working at all hours
highly marketable skills
still hard to get by
working at all hours
highly marketable skills
still hard to get by
Wish I could take your pain away
Wish I could take you out in the sunny day
Wish I could make you stronger
So you could come home for longer
Wish I could hurt instead of you
I’d give anything to make that true
Wish I could hold you and make things right
Wish I was there with you tonight
Hope you are having a happy day
I’m there with you, in spirit anyway
You are the best mom, I know it’s true
Can’t wait ’til the next time that I see you
Craziest year ever. Not even sure what to write about it. 2014 looks to be more of the same.
So many things. K’s dad. I hope he has a better 2014 than 2013. Same with K and her mom and her sister, L. And me.
Too many things have been going on for so long, I can barely remember what is like to be able to think clearly. Tired of being so confused and tired all the time.
It is not all bad. There are breaks. Every now and again, K and I get a day, or part of a day, off. I get more breaks than K, but when she is not here, I tend to spend all my time working. This year, our definition of “a break” has changed. We were noting that having some time to scrape the ice off the car and shovel it out of the snow now feels like a break.
Work has been crazy for both of us. Pretty sure that my business will make more money than last year. Happens every year, but I still end up working very many hours for very little money. So little that it seems like madness to keep going year after year, but I am short on other options. It is very hard for me to work a “real job”.
I know my job is a real job. I know that I am good at what I do. I work very hard. My web development skills get better all the time. Having a screencast addiction helps.
But my business and organizational skills are almost non-existent. When you run a business, those skills are at least as important as being able to do your job. Maybe that is the difference between a hacker and an entrepreneur.
My gross income this year is about $5K over the 2013 poverty level. This is due to a combination of undercharging, not charging at all, and a near complete lack of project management skills.
At this point, after reading approximately a million articles about project management, business organization, and every other possible subject that may be of interest to freelancers and small business people, I am pretty sure that these are skills that I can not acquire. I need my ever elusive “Magic Business Partner” more than ever.
Favorite Apps of the Year:
Happy New Year everyone!
WordPress will be 10 years old on May 27th, 2013. Hard to believe it has been so long! Dougal Campbell had a great idea to start the WordPress 10th Anniversary Blogging Project. I have been using WordPress since v 0.71 and it is still my favorite way to build a website. What better way to celebrate than to write a WordPress post?!
When I first started using WordPress in May 2003…
Since I started using WordPress…
I am hugely thankful to Matt Mullenweg and all of the other people who have helped develop WordPress over the years, and to all of the awesome people that I have met in the WordPress community!
There will be plenty of celebrating going on all around the world. Find a celebration near you!
If I had to pick one word to describe 2012, it would be ‘busy’. If I had to pick 2 words, they would be ‘too busy’. Living in Baltimore is very busy. I don’t think I will ever get used to it. Work was way too busy for a while. It is great to have so much work, but also nice not to have to work every single second. Things have slowed down for the holidays and I have been enjoying the break.
So much has gone on this year, I don’t even think I can remember it all, so here are the highlights…
Karen got a very well-deserved promotion at work 🙂 It makes me very happy when she is appreciated for her awesomeness. I think she will like her new job a lot better and be able to put her many clinical and organizational skills to good use. Go K!
I finally got my Maryland driver’s license! On my 4th visit to the MVA, I finally got the license that had been held up by red tape, paperwork, and ridiculousness for about a year. Luckily my California license was valid until my birthday this year.
I got called for jury duty. I have always dreaded jury duty, but even my worst imagined scenario was better than how it actually turned out. My fears were about being locked in a room all day with no escape, being surrounded by people and noise, and not being able to speak when I needed to, but those ended up being the least of my problems except for the not talking part.
When I got to the courthouse, I found out that there was a “Quiet Room” to wait in. It was great and for the most part was actually quiet. At some point, there was an announcement telling us to report to a judge at the courthouse across the street. Unfortunately, they didn’t actually mention that the courthouse was across the street, but just gave the address and the room number. Somehow I thought the room number was the street address and walked 8 or 9 blocks to find it. When I couldn’t find it, I returned to the original building and asked a guard to help me. He sent me to the right building, but the wrong room. I returned again and was sent to the right room by another guard.
The judge stopped everything when I walked in and gave me a lecture about being selfish and disrespectful because I was so late. Sometime in the middle of the session, she started calling juror numbers, and I stood up when mine was called, prompting her to scold me even louder and longer than the first time. After more than an hour, the jurors were chosen and I was called up to the bench. My brain was too uncooperative to talk at that point, but somehow I managed to get a pen and paper to write on. I wrote that I couldn’t talk and that I thought that the room number was the building number and got lost. At some point, she stopped talking to me like I was a criminal and started talking to me like I could not understand English. Eventually, she sent me back to the first building to sign out. I never want to do jury duty again.
Snow. It has snowed a few times and even stuck to the ground and cars for short periods. I missed snow. It is so nice to see it and to be outside in the cool crisp late autumn/early winter air!
Karate. I still love my karate school. It is a great space and the instructors are all excellent. Since last summer, I have been especially lucky to have Mr. Joe Palanzo for a teacher. He is a great martial artist and a really amazing teacher. I have not liked a school or a teacher this much since my first dojo. It is 16 years later and I still feel lucky to have been a part of that school. I will always miss it.
WordCamp. I volunteered at WordCamp Baltimore in September and WordCamp Philly in October, and had an awesome time at both. I got to meet some really great people, and even pick up a few new jobs. Looking forward to next year when I also hope to make it to WordCamp NYC.
Laravel. I have been learning to use the Laravel PHP framework for the past few months and am really enjoying working with it. I am especially excited for the release of Laravel 4 and will be attending Laracon in February to learn more and to meet some folks in the Laravel Community, including my favorite web dev tutorial guy, Jeffrey Way.
Those are the highlights; at least the ones that I can remember at the moment. Thanks to all the great people here who continue to be very welcoming and warm. Thanks also to K’s parents who have treated me like part of the family and been so good to me.
Happy 2013 everyone!
Once again, it is Autistics Speaking Day. I want to write a post about the positive aspects of autism, but at the moment, it is hard. It has been almost 8 years since I found out that I was autistic. At first, it freaked me out because there is no cure. Eventually, I started to see the positive aspects and realized that I would be a different person if I had a neurotypical brain. I do not want to be a different person, at least, not for the most part. I used to wish there was a magic pill that I could take to make me “normal”. I still wonder if I would take it if one existed.
Even though things have improved quite a bit over the years due to medicine, learning coping skills, and most of all, help from people that love me, there are still times that I want that pill. I want it so bad. Sometimes I hate being autistic. I am not sure that it is okay to say that in the part of the autism community that I participate in most.
Over the past few years, the autism community has become divided. A VERY simplified explanation is that there are organizations like Autism Speaks, that do not have any input from autistic people and are very invested in searching for a cure. There is much more than that. Please do not support them.
On the other end are self-advocates who do not believe that autistic people need to be cured and who advocate for legal and societal change that will help them receive the services and accommodations that they need. As a perspective for people reading this post, I would definitely consider myself a self-advocate.
If there were a cure, I think individuals should have the option to choose for themselves if they want to be cured or not. That is a slippery slope when it comes to children, so honestly, I have no idea how something like that could actually work.
I am sometimes discouraged by the rift in the community, and sometimes confused by it. Sometimes, I wish that the conversation was more civil. I don’t think it is “us against them”. I don’t think that parents desperately looking for a cure for their child are evil, even if they hate autism. I do think that they need to be educated by autistic people and hope that there will be time when that will not be necessary anymore.
Autism can cause pain for both the autistic person and for their loved ones. It can be horrible and seem impossible to deal with at times for both the autistic person and their loved ones. There are also many positive things about autism and autistic people. We are a necessary part of the world. We think differently. Someone has to. It is hard to navigate a community where things sometimes seem so black and white. I think autism is gray.
My life is usually pretty good. Even when I was younger and things were so much harder, I was still lucky to have parents who loved me. In the 70’s, autism was not a common diagnosis. My problems were blamed on bad behavior, antisocial attitude, being lazy, not trying, whatever. In the 80’s, these diagnoses changed to things like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, etc. It wasn’t until the 90’s that someone suggested to me that I might be autistic and until 2005 for me to accept the idea as a possible reality. I think autism education, especially by the self-advocacy community is changing the way people think about autism in a good way, and that it will make it much easier for people to be diagnosed early and to get what they need. Maybe someday when parents get the news that their child is autistic, they will not automatically panic, fear the worst, and do everything they can to “cure” their child. Maybe they will accept it as a part of who their child is.
When I was younger, I would have done anything to be cured. I think my parents would have too. Even now when my life is so much easier, there are times when I just can’t stand it. I can’t stand being a prisoner of my own brain. I can’t stand not being able to socialize normally, read regularly, think clearly, and sometimes even speak at all. I do not know how to explain what that is like. A while back, I read a post by Savannah in which she used the phrase “A thousand hard things”. That is a good description of what it is like.
I really wanted to write a post for today. I think these posts and this day are very important. I hate that part of me had to think about the possible negative reaction from the people I consider part of my community, but I realize that the fact that I did makes it even more important for me to post it.
By Karen Hillman
Note from LB: This article was originally published on the Autism Women’s Network website and is reprinted with permission from the author. It is about Karen’s and my move here last year from Oakland, CA. We are both still learning to adapt to our busy lives here, and for the most part, we have both managed to find ways to recharge and have fun along the way.
As some of you may know, last year my partner Lori, who is on the autism spectrum, moved with me from Oakland, CA to Baltimore, MD so we could be closer to my aging parents. There have been a lot of ups and downs. The biggest “down” that has had lasting repercussions was that Lori lost her SSI (Supplemental Security Income). With everything going on, we didn’t think about the fact that co-owning our house would be considered an asset. What this has meant is that she’s had to work more than full time hours to expand her freelance web business. That has put immense pressure on her to take on way too many things at once. For those of you on the spectrum, you can imagine how difficult this has been. It’s way too much for her to handle and yet she is handling it probably way better than she (or I) thought she could. I think the “up” is that she sees how capable she is of running her business despite the challenges. That said, it’s still way too much. With SSI she was able to work more or less as she needed for the most part. I don’t think things are sustainable the way they are – she’s working too many hours without getting time to relax and turn off. Her brain needs a break. The other “up” is that now people in this area are starting to value her services and get to know her and I think that is a good thing. Sometimes I have to (almost literally) drag her kicking and screaming to things I know she will enjoy, even when she is overwhelmed. Fear not, this rarely happens and I try hard to pay attention to whether I can push or not – sometimes I’m wrong and I blow it. I just know it’s important for her to sometimes be around people she can relate to whether it’s others on the spectrum or other web developers.
Some unsolicited advice to you NTs out there with partners on the spectrum considering a giant life change: do your research – financial stuff especially but also what supports are available where you are moving? What can you do to make things as comfortable as possible? If your partner is on medication and diagnosed “officially” or not and gets some kind of services, what can you do to help ensure your partner can continue to get his/her needs met for meds, counseling, etc? What resources are available in the new area? Be extra gentle, compassionate and understanding that uprooting may have an especially big impact. Get support for yourself – of course, this is a big life change for you too and you have needs as well. Try to find breaks in the action – do some things together that aren’t about pre or post-moving tasks, regroup. Help your partner find his/her way around the new place in the way your partner learns best. Spend some time exploring together. Try to build new routines as soon as possible if your partner finds that helpful. Help your partner understand and become accustomed to the norms of the population in the new area. Remember that your partner also has a lot to offer. Be honest and communicate clearly about your own stress and what you need. Most of all, give yourself and your partner time to settle in.
Please feel free to post about your experiences with life changes and what has been helpful/not helpful for you.
I remember when I was younger, thinking that 45 was very old. The past few days, I have been thinking about what it means to ‘get old’. Is 45 old? 40? 65? 85? Does it matter? I don’t think it is a bad thing, and considering the alternative, it is an awesome thing!
I am not one of those people that wishes that I could be young again. It was hard enough the first time. There is definitely something to be said for ‘older and wiser’. There is no way to be younger and wiser because much wisdom comes from experience, and experience is something that is accumulated over time. I think age does matter, but somehow the reasons why have been strangely twisted.
It makes me sad that being old has to be such a bad thing in our society. Our culture is one that values youth over experience. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built on the idea that being old makes someone less valuable as a person. There are creams and treatments and washes and spas and even surgeries that can help people appear younger. The fact that it does not actually make them younger does not seem to matter. This is something I have never understood and something that really drives me insane if I think about it too much. Other cultures honor their elders and value the contributions they have made and the experiences they have to share. Why don’t we do that?
Going to stop thinking about that now. I had a great 45th birthday yesterday! Karen and I walked around at the harbor and saw lots of boats and big Navy ships. After that, we had birthday cake and played Skyrim for a while. Later, dinner of wine and pizza at Joe Squared. Awesome day, awesome night 🙂 I think I am the luckiest person in the whole world.
In a word, 2011 has been CRAZY! I’ve had some crazy years in my time, and while this year is not nearly as crazy as some have been, it definitely holds a place on the “Craziest Years Ever” list.
A Brief Summary of 2011:
Karen and I gave up hopes of selling our house after waiting 3 years for the economy to improve so we could move to Baltimore to be closer to K’s parents and help them out. Lorena and Tess offered to live in our house, pay mortgage, etc. so that we could move. Thanks Lorena and Tess! Karen quit her long time job that she really loved (and found a new one in Baltimore), and in April we drove approximately 3007 miles away from Oakland, CA to Baltimore, MD to live in an awesome apartment that K’s friend Lisa found for us. Thanks Lisa!
Living in Baltimore has been a challenge to say the least. When we got here, we went to the local SSI office to officially switch from California to Maryland. While filling out the paperwork in the office, we found out that I am no longer eligible to receive SSI because we no longer live in our house. It is only okay to own a house if you live in it. Surprise! That was a pretty huge blow which has been hard to recover from. So hard, that we have not recovered from it yet. Karen had to take a large pay cut as well because jobs generally pay less here than in CA.
I still do not have a Maryland driver’s license, even after going to the Maryland MVA 3 times and waiting 12 weeks for New York State to clear my record in the National Driver Registry for something that was taken care of in 1984. One more trip to the MVA should do it.
Next was The Dentist. In August, I had an appointment for a “simple root canal” that would take 1/2 hour. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign that the day started with an earthquake, but I went anyway. It did not take 1/2 hour. It is 4 months, 9 dentist/endodontist appointments, and one emergency room visit later, and I am still dealing with the aftermath. I have 2 more appointments in January to (hopefully) finish the job. Some damage may be permanent.
Work has been pretty good. Luckily, my business is portable, and I can still work for my clients/colleagues in the bay area. Even more luckily, before moving here, I met an awesome woman on LinkedIn who has hooked me up with some jobs, introduced me to some people, and let me share her office. Thank you M!
It is not all hard. I love living here. I love the city. I even like the people. K’s friends are awesome and it is good to live near her parents so we can visit them and help them out. In general, I find that people are much more down to earth here than in the bay area. I like that. Our apartment is a block away from EVERYTHING, and I found a great place to do karate. I missed the east coast. It took me 20 years to miss it, but I am glad to be back. I love the changing seasons and the chill in the air. I am comfortable here. It is also nice to be so much closer to my family!
No year is complete without a few bulleted lists:
Favorite Apps 2011:
Favorite Websites 2011:
Favorite Places in Baltimore:
I am hoping that 2012 will be an easier year for us. I am happy to be here and glad we made this decision and finally got to make it happen. For the most part, we are very lucky! We have jobs, an awesome apartment to live in, a great city to live in, close proximity to our families, and are surrounded by great people.
Happy New Year everyone!