Improving myself: 21-week Check-in

August 25, 2013

Learning, Passion, Summary, ThatConference

I’ve been crazy-happy, and feel the urge to write about / reflect on some things that have happened, because I don’t want to forget this special time of growth & appreciation.

I’m including a lot of pictures & links to make it seem(?) less verbose.


I’m grouping this four months together because that was the original length of the sabbatical (“unpaid leave”) I took from my prior job of 12.5 years.

The items I’m listing here were on top of the normal things like kids’ events (birthday parties; dance rehearsals / recitals, robot camp, last day of school, summer daycare) and my own events (user group meetings, Toastmasters, etc), made possible thanks to the opportunity to come to Improving.

  • 4-1-20135-10-2013 project
    Improved by learning / working with new* Technologies on 1st project including:

    • Highway.Data
    • ASP.NET MVC* (Webforms background)
    • RabbitMQ*
    • EF5 (, .netTiers & Linq2SQL background)
    • Castle.Windsor*
    • TopShelf*
    • Working with the client!* (background “shielded” devs a few levels)
      *New for me because of my 12.5 year background at the same company
  • 5-11-2013 (-present) project
    Improving by learning / working with the client =) and with:

    • Brownfield* (Mostly Greenfield development background)
    • Project-specific IOC*
    • NHibernate* & Fluent NHibernate*
    • Rake*
    • MSTest*
    • WPF
    • SQLExpress* (Full SQL Server background)
  • 5-16-2013
    Spoke at “Improving University” internal meeting (SO NERVOUS!).
  • 5-22-2013
    Blogged about what made me make this job change (only 5 weeks into my 4-month sabbatical)
  • 5-29-20135-31-2013
    Rode w/ the Nerdbus to, and attended, Tulsa School of Dev
    Embedded image permalink
    Embedded image permalink
  • 6-6-2013
    Read StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath & was so blown away I blogged about it
    StrengthsFinder 2.0
  • 6-8-2013
    Volunteered for & attended Windows 8 Unleashed event, run by Michael Perry
  • 6-10-2012
    Got the nerve up to be taped (eek!) for pilot episode of “Scrum & Villainy” pilot episode, even though my background has been waterfall (If you don’t know Peter Brunone, he rocks).image
  • 6-22-2013 6-23-2013
    Read “The Power of Who” by Bob Beaudine, cover to cover. I’ll be forever grateful to Barry Forrest for lending it to me. If you can relate to / identify with the Imposter Syndrome in any way, this book is a must-read.
  • 6-27-2013
    Passed 70-480: 1st of 3 exams for MCSD* (never been brave enough to test) & became an MCP (“Microsoft Certified Professional”)
  • 7-20-2013
    Passed 70-486: 2nd of 3 exams for MSCD
  • 7-31-2013
    Passed 70-487 (3rd of 3) & became an MSCD (yipee – proud & happy)


From 8-1 through now, I took personal time before making the official switch from contractor to full-time Improving employee.

  • 8-1-2013 8-8-2013
    Spouse & I visited family in Portland, OR
  • 8-2-2013
    Drove up to Redmond for my 1st time seeing Microsoft HQ. I got a tour of the campus & met so many great people.Thank you SO MUCh, Twitter, for helping me with that bucket list item =DAfter the tour, we went to Seattle (we hadn’t been there before, either). What an amazing day!

  • 8-10-2013 8-17-2013
    Flew to Wisconsin Dells, WI with 10yo daughter to attend ThatConference.People, this conference (err ThatConference) was a game changer.

    Their groundbreaking, family-focused, spirit gave me hope for the future in ways I‘m still trying to wrap my head around. Here are a few pics of my 10yo daughter running her own Open Spaces session on Scratch:

    Here’s a picture of one of the kids’ conference sessions. WOW:


    Blog post to come… in the meantime, here is the WONDERFUL compilation from Eventifier: <—great stuff!!

    I also spent so much time I’m embarrassed to say, writing, preparing for & practicing my first “real” conference talk, on Git, which I had the honor of co-presenting with Keith Dahlby at ThatConference.

  • 8-20-2013
    Surgery for

    Some of you have asked about my recent hospitalization. Throughout all of this, I had to schedule open-back surgery to correct my Spondylolisthesis with a bone graft from my hip.  You can see, in my MRI below, that my L5 vertebrae juts forward. This is because parts of the bone, shown in the other pic, that are supposed to hold it in place by wrapping it around the spinal column, are broken off (this was diagnosed when I tried to row crew in college; Instead of having my spine fused together, I quit crew).
    I’ve managed it since college with (a lot of) ibuprofen, but I did a winter boot camp that did a lot of damage earlier this year & it got worse. New tingling down my legs & nerve damage meant ibuprofen, alone, was no longer an option.


    I was seeing specialists throughout the massively crazy 4.5-month period above, and, as life would have it, I had to get this surgery at the same time as my 1st job change in over 12 years.

    I *am* pretty stoked about my new “weird smiling-robot-with-braces-dude” xray. Yay metal implants haha.


    I’m 4.5 days out now, and the surgery went well. My surgeon said he was able to pull the vertebrae back in place & secure it so the bone fusion from my hip can set. It will continue to be a rough recovery, but (wait for it) yep, it’s improving every day heheh

If You Only Had Four Months To…

Funny, the last time I gave something a time period, I gave Git 2 weeks. That was 18 months ago, and I love it more every day.

I went into Improving with the mindset that, in order to be worth putting my fear aside to ask for a 4-month leave of absence from a job that I appreciated as much as I did, I needed to make the reward worth the risk. Meaning, I wanted to get everything I could out of this situation & seek every growth opportunity I could in that four months.

Looking back, I’m pretty amazed all that was possible in that short of a timespan, and all thanks to being surrounded by people who inspire me so. Now off to bed, but tonight, instead of sheep, I’ll be counting my blessings =D #Grateful

5 Comments on “Improving myself: 21-week Check-in”

  1. Chris Weldon Says:

    Glad to read about the positive energy, Cori! :-D


  2. MaryHelen Witt Cuellar Says:

    Thanks Cori; what a wonderful blog. Can’t pretend to understand some of the technical stuff but your happiness and enthusiasm comes through and obviously you are imparting that to Katelyn! Also; I had no idea of how much difficulty your back was causing you which goes to show how you put it on the “back” burner (accidental pun). Proud of you.


  3. Peter Brunone Says:

    Glad to hear the surgery went well and left you with such an amusing X-ray!

    Thanks again for stepping out on that limb with me; I’m pretty sure I was as nervous as you were.

    Taco Tuesday?


  4. Martin Blore Says:

    Fantastic blog post. Very inspiring! You’re right about the pictures and headings, definitely takes the sting out of long posts. Good luck in your journey! :)



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