About getting paid to not work for 90 days

I’ve been on sabbatical from work since mid-August. Today was my first day back. What did I learn in that time?

No single moment of truth achieved

I did not have that quintessential “aha” moment of clarity that I thought might come during this unique time off. This experience was a huge shift for me living a life of priorities only set by myself. I had the ability to do whatever I wanted every day (somewhat) and it took some time to embrace that.

The stars aligned for the timeframe I chose

I had severe angst when I chose the timeframe I did to take my sabbatical. I knew I’d miss our annual all-staff onsite meetup (the Grand Meetup) but I wanted to take the time off during mostly warmer weather this year. Even though I had a list of things I wanted to try to do during my sabbatical, I was giving it room to be whatever it was going to be. It turned out this room was needed.

Our older dog, Burkley, stopped eating regularly and over the course of a month stopped eating entirely. At the end it was clear he was ready to go but his body was holding on even without drinking water. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was putting Burkley down. I’ve had pets die in my arms before but I’ve never had to help them move along. My soul was crushed. It still aches.

Burkley died the day before the Grand Meetup started. Had I not taken the sabbatical I would haven’t been in a place to travel. I was meant to not be at the GM this year. I was meant to spend the weeks with him before his death knowing what was coming. I got to hang out with B on the floor in the living room for hours at a time just being there for him. I got to go for long runs, cry, feel sad, and recover. That little guy meant more to me than I really understood.

I missed the social aspect of work

My husband got to take a couple weeks off at the beginning of my sabbatical. When he went back to work most of the time I spent alone working projects and playing outside. It wasn’t until the last month or so that I realized I really missed the social interactions of work. The time I spend with coworkers, even with being remote, is meaningful.

Most of what I enjoyed doing doesn’t have to stop

Work at Automattic is extremely flexible and mostly asynchronous depending on what you work on. The things I really did enjoy doing – baking, biking, running, visiting family,  home improvements – I can keep doing them. If I need the time during the day I can shift my work schedule. Baking bread can be done during the workday since there’s a lot of time waiting for dough to rise. I can visit my parents too and work from their house if I want to just hang out with them.

It’s okay to not do anything

Mindful meditation teaches you to be okay with doing nothing. Focusing on something singular like breathing is the basis of the practice. It’s okay to be bored. I had to pull from this experience during my sabbatical to tell myself it’s okay to not have to be doing something all the time. I did have lists of things I could do around the house and kept myself busy most days. When I started to notice myself being stressed out with picking the next thing to work on, I stepped back and did something simple like reading or playing with a dog. I feel like I was successful with letting the sabbatical be what is was rather than forcing it to be what I thought it should be like.

Summed Up

I am grateful for the time off of work. I have a better understanding of how my mind works. I value the small moments in life and see them with a more mindful eye.

I also realize I really like what I do and the people I work with. I can’t wait for the next sabbatical!

The Last Battle

The last few weeks have been hard for me getting over the loss of Burkley. Every day is a little bit easier. Things like this poem have been helpful. Grab a tissue, it’s a good one.

The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

— Unknown

Longest Move Streak: 567 Days

I just reached an arbitrary goal of 567 days of closing my red ring on my Apple Watch. I do have rest days once in a while and I’ll set my move goal down about 40% for those days. I’ve forgotten my charger on a trip and ran to an Apple Store to buy another one just to keep it going.

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Even if I lost the streak, I’d know I’m still sticking to the daily fitness goal.

Goodbye, Burkley ❤️🐶❤️

On May 10, 2001 Burkley was born. On August 4, 2001 we found Burkley at a pet store, brought him home and named him. We knew he was going to be a huge part of our lives and we would become caring pet parents quickly. Burkley was a very trustworthy dog after he grew out of being a puppy. We could leave him at home without any worry that things would be okay when we got back. He loved being part of our family.

In 2008 he developed signs of Cushing’s Disease. The kind he had was treatable by medication but he had to be on it the rest of his life. It was also not cheap. Surprisingly he tolerated it well and he continued to live a full life.

In 2016 Burkley became a diabetic dog. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder like Cushing’s and frequently are presented together. It isn’t very often that a dog develops diabetes at 15, though. He took the twice daily insulin shots like a champ. He even let us take three glucose readings every day. We had to feed him at 12 hour increments reliably and couldn’t be away from him for more than four to five hours. It was a huge lifestyle change but again worth it.

In August of this year, 2018, Burkley suddenly started bleeding from his mouth. We believe it was due to complications from a bad tooth being infected. That infection also spread to his nasal cavity which then also affected his eyes. He started to show signs of not wanting to eat but would still eat delicious things like cooked chicken and bread. Eventually a couple weeks ago he really gave up eating altogether. He still drank water and used the bathroom until last week. We knew the end was coming so we had family over to say goodbye.

On Friday last week we made the choice to help him move on. Putting him to sleep was the hardest thing I and my husband have ever had to do in life. The experience was traumatic even though Burkley was mostly out of it that last day. I keep replaying events over in my head of his final moments. Seeing his lifeless body emptied my soul of happiness.

We’re slowly getting better every day. We realize and accept the choice we made to help him – it was inevitable that he would die soon anyway and likely in a lot of pain. Burkley hasn’t been himself for a while now but he never complained. Never. It was rare that he ever expressed pain and always managed to still express his love no matter how he felt.

His brother, Wunjo, was able to be there with us that day and got to say goodbye as well.

Everyone who met Burkley says he was a great dog full of personality. Here are some photographs of him so you may be able to glean just how much he meant to us over the years.

We’ll miss you, B. See you some day near the Rainbow Bridge, my pal. ❤️

Making bread with my mom

My grandmother died in 2003. I miss her dearly. She used to make the best bread and always would freeze a loaf for me to take home and enjoy. I’ve wanted to learn how to make her bread myself to keep the tradition going. Sadly it took me until now being on sabbatical to motivate myself to work with my mom on recreating the recipe.

This past week I drove up to my parents’ house and spent half of the day working through making two loafs of white bread. My grandmother’s recipe was never really written down so my mom tried to remember some of the special steps she followed.

We used the Classic White Bread recipe from Gold Medal Flour’s site as the foundation. Instead of milk we used water with potato flakes added – something my grandmother did.

Here are some pictures from the experience:

Since last week my mom has recalled several more things my grandmother used to do in her process. We’re also reading up on the science behind making bread to really understand how to do things right. I can’t wait to make my next loaf!

Ninety days of getting paid to not work

Yesterday began day one of 90 that I’ll be taking as a sabbatical from work.

Every five years at Automattic we’re given an awesome gift of a paid sabbatical – something I’ve never dreamt possible in our current age. The word “sabbatical” is heavily laden with teaching references. Even dictionaries reference education in its definition:

sabbatical | səˈbadək(ə)l |
noun
a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked: she’s away on sabbatical | he requested permission to take a sabbatical in Istanbul | he took a three-month sabbatical from his job as CEO of a family business.

What am I planning on doing with this time I have? A whole lot of nothing. Well, not really, but I’m keeping my plans simple.

  • Spend time with the parental units. Learn a bunch of recipes from my mom that I want to know how to make.
  • Get close to riding 100mi in one day on my bicycle.
  • Build something with wood or metal like a chair, shed, etc.
  • Read a bunch.

Ninety days will go by super quick. Here’s to making each day last.

Plex Media Server not showing updates

Since November of last year (roughly) I’ve noticed that the Plex Media Server app doesn’t ever show that there are updates available. I’ve manually reinstalled the latest server copy several times and it still hasn’t updated automatically. I found a solution that resolves this.

On macOS you have to delete a preference key for the last time the server was updated. A borked version got released which had a higher numerical value causing the server to never find an update.

1. Quit the Plex Media Server app by clicking on the icon in the menu bar and clicking Quit.
2. Open Terminal.app in Applications, Utilities.
3. Optionally first check to see if you have a value stored for that key by typing:

defaults read ~/Library/Preferences/com.plexapp.plexmediaserver ButlerTaskUpdateVersionSkipped

and hit enter.
4. Next delete the key by typing:

defaults delete ~/Library/Preferences/com.plexapp.plexmediaserver ButlerTaskUpdateVersionSkipped

and hit enter.
5. Re-launch Plex Media Server.

Your Plex Media Server should now properly indicate when an update is available.

Don’t do this with your Instant Pot

I bought my brother an Instant Pot for Christmas. If you’ve never heard of them before they’re a fancy electronically-controlled pressure cooker. You can cook many different things in it and they even have a Bluetooth model. I’ve wanted one for a while but never could justify getting it – so my brother got to be the guinea pig. He absolutely loves it so I was motivated to finally get one myself.

I picked one of the easiest things to make in the pot for our first meal – beef stew. I followed this recipe from the Instant Pot site:

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • Stew Seasoning of your choice, amount adjusted for 2 pounds of meat, McCormick Stew seasoning was used as seasoning by original creator of  this recipe, two packets were used.
  • 4 cups Water
  • 5 potatoes chopped
  • 1 cup carrot chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 cup green beans raw

I took the easy route for the seasonings and picked up a packet of the McCormick Beef Stew Seasoning Mix. The instructions call for putting the beef, seasoning, and water into the cooker for 45 minutes. Then you’re supposed to release the pressure quickly, add the veggies in, and cook for another 10 minutes.

This is where things went a little wrong.

There are two ways to release the pressure in an Instant Pot. Quick release and natural method. Natural method means you let the pot cool down with time and the lock will open – naturally. For recipes requiring several steps or a more rapid stop in the cooking process, quick release is your solution. Quick release is a special valve on top of the lid that blows the steam out super quickly (and loudly). I read the instructions for the Instant Pot and understood cooking things with a lot of starch, like rice, can cause foaming inside. Using the quick release with starchy foods isn’t recommended because it’ll turn into a hot mess. Literally, a hot mess.

I didn’t realize that the first ingredient in the McCormick’s packets was corn starch. Refer back to my comment about starchy foods. Yup, you’ve guessed it – I had a hot mess. Imagine hot steam then beef fat and water spraying everywhere over the kitchen. I threw a towel over the spout to contain it.

Lesson learned: be aware of all ingredients of your meal before cooking it!