Categories
Events and Life

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!

Categories
Business and work Events and Life

Returning to a 14 year old career

One of the transitions I feel most comfortable about is my switch to a job in marketing for imonomy, an online in-image advertising company. It’s easy to think that my transition from being a lawyer to being a content marketing person is the real career shift. In some ways, it is, but I realised that the major career change actually happened over 14 years ago. I wrote this article on Medium so here is an embed that will take you to the post:

My 14 year old, midlife career change

Categories
Mindsets

Challenging #FML

At first #FML was a rare sighting online and, slowly, it began to find more use as people tweeted about their misfortunes online. The term has its own website featuring everyday uses and it is probably one of the most depressing memes I’ve seen online.

https://twitter.com/clarewarwick/status/537892044753342464

Sure, some people have huge challenges in their lives and have every right to be pessimistic about their lives and yet so many of those people find a way to survive and even thrive because, when faced with the alternatives, they have no choice but to keep climbing that hill.

When I see people tweeting about their lives and hashtagging it #FML, it signals a deep pessimism about their lives even though the things they tweet about are pretty minor in the Grand Scheme of Things.

Is this about more 21st century problems we don’t seem to be able to handle because our expectations of our lives are so skewed? You may say that #FML is just an expression, a sort of grand #Fail but think about it for a moment: #FML doesn’t stand for “Forgot My Lunch” or “Faked My Laugh”. It stands for “F*#ck My Life”. That is a pretty nihilistic take on life, particularly when your challenges are lousy broadband for a couple hours, no soy lattes at your local coffee spot or Facebook going down for 15 minutes when you wanted to procrastinate most. Our words have a power we underestimate. They reframe how we perceive our world and the experiences we choose for ourselves.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the meme. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it just seems so destructive, particular when it comes to our thoughts about our life. Maybe #FML is appropriate if your life fundamentally sucks because your family rejects you; you don’t have a safe home; you are destitute or worse. Even then, I am inspired by people whose lives have been constant struggles to survive for a decade or more and yet they are some of the most optimistic people I know.

So you don’t drive an Audi, you don’t live in a fancy house with beautiful furniture and you don’t have the new iPhone 6 with a fast LTE connection so you can stream whatever you want. Heck, Twitter may even go down for 15 minutes and you’ll have to find something more meaningful to occupy those precious minutes.

What if your life doesn’t truly suck. What if you live a life with wonderful people and opportunities you would have thought fantasy a few years ago. What if you are (relatively) healthy and have all your limbs working as they should? What if you have a pretty solid roof over your head and fairly regular meals to sustain you and, in the midst of all of that, you have challenges to face and which, when overcome, leave you somewhat better off because of them?

Perhaps, instead of “F*#ck My Life”, #FML should stand for something else, something like:

Found My Laugh

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets

Trapani, time and transitions

Gina Trapani spoke at the XOXO Festival recently and I finally watched her talk. I’ve followed Trapani for years now and when she mentioned that she spoke at the festival (hadn’t heard of it before) on an episode of This Week in Google, I made a mental note to watch the video.

She talks about 3 significant stories in her life starting with 9/11 and ending with her marriage and daughter’s birth shared online and how her Web app, Thinkup, helps her track her digital activity and be more mindful of how meaningful it is.

Trapani’s talk reminded me of a few things I’ve been thinking about lately and I wrote down a couple things she said in her talk which really appealed to me. I’m going through quite a bit change in my life (along with my family) at the moment and it feels like we’re in between our old life and a new one, in a sort of limbo. For someone not particularly comfortable with transitions (especially not the huge life changes we’re going through at the moment), this is a challenging time for me.

I find myself throwing out loads of old baggage (literally) and, at the same time, holding on to little memories and mementos I’m not quite sure what to do with.

Trapani spoke about how she started documenting everything in her life after 9/11. I capture so much of my life and my family’s life. I capture all those weird art projects our kids bring home (I take photos when they arrive and store them, along with everything else, in Evernote). One of the reasons I am so passionate about my photography is because it is a way for me to document our lives so we have a rich record of it for our future selves and future generations. I’m practically obsessed with scanning documentation and storing it, both for work and just to build that archive of our lives. I even scanned half a dozen Moleskine journals before shredding the originals while we were packing up our home and my office.

In the midst of all of that, I feel a little adrift between our old life when I worked to remain relevant in a changing environment and to support my family and the new life where we will begin again in a new country and where I’m not too sure what I’ll do to earn a living and grow further in the months and years to come. I find these transitions unsettling and difficult to plan for. One of Trapani’s quotes that stood out for me was this one:

Somehow, somewhere your worst moments will power your best work

I don’t see my current challenges as my worst moments by any stretch of my imagination and yet this idea still resonates with me. I’m excited about our new life and I know this limbo will end soon. I also know I can’t remain tethered to our old life if I am going to embrace our new life and create something fresh. Not letting go means that our new life could become a shadow of the old and a missed opportunity to create something better and more meaningful.

I’m still working on that “letting go” bit and figuring out where the balance is between letting go and forgetting.

Categories
Events and Life

“The idea is that you switch on your life”

Gus Silber has a terrific post titled “Wait, Slow Down, Stop: the Power of the Shabbos Project” which is really worth reading. We took part in the Shabbos Project last year, didn’t do it last week and I’d like to be part of it next year, perhaps. We’re not particularly observant (although that is changing a little here and there) but there is definitely something about taking a day to step outside our busy weekends to live better. As Silber put it so well:

But the world doesn’t turn anymore, it spins, like a record played at the wrong speed, and the breathless, pulsating distractions can drive you to distraction.
But the idea of the Sabbath – and how nice is the word that springs from it, Sabbatical – isn’t just that you switch off your machines. The idea is that you switch on your life.

Weekends are rarely rest days anymore. We always seem to have somewhere we need to be, things we need to do and we’re exhausted, not refreshed, by Sunday evening. Returning to work on a Monday morning has become a break from the weekend. Shabbos is an opportunity to disengage from everything that takes us away from living more meaningfully and spending quality time with our friends and family.

It’s tempting to do it every week but then again, when would we get everything done?

Categories
Mindsets People

Confused about busy

I still use RSS feeds for most of my reading and one of the feeds I enjoy the most is Seth Godin’s. I think I tend to save a few dozen of his articles for when I most feel the need for extraordinary inspiration and then dive in. His post titled “Two kinds of busy” is one which is going to take a little time to really sink in. This suggestion is particularly intriguing:

if what you’re doing isn’t working, if you’re not excelling at what you set out to do or not getting the results you seek, it might be because you’re confused about what sort of busy is going to get you there…

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets

A reminder of what its all about, at least for me

Wow, what a year this has been. “Challenging” doesn’t quite describe it for me. My business is evolving rapidly and about to take what could potentially be a radical leap in a fairly different direction and while I’m excited about it, it also scares me more than a little (which means it is probably also the right decision). Today has been particularly intense so this video was perfect:

This ad reminded me why I do what I do every day and what it is all about at the end of the metaphorical day. It also reminds me why I shouldn’t do some of the things I do every day either: things like stress about challenges and work so hard that I miss the time I have with my family. I also keep reminding myself to be more present when I spend time with my wife and our kids and not distracted by work or devices that don’t enhance those moments.

As much as I love my devices, when I am using them I am not present with my wife or our kids and, in those moments, they deserve to have me there with them, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Just as I watch this video and see myself in so many of those moments with our kids, I can’t help but remember that my Dad isn’t around to share them with me. Like him, I don’t know how much time I have with my family and that makes the time I do have even more precious.

Categories
Events and Life Web/Tech

Have your drone walk your dog

This is amusing but it also strikes me as a bit of a sad regression. Surely walking the dog benefits the human as well as the dog? If you get your drone to walk the dog, you’re basically abdicating a very human activity which has the benefit of reintegrating the human into the immediate environment to a machine while the human becomes even more isolated from, well, everything.