All posts by Liene Verzemnieks

38: Share the ease

A weekend birthday! So no headache-inducing overly-exhausting solo birthday hike for me this year. Instead, the three of us went to the Rhododendron Gardens, which I somehow have never been to in my 14+ years in Portland. Absolutely lovely, despite the 4-year-old whining about how she was hungry and needed another snack (no, not that snack) about 80% of the time. Looking forward to going back and exploring again, maybe soon — some of the rhodies are done for the year, but a ton of them are just explosively gorgeous, peak blooms right now. And the waterfowl! We saw a few big-kid ducklings, plus some possible teen ducks, plus some kingfishers, plus some swallows, plus what I might describe as a Canada Goose having a sneezing fit. I’ve never heard one make that sound before.

Usually, around this week, I start getting sort of angsty about what The Theme might be. It can feel so weighty! It can feel so permanent! But no angst this year, and no ideas, really. This is largely what the last year has been: I am finally in the role, career-wise, I’ve been trying to make happen for years. And it turns out: I was right. It’s a phenomenal fit. My team has changed a lot, and I still love it. The work fits my brain well, even though I feel like a fool a lot of the time. I have enough freedom and enough safety that I can focus on thriving, not just surviving. (Do I have off weeks? Of course. Have I had a couple this month? Of course. Nevertheless.)

My mom recently commented that when she asks me about work these days, I sound excited and engaged. (And I am!) A few years back, she asked me what I’d done over the weekend, and after I talked for a while, she said, “do you realize you’ve just given me a list of things you haven’t done?” I realized, in the days and weeks and months that followed, that I did this ALL the time, in all kinds of scenarios. And now, she noted, I tell her what I have been doing. Of course! I’m still in over my head, but I am learning a lot, the work fits my brain better, I relish working independently and with my team, and I have so much more freedom and flexibility. Work is not who we are, but in a capitalist society, it’s often how we spent a LOT of our time. And I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that I get to spend my work time with people I respect and like, doing things that are doably challenging (mostly), being reminded that the world is in fact full of people who are both kind AND capable.

I’ve also had a year where I’m starting to more tangibly understand what I was told by a practitioner I saw a few years ago. She said that trauma and hard times are awful, of course, but that they give you access to strong medicine that you can’t get any other way. And that sometimes I’d be able to give it to someone directly, and sometimes I’d give it to someone else who would ultimately use it to help someone. (I think at the time I felt optimistic but irritated by this, like, could I NOT have gotten whatever boring secret medicine I have, and NOT have had the trauma?) And also, sorry that happened to you, AND…it will make you a better parent down the road, because honestly, who do you want to talk to when something difficult is happening: the person who’s never really struggled, or the person you know went THROUGH it?

This year, I’ve been starting to learn about the medicine I hold. It’s not a magic bullet, but multiple people this year have told me that I gave them exactly what they needed, when I really just thought I was saying “obvious” things calmly and emphatically. What is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to other people. Sometimes your “obvious” is someone else’s shred of hope.

I’ve also started piano lessons again, for the first time in what I think was 23 years. (I studied for years as a kid. How many years? No idea.) I had my first recital as an adult last Sunday, after six months of lessons, and got to listen to two friends (and be heard by them, plus Nathan and Astrid, who did ADMIRABLY for her first “real” recital/concert as a non-baby/toddler). Utter treat; can’t wait to do more. And I also started bouldering (climbing at the rock gym, no ropes) a couple months ago, mostly because we took Astrid and then I got envious and then I went “hmm, I feel like that feeling is telling me something.” And now I get to hang out with another friend or two in a new context, too.

The ways that my job, bouldering, and piano all are sort of in conversation with each other is lovely harmony, honestly.

My struggles, meanwhile, are a little the same, a little different this year. Quieter, I think. Mostly I don’t want to talk about them until I am making progress, or have solved them, which I don’t particularly think is a great strategy, but I DO think is what I’ve gone back to lately. I’ll tell you this one, though: I am stumped on a theme for the year. I have a longer list of candidates than ever before, and a few of them twinkled, and I feel like I’m just throwing a dart at one. But it does, eventually, feel better to make a decision.

37: Cheers to a little frustration

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through
36: Protect the fragile and unruly

37: Cheers to a little frustration

Oh man. Listen. I went on another birthday hike this year, and it wore me OUT. I am not in the same sort of headache purgatory that I was last year, but I do finally have one (a headache) setting in, and I know I asked a lot of my body today, and what I most want is to rest. Mama’s tired, yo.

What’s this past year been about? Getting things unstuck. Really cherishing the sweet spot of “the right amount of frustration.” I have this new theory about this I’ve been called the “bitters theory of frustration.” But it’s me, so why not a little backstory first.

Our kid is now 3. A couple months ago, her daily note from preschool came home with a couple lines about how, at the beginning of the day, she’d come in and said “I need some help with my zipper, because two year olds don’t have a lot of motor skills yet.” Nathan and I looked at each other and laughed, and then went “we really have said ‘motor skills’ to her before, haven’t we.”

It’s a weird thing to say to a little kid, though. And I started thinking about the moments that push me to use more complicated language with her, and realized that it’s when I’m just a little frustrated. Not vibrating with frustration and upset, not perfectly content, just ever so slightly frustrated. Using slightly overcomplex language is a way of very gently trolling a child, which makes me feel like I have any control over the situation, but isn’t outwardly wretched. (It also means she ends up with these vocabulary options that are surprising for her age.)

And then I realized…this is actually true in every part of my life. To return to the “bitters theory,” I like a glass of plain fizzy water. But I LOVE a glass of fizzy water with a few shakes of cocktail bitters in it. But NO WAY am I drinking a glass of plain bitters. The frustration is the bitters, see?

My latent frustration at work, coupled with my relative happiness in my erstwhile role, pushed me to reach out, over and over, to people I liked and admired and respected at work. I asked for help navigating a role change, and information about where their teams were at. They tried things, reached out to their managers, advocated for me. (This has been happening for years, but I picked up the pace this year.) They didn’t always know quite what to do, but the past year has really proven to me that I do make an impression on folks. I kept reaching out, and kept fostering those relationships (something I’ve been wanting to do anyway!). And this spring, one of them was well-timed, and my coworker Cian knew just how to advocate for me, and his upper-level manager confirmed he had perfect timing, and that’s how I’m nearly a month in to a 6-month internal apprenticeship in software engineering. I’m on an especially great team, in over my head with Clojure, in a role that I’ve been trying to work towards for, oh, eight+ years?

Meanwhile, somehow I learned about forest therapy again (inspired somewhat by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — forest bathing — but also its own thing), and went on a few guided forest therapy walks. I had this sense that it had something I needed — I was frustrated that I hadn’t found a way to get at certain things inside myself, and once I read about it I went, “oh, I understand now what it is to feel called by something.” (I tried resisting for a while; it consumed me.) There are things I have cracked open for myself by sitting and doing nothing for 20 minutes, or going for an incredibly slow deliberate walk, full of noticing, for a few hours, that feel like they would have taken me years to realize otherwise. And long story short, that is how I’m two months in to a six-month forest therapy guide practicum through ANFT.

Truly, this year I don’t actually feel like letting go of last year’s theme. So I’ll see what I can do to carry it forward. But my newfound appreciation for a soupçon of irritation can’t go undeclared.

36: Protect the fragile and unruly

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through
36: Protect the fragile and unruly

Where do I even begin this year? There’s the work life, where I FINALLY have a new role on a tiny team, supporting my old team’s department (so, that team plus a few others). Some massive years-long weight has lifted off my shoulders; in the scheme of things, I’m actually pretty excited about what I’m doing.

There’s the home life, where we have a two-year-old who is indeed about twice as old as she was last year. A lot happens in a year, but especially at this age. She’s got a bunch of language now and everything. Her observations regularly have me doing double-takes. She’ll eat every single visible salmonberry if you take her on a hike (the “eating one berry while picking the next one” thing is apparently a dominant trait on my mom’s side). She does everything in her own time; she is cautious and adventurous at once. We work at home a whole lot more, and she’s been around a lot more lately, and everything’s seemed kind of chaotic, you know?

I mean, there’s that whole pandemic we got going on. And then the part where a lot more people are taking a lot more action to declare that Black lives matter, and we have got to stop killing them. That’s a zillion posts in itself, but I’m some well-intentioned white lady, and I see my role right now as (in part) volunteering my money and time, and making space (e.g. shutting up & working to be a better accomplice) for Black leadership to do the work they want and need to do.

And then there’s this ritual. This is the first year I haven’t written this post on my actual birthday. I’ve had an almost superstitious fervor about that in the past, but this year, I took my birthday off of work and went for a gorgeous solo hike in the woods (my second solo hike ever?), and it was precisely perfect…until it went off course. I went to the forest, and I marveled over rhododendrons at the tops of massive nurse logs, at winter wrens perched on top of tiny stags, at the bounty of salmonberries, at the phenomenal power of a good giant waterfall (thank you, Silver Falls), at how generally excellent my fellow hikers were at keeping a responsible distance, at the lushness of the cleavers. It was just right, and then I returned to the car with a tiny headache. No problem! I’ll drink water and take it easy, I thought. I put on some Simon & Garfunkel, then some Wilco, and drove home. I had a very meaningful birthday call with family where I stared at the screen and people said nice things about me, and the headache got worse. I decided it was not actually part of my dogma this year, writing this post before midnight, and went to bed early.

And then the headache stayed until the morning, and I threw everything I could think of at it. Water. Salt. Caffeine. Ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (paracetamol for my non-US friends). Chocolate? Bath? Sleep?? Sleep was the only thing that even touched it. And then I woke up the next day, and it was STILL there. And long story short, almost 48 hours in, I talked to a very kind nurse on the advice line (who ALSO had a horrible time at the hospital where Astrid was born! shocking), and had a very nice visit to urgent care (just in case!), where the NP was sympathetic and unconcerned, and they gave me some drugs, and I went home and still felt awful.

And I woke up the NEXT morning and…felt like I had narrowly avoided a hangover. Not stellar, but headache-free. And then the weekend was almost done, as if turning a four-day weekend into an almost-two-day one was adequate at all.

There is probably a lesson or a greater message in all this. I spent my hike thinking about themes for the year (and talking to trees), feeling truly inebriated on nature and life, and now all I can see is “the body is fragile and unruly, and we just have to do what we can, and help to protect other people’s fragile unruly bodies, too.” I tried to do a meditation of sorts on the way the forest works, the way all kinds of terrible things happen to individuals (like trees) and how they recover, and it’s in recovering that a whole bunch of new possibilities have opened up.

Life has felt like that, little by little, more and more, in the last year. I have been learning new skills, I have been exploring things with more gentle curiosity. The shape of my rage has changed. Did you know that at least 10% of new mothers have PTSD? I mentioned this to my therapist last year, who laughed grimly and said she was certain it’s higher (she’s of the general opinion that PTSD is overdiagnosed anyway, so for her to say this made a hell of an impression). I have only known that I’m one of them for about a year now, and the more I talk about it, the more I find how many of these stories are lurking right around me. I know I will need, or someone will need, what I am building up as a result, but the details aren’t clear yet.

The thing I keep getting stuck on is my utter loathing for moderation. I have two settings, F YES and F NO, and I have spent years wishing that were a dial. Looking at my previous yearly themes, it almost screams this to me.

But I’m kind of stuck on my irritated summation earlier. The more I sit with it, the more I love it. I’m calling it.

35: Bigger follow-through

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through

Oh, what a year. I am tired, and a little sick, so I’ll make it quick. (Ha ha! Like I ever do.)

We have a one-year-old now. She is capable and tenacious and resilient; she loves food (all the food; we’ve yet to give her something she refuses, as long as she’s in control); she dances to almost all music immediately. Sometimes she dances about food.

I feel, vaguely, like I might truly be someone’s mother now; this time last year I wanted to crawl out of my skin and my life and never come back, and I certainly didn’t feel like anyone’s mom. I expected things would be better in a year, and they are. I am still mad, I still feel like I am in the wrong timeline, I am still healing in so many ways, but it takes up a lot less space already.

Very little has been how I expected it. I am still not in the mood to hear about how That’s Just How Parenthood Is!!! But there are the ways that have been delightful, too: our weeks-old baby figuring out how to roll over (but not how to roll back). Learning that her bedtime feistiness was just her saying “please stop trying to help me; I got this.” Understanding that the tiny shifts (the new phonemes, the subtly different movements, the early giggles, the way she eats a blueberry) really truly still do not matter to me when it comes to other children, but I am deeply fond of them in my own child.

That is this twelve-month-old, though. What about me?

I feel like I’m maintaining a reasonable sense of self through this early parenthood stuff. I appreciate working outside of the home (especially now that I technically spend most of my days working outside our house). I joined a women’s work/social space that I fondly call the “business coven;” I worry about the money sometimes, but I like having my own desk away from home, and it’s been a phenomenally supportive space in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of this time last year. Someone there found me a therapist. I’ve done some mentorship of another new mom who’s just returned to work (the Official Guidelines about pumping at work are so prescriptive and unrealistic; no wonder so many folks are like “wow that’s too much work; I’m done”), and so now we’ve got two people who just pump at their desks sometimes. We hired someone from there to come over and help us make our living space into a place we want to hang out in (some of the best money we’ve spent this year). I’ve said things which are insightful enough to make people cry.

I’ve had two new managers, both from within my team, which has been complicated but ultimately positive; I’m really hopeful about my current career prospects (finally!). I still struggle to focus, but I’m not feeling as hopeless or desperate about it.

I don’t feel like I follow through on the things I say I will do nearly as often as I’d like to, which is weighing heavily on me. I like to be right; I like to be trustworthy. I want people to be able to depend on me.

I contemplate mortality in a different way since becoming a parent, which seems as obvious as it seems surprising. I think a lot about the way the world went on for a long time before I was here, and it will (we hope) continue to do so for a long time after I am gone, and there is this strange overlap we get with kids: we share, and then we separate. And all of this will be gone one day, anyway. What do we do to make this time matter? I’ve thought about this my whole life, but it’s always seemed so much darker. I’m finally letting it out of my head a little bit, and it really does let the light in. Time will destroy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth building.

My 750 Words streak is back up to something absurd. Last year I had almost surpassed my previous record of 1533 days. Today it’s at 1850 (!).

I really did need to get through one day at a time this last year. One day of parenting, one day of existing in my body, one day of work, one day of writing. (I said one thing, eh? Same difference.) I am happy to set my sights a little higher this year.

34: One thing at a time

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time

My birthday is somehow already here again, and as I realized just yesterday, that means it’s time for a yearly review!

(Past years’ entries all have this tag.)

A LOT happened this year, and I’m going to try to keep it short, because while our whole house is currently in a time warp, we’re still striving to get to bed at something resembling a decent hour (and it’s already past that, as I’m starting this…so I’m going to try to not push it too far).

We did manage to get an offer accepted on a house last summer, and while it was a bit of an adventure getting everything sorted (including but not limited to “buying the house a new roof before we closed, because the appraiser wouldn’t sign off on our mortgage until we did”), everything basically worked out in the end. So we have a house! And we live in it! And the house is full of deferred maintenance, so there are lots of things we CAN do, and will eventually want to take care of, but nothing is really urgent anymore. One step at a time.

We’re within walking distance of a bunch of friends, we host a monthly Quiet Reading Night modeled after a friend’s erstwhile Dinner For Tired People (a Friday night dinner wherein the expectations were that 1) you might eat soup, 2) you were okay with the presence of cats), we have gardening space, we have a zillion roses blooming right now, and I have my own office (a big win for me in terms of thriving as a remote worker).

Still lifting, and the gym’s just moved to its own new location (not subleasing any space anymore!). I’ve had some really good months recently of practicing moderation and being extra attentive to my form. Although I’m taking a short break at the moment, because also…

We had a baby! Like, real recently. She is 16 days old today. If you follow me on any kind of social media, you haven’t seen anything about this, and that’s been intentional. It’s been nice to share the news with people one-on-one, as we talk to them…although I think we’re at the point where that won’t really last much longer unless we keep deliberately editing her out of everything we post. (Unlikely! We’re big fans of this kid.) She’s been (knock on wood) a blessedly easy baby so far, even though the road to get here was a mess. And we are extraordinarily fortunate to (BOTH!) get several months’ paid parental leave, which is giving us a bunch of focused time as a family of three, and means we won’t need any kind of childcare until the fall. I cannot believe how lucky we are to get that much support from our employers in this country.

I don’t feel like I was as serious about completion as I’d have liked to have been this past year, but the house and baby projects have been percolating for a while now, and it’s kind of amazing to have had them both work out at about the same time.

And then I entirely forgot about the practice of writing this post until yesterday. Very unusual for me at this point, and means I haven’t been mulling over (or fretting over) possible themes for this year. (Another opportunity for completion, not perfection.)

I know I want to be especially intentional about being present this year; the parents we know all stress that these early days go so fast, even if it can seem so slow at times. I know I’d like to spend more time practicing focusing on a single thing at a time (I already know “multitasking” is a crock, but I still split my attention most of the time, especially during work). That goes for work and home, and I’m actually a bit excited to have to work harder to maintain both, because I think it’s likely to focus my attention in a different way.

I could probably say this in a million different clever ways, but keeping it simple seems like an excellent idea.

On to the next thing!

33: Completion is freedom

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom

It’s my birthday, which means it’s time for a yearly review and a new theme to carry me forward!

(For previous years’ iterations, see this tag.)

I did indeed plant a lot this last year. Nathan and I got married (it was amazing, I’m so glad we did it, I have no desire to ever do it again, and we still haven’t exactly finished our thank-yous…). I love being married this time, which I expected, but which was also a relief. We went to Iceland for our honeymoon, which I have been describing as “like the moon, with flowers.” We still live in the same wonderful apartment with the same wonderful cat, who got a few teeth out this year, and is a single-fang kitty now.

I started a new role with a new company, and while I am pretty constantly overwhelmed by it, it’s my favorite job ever. I have a supportive team (who are extremely distributed around the globe), and I have the most amazing manager ever. What did it take to get here? It took getting totally fed up, writing a blog post, and sharing it. I mean, I had to do some other things, too, but it was kind of amazing how putting that out in the world really did exactly what I was hoping it’d do. I heard from three people I didn’t know, from companies I hadn’t heard of, and one of them is now my manager. It’s my first remote role, which is part of the overwhelmingness, but I keep finding myself grateful for all the lessons about remote work I learned at my last job. (I had tons of remote coworkers, and we improved our process greatly over time.)

We’re looking for a house (again), which is a bit terrifying in the current market, but unless everything (economically) comes crashing down, this might be our last opportunity to afford something in our neighborhood in Portland (all our close homeowning friends are in this neighborhood, and as a side note/reminder, “homeowner” has the word “meow” in the middle). We have a couple neighbors down the street who bought their houses four and six years ago; the market value on both their homes has about doubled since then. We’ve put in a couple offers which weren’t accepted; one, which was $60+k over asking, was in the middle of a pack of 18. Yipes. And yet. We feel pretty ridiculously fortunate to still be able to chase this dream.

I’ve been having what can most easily be summarized as “health adventures” this year (nothing scary, just frustrating), and my wonderful nurse practitioner suggested I might try seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner. (She’d kind of run out of ideas, and a western specialist she referred me to, after a lot of tests, said the best thing for now is just time.) Said Chinese medicine doctor is the first person who has looked at me without an ounce of surprise through this particular journey. Last week, I summarized this to someone as “western medicine said huh, and eastern medicine said mmm.” I’m taking two herb blends, one in tiny spherical tea pills, one in a foul-tasting powder whose flavor I described as “wrong chocolate,” and getting weekly acupuncture. It is the most positive I’ve felt about my health in a long time.

We’ve continued going to the powerlifting gym (though there was a gym divorce, and we had to pick a gym parent). Newly-split gym is a lot better in most ways, but it’s been much harder for me to track my progress over time. I’m probably better? I certainly have a bunch of muscles I couldn’t see before, which is awesome. I can pick pretty heavy things up. I can give really good piggyback rides to 7 year olds, even up hills or stairs.

I’ve continued building my 750words streak back up (1120 days today!), which feels good. I haven’t been great about writing them in the morning in a while, but I’m still doing them. It continues to be the proof I sometimes need that I can actually stick with things for a long time, even if they require regular effort. I am more likely to write my words than brush my teeth on any given day (and I brush my teeth every day!).

In short, it seems I have, indeed, planted a lot of seeds this year.

There are a lot of spaces in my life right now where I’m disappointed by my own performance, too. I’m not in trouble with anyone, but I know I could do better. I also find myself deeply irritated by the idea that it’s “just impostor syndrome,” and when I hear it, I take it as a signal that someone isn’t actually aware of both my capabilities and my performance. (To be clear, I think there’s a good dose of impostor syndrome going on, too — I just don’t think that’s all.)

In the long interminable space of unemployment, I got a lot better at many things — avoiding cabin fever, setting my own schedule, remembering to eat independent of an outside structure — but since I started my job, a lot of this feels like it’s slipping. I’m respected by my team, but not by myself. My partner’s deeply fond of me, but I’ve been slacking on my end of the bargain. I’m late for everything. I don’t tend to finish projects. I commit to things, then don’t follow through on them. I’m going through the motions, but I’m not pushing things forward. I feel like if I don’t turn my ship around somehow, it’s all going to catch up with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot, too, of how delicately I walk the line between introvert and extrovert. Having all my social contact be up to me (e.g. I have no local coworkers!) has accentuated this in a bigger way than ever before. I cannot be alone all the time — it’s awful — but I get profoundly worn out by being around people constantly for hours (or days, or weeks) on end — it’s awful. May has been social time for weeks on end.

And it’s been hard trying to settle on a theme for the year! I am intrigued by the idea of cultivating a comfort with discomfort. I want to flip “the journey is the destination” on its head, inside out. I am perpetually bothered by the idea of giving 110% percent (or even 100%), but I think I’d be thrilled with 80% or 90%. (Lately it feels more like 30%.)

Ultimately, it feels important right now to be uncomfortable. (I hear a strong echo of 31’s motto here.) I can do that because I’m coming from a place of strength and security. It’s not a dangerous discomfort I’m after — just the willingness to put myself in situations where I might make mistakes or fail (which is still a horrifying thought to me).

There are probably just a lot of ways to get there.

It would make me really uncomfortable to commit to finishing things. That seems valuable. I’m also kind of curious to see what happens.

Let’s do this.

Learning Objective-C in 2017 sucks

Recently, I’ve been trying to learn Objective-C as a work-related “gosh that sounds fun” project. I have excellent resources available in the form of my coworkers, and I’m generally quite confident with my ability to find what I need through careful googling, so usually my biggest blocker is myself.

Not so with Objective-C! With the release of the Swift language nearly three years ago, it seems that a lot of folks have jumped ship. And to be honest, living in a city with a spectacular swift-related yearly phenomena (Vaux’s Swifts come to Chapman Elementary and swirl into the chimney each night), I am charmed by even the name of it.

But I hear there’s still plenty of legacy Objective-C code out there, and there will be for some time. I also hear that there are still reasons to use it sometimes. (For me, one of those is “our customers still use it, and I can better help them if I understand this.”) So in I dove.

There are plenty of existing Objective-C tutorials and getting-started guides, which were once regularly updated, but that seems to have ground to a halt a few years ago. Lots of dead links. Lots of “actually just learn Swift.” Lots of “newly updated for Xcode 6!”, which was released in September 2014, or Xcode 5, released in September 2013. Ouch. We’re on Xcode 8.x now.

My discoveries, though much more extensive, went roughly like this:

  • There’s the Ray Wenderlich “archive of tutorials that we are no longer supporting.” This seems to be the gold standard. It is fine, except for much of the information is almost four years old at this point. Eep. Do you know how much XCode has changed since then?
  • There’s another site which suggests that you don’t even need to have your own environment set up to learn it (they suggest you can use Linux or Windows, which is going to be a bad time for something that’s clearly Apple’s domain).
  • I emailed the author of one site (who has created a ton of tutorials, previously in Objective-C, now in Swift) and asked if he had any recommendations. He told me he didn’t teach Objective-C anymore and suggested checking out the Wenderlich resources.

I talked to one coworker, then another (a member of the CocoaPods core team, so I figured she’d have access to more information). She checked with her people. Wenderlich again.

I was beginning to feel a bit of despair — as much as I love the idea of finally becoming the self-sufficient reverse-engineering hacker that I am probably, as the child of engineers, supposed to be, I also really love having clear information when it comes to learning a new skillset. It is easier to learn good habits than to unlearn bad ones. It is also easier to learn from current information than from something that’s four versions out of date.

First lesson: tell people about your problems. I’d complained to my manager about this paucity of resources a few times, but last week he said, “hey, look what I found,” and sent me a link to Coursera’s Objective-C course. I don’t even know how he found it (I think it was an accident), but it’s great. It is gently out of date — I have had to google one setting in XCode so far (the size classes checkbox is now “trait variations”). But it’s got an excellent tone, good pacing, and the option to care about it with money if you want. (I’m happy auditing it.)

I’m going to continue on with that for now: I have at least one app I really want to exist, and I’d rather make it myself. Finally.

In some number of weeks or months, I’d love to add a subtitle to this post’s title: “but it’s worth it.” Time will tell! In the meantime, I intend to keep writing about this quest. Surely, someone else out there is right there along with me.

[inactive] Looking for work: let’s work together!

Hey there! As of September 2016, I’ve accepted a position that I’m really excited about, but as an “archive, not delete” kind of person, I’m leaving this up. I found a lot of encouragement in other people’s similar posts. Maybe I can light the way for someone else, too.

Hello! I’m in the market for a new programming-related job, and I wanted to take this downtime to articulate who I am, what I’m looking for, and what I’m hoping to find.

About me

I have a work history that’s been zooming in on more tech-related companies and roles over time. Previously, I’ve been everything from an au pair in France to a support person in English, French, and Québecois (which may or may not be French, depending on who you ask and where they’re from).

Support roles ranged from tech support for a photo-uploading website to being a founding member of a pre-launch startup’s customer relations team. At the latter, I ended up getting to do a ton of different things under the banner of one title. At one point, I developed the training schedule for new hires; at another, I created a peer-review-focused system for customer messaging QA (I got a lot of practice giving compassionate, actionable feedback to people). I’m really looking forward to bringing those perspectives to a new role.

While I was at the Recurse Center last year, I primarily focused on Python, though I learned some more SQL and dabbled a bit in C. Git is a significant part of my workflow, and I’m plenty comfortable using what I know and adding to my knowledge over time.

Less tangibly, during my RC batch, I got a lot of grief-inspired practice in resiliency. It is difficult to quantify this in a resume or cover letter or interview without breaking people’s hearts (a practice best avoided, when possible), but let’s put it this way: even when the going gets tough, I know how to take a break, and I know how to get going again. I know what I can do on my own, and I know when I need to ask for help. Put very plainly, I have yet to come up against a programming problem that was worse than losing two friends in a month. There are solutions to almost every work problem, and we can find them together.

I make a clear distinction between working independently and working in isolation; I love the former and find the latter pretty tough. At the same time, being accountable to a team is highly motivating for me, and I love the intersection between independent work and team accountability. I’m grateful to my last company for building such a strong remote-friendliness into their culture over time, and as such, I’m confident that I communicate well with geographically distributed teams. (It’s an art and a science!)

Send me an email if you’d like to see my resume! I have much of the same information on LinkedIn, too, if that’s your bag (it’s certainly valuable as a professional Rolodex), and there are a few extra details for fun. (What’s your best Muppet face?)

Outside of work, I’m an avid person-on-bike (my partner and I are officially car-free, at least for now, as of a month ago) and a regular writer. I write three pages every day on, where my longest writing streak was 1533 days in a row (as of this post, I’ve just re-crossed 800 days). I am really proud of this! I find it helps clarify my thinking and writing in general, which is immensely valuable. As a bonus, it gives me an extraordinary view into my history and thoughts over time. I’m itching to learn some NLTK and dive into that history programmatically, too.

I like good coffee and bad wordplay, though I know how to say no to both. I’m a relatively newly minted gym person (at a small gym full of nerds), because six months ago, I decided I wanted to get stronger and I wanted to practice being terrible at something until I got good at it (and beyond). I cannot yet deadlift my body weight. Working on it! edit: As of 27 July, turns out I can deadlift at least 175 lbs. Yuss. Onward and upward.

What I’m looking for

  • Location-wise, based in Portland, OR, or open to (and experienced with) remote work. For the right company, New York City would definitely be an option, too.
  • Small- to medium-size. That’s a subjective measure, but mostly what I mean is that I am happiest in non-huge companies. For the purposes of this search, “huge” is probably in the thousands (one or more).
  • Good people. To be honest, I’ve worked with terrific people at pretty much every job I’ve had. I aim to continue this. If, when you think of your company, you think fondly of your coworkers, I’m interested in hearing more. I’m especially interested in teams which are diverse across several axes (i.e. not just gender, though that’s a great start).
  • Working on interesting problems. There are so many of them! I was raised by a couple of thoughtful engineers and I’m prone to happily air-punching when I solve something. I’m most interested in solving problems that ultimately help people, whether or not my work is a step or two removed from the actual humans.
  • Long-term potential. I’ve had a few people tell me to aim to leave companies regularly during this part of my career; I would rather not. I like getting to build relationships and mastery over time, and if possible, I’d be thrilled to do that in one place. Maybe it’s that you’re a young company. Maybe it’s that you’re a stable company. Both are super attractive to me.
  • Bonus points if you’re a Recurse Center company. RC was what helped me discover that I really do love working with people and computers all day long, and while that was a huge part of its value to me, it also gave me space to breathe and spread my wings. That experience means I get to be part of an extraordinary community of learners and terrific people, too. I never would have been able to take the time to learn so much about programming, myself, and what I need to succeed if RC weren’t free, and RC is free because companies hire incredible alums through them.
  • I am primarily looking for (junior-level) programming/development roles. There is exactly one company I’ve found where I’d be overjoyed with a support-focused job (hi!), because there’s genuine space for programming and a really strong, positive culture, and they’ll be receiving my application shortly.
  • I have broad interests, and I’m open to suggestion as to where to focus my energies. I’d especially appreciate some form of mentorship and loose guidance — if some formal structure exists at your company, all the better. Past experience suggests that backend or ops work will probably interest me most, but that’s not an exhaustive list. (I suspect frontend work would be difficult for me, so that’s what I plan to learn next. After all, I might be wrong!)
  • I am open to internships, especially if you’ve got experience with non-college interns, and especially if the role may lead to a full-time opportunity after the internship ends.

Have questions? Think we might be a fit? I’d love to hear from you, especially if:

  • you work for the company in question
  • you’re actively hiring right now (or will be very soon)

Please send me an email ( and let me know a little about the company, why you think we might be a good match, and any other information you think is relevant. If you’ve got any questions, I’d love to answer them, too!

Your co-conspirator in the search for excellence,
Liene Verzemnieks

Special thanks to Julie Pagano for her inspiring reverse job listing and general encouragement!

32: Plant the seeds

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds

For the last couple years, I have written a birthday post that goes over the year a bit, looks forward to the future, and sets a theme. I started doing this thanks to one of my birthday twins, Buster Benson, who’s been doing this for years. I started doing it at 30 and rather like the opportunity to reflect on what’s behind and anticipate what’s ahead. At 30, my theme was Be the conductor. At 31, my theme was Follow the fear, inspired by my sister Inara.

And this year? I have not really been thinking about themes, because I’ve been busy planning a wedding with my partner. This has been pretty awesome, and it has been an interesting thing to have as my primary focus.

I can’t remember what the big three scary things were last year, except for that one of them was applying to the Recurse Center.  I was convinced I wouldn’t get in, but I decided to let them make the decision, and I was awesomely wrong. Aside from my partner Nathan, nothing has changed my life in the past year as much as RC. Well, as long as we’re looking at positive changes.

I lost a lot and I shed a lot in the last year. Two friends in their early 30s died last summer, one quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and one from stage IV breast cancer. 30 and 34. I am smack in between how old they were, how old they somehow still are. They were differently important people in my life, and I am still not totally sure that the world has kept spinning without them.

Going to RC gave me the boost I needed to be sure that I really do enjoy programming. It is something that I will do all day if given the opportunity. It is something I even want to do when I am learning to live with a new layer of grief in my life. I practiced a hell of a lot of resiliency last year, and while I wish that life weren’t ripe with opportunities to do so, that’s not the way things go.

I came back to Portland, interviewed at my old company for a role on the engineering team, and was told I wasn’t a fit. It stung, but I think I’d already grieved most of the loss over the course of the summer. I turned my personal leave into an actual closing of the door, having satisfied my curiosity as to what would happen if I really went for it. It wouldn’t work out, is what would happen. And now I know. Sometimes I can make peace with not being enough, or not being the right fit, even if it’s something I really wanted at the time. I am not sure if this is one of those times, but I’m working on it.

And then we made space for life in those gaps. We got engaged under a tree in Central Park, and we exchanged engagement things (neither is a ring). We came back to Portland. We started going to an amazing little gym, something I’ve been meaning to do for years. We got a niece (I guess legally, Nathan will be Uncle Nathan in three weeks, but I’ve just been calling him that anyway. He’s got a knack with little kids and it’s a joy to see him in that role).

In three weeks, we’ll be married. I have a small amount of complicated feelings about this being my second wedding, but mostly this whole process is affirming to me that this is a terrifically good choice this time. I am engaged with my life, I am engaged with this process, I am doing something big (which I don’t know how to do) with my partner, and we’re having a really good time with it. People keep asking me if it’s stressful, if it’s the worst. Making a guest list was the worst — it taps every stressy part of me (“just rate all the people you know by how much you care about them!!”). Every other part of the process has been a joy.

What’s this year about? Oh boy, if I only knew. It’s about filling in space. It’s about building things where there’s been necessary demolition. It’s about planting seeds and watering the garden. I am seeing a theme here, despite my total belief that there wasn’t one yet.

How shall we put that, then? Plant the seeds. Yes.

PyCon Portland: vegan food!

It’s almost PyCon! And if you’re vegan, you know what that means: the mystery of conference food (and a ton of enthusiastic Pythonistas). Will there be good options available to help you remain your sharpest for learning and socializing? Maybe!

PyCon definitely tries, but a prepared vegan is a happier vegan. My experience with most conferences (that aren’t Open Source Bridge) varies widely: lots of “here’s a plate of raw vegetables! and some fruit salad,” or my favorite, “it’s pasta; I’m sure it’s fine.” Sometimes I want more than a risky bet or spending lunch asking questions of half a dozen people.

Below is a curated, opinionated list of local restaurants, with a priority on places that are easily accessible from the convention center (or too awesome to not include). (TriMet is a great resource. The PDX Bus app is great if you’re on iOS.)

Generally speaking, and are solid for finding options, though the info is sometimes a bit out of date, so a quick visit to a place’s website/an actual telephone call is prudent. Yelp is totally hit or miss for me. Let’s dig in.

General notes:

If you want a quieter walking street, avoid Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd or Grand Ave.

We don’t have sales tax here. Really!

Jaywalking is uncommon here. Like, really uncommon. If you must, please especially keep an eye out for the MAX trains. And people on bikes.

Something to add? Something to correct? Hit me up on Twitter (@li3n3), or leave a comment here.


Don’t go to Robo Taco. They are ostensibly vegan-friendly but I’ve lost track of how many times a friend has been served “surprise” meat or cheese in a “vegan” burrito, and no one there seems to care. There are too many other good options.

It’s complicated

Voodoo Doughnut is a Portland thing that outsiders get really excited about. They do have a lot of vegan donuts (such as apple fritters!!!). And that’s cool. They are not fancy.  If you want a really exciting/delicious vegan donut, go to Blue Star earlier in the day (several locations; several vegan donuts — just ask), or go to Sweetpea Saturday morning.

 Actually near the Convention Center (within a 20 minute walk or transit, ordered by walking distance)

Sizzle Pie (vegan-friendly pizza)

Where: 624 E. Burnside St. (google maps link)

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday: 11 AM – 3 AM, Friday -Saturday: 11 AM – 4 AM (very unusually late for Portland)

How far to walk, from the Convention Center: 10 minutes

How far with transit: 4-5 minutes, on the streetcar ($2), or the bus ($2.50)

What have they got? Three vegan slice options daily, or whole pies.

Anything else? The Rabbits salad (with the vegan ranch) is particularly great. They also deliver! And they’ve got brunch pizza on the weekend (or any day, if you order a whole pie). You probably DO need hash browns on your pizza.

Nicholas Restaurant (vegan-friendly Lebanese/Middle Eastern food)

Where: 318 SE Grand Ave

Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:00–21:00. Sun: Noon–21:00.

How far to walk: 12 minutes

How far with transit: 4-5 minutes on the bus or streetcar

What have they got? Tons of well-marked vegan options. The Vegan Mezza is an easy option and great for sharing.

Anything else? If you’ve never had toum, it’s whipped garlic dip, and it’s magical. You will probably get a ton of food — it’s not too hard to turn it into a couple meals. There was a spate of gossipy posts on one of the local Facebook groups about ostensibly un-vegan food; I still trust them but it’s okay if you don’t.

Prasad East (mostly-vegan vegetarian health food)

Where: 21 NE 12th Ave (inside the Portland Rock Gym)

Hours:  Mon – Fri: 7:30 to 21:30, Saturday: 9:00 to 20:30, Sunday: 9:00 to 17:30

How far to walk: 16 minutes

How far with transit: 8-13 minutes (two buses, or a bus and a streetcar)

What have they got? Lots of healthy stuff: bowls, wraps, juices, smoothies.

Anything else? This is a newer location of a place that’s been downtown for a few years now. Haven’t been to this location yet! I assume they also have a ton of steamed unseasoned kale (bleh) and really good juice (yum).

Black Water Bar (all-vegan bar/food)

Where: 835 NE Broadway

Hours: 18:00 – 1:00 AM, every day

How far to walk: 17 minutes

How far with transit: 14 minutes, using the streetcar ($2)

What have they got? Delicious trashy bar food and punk music.

Anything else? Not open for lunch, but great for that “I need black walls and a stiff drink” feeling.

Hungry Tiger (vegan-friendly dive-y bar food)

Where: 207 SE 12th Ave

Hours:  Monday – Friday 15:00 – 2:30 am, Saturday – Sunday: 11:00 am – 2:30 am (brunch until 15:00)

How far to walk: 18 minutes

How far with transit: 10-15 minutes, a bus or two or maybe a bus and a streetcar

What have they got? Vegan and non-vegan bar food, mostly. Vegan options are prepared on dedicated equipment. Trashy-ish if you want. Salads if you don’t.

Anything else? I haven’t been here for years, but my friend Ann, who lives in San Francisco, swears by this place. They DO have tot-chos (nachos made with tater tots instead of chips), though, so…maybe she’s got a point.

A little further afield

Sweetpea Baking Company (all-vegan bakery/sandwiches)

Where: 1205 SE Stark St.

Hours: Mon-Sat: 8:00 – 18:00, Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00

How far to walk: 21 minutes

How far with transit: 12 minutes, bus or streetcar

What have they got? Pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a vegan bakery. Also they have killer sandwiches.

Anything else? This is arguably my least favorite vegan bakery in Portland, but I have high standards, so even my least favorite is still probably great. (This is the aforementioned Ann’s favorite Portland bakery.) Their sandwiches are also generally excellent, but I had a super meh one a few weeks ago.

Side note: Sweetpea is part of the “vegan mini-mall,” along with Herbivore (cookbooks, vegan swag, terrific cards, socks, so much more), Scapegoat (tattoo shop), and Food Fight! (see below). All of them rule and are doing good work.
Food Fight! (vegan grocery)

Where: 1217 SE Stark St.

Hours: 9:00 – 18:00, “every f’ing day”

How far to walk: 21 minutes

How far with transit: 12 minutes, bus or streetcar

What have they got? Sandwiches, chips, jerky, vegetables, more junk food than you can shake a stick at, lip balm, a whole fridge full of vegan cheese, and more. And sass. Plenty of sass.

Anything else? Their tips go directly to charity! Check out the bucket for the current one.

Rabbits Cafe (all-vegan cafe)

Where: 111 SW 5th Ave (downtown, across the river), in Big Pink, the big pink skyscraper

Hours: Mon-Fri: 08:00 – 15:00

How far to walk: 22 minutes (across a bridge!)

How far with transit: 9 minutes on the MAX Green Line light rail

What have they got? Bowls, wraps, salads, smoothies!

Anything else? This is the indoor rebirth of one of my favorite food carts ever, Sonny Bowl. Sonny Bowl made me believe that salad-hating me could genuinely love a bowl, or even a kale salad.

Fire on the Mountain (vegan-friendly wings)

Where: three locations; closest one to the Convention Center is at 1708 E Burnside St. The one further out east has way more space; the one further up north is a wee hole in the wall. This one isn’t huge, but it’ll do.

Hours: 11 am to midnight, every day

How far to walk: 22 minutes

How far with transit: 15-22 minutes (ugh), two buses or a streetcar & bus

What have they got? A crapton of meat, yes, but also two vegan wing options and tater tots and salads.

Anything else? I LOVE the vegan drumsticks (they’re on a sugarcane stick), especially with the Jamaican Jerk sauce (moderately spicy). I love them so much. My partner hates them, but loves the Portland Wings, if I remember correctly. Don’t roll your eyes too hard when they ask if you want ranch or bleu cheese on the side.

 Blossoming Lotus (vegan restaurant, Portland-classy)

Where: 1713 NE 15th Ave. (just north of Broadway)

Hours: Mon-Fri: lunch 11:00-15:00, dinner 17:00 – 21:00, except Fri & Sat dinner is 17:00 – 22:00. Weekend Brunch 9:30-15:00.

How far to walk: 23 minutes

How far with transit: 10-20 minutes (a bus or two)

What have they got? Lots of raw and non-raw food. An ever-changing menu of healthy food that does and doesn’t taste Super Healthy.

Anything else? This place is so dang good. They have ace cocktails and mocktails, too.

Good options if you’ve got more time to spare

Vtopia Cheese Shop and Deli (…vegan cheese shop. and sit-down cafe)

Where: 1628 SW Jefferson St.

Hours: (are you ready for this; I didn’t even 24-hour-ify these) Mon. & Tue.: Closed.

Wed & Thu: Lunch 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Fri.: Lunch 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Sat.: Lunch 11 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sun.: Lunch 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

How far to walk: ~45 minutes (urban hike!)

How far with transit: 17 minutes (one bus)

What have they got? More vegan cheese than you can shake a stick at (both their own, and guest cheeses from other companies), and a fun happy hour. Sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, other food.

Anything else? The caprese disappointed the hell out of me; everything else I have had here has been super good. Pick up a wedge of something fun to take home!

Homegrown Smokehouse and Deli (vegan barbecue)

Where: 1628 SW Jefferson St. (same building as Vtopia; the door on the far left)

Hours:  Closed Monday/Tuesday. Wed- Sat 12 noon-19:00. Sunday 12 noon-17:00.

How far to walk: ~45 minutes

How far with transit: 17 minutes, one bus

What have they got? A TON of vegan barbecue. Long story short, the owner used to do meat barbecue, wanted to open a cart, and his kids convinced him to go vegan and do that instead. (There’s a cart up in North Portland, too!)

Anything else? The Macnocheeto is something I sometimes believe I could live off of (it is delicious and huge). There’s mac ‘n’ cheese in a burrito. Why not?

Back to Eden Bakery (vegan bakery; also happens to be gluten-free)

Where: 2217 NE Alberta St. (there’s also a cart down on SE Division)

Hours: 8:00 am to 22:00, daily

How far to walk: ~a little over an hour

How far with transit: 25-40 minutes, one or two buses

What have they got? A ton of savory and sweet baked goods. Cake, pie, muffins, donuts, soft serve, salads, wraps, cashew tarts, sundaes…

Anything else? I love this place. Hands-down my favorite Portland vegan bakery, and that remained true when they dropped the gluten a couple years ago (it is the only gluten-free stuff I happily eat; I generally love my gluten). Really creative, fun flavors, and really simple ones, too. Everyone here is SO DANG KIND. There’s an evening sundae happy hour (at least I think there still is).