A little R&R



Lake Del Valle


One of my biggest blessing also happens to be one of my biggest curses (well, it’s more of a struggle then a curse). When I was thinking of coming out to California for school, one the biggest questions I had to wrestle with was what I would do about housing. If I was going to school full time, I wouldn’t have any income any more, and to make it worse, San Francisco is the most expense city to the U.S. right now. I had some savings, but not enough to live off of for the next two years. During the application process, I had been consulting with a web developer friend of mine; he was a huge encouragement during this process. He was my ‘rubber duck’ when I got stuck on something and needed to talk through the bugs in my code. Sean is just one of my many friends who meet every Monday for a dinner of rice and beans, aptly named O.R.B. (the Order of Rice and Beans). Sean’s parents were visiting Chicago during my application process and came along for our weekly dinner. During that meal, Sean and I were talking about the application process and his parents overheard. They interjected “you know, if you get accepted, you are welcome to stay with us”. I thanked them politely and replied saying “that’s so kind, but I don’t really think I’ll get in, it’s very competitive”. And I left it at that.

You can guess what happened next – but humor me for a moment. It was Thanks Giving and the majority of my family was up at the family lake house in Bethany Beach (Michigan) – by far my most favorite place on the face of this earth. I had brief conversations with family members about how I had been applying to this school, but the likely-hood of me getting in was slim to none. There I was, sitting on the couch next to my dad, and my phone gives off a little ping vibration. I glance at it, and to my surprise I got an acceptance letter from Holberton. I was in utter shock.

One of myIMG_1964 biggest questions – if I decided to go to Holberton, where would I live? I know that Sean’s family had offered me housing, but I had assumed that it was most likely just a polite jester – not an actual standing offer. I reached out to Sean to see if he thought his parent’s offer was still on the table; and he assured me it was. Just a few short weeks later I was moving my stuff into Sean’s old room.

I am so grateful to be hosted by the Zellmers. They are gracious and kind, and it’s such a relief to come home to a family setting at the end of a long hard day. They share their meals with me, and since they they live in wine country, I have benefited from their extensive knowledge in the subject and their superior taste.

The only drawback, is the distance between Livermore and Holberton. School is in the financial district downtown and it’s 47 miles from where I am staying. This mainly means a long commute to and from school. But it also means that I don’t get to do some of the more spontaneous activities with my fellow students. Most of the other students live near the school, either because they were previously residents of SF, or they live in dorm style housing the school helped find. On Sunday’s they have gotten in the habit of goring for a hike or small adventure – but I lack the close proximity to them, so I usually just end up staying in  Livermore. This past week some of the students went on a trail hike through Muir Woods just across the bridge. I wanted to go, Muir woods is beautiful and hard to pass up on. But adding another day of commuting did not sound appealing, so I passed on the opportunity. Instead, I went on my own tail hike in Livermore. I headed to Del Valle for some fresh air after Church. I am so glad I made the decision to stay in the East Bay instead of heading into the city, because it allowed me to have time to myself…completely by myself.IMG_1937

Between the time I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed, I am surrounded by people. I leave the house within 20 minutes of waking up, and quickly find myself on a crowded commuter train. Then its 12 hours of school with 32 other students, another crowded train back home, a chat with Leanne and Steve over dinner, and then bed. I don’t get much time alone with my thoughts. I feel like I spend the whole week learning and soaking up as much as possible, it is only healthy to take a few hours or a day and let myself unwind.

I don’t know if I can stress this enough. As human beings, we cannot go full throttle all of the time for long amounts of time without a break. And…if you find yourself silently contradicting me, let me make an amendment. One cannot go full throttle all of the time for long amounts of time without a break without putting your mental health at risk. It’s sort of like a workout. You can do a super intense workout, giving it 110%, but you do it in reps (usually) and you take short breaks in-between sets. Going to school is a workout for your brain, and showing up six days a week is a set, after that set, you need to take a break, reset and recuperate to come in better prepared for the next set.

Del Valle Regional Park is a park of the East Bay Regional Park District in unincorporated Alameda County. It’s over 4,000 acres of trails, wildlife, and some spectacular views. Because of all of the rain fall, there the landscape was lush and full of color. As I lay in my hammock, I saw hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and quite a few lizards.


The recent rain may have provided for some green grass, but you could still see the effects of the sever drought  from the past few years. The docks were all dried up, and a completely dried up river bed (I don’t think anyone has swam in this particular part of Del Valle recently).

I plan to go on a lot more hikes and find ways to unwind outside of school. I want to work hard and learn as much as I can in the short time I have here in San Francisco, I need to remember to take care of my mind and body in order to get as much as I can from Holberton.


This is a few from the middle of the lake. It has been so dry that I could walk between the sand bars and get to the middle without getting my feet wet.


To all of my Valentines

You may not be all that into Valentine’s day – I certainly never have been. This Valentine’s day has been a bit different for me though. I am out West, and all of my Valentines are back in Illinois. No…I’m not in a relationship, but it just so happens that I have quite a few Valentines.

Before coming out to California, I had a full time job, but more importantly, I also helped look after some girls out in Wheaton every Monday. Some background – After I graduated from school, I was given the opportunity to go along with a Professor and his family on their fourth adoption. They where heading to China to pick up Sadie, and they needed a third person to come along and help look after their older girls so they could focus on the newest addition to the family. I jumped at the opportunity. After that, I was welcomed as an extended part of the family. Soon after Sadie joined the family, we welcomed Sena just a few months later, making that a total of five girls. After being grafted into that family, I quickly learned that Valentine’s day happened to be one of Mary’s (the mother) favorite holidays. It seemed a bit odd to me at first; the only people I know that claim Valentine’s day as their favorite holiday are sappy romantics. Mary had never seem a sappy romantic to me. She explained though, that Valentine’s day is really about showing those you love just how much they mean to you. For Mary, that meant her husband, of course… but it also meant all of her girls. Mary has never taken for granted how lucky she is to be able to nurture and watch her five girls grow up. Children are a gift, they force your heart to grow bigger then you ever though was imaginable. Why not celebrate that on Valentine’s day?

I had never thought much of Valentine’s day before, but it started to grow on me. It’s weird because Valentine’s day seems to be a very dividing day. If you are in a relationship, people like to go all out – chocolate, roses, romance…the whole nine yards; but if you are not in a relationship, it’s a day of turning up noses in an air of “I don’t need a relationship to be happy”. Neither camp is a bad one – honestly – both are very valid places to set up a tent and call it a day. But I still prefer Mary’s approach – it’s a great day to stop and appreciate all of the people in your life that you love. For me, that’s my parents, my closets friends who have been with me though thick and thin (and still FaceTime me from halfway across the country), and the five girls that stole my heart away. These are the people who have made me who I am today, and I love them all the more for that. This has been my first Valentines’s day without the before mentioned people, and it makes me all the more grateful of them.

So happy Valentine’s day – to all the sappy romantics and stoics alike. If you have people in your life that have commandeered space in your heart, take some time to celebrate that.


Coffee is a girls best friend


SO – let’s establish that I am not a coffee connoisseur… but I do enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning. About a year ago, I was introduced by a few friends (Sean and Robb) to the aeropress. I’v been drinking coffee for a while now, but let me tell you, the aeropress is a cut above. I’m pretty sure it can make the shittiest of coffee taste mediocre. It is also the easier, cleanest, and cheapest way to make a dang good cup of coffee. I don’t always drink fancy coffee (there is no way I could afford that habit). A few weeks ago I was doing my final errands before I left Chicago to head West. I was donating one of my bikes to West Town Bikes in Humbolt Park, and nearby was Dark Matter Coffee – I had to stop in to pick up some of their barrel aged beans. I think these beans might be magic, because they are so robust, and yet so sweet (no sugar added of course). It’s an Ethiopian bean, married with a 30 year old Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. The barrel first housed Heaven Hill bourbon, then went on to host Pipeworks Imperial Jones Dog (for a whopping 10 months) – then… (yes…then) – it played host to Pipeworks Elijah’s Revival Wheat Wine Ale. The barrel’s final resting place was with the Ethiopian Reko beans. Placing coffee beans in a barrel with a history like this means they are going to come out with character and depth. The bourbon leaving behind oak and touch of peaty essence – the Imperial Jones Dog  lending notes of vanilla and dark fruits – and the Elijah’s Revival leaving notes of orange and spice. The fruity nature of the bean (pineapple and cocoa) and the flavor rich barrel gave birth to a barrel aged bean like none other. Next time you find yourself in Chicago, make sure to stop in to Dark Matter and pick up some beans, no matter the variety – you will not be disappointed (and then stop by Pipeworks and pick up a beer – coffee an beer go very well together).

wait…this is a blog about a girl’s novice entry into the world of tech – why is she written about coffee beans?

My experience of jumping ship from my previous life and entering this foreign one is not just about the challenges of learning a new trade, or learning how to be in school again – it’s about how the day-in-day-out small things that bring me joy, and the brick walls that show up when I least expect them. I have a lot of early mornings and late nights ahead of me… coffee will definitely be a part of that. The better the bean, the better the experience (in my opinion at least).


p.s. thank you Angela Venarchik for the beautiful mug