Leaving Home for a New Adventure

In the Beginning

A little over four years ago I was in a tough spot. I didn’t have a job, my lease was up and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had burned through my savings, charged up my credit cards and prepaid on a storage garage for three months, using up the last of my money. I moved all my stuff into that garage or sold it and planned on moving into my parent’s office at the age of 34.

Then I got a break. A couple of guys at American Family Insurance took a chance on me to do some contract work for a couple months. It still meant moving in with my parents, but I was going to be able to pay my bills. I helped complete a site redesign and impressed them enough that they extended my contract.

So I rented an apartment and worked crazy hours just trying prove I had what it takes because I didn’t want to go back to being unemployed. After 9 months of doing contract work, they offered me a job.

I said no.

They modified the offer and I accepted. I was part of corporate America and working in the financial sector. It was never a place I planned to be, but in 2010 I was glad to have a job.

For four years it has been a home for me. I was part of a rapidly growing digital marketing department and had the chance to work with a great pool of talented people that designed, wrote, developed websites and spread the word through social media. We shifted from grunts updating the corporate website to user experience professionals. The team became an internal “do all” digital agency. We took on supporting not just customer facing websites, but also mobile apps, digital advertising and even some internal projects.

We experimented with edgy technology. We broke things. We hacked them back together. We focused on improving everything we did to the betterment of our customers’ experience. I learned about A/B testing, user experience, how to build out a server, load balancing, performance tuning a site and a server, and took my programming skills to ever higher heights.

Some things we did aren’t my best work, but most I’m really proud of. Most importantly, I’m proud of the team I was lucky to work with. I have made some good friends, but now it is time to say goodbye.

Fortuitious Circumstance

In August I began the strangest trip I’ve been on yet. I’ve worked hard over the last four years to be the best I can be. I have given talks at conferences, experimented with technology and made as many connections as I could in the industry. Apparently this paid off. I was approached by three companies to come work for them.

I honestly didn’t know how to handle it. In the past I had to fight for jobs, but now they were fighting for me. Of the three companies, two made me offers, neither were something I could turn down but I had to make a choice between staying or one of the companies.

It was a hard choice, but I decided to walk away from the home and family I’ve had the last four years.

The Next Adventure

Tomorrow is my last day at American Family. On Monday I start my new position as front end engineer for Recurly.

I’m lucky as I get to work from home and travel to San Francisco to work with the team frequently. It’s the best of both worlds.

It’s an exciting move for me. Not only is something new, but it’s my first time working for a startup. I’ll get to do cutting edge stuff with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. I’ll be part of a team supporting a Ruby and Node application full time. It’s all things I want to be doing and I’m crawling out of my skin waiting for my flight out there next week.

It’s like Christmas morning for me and I can’t get any sleep.

Learning to Let Go

Snow Storm

In the Beginning…

For ten years I have been dealing with chronic pain in the form of daily, debilitating migraines. Unlike some people who get migraines every couple of months that may last a few hours to a few days, my migraines show up every. They come in swaths of anywhere from as few as three and up to as many as eighteen in a single day and they would last from 15 minutes to three hours.

The pain is so great, that my nerves have forgotten how to turn themselves off in between headaches. I am left with a dull – sometimes numbing – headache between these migraine spikes. It became so prevalent, I stopped referring to the in between time as an actual headache despite it meeting the very definition.

Applesauce

Mac & Cheese with a side of applesauce

Nothing really goes better than Mac & Cheese than applesauce. One of my kids won’t eat the store bought stuff, but loves my homemade version so much they made a bet with me with applesauce everyweek as their prize. They won.

Ingredients

  • 3lbs apples. I really like MacIntosh, but Gala or Fuji work in a pinch
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon to taste

Peel and seed the apples. Slice them into 1/8 inch thick pieces; thinner is ok, but don’t go thicker. Melt the Earth Balance in the pot and add in the brown sugar, apples and cinnamon. Cook over medium-high heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve warm on its own, with crepes, ice cream, granola or any dish you want!

Gluten Free Vegan Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese with a side of applesauce

One of my favorite dishes has always been Mac & Cheese. Growing up we’d have the classic Kraft box dinner on a regular basis, but I only ate homemade mac & cheese if we went to a family get together. One of my aunts made it with the crusty breadcrumb top, but hell if I can remember which one it was.

When I began cooking for the kids, I actually looked at what was in the Kraft dinner and decided I could do better. When I went vegan I longed for the dish and eventually found a reasonable cheese replacement and enjoy it we did a couple times a month. When Sara joined us, I needed to find a gluten free version. We now eat this once a week.

CSS Process and Workflow

For the last month I have been trying to spend more time with improving my workflow in front end development. Then at work I got the opportunity to present my findings to my team. I put this little deck together on http://slid.es, which uses reveal.js to make pretty presentations.

I spoke about two tools (Sass and LiveReload) and one process (SMACSS) I have begun using on a daily basis.

CodePaLOUsa 2013

This week is CodePaLOUsa in Louisville, Kentucky. I hear it is pronounced L-uh-villl, but maybe I’m wrong.

I’ll be on stage twice this weekend presenting “Turning the Titanic: Getting Large Enterprise to Think Mobile First” and doing a workshop on Thursday, “Bulding Great Web Experiences for All Users” with a focus on accessibility. You can check out my sample site for that at Project Alice. It will also be the sample site for the book of a similar name (the name is unofficial still) I am working on. Hopefully that will be completed next month and self-published.

Blazin’ Three Bean Chili

This one comes with a warning. If you make this recipe as specified below, you better like hot foods. This what I call a triple burner, once on the way in, once while digesting and once on the way out. Now, not everyone feels hot foods the same way, but if anything I make is a triple burner, this is it. Feel free to modify your recipe to eliminate some of the peppers and spices until you get it to the heat you like. When I use hot peppers, I never take the seeds out. This is where all your flavor really comes from. If you find the peppers to be too hot, reduce the amount used instead of removing the seeds.

Spinach Linguini With Pesto and Avocado

This weekend hoofin’ it around the Capitol Square farmers market, I found a booth selling fresh handmade organic pasta. They only had two types that were vegan, so I bought a 9 oz package of their spinach linguini to use for dinner tonight. Of course, I hadn’t figured out what I was going to do with it yet.