There is Life Outside the Bay Area: Two Years Later (Part #5)

Hello Friends & Family,

Holy macaroni!  Sarah, the girls and I are enjoying our two year anniversary in Park City, Utah this week!  Oh, what an adventure it  has been.  I’ve documented many of our move observations through my blog —

This will be the final installment of this series of blog posts — the two year check in.  I guess I could do a five year check in but that feels like a long way away.  I’m going to try something different this time around and make this an “ask me anything” type of format. I’ve collected the various questions folks have asked Sarah and I throughout.

Just as a recap, in August 2020 — Sarah, the girls and I decide to uproot ourselves out of Danville, California (Bay Area) to Park City, Utah in the middle of COVID.  I had originally moved to the Bay Area in 1999 with the first dot com boom.  20+ years in California with a brief stink in Seattle, Washington for two years. Sarah moved to California back in the 1980’s so many more years living in the Golden State.  Change and action can be hard so this was a big decision for us.  It’s amazing how fast life goes looking back but can feel slow when you’re in it.  I thought I would be in the Bay Area for a couple of years and then I would move back to the east coast.  

All great changes are preceded by choas.

Deepak Chopra

This week two years ago was absolute chaos. The house was sold and half packed. Realtors were coming in and out of the home getting the staging furniture out and the final fixes in place. The buyers were gigantic pains in the ass so we were dealing with 100 different details. And, a leak sprung in the kitchen that took us a week to figure out that that HVAC guy had screwed up the condensation lines.

Moving is the absolute worst. I had PTSD looking through the old photos.

Sarah and the girls left via car earlier in the week ahead of me so that I could deal with clearing out our old home and the movers. We had sold or thrown out half our stuff but we still had a ton of things to move. Sarah later told me that the car ride was full of tears from the Bay Area to Sacramento. We had to have a family meeting later that evening to discuss, “are we doing the right thing?”. There I sat outside Sarah’s sisters home with a beer in my hand going through the seven stages of grief in about 2 minutes.

  • Shock and denial — “What was going on? How did we get far into the journey and suddenly have second thoughts? It is not possible that this is happening!”
  • Pain and guilt — “Did I do this to my family? How could I have let this happen?”
  • Anger and bargaining — “Ok, we can fix this. Maybe there is a clause for me to get out of selling our house?”
  • Depression — “Oh, this makes me very sad.”
  • The upward turn — “No big deal. We’ll figure this out.”
  • Reconstruction and working through — “This change is the right change. We just need to get through this first week.”
  • Acceptance and hope — “Ah yes, we will get through this first week and it will be great.”

Well, we made it through that moment and I guess the rest is history. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family unit together. And I think we’re stronger for having gone through it together. Folks have asked us so many questions along the way so here are just a few of them.

Q: Who brought up the idea of moving first? 

A: Sarah.  She started talking about leaving California probably back in 2015, maybe further back.  I was the hold out because I cared deeply about staying in the Silicon Valley community.  I had identified with Silicon Valley since I moved to the Bay Area in 1999. 

Q: How much did COVID play a role in your decision to move?

A: Some.  COVID definitely opened my mind to something different.  I think for Sarah it just added fuel to her interest of leaving California that started a long time ago.  Plus, the technology sector went 100% remote after COVID and for the most part continues to be remote.  It helped that Park City, Utah is the most accessible mountain town in the United States.  We’re < 30 minutes from the Salt Lake City Airport so jumping on a plane to get somewhere is very easy. 

Q: After two years, how are things going?

A: We love it here and love our decision to move.  No regrets.  Park City is one cool little mountain town. 

Q: How have the kids enjoyed Park city?

A: I think Molly and Brooklyn have thrived here.  New school. New friends. New sports clubs.  New activities.  Lots of new things and they have responded.  I don’t think moves are for every kid but I think ours have really enjoyed the change. 

Q: How have the winters been?

A: No harder than the winters in New York/Connecticut but the last two years have been mild winters so it’s tough to say yet.  There are some differences though. The snow is light, fluffy and dry.  I could use a leaf blower to clean my steps.  And as soon as the snow stops, the sun comes out.  The dry humidity and altitude makes the winters unique.   

Q: What have been your biggest surprises — either good or bad?

A: I’ve got a few —

  • The people are amazing.
  • The scenery and nature is out of this world. 
  • It is magical living 10-15 minutes from world class skiing, hiking, mountain biking, etc.
  • The snow is more amazing than i thought.
  • It is equally as magical being less than 30 minutes from Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake City Airport. 
  • Everything is just more accessible here as compared to California or New York/Connecticut.
  • University of Utah is a hidden gem. 
  • Sundays are actually days off in this state.  Kids sports are discouraged.  Lots of things are closed. 
  • The taxes are materially less as compared to California or New York/Connecticut.
  • The restaurants / food in Salt Lake City and Park City are not great.  Specially, the Asian food scene is absent.
  • The booze laws in Utah are messed up and overly complicated. 
  • The soda shops are unique.  They combine Mountain Dew and Pepsi then add pixie stick flavoring in a 64 oz cup.  What the heck? 
  • There are less people and working class here which makes standard services or contractors harder to get.
  • Backyards in Park City don’t have fences. 

Q: What would you have done differently?

A: I should have listened to Sarah  and considered a move sooner than we actually moved.  It really has been great for us.

Q: Factoring everyone – personalities, ages – how hard was it to start over? How long did it take to feel settled?

A: I didn’t find it too hard starting over but I’m a unique soul.  Starting new challenges is fun for me.  I’d say it took 6-12 months to really feel settled.  There we were lots of moving parts. 

Q: How has the work transition been?

A: There really wasn’t a transition.  We just picked up in a different state.  But, that might have been a problem in itself.  We just fork lifted our lifestyle into a different state.  It took until the second year to make some real lifestyle changes. 

Q: What was the hardest part of the transition?

A: Leaving our friends and family. 

Q: Would you do it again?

A: Absolutely! 

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin

So, what is the moral of the story? Change is good. Embrace adventure. Choose to do something different. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Thank you for reading and listening in on the journey.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment.  Sarah, the girls and I hope to see you in Park City, Utah sometime soon. 

Reflections @ 45.

Hello friends & family, 

This year I turned 45 years old.  Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  Haha. I should be happy that I made it this far.  If I am lucky, this is very likely my half way point in my life.  I can’t imagine myself beyond 90.  Wandering around the local Costco trying to get my steps in.    Maybe treating myself to a chicken bake afterwards if I made it far enough.  So, I’m at the 50 yard line of the my life on the way to the end zone.  What a weird analogy.  Haha. 

When I was younger, I used to be self conscience about having my college graduation year on my resume or LinkedIn profile because I didn’t want people to wonder who was this young kid managing all of this stuff.  Well, its probably the other way around now.   I don’t want people to think, “Whoa, who is this old guy?  Does he eat dinner at 4pm?” 

FYI, I do not eat dinner at 4pm but it does sound intriguing.  

What’s new with you?

I’ve taken some time recently to reconnect with old friends.  Some I had not spoken or seen for years.  You might be surprised to hear that being social for me takes effort.  So, I’ve done a terrible job keeping up with old friends.  Thats totally on me. 

When I reconnect with folks I find it fascinating the arc of responses when asked the question, “What’s new?”.  If you don’t lead the witness and keep it absolutely open ended You should get a 10,000 foot sense of what is important to this person or what this person wants you to know is important.  I had one friend of mine give me a 1-hour detailed updated on everything going on at work but forget to tell me how his wife or kids were doing. 

How would you answer that question?  What would your top three categories of responses be?  When I was 25 years old my responses would have been  —

  1. Work
  2. Super secret side work project that will be super duper awesome when its ready and you’ll see it in TechCrunch 
  3. Commute to work

How would I respond now at 45? 

  1. Family & Friends
  2. Health
  3. Activities — Skiing, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Music, Coding   

I don’t love work less.  I’m still a workaholic but I don’t think it defines me as much as it did when I was in my 20’s.  Time has gone by and I’ve come to enjoy the broader aspects of life.  

What are your top 3 categories? 

Musings of a 45 Year Old

I thought I would collect some ramblings as I ponder 45 years of life.  Here we go! 

  • Being married for 19 years and having 2 smart / beautiful / healthy girls is a gift — it’s easy to take for granted a solid home unit.  There are rarely articles in the Wall Street Journal about the entrepreneurs that have been able to keep a healthy family unit together.  It’s usually about someone that made a billion bucks yet just got a divorce … for the 2nd time.  I‘m really proud of our family unit and everything we have been able to accomplish together.  Plus, Sarah is everything to me.  There is no Renato without her. 
  • Family & friends are everything — they put a smile on face.  Make me laugh.  Help me during hard times.  Invest in them.  It takes work.  I’m amazed by how many family or friend events I missed in my 20’s and 30’s for reasons I don’t even remember anymore. 
  • Find your passion and work hard at it — finding something you are passionate about in life is a gift.  You can’t stop obsession about it all times of the day.  Many go through life never finding that passion and/or do things in life because society told them that was the right thing to do.  You’ll know it when you find it and when do you, work at it like your life depends on it.  It’s life’s flywheel. 
  • Master something — Be the best you can be at one thing.  Anything.  Maybe something you are passionate about.  The journey to being the master at something is very fulfilling. 
  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable — it means you are pushing yourself and learning. 
  • Setbacks are opportunities — what comes up, comes back down.  Those downs are usually ripe for opportunity.
  • Find a way — I love this rally cry.  There is always a way.  Find it.      
  • Take the road less traveled — society’s predefined path in life is bunk.  Well, its not terrible but don’t follow everyone else down this path like a lemming.  Make your own path.  When you can take the road less traveled. 
  • Care less about what other people think — We spend our entire life giving a shit what other people think — our physical appearance, the clothes we wear, the car drive, the college your went to, the job your have, etc.  Care less about what others think and it will set you free.  Social media thrown gas on the fire.  Be careful. 
  • How much money do you really need? —   Society and the news will tell you that you need to collect as much money as you can until it starts coming out of your ears.  It surely is a choice in life to make this your life’s goal but find the balance.  Being rich is relative.  Find your richness in life because that isn’t unlocked by more money. 
  • Be a leader — Be a leader in whatever you decide to do.  Most are looking for someone to follow.  Help them. 
  • It’s all about the Team — My teams are everything to me. They are not my family but they are high performing teams. It’s how anything at scale happens. 
  • Find perspective — there is always a bigger picture perspective.  Find it.  Evaluate with that lens. 
  • Have empathy — empathy is a magic word.  It creates perspective from another angle that likely isn’t your own.  Empathy and Perspective will help you make balanced decisions. 
  • Be humble — no matter how good you get at anything, there will always room to get better or a perspective that widens your understanding.    
  • Take care of your body — the physical side is just as important as the mental side.  Be healthy.  Take care of your body.  Close the laptop, and go do “things”. 
  • Be creative / Enjoy something creative — I am in awe of the creative process and creative people. They are imagining things that are absolutely new and unique.  Go do something creative.  Create something new in the world. 
  • Appreciate nature — our surroundings are a wonderful thing.  Enjoy it! 
  • Enjoy the moment — Put the phone down.  Enjoy where you are at in the moment. 

Lastly, please find your joy.  Life is too short to not be happy.  And if you are not happy, explore and find your joy. 

I hope you found my musings useful.  Please leave a comment or share with your friends!  Hope all is well.  Talk soon! 

Surrounded By Beauty.

Hello Friends & Family,

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

– John Muir

Look around.  We are surrounded by the wonders and beauty of nature.  The climate change discussion likes to draw our attention to the negative effects of our neglect but how about we open our eyes to what we have right now and how much we want to leave to our children and our children’s children.  There is a Native American proverb that says, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  How true that is. 

From the tallest peaks to the vibrant moss finding a home on a branch.   It’s all right there.  We’re all too busy not being in the moment.  Checking out the latest alert on our phone. 

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

– Albert Einstein

There is so much to learn from nature. Complexity. Simplicity. Strength. Weakness. Patience. Cooperation. Balance. Beauty.

So, do me a favor. Go on a walk.  Or go on a hike.  Then just sit there.  Without your phone.  And, take it all in.  It’s all pretty amazing if you open your eyes. 

“Preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

– Carl Sagan

Let us all do our best to take care of this wonderful planet we live on. One only have one. 

And I hope you enjoyed some of my pictures!

-rjm

Music is Life.

Hello Friends & Family,

Music is Life. Live Music is Heaven.

My memory stinks.  I blame not getting enough sleep as a kid.  The TV show M.A.S.H. would come on at 11:30pm after the news and I would find myself sneaking  downstairs to watch while my parents were asleep.  Way too late for any little kid to be up.  Sarah will tell you that I can’t remember anything important but remember the dumbest things.  Well, I needed to text my buddy the exact date of a concert we went to back in 1993.  Jerry Garcia Band at MSG on November 12, 1993. 

My original JGB @ MSG 11/12/1993 Ticket Stub

SET 1
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
They Love Each Other
Forever Young
Struggling Man
Money Honey
My Sisters And Brothers
Lay Down Sally

SET 2
Shining Star
You Never Can Tell [C’est La Vie]
Wonderful World
The Maker
Don’t Let Go
That Lucky Old Sun
Tangled Up In Blue

https://jerrygarcia.com/show/1993-11-12-madison-square-garden-new-york-ny/

My high school in Connecticut was heavy into the Grateful Dead and related bands.  Not entirely sure why but it was a convenient spot to be in to be a fan because the Grateful Dead played many shows in the area.  They would do long winter runs at Madison Square Garden in New York City and summer runs at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.  So many great shows with so many great people. 

This show specifically stands outs because it was one of my first Grateful Dead (related) shows and started  a long line of concerts following the likes of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band, Dead & Company, Phish, Widespread Panic, Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd  and Goose.   I’m not entirely sure how many concerts I’ve been to anymore — I stopped counting. I kept as many of the ticket stubs as I could until they just stopped making them and it went completely digital. Each of these stubs tell a story.

My brain has always loved the patterns with music and improvisational opportunities of genres like Jazz.  I played the guitar and messed around with the bass and drums.  There was something very therapeutic with practice that I loved so much.  I remember sitting around my bedroom just rolling through scale patterns and chords.  My mind lost in the  patterns or thinking about something else.  I’m sure I’ll never find it but my college essay was about the magic of music.   My band in high school was named “Rubbing Buddah’s Belly” or #rbb for all the “merch”.  We always joke that there would be a reunion tour one of these days.   Our wives would be the only groupies left. 🙂

Few distinct things I remember from this concert —

  • Jerry Garcia blew my mind.  I loved his solos and his vocals were still solid. 
  • Loved the lights and how they complemented the music.
  • Loved the scene and people.
  • Was very confused why there was so much smoke in the air at the set break.  I was very naive.  Haha. 

Pearl Jam @ Oakland Coliseum 5/12/2022 & 5/12/2022

One of my most favorite bands in high school was Pearl Jam.  It doesn’t get better than the album Ten.  However, I’d never seen them live … until this past month!  They did not disappointment.  Fantastic show! 

Life is short.  Find your joy.  I told myself I would spend more time seeing live music.  It’s so great to see the performers back on the road after COVID.  This year should see my first visit to Red Rocks Amphitheater and possibly a couple of shows with my girls in hopes to pass down the music bug. 

Thank you reading my ramblings. Comment below or send me a note! 

-rjm

Life Reevaluation: Breaking Through The Local Maximum

Hello friends and family,

I love the mathematical term “Local Maximum”. 

“A local maximum, also called a relative maximum, is a maximum within some neighborhood that need not be (but may be) a global maximum.” 

https://mathworld.wolfram.com/LocalMaximum.html

If you apply this to life, your overall goal may be to achieving a broader goal like getting so good at a sport to compete in the Olympics but you may feel trapped in a plateau in your skills development along the way.  Worst case, you are overconfident and fooling yourself to think that you are the best at something when you are actually not.  There has to be recognition that you have reached a plateau usually caused by feedback or an event.  Then you need to figure out how to get out of it.  These break through moments tend to be very hard and very big.  The harder the problem, the more likely you give up along the way.  So much drive, passion and hard work is required. Most are satisfied with getting to some “local maximum” and not getting to the “global maximum”.  This phenomenon exists in so many things in life. 

  • Learning new skills. 
  • Solving hard problems.
  • Start ups moving from one phase of growth to the next.  
  • Established companies moving from one focus to another.
  • Transitioning from one phase of your life to the next.  
  • Encountering a “life crisis”

In my case, it feels like I encountered a “life crisis” that that broadened my perspective and has me asking “what is beyond this local maximum I’m in right now?”   The American Psychological Association defines a life crisis as —

“a period of distress and major adjustment associated with a significant life experience, such as divorce or death of a family member. In studies relating health to life crises, individuals experiencing recent major stress-producing experiences are more likely than others to show significant alterations in mental and physical health status.”

https://dictionary.apa.org/life-crisis

Am I having an actual “life crisis”?  I don’t think so. I’m generally very happy and grateful for everything that I have been provided in life.  But, I have had a “significant life event” with my stroke.  I have discovered that life is fragile and am asking myself if I am taking advantage of everything I can.   Not in a bad way but just thinking that this ride eventually ends.  When it does, what will I look back upon?  I am fond of the ending of Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs where Steve Jobs is reflecting upon what happens after death.

I would call it more a “life reevaluation”.  Something one might encounter during a quarter or midlife crisis.  So, I invite you to come along with me on this journey and maybe something I write about will strike a chord with you.  One caveat, this is my journey and mostly my own self reflections.  I’m just thinking out loud.         

Below is a list of questions that checks in on my alignment. I have no idea if this is my complete list but these are the ones I’ve been reflecting on recently. 

  • Am I being a good boss, coworker, friend, family member, husband and dad? 
  • Am I working on something I am passionate about? 
  • Am I making a dent in the universe? 
  • Am I over-indexing on what I think society thinks I need to be doing? 
  • Am I being kind to others? 
  • Am I helping other people? 
  • Am I being open minded?
  • Do I listen deeply to others? 
  • Am I being respected and do I respect others? 
  • Am I working on something creative?
  • Am I being positive and surrounding myself with positive people?
  • Am I learning and growing every day?   
  • Am I being challenged? 
  • Am I surrounded by people that challenge me?
  • Am I enjoying my craft?
  • Am I being genuine?
  • Am I enjoying the moment? 
  • Am I being thankful?
  • Am I happy? 

Do any of these resonate with you? 

I find it enjoyable to reflect on these things periodically.  It’s easy to be “comfortable” with where you’re at or where society thinks you should be doing.  We are capable of doing so much more.  Helping many more people.  Making the world a better place.  As I tell my kids, you can do anything with the right amount of passion and hard work. 

Hope you enjoyed this post.  Comment below or send me a note!  Thank you for reading!

-rjm

Five Bullet Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Book)

The Five Bullet Review is a condensed review format in as it states, five bullets

  • Bullet #1 — The good
  • Bullet #2 — The bad 
  • Bullet #3 — The ugly 
  • Bullet #4 — The surprising
  • Bullet #5 — Recommendation

I would definitely categorize myself as an “Apple Fan Boy”.  When I was in middle school (circa 1989-1990) I found a dial-in bulletin board system (BBS) that hosted an online stock portfolio game where folks would be given pretend $100,000 to invest in stocks.  Well, I put all my pretend $100,000 in Apple at the time because I was just caught up in Steve Jobs and that intersection of technology and the arts. It inspired me to focus on computer science and drove my passion to build great products throughout my career. I’m sure I failed the “balanced portfolio” aspect of the game but I think I would have won the long term return on investment game.  Apple stock was priced around $0.30 in 1990. My $100,000 investment in Apple in 1989 would be worth roughly $55 million today.  Not bad.

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. I remember where I was that day — at my desk running an engineering team for a mobile game studio in San Francisco building some of the first mobile games on the Apple iPhone. I even remember writing a brief blog post when it happened.

Cover of Apple.com on October 6, 2011

Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs came out soon after on October 24, 2011. The movie based on Walter Isaacson’s book screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin and staring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Seth Daniels came out in October 2015.  All right on top of each other.

I recently had an opportunity re-read the book and re-watch the movie. 

This review will be about the book, the movie and Steve. 

  • The good — the book is very well written and very detailed.  It’s a very long but reads very fast.  Steve’s personality is so complex. He followed his heart and worked his ass off.  His perseverance through adversity is amazing to witness.   The setbacks are part of our journey and I think we’re all too easy to give up when it gets hard. 
  • The bad  — the movie was entertaining but felt forced in some places.  It’s hard to believe the entire movie happened at three product launch events.   The book was much better. 
  • The ugly  — its interesting to think what would have happened if Steve Jobs didn’t die.  I bet there would have been many more years of innovation left in him. 
  • The surprising  — Steve Jobs is no Jesus.  His personality had its imperfections and those imperfections likely helped drive him towards the success he became.  Also, it’s amazing to me how detailed Steve got into the development of new products.  His name is on over 458 patents.    
  • Recommendation — If you are even a little bit an Apple fan or enjoy a story of the persistence, you will enjoy this book.  I highly recommend it.    

Bonus: If you have a moment, rewatch Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl advertisement, Apple’s Think Different advertisement and his commencement speech at Stanford University.  Very enjoyable.  I re-watched his commencement speech with my daughter.    

Leave a comment.  Thank you for reading! 

-rjm

Surviving a Stroke: Returning to Life

https://www.onehopewinery.com/estate8

Hello Friends & Family,

I actually started writing this blog post a couple months back but didn’t enjoy how it was coming together so I started from scratch.  Not sure why but maybe because there was still tremendous uncertainty in the entire thing.  Well, there is surely less uncertainty now but I’ll save that for the end.  For those of you not following along at home, I had a stroke in November 2021.  It opened my eyes to the value of life we too often take for granted and how awesome the web of people around us are.   I’ve been journaling my experience on my blog (Surviving a Stroke, Surviving a Stroke: Recovery) primarily to help raise awareness of the risks of strokes, create empathy for the those working their way through recovery and the hope of maybe making folks aware enough to save a life.

  • In 2018, 1 in every 6 deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke. 
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Stroke-related costs in the United States came to nearly $46 billion between 2014 and 2015.  This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

[Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm]

It has now been  roughly 6 months since I was flying over my favorite Utah ski resorts in an Intermountain Life Flight to the Neuro ICO in Murray, Utah.  What’s the update? 

Finding My Joy 

Memento Mori is latin for “remember that you [have to] die’ and a saying that is supposed to remind us of the inevitability of death.   It is also a name of a gift shop outside of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion selling death oriented souvenirs. I kid you not.  I know what this phrase meant before but I didn’t digest it until recently.  There is a fragility to life that feels random.  The doctors have told me there was no good reason why I had a stroke and I’m super lucky to have come out basically unscathed.  It feels like it just happened. 

So, how have I internalized this?  I just need to live the best life I can live while I’m here.  We all need to find our joy.  That surely sounds weird but life is really awesome, we need to enjoy it while we can.  The little things that bother us are truly are just little things surrounded by awesome moments we’re too busy to enjoy.  Why are we so busy?  Who knows. Because we all have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and FOMO.  Enjoying the moment has never meant more to me.

A good great friend of mine sent me a text  that had me thinking.  He texted me about the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory and how I should read the book “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

“Being Mortal” is an amazing book.  I highly recommend it.  It is a doctors journey working through the reality of death with his patients and ultimately with his father.   Gawande offers a balanced and thoughtful perspective.  In one chapter, he discusses the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory which is a life-span theory of motivation. The theory states that our perception of  our own mortality impacts what we are motivated to do.  When we are young,  we are invincible and invest in long term experiences and relationships.  But, as we grow old, we maximize positive emotional experiences and hone in on our friends that make us happy.  We become increasingly selective, investing greater resources in emotionally meaningful goals and activities.  Those that have life changing health issues early can experience an acceleration of this phenomenon.  I can absolutely relate —

  • I now value my life, my family and my friends with a deeper sense of appreciation  
  • I now value each life experience more deeply
  • I am more present in the moment
  • I now carry less stress for the little things that used to really bother me 
  • I now have less patience for bullshit and things that waste my time
  • I now smile and laugh more
  • I now give bigger hugs
  • I now have a desire to make a broader impact beyond just me   

That all sounds like metaphysical transformation crap but its all true. 

I’ll note that my path through my stroke pales in comparison to others. I joined several stroke support groups on Facebook and I was humbled.  Humbled by the journey of recovery people were going through.  I am grateful for my recovery and support I had throughout.  Folks would post things like “Strokes are worse than death.  Wish it had taken me.” and “My life died when I had my stroke”.  Absolutely no joke.  These are real people with real challenges.  I really want to help them all in some way. 

Work

I went back to work in January 2022 after the holidays.  I needed every minute of the time off but felt ready enough to get back into the flow.  It definitely felt a little weird getting back in my routine but I was back in the groove in no time. It was great to get back to my team and help them however I could.  But, there were many moments of reflection on the true meaning of work in the bigger picture. My wife diagnosed me as a workaholic a long time ago. I really enjoy work.  I care deeply about my team but realize there is so much more to life.   20+ years in Silicon Valley will skew you to think that work is everything.  It’s something for sure.  But its not everything. 

Here are some other observations I had about work —

  • Everything keeps going without you.  You might think you are the most important thing at work but folks figure things out. 
  • I needed to create a new leadership framework and style.  I wanted to take he opportunity to develop a new gear in my leadership style that would be good for me and my teams.  The same level of drive and motivation with less wear on me and more empowerment to my leaders.  This is still a work in progress but I’m getting there. 
  • Snoozing alerts is heaven. You actually don’t need to listen to every alert that comes at you and to be honest, its bad for your brain.

Working Out

I usually start my week Monday morning by going to 5:15am CrossFit at Park City Fit.  I try to go 3-4 times a week when its not ski season.   It was just something that I built into my routine many years ago and helps me start my week with structure and discipline.  I feel lethargic when I don’t go.  My doctors  cleared me to get back into the box but asked me to modify my workouts so that not to put pressure on my brain.  Well, I was modifying my workouts well before my stroke so there wasn’t anything to worry about there.  Haha.   

That first Monday back to work, I got up at 4:30am like I usually do.  Got dressed.  Made a cup of coffee.  Jumped into the car and I was off.  I turned on the music and the most perfect song came on, So Damn Lucky by the Dave Matthews Band.  Dave Matthews said at a show at Radio City Music Hall —

“This is a song about where you’re about to trip and fall and smash your face but everything slows down to the point where you comprehend you’re gonna get hurt but it’s not enough time to do anything about it. And this song is about how not to forget about counting your blessings.”

Consider this my soundtrack for this blog post. 

CrossFit has always been about community to me.  Great people.  Suffering together.  It was so great seeing familiar faces again.  I modified all the workouts that week significantly and it didn’t matter.  It felt so great to be getting back into my routine. 

MondayWednesdayFriday

Intervals For Time:
40 Dumbbell Snatch (50/35)
30 Box Jump (24/20)
150 Double Under
-8 min Cap
-Rest 2 min-
30 Box Jump (24/20)
40 Dumbbell Snatch (50/35)
150 Double Under
-8 min Cap
-Rest 2 min
150 Double Under
30 Box Jump (24/20)
40 Dumbbell Snatch (50/35)
-8 min Cap

For Time:
50 Clean & Jerk (185/125)
75 Toes to Bar
-Complete in any order you like to accomplish the work
Goal: Sub 20 min

CrossFit Open 13.4
AMRAP 7 min
3 Clean & Jerk (135/95)
3 Toes-to-bar
6 Clean & Jerk
6 Toes-to-bar
9 Clean & Jerk
9 Toes-to-bar
12 Clean & Jerk
12 Toes-to-bar
15 Clean & Jerk
15 Toes-to-bar
18 Clean & Jerk
18 Toes-to-bar…

Sport

Am I still skiing?  Hell yes.  The doctors cleared me for light skiing in January but asked that I keep it tame.  I’ve not been a high adrenaline, high risk skier anyway so that wasn’t going to be that hard.  I didn’t start skiing until I was 15 so a beginner compared to the winter sport talent in Park City, Utah.  I spend most of the winter at Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, Snowbird and Alta getting better at my turns, working the moguls and just getting better at the sport overall. I still love the steeps but I take them more carefully these days.  Next year, I’ll take on the challenge of backcountry skiing. There is nothing better than being outside and listening to the quiet of the snow.  

As I write this, the ski season is coming to an end, the tourists have left and we are entering the mud season. I’m looking forward to getting the mountain bikes out as soon as the ground dries up a bit. 

Looking ahead, my goal is finally start something that I’ve been wanting to do for years — Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  I’m not going to let this “health setback” keep me down.

What is the final prognosis? 

My neurologist ran me through a bunch of test this past month to help answer why this happened to me.  She ordered a battery of blood tests along with full torso, chest and brain scans.  They required me to drink a bunch of this super tasty medical berry smoothie. This was a bit of nerve racking experience for me — what if they found something like cancer in one of these scans?  That is actually one of potential causes for a stroke.  Not sure I was mentally ready to hear that. These test took me hours.  I spent a full hour in a MRI tube listening to the Grateful Dead — alone with my thoughts and just looking into a mirror at my feet.   

The test results started to come in.  The good news is that almost all of the test came back clear and then there was this magical prognosis that came from my MRI —

IMPRESSION:
1.Patent dural venous sinuses without residual thrombus.
2.No acute intracranial hemorrhage.

The blood clot had fully healed and my brain was 100%.  Woo-hoo! 

The bad news, I’m pretty sure I’m never going to know why this happened to me.  This would normally really bother me but whatever, time to live life.   

How am I feeling?

I’m feeling 100%. I need to lose the “stroke 10 pounds’ as I like to call them.  I sort of started eating like crap because I said to myself, hell ya I’m going to eat some cake and ice cream tonight.  I almost died! 

The best news, I can blame my stroke for just about anything.

  • “Sorry, doctor said I can’t do the laundry. I had a stroke.”
  • “How could I possibly miss going to see my Yankees in the Bronx with my friends?  I had a stroke!”     
  • “Is it really our anniversary?  The stroke must have made me forget.”

(Kidding)

What is ahead? 

First and foremost, save the date October 29, 2022 is National Stroke Awareness Day.  I’ll be running a fundraiser on that day to benefit other stroke victims and remind folks strokes are real and every second counts.

Everything else —  I’m not sure yet.  I’m still digesting it all.  Stay tuned.

As always, thank you for reading and please let me know what you think.  And don’t forget to find your joy. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Cast as Utensils

Hello Friends & Family,

The things we do as parents.

Brooklyn had a project where she had to video record a passage from William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“. I have a hard time reading English, let alone Old English. And by Old English, I mostly think it’s an under appreciated, budget drink.

Brooklyn was director, producer, creative director, props and played the role of Hermia. I was camera man and played the role of Lysander. Sarah was Helena. It was cute. The outtakes are hilarious. That will make it into the bonus material when we get financing to do the entire play.

Life is about the little things. Enjoy them.

Five Bullet Review: Dune by Frank Herbert (book)

Hello Friends & Family,

I’m generally a heavy research guy when I buy things.  I get excited digging in deep about a new area, topic or product.  It annoys the heck out of Sarah because she would prefer I “just pick something” rather than spend weeks and months learning about every corner case or limitation. However, I  can get annoyed by the overly exhaustive reviews or long videos about things.  Sometimes I just need the TL;DR .   So, I’m inventing the wildly innovative “Five Bullet Review” (sarcasm) — a short form review of well, anything.

  • Bullet #1 — The good
  • Bullet #2 — The bad 
  • Bullet #3 — The ugly 
  • Bullet #4 — The surprising
  • Bullet #5 — Recommendation

Feels straight forward, right?  And it’s ode to a classic Clint Eastwood film.

So, what should I review?  I have no idea but I thought I would start simple and review Dune by Frank Herbert which I recently read and listened to the Audible audio book during my time off.  Widely considered one of the top ten science fiction books of all time. 

Dune is set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs. It tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or “spice”, a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. Melange is also necessary for space navigation, which requires a kind of multidimensional awareness and foresight that only the drug provides. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multilayered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(novel)

So, what did I think?

  • The good — Lived up to the hype.  Well written.  Fantastic character development.  Deep world building. 
  • The bad — Don’t listen to the Audible audio book.  “A” for effort but it got confusing as hell.  They had multiple readers reading different characters in different voices with different special effects.  The voices would change and you ask yourself, who the heck is that?  And why does that guy sound like Darth Vader? 
  • The ugly — Wow, the 1984 movie adaptation of Dune was a mess.  It was such a terrible movie that it turned me off to reading the book. Thank goodness the most recent adaptation by Denis Villeneuve is spectacular.  
  • The surprising — surprisingly fast read because there is plenty of action.  Some science fiction can get into annoyingly deep detail on things but in this case, Herbert did a good job keeping the story moving. 
  • Recommendation — if you like science fiction, you need to read Dune.  If you don’t, some of the world building might bore you but I still think it’s worth the read. 

Well, here’s to some more interesting reviews in the future.  

Let me know what you think.  Thank you for reading! 

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

Hello Friends and Family,

Alas, 2021 is coming to an end and a new year is upon us.  What is the best way for me to summarize 2021?   It sort of reminded me a baby having a surprise blowout on the changing room table and leaving a “fecal Jackson Pollock” on the wall.  You look at it and can’t help but share a smile because well, there is shit all over the wall.  Will the wall be the same again?  Do I need to paint over it?  2021 was full of surprises.  Ridiculous moments.  WTF moments.  All you could say is “wow, that is a lot of shit on the wall.” 

Let’s take a moment to reflect back on some of these ridiculous events from from 2021 —

  • Global Pandemic Year #2 [Timeline] — at least we stopped washing our Wheat Thin boxes
  • Capitol Riots — sure, let’s throw a party at Capitol and everyone is invited!  Except the people working there.  
  • Withdrawal from Afghanistan — my assumption is that they grabbed the wrong plan on the way out the door, the plan marked “Don’t do this plan”.   
  • Betty White’s passing — A true comedic gem.  My favorite Dusty Muffin. 

Wow.  Pass the toilet paper. 

Well, there were other things as well.  The technology behind the mRNA vaccines is absolutely amazing.  Our advancement in space travel and space exploration is pressing in high gear. Despite the pandemic, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo carried on even though I can honestly say I can’t remember many moments from the games.  Facebook changed their name to distract us from their own blowout moment.  Tesla sold 936,172 cars last year which feels like a lot of electric cars.  More 5G rolled out and it felt exactly like what we had before.  Unless you were in finance, you got more acquainted with the spot in your home where you work.  You likely bought a plant for your desk. 

Whew. 

For the Mascardo family, we had a really good year all things considered.  It wasn’t without its up and downs but I tend to look at things as a glass is half full.  You have to these days.  We got to experience our first complete year in Park City, Utah and it was amazing. Our new friends are amazing and I would say we have strengthened our friendships with the folks we cared the most about everywhere else.  The outdoors and the seasons are just amazing.  I’ve developed a new found appreciation for the serenity of the outdoors.  Here are some of my blog posts on this topic —

The girls had spectacular school and sports years.  Sarah and I had great experiences with our jobs. And, we’ve been pecking away at our home renovation projects all year long. 

Oh yeah, I had a stroke.

So, what do I think 2022 will bring us?

  • COVID mutation rinse and repeat
  • Inflation is here to stay for goods and labor. 
  • Working remote is here to stay for at least another year. Time to buy another plant. 
  • Electric Vehicles continue to take hold with companies not Tesla gaining adoption
  • Further early adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality products with Apple releasing their offering in the space.
  • Further early adoption/disruption with DeFi / DAO / crypto / NFT
  • More cyber security shenanigans 
  • Unfortunately, the Yankees won’t win the World Series (again)

All things considered, nothing to complain about and many more things to be grateful for.  So many things. I’m hopeful for a very positive 2022.  But, if its another “blowout” year like 2021, I’ll still find the things to be grateful for.  

Enjoy some photos below from the past year.

Happy New Year to you and your family! Thank you for reading!  Like or comment below!