Pondering Mortality

I celebrated my 43rd birthday this week, but this one was distinctly different – it was my first birthday as a Dad, and it really had me reflecting on the past year and particularly on the future in a very different way than past years.  My typical birthday routine is to enjoy a phenomenal cigar and an even more phenomenal glass of scotch while thinking about the past year and what I hope to achieve in the next year.  While the cigar, scotch and prior year reflections followed a similar routine, my thoughts, objectives and priorities for the future could not be more changed.  There were two key differences this year:

First, its not just about me and what I want to accomplish or what I want to do.  This is probably obvious to you who are parents, the birth of your child and the immediate and complete priority shift and sense of responsibility for their happiness and well-being become the leading priority in life.  But what really struck me and had me reeling (read: panic) a bit was the second stream of contemplation – the realization of my own age and it’s conflict with the longing I have to know my child into his old age.  To experience his adolescence, help him through heartbreak, watch him become the man he chooses to become, rejoice in his marriage and see his world change, just as mine did, when his first child is born and I become a Grandpa.  But wait!  I’m 43.  That means 60 at high school graduation.  What if he marries or decides to have children “late” in life like me.  That’s 86 at first child.  Ugh, you can see how this began to quickly spiral out of control as I began to hyperventilate with the cigar and gulp 19 year old scotch.

Then it hit me.  Quit being an engineer, trying to plan and predict your life and every outcome for those around you.  While we like to avoid thinking about it, let’s face it, there are dozens of causes, accidental or otherwise, for us to “go” at any moment.  Accidental death took my own father when he was just 36 years old (I was 9).  There is no better defense of “live in the moment” than when talking about loving and nurturing your children and breathing in all of the experiences, every day, that they bless us with.  The energy it takes us to worry, plan and predict is energy that can be channeled into our spouses, children, parents, friends and most important, our own happiness.  This is definitely a work in process for me, I’m not so good at it personally or professionally.

So my personal objective for this coming year is to be present for Jack, Renee and the rest of my family while also satisfying my own professional and personal needs.  And when I start stressing about my own mortality, I’ll just hammer out some miles on my bike, which I love, and visualize (but not stress!) being the healthiest Dad at high school graduation, even if 60 years old.

So Much to be Thankful For

2011 has been an amazing year for me, personally and professionally, at least that’s the way I choose to see it.  As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve been through the gamut of life events this year.  Marriage, baby, new job, cross-country relocation.  But as I reflect it all boils down to this – I’m happy.  I have an amazing wife, a healthy new child that is making me a better person, and a new stimulating role at BlackLocus in a city that I love – Austin.  I also have all of the things I had before!  A wonderful and loving extended family that has always given me unwavering support through the good and bad.  Finally, for the first time since childhood, I live near my brother who has two young children.  I feel truly blessed that we can be close and I can build a relationship with my nieces.

So today, like every other day, I’m thankful.  Happy Thanksgiving!

The Love For My Son

I’ve always heard the comment “you’ll never understand the love you can have for someone else until you have a child” and while I appreciated the point of view, I never really understood.  Now I do.

During Renee’s pregnancy, I never really had a deep bonding with this baby that I’d never seen and only periodically thought about throughout the day.  For Renee it was entirely different since she had this being growing inside her.  He was always present for her and there was a special bond developing and growing over those nine months.

It began for me in one precise moment, a moment I will never forget.  When his head first appeared in our world, that 1 second moment, I knew he was mine and that I already loved him in a protective and sacrificing way more than anything else in the world.  It really is hard to explain – unless you’ve experienced it then you know what I mean.

What’s so strange about this for me?  I don’t even know him.  I mean, even now after three weeks, he can’t talk to me, engage me or reciprocate my love in any way.  He can’t yet even look me in the eye.  All he does is sleep, eat and poop and while he is the master of all three, it’s all he can do and my interactions with him are exclusively caring for those three needs.  So why this deep, overwhelming emotional connection?  There is one attribute of a child that is unique about any other relationship or connection we can have – with pets, friends, partners, parents – that our children came from us, we made them, they are uniquely part of us and for me there seems to be an innate “protective and sacrificing” love that does not and cannot apply to anyone or anything else in exactly the same way.

There’s another new and exciting realization from this experience – a deeper appreciation, understanding and bond with my own parents, particularly my mother, for the sacrifice, commitment, guidance and love that she had and continues to have for me.  I never really even thought about what it meant to be a parent, much less having an appreciation for the 42-year sacrifice, protection and guidance that has dominated my mother’s life.

My favorite time with Jack now is when he is awake and alert while I’m holding him, usually after feeding.  In the span of one minute, his facial expressions gyrate across an entire spectrum that seems to communicate happiness, sadness, laughter, fear, constipation, joy, anger, wonderment, confusion, rage, contentment, exhaustion and anticipation.  I watch him intently seeing not only the physical features that are uniquely Renee or uniquely me, but also the emotional expressions that resemble us as well.  I think about him growing up and visualize various stages of his life when we can play together, when I embarrass him in front of his girlfriend, seeing him graduate, imagining what his personal and professional passions will be and worrying about whether he will be happy in life.

But for now I’m content to cherish each day, as every day that passes is one that he is growing up and that is forever in the past.

One thing is for sure, I love my son.

A Week of Firsts

At 42 years old, I didn’t think so many “first” new experiences could possibly be packed into a single week.  That was before the remarkable experience of childbirth.  Renee and I welcomed our son Jack Robert Taylor into the world last Saturday, July 16.

Look at that hair!

Now that we are a week post-delivery, I thought I would share a few firsts in my life as experienced during the week.  I’m sure there are many more to come!

  • First time experiencing the miracle of childbirth.  And it is a miracle.  I was doing great helping Renee through the birthing process, really holding it together until I saw Jack’s head, then the rest of his body enter our world.  Then I lost it.  Remarkably emotional and never to be forgotten experience.  And made even more special by having my Mom and Aunt join us for the birth.
  • First time driving 20mph in a 30mph zone.  Seriously, I’ve got a bit of a lead foot and can’t remember the last time I drove the speed limit.  The drive from the hospital to our house was terrifying.  It was old lady driving at its best.
  • First time experiencing true sleep deprivation.  Now I’m a guy that needs his beauty sleep and while I’m losing some sleep, I’m actually sleeping like a King compared to Renee who is up constantly feeding.  We’ve worked out a system that in short has made our days highly efficient.  The next step?  Finding some time for each other.
  • First time there’s someone utterly dependent on me for survival.  I’ve become instantly unselfish.  There is no other way now.  It’s cool.
  • First time I felt relieved to the point of giddy by someone else taking a poop.  To be clear, the first few days are tense when the baby is losing weight and is not pooping and so when it finally came it was the best laugh Renee and I had since the birth.  Now we just laugh every time he poops because it sounds like a volcanic eruption and it scares him.  I’m laughing right now thinking about it.
  • First time I put my wife’s appointments on MY calendar.  Everything must be planned and synched between us.  If she can’t take our ESP machine (Eating, Sleeping, Pooping), then I need to care for him.
And finally,
  • First time I realized my life is really different now.  Friday night our neighbors were having a huge, blowout bash and there was a moment when Renee and I were on the couch, she was holding Jack and I was trying to figure out if the explosion I heard was Jack soiling his diaper.  Sticking my nose in his leg opening didn’t do it, so I stuck my finger in his diaper and got a creamy chocolate surprise.  So there I am, baby poo on my finger, looking at Renee and listening to the trance music and revelling next door.  I said, “Well, our lives sure changed overnight, heh?”.  It was good for another gut-busting laugh.
All you parents, what other “firsts” did I miss?

Renee on the Eve of Baby G

Renee on the Eve of Baby G. Inducing at 6am tomorrow. http://ow.ly/i/elOY

Life is Good

There are a lot of “life events” about to occur in my life.  Specifically,

  • A new baby to arrive any day now.
  • A professional transition, to where has yet to be determined.
  • A probable relocation to a new city.

Many would say “Wow, you must be stressed, that’s too many “life events” happening at the same time”.  In fact a quick Google search of “life events” yields pages of articles, advice and tests associated with the stress of certain life events.  According to one test, I have had 9 life events in the past 12 months and registered an off the charts score of 302, which gives me an “80% susceptibility of stress-related illness”.  Phooey, I’ve never been healthier.

The reality is I’m filled with excitement about the various adventures and changes that are taking place.  Life is good.  Baby G is about to enter this world and join our family, it’s an exciting new chapter beginning in my life.  And while I will deeply miss TrueCar, a company I helped create from the ground floor, and the incredible team of people I’ve partnered with for the last 4 years, I’m excited about getting engaged in a new opportunity and new challenges.  Finally, while we’ve enjoyed a great quality of life in Los Angeles and may stay awhile longer, we are considering a handful of other markets where we would love to live and be closer to family.  Priorities after all.

Sure, there’s plenty of uncertainty in our future, but as an entrepreneur I’m used to uncertainty, ambiguity and chaos – the only thing certain about a startup is that it’s wrought with uncertainty!  For me, its all about perspective.  A narrow view of all these events could yield thoughts of concern and unending questions of “what if”.  What if I can’t find a fulfilling job?  What if I can’t provide for my new family?  What if we move to a new city and hate it?

A healthier, broader perspective would lead to appreciation of my current situation and a focus on creating the outcomes I want in each of these life events.  The reality is this – My family is not going to be homeless or live in a shelter as nearly 1.6M did in 2009 in the U.S. alone.  My family will not go hungry or live in extreme poverty.  We will not face genocide or live in fear of our lives as so many do in this world.  Our child will have healthcare and an education.  And Renee and I will have each other if everything else fails.  I’ll repeat, its all about perspective.

I’m happy and probably more relaxed and excited about my future than I have been in some time, certainly over the past year.  And right now I’m focused solely on welcoming Baby G into our family and spending a few months being a new father.  Everything else can wait.

I Fought Mt. Baldy, and Baldy Won

What an epic day yesterday!  As I wrote in a previous post several months ago, the Amgen Tour of California, the most important pro cycling race in the U.S. that spans 8 single-day stage races throughout California, rolled through Los Angeles yesterday.  Everyone knew Stage 7, up Mt. Baldy twice and covering 76 miles and 10,000 feet of vertical climbing, would be the deciding stage of the race.  And it was!  Team RadioShack ruled the day, with Levi Leipheimer winning the stage just ahead of the overall race leader and ultimate winner Chris Horner.

Since the pros didn’t start the stage until 11:45am, it gave us amateurs a chance to test our mettle by getting up early and riding the course.  With Renee in the support truck, I headed out at 7:30am intent on riding the entire stage route before they shut down the roads for the pros.  Here’s the play by play:

As soon as I mounted my bike in Claremont at the base of the mountains, it’s a 20-mile climb to the top of Mt. Baldy.  This first climb of the day ascends 5400 ft. to an elevation of 6500 ft. at the summit of Mt. Baldy.  I was grinding it out for nearly 2 straight hours, most of it was manageable at 5-8% grades… until the last 3 miles from Baldy Village to the summit of the ski area, which involved 15 switchbacks and 2000 ft. of elevation gain!  The last quarter mile was a 22% grade gut-buster to the summit.  I actually felt pretty energized once I reached the top, which is good since I still had nearly 60 miles to ride, including another 10-mile climb at the very end.  The next 40 miles were a series of rolling hills and a fast descent through Glendora Ridge Road, San Gabriel Canyon and ultimately all the way down to the base of the mountain to the town of Glendora.  After a pit stop and some fuel in Glendora, it was back to climbing, up Glendora Mountain road and to the final King of the Mountain (KOM) marker at the summit – a 10-mile climb covering 4000 ft. of ascent.

At 3 miles into the climb, I was pretty wiped.  I had been on my bike for nearly 5 hours, was out of food and had about half bottle of water, and I still had 7 miles to the summit of the climb, THEN final 15 miles of rolling hills to the finish in Baldy Village.  And the sun was beating down strong at this point.  I knew I would have to bum some food off some spectators once I reached the summit of the Glendora Mountain climb.

About 1 mile from the summit, I looked down and realized I had a slow leak in my back tire.  No wonder I was dragging!  I needed to make it to the top where the KOM marker and all the crowds were gathered so I could change my tire and get supplies if necessary.  At this point, with no cell coverage and the roads closed, Renee could not get to me.

So I pulled into the summit parched and with a flat, changed my tube, pumped it up and BOOM! my tube was pinched and exploded.  At this point, tired, hungry, out of water, out of tubes, 67 miles and 9200 ft of climbing behind me – I was toast.  I only had about 15 miles to finish and reach Renee, but they were about to close the roads for the pros to come through and even with a good tire it would have taken another hour.  So I took off my shoes and helmet, took a seat, and waited 30 minutes to watch the pros come through.  By the way, what took me nearly 6 hours to complete, the pros rolled through in under 4.  Incredible.

Luckily, about 30 minutes after the pros came through, Renee had received my message and showed up with Gatorade and snacks in hand!  It was an epic day of cycling and gorgeous views that rivaled some of our views in France (just with more smog and no random cows in the road).  We finished off the day with burgers, fries and beer.  A perfect end to a (near) perfect day!   Here are a few pictures from the day.

Just getting started. Looking fresh and nervous!

Summit of Glendora Mountain, KOM and where I was stuck

Summit of Glendora looking back from top of last climb.

Constructing finishing chute on Mt. Baldy summit.

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