Extracurriculars

Last night was the always-fun Creative Coast Holiday Mixer. It’s a great chance to see people I only ever see at that party, catch up, and talk about what everyone is working on. Someone asked me “Is TechSAV your main extracurricular?” That got me thinking about all of my extracurriculars, and whatever the opposite of that is. So, instead of just thinking about it, I figured I would list them here… because multiple people have asked, and I sometimes forget, so I figure it would be good to have them all in one place for reference.

I think this is also a way to show me at “fully committed”. It feels like I’m busy enough that there’s always something that needs doing, but not so busy that I feel like I’m losing my mind or can’t rest.

If you’re not involved in non-profit work, or advisory boards, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to meet new people, help in a cause you care about, and bank some sweet sweet karma.

The Not Extras

  • Family: May is off at college, and Brian is a sophomore in high school, so my kids don’t require the daily maintenance they used to. Jen is super busy with all of her extracurriculars. I would say family stuff is pretty much under control, it just requires the regular work of maintaining a marriage, and making sure the kids stay on track.
  • Work: Planted is still chugging along, and I’m still the CTO. I’m also the only developer and opsling, so this definitely keeps me jumping. My work days are packed with solving interesting problems with an amazing team.
  • Me: I did alright on the me front this year. I lost a little weight (not as much as I wanted, but losing is better than gaining), started exercising semi-regularly, and have been doing a lot of work on being kinder, more thoughtful, mindful and reducing the amount of anger and stress in my life. I’ve also been working on learning about white supremacy and coming to terms with my own biases, microaggressions and misconceptions. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Understanding and Dismantling Racism. It’s a great intro to racism and how to fight it.

The Extracurriculars

  • TechSAV: We’ve officially been a non-profit for 18 months now! I’m the cofounder and director. TechSAV is trying to build the technology community in Savannah through events, education, outreach and community service. We do things like codebar (see below), monthly lunch-time talks, happy hours, and maintain a 200+ strong Slack group for distributed mentoring, advice, job hunting, etc. It’s a lot of fun working with my co-conspirators and doing guerilla economic development. It doesn’t take a ton of time, but it means being “aggressively accessible” and always being willing to talk to folks, and always looking for ways to do outreach and help the community.
  • Susie King Taylor Community School: I’ve been on the governing board for a while now, and clerk of the Governance Committee for about a year. It takes a lot of time… monthly board and committee meetings, writing and reviewing policies, emails, etc. It’s extremely rewarding, though, to be a part of a school that’s doing innovative work, and the growth over the last couple of years has been amazing. This will get even more involved next year when I start co-clerking the whole board, not just Governance. If you’ve been on other advisory boards or even non-profit governing boards, a charter school is a whole new level of time commitment. Prepare to spend nights and weekends reading up on laws, writing policy, etc. It is the most rewarding board experience I’ve had so far though – being a part of educating kids, and working with committed and passionate educators, board members and parents on behalf of students is literally the best.
  • codebar Savannah: Savannah was the second codebar chapter in the US! We’ve been doing workshops every month since January 2018, and I just scheduled all of the workshops for 2019. It’s a free monthly workshop where students can learn how to code, and coaches get to help the next generation of developers. It’s a ton of fun, and not a huge time commitment apart from one evening a month and some planning / question answering. It’s a lot easier than trying to coordinate quarterly Railsbridge workshops – mostly because it’s not an 8 hour commitment on a Saturday.
  • Various advisory boards: Someone me asked what the difference is between a governing board and an advisory board. The main one is that a governing board is has fiduciary responsibility for the health and maintenance of the entity. It’s a big deal for a non-profit. It’s an even bigger deal for a school. It’s a significant time commitment, and there’s frequently a fundraising requirement. By comparison, advisory boards are awesome. It’s frequently just a way to lend your reputation to a cause you believe in. Sometimes, it’s answering a few questions over email a few times a month. Sometimes there’s an annual meeting. There’s no fiduciary responsibility. There’s no real responsibility at all, except for whatever you agree to advise them on. Here are the advisory boards I’m on right now:
    • iVolunteer International: This one’s recent and I haven’t done much advising yet, but I love the concept and the team is great.
    • Savannah Arts Communication Arts: May went here, and Brian goes here. I’ve spoken to Dr. Cook’s classes the last few years, and it’s great fun. No meetings, and I get to corrupt high school students with my crazy ideas once or twice a year? Yes, please!
    • Savannah State Computer Science IAB: I don’t even know if this is still happening, but as far as I know, I’m still on it?

There are other short-term or one-off things that come up every year, like cooking for an event, or school things.

There you go, my not-extra curriculars and extracurriculars in one blog post. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting.

My Friend Carl

This month, I lost a friend. Carl V. Lewis was the founder of OpenSavannah, and a friend. He died, and we don’t know how or why. All I know is that he’s gone, and I’m going to miss him.

I found out very close to the one year anniversary of losing Cindy.

Carl meant a lot to the Savannah community. He was a catalyst – impatient, insistent, impulsive. To offset all of those things, he was thoughtful, brilliant and kind in a way that frequently surprised me. He knew suffering and seemed to be on a quest to alleviate others’ suffering by working on the systems that had the greatest potential to help them: local government.

Now that he’s gone, Savannah has to piece OpenSavannah back together, figure out all the clues Carl left us, and keep moving forward. I’m not sure how we do it, but it’s consuming my thoughts right now.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than we’ll miss him, and we’ll find a way to keep going.

Carl kicking off Open Savannah in 2017

All of the not-knowing about Carl’s passing has made me think a lot about the support systems we have in place for the people we care about. A lot of people have asked me what I know, what happened, and then lament that they personally didn’t do more.

I don’t know what his friends could have done, because I don’t know what happened.

But, in been thinking about what we owe the people in our lives, here’s what I think right this minute:

  • I want everyone I meet to feel nothing but loving kindness from me.
  • I want everyone I meet to feel safe and comfortable around me.

In a religious context, that’s just the Golden Rule. But, it means working on my emotional regulation. If my friends and family don’t know what to expect when they tell me things, then they’re not going to feel safe. If I’m having a bad day, and take it out on other people, they’re not going to feel loving kindness. Even if I’m having a disagreement or other conflict with someone, I still want them to feel that same loving kindness. I think the end goal is that I don’t want to add to someone else’s suffering. There’s more than enough to go around.

I am so very much not there yet, but that’s what I aspire to. I owe it to Carl, Cindy, and the people still here to work on it, because we don’t know how many days we or they have left. I’d rather fill the time left with kindness.

Your Kid Will Come Out to You

This was a long thread of tweets I posted in August of 2018, but since tomorrow, October 11th is Coming Out Day, I figured I could turn it into a blog post.

Watching the first episode of Making It… and between the laughs, there was a terrible moment where a man revealed that his parents sent him a funeral wreath when he came out to them “In memory of our dead son.” I have some thoughts…

If you think this is a thing that doesn’t happen anymore, it 100% does and worse. Did you know that most homeless teens in the US were kicked out of their houses for being LGBT? It’s true.

If you think your kid won’t be gay if you never talk about it, and they’re never exposed to any information about it, you’re wrong.

They’ll be miserable and have no way to explain to you or themselves what’s wrong.

They’ll be exponentially more likely to commit suicide.

If you think your kid being gay is the worst possible thing that could happen, we should talk.

If you love your kid, think about how you’ll react when they come out, because you only have one chance.

The most important thing you can do when your kid comes out to you is tell them that you will always love them.

That is literally all that matters.

And if you can’t love them, then you’ve got things to work on and you should start on them NOW.

If you’re a Christian, the most important verses in the Bible aren’t the two or three that might be about homosexuality, they’re the dozens about loving our neighbors AND OUR KIDS unconditionally – which means gay or not.

You being in denial isn’t love, it’s selfishness.

Being queer is hard. LGBT kids have increased rates of suicide; almost all of that is because of unsupportive families.

That risk goes down to almost the same as “regular” teens when they have support at home.

Do your homework. Get ready, because your kids are coming out.

If you have questions, check out your local PFLAG group.

There are support groups for parents in most towns, and if not, there are some great online support groups too.

Or, ask me. No shame.

Roadtrip Media Survival Guide

The family just did our big annual road trip to see my family in Northern VA.  That meant over twenty hours on the road.  I almost always create a new Roadtrips playlist every year (first in iTunes, then Rdio, now Spotify).  This year’s was a little different since I let the kids add songs to it… and they did (for better or worse).  We didn’t end up listening to it on the big drives, but it was great for our trips around town with everyone in the van.

We mostly listened to podcasts.  This year, I created a new playlist in Overcast of things I’ve been meaning to catch up on, or that I know the kids like.  It worked great, especially since I limited all of those podcasts to only the 5 most recent episodes. It kept us from getting too many episodes of the same podcast in a row, and kept me awake since I never knew what was coming up next.

I had to skip podcast series where you have to have listened to all the episodes to know what’s going on, so no Limetown.

Here’s what we listened to, along with my recommendations (1-5 stars):

  • The Cut on Tuesdays: 5 stars. You never know what you’re going to get with the one. It could be an interview, or a fun story about “bad” dinner parties (my favorite episode), or a story about the history of birth control.
  • Revisionist History: 5 stars. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast is now in its fourth season and it’s great. Super thought-provoking and great storytelling.
  • Scene on Radio (The Seeing White season): 5 stars. We only listened to the last four episodes of the season, but it’s amazing. It’s a great introduction to the history of whiteness, its power over the systems that run our lives, and some hopeful ideas on how to fix it.  It’s like a podcast of Dismantling Racism and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Everything is Alive: 4 stars. A really silly concept: that everything is alive, so let’s interview them, but it turns into some mind-bending, funny, and touching conversations. I especially like the elevator one.
  • Every Little Thing: 4 stars. There’s some heavy stuff in this playlist, but ELT isn’t one of them. Audience questions get turned into explorations of things you never thought about. It’s always educational and fun.
  • Lore: 4 stars. You know about this one already, right?  Scary stories haltingly told.
  • Sawbones: 3 stars. The kids love this one.  It’s hit or miss for me.  Some episodes are great and hilarious.  Others just don’t work for me.
  • Solvable: 3 stars. Solid interviews with people changing the world. A little dry, but worth listening to.

There you go.  Hopefully that helps your end-of-summer roadtrips a little more pleasant.  Enjoy!

Talking About It

The last time I talked to a therapist for myself was when I was five or six after I fell into a beehive and then was petrified of bugs – to the point I had ulcers.

I found a program offered by my insurance company called AbleTo; it’s an eight week combination of therapy and behavioral coaching to help improve … whatever it is you need help with.

I asked for help making healthy choices and sticking to them – because boy have I struggled with that over the years.

In talking to my therapist and my coach I realized that I have failed to keep up with exercise and weight loss in the past not because I’m weak or incapable but because I’m too hard on myself. I get sick or hurt and feel like a failure… so I give up.

It’s the height of allergy season. I literally have a headache and sinus pain 24/7 right now. My therapist was worried that I’m hermiting myself away so we went through my calendar and she was blown away by how many commitments I have and am still able to keep.

And that’s when the light went on. I do not have to do it all and it doesn’t all have to happen now. Almost all of my guilt about things not getting done is self-inflicted. That guilt keeps me from seeing how much I’m able to get done in spite of my various health “challenges”.

So, no more. I will say no to things. I will do what I can and stop feeling guilty for not doing it all. I will stop sabotaging progress because that progress is halting.

Half assed is better than nothing.

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Categorized as Kevin

Funny Not Funny

I was reminded of this story today, and wanted to write it down before I forget it.

My dad was in the Air Force for over twenty years, from a little after I was born until a little before I got married. He was a navigator, planned exercises and did all kinds of stuff I didn’t understand at the time.

When my brother, Tim, and I were high school, we went to his office after school (why, I don’t remember, and I think my mom might have been there, but I’m not sure). Almost as soon as he got there, he had to go talk to one of his coworkers, leaving Tim, me, and his desk, all alone. We were bored, so started looking at all the stuff on his desk. What did we find? His super awesome, self-inking, bright red, clicky-clack noise making, CLASSIFIED stamp!

We started stamping every piece of paper we could find CLASSIFIED: Post-Its, to-do lists, you name, it got CLASSIFIED.

Dad came back in, saw everything we “decorated,” pursed his already narrow lips, put his hands on his hips and said in his sternest dad voice: “Not funny.”

We, of course, thought it was hilarious. We thought it was so funny, we got him a blue, self-inking, clicky-clak noise making, super awesome, NOT FUNNY stamp for Christmas.

My Giant

If you go back through the archives, there are several posts about how funny my wife is. It’s been a while since I posted a new Jen story, and writing here is one of my resolutions for the year… so here we go.

At 3:50AM this morning, while I was very much asleep, Jen grabbed my leg and yelled, “There’s something terrible happening!”

“What?” I muttered trying to open my eyes and figure things out.

“Something bad is happening in the house. Go check it out!”

I was definitely awake now. I hopped up, rushed out of the bedroom, checked the kitchen, the doors, the windows, the floor (you know, for blood maybe? it was early), and then stood in the living room and just listened for a bit. Nothing. It was a house very much asleep… except for me.

I walked back to the bedroom.

“Did you find anything?”

“Nope. Nothing’s burning, no blood, all the doors are still locked. I think we’re good.”

“Maybe it was just a dream? OK, sorry, I know you don’t go back to sleep easily.”

“It’s fine. Better to check than not.”

With that, Jen put her sleep mask back on, rolled over and was asleep within 30 seconds. I think she was awake for maybe five minutes. I, of course, laid there, heart racing, trying to get back to sleep, for 45 minutes before I gave up, made tea (so I didn’t wake anyone up with the coffee grinder) and headed for the couch.

Re-reading this, it doesn’t sound as funny as it feels. But, it is a thing that happened, which makes it perfect for a blog post, right?

(and the title is a Twin Peaks reference… Jen is my very own giant, telling me crypticly that something is terribly wrong and to go fix it)

I’m on Team #OfficeHours

Inspired by Matt’s tweet, I’m trying out offering office hours. You grab half an hour of my time and we can chat about whatever you think I can help you with.

If you’re in Savannah, I also like to do coffee meetings weekdays between 8-9, but you should email me about those.

Some rules, because it wouldn’t be official without some:

  • Please don’t try to sell me anything. If you want to get feedback on your pitch, great, but I just… I don’t want to.
  • You set the agenda. Some things you might ask me about:
    • Savannah’s tech scene, TechSAV, or codebar Savannah.
    • Savannah restaurants
    • Baking bread
    • Technical leadership
    • Ruby on Rails or CSS (or databases or javascript or whatever)
    • How to create a guerilla organization that actually gets things done.
    • How to write a resume that a robot can read
    • Being on a board
  • I guess “no sales pitches” is really the only rule.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you set up your own and share what you know! It’s ridiculously easy to set up either Calendly or a Public Calendar on Google so people can talk to you.

Susie King Taylor Community School

I’m on the governing board of Susie King Taylor Community School, and it’s been amazing to watch the progress the school’s made even since I joined in December. It’s a different model for Savannah, and one that I hope works well enough that it pulls the rest of the school system forward.

If you’re a business in Savannah and want to get involved with the school, teachers are always looking for people to come speak to their class, get involved with a lesson, or let a gaggle of young learners come check out businesses and see how things work. If you’ve got money to spare, we gladly accept donations. If you want to help, but don’t know how, you can reach out and get involved.

On Uncomfortable Topics: Rules and Sexual Harassment

I realized I’ve never written these down, so… here are the rules I try to follow, and that I’ve given my kids in some form or another over the years. I haven’t always followed them, because I honestly didn’t know they were a problem, and needed to be rules. Some of them are a lot easier to follow because I’m married. Some of them still require work, because I’ll hopefully never be done getting better.

There are a lot of reasons we need to stamp out sexual harassment. The first being that women are human beings and deserve to be allowed to not be threatened, abused, molested or coerced… ever, anywhere. I’d hope that would go without saying, but, it apparently needs to be said… a lot.

If we make our communities, workplaces, families, churches, etc, places where people feel threatened, uncomfortable or violated, then they’re not going to be productive. We’re missing out on their ideas, their contributions, their genius, because some of us can’t control our urges. The benefits of creating inclusive, diverse and welcoming places is that we get to benefit from everyone’s contributions. If we’re doing something that decreases someone’s ability to participate, then we should stop. That sounds stupid when we’re talking about sexual harassment, but if you can’t be convinced to treat women as equal humans, then maybe a productivity argument is what you need?

So, I said there were rules. Here they are. This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start:

  1. Don’t touch people unless you ask them first, AND THEY SAY YES. If someone is asleep, they can’t say yes. If someone is passed out, they can’t say yes.
  2. You never have to hug or touch anyone you don’t want to. If you’re a man, don’t initiate a hug unless you’ve been hugged by that person before.
  3. Do not, or attempt to, date people you have power or influence over. If you’re in management, don’t ever attempt to date anyone at work.
  4. Don’t stare. You can conquer “the male gaze”. It makes people really uncomfortable, is objectifying, and is just a bad habit – so break it.
  5. Don’t talk about, or comment on, other peoples’ bodies.
  6. Be kind. Be gentle. Be someone people can feel comfortable and safe around.

I honestly have no idea if I’ve ever harassed anyone, but I’m sure I’ve made people uncomfortable, and I’m sorry. Hopefully, I’m better now than I was, and I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today.

I appreciate the women who do speak up, and especially the women over the years who were brave enough to tell me their harassment stories, and take the time to educate me, and point me in the right direction.

This isn’t fun to talk about, but we have to stop forcing women to run the gauntlet of abuse it takes to report harassment and abuse. Men, this is OUR problem to solve, because we’re the perpetrators. If you work with harassers, pull them aside, talk to them. Report them. We have to police ourselves, and be better.