
We still laugh when we picture Trev stripping to his intense whip cream buzz. You know what? A picture is worth a thousand words so let me keep this short. A video will explain it so much better than I can.
“The year I smashed Lauren’s Bike”
This is a short story because that? Pretty much sums it up. “Mom, stop reminding me of my bike. It makes me sad,” she used to say.
Now she says her new bike is too girlie. “Want me to back over it for you, hon?” She grins.
“The Year of The Weird Women Doing This :: GRIN ::”
It started drizzling. Then it started poring. The kids were neatly tucked in four beds, some sharing screens because let’s face it; we’re modern ladies and sometimes screens are OK. Like 10pm on a camping trip when moms want to not deal.
Trevor comes down to tell us of a Weird Lady he saw on the wall in our cabin. “She was doing this!” He scrunches his face in a weird grin and shuts his eyes. “You mean you could see that in the knots on the wall?” He looks perplexed. “Well, ya. On the wall.” “Oh, no, did you tell the other kids? They’ll be scared.” “Er, yes… Um.. Ya.”
We talk about what to do. Do we pre-empt a nightmare? Do we ignore it? They’ll probably just go to sleep and not stare at the weird lady in the knots, right?
Fifteen Minutes Later Laura comes down from the cabin with something in her hand and she’s laughing.
“This is the lady on the wall” she says breathlessly. She is wheezing from laughter. I look at the paper.
Dear god it’s terrifying.
WHY was this on the wall? In our cabin?! We all dive in fits of laughter, us girls heaving and crying and laughing until we can’t stand it. The whole imagery of the children sitting on their bunk watching the Lego Movie and noticing.. This.
Only to have your mom say something like, “Well, there are things on the walls. Don’t read in to it.”
“No, Mom, there is an actual picture of a weird lady doing THIS.”
Reality is sometimes so much funnier than perception. Especially with these ladies.
I can’t wait for next year. Or every adventure and tradition in between. We have so many now, it’s hard to count. But the traditions of our friendship, the photos of the kids at various stages, keeps me grounded. Time really is slipping away, ever so slowly at first, and faster every stage. If not for the yearly traditions that staple me to the experiences of our friendship, I’d float away in daily chores and work and laundry. I’m so thankful for these families that remind me to live and breathe and laugh-
To laugh until I can’t breathe and then finding a breathe again, sucking in the sweetest air of all life provides. “There’s Gold in Them Hills.” Thank you for the reminder, ladies. I hope to repay the gift.
Reflections on A Talk, A conference, A week Jun 25, 2014
It wasn’t what they were expecting. I called it the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie talk. I baked in a discussion about gender equality within the title “Creative Development.” I think someone in the second row rolled their eyes.
It was probably the 8th or 9th time I’ve been on stage. It’s always so hard to begin the speech you’ve been feverishly obsessing over. The last nine months, since Low asked if I’d speak, were filled of notebooks and research and outlines and more outlines. I was a proper freak stopping a TED talk or an audiobook to jot down a point I wanted to expand on or integrate in my talk. I spent more than a few meetings scribbling notes to myself in Evernote, only partially related to the meeting topic but relevant to a future conversation I would have with myself first, and an audience second.
After a few hiccups and akward moments, it began to flow. Stats, Stories, Ideas. Youtube excerpts. Comics. Scientists. I knew all the content, I just wanted to nail the delivery.
Perhaps I didn’t “nail” it, exactly. It felt more like a piece of art hung on the wall with a sticky hook, but it was well received. I was so wrapped up in my own nerves that it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth man that approached me for advice when I realized something shifted: They were asking about their girlfriends, wives, daughters, employees. They wanted to support their female companions, they just didn’t know how.
At that moment I realized how at home I was in this community. This space, I’ve written about before, those “like brothers who buy you beer,” were sincerely supportive. My mind relaxed in a puddle of gratitude. We expanded on ideas, I let them know all that I’ve read, or experienced, or heard. 100% of women developers needed a mentor to push them in the field. Was it necessary to be a women mentor? No. Could it be her father, brother, husband? Yes. We just wanted support and here they were: the fathers, brothers, husbands, asking “What can I do?”
In two words, “encourage her.”
In many more words there we debates and discussion and ideas for more ideas. We talked long, long in to the night at the canal side at the favourite bar. We stood in the cold until our lips shivered and then we moved to the warmth of the shelter, where we watched the World Cup Football match a few days previously. It was there we finally called it a night, warm from booze and light and happiness and friendship. Men hugged an extra beat just to prove that it was possible and the ladies cussed an extra beat just to prove we were all alike.
I walked to my hotel room smiling stupidly. These days are always so high on the list of the Best Days of My Life. I bust in to a Green Day song once alone in my room. It doesn’t really matter which one. I tied a ribbon to this night, to this week, and wrapped it in my tree of bests to hold on to when the waves of frustrations, deadlines, reality, insecurity, and distance wash me over again. For one week, for one day, for one night, I felt like I was making a difference beyond my own little world. Inside jokes, geeky code humor, and tearful laughter included.
In short, I fell in love with all the people, all the discussions, all the experience, all the things.
All the things.
Made With Code
…. adding on more soon…..
“You had to be there”:
ALL THE PHOTOS!
Women in Technology: A talk and proposed solution Jun 19, 2014
Today I am giving a talk about women in technology. This is something I’ve been preparing for since I first learnt Basic at age 13 on a Commodore 64. I’ve had several amazing men encourage me in this field and even in the age of feminism and women’s rights, there is still a lot of speculation and discussion around women equality in technical and scientific fields.
As one of only two women in my Graduate program at Western Oregon where I studied computer science, the idea that more women weren’t in the undergrad or graduate program boggled me. At the same time, however, I struggled with things like Java and building Server Sockets until I would vision jamming a knife under my large toenail as more enjoyable.
My Professor at one point noted, “You can get 100% of the logic on the quiz but you don’t know your ass from a whole in the ground when it comes to the syntax.”
I preferred to study PHP, which seemed to make more sense to me than Java. I pursued Python and Ruby and HTML/CSS instead of the huge, monolithic class structure of Java. Networking, routers, the IP stack; these are all things I found intuitive and interesting whereas the standard course for most computer science majors was the single hardest program for me to learn.
I figured I was not alone in this. I submitted a dissertation proposal in the winter of 2004, which was accepted at Oregon State University, and excitedly planned the research for my doctoral degree on women retention rates of undergraduates in the computer science departments and the correlation of programming languages taught.
This is a classic joke of mine that PhD was never finished because, being a quintessential woman in tech, I gave birth to my first child and never went back to school.
In the past decade, the topic has been given more press. Just two weeks ago Google announced its diversity numbers. A number of questions are popping up, “Where are the women?” “What can we do?” “Maybe women don’t want to be in technology? Has anyone considered this?”
Today I stand up in front of 56 people, 5 of them women, and give my own story, those stories of other women developers I’ve talked to, and share my solution.
Special thanks to my Dad for teaching me Basic on a Commodore 64 in 1987. To my husband for funding my first tech certificate in 1999 and for supporting my efforts in grad school and keeping sharp objects away from me when I had to code Java. To Low for the opportunity to speak in a tiny town in Holland that includes some of my favorite memories ever.
Resources to my talk
Dr. Amen Studies:
Lord of the Flies
The Creative Process:
J. M. George, “Personality, Affect, and Behavior in Groups,” Journal of Applied Psychology75 (1990): 107–16; Blase E. Masini, Socialization and Selection Processes of Adolescent Peer Groups (Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Information & Learning, 1998).
Women in CS:
The Pursuit of Ignorance:
Fey, Tina (2011-04-05). Bossypants. Little, Brown and Company.
The thing about the past? Jun 08, 2014
Today will end up being that day you look back fondly on and think, “Remember that?”
At seven years old, you’re incredibly intelligent. I’d go so far as to say presidential even. Jun 05, 2014
Tonight you blew our minds with your ability to spell an entire birthday card for your teacher and read your Dinosaur book without needing much help. You practically outdid most of my previous freshman college students with your math test and ability to speak adverbs properly. So yea, we’re sort of expecting great things from you.
We chose a book called “The Human Body” to read tonight. To be honest, you couldn’t decide between that, the airplane book and another dinosaur book but Mama can’t take another book about the big ass lizards, and was way too tired to feign interest over airplanes, so Human Body it was!
We flipped through some of the pages and landed on the pregnancy page. You started asking questions about the babies in the pictures. While I read you absorbed everything and formed ideas.
“At five weeks a fetus is the size of a bean, and heart, lungs, and organs are developing. The baby gets its nutrients from the mother through the umbilical chord.”
You interrupt with some facts: “So, basically, that baby is the size of a bean? Well, that tube there keeps it from getting lost so it won’t run away.”
“No, Bud, that’s how the baby gets its nutrition. That’s how its attached to the mom so it can grow.”
“Well, yea, but it’s really small and if it got lost, you’d never find it. Plus, did you know a baby Koala is like this big….” You hold up your fingers showing me the size a baby Koala is. It looks astonishingly the same size as a bean. “Yea, they can scream. Don’t even touch a baby Koala because they screech a higher pitch than Lauren.”
You rolled your eyes with an, “I dare you because I’ll totally say ‘I told you so.’”
“Wow, Bud, you know a lot of interesting facts!”
“Yea, well, basically I just remember everything I hear. Did you know your jaw bone is called a Patella?”
Your eyes got droopy, and your fingers instinctively rush to rub away the sleepy tears. “Hu, are you sure?” I asked as I covered you with the blanket. You were sure, very sure. In fact, you were so sure, it was either your mouth or the side of your skull that you laid your head down on the pillow to prove a point.
And promptly fell asleep.
I’ll tell you about your kneecap tomorrow. Tonight, rest that Patella on the pillow and dream of tiny animals.