Why were these the catalyst for changing my behavior?
The vB forums were constantly overrun with spam, hard to maintain, and quite bluntly over the past two years my focus was never on the content. This changed with XF. The defaults and a few resources set the site so the content became important. Once the WP to XF bridge was installed then I wanted to understand how to improve the navigation.
Desktop server was installed and reinstalled after screwing up some things. Anyway, It all started to come together - how to modify the login_bar.css, how to modify the WP toolbar, how to modify a theme.
So - I took some advice and bought a book on PHP, started reading, and started tinkering.
My original code still sucks but I'm starting to read more WP codex and starting to understand arrays a little better.
So thank you XF. Without XF then I would never have installed the bridge, never looked at a theme's functions.php file, and never thought of installing Desktop Server. After 15 years of avoiding PHP code - I look forward to the day I can contribute to WP and XF with original code.