It's strange what I start thinking about when I make myself not work 24/7. Over the past few months I've begun to ponder (in many cases, re-ponder) things like a windowsill herb garden, a weekly walk to the farmers' market, making household cleaners from simple grocery-store chemicals (mostly baking soda), actually framing and hanging pictures on the walls [0], learning how to work a sewing machine just enough to modify all the MEN'S L hacker shirts I have into Women's M... 

Okay, I also end up reading and thinking about spinal anatomy, small business myths, the economics of free software, neuroplasticity, guitar construction, and deciphering the scholarly work of Etienne Wenger (Communities of Practice). So I don't feel too domesticated. And I am happier to have a cleaner bathroom that was made cleaner entirely with white vinegar, baking soda, and ridiculous amounts of scrubbing. Work supports life, is part of life - is not the same thing as life.

It's surprisingly difficult for me to remember this sometimes. Rhonda puts it pretty well.

I want my life to provide me with:
  • a reason to get up every morning;
  • interesting and productive work;
  • contentment that explodes into happiness occasionally;
  • a framework in which to live simply;
  • the opportunity and continued ability to learn skills that facilitate our lifestyle;
  • a strong and generous family circle that supports every member of our family - when we experience the good times and especially when it's tougher;
  • opportunities to express generosity, kindness and empathy;
  • the strength to be a role model to the younger women in my family;
  • and the enthusiasm and perseverance to take charge of my home and make it a place of comfort, welcome and warmth.

That's her list, not mine - by and large, it resonates with me, but there are significant differences to what I'd write myself. I'd like to be a role model to more than just the younger women in my family - I want to do that for my students someday when I am a teacher, for instance - and I'm not completely sold on the "making my home a place of comfort, welcome, and warmth" bit. I mean, it's not like I want my home to be uncomfortable and cold, but really, can't someone else do that? I know I'm going to be focused on different things at different parts of my life, and right now I'm putting a lot into getting started - building a career, gearing up for studying again, figuring out how to budget and keep up an apartment and still have time to go blues dancing on Friday nights.

And I still love to travel. I think 2 trips a month (one professional, one personal) is about right for me at the moment, where "at the moment" is defined as "for the next 5 months, and then summer is going to get interesting." Between moving to Indiana for grad school, speaking at Disney World [1], OSCON (using POSSCon as a preview for our OSCON talk), and probably teaching more workshops and whatnot, it's going to be a full season.

I also have a constant and possibly over-anxious eye on my co-presenter (and teammate, and best friend, and boyfriend)[2] and me not completely overdoing it and becoming thoroughly sick of spending every waking moment together, but FUDCon Tempe went extremely well, with sessions on education (both of us), etherpad (him), and RSI (both of us) plus a crapton of liveblogging (me) and a pretty healthy balance between work and personal, together and alone time. And our roommates (a very tolerant Peter Robinson and Tatica Leandro) didn't seem to mind the frequent drop-bys too much - although I think the word "adorable" was used far too often as a descriptive adjective - and it was great to be 2 doors down rather than 800 or 4000 miles away. (Less great: my reaction to returning to an empty apartment in Raleigh. Loneliness is pretty new and intensely uncomfortable for me, and I react poorly to it.)

We have a Birds of a Feather (him) and panel (me) coming up at SIGCSE 2011, quickly followed by POSSCon[3] - I'll be there in person and Sebastian will be teleconferencing in for his portion of our talk[4]. And then I think we're supposed to help run a student track for a CS education conference in Western MA. It's really not that much - we already turned down SCaLE (our teammate Karsten Wade is taking our slot) when we noticed we were overdoing things. And all this does kinda compensate for the long stretches of time spent long-distance cursing dropped Skype calls. I wish we had a better balance here, but we're probably doing the best we can do given other constraints, as we're both going to be students at geographically separated schools for quite a while, working on mostly different projects, but between some shared work trips and a bunch of personal trips for visits, it somehow works out.

[0] I put an apartment decoration in a frame for the first time ever 2 weeks ago. When Sebastian and I were walking around in Paris, a street vendor was selling an awesome little watercolor print of the
Eiffel Tower and Some Random Garden for 2 euros. It's in a frame next to my bedside lamp now, behind a pile of books and socks. I really need to clean my room.

[1] I initially argued against this - "zomg we're doing too much and we're going to die and aren't you usually telling me to do less stuff" and so forth. But while we were in Qatar, Sebastian went and got backup opinions from a couple Red Hat colleagues, an Olin prof who keynoted the same conference last year, and one of our POSSE Doha attendees. After several discussions on the importance of not cramming in too much and burning out over the summer, I relented. There's only so much you can do to stop Disney World.

[2] If it sounds idyllic to be dating your closest professional collaborator, you obviously haven't tried it. And folks, there are reasons why {long-distance, cross-cultural, office, etc} relationships are not generally recommended to sane people. It's worth it, but it's also absolutely grueling to make it work well, and I spend a large portion of my time these days recovering from working on either $dayjob or $relationship. (Sebastian adds: "Or both.")

[3] POSSCon will be the first time my mom gets to hear me speak. She's visiting me in Raleigh that weekend, so we're making the drive to South Carolina together. Sebastian's parents obviously have a harder time catching our talks, but they did find pictures of our Olin Presidents' Council / Board of Trustees group. I will never get a haircut that short again.

[4] I will find it extremely ironic if the reverse arrangement happens for LinuxCon in Vancouver this August. Sebastian[5] is determined to go there. I, on the other hand, have refused all commitments for doing anything that month, because I haven't the slightest clue when grad school wants me for what orientation sessions. It's also a good sanity break from constant, unrelenting presence for the both of us.

[5] I know, I know, he's everywhere. Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes it's kind of annoying. Sometimes it's both. It's usually more of the first, though. Balance is hard.