18 years

As a family we have a lot of celebrations throughout the autumn, we added one more this year, and then right into the winter holidays. Out of all those special days today, January 3rd, is my favourite. Today is the 18th anniversary from when Jen and I were married.

We never have big celebrations or buy each other gifts, but I love taking the time to think back on our life together so far. We’ve been through so much and this past year has been no exception. Honestly I’m not sure how I would have made it through without her, and even if I could I certainly wouldn’t want to.

Jen is the best person I know. She makes me a better person. Our children are a testament to the mother and role model she is as well.

This family and life we’ve grown together are more then I ever dreamed of, and certainly more then I deserve. For some reason she still puts up with me and seems to usually like having me around.

Though life doesn’t look the way I pictured it would even just a year ago, and I’m confident there will be many more challenges and unseen changes going forward, I know we’ll make it through together and come out better on the other side.

The move to Developer

This past year has been tough, exciting, and brought some big changes. One of the big changes was our adoption of Ezra. The other is the completion of the Developer Apprenticeship program I wrote about previously. As of the first of this month my role switch from Happiness Engineer to Developer became official! That’s the same day as my seventh anniversary with Automattic.

The year was challenging but I feel like we’re on the other side of a lot of things and that we’re in a better position now because of it. Despite the challenges I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Automattic provided with this program, especially my team. Throughout the whole process they’ve been so supportive. They’ve provided guidance when needed, but from early on they also gave me a lot of freedom, trust, and learning opportunities, all to help me grow.

For the majority of the year my team and I worked on Simplenote. This was a great experience and I started feeling pretty confident in myself. I was leading projects, adding new features, fixing bugs, both in the front and back end of the project. I was getting to know the code base pretty well. Then in October things took a bit of an unexpected turn and our team switched focus to work on a different project, Day One. Our team split up some and merged with the existing teams working on this.

This whole change was pretty scary for me. I was getting comfortable where I was, but still had lots to learn. Was I really going to be able to be successful on a new product? How would this effect the Apprenticeship Program for me? It’s also exciting too though. We came in very early in the process of making a new web app for Day One. Getting to be a part of helping create this from the start is a cool experience and has given all kinds of new learning opportunities.

After seven years with the company and six years as a Happiness Engineer I was feeling pretty safe and settled in that role. One of the big lessons I have from this year is learning how to live with that feeling of being uncomfortable and doubting myself and then working through it. It sure seems like in this new role it may be something that happens regularly. There really will always be something new to learn that I haven’t worked with yet. That might be a new language or framework, or a whole new product to work on. It’s really allowing me to live our creed and never stop learning.

After a little more then two months working on Day One I’m feeling more confident and was still able to complete the Apprenticeship Program. The first couple weeks were stressful though and really had me doubting myself pretty hard. It seemed like everyone else was catching on and fitting into the new project quickly and much easier then me. Once again my team, including new members where there.

Now another thing I’m very thankful for is I’ve just started two months of Parental Leave. Automattic gives us six months so I’m going to split mine and Jen will take hers in between with a little overlap in the summer. Having time to focus only on our family is going to be amazing. But I’m also really excited to see the state of the project at work when I get back and see all the progress the team has made while I’m away.


Jen told me from early on in our relationship that she would like to have ten children, while I told her I’d be happy with three. Like most things in our life we compromised, though she keeps getting closer to her number 😃

This past year has been yet another of ups, downs, and surprises, but as always things seem to end up where they should be. Maybe I’ve always been this way, but as I get older I feel like I can get stuck in my own ways and that it takes me longer to come around mentally to changes.

When our oldest Alex told us she was pregnant it was one of those times that it took me a while to come around. It felt like she was falling into a long line of our family having a child young when we weren’t really ready or in a great place to do so. Alex has been working through mental health issues and learning disabilities, we try to do what our parents did for us and set her, and all our children, up on at least a bit of a better starting point then we started on. I knew being a single Mom at such a point in life was going to make things even more difficult for her, so when we first heard the news it was hard for me to be happy. In fact I’m not proud to say that when the discussion around what Ezra would call Jen and I came up my family thought it would be hilarious if he called me Grumpa instead of Grandpa.

Thankfully I came around and of course we did all we could to support Alex during the pregnancy and after Ezra was born. I quickly began to love the idea of being a Grandfather and having a new baby around to maybe spoil a little, but then be able to send back to Alex.

When Ezra was about a year an a half a number of things came to a head and he came to stay with us full time. The initial plan was for it to be while Alex got the help she needed and worked on herself. This yet again was one of those times where it took me a while to wrap my head around another big change. I was loving the Grandfather role and the place we were in life, and I could see that our lives and plans were going to be changed yet again.

After a while Alex made the hard but mature decision that her process wasn’t going to be an overnight thing and it would be best for Ezra if he was with us permanently. We started the process of adopting him.

Things have certainly changed and it made some things more difficult, but we love Ezra and having him with us always. Our other kids were on board right from the beginning and, just like everything else, they are amazing, loving, and helpful with him. We also now have added to our immediate families list of Fall celebrations. Noah’s, Alex’s, Caile’s, Ezra’s, and my birthday, and now the day the adoption became official!

Though there were times through this process where I was selfish and spent too long looking at the negative side of the changes, I know I’m so extremely lucky and blessed. I’m not sure what I’ve done in life to deserve it but I have the most awesome family, friends, and career, all full of support and love. I’m so glad that Ezra is right here with us and surrounded by all of this as well.

Beautiful views & eye opening realizations

A couple of my good friends are celebrating birthdays this month. As part of that they wanted to hike Cape Split as a group.

Despite living here for a long time, and it being a well known trail I’ve only been out to the point twice before, the first time was just over a year ago. That time I decided to bike the trail. It went surprisingly well. There were some rough spots and I had to get off and walk my bike a bit but I made good time and enjoyed the point very much.

The second time I did it was a couple of months later when me and two other friends ran it. That had me worried as I wasn’t sure how I’d make. I wasn’t as good as the two people with me, but still did ok and kept a pretty good pace. Things were sore at the end but not anything bad.

Since my last time out there has been a lot of work done on the trail. A completely new loop was made and some look off areas added, so when plans were being made to do it today I was excited to see.

The changes in the trail weren’t the only changes that took place since my last time out.

Early this year I started training for a half marathon. Not too far into it I hurt my knee and that set me back a bit. Very shortly after that I hurt my back. That was the beginning of yet another downward spiral. Since then I’ve done very little physical activity. My eating habits are back to the old terrible ones, and my weight as sky rocketed yet again.

I seem to have trouble keeping a good balance in my life. It’s rare that I can keep my family life, my career, and my health all in good spots at the same time. This past bit has seen a few areas struggle for me, but mostly me taking care of myself by living a healthy life.

So today, we were only about half way into the hike and I was feeling it. Nothing terrible, but I knew making it to the end was going to hurt, and at that point there is no choice but to continue on out.

The views and company were wonderful, it was cool to see the new work done to the trail and the look offs, but I’m now paying the price. The last few kilometres out were slow and hard. I struggled to walk up my stairs and get a shower. Not long after that came a cold chill and shivers. Everything from my toes to my shoulders hurt. But likely most of all my pride or view of myself.

It was eye opening. I obviously knew I was going down a wrong path with my health, but to see the effects of that play out so drastically does not feel good. Let the be the push I need to change and get that balance back in my life.

Thank to to the crew for getting me to come, and to Jen and my sister for taking care of all the kids while we were gone.

Easy task, all gone wrong

Today was the day I was finally going to take care of a task I’d been putting off for a while. Getting the winter tires off my and my daughters car.

This is a pretty easy task that I’ve done a bunch, thanks mostly to good friends who loan me their floor Jack and electric ratchet, but not much went right doing it today.

The first thing was finding a screw in one of my tires that I was about to put on, it was completely flat. Couldn’t find a place open to fix it today. I resorted to going and buying the tools and supplies to plug it myself.

Get it plugged, go fill it up with air, come back and go to put it on, and the Jack won’t work. Looks like it’s leaking hydraulic fluid. Find a new similar one on sale at the same store I was at earlier to get things to fix the tire. Thankfully Jen was running errands so she stopped in to pick it up for me.

She gets back with it and I go out to finish changing that last tire, but she accidentally grabbed the wrong one. So back in I went to return it and get the new one. Back home and change that tire and then switch to get started on my daughters.

That’s when I notice the two indentations in the driveway itself. Things were so warm that the driveway got soft and the wheels on the Jack sunk into the driveway.

With the help of a piece of plywood I managed to get things all changed. So the task is done, but something that should have taken an hour turned into an almost all day ordeal and fairly expensive. With the luck today I’m almost scared to drive the cars now.

Quarter way through my apprenticeship

Time is flying by, I’m already over a quarter way through the year developer apprenticeship program at work. It’s been fun, exhausting, and rewarding all at the same time.

Like all the teams I’ve been apart of so far at Automattic my new team is fantastic. All incredibly smart, dedicated, and willing to give their time and support to help me succeed. There is still a long way to go, but with their help I’ve already learned so much.

I’m working mainly on the web version of Simplenote. It is also used to build the Windows and Linux version of the app with Electron. It’s a React app and not something I’ve worked with before, but I feel like I’m coming along pretty well learning it.

There are so many parts to learn even beyond the code directly. Before this I hadn’t used version control very much, but now feel pretty comfortable using GitHub for most of the everyday use cases. I’ve also had the chance to dig into the build process that is used to build modern web applications like this. Things like Webpack and Electron which are fairly complex in their own way but essential for pulling everything together and making it work.

Recently I’ve started a new project within the web version of Simplenote that I’m the lead of. With help I’ve outlined what needs to be done and have started breaking it down into smaller pieces to work through. I’m looking forward to learning a lot through this process as well.

Though there are a lot of positives it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. I’ve had my share of self doubt and questioning if this is something I’m capable of. I’ve run into problems that I’ve tried hard and spent lots of time on trying to figure out but just couldn’t. Thankful again for my awesome team for helping me get unstuck in these cases.

I also still feel very slow at things. Even when I can figure them out and get things working it seems to take way longer than it should. Each thing seems to send me down a path where I have to learn or dig into to be able to do the task. I think this will get better as I build up experience, but it can still be hard when I close my computer at the end of a day and even though I was busy all day and feel exhausted, I don’t have a lot to show for my effort.

One of the great things about this program though is the group of people who are in it with me. On my team there is another apprentice which is great having someone else right here going through some of the same things I am. We’ve also had group coaching sessions which have been very helpful as well.

Those sessions have ended but I’ve continued on with one other apprentice, who I had a good working relationship with already, having regular peer coaching sessions. I look forward to each one. We have a lot of similarities in the way we work and think and can help call each other out on things that we may not do for ourselves.

Even though it’s still early in I’m so thankful for this program and all the support I’ve been given. This is a role I very much enjoy and hope that things can continue down the path as it is now so that I can do this as a permanent role.

A month of running

We’ve reached the end of 2020 and also the end of December which was the month long virtual 5k wwwp5k.

When I first decided to challenge myself to do not just one 5k during the month but try to run a 5k every day I wasn’t really sure I was going to make it. Even right down to today when I pulled something in my leg this morning while walking the dog.

A couple of my favourite moments were the midnight 10k run I did on where I started around 11:30pm on December 23rd and ran until about 12:30am on December 24th. Doing 5k on each day. There was also the Christmas day rainbow run.

In a round about way I also ended up with a new book to read thanks to an interaction made because of the social aspect of tagging the posts.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the charity donations end up and see how much with the matching from Automattic was raised.

Developer Apprenticeship

Recently I received some very exciting news at work. I’ve made it through the application process and accepted into a new developer apprenticeship program. This means starting in January I’ll be spending a year working with a development team and learning, with mentorship, to be a productive, contributing, developer.

This is a fairly new program and is meant as a path way for internal applicants to possibly become a full time developer. At the end of the year if I’ve grown and learned enough I could be looking at a career change. If not I will be able to go back to my current role as a Happiness Engineer.

There have been previous Happiness Engineers who have moved into a developer role but no formal path to do that. Until recently they had to apply as any other applicant and go through the application and Trial process. You already had to have all the skills to jump in and start. About a year ago this program started as a pilot and a few people successfully made it through and have been successful since then. The program has been tweaked now and has more room for support along the way.

Last year I applied for the program but didn’t make it in. I didn’t make it past the coding test which is a similar test that external applicants would get. This time however I was able to complete the test and into the apprenticeship.

December 1st was my six year anniversary with Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. This is by far the longest time I’ve been with a company. Though I’ve done different things in my role here and learned lots, I’ve been looking for a new challenge and change. In September I started helping with hiring new Happiness Engineers part time along with my other work. This has been a great experience, but still felt like I needed more.

This apprenticeship is going to be just what I need and possibly a career change altogether, if I can learn and prove myself over the year. Becoming a developer is something that I’ve always thought about as well though I wasn’t sure it would happen. At over 40 years old with lots of family and financial commitments it didn’t seem realistic anymore. This program could make it possible.

After I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Computer Science I did a lot of freelance work on my own. I never ended up working with a software team and so never learned a lot of best practices or have team members to learn from or gain experience with. Once I started at Automattic I didn’t do much coding at all except for some little one off tools or browser user scripts to help with my role. So I’ve gotten rusty even with what I did know. I’ve always had a bit of regret that I didn’t go out and get that experience, while at the same time being very happy with my current career. This program will give me a chance to do those things I never did coming out of school.

Back when I first really heard about the Happiness Engineer of role it was on the Big Web Show podcast that Matt Mullenweg was a guest on. In it he was talking about the job title Happiness Engineer. As part of it he mentioned that many current Happiness Engineers could be Engineers at other companies. My plan is to put the work in and learn so much that I can be one of the people that makes that statement true, except not at another company.

When I found out the teams who would be participating in the program I was excited to see one in the App Division was looking for a web developer to help work on things like Simplenote and the WordPress.com Desktop app. I’m super excited that this is the team I was able to join.

The next year is going to be full of learning and hard work, but I’m very much looking forward to it and feeling really energized to get started.

WorldWide WordPress 5k 2020

Today starts a month long virtual event for the WorldWide WordPress 5k 2020, organized by some of my colleagues. On top of getting out active with others, virtually, there is also a cool charity aspect where you can donate and have a matching donation made. Checkout the post linked above for more details.

I’ve slacked off with my running lately, though have been getting out with Oakley some. This is a good push for me to get going again. To participate you only need to do it once during the month, but I’m going to see how many 5k’s I can get in and started today.

It wasn’t a great start. I’ve been up since 4am because of a wind and rain storm that has come through and knocked out our power. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep after that. Luckily the power came back on, but the weather still hasn’t been nice. The wind made it rough to run while going right into it, I had to take my hat off after the first lap so I didn’t lose it. The rain belted me in the face and made it hard to see. In the end I was soaked, but I got it done.

This likely won’t be the worst weather I face this month, so I guess it is good practice to start getting used to running in less than ideal circumstances.

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