Theme Team in Vancouver, March 2016

Theme Team! Photo by Tammie Lister
Theme Team! Back row: Me, Thomas, Ola, Allan, Ernesto. Front row: Richard, David, Kathryn, Laurel, and Jeff. Photo by Tammie, who should also be in this picture.

I spent a fun and productive week with my team in Vancouver, BC last week!

My first impression of the city was that it smelled nice, unlike most cities, which either smell like pee or exhaust fumes or both. It also had the cleanest train system I’ve ever encountered. Well done, Vancouver.

Everyone talks about the rain, but it wasn’t as soggy as I expected (except for the last day, but that’s a different story). It was either cloudy, misty, or lightly raining. Occasionally we’d catch a hint of sun, which was a nice surprise.

My team kicked butt on our project, a new iteration of Components. We worked on the first version as a squad in Lisbon, and similar to Lisbon, we broke into groups to tackle different parts. The idea is to bring everything together to create a starter theme generator that includes custom-built user-selected components as well as common theme types.

When we weren’t working, we saw some of Vancouver’s many sights. We toured the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, saw the Mashup exhibit at Vancouver Art Gallery, grabbed lunch and did some shopping on Granville Island, and walked around Stanley Park.

Watching everyone come together to collaborate inspired some serious proud Theme Mama feels. These people are amazing, and I’m honored to work with them every day.

Lisbon, Portugal with the Theme Wranglers

Wrapping up my last major travel event of the year with a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, to spend a week with my squad.

The groups’ project turned out amazing; it’s not quite ready to be made public, but for now I’ll say I’m super excited about it and proud of everyone for pulling it off in four short days.

Lisbon itself was a treat. The warm, sunny weather was a relief from Maine’s gray November cold, and the people were gracious and patient with us non-native speakers. I was shocked at how inexpensive things were compared to other city-based meetups we’ve done. Amazing food and lots to see, and we came in well under budget.

We had two days to explore, and we didn’t cover even an eighth of what was there; to say it was a busy week was an understatement. We did get to see a beautiful view of the city from the top of the Santa Justa lift, and the gardens and architecture at the Jerónimos Monastery.

Oh, and Sarah helped me put a purple streak in my hair! You never know what trouble fun Automatticians will get up to when they get together.

I had a great time, but it’s good to be home, knowing there’s no travel in my immediate future. Three months in a row was tough for this homebody.

Automattic Grand Meetup, Park City, UT

Theme Wranglers squad
Theme Wranglers squad with their dorky lead

Something magical happens when this company gets together. It reminds me of summer camp; you come away from it having changed, but it’s difficult to describe the experience to others. Suffice it to say, I work with some wonderfully smart, talented, and fun people.

Most of all, I love that I can be myself at Automattic. I’ve thrived over the last three years, thanks to an environment in which I feel safe to take risks and tackle challenges, knowing I’m supported by my team and my lead.

I was sad to leave, but I do so with many new ideas and forged connections. It felt like a week with friends, particularly the time spent with my team. My brain is full, my body is exhausted, but part of me has been rejuvenated. I’m ready to see what the next year has in store.

ThemeConf in Keswick

I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at ThemeConf in Keswick, UK this last week. It was quite a trip; I think I covered all manner of modern transportation to get there — planes, trains, buses, and taxis — but the conference, the people, and the scenery made the journey worth it.

The conference was generally about forward-thinking web development, with a bias toward WordPress. Attendance was small, but that made it more intimate and easier to socialize. I learned quite a bit from each presenter; the level of each talk reminded me of CSS Conf, but without the massive venue and hefty price tag.

As for Keswick itself, the town is adorable. Small enough to be walk-able, with lots of cute shops and restaurants. People had a lot to say about the weather, but I had no complaints; I got re-acquainted with my sweaters.

(I did not enjoy coming home to 80-degree temperatures and suffocating humidity, but that’s a different story.)

Boston!

We had a great time in the city last week, seeing the sights and hanging out with my brother and his fiancée.

Unfortunately there was no Comic Con for us, as Gillian Anderson canceled her appearance, but we had plenty to do; the aquarium and the science museum were big hits with Ellie, who demanded “more science!” Cheap tickets from a good friend meant we were able to stretch our budget, and the kids saw their first IMAX show.

But their favorite part of the trip was the Legoland Discovery Center. Most of the attractions are for little kids, but it was worth the price of admission just to see the city of Boston made entirely of LEGOs. Gwen plopped herself down in front of a bucket of bricks and basically didn’t budge until one of us prompted her to look around, while Ellie ran from activity to activity with glee.

We had lunch with E, the girls’ former sitter, and they were so excited to see her I thought they’d try to stow away in her car when we said goodbye. It’s amazing how a person can be part of your life for such a relatively small amount of time, but have such a great impact. I keep coming back to how lucky we are — and how lucky the girls are — to have the village we’ve had.

I only wish so many of our family and friends didn’t live a 7+ hour drive away. Ahh, the price we pay for living in the boonies. 😉

Automattic Grand Meetup 2014

Tim and I spent last week in Park City, Utah, for our company’s annual grand meetup. After much discussion, laughter, food, and games, I am feeling both energized and exhausted by the experience — a pretty common post-meetup feeling.

radio silence

I’ve been working on a post about fanfic writing and how that’s coming along, but it’s pretty uninspired. Ironic, given I’m feeling otherwise inspired about writing; I guess writing about writing is too meta for my muse.

Pink shirt!The last month has been a bit crazy with travel, which is why the blog has been quiet. After Miami in May, Tim traveled to Saratoga Springs for a week, then I had a barely-two-day fling with Florida, this time for CSS Conf.

The conference itself was great, but the next time I say I’m going to fly to the opposite end of the country for a one-day conference, and fly back at 6 the next morning, just slap me. I’m claiming brain damage from a too-long winter and sunlight deprivation, because who in their right mind takes a “day-trip” across the country and back with two connections? Me, apparently.

But I did get a bright pink t-shirt out of the deal, so I’m calling it an overall win.

Haircut!This week, Tim’s galavanting around in Scotland with our colleagues while I try to work around the kids, both of whom are home for the summer. This amounts to 100% less getting up at ungodly hours to get Ellie on the bus (win), and 100% more whining about all the random things five-year-olds whine about (lose). This is the part where I thank my lucky stars for our amazing nanny and the abundance of parks within driving distance.

Oh, and Ellie got a haircut!

As for the two-year-old, she’s requested Cheez-its for breakfast every morning for the last month.  “Accept no substitutes” is Gwen’s motto, and she applies it liberally to every aspect of her life. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the joys of cold-brewed coffee, and am dominating the DVR with David Duchovny movies and old X-Files episodes since Tim’s not here to roll his eyes at my weird and/or obsessive taste.

Hello, Miami

I just got back from six days in Miami for a work meetup with our squad. This is the first squad event I’ve planned, so I was a bit nervous — mostly about the location, and driving in the city. Thankfully both things worked out (as they usually do).

The hotel wasn’t anything special, but it was affordable, clean, the internet worked, and there were a few restaurants and a Starbucks within walking distance.

We drove through the city and out to the South Beach area a couple times, and I was a surprisingly calm and competent driver (this coming from the woman who learned to drive on teeny back roads, and a highway where you’re more likely to hit a moose than another car…) We would have been totally lost without Michelle, my trusty navigator.

The food was especially great; a big win, since we had an array of unique dietary requirements in our six-person group. Lots of Cuban and Latin influences, and a couple Japanese restaurants stood out (I have a newfound appreciation for sushi/maki after this trip). It was usually possible to find something for everyone, and a couple of the dinners were particularly amazing. We also did a food tour activity on the last day, and that was a hit.

And there was the beach! We spent a couple hours just hanging out in the sun. It’s been such a long winter, the ocean breeze and sub-tropical scenery were a welcome change.

I completely forgot to take photos of everyone working; suffice it to say we did work, and you’ll see the results in the next couple weeks. All in all, it was a successful, engaging, and fun week.

With that in mind, I’m glad I don’t have to plan another one for at least a year. 🙂

Charleston in photos

Charleston was an adventure! We visited during the ice storm, so the area where we stayed shut down for two days, and the majority of our division’s European contingent got stranded in Florida/North Carolina due to flight cancellations. We spent a lot of time inside. I suppose when I wished for a winter trip to a warmer climate, I should have been more specific. It was warmer than Maine…but not by much. 🙂

That said, our team pulled together and made lemonade out of lemons. Sure, the lemonade may have been spiked with sweet tea vodka, but it was pretty damn delicious.