Still decompressing from a long week with colleagues at Automattic’s 2019 Grand Meetup in Orlando. You’d think after seven of these things I’d remember not to overbook myself (FOMO is real, y’all) but I spent most of the week feeling rushed and mentally exhausted. It was intense. Normally I come away from meetups feeling energized and ready to work, but this time, I left feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot of *stuff* going on at work these days, and I think all of that overflowed into my GM experience.
That said, I hung out with some of my favorite people, made new friends, sang with the Automattic band at the closing party, spent some time meditating, and caught an absurd number of shiny Pokémon.
I also set aside two days after the meetup to spend by myself at Disney, which gave me some time to rest and ended the week on a positive note. Post forthcoming with those photos!
The week before last, we dropped the kids off at sleep-away camp in the middle of the woods for six days of screen-free adventures. Then the grown-ups set off on a mini-adventure of our own; two nights in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI.
It’s funny (to me) that we’ve lived up here for several years, but never made a point of exploring the eastern provinces that are relatively close by. In contrast, we’ve visited Boston and points south many times.
We crossed the U.S./Canadian border at our usual spot and let the Trans-Canada take us where it would. I re-upped our Audible subscription so we could listen to The Stand on the way (Tim has never read it, a travesty) and when we got tired of that, we talked about grown-up things and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Halifax seems like a nice l’il city. We made our first stop the mall, because: LUSH. And an Apple store. And a bookstore. We’re starved for modern shopping options where we live, and it shows.
With our consumerist itch scratched, we headed to the waterfront for dinner at an Irish pub and a little walk around. I’d love to go back when we have more time to explore the city. It’s small enough so as not to feel overly chaotic but large enough that there are plenty of things to do. It reminded me of Portland.
The next morning, we made a pit stop in Dartmouth to check out the IKEA. Tim had never been, so I showed him the wonder and glory that is Swedish-made household goods and showrooms. I’m happy to say our marriage survived the trip intact. Our bank account did, too.
We crossed the big bridge to PEI that afternoon. Someone told me PEI is a lot like Aroostook County, and I agree; it’s northern Maine, but with an ocean around it. Farms and potato fields for miles, red soil against the blue sky. I felt right at home driving to Charlottetown on the narrow two-lane highway.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast called the Eden Hall Inn, which was within walking distance to downtown and the boardwalk, and spent the afternoon walking around Charlottetown. I had tasty vegetable curry at Merchantman, and ice cream from Cow’s for dessert. My favorite part by far was Victoria Park; I spent a lot of time enjoying views from the waterfront.
Our last day in the Maritimes was spent on the northern part of the island, in and around Cavendish. Anne with an E on Netflix re-ignited my interest in Anne of Green Gables, so we visited the Anne of Green Gables Museum and the Heritage House provincial park.
I really can’t wait to bring the kids out to PEI someday. Ellie has expressed interest in Anne of Green Gables, so we’ve started reading it together before bedtime. Soon I’ll have an excuse to revisit the museums!
We capped off the trip with a visit to Richard’s Fresh Seafood for fish and chips before the long drive home. This was such a great way to spend a few days together as a couple. We’ll celebrate 12 years of marriage in mid-August, and it made for a perfect almost-anniversary trip.
I’ll be honest, this was a rough trip. I know it’s hard to feel bad about visiting tropical climates in March; that part was definitely A+. And I always enjoy meeting with my colleagues and spending time with them in person.
Travel-wise, I got off to a rough start. My first flight out was canceled due to a winter storm, so I spent an extra day and night at the airport hotel. I was already anxious about the trip and kind of homesick to begin with, so the extra time to sit around and wait didn’t help. My rebooked flights were packed, of course, and added an extra flight to the mix, so that was frustrating.
When I finally did get going, I just felt off. When my second flight of the day landed in Miami, I stood up and felt like I was going to pass out. Thankfully I didn’t, but that feeling of lightheadedness persisted throughout the trip. (More about that later.)
I did appreciate the change in scenery, though, and our meetup home at Palm Cay was perfectly situated on a white sand beach. I felt like we spent the time productively with team building, problem solving, and plenty of laughs.
What a week! From the guest speakers to an advanced development class to meeting new people to Harry Potter world to playing Pokémon to touring Disney Springs, it’s hard to say what was the best part of this year’s Automattic Grand Meetup.
I tried to split my time between my new team and my old team when I wasn’t attending class or various presentations and sessions. These events have gotten so huge that it takes some serious effort to find and hug every person I know over the course of the week, let alone have meaningful conversations.
I made new friends raiding in Pokémon Go, and spent most of my downtime wandering around Disney Springs. I had a great one-on-one with my new squad lead at the Star Wars VR experience, and now I think all one-on-ones should involve shooting Stormtroopers. XD
Automattic arranged a special event dinner at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios mid-week. That in itself was impressive, but the afterparty remained my favorite. Epcot fireworks, the ever-present photo booth, and the Automattician-powered band was a great way to round out the week. Just when you think your colleagues couldn’t get any more brilliant, they get on stage and blow you away with musical talent.
And of course, there are the pictures; my favorite souvenirs:
Last weekend I flew to Montréal for Comiccon. It was huge; definitely bigger than the one we went to in Boston a few years ago. There were costumes galore and lots of places to sit quietly and people-watch. I’d originally planned this trip because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were both slated to make an appearance, but Gillian had to cancel. I decided to go anyway; I still wanted to meet David, and this con would be easier to wrangle than NYC.
Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and William B. Davis (Cigarette-Smoking Man) were also there. I bought a selfie with Mitch; he was incredibly nice about making time for everyone, asking questions, etc. He’s very kind, and doesn’t talk through his teeth at all. Apparently he reserves that stoicism for Mulder and Scully.
The three actors also did a Q&A panel, which was underwhelming — it was advertised as a “Special Event” and tickets cost extra, which probably should have been a red flag. The moderation was sub-par and the fan questions weren’t screened, so there were a lot of repeats. I cringed, a lot. It wasn’t worth the cost of admission, but oh well.
Of course, I got a photo with David:
It’s a picture of a picture so it’s not great quality, but who cares? JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE. I got a side hug. I’m never washing my sweater again.
He also signed one of my prints (I don’t have a photo of the print with the signature handy, so you’ll just have to trust me!) Eventually I’d like to get Gillian Anderson’s autograph on the same print. Between that, and a photo with both GA and DD, and I think my fandom life will be complete.
But the best part of this trip arguably had little to do with Comiccon, and everything to do with my friend and colleague, Kathryn, who made for excellent company while I was in her home city. We had a couple A+ meals (sushiiiiii) and she showed me the most amazing dessert place.
In a wonderful bit of serendipity, she also found these two artifacts while cleaning her house this weekend:
The first is an August 1995 sci-fi magazine with the infamous all-white photo shoot. The second is a script for an X-Files episode that doesn’t appear to have aired. Maybe a spec script from Tim Minear, who wrote a couple X-Files episodes in 1998 (and wrote for a bunch of other shows as well). I can’t wait to read it!
I also had a chance to walk around the city a bit. I haven’t done much solo travel for fun, but I could see this becoming a thing in the future.
Well, I’m finally at the bottom of the ride. I came home from our meetup on Sunday afternoon and promptly crashed for several hours of much-needed sleep. Thankfully I had the foresight to take a couple days off to recover. Monday was spent in a time-zone-befuddled daze, and yesterday was spent in Bangor for appointments.
…okay, maybe I’m not entirely at the bottom of the ride, but I’m getting there.
Most of the meetup itself was spent planning and thinking and brainstorming, which explains the relative lack of pictures this trip. Sticky notes lose their visual appeal after one or two photos.
Up at 3:30 am to catch my flight. Joy.
Hello, San Diego
It’s windy on this boat.
A little time with family
When in San Diego with five hours to spare…go to the zoo!
Pretty fly for a pink guy
The kids struggled with my absence more than usual, and I’m feeling the sharp divide between work and motherhood. Pulled in multiple directions, it’s hard to know if I’m doing enough on either front. But it was good to spend time getting to know my team, and I enjoyed working against the backdrop of ocean air and spring sun.
I met up with my aunt and cousins for lunch on my last day, and a late flight out afforded me the chance to have some alone time in the city. I wandered around the San Diego Zoo, taking pictures of the animals so I could share them with the kids.
All in all, a successful meetup, but I’m glad to be home!
For those counting, this is my third trip to the most beautiful state in the country. But as lovely as it is, this was a work trip; there was only one dip in the pool, one brief trip to the beach, and a tiny bit of sightseeing. The rest of the time I was head-down with my group, learning the ins and outs of Gutenberg and working on a new theme.
This is what I left behind, for your reference.
I found a KP at SFO!
The view’s alright.
Someone was interested in the remote work lifestyle.
Early morning walk, cute flower.
So many delicious breakfasts.
No filter necessary.
Sunset game on point.
Thai beef salad at TK Noodle House.
Team bonding over Thai.
Delicious plum liquor.
When life gives you ugly lemons, give them away.
Farmer’s market papaya
Obligatory beach selfie.
Theam in the water.
The life, I am living it.
Dipping the toes in.
Partial Theam portrait by Jeff.
A day out at the markets. (Photo by Jeff)
Cheers! (Photo by Jeff)
Dinner under a canopy of flowers.
Richard’s amazing Banyan tree
Time to say goodbye.
Hot tub Theam machine. (Photo by Allan)
The view and the company made up for the lack of time spent in the wild, though. I don’t use the word lightly when I say I’m blessed to have these opportunities. Thanks for a memorable week, Hawaii!
What a week! Last week, my team met in Montréal to work on projects and planning.
Gwen and Ellie sent friends to keep me company <3
A Shirley Temple for the DD (that’s me)
Since it’s fairly close, I rented a minivan and drove the 7+ hours to Montréal. My first meetup road trip! Huzzah! After a brief and unexpected pit stop at the border for some paperwork (harrowing but successful), I was off. There was a lot of Tim Hortons coffee and a Stephen King audiobook involved, and I spent a fair amount of time arguing with Google Maps.
I kinda forgot to take a pic before I dove into this poor cupcake.
“Spicy” lemonade, as my kids would say.
Themers with a cupcake!
Montreal at night
We stayed at a cute boutique hotel downtown, where we could walk to most places. When we couldn’t walk, I also drove the group around, which was an experience. I managed to shatter the right-hand rearview mirror on a narrow detour at night, but I also parallel parked almost perfectly one time, so I figure I broke even (pun intended).
The frothiest, yummiest iced coffee ever with my cupcake.
Fully painted; the colors darken significantly in the kiln
Ready for firing!
The team and friends!
The finished product! So pleased. 😀
I spent most of my work talking with my teammates in 1-1’s and feedback sessions. We also found out that there are some major changes happening in our division — namely, the dissolution of our division! Thankfully our team is still together, but the announcement gave me pause. I’m also stepping down as team lead when I come back from my leave; it’s bittersweet. I’m still struggling with pre-sabbatical FOMO and anxiety, but I’m sure that will resolve itself as I find other things to occupy my time.
72% dark chocolate ice cream
Authentic dining at Mikado
So much sushi. We powered through it.
We had a lot of fun in the city, though, braving the cold and rainy weather to go out to eat and activities. There was a storytelling show, a lively ceramics painting session, a tour of the local marketplaces, a craft fair, and a fun group game of Codenames to top off the week.
When in Rome…eat Tim Hortons.
I enjoyed a Canadian delicacy on my way home.
The trip home was “eventful”. At one point I was stopped at the Quebec/New Brunswick border for a random police check and asked if I had any alcohol, tobacco, or dead bodies in the vehicle. I’m still not sure if he was being serious about that last one…
I also came thisclose to running out of gas in an area with no cell reception and few gas stations; that was exciting, but I made it with 4 miles to spare. Rural NB is no joke!
I’m glad I got to see most of my team one more time before I leave for the majority of the summer. I have no idea what I’ll come back to, but I know it will be positive. Thanks for a great meetup, team!
The day after the U.S. election, I flew to Barcelona for a team meetup. It was a bittersweet trip; on one hand, I was happy to have the distraction of travel, for the opportunity to escape to a foreign city and immerse myself in something that wasn’t U.S. politics.
On the other, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to go home, curl up under a blanket and hide.
The election results were a frequent topic of conversation throughout the meetup, but we didn’t let it completely overshadow our fun. Besides, the trip itself threw its own interesting obstacles our way; lost (then found) wallets, viruses, a stolen laptop bag, and only one fluent Spanish speaker in the group, which made for some unique exchanges.
Hotel Praktik Bakery
Casa Sera, our home away from home for the week.
View from my room.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…oh, right, it’s a bird.
The obligatory “We really do work on these trips” picture.
Barcelona’s architecture brings its A-game.
Catalonia Sq. at night
La Sagrada Familia
Cathedral windows lit by the sun.
I could get into church if it involved this many rainbows.
Ceiling or alien spaceship? You decide.
Gaudi was a busy guy.
View from the Nativity Tower.
Walking in the park.
The tile mosaics in Park Guell are my favorite thing.
Views of Barcelona from Park Guell.
The cool kids.
So much color!
Gaudi knows how to dress up a ceiling.
It wasn’t an easy trip, but as always, the people and the city made it worthwhile. Until next time, Theam!
We made this trip last year with a minimum of fuss, and once again, it went off without a hitch. I think we might be getting the hang of this traveling-with-kids thing, or maybe we’re just lucky. iPads and a portable DVD player for the win! We took our time on the drive down, leaving early in the morning. Someone (cough ELLIE cough) was awake at 5 a.m., so we had a head start.
After crossing into Massachusetts, we stopped for dinner with long-time friends Sarah and Tim and their kids, which gave Ellie and Gwen a chance to run around and play with Toys That Are Not Theirs And Are Therefore Fascinating.
I’ll admit, I came home feeling pretty bummed that we don’t hang out with most of our friends on a regular basis. Like I said in my previous post, we only see each other once or twice a year, and I miss them! I love Maine, and I even love living in the country, but my friends and family in the south make a strong case for migration.
Fuddrucker’s with the Donahue / Paterson clan.
Running in the Seaport park.
My brother and his fiancée let us take over their apartment for the weekend. We didn’t get as much time with them as I would have liked because they were away that weekend, too, but we’ll get plenty of face time at their wedding in October (!)
Sunday meant Comic Con! It was my first con. The kids were excited at the numerous costumes (“Pikachu! Mulder! Scully! Wonder Woman! Batman!”), and they met one of the artists who works on the My Little Pony comics. We let them pick out a couple prints of favorite cartoon characters for their room.
But I had other priorities; I was there to meet Gillian Anderson, which meant standing in long-ass lines while Tim went exploring with the kids. Next time we do a con, I’ll plan to stay at least two days to soak it all in.
I paid for an autograph and a photo op, because why not? I have no regrets, but I think I’ll skip the celebrity extras next time (unless David Duchovny is also there, in which case, gimme). Meeting her at Streetcar was more intimate, less rushed, and she seemed more relaxed. It was still a cool experience, though, and Ellie was thrilled to join me for a photo with “Scully”. Ellie told her the X-Files was one of her favorite shows, which was cute, and GA asked, “Doesn’t it scare you???” Ellie shook her head, of course, and then we posed for the picture.
Gillian’s Q & A panel was amusing. She was feeling pretty snarky, apparently, and gave the moderator hell. She swore, apologized for swearing, and then kept swearing anyway. She talked a bit about being a mom, having “mom guilt”, balancing work life and parenthood — all things I can identify with. She recounted some fun moments from filming The X-Files last summer. It was neat to finally be in the live audience instead of watching from a shaky iPhone video on Tumblr.
The highlight of my Comic Con experience.
OMG JUST LOOK AT HER RADIANCE.
My signed print got a booboo. :-/
Fixed it, sorta. The print coating rubbed off, and it will probably never see life outside that frame.
After the fangirling, I went looking for my friend and former high-school roommate Sheryl, of Noadi’s Art fame. She is a ridiculously talented sculptor and painter, and you can see how much effort she’s put into building her business. I’m commissioning a Scully painting from her “kickass women” series whenever she’s available.
We headed home because the kids were getting grumpy and it was hot and my signed print got a spot, which soured my mood for the afternoon. Dinner at West on Centre cheered me up a bit, though, as did laying like a beached whale in an air-conditioned bedroom for several hours.
The next day, we went to Assembly Square and Legoland. We were able to get our tickets for cheap online, and the facility wasn’t crowded, so they let us in early. The kids played, tried the rides, and took the “Master Builder” class. It was blissfully cool and relatively quiet, which was a nice change from the swarm of people at the con.
Pre-Legoland lunch at Earl’s Kitchen.
Big man, tiny chair, don’t care.
LEGO my kids!
Bunker Hill Memorial bridge, LEGO version.
He looks pretty good holding a baby, huh?
We also visited with our friend Amanda and her new baby boy. Tim and I are out of the baby-making game, but there’s nothing like holding someone else’s adorable four-month-old to get my ovaries all whiny and mopey. Sorry, ovaries, you’re out of luck.
Amanda and her S.O. co-run a new restaurant, so we had tasty pizza for dinner. If you’re in the Malden area and need a bite to eat, try Sillari’s Pizza. We over-ordered and took home a leftover cheese pizza, which was promptly devoured by the adults for breakfast the next morning.
After one more night in Boston, we headed northward, promising the kids a stop at Target to get the LEGO sets we couldn’t find at Legoland. When we finally got home and staggered from our tiny car like road-weary zombies, we were coerced by small children into building said LEGO sets until our fingers were sore and our eyes were red. Not a terrible way to end a long weekend, right?