September 26, 2014 § 5 Comments
I have to tell you y’all, it’s nice to have a paycheck after going without one for ten years. Now that I am earning, allowance has been doubled for everyone in our household, which means our son can save up for his tablet sooner and our daughter can give more money to the World Wildlife Fund.
As for my husband and me? We can finally buy art for our home. Original art, with texture and paint and canvas. Art that the artist stepped up to, and stepped back from, and touched, and connected with in its creation. I sit at our dining room table now, or on our couch, or stand in the kitchen doorway and gaze at our new painting, its colors deep and rich and soul-saturating. Our daughter got up close to it to examine the brush strokes, and I could see her artistic wheels turning before she turned and asked us about paints and canvases for her own experimentation. Our son tilted his head and asked about the numbers. What do they mean?
Whatever you want them to mean, little man.
On a smaller scale, now that my personal allowance gives me a little breathing room, I am thrilled to move beyond the occasional cup of coffee as a treat to myself. That was about as far as my pennies took me before. Yesterday, when I saw a tweet about a Kickstarter campaign for one of my favorite online magazines, I clapped my hands and squealed because Now I can support things like this!
Vela Magazine, where I read Simone Gorrindo’s gorgeous, evocative pieces A Hidden Writing Life and An Unwanted Guest, is raising money so that they can pay their writers. What more noble goal is there? None, I tell you.
The main purpose of my earning is to be able to save for things like braces and college and retirement, along with those daily necessities like food and shelter and clothing. But there’s a little bit left over after that, and my husband and me are very excited to increase our charitable giving.
Now that I have a little bit of green in my wallet, I was able to click that “Support Vela on KIckstarter” button. And it felt awesome to do it.
For the past three years, Vela has taken steps to help close the byline gender gap by publishing exceptional nonfiction written by women… Vela is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to pay writers. If you’ve enjoyed and shared a Vela story in the past, please consider donating to their campaign.
September 21, 2014 § 8 Comments
When I looked out the plane window and saw the mountains of Utah, I saw saw-blade ridges that are wholly unlike the rounded green mounds of the Appalachians I’m used to. I couldn’t wait to get out into them, and after a nearly a week at our hotel, I finally took a gondola ride up the mountain and went for a hike with some of my coworkers.
I can’t wait to take our kids to new places to see how different the world can be.
September 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
I generally photograph nature: hikes in the Appalachians, camping in Shenandoah, clouds in Florida, marshes in Georgia. This week, though, I am among talented creatives who organized a morning photo walk not on a hiking trail, but down Main Street in Park City, Utah.
At 7:30 in the morning, before the sun crested the peaks of the mountains east of town, twenty Automatticians with cameras dangling from their necks poured from vans onto the streets. I was one of them, and I photographed things I don’t normally photograph.
The shopping district was empty, and we criss-crossed vacant streets as we snapped shots of roof lines, window displays, and street sculpture.
A maintenance crew puttered from lamp post to lamp post, and water dripped from hanging flower baskets in their wake. Our shutters clicked like beetle wings, and the sun rose quietly over roof tops.
I plan to take my camera up the mountain while I’m here so that I can get some nature shots, but looking at these photos, I am refreshed that I tried something new. I need to shoot like this more often.
September 18, 2014 § 3 Comments
I’m in Park City, Utah for the annual Automattic Grand Meetup, and I had originally signed up to run the WordPress 5K this morning. After all the wine I drank last night, though, I decided to go for a solo mini-hike instead.
I took these photos on the trail behind our hotel as the sun rose over the mountains.
September 3, 2014 § 33 Comments
On September 4, 2014 – my 40th birthday – I begin my career with Automattic, a web company that describes its services using haiku, that has employees distributed all over the world, and whose creed begins “I will never stop learning.”
And oh yeah, Automattic is the company behind WordPress.com.
I am now an ecstatic and enormously proud member of a working family whose passion I share: to democratize publishing. In my role as a Happiness Engineer I will work my heart out to help WordPress.com users in their quest to put their work out into the world – their photography, writing, podcasts, videos; their wedding pages, book blogs, portfolios, caregiver stories; their poetry, band pages, musings, and travelogues. I’ll be there for all of them, and all of you.
I haven’t really absorbed yet that this is real. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and throughout those years I have struggled with the tension inherent in wanting to be home with our children but also craving the stimulus of work that challenged my mind. Now I will have both. And it doesn’t hurt that I get to work with all these smart, funny people either. I feel like the luckiest woman alive.
I also feel like I want to give an Oscars style thank you speech. So first, I’d like to thank Cheri Lucas Rowlands who Freshly Pressed one of my early blog posts, and in so doing, introduced me to the world of possibilities within the WordPress.com community. Through Cheri’s work I later came to know others on the editorial staff, and I’d like to thank Krista Stevens, Ben Huberman, and Michelle Weber for engaging so much with me and the rest of the WP.com community, for inviting me to guest host a Daily Post writing challenge, and for sending me a care package with a copy of Scott Berkun’s The Year Without Pants and the Happiness Engineer tee shirt you see in the photo above. Those gifts and all of my interactions with editorial made me say, holy crap, I want to work with this company.
I’d also like to thank Deborah Beckett and Evan Zimmerman who took the time to talk with me at WordCamp Asheville about their experiences as Happiness Engineers with Automattic; all of the hilarious and super smart Automatticians who trained, supported, and helped me throughout my trial; and CEO Matt Mullenweg who I had the pleasure of chatting with as the final step in my hire, and who is kind, respectful, and like, the nicest guy ever.
Finally, I want to thank my family: my husband who took over most of my house-related work during my trial, and our kids who took over the rest of it. This hire is as much due to their hard work as it is to mine. I love you guys :-)
August 23, 2014 § 6 Comments
The word fray no longer makes me think of threadbare jeans or ratty-edged towels. It makes me think of the swim start in a triathlon, when your heart has hummingbird wings that beat inside your throat. When, after waiting for hours for your heat to begin, you finally line up shoulder to shoulder with your comptetitors, and you finally run into the water, and when it’s knee deep, you finally dive in and and you slither over another swimmer and you get kicked in the face and elbowed in the ribs, and you suddenly feel a knee in your back as a swimmer slithers over you and you go under and swallow lake water, and then you pop up again and get elbowed in the ear and you try to cough out the water and hope your goggles don’t get kicked off. That’s what fray is to me. Being in the fray at the start of an open water swim.
*Photo from the TriAmerica triathlon in 2002, in our pre-children life. I’m not sure whether my husband or my mom took the picture, or even if I’m in it. This is my entry for The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Fray.
August 11, 2014 § 11 Comments
Last summer, when the kids and I were in Florida for vacation and my husband hadn’t arrived yet, I was PMS-ing. I didn’t realize I was PMS-ing – I hadn’t gone crazy yet. I wasn’t sad for no reason, I wasn’t monstrous to the kids, I didn’t go dark places in my mind or dredge up old sorrows that only surface when I’m premenstrual.
Then I watched Out of Africa. I had never seen Out of Africa. I bawled. I sobbed. Rvers of snot and tears streamed down my face, and as I choked on the emotions pouring out of me, I realized, Holy crap, I am PMS-ing. Hard core.
The next day, I was scoured clean. I didn’t go crazy. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t monstrous, I didn’t go dark places or dredge up old sorrows, and it occurred to me that the movie had served as a proxy for my own emotions. I was able to cry out all of my hormones. I was able to release without having to enter into my trauma.
It felt wonderful.
I am currently working like I have never worked before. I am in a trial period for a job I really want. I mean, really, really want. My whole family is pitching in to make this happen. My husband has taken over food: planning menus, going to market, putting groceries away, cooking new dinners. The kids have taken over chores: scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, changing linens, lugging the vacuum up and down the stairs to de-crumb the carpet.
And me? All I have to do is figure out how to build the internet so I can help other people figure out how to build theirs*. No biggie. All I have to do is excel. No pressure. Every day my mind scales another vertical learning curve. I’ve got lists, and private blogs, and goals, and resources, and 20 tabs open in my browser at any time, and at least a dozen internet tools I’d never heard of until three weeks ago, and I’ve got custom web searches for reaction gifs and thesaurus words, and I’m interacting and writing, and interacting and writing, and interacting and writing all day every day.
And it is thrilling.
It is exhausting.
At the end of each day my mind is gelatinous. My husband asks me questions when he gets home from work and I stare at him vacant eyed. My brain tries to rise to him then sloshes back down into a quivering mound.
At the end of each week, my emotional cache is overflowing, and I leak in inappropriate places. When I had a breakdown in the craft store checkout line last weekend, I knew things had gotten out of hand. The strain of wanting this so badly, and working so hard, and seeing how hard my family was working, it almost broke me. And then I remembered Out of Africa.
I decided to shelve the book I was reading for my Andrea Reads America project – the book I’d been working on for four weeks already and was barely managing to read two pages of each day – and, with a knowing in my heart, I trotted down to the basement book cases, my excitement mounting as I rounded the end of the banister, to the shelf that holds our favorite fantasy books.
I pulled Guy Gavrial Kay’s The Summer Tree off the shelf for the first time in years, and just the cover of it made me close my eyes and smile.
It was everything I needed it to be. I fell into the world in the first paragraph, and I turned pages like I haven’t turned pages in months. Most exciting, though, is that unlike my previous book, which was thinky and political and cerebral, this book makes me feel. The emotions that have been building in me through the want of this job find traction in the character’s stories. I laugh, and my throat chokes, and my heart aches, and I cry. I emote.
And I release. By proxy.
*I’m not really learning how to build the internet, but I am writing from a Jell-O brain. Please forgive my
exaggeration poetic license.