My blog is 14 years old, today, and it’s a big day for blogging

A cake for anniversaries

Today is a Big DayTM For Blogging, but probably only for me. Today is this blog’s 14th birthday! On 6 December 2004, I wrote my first post on this WordPress blog:

Where this chapter all began …

It was originally at a different domain, and has evolved over the last 14 years. I probably have a fair share of somewhat trashy posts, especially from my blog’s earlier years, and I’ve suffered some losses along the way due to rushed or poorly managed migrations from one server to another.

Still, after 14 years, I’m still blogging, albeit it somewhat erratically. Here’s the current state of my blog:

This year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to blogging. My day job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is focused on helping our customers build, maintain, and grow their WordPress.com sites. I deal with issues ranging from domain configurations, to custom CSS to tweak theme designs, to a little HTML to help structure page content better, to more involved WooCommerce store configurations, and a lot of troubleshooting in between.

Despite spending all that time focused on our customer’s sites, I’ve only published 148 blog posts of my own in 2018 (including this one). I seem to have surges of activity when I’m not working, or when I have something short to share using the WordPress.com Android app.

Regardless of how much I’ve shared this year, I’m really glad that I have this place of my own on the Web, wherever it may be from time to time. I strongly believe in the importance of having your own space on the Web that you own, and control (as much as you can when it comes to other people’s servers).

This is my home on the Web, weird content choices and all. Thank you for being part of it.

Married For 12 Years

Today Gina and I have been married for 12 years. I’ve had the opportunity to wake up next to her almost every morning in those years (well, and a year or two before that too 😁).  I’ve loved my wife since our second date. I’ve driven her crazy in all that time. We’ve raised two amazing kids over the years, and I have her to thank for that.

I hope I have many more opportunities to pay tribute to my long-suffering, immensely patient, and beautiful partner. She and the kids are the loves of my life, and I am a better person with them in my life.

Our last two anniversaries:

14 years ago

Me and my Dad, probably circa 1977.

My father passed away 14 years ago, on 12 July 2003. After 14 years he is in my thoughts daily.

There are times when I recognise some behaviour of mine that I probably picked up from him. These are usually the moments when I feel like I understand him a little better.

Mostly, I think about him when I spend time with my family and how much he’d love our kids. I think he would have been an amazing grandfather and his biggest challenge would probably have been working out how to spend as much time as he could with his five grandkids (at present count) in three countries.

Even though he never met Gina or our kids, I’m glad his memory and example still guides me 14 years later. To the extent I’m probably a better father, husband and human being, it’s thanks to him.

Reminiscing on our 10th wedding anniversary

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, 10 years. A lot has happened in the decade since Gina and I stood under that chuppah. Here are a few things that stand out for me. I’ll probably come up with more after this is published so I don’t make any promises that this post captures all the highlights.

When it all began

I met Gina in November 2003. I think it was around the 17th but that remains a little controversial. Our first date was a blind date facilitated by our mothers who met through a widows’ group (Gina’s dad passed away in 2001, mine in 2003). I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and my father had passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. I decided to spend some time on my own for a while.

My mother called me and told me about this woman she met (Lindy, my then-future mother in law) who, as it turned out, had a single daughter who her mother was pretty keen to introduce to someone. I wasn’t really interested but told my mother than if this girl is/was a Sagittarius, Leo or Ares, I’d meet her. If not, I wasn’t interested.

This may sound very weird or hippy but I’d had a few bad experiences dating people in other signs so this seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. My mother thought I was a bit difficult (she may have said I was “full of sh*t”) but she said she’d find out.

My mother called me back soon after and told me that this girl is/was a Leo. I’d basically committed myself so I agreed and took down her phone number. I called her, introduced myself and we arranged to meet at JB’s Corner in Melrose Arch a few days later. At the time I had a beard and when I told Gina this she apparently thought her mother had set her up with some religious guy (oy!).

Haredi Parade

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I staked out the restaurant from a public square across from it until she arrived. This was more to brace myself in case she wasn’t quite what I was expecting (whatever that was).

When I saw her she didn’t disappoint at all.

We started talking and didn’t stop until after we were asked to leave the restaurant when they closed. The highlight of that evening was our discussion about how Star Trek: Nemesis really disappointed both of us. A fellow Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan? I was hooked.

We had a second date a few days later (when she opened her door she was even more beautiful than I remembered from our first date). That was our beginning.

Then she said “yes!”

We dated for about a year and a half before we finally got engaged. I think about relationships in terms of an ocean metaphor. If your relationship’s depths are calm and life affirming, you’re off to a great start. You’ll need those quiet depths when the surface becomes stormy to keep you grounded and help you through difficult times.

I wrote about how I proposed a day or two afterwards:

We’re engaged!

I really enjoyed our wedding (if you want to really dive into the day, here are the photos).

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Rabbi Rose married us at the Waverly Shul. I’m glad we did it there.

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My bride was absolutely stunning. I think she actually took my breath away when I first saw her in her wedding dress just before the marriage ceremony. I know grooms often say something like this but she really was (and still is) beautiful.

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Our wedding reception was at the HOD Hall in Orchards, Johannesburg.

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We started our new life together with our honeymoon in the Drakensberg. We stayed at the Drakensberg Sun which is one of my favourite hotels/resorts in South Africa. It was a terrific break although I took my laptop in case I had to work (not the best decision but I had started my own business about 6 months before).

Starting a business is tough and I remember when I decided to leave Werksmans and go on my own how Gina supported me. She supported me for the 9 years I had my own businesses, through all the tough times that affected our family. I didn’t always appreciate how much she supported me when the easier thing to say could have been “Stop this and go find a job”.

The early years

I remember at least one conversation with Gina, some time around our wedding, in which she informed me that she expected to be in the labour ward a year after our wedding. I was a little taken aback but my wife can be pretty convincing. As it turns out we fell pregnant (by “we” I mean I made a contribution, she did all the real work) in early 2007. It was possibly during our first wedding anniversary weekend back at the Drakensberg Sun.

Anniversary weekend away to the Drakensberg - February 2007 -  - 194

Aside from going off chicken entirely for most of her pregnancy, it all went fairly well. At least from my perspective.

Sam and Lawrence's engagement party - 29

Aaron arrived a few weeks early and, within the space of a couple days, my great love affair expanded to two people.

Our baby boy is here - 31

Our first year with Aaron was probably fairly typical for new parents: a lot of panic, having no idea what to do when he cried or had colic and also beginning to appreciate having this incredible little person in our lives.

Scenes from Kate's 1st birthday party - 30

2008 turned out to be a tough year with the Great Recession but we made it through with a few emotional bumps along the way. I think I learned a lot about how to deal with challenging times towards the end of the year and realised (a little more) what an incredible my wife is in tough times that doubtless stressed her out too.

Me and Gina at a Jewish Entrepreneurs event in 2009
Me and Gina at a Jewish Entrepreneurs event in 2009

2009 was an expansion year. Mostly for me, I seem to have ballooned a little. Gina, on the other hand, was as beautiful as ever.

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One of the highlights of 2010 was a weekend getaway to the Westcliff which Gina won for us. It was quite an experience usually not for mortals like us.

The Westcliff

Of course, 2010 was also the year our family grew again. We found out that we were pregnant again and we dubbed our baby “theSQL” (it is both geeky and a little funny).

theSQL at 26 weeks

Our little girl, Faith, was born in December that year (just a few days after my birthday). She brought a new dynamic to our family and joined her proud brother as my new great love.

Valentine's Eve at Shepstone Gardens-75

Our life seemed to start moving really quickly after Faith arrived. I was trying to build a business and we had two growing kids, each with their own personalities. Just as figuring out how to be a good father to our children, being a decent husband to Gina has been an ongoing process. If anything I have learned how I let my own issues get in the way of a better relationship with my family.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and Gina practically changed our kitchen over to diabetic friendly foods almost overnight. My diagnosis was a shock to me but she helped me adapt and probably did more to shift me onto a healthier diet than I even realised.

She helped me bring my blood glucose levels down to normal levels within a few months and I managed to remain pretty well controlled until late last year when something in my body changed and my levels rose again. We’re going back to some basics with my diet and, once again, she is making changes behind the scenes to improve our diet to help me regain control over my diabetes.

Finally home in Israel where we belong

2015 was a challenging year. It was our first year in our new home in Israel and the changes weren’t always easy to process. It was also a year that really emphasised for me just how important my family is to me. My wife and our kids are basically what my life is all about. Practically everything else is in support of our new life here.

Being a husband takes a lot of work. For me, most of that work was on myself because I have a tendency to let my inner Crazy really get in the way of better communication with my wife. Communication really is so important. I see the difference when I get it right. Those are the times when we are back in sync like we were right in the beginning (and many times since then) when we agreed about that Star Trek movie.

This time 10 years ago we were at the Protea Hotel on Corlett Drive trying to stay awake long enough to eat an early supper. We didn’t get through the meal and passed out soon afterwards on our hotel room. The next morning we woke early and drove to the mountains to start our honeymoon and our new life together.

Every morning is an opportunity for me to be a better father and a better husband. I haven’t always made it easy for my family but if there is something worth working for every day, every moment, it is that. I hope we have many more periods of 10 years together. Each of the moments that make up those years are opportunities to spend with my wife and our children and that is what matters most to me.

Happy anniversary, angel. Much, with tons and stuff.

אני אוהב אותך, ממש!

12 years

Today is the 12th anniversary of my Dad’s, Peter’s, passing, according to the Hebrew calendar. He died on 13 Tammuz 5763/12 July 2003 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Today is our yahrzeit.

So much has happened in my life in the last 12 years that I wish he could have shared with us. Here are some of the highlights:

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I met Gina just a few months after my Dad passed away and she became my wife on one of the happiest days of my life.

I left the firm I was working for, started my own law firm which evolved into two businesses which didn’t go quite as I had hoped. In the meantime, we started a small furry family …

3 puppies - 1

… and, soon after that, we started our human family and I became a Dad myself early one morning.

Me and my boy 1

A few challenging years later, our family expanded with our little girl’s arrival and, wow, what a difference in personality.

Faith playing-7

Time went on (as it does, inevitably) and our family grew and our kids developed their ever-changing personalities and challenge us daily …

I made many mistakes along the way and wanted to be able to talk to my Dad about them, get his advice. All I could really do was think about what he would have suggested and done the best I could as a Dad and as a husband to my very patient and loving wife.

First steps
First steps

Our next big change was our move to our new home in Israel last year. It was probably one of the best decisions Gina and I have made for our family. People outside Israel sometimes don’t understand why we would want to move to a country with such a difficult history (and an uncertain future) but Israel feels more like home to us than South Africa ever really did (and South Africa was still a good home for our families for a long time).

I only understood why our South African friends who had spent time in Israel kept telling us they wished they could return, after we had been here for a short while. It is an amazing country even with all the challenges it faces.

I think my Dad would have liked Israel if he had the chance to visit. My Mom told me once that he thought about moving to Israel many years ago. At the very least, he would have loved to visit us in our new home.

I met with an Hospice therapist after my Dad passed away and she told me that when a person dies, they leave a big hole in your life. You never fill that hole but you learn to live around it. I miss my Dad more each day because there are more and more experiences I would have wanted to share with him.

My family is somewhat scattered at the moment. My sister and her family are in Australia, my brother and his wife in Cape Town and my Mom in Johannesburg. Being roughly on the same time-zone as my mother and brother makes it easier to keep in touch and we’ll hopefully be able to share some of our new home with my Mom if she has an opportunity to visit us here.

Days like today usually seem like any other when they begin and as the day goes on, I realise that they are anything but. I try use days like today as reminders to be a better Dad to our kids. I’ve also learned that being a Dad is a full-time occupation in which you are constantly faced with the choices of being more loving and attentive and getting caught up in petty, generally unimportant crap that gets in the way of being a better Dad and husband.

You’re never “done” being a Dad. You never reach some sort of relationship milestone where you can sit back and tick the “Dad” checkbox. Being a Dad is a journey and I often take the wrong route (you know, men and directions …) but I like to think I am heading in the right direction. That is something my kids will have to decide for themselves when they have children of their own some day.

In the meantime, today is a little sadder than usual. I miss my Dad.

Me and my Dad

Its been a year already

Its been a year since my brother-in-law, Cliff Hoffmann, passed away. Its fitting that today is such a sombre day here in Johannesburg. I took the photo below at a lunch at Gina’s late grandmother, Granny Ruby, on the 2nd of January 2011. I remember that day being a pretty good day. We were visiting with Aaron and Faith (less than a month old and still so tiny) and Gina’s aunt and uncle were visiting from the United States.

I wrote a short post after Cliff’s funeral which you can read here. He left a lot of people behind who miss him every day. Today, I’m thinking about his family (Gina, Lindy, Matt and Bangar) and his close friends (Timor, Dave, Gary, Rafique, Kara and Laura to name just a few) and so many others who were close to him, respected him and feel his absence daily.

Happy Anniversary of the Day We Met (Give or Take) to my beautiful wife!

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day I met my beautiful wife, Gina (give or take). That day was the start of one of my great love affairs (yes, just one … keep reading). I knew I would marry Gina from our 2nd date and I can’t imagine my life without her.

Bump shoot - behind the scenes-42

Of course, Gina is also partly responsible for another of my great love affairs with this little guy:

He’s a little bigger now …

Life with Gina and Aaron has taught me a fortune about myself and my life. I am also looking forward to what will be my next great love affair, this little girl:

theSQL at 26 weeks

So today is an important day for me. Its the day it all began. Happy anniversary my love! Thank you for being my great love and my two other great loves!

Much!

With tons.