15

IMG_3886Dear Amelia,

We’ve been married for 15 years today.

I thought about finding a mariachi band to celebrate. I thought about looking at homes and having the realtor tell me I have commitment issues. I thought about going to an orchid show with you.

I even thought about arguing over which dishes to buy.

But none of that felt right. Instead, I wrote this.


15 years ago we started on a path that has led us through three cities, four homes, five cars, two children, one dog (!) and more memories than I can fit in a Facebook post.

IMG_3888


15 years ago – in front of 400 people – I shared this story:

troopers-hands-in-handsIn 1848, gold was found at Sutter’s Mill. By 1849, people were flocking to California in search of treasure. “Eureka!” they shouted when the found their treasure.

In 1996 I came to California in search of my treasure. Three years later I met you. 

Eureka!


Man, it’s a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun
Well, I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone
But you stay so cool

SmoothMy muñequita,
My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa
You’re my reason for reason
The step in my groove, yeah.

And if you said, “This life ain’t good enough.”
I would give my world to lift you up
I could change my life to better suit your mood
Because you’re so smooth

~ “Smooth“, Santana feat. Rob Thomas


IMG_388915 years, 5 months and 9 days ago we decided we wanted a future together. A future that might be filled with ups, might be filled with downs, might be more of one than the other. But we wanted to dream our dream and do it together.

And 15 years later we continue to stare up into the stars, hold hands, and dream of our future together.

Gallery

the grapefruit (pound cake ed.)

Citrus × paradisi


The Grapefruit is one of my favorite fruits, second only to The Strawberry and tied with The Gelato (which, for the sake of this argument, I’ll consider a fruit). The Grapefruit also has the distinction of holding the title of My Favorite French Word: Pampelmuse.
Le Pampelmuse
Perhaps it’s those memories of The Grapefruit for breakfast ~ a gorgeous half Pampelmuse sprinkled with sugar (and “sprinkled” is likely an under exaggeration), it’s flesh liberated with that funky, curved, doubled-edged serrated Grapefruit knife.

Or perhaps it’s the bitter, tangy, sweet taste of The Grapefruit Juice.

Or perhaps it’s my version of an Arnold Palmer with The Grapefruit instead of lemonade (which I guess is called a Leland Palmer?).

Whatever the reason, my heart fluttered and skipped a beat when I saw Deb Perelman’s Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake recipe in her book.

“Must make”, I thought to my self.

grapefruit-EVO-birdsview

grapefruit olive oil pound cake with grapefruit glaze

The recipe I used came from Deb’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (p 241) [Note:I swapped out the buttermilk for my wife’s homemade yogurt].

Recipe:

You should get the book, of course, or use this version of the recipe from her website.

grapefruit-collage

Expect the unexpected

Embrace the unexpected.  It might be the best experience ever.

Back in December I was at a leadership retreat. I had the chance to stand in front of a group of people and practice story telling. Somewhere in the middle of telling that story, the ending changed.

Expect the unexpected.
This was the story of my 2011 trip to Budapest when I lost my passport.

maxthesaxI took my first solo trip to Europe and made my way to Budapest with a friend over the weekend to see Parov Stelar at Boloton Sound. Excellent concert marred only by the fact that the night before I had lost my passport. On a Friday night and the US Embassy didn’t open until Monday morning. My flight was Sunday morning.

The story was supposed to be about how utterly horrible it is to lose your passport. About what a major inconvenience it was. About how I hated Budapest.

But the story changed.

I had all of Sunday to myself and if you’ve never been to Budapest in July I’ll tell you it’s one, if not the, hottest & most humid place on earth. I spent all day Sunday, miserable, hopping from one air conditioned coffee shop to another. Something to drink & free wifi.

As I shared my story I remembered that every coffee shop I visited played music.

Music tells a story
budapestbridgeAs I wrote back in March, at some point I learned that life without music is a waste. It often bookmarks points in time. It was the sound track to family vacations.

As I wandered around Budapest on that budapest-trainshot Sunday, I built a playlist of music – a soundtrack of my Sunday in Budapest – I heard while in random coffee shops. Some I had heard, some was new to me.

My story changed
As I tried to wrap up my story and how terrible it was to lose a passport, as I told my story of walking around picking up new music, suddenly the end of my story changed.

The play list of music I collected that Sunday is still on my phone. I listen to that playlist and it takes me back – instantly – to that Sunday.

My story telling ended with me realizing that that one day in Budapest on my own sits firmly in the list of top life events. Despite the heat. Despite the inconvenience.

Expect the unexpected.

happy birthday son

wnz-03Son,

A decade ago you entered my life. A decade ago you fundamentally changed me. I thank you for that.

A decade ago you turned one horrific date – September 11 – into a celebration. I thank you for that.

You make me realize every day that I am a father first and everything else is secondary. I thank you for that.

I try my best to be the best for you. Sometimes I’m sure I falter but you appear more forgiving than I am. I thank you for that.

You’ve allowed me to share all my passions with you – biking, computers, baseball, movies. I thank you for that.

I see the way your mind works, the way you create and invent and I stare in awe. Utter awe, even if it means I have to clean up a seemingly endless pile of Legos. And even then, I thank you.

I was so excited to see you that, on the morning you were born, I raced home from the hospital to shave! I wanted to look my very best for my boy.

In fact, I was so excited to see you that shortly after you were born at 5:11p I wrote this short story to add to your website:

wnz-06

Mommy started having contractions Wednesday night around 5pm. An hour later Daddy took us to the hospital and Mommy got comfortable for a long night ahead of her. Nurse Wendy said it was a full moon! Grandpa and Grandma Toosky stopped for a short visit.

On Thursday, after a lot of hard work (and several visits from my new family), I was born! Daddy helped cut my umbilical cord while Nurse Sue checked me over. Daddy says I was very well behaved and very alert – I didn’t cry at all until Nurse Sue gave me a quick bath. But I really liked when she washed my hair! Daddy said I had to get all fancy for Mommy.

At night, I slept, Mommy tried to sleep and Daddy kept watch over his new family.

In the last decade I’ve seen you crawl. I’ve seen you fall. I’ve seen you try. I’ve seen you cry, smile, laugh and bring joy to those around you. I’ve see you take your first steps (on the kitchen island!), your first train, your first plane, your first everything.

I’ve woken in the middle of the night to comfort you and not thought twice about it. And you’ve rewarded me by reading to me, by holding me, by telling me “Dad, you made me happy today.”

Son: You make me happy every single day. And for that I say thank you and wish you a happy 10th.

~ Dad

on starting @ lookout

Lookout

Those who don’t follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn probably don’t know this.

I have a new job.

That’s right. I’m joining the team at Lookout on Monday, September 9.

I can’t be more excited!

Getting ready

For the past two weeks I’ve been reading books and putting thought into my “First 100 Days” (and learned to blame FDR for this 100 day notion).

I’ve met with with my mentors (you all have mentors, right?), with my friends, and importantly, with my new co-workers. I’ve had breakfast with some, lunch with others and a baseball game with yet others. (My wife’s helped too!)

(I’ve also spent a little time learning chef & OpenStack.)

What I have right now is a very rough agenda. Not really a 100-day plan but an outline knowing that the first month or so will be immersed learning. Learning a new culture and a new dialect with its own set of acronyms and cadence.

But.

I. can. not. wait. to. start.

Why Lookout?

In “You’re in Charge–Now What?: The 8 Point Plan“, Neff & Citron suggest that as people begin to size me up and figure out who I am, I should find a way to share the reasons I took this job. So,

I started talking to Lookout nearly 5 weeks ago over a cup of coffee and throughout the interview process, I was struck by this common sense of passion. Struck by a sense of passion and excitement that started from that very first cup of coffee.

Struck that every interview felt like a conversation and not merely an interview.

Lookout, Fort KnoxStruck with the complexity of the technology and the essential question – how do you secure mobile devices? –  while knowing that the next billion users won’t be desktop users but mobile, knowing that users have content on mobile devices that define their life, content that would be better stored in Fort Knox than in someone else’s hands.

And somewhere in the middle I distinctly recall knowing that these are people I want to work with.

What am I going to be doing?

At my core, I’m an Operations guy. Always have been. I love building systems that scale. Systems that break but don’t wake me up because they broke.

I also love building and helping lead excellent teams. I love seeing people do amazing things.

I pour my heart and mind into figuring out how to scale infrastructure (and teams!) to help grow to hundreds of millions billions of users.

So I join Lookout as Director of Operations because these are the challenges that make me tick.

thank you marie

I never had a lot of friends in high school.

Senior year was somehow different. I don’t know why but by graduation I knew and was known by those I considered the “in” crowd.

I’m a believer in recognizing those who do good and as I read George Saunder’s convocation speech – and his realization that his life’s regrets were all failures of kindness – I was instantly brought back 22 years ago to my senior year and a very specific project I was working on with one classmate in particular.

I can’t at all remember what it was. It’s not important anymore. The thing that I still remember 22 years later, the thing that I still think about was how “Marie” treated me.

Marie and I were undoubtedly in many classes together. There just weren’t that many different AP classes to be in that didn’t overlap. But this was high school and “class distinctions” were a thing – cool kids didn’t spend time with the socially awkward nerds.

So while we knew each other we never spent any time with each other.

be-kindExcept for some class project or something senior year where she treated this shy, Myers & Briggs INTJ type as anyone else; as just a normal classmate & friend. And this was very meaningful to the person I was then.

We even kept in touch for a short time in college and reconnected through Facebook.

You showed me kindness in a way that has left an indelible mark on me. An impact that, 22 years later, I still often think about and have never forgotten.

Thank you Marie.

books & summer vacation

I set a goal for myself during the past nineteen days while we were all on vacation: Read a bunch of books.

And while I didn’t hit my goal of 9, which, let’s be honest, was pretty aggressive, I did finish four books and am half way through Hemmingway.

Here’s a rundown of what I did read:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene Brown

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

Life altering might be an over exaggeration but I was moved enough that I gifted copies of this book to several people.

I will continually ask myself, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?”

I will continually ask for the “courage to show up and let myself be seen.

Bossypants, Tina Fey

This has been on my list for some time and after my wife finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In“, we co-read Fey’s book.

Super simple read. I’ll leave with two highlights:

  1. “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
  2. When dealing with people who are critical, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable“, Patrick M. Lencioni

This was as easy a read as “The Phoenix Project” was. Told in a narrative format, reading about how teams work or don’t work.

I fundamentally believe that at the root of everything must be trust. Trust and authenticity.  I was taken by this:

“trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.”

and,

“By building trust, a team makes conflict possible because team members do not hesitate to engage in passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that they will not be punished for saying something that might otherwise be interpreted as destructive or critical.”

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character“, Paul Tough

Through Year Up the biggest skills I see as important to tomorrow are the ability to learn, the ability to be more than you are today.

Paul calls this Grit.

“The problem, as Randolph has realized, is that the best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure.”

A Farewell to Arms“, Earnest Hemmingway

I’m not actually done with this but since I read it back in high school, I’ll count it.

This was my favorite book in high school, even better than Thomas Pynchon’s “Crying of Lot 49” but I can’t remember exactly why.

Figured a second read might be a good idea.