Our School Update

Finding a way forward sometimes means seeking out our own solutions. For my family, I think that is going to mean different choices for my different children. I think there is wisdom there, and maybe the traditional school format hasn’t historically allowed parents enough freedom to choose what is best for each child.

Beau’s First Day of First Grade

Eight other parents and I have decided to make school happen for our kindergarten and first graders. That is the bottom line. Oddly, it is safe for daycares to be open, but not our local schools. A friend of mine whose mom has a small drop in daycare has loaned us her facility. We found a certified teacher with a master’s in education, and the whole situation is a very beautiful thing. Most assuredly built by God just for my kiddo. Every one of his best friends have been able to join this one class. My heart overflowed with joy. He was so excited, and so tired at the end of the day. Perfection.

Noah, 5th Grade

Noah is an entirely different kid, and has different interests talents and needs. I’m hoping to get him through the first couple weeks and assessments so I can understand where he stands academically and then I think we may go full homeschool at least until in-person school resumes normally without masks and distancing. Such a special kid, Noah is a great designer and has natural talent in art and mechanics. He is a reader and a communicator and I think he will learn more if I let him roam a bit. We are concerned about his physical health and he needs more than 1 hour of PE a day – much less a week. I would put PE at the top of his needs. It is the most important subject for Noah, and the least well adapted to virtual school. His latest design…

My working – their schooling – and Bunny

With my sweet Bunny, there is still only so much I can do during the daytime hours. I’m not keen on sending her to a daycare with masks because it is so important to smile and make proper facial expressions with infants and toddlers. It has been shown to improve cognitive processing and intelligence as they develop. Because I do have the opportunity, (thanks to my husband and the freedom I have with my freelance WordPress work) I have chosen to opt out of daycare for Bunny until masks are no longer required. A funny tidbit – during our most recent WP Guppy Tank coaching session – Bunny got a sharpie and marked up her face and our couch. you can see the remnants on her little face in this fun breakfast shot.

My husband, Jay, the hero of our family

None of this would be possible without my sincere, faithful, tireless, and loving husband who works hard to make all this possible. If you find yourself in the Outer Banks or shopping for sailboats, think of us. Jay is a great charter captain. His guests are always happy. I know why.

Virtual School: A Rant

TL;DR;

My children’s school district sent a message last Friday outlining that one of the options for school in the fall is 3 days of “Virtual School”. This email outlined the difference between remote learning and virtual school, “This option is similar to remote learning but will feature mandatory attendance and a full school day.” (from DCS email July 2).

I flipped out! This is the most absurd idea ever to be proposed to a group of parents. Clearly, the folks considering this as an option are not remote workers as I am. Remote working has its benefits, but health and mental well-being are not on that list. Putting a 7 year old in a sedentary, solitary posture for 7 hours is absurdly unhealthy and frankly just not possible. Have our leaders lost their minds?

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Remote Working – Mental Health

I am a remote worker, and an active member of my professional community (which happens to be one of the largest in the world….hhmmmm hhmmm we represent more than 37% of the internet)…my rant goes on…) You can ask almost any one of us how remote working affects your health and I’d bet we would all answer with a big ole – “Not So Good”. Just for good measure I’ve linked that to one of the gazillion medical papers on the ill effects.

The physical effects do not even come close to the mental effects. Zoom or no Zoom – I am isolated for much of my day. I am also an extrovert… huge extrovert right. I have to keep myself in check so that I do not suck the air out of the room for everyone else. The isolation is a tough ask for a person like me.

My 6 year old

I have a six year old son who is equally extroverted and far more sensitive than me. He is active and jittery and his attention span maxes out at around 10 minutes. I cannot even consider putting him at a computer for more than a half hour at the time. If our state’s board is aiming at the lowest attendance in history – this is the plan to choose. I am not the only parent who feels this way!!! Parents, please chime in and support me…

Homeschooling as a choice

I never ever thought you would hear me saying this. In fact, if you don’t believe me read the about page on one of my projects…pretty clear how I feel about homeschooling. However, the health and wellbeing of my children comes before my own needs….drumroll

I will absolutely be homeschooling unless our school board can demonstrate some common sense. I’ve already prepared my notice of intent… oh and by the way I’ve already built an app for that… So, no sweat, no cost to me or any other parent who needs a homeschooling app.

Is the cure worse than the disease?

YES. YES. and YES. The vast majority of Covid-19 cases result in mild to moderate symptoms. Particularly in children. However, the vast majority of people with a largely sedentary lifestyle incur life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Why would we consider doing this to our children? Seriously.

What has happened to our common sense? It wasn’t that long ago that Willie Nelson and Whitney Houston were famous worldwide for singing, “The children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess…..”

Destabilizing

A stable schedule is paramount to a child’s development as is trust in a safe environment. My children are extremely fortunate to have two parents living together in a safe home. We love each other and we love them. What about the kids for whom school is the only safe place?

WTF – are we just gonna leave kids with abusive home lives at their computers for the next 3 -6 who knows how long?

Sharing a workflow that could improve education forever

Lighting a path


I can’t watch the news. I am too tender hearted, but I tune in long enough to ensure I know what’s going on in the world. When I see the rioting and protesting in the streets of our beautiful cities, my heart breaks. I can’t help but think, “What if the world were more like the web development community”?

Web developers come in all shapes, colors, sizes, nationalities, and even all skill sets. We are not all coders. We are artists, designers, coders, sysadmins, devops, writers, managers, translators, and marketers. A community as diverse as the world itself, but somehow different from the rest of the world too – we generally get along and share lots of valuable work just to help each other and the world.

Absolutely not “just” anything.

I get it when Matt Mullenweg @photomatt is offended to hear, “Just WordPress”. WordPress is definitely not “just” anything. It is not “just” a website builder, or “just” a community, or just a PHP application. WordPress is a model, a pattern, a platform, and a light for the world to follow. And that light shines on the path to peace.

That sounds canned and maybe a little crazy, but really it isn’t. WordPress is a great example of people working together in peace. A group of passionate people diverse in almost every way working together on one thing simultaneously and mostly harmoniously…and that one thing is really quite complex. We don’t always agree, and conversations can become heated. But, something beautiful is maintained, improved, and freely available to the world.

World Peace

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I would hunker down with momma and my sister Nikki to watch the Miss USA pageant. Oh how we dreamed of being on that stage someday. That’s never gonna happen, but I imagine if I found myself up there, and they asked me the fateful question, I might just surprise them and answer, “More Open Source”.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for his life time…

Italian proverb

Open Source – Open Education

My new app School List It is designed to share a web developer’s mindset with teachers worldwide. We’ve learned this workflow that produces peace, genuine good will, and rapid iteration. We call it “DRY” – don’t repeat yourself. But it is much more than that…and I think some of us are starting to realize how powerful it really could be if it permeates out into the world at large.

Create – Package – Share

Imagine if our teachers could invest their time in students instead of content creation and lesson planning. What if all that lesson planning and content creation was already out there to be cloned and forked? It has certainly been done before. How much time would that free up for students who need a little extra attention? What if neighbors and friends could help out that kid whose parents just aren’t able simply by asking, “Who’s your teacher this year?”

It has been said by some very smart leaders that education is the biggest civil rights issue of our generation, and I think the open source community already knows how to close the education gap. What are we waiting on? Let’s get to work.

School List It is a community project and really very simple – but it may just be revolutionary. If you would like to contribute, please contact me

Can we stop calling ourselves “self-taught”?

If you follow the current language used to describe a developer like myself without a computer science degree, well I suppose you could call me “self-taught”. But, I think that does a huge discredit to the men and women who taught me the skills I needed to become a developer. I am certainly not self-taught.

A ton of traditional education

I have a university degree. In fact, it is even an engineering degree. I even graduated with honors. My university is well respected and accredited as an engineering school. I did a fellowship at the national lab studying under some of the great inventors of our time, and I attended graduate school at an even more recognized engineering university. I am NOT self-taught.

I attended a special ‘pre-k’ for kids with special needs and continued in that program through third grade because I couldn’t speak clearly. My speech teacher was sweet and instrumental in my life. She was from Ohio, and I can still smell the mint of the scratch-n-sniff sticker she gave me when I finally learned to make the “r” sound.

Learning the hard stuff

In 9th grade, our student council advisor very memorably taught me responsibility by not allowing me to run for officer. She said I was all talk and no follow through. I remember that moment in full color to this day as the first time I had ever considered that succeeding was more than just having a good idea and getting people to like you. She taught me that success takes so much hard work and much of that work can be mundane and boring.

My university is the typical traditional model. We even had classes that were graded on a real bell – meaning even if you did “A” work you could still walk away with a “B” because you were not part of the best 10%. Our classes were huge. Teaching assistants did most of the real teaching, and the professors held one or maybe two office hours each week. I can honestly say I don’t remember much of what I learned in university. That was ages ago – seems like lifetimes. But, that system of learning – high expectations with very little help taught me something far more valuable than Chemistry, Engineering, and Textiles.

At Auburn University, I learned how to learn and how to fail. I learned that grades are final, excuses don’t work, and never ever play grade poker in Organic Chemistry (a sneaky trick students – don’t fall for it).

Learning Web Development

So if you are interested in where I got my web development education, I’ve made a list of the tenured professors at my CS Uni. Because I think it is equally disrespectful to deny my teachers the legitimacy of being “official teachers” as it is to deny me the respect of being a legitimate developer. Not only are these men and women teachers, but they are some of the best in the world.

These teachers need no accreditation because they have hundreds of thousands if not millions of students across the globe who owe them their vocation and to some degree their freedom. I am free to work from home in crazy weird hours of the day because of these teachers. They did that without having TA’s or any Office Hours and with no “accreditation”. I salute you all.

University of Meg’s CS Degree:

Tenured Professors

  • Bill Weinman
  • Kevin Skoglund
  • Morten Rand-Hendriksen
  • Brad Traversy

There are thousands of others to add to this team. But, these four make up the core group that led me from an offhand comment made by my husband, “I think the thing you need is to learn PHP” into a new way of seeing my life and my freedom, and led me into a whole new genre of things I could create.

Thank You.

Imposter syndrome, cowboy coders, and changing the world

Photo by Vinny O’Hare on Unsplash

I am not an imposter, and neither are you. As developers, I think we’ve all had our fair share of “imposter” syndrome. I may have the worst case in the history of ever…

Not just developers. Not just beginners.

I’ve learned through more than 21 years of professional experience that imposter syndrome isn’t just for beginners and it is not just for developers. I’ve encountered it in so many scenarios and from co-workers at every level.

Knowing yourself and your team

Where we get in real trouble is when we are unaware. Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities. Know yourself. Choose your teams carefully. We need to use our past experiences, inexperiences, and unique abilities to bring creativity and fresh eyes into our work. It is when we become mature enough to look around ourselves and team up with complimentary talents that we build amazing things.

In that sense, comparing is good. Know your strengths and your team members’ strengths. Always resist the urge to apply value metrics. All talents are valuable. It is the way we pair those talents that makes magic.

When it turns ugly and …

When we allow our personal insecurities and past bad experiences to morph comparing into ranking we allow that to drive bad business decisions and create horrific work environments that crush creativity and kill team spirit.

When it hurts the bottom line

There are plenty of leaders remembering a tangled, bug-ridden mess of spaghetti code that cost more to unravel than to develop. They promised themselves, “I’ll never do that again”. Now the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. Many enterprise organizations judge solutions by the price tag rather than quality and spend too much time and too much money painfully retrofitting out of the box solutions into a purpose they were never intended to fill. The result is a creativity punishing culture which has labeled some of the most talented developers “cowboy coders”.

Sometimes only a cowboy will do

I started this article with imposter syndrome because I’ve recently realized something profound about myself and the projects I like to build, the scenarios that excite me, and the state of the web development world right now.

“Enterprise” is developer speak for more expensive with better customer service.

Me, because its true

We are living in a world where Facebook and Google are using the same technology, npm packages, and scaffolding tools as Sally’s web dev shop on the corner. This is fantastic for the world. Developers can unleash their creativity on the really hard problems because we stand on the shoulders of decades of open source development.

In those years, there were some key elements slowly converging to create this new reality –> GitHub really had to mature, Javascript had to become readable, NPM needed to be topped up with packages, and we needed one content management system to emerge as the clear market leader and WordPress has done just that. These pieces of tech lined up growing in sync together have created a flywheel spinning in the direction of rapid deployment and modularity. Just in time because our new post-covid world needs solutions faster than any enterprise walled garden firm can ever deliver.

Right now, we need a few cowboy coders ready to say, “Screw the code review” and get busy changing the world.

I can’t wait to see what we build. Let’s fix the world and worry about the code later!

A vlog, an article, and a glare

Alright already, I know your not supposed to sit in front of a window to make a video.

Thank you to all y’all who keep sharing your wisdom and affordable ways to solve my lighting issue :).

No Excuses

Seriously, it was my sister who made the whole thing crystal clear for me. She said, “Meg if you think you are supposed to share this thing, then just avoid anything that gives you an excuse not to.”

The glare, my weight, my makeup, the microphone, my earbuds breaking…enough. I realized that I just had to do it real. Really authentically. This is my house – my lighting – my kids – my mess – my goofy voice – my crooked smile – and my lighthearted style.

A little sunshine always helps

I can credit my sister for giving me courage, but it was my friend Abha Thakor, @abhanonstopnewsuk, that settled the glare issue for me. She may not even remember this, but we were on a Zoom Meeting and she said, “Oh Meg, its just always so sunny where you live. It cheers me up.” That was during the Covid-19 crisis and we had all been inside our homes a little too long. It stuck with me.

I may be a little glarey, but I am almost always sunny. I hope sharing my videos brings a little sunshine to someone who needs it, and maybe I can teach them a little WordPress, a little React, and a little of how I manage my crazy hectic life.

Launching my YouTube Channel

I chose to launch my YouTube channel with a video, “How to work from home with three kids”. That seems the right starting place, because if I couldn’t balance parenting and working I would never work. If you want more details on how I manage the kids, read the article I wrote for A Big Orange Heart’s Blog

My first YouTube Video
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