Sprightly! Cassis and blackberry with some wispy tobacco and snazzy violet or some other floral notes. Light and acidic on the palate — maybe some orange? –so it’s a nice thirst quencher, or would be great with a spicy pork or salmon dish. Find it and drink it up!
Author Archives: Andrea Middleton
Not a creature was stirring
The power of words
”We can not be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us.” – Eugene Peterson
Another great episode of On Being that I can not recommend enough if you love words and poetry. Readers Note: much discussion of the Christian bible.
Your typical late-December internal monologue
Lizard Brain: “The body feels bad, why? A cookie will probably help.”
Thinking Brain: “That bad feeling is menstrual cramps, not hunger. Take some ibuprofen. Cookies taste good at first but end up making us feel crappy and sad later.”
Lizard Brain: “Oh yeah, ibuprofen. Cool. But also probably a cookie.”
Thinking Brain: “How about some water? Cookies will make us feel more tired. It’s 9am for heaven sake. We had a big, healthy breakfast and are not feeling hungry at all.”
Lizard Brain: “Water and three cookies? On it.”
The fear of a bad Christmas; or, not another “the real gift isn’t under the tree” post
Around this time of year I tend to catch myself acting weird, and realize in astonishment (every year!) that I’m feeling some low-level anxiety about Christmas. Consistently and inexplicably, I worry that The Kids Will Not Have A Good Christmas.
Where does this come from? Why does it not collapse under the weight of its own complete improbability? I mean really, what kid ends a morning of opening gifts and says, “that was the worst”? OK, I realize this is a hugely privileged statement; obviously families that struggle with abuse, poverty, food/housing insecurity can definitely have a terrible holiday season. But that’s not the situation for my kids, so why do I keep telling myself the story that Christmas is a time that I’m in danger of displeasing them? I don’t seem to worry about this at breakfast on Jan 11, for example.
Giving gifts is weird. When you give someone something, you make an anticipatory decision about what they want or what they might enjoy. It’s a strange kind of defining action, a test of the gift giver’s knowledge of the gift getter. To excel (because I love to excel in all things), you have to go deeper than what the person *says* she wants, into the depth of her unexpressed desires. I get it, it shows connection and intimacy. It’s also an exercise in deep vulnerability. “I think I found a material object that will please you,” says the wrapped package. “Let’s see how right I am.”
So yeah, the holidays — if you celebrate them with a raft of material-gift-giving like I tend to — is a vulnerable time, with multiple chances to love your loved ones in the wrong way, or with the wrong thing. (Whose idea was this, anyway?) I want it to be fun and relaxed and exciting and fulfilling. But at the same time, I carry all these expectations and fears and they make it hard to do the fun stuff because my hands are already pretty full. Also, dread makes me hungry so my hands are also full of cookies, argh.
I hope this year (and every year) that I can put down the fear of failure long enough to embrace the vulnerability and accept the chaos. I hope you can too.
Embracing inclusion by fighting your brain
Recently I’ve been talking with community organizers about how we can both organize inclusive events and also do that organizing in an inclusive manner. WordPress is an open source project, and because open source depends on a large active contributor base, we have to constantly think about how to make the project welcoming and inclusive.
One of the goals for the WordPress Community Team is to organize in-person events (meetups and WordCamps) that help connect and inspire WordPress enthusiasts. We ask organizers to organize welcoming and inclusive events, AND we ask them to do that organizing in a welcoming and inclusive manner. (Double play!) This means we encourage organizers to recruit a diverse organizing team, work transparently, and embrace community involvement and feedback.
All of that sounds great and seems simple enough, right? We have great tools for publishing information for everyone to see (namely, WordPress), we have great language around how our program is open to everyone, we have a code of conduct, yay! Inclusion!
Except of course we’re all humans, thinking with our human brains. Human brains, alas, are not always our friends when it comes to diversity and inclusion, because human brains are primarily wired to keep our bodies alive. And from our brains’ perspective, diversity and transparency have not kept our bodies alive for millions of years. What human brains have found highly successful re: the survival of the human race is: to create and stay in small groups of people with similar looks and values.
So in many ways, the work of a community organizer in an open source project is to fight with your brain a lot. This is what happens for me at least, multiple times per day:
“Danger!” say my brain. “Someone different wants to join our group!”
“Shhhh…” I say back to my brain. “It’s going to be ok, they just want to help.”
“But they’re not like us and they might fight us and we might lose and then we’ll die!” suggests my brain.
“I see what you’re saying,” I reply, “but really this discomfort is not dangerous, and we really need more people who are different, to help us grow.”
“Harumph,” says my brain. “I’m certain you’re wrong, so I’m going to sit back quietly course-correct us toward safety with my favorite tools, adrenaline for change and endorphins for sameness, until you stop endangering us with your crazy ideas.”
“Ok,” I sigh, “I realize you can’t help it, so I’m going to use logic and patience to keep reminding us that tight-knit exclusive groups, paranoia, and suspicion will not serve any of the goals we have in building open source communities.”
I don’t have a solution to my assertion that open source goes against human nature, other than this practice of fighting my instinctual attraction to exclusivity and closed groups/processes. If you’ve found a method that works for you, I’d love to hear it! 🙂
I participated in a 5K this morning, along with a bunch of folks in my company.
I ran it slow, at roughly a 12:00-13:00 pace. It was cool and a little rainy, but quite beautiful. We ran on a trail around a golf cou rse in Whistler BC — this is the week of our annual meetup, in which all of us spend a week together in the same place (the other 51 weeks of the year, everyone works remotely). It’s been an intense week of classes, town halls, workshops, and face to face communication, and running this trail every morning has really helped me keep my head on straight.
Protected: Breaking: how Baxter got his look
Protected: Baxter, on Pokemon world
Do all hydrangeas produce different colored blooms in the same bush, or just mine?
Building community as an act of love
Editorial warning: this is a messy, stream of consciousness kind of post. 🙂
I was listening to a podcast called Becoming Wise today, in which a scientist who is also a Jesuit priest recounted a memory:
When I was a little kid, about nine years old, I remember a rainy Sunday afternoon, and you couldn’t go out to play, and you were stuck in the house, and my mom came out with a deck of cards, and dealt them out, and we played rummy together. Now, my mom can beat me at cards because I’m 9 years old, but that’s not the point of the game. The game was her way of telling me she loved me in a way — she couldn’t just say, you know, son I love you, because I’m 9 years old, I’m going to squirm and go ‘aww mom,’ and run away — in a way, being able to do science, and come to an intimate knowledge of creation, is God’s way of playing with us. And it’s that kind of play that is one way that God tells us how He loves us. So, is it invented? It’s as invented as the card game. But is it an act of love? It’s as much an act of love as the card game.
I had a lot of thoughts about this story, including stuff around gendering deity, the notion of deity itself, is 9yo deflection of love innate or taught by the patriarchy, etc. Take all that as a given if you can (I know: distracting).
Today, what really got me thinking from this story is the notion of how science, as an act of understanding the universe, can also be an act of love. Because what is love, but an effort toward acceptance and understanding someone/something? And then I got to thinking about my work, which centers on community organizing.
There is this huge community of people who use WordPress, and my work for the past 5 years has been to facilitate that community’s growth and health. Community is vital to the WordPress open source project — to any open source project — because WordPress is developed through a collaborative effort among hundreds of volunteers all around the world. Community fosters collaboration, which then fosters the growth and development of WordPress.
Collaboration is an act of love. Working with a group — sometimes even when you don’t 100% agree with everything the group’s doing, but flexing your muscles of acceptance and understanding, and adding your effort to the effort of many — working together for the common good, that shows trust and love.
Likewise, it’s an act of love to welcome criticism — to welcome reports of negative experiences — more ardently then we welcome praise. Praise just tells us that what we thought was right, was right. Which is good — “works as expected” is always nice, right? — but that positive echo chamber doesn’t lay open more roads for improvement.
Community is an act of love. The act of talking about how you use this software, WordPress, that we all share, of telling people the problems that you face, of sharing your solutions to those problems, or lack of solutions — that is a vulnerable act, and humans rarely make themselves vulnerable unless they feel safe. But when you feel you know people in the group, when you feel close to people in your community, you are more likely to feel safe and make yourself vulnerable. By growing closer, we are stronger, and more able to become closer yet again.
Adding new people to our community is an act of love. It can be frightening to include more people, to make the circle bigger, to factor in more experiences and more ways that our solutions and tools could be imperfect. Humans survived a long time by defending their groups against “the other,” not embracing difference. Groups are safe, and opening your group to different people causes change, and change is not safe.
But without an open and actively opening community, our project, our WordPress, stalls out in an echo chamber. So the work is collaboration and community, but the master’s work is to constantly question your assumptions, to every day question if you have made your community as welcoming and as open as it possibly can be. To question yourself constantly: have I missed something? Is there another perspective, a group of people for whom this event or experience would not be pleasant or useful? How can I welcome those people and perspectives?
The way we design (or try to design) WordPress, should also be the way we design community: so that the experience is effortless and welcoming for everyone. And the way that we show our love and our willingness to collaborate is by constantly questioning whether we’ve done enough, listened enough, opened our minds and communities enough.
The work is never done, and isn’t that marvelous? There are, and will be, so many ways to improve how we show our love for one another.