Entries in family (69)
The influences of a child are maddening in our society…in this era…and in this country. And it (mostly) saddens me. My influences as a kid in the 70's were people…not things. Ron Guidry, Audie Murphy and St. Anthony were pretty much all I knew. Ron Guidry because the guy was a stud and I wished I could grow a mustache at age 7 like he had . Audie Murphy because I just wanted to be like my brother, a real-life army man, and would fantasize in black and white, just like the images I saw Audie blowing up German tanks like this guy did in WWII. St Anthony because if I lost anything I’d pray to that guy and the shit would just show up.
Now…it’s different. Media, sound, imagery, written word…it all gets bombarded into our children’s brains at such a furious pace, it’s almost uncontrollable. And it comes in from everywhere. I’m lucky to be able to drop off and pick up my boys from school…and when I scan the playground it’s like a sea of hunched-over children. Hunched over and consumed by devices. Consumed by the imagery, sounds and eye candy they produce. It’s a connection to the world we never had. And one we didn’t need. These 'things' have become the modern day pacifier for the 4-14 year old set. Given to them by their parents to essentially keep them out of their hair in my completely opinionated opinion.
So how to deal with this? How to combat some of these forces but do it meaningfully...and in a way that applies the focus on REAL things.
Here's that experience of mine...
To the 9 year old, the iPod or iPhone is a toy. A magical, shiny, inexplicably cool toy. But, a $400 toy nonetheless. And their draw to it is unstoppable. Crowds of kids gather around the lucky one who’s got the magical device…watching in silence as the kid hucks birds or other monumentally “important” activities on its HD screen...which is about all they can do at this age as they're too young to open up a social network or email account.
The begging began in my house a year or so ago for one. Intolerable. “PLEASE mom and dad! PLEASE can I have an iPhone??? I’m the only one without one and I can’t play with my friends anymore!”
Play, son? Play how with your friends with an iPhone?
Trust me I’m not a crust or an old curmudgeon. I know how they can play together with iPhones (e.g. pier to pier web-gaming). Maybe I do not want to see my children’s innocence sullied yet, which I’ve seen happen thus far in lots of instances of this dilemma from getting obsessed with 1st Person Shooter games through to accessing smut. Or maybe ‘it’s just me’ in all of this…but imaginative, hard, sweaty, in-the-dirt, on-their-bikes-and-scooters, with Legos, hair-raisingly spectacular PLAY is what they need. With other real kids. In the flesh. Not hunched over. In silence. Staring at screens. Laughter, arguments, dialog, creating real things…all in the analog world..is what they need.
On the countless rides I do with Pete, he has been the brunt of my rants on this subject of how to handle this iPhone thing. Pete's generally acted as a great sounding board as another dad. My plan was to make my son realize that there is more to life right now than being heads-down in a device playing games. There's (limited) time for that but being outside, playing and school are it for their little lives at the moment. But while this seems logical, it still is hard for a child to understand ‘why’ they are being denied this eye candy. Saying, “Because I said so” or “You’ll understand when you’re older” just doesn’t cut it. And frankly he deserves better than that.
So I needed a deflection…and a teaching lesson. And that’s where Pete truly comes in. I decided that Aiden needs something to work for. We’re not just going to drop a $400 phone on him…one that will be destroyed and lost (the kid can not stop losing Legos every day for chrissakes). His greatest joy is riding. Yes, I love that as a nerd-biker and dad, but now is the time for him to go down the rabbit hole we all go into as cyclists. Learning about your equipment (bike and body) and having fun when all that equipment is dialed and you flow.
A bike! A bike is what will be the deflection and he will work to earn this. It will have to become the 'bright and shiny object' and demonstrate what is real for his mind, body and soul.
Back to the Champ. Pete is surgical. I mean medicinally surgical in his approach to bikes and racing. Everything is thought through and meticulously taken care of. How else can you repeat winning national championships and take a Worlds? He offered as part of this ‘earn-in’ into the bike a "Daddy, Pete and Aiden bike building lesson." Amazing. (I hope Pete will be ready in a year to work with Seamus!) It’s this level of ‘community’ and friendship that we cherish here and in every way, this felt like a baptism of sorts for Aiden…really showing him the details of ‘the bike’. The quiet moments of cutting cables and the Zen of getting everything to work perfectly.
Pete is the type of influence I want my children surrounded by. A Champ to look up to. One in our back yard and one who shows the type of quiet work that’s needed to succeed.
I’ll start by saying this: Clearly no child who is growing should have a bike of this caliber. It’s all a bit strange to me as well. But with the support of Boulder Cycle Sport and Ridley, this particular frame became available and ready for a young (small) pilot. That frame and essentially all my old parts made this an extremely cost effective endeavor. And thankfully yielded a bike that a 10 year old can actually lift over barriers (all the parents how have gone to great lengths like me to lighten Redline Conquest 24’s know EXACTLY what I am talking about).
Aiden and I worked on assembling the parts, getting to know each kind and how they worked. From my old SRAM group to how bigger wheels could get him up to speed quickly…it was an entirely new biking experience for him. We scheduled with Pete some working lessons over a few days, taking the bike from its skeleton until its completed state. Here's a pictorial of that build out...
Aiden getting greasy with Pete and Dad.
Pete demonstrating the surgical details...like eliminating that annoying space between the hoods and the bars. It's all about focus on the race.
The fully built whip. 14lbs. 41cm Ridley X-Fire. Grommet-sized.
One of Turbo Pete's 'super mods' A bottle cap chain watcher.
C'mon. Did you think the kid would ride anything else? #oldschool
Yup. He'll be outgrowing this bike (but little brother already licked it for 2nds.)
In all of this, what am I saying here? What is to be concluded? Well,
a) That I think kids with all of this digital media influence are missing some spectacular shit in life.
b) It takes a village to raise your kids. A village you create with friends built on trust and the same core values.
c) If it takes some money and some effort to positively distract your kids and enable more time with you, do it for your kids.
That's it Amy and I are learning to be better parents every day, thankfully having learned lessons from our own parents. Am I trying to turn back the hands of time to force my kids to be a child like I was in the 70's? Hell no. Am I trying to buy time and preserve some innocence where I can. Yes. Unabashedly yes. They can not be 'protected' forever...and I don't want that. I just want more time with them. As innocent young boys.
And yes, little brother is waiting to slay...
I’m noticing I can inhale deeply lately. Always a sign to me that I am at peace. When the teeter totter is listing to any given side, I can never get that deep belly-breath. The kind that you can feel literally cool the very bottoms of your lungs. The kind that you can feel in your toes. The kind I can take in now.
Life is irony personified. At least that is how it feels to me as I am getting older, watching my hands turn into my fathers and finally seeing the forest for its trees. Building an image of a future that was predicated on historical lessons my father taught me on how to build a life, while valuable, needed to be changed in order for my family and I to find happiness. And the greatest of these ironies is that it ain’t about pursuing the nut. It is most certifiably about pursing what provides you the greatest joy and living very much in the moment.
Making the switch from ‘salaried guy’ to start-up guy and essentially attaching the siphoning hose to the bank account to start a business has been…enlightening. And yet while the struggles are present to do the best we can, the moment I am living in, within this period of my life and that of my family’s, is priceless. In my former life, I would not be able to make breakfast and see my children off to school. I would not be able to create my own schedule to coach my boys in this fall’s cycling team. Help my wife with the things she’d normally bear the brunt for our family while she is in school. Simply put, it’s the antitheses of what lessons my father taught me…working for the same company for 40 years as an example…but the mission he laid out is unaffected: being there for your family.
I am attempting to learn the basics again a year and a half into building my first business. What is real and meaningful. What drives happiness. How it can be repeated and keep us safe, happy and healthy. Just like what we all do when we bring out the barriers and practice. We do this for perfection. And so I am doing this as an analog for my life’s needs. Practicing patience, trust and repeatability. This is not our father’s era. Yet it can be rooted in the same principals. Just achieved orthogonally to the path he chose.
It is time.
Since their birth, literally as newborns being held by their mom standing by the tape at races in Podunk CA to Nowhere CO, these kids have been raised with the sound of cowbells, freewheels and power-washers as the audible back drop to their weekends.
By intent, I’ve never pushed these little guys into biking. In fact, quite the opposite. I wanted them (still want them!) to continue tying everything: soccer, rock climbing, swimming, hockey. You name it.
But ever so subtly over the last year, my oldest started the inquisition: “Daddy, how old do you have to be to race?”. “Daddy, is there a Ridley I can fit on?” “Daddy, am I going to break my collar bone?” (I swear this was said…d’oh!”). He is 8 and he says he’s ready.
And so methodically mom and I started to get him prepared over the last few weeks. Racing license, bike, Boulder Cycle Sport jersey…and now most importantly how to go fast and have fun while staying safe. I want him, and his little brother when ready, to feel the joy I feel when I pin a number on. I’m not suggesting that I can ‘make him’ feel the same emotions fire in his brain as I do. Everyone is unique in that way, but I want him to feel that community spirit and maybe, just maybe, have him feel what his daddy feels and has devoted a major part of his life to.
Hup, hup. little buttercup. I’m proud of you and the little man you've become.
We all work so hard and manage our own versions of the three part teeter totter. It’s who we are and what we do. Week in and week out. Round and round…or up and down as the teeter totters. We…eat, work, contrive a smile, work, eat, am i getting a cold?, try to stay sane, be present with our kids and loved ones, work, stress, don't eat that cookie…OK just one, work, sleep, wake, eat…and so it goes all week thinking of the weekend ahead, the weather in the forecast and the venue that will allow us to release ourselves and purge the demons over barriers, up hills, on sweet trails and on great rubber.
But there has to be more. There is life beyond our self-centered universes. Right?
For each day you spend in this vicious cycle, a bit of distance grows between you and what is important. For me that is obviously my family and friends. How many times are you driving or on the bus and you have your cell phone in hand, see a name of your friend in your contacts list and don't hit ‘call’ to say hello. “Ahh, I’ll give him a buzz tomorrow.” And tomorrow turns to weeks. How often are you avoiding obligations that could ‘interfere with your legs-up time’ and before you know it, opportunities to connect with neighbors is wasted. It’s a tough balance.
This Thanksgiving week brought a lot of that to the surface for me personally. Our dearest family friends, the Balls, came into town to celebrate what is becoming our collective ‘tradition’. We all looked forward to this for weeks if not months. Joe is the one responsible for my ‘cross fixation having effectively taught me everything I know back when we lived in SF, pre-kids, careers just starting. So lots of talk of ‘cross would happen this Thanksgiving. Lots of beers downed. Lots of laughs had all the while our children getting to play together like cousins. But alas, we virtually ALL got sick with a vicious flu. Down like dominoes we went one by one. You could imagine how the moods would spiral into the darkness. I found myself going there fast. Bitter. Snapping at my boys. Patience completely lost. Bummed that I am going to finally go down the sickness path I’d been avoiding like a hypochondriac all season so I dare not miss a single one of my races. Digressing into a vinegar-filled little boy.
And then it hit me: Stu Thorne is not waiting with baited anticipation for the ‘right moment’ to call me and beg me to come race with TJ and JPows on his team with a large six figure contract and free Dugasts for life.
Life happens people (and yes, I’m telling myself this too). My friends being in my house this Thanksgiving, spending priceless time together even while we’re all sick, was such a great reminder of ‘life’. Real honest to goodness life. Laughs still happening even while vomiting in syncopation because you’re in such proximity of your close ‘family' having such needed time together.
Relax. Try your best in everything you care about and do what you can to maintain happiness. Holding on too tight merely strangles the life out of anything good. I generally do this….but I have to remind myself (or get reminded) of my idiocy from time to time. It’s hard though, because I love it all so much.
So with that diatribe known above, the weekend had some great racing action and I needed to let things roll off my back. I was simply out of commission and I relaxed and simply…forgot about racing! While Friday was spent in bed almost the whole day, Saturday was spent resting and re-entering civilization. If I felt semi-alive Sunday, I’d go and race in Golden at the RVV race.
Sunday came and when my eyes cracked open while still in bed, I did one of those full ‘body scans’: Do I have that fever? Is my stomach still in knots? Do I have to rush to the toilet? Luckily, I felt fairly alive.
I made the drive down to Golden and figured I’d do a hot lap and then make a decision. The gut still sort of ached but the legs felt decent yet the course Clay Harris and the RVV crew created was too irresistible to pass up. Honestly, it was too fun to say no to. Thus the decision was made to stay and go and race in the blissful sun.
I won’t bore you with the blow by blow of my 35 A’s race. It was another top 10 (10th), fought hard for, with not enough power to stay with the chase group trying to nab Jon and Timmy, but enough power and flow to keep the wolves at bay trying to take me back. No complaints.
What I will spend time on though was the course:
Grass, sand, perfect grade climbs and fun rolling and flowy paths to put the hammer down on. They also injected a set of steep man made stairs to get your Belgie on which was super fun.
So, the ‘official’ season is almost done. CO States is this coming weekend. I’m feeling better and still excited to race…albeit with a reminder of what I am doing and why I do it. I pan across my group of racing compatriots…virtually every one of us…with more-than-full-time gigs, a gaggle of kids, tons of obligations…all of us balancing. And I smile. I can’t be the only knob stressing about these things, can I?
Nah. I’m not the only one who overlooks the obvious on occasion.
OK, maybe I do a little more…
Oh, and if you made it this far, here's a vide encapsulation of EXACTLY what I am talking about above.
40. It’s just around the bend. That’s a lot of years. And yet I still have no idea what I will become. I think I am supposed to feel something different, but I am still wired to push. Am I alone?
The intensity that rages through my mind is unbearable…even to myself…on most days. But it is all I know. I want precision and order and serialized goals to be realized in the way that I envision they can.
Am I alone?
But alas, the smarter ones that I know exist out there have their secrets. Their secrets on how to cope or manage or maybe just completely blow things off just to stay sane. I’m not that person. Everything needs its due attention. Everything must be addressed. Or maybe I am just dumb and should follow their lead of apathy.
So I go often into Annette Bening mode: “I will sell this house today!”. I allow myself to head down that cheesy pop-psychological path and coax my ethos that I can do it all. That I can stay young and mentally razor sharp. That I can learn massive amounts of new material. That I can look at my children when I walk in the door mentally wasted from the day and not be a complete dick and be present for them. That I can look at my Amy with my same tired eyes and try to shoot laser beams of confidence out of them to her to convey that I will do us right and not fail. That I can continue to surface laughter out of her from me as we are co-dependant laughers when we get rolling together. That I can compartmentalize all of that and be able to focus on the weekends to do my best on my bike.
I will sell this house today. Am I alone?
Rush. That's right. Canada's finest export. And whenever you envision me riding my little commuter to work, coffee in hand, you just put this little ditty in your head. Working man. That's what they call me. OK, 'they' is me. And maybe my kids. But I digress...
So on that subject I've had a zillion emails saying 'Keller! Whatup!? How's the new gig? What are you doing? What is Lijit? First, MAD props and thanks for all the well wishes and questions. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks, but I am finally starting to get those feelings back again...feelings that I had AGES ago when I controlled the destiny of software and turned nothing...or at a minimum, opaque ideas...into real tangible stuff that made real people happy and productive. All with kick ass engineers and coffee.
It's happening again. I can feels it!
We do search. But search with people and their trusted relationships at the core of the technology. So, taking a step back, and super generally speaking, the interwebs are are basically a 'web' of pipes (TCP/IP) with 'walls' at the end of each pipe (web pages/html/data, etc). Large search engines essentially crawl the web, day and night, cataloguing all those pages...all that content...all the finite changes...and lastly the frequency that those pages are 'hit'. So, when you search for a term, the results you see first are basically there because lots of people (you do not know) may have looked at the page or site for various reasons.
But, are the results contextually relevant to you? Possibly, yes....but very often no. Think about it: so often you need to dig 3, 4, 5 or more pages in of results until 'voila', a relevant answer/result. An example is something like searching for 'Grocery Stores + Boulder'. We're a bunch of hippies here in the Bubble so keep that 'in context' for the moment. The first thing that comes back is some giant food store chain. Not relevant to me. Would never go there. Why? They're not green enough, not organic enough, not....hippy...enough (remember?). But, if I search my graph of friends for the same data, suddenly I can see a trusted array of answers leading me to places relevant to me...like Sunflower Market or Whole Foods, etc. Twitter streams, Flickr photos, FaceBook posts etc...all from my 'trusted graph' of contacts led me to the answer. Not a machine's 'caching' of the page ranks so to speak.
Now, take a look to the right of my blog. That's it...right, THERE! Upper right corner in the sidebar. That is essentially the 'portal' you as my reader need in order to tap into me and my 'trusted network'. That is the most well known 'face' of Lijit at the moment. Likely, if you're reading this here blog, we've got stuff in common and you can trust me (hopefully). You can search anonymously, see what my network and I say about your desired topic, etc etc. Sort of like this:
That's you in the suit. Ha! That's me (I'm Elvis...and I'm back in the building) and one of my network connections Micah (among many many others). You've input a search term and poof, you get results back in various forms...all to give you a contextually relevant 'edge' on what my network has to say (or visualize in pictures, etc) about your query. You may search me for bikes and get the typical data back you'd expect from me, but say you searched me for 'pets' or 'dogs'. Then you'd see data from me and Micah and others in my graph on the furry four legged friends. Anything we'd written, taken photos of, tweeted about, etc etc. Again, trusted network and hopefully relevant to you as well. Maybe you'd then be inspired to 'connect' to us, through Lijit or maybe FaceBook or other social means. Works great when geography separates us yet we truly share so much in common.
So the technology is maddeningly interesting to work on. 10's of 1000's now use our technology and we've graphed/cached 100's of millions of page views of info. And I get to work on pushing the platform and products into new places. Exciting frontiers that can help real people relate to other real people. Real brands do a better job of finding their right audience. Always evangelizing the publisher to help readers interact with more...and with more relevance and context to them (you in this case!).
So there it is, mostly. I wake up with the (good) nervous pit in the stomach to push and create and inspire. It's early, but I feel the same way I did in the mid 90's when everything was possible. SO, rhetoric aside, I'm stoked and have LOTS of work to do...thus the blogging absence.
But I'm STILL riding! Ha!
1.5 months until the sport of the changing leaves engulfs us all. I haven't lost focus on that either...
These are interesting times for me. The normal grip I have on my life, controlling all aspects, is seemingly covered in grease. Defying my ‘order’ to remain in control and obey my command. The harder I squeeze, the less I can retain control of and slip. But I need to listen. I always need to remind my self of that. Understand how to solve the slipperiness for the solution is there.
All three sides are imbalanced as of late but I will right this ship. I have always checked bravado and ego and now it seems I need to check it even deeper. Pushing forward on career fronts is slow and even while I remain excited about things to come, the horizon seems to push itself out every day a little bit farther. Or stays positioned in the exact same place every day which makes it impossible for me to see my progress, or my regress.
What this does to the mind is troubling. Nothing tastes sweet as the stress from my core seems to strip away anything worth tasting. My parenting suffers. My being the best husband and making my wife laugh often suffers. My ability to stay focused…or just have fun…on the bike suffers.
But this will pass and I will succeed.
I am taking a breath, cycling the rich air through my lungs. Fortunately, it is this air that I can taste. It is sweet. I am alive.
What it is about brothers? I want to know. I study my boys so intensely...but they will never know why or the anguish and sadness I feel to the depth of my soul as I watch their relationship blossom. Jealousy? Nah. An anguish rages through me like some sort of chemical storm rushing through my veins as I watch the beauty of their relationship grow. But the anger and anguish I feel is obviously not for these sweet boys. The feeling is, however, culminated in an electrified stare through my eyes as I see what they have and the conditions in which they have...no...enjoy their relationship.
I methodically observe and study them as it's important...and I watch their bond grow not in the manner of a rubber-necker looking at a the way two people in love kiss when said rubber-necker has been burned burned burned. No. Not like that. I continue to watch in admiration as it's beautiful and SO important due to the natural and healthy course two brothers can take in growing mutual respect while having each other in their lives for the rest of their lives. It's so important for Amy and I to influence something healthy and beautiful between these amazing little people. We sweat those details more than you know. So the days play each other out and while Amy and I rant to each other over the nonsense on some days, but we know less than discreetly that we want time to stand still even while the fireworks are going off between two little hot heads. We want it to stay this exactly this way....forever. We want the days to be just like these as the "obvious" things are seen...
The fighting: GIVE ME BACK MY TRANSFORMER'S LEG!!!
The relating: You, know, you look like mommy and I look like daddy. Yeah, I look like daddy. But you don't look like daddy. But I do.
The playing: No way! Your rocket didn't hit me! It flew right by my jet! You did NOT blow me up!
The loving: I want you to sleep in my room with me tonight ! I am not scared or anything, but want you to be in my room tonight.
And so, I observe this. And I love it and relish hearing what I hear and what I see....
"Don't worry, it will come," she said as the days ticked away over the summer break before 5th grade would begin. Mom promised this to me with everything she had in her 'mom powers' to console a son who'd been shined. Months prior his brother of 13 years difference left for his first deployment and before he left promised me contact. That's all the little brother wanted. It was clear in his leaving that he was moving away from the family in more senses of the word that can be conveyed here.....with every step up the ladder of his military career. He promised his little brother he'd send some 'real army equipment' that his litter brother would wear and be exactly like him. It was inevitable: he would follow in the footsteps of his big brother because his brother was...everything. Every single solitary thing a child growing in the 70's could want. An extension of John Wayne from the movies little brother and dad would watch together after mowing lawns on incredibly hot and humid days in Connecticut. He was an extension of the Catholic Church and what it meant to me as a boy and how a man is supposed to live with virtue...and with a sword if required to re-enforce this virtue. A man creating a family like we had. A man defending us like I simply thought I needed to do.
The package came but it was anti-climactic. To this day I will never know if the parents berated the bigger brother into 'following through' to appease the little brother's obsessiveness with his bigger brother or if this bigger brother had a natural compulsion to send the olive green utility belt and the rubber canteen to his little 'bro'.
Ah, fuck it. It's irrelevant. I refuse to burn another brain cell on it.
Now, I watch MY two little characters grow. My beautiful young men blossom. Teaching them to appreciate the nuances of their sibling in a way that is not forceful, but in some sense not unlike trying to 'assist' someone with why a certain song is great. And while we know that is not always a fruitful endeavor, it is still a way to continue re-enforcing subtly that there's beauty in everything. EVERYTHING...
Forever side by side
For me, I will never have the opportunity I see my sons have at their life's portal. But, the magic is the way I feel about applying what I thought I could have into ensuring my sons actually have it.
I pray they haze me when we're all old and call me out on my ridculousness. And I'll laugh, as one of them has their head on my chest when I pass, at the joy we had.
I still don't understand it. Is this end-of-days? The weather is EPIC. More May than March with 65 degree temps and sun that gives off a crystalline blue sky. Priceless days, these. I suppose if I still raced hard in the spring I'd be out of my mind with this weather. Early, pre-work training is not too cold allowing the type of focus you need to really ramp up....e.g. being able to focus-in on how your body really feels when the efforts get put down versus not being able to feel your face and indescribable toe and finger pain given the cold that should be here right now. Anyways, dudes here will be fast this spring, methinks. I can not describe for you the volume of bike traffic on the roads. Nuts.
But even while rolling today on our 'cross ride in this brilliant sun.....with Dan the Man, Von and Brett....my mind is wandering. It's been wandering. It's been utterly focused on 'what now?' and 'what next'. I've spoke about flicking dominoes....and in digesting the domino-flicking concept here on the blog, It's been an amazing exercise to truly ideate on how I can ensure my hands are firmly on my life's control stick. Keeping level with the horizon. Ensuring that my family and I are avoiding obfuscated hillsides....those that could take us away from our beloved Boulder.The indescribably thick conservatism in my decision making throughout my life has in one sense kept me as a single dude....and now my family...safe and on a great trajectory. But 'what if?'. What if just a smattering of risk was employed? What if I we decided to just...
Something in this life seems to be materializing and a few exciting rivers have suddenly exposed themselves....showing their unbelievable features, their twists, turns and eddies all at once. Because of a small amount of risk taken to even flick that very first domino, breaking all my traditional risk-mitigation synapses I was born with, these deeply shaded curtains get pulled back and I get to see these rivers in all of their entirety. I am given this opportunity to evaluate their risks, their rewards...their individual rides. It's pretty unique.
I'm not sure where this is going. It's either going to be magical or Wonka.
Flick your own dominoes.