137) Why Do This?

Welcome to my autobiography.

I’m happy you are here.

When I began writing my story on April 11th of this year, a little over 8 months ago, I wrote out of a sense of urgency that I would die without my life depicting a framework.

What do I mean?

Just this. With people like me who need to see how they THINK they fit into the universe – or big picture, seeing the last 63 years of my life through a haze as a series of unrelated events, people, ideas is nothing more than wandering around in a dark room in confusion.

So by constructing a mosaic of my life through a series of posts on a computer screen, I have placed all the pieces of the puzzle of my life on the table. In graduate school we called this a “theoretical framework”.

Whether puzzle or theoretical framework, it is a context for trying to understand  the forces and people who made me who am I, as well as what vibrational signature I send out here on earth.

Of course just posting my life, does not make the whole of my life any more clear. Just as pieces of a  puzzle on a table make a picture.

So for those interested in identifying a theme or meaning to their life, simply penning the events and people in their life means little. The hard work is seeing patterns, relationships, behaviors that form the picture.

Sometimes, as in the case of my own life, the picture depicts a lifelong struggle. My struggle has been to overcome an extremely difficult childhood and aspire to be a great dad, husband and provider for my family. In two of these three, I believe I have done well.

Later in my life beginning in about the year 2009 – after witnessing my son’s attempt to take his own life – I began to realize the scope of my struggle had grown larger. I began to care about the parents of children suffering with chronic  illness or pain. Still later, as I began my drive for financial independence, my vision increased again to reach out to those who hated their jobs and felt hopeless about changing their circumstances.

As I approach the end of this book, done here on a blog, I imagine many people think I’m a fool for spilling my guts here on a public forum. Many more will not care. Still more will never read these pages.

That’s okay, this book was never for anyone else anyway.

I suppose I expected to have put the puzzle together by now. But after such prolonged and intense introspection there are still aspects of my life as a man I do not understand. I am sure I never will.

Maybe the best a man can hope for is to have some goals and reach for them.

If there is something else, I haven’t yet learned what it is.

But I still have time.

136) Hey Mom

I never gave you enough credit Mom.

As a self-conscience boy of 13, worried about what my friends might think. I criticised you for getting sloppy drunk and stumbling around the kitchen of our little grey house in North Minneapolis.

You smelled like beer on most week-ends and acted like you had no control over your life and your marriage to Jim Wirtz, your third husband.

Your face was swollen sometimes, and at least one of your eyes was badly bruised or red where it should have been white.

I hated that you stayed with Jim even when he was so meant to us. Why didn’t you just leave?

I was embarrassed to wear the clothes you picked out and revealed to me the day before school began.

I couldn’t understand why you seemed to always make what HE wanted for dinner, when he came home from driving his truck all day.

I didn’t know what to think when you came stumbling into my room one night looking for bed to sleep in. Why did this have to happen when my friend Danny was sleeping over?

I hated your hand writing on the notes you gave me to take to school the next day to explain that I wasn’t going to be in school. (I couldn’t bear to face Danny).

When you tried to cheer me up by making jokes, couldn’t you see I was miserable and only wanted for you to leave me alone?

I hated all those things Mom.

But at 13 there was so much I didn’t understand about you.

I didn’t understand your Mom sent you out to work scrubbing floors at the age of 9.

I didn’t understand you never had the glimmer of a chance to finish high school, much less college.

I didn’t understand how when your husband (our Dad) lost both legs in the train accident the enormous responsibility you inherited. And that you sometimes put up with bouts of mean outbursts from him just before you carried him home on your back from the bar.

I couldn’t understand that in men, you always seemed picked out someone you felt sorry for. Our Dad was mean enough but the three husbands that followed had behaviors toward you and I that were hard to deal with.

I didn’t understand, at age 13 that drinking a few beers helped you cope with all of these failed relationships and bad memories.

At age 13 I didn’t see much beyond my small, selfish world.

I didn’t understand you felt you had to stay in bad marriages so that I would have a “Dad” even  if I couldn’t spell his last name and even if he had kids of his own who he didn’t take care of.

I didn’t understand how proud you were of me when I came home on leave from the U.S. Air Force. You couldn’t wait to show me off to the neighbors, which only pissed me off.

When you finally divorced your 4th husband, and moved into your own house, you once told me, “Randy, you have no idea how great it is to be able to come and go as I want, without anyone telling me what to do.”

So you valued freedom and independence.

I didn’t understand where my own longing for these sensibilities came from. Now I know, Mom.

I didn’t understand how complete strangers warmed to you because of your generosity, quick wit and work ethic. I only thought men found you loose. That made me try to be your “protector”, a role you began to resent me for.

I left Minneapolis in 1974 – and except for occaisional visits – I left forever.

You never left and ended up suffering terribly with Alzeimer’s.

Returning to attend your funeral with nearly one hundred relatives in attendance, I experienced fits of laughter. We were all relieved that the other person that had taken over your body had passed and everyone who knew you was more free.

Hey Mom. There was so much I didn’t know at age 13.

135) Can Re-Invention of Self Push Start-Up to “Success”?

Greetings new readers!

I am glad you are here.

In my last post you read about my short journey with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), in Fort Collins, Colorado during 2011. In this post you will see me back in the “fray” again, returning to the mission and set of activities that provide a healthy American with the highest probability for financial and time freedom – starting a home-based business. Yes, another one.

And of course, the best time to start a business is when you have reached middle age and convinced yourself you have become “unemployable” by any reasonable definition.

So in the fall of 2011, after declaring to my work buddies at AMD that I had lost the passion for semiconductor chip design (layout) and without prospects for a job of any kind, I tapped the entire contents of my 401K from AMD and began my search for some unclaimed “words” – keywords, that is.

Did you ever want something so badly, you ignored expert advice in pursuit?

This part of my story leaves me vulnerable – and you may be thinking stupid – for including it here on this page. I certainly could have left it out.

Funny thing, after so many business failures I have the confidence not to particularly care what people think anymore. No, I care. But I  don’t let people’s opinions stop me.

Classic Swiss Watches (formerly ClassicSwissWatches.com) was my next venture. It is enough to say that it failed badly because I ignored my own advice about entering a market where the strength  and volume of competition was unfavorable. Looking back, I did a lot of things right, however not the former.

The big thing I learned from developing  and  operating this  e-commerce site was the big “players” in any industry operate by a different set of rules, which afford them certain “advantages”.

From time to time I post on the Full Sail University blog, the institution where I earned my graduate business degree. It is a place where – I am sorry to say – sometimes the blind lead the blind. That is to say, the smartest and most outspoken graduate student bloggers often hold considerable sway over the less opinionated. It is a venue that is not tolerant of truly experienced business practitioners who are not blindly positive – not “BRIGHTSIDERS”, if you will. I have considered that if not for the untempered optimism of these individuals, no businesses  would start. And I have come to realize our nations business schools serve that function very well – however misguided some of us may think it is.

My visits to The Full Sail University Alumni Forum are less frequent these days.

Funnier still, I remain optimistic.

134) A Very Special Call from My Friend at AMD

Towards the end of 2011, my friend (who probably wishes to remain anonymous) from AMD offered me a full-time position at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) back in Fort Collins, Colorado – a location our family now called “home”.

The project to which I was assigned turned out to be very difficult. But our team was tremendously successful.

During some of the more stressful days of our team’s efforts, I began to realize that at age 61, my cognitive skills were no longer the same as they were when I began my career in 1985. In terms of my experience, I was totally comfortable in my role as the lead designer (layout) where I was planning and organizing the work flow to a set of technical and scheduling expectations. After all, I had a great team around me. But near the end, growing project complexity and frequent specification changes seemed to get the better of me. And I decided those few months were something I never wanted to go through again.

So in April of the following year, 2013, to the surprise of everyone in my group of 20 or so, and without any other prospects for employment, I gave my two weeks notice.

About three months later, the entire group was let go.

133) Another Visit with IBM

Hello new reader!

Welcome to my autobiography.

Posts 128-132 provided updates on Nadine, Jenna and Stevie.

In this post you will read about why I returned to IBM,  in Rochester, Minnesota for a third contract – again in the dead of winter.

First a little background.

The little marketing consulting company I had formed in 2011 had successfully launched a start-up – at least the affiliate marketing campaign – but through a few other encounters with small business owners, I had soured on the idea of helping folks get their online marketing going.

Most Mom and Pop businesses I had encountered – I surveyed over 300 of them by phone during the summer of 2011 – were absolutely clueless about internet marketing. Worse, they had no stomach for listening to an “academic” like myself provide untested theories about why they needed a website.

At age 60, I had tons of experience in all realms of business and a very expensive masters degree in Internet Marketing. None of this mattered.

At that point, I had to  admit the futility of my mission. My mission was to clean up a small corner of the online business arena and  provide a safe, sane field for a business that wanted to stake out a well-grounded, sustainable, legal online presence. Bad idea. Or so it seemed.

It wasn’t long after that when I decided I would do whatever it took to secure another mask design contract. Yes, the very 25  year career I loathed – no, not loathed, but was no longer suited for.

Heck, I missed the paydays.

So in November, after a disastrous short-term job as a weight watching clinic, I drove my 2011 Hyundai Accent to Rochester, Minnesota to once again, work with my friends at IBM.

In the next post you will read why my contract with IBM was cut short and phone call from a very special friend.

132) Stevie’s Remarkable Transformation

Welcome to my autobiography!

Glad you are here.

In my last post I told you about my wife’s amazing feat of work during a 4 month period during the summer of 2013.

Note – All of the posts in this blogged autobiography are in order. The first few posts try to paint a picture of a crummy childhood. These last few posts highlight my life after I turned 60 years of age.

You will notice the posts from number 130 and higher, jump around. This is for no particular  reason except that life isn’t always linear. Stuff just happens.

Plenty of drug addicts kick their habit. A few of them, like my son, first get so low they try to do something dramatic to end their hopelessness.

In Stevie’s case, he was addicted to pain meds from the age of about 9 to age 22. What happened after age 22, in my opinion, became a remarkable transformation.

In post #125 I shared with you how I came to respect Stevie.

Stevie had been a pretty scrawny kid. Chronic pancreatitis had ravaged his slender body. And he will himself tell you he will never play in the NFL – it just doesn’t happen for 99% of the population that is “normal” in physical stature. But during the summer of 2013 Stevie transformed his body in a way even a father didn’t think was very likely.

Here is how it happened.

Stevie hit the gym – in a big way. In the same way I had become a gym rat in 1977 (fitness trainer and yoga instructor), Stevie worked out at CrossFit day and night until I no longer recognized his skinny butt. I’m talkin’ chiseled.

Stevie also hit the books at his junior college, won a math scholarship and was accepted to The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Electrical Engineering program.

“You see Dad, it’s pretty cool when these equations work out the way they’re supposed to,” Stevie told me, just yesterday, while we were watching the 49ers get clobbered by the Carolina Panthers.

“What do you mean, son?” I asked, as I glanced at the title text he was referring to. “Linear Circuits”, was the title.

“What  I mean is,” Stevie answered, showing me his equations and hand scratched drawing of an amplifier circuit, as he explained, “I’ve proven here the voltage is not dependent on the load.”

“Whatever,” I said, not totally understanding what he was trying to tell me.

In only three months of coursework in the electrical engineering program at the university, Stevie has met and surpassed the knowledge I had gained in 25 years designing integrated circuits (semiconductor chips).

My son was imbued with something I could never grasp; an innate ability to derive mathematical equations, quite effortlessly.

Stevie’s transformation from a chronically ill, drug dependent, lying punk to something quite different was off to a good start.

131) The Greatest Feat of Work I’ve Ever Observed

Welcome to my story.

I am happy you are here.

In my previous post I provided an update on Jenna, our daughter.

In this post, I want to give you a snapshot of a period of 4 months during the summer of 2013 while Nadine and I were living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Natives of Minnesota – the state where I was born – are known for certain things, one of them being their work ethic. And I suppose you could argue, Swedish pancakes, canoes and fishing but those are for another part of my story.

Speaking of work ethic, my wife Nadine, during the summer of 2013, demonstrated the greatest sustained period of work output I’ve witnessed in my sixty plus years of life.

Here was her daily routine – check it out:

Before I give you the hourly breakdown, let me tell you she carried this out for four months running from July through October, just after accepting her new position as a program director at the local university.

And here’s one other important distinction. Out of concern for learning her role, responsibilities and balancing her life/work balance, there were many nights – say 25-30% – of nights where she slept 4-5 hours and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Here was Nadine’s amazing and prodigious schedule (as best I can recall) during those four months:

Monday – Friday

4 am – get up and feed the dog

4:15 am – makes coffee

4:30 am – sit at her home/office desk

6:30 am – treadmill (runs 1-2 miles per morning)

6:45 am – 7:15 am – shower, breakfast, gets dressed

7:15 am – leave for work

7:30 am – arrives at work

6:00 pm – finishes up at work

6:30 pm – arrives home prepares quick dinner

7:30 pm – back to work at home/office desk, completing correspondence and preparing for next day

8:30 pm – goes to bed

If Nadine’s Monday through Friday schedule wasn’t impressive enough, she worked EVERY Saturday and EVERY Sunday except three or four during this four-month period.

Adding in these Saturdays and Sundays, Nadine worked, by my rough estimates, between 75 and 80 hours per week for four months!

Nadine’s work during the summer of 2013 stands as the greatest feat of work I have ever seen.

 

 

130) Mishap

Welcome to my life’s story.

In my last post I provided an update on Jenna, our daughter.

In this post I jump ahead to the present day, a span of 3 years.

I am nearly finished with my autobiography – the greatest personal story no one has ever read.

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013 I was riding my bicycle on the Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins, Colorado, when a small dog ran in front of my bike on the paved gently curving trail next to the Poudre River.

The dog was supposed to have been on a leash and was in a full sprint across the trail when I hit him square with the front tire of the bike.

I flipped off the bike, landed on my left side, with the elbow underneath taking the force of the fall, and busting it up badly enough for me to require surgery.

As I sit here in the Starbucks right now putting the accident into perspective, I find it ironic in two ways; 1) I am always on my soapbox about irresponsible dog owners who fail to keep their dog on a leash, and 2) being Stevie’s father and witnessing years of drug addiction, I myself became mildly addicted to Vicodin when recovering from surgery.

In the next post I will update Stevie’s progress and path back to a normal life.

129) Jenna

Greetings – I am so glad you are here!

In my  last post I gave you an update on Nadine, my wife of over 30 years.

In this post, I provide a similar update for Jenna, our daughter, born in 1985.

Note: Posting activity has been spotty during the last two weeks. I took a nasty fall on my bike.

If Stevie was a nightmare child – due  mostly to chronic pancreatitis, which was beyond his control – our relationship with Jenna has been unbelievably easy.

Why?

Jenna has been healthy and worked hard to support some very good decisions she has made in her relationships and her career. Jenna has also been blessed with the gift of a very quick mind and effortlessly being  a person that people like and respect.

Jenna selected a brilliant and cordial man, named Timothy as her husband and is raising a small family and living nearby.

Jenna worried about Stevie but really had no  idea of what Nadine and I endured while Stevie was sick.

Jenna and Timothy helped Stevie with his rent during the period of January through July of 2010. Were it not for their financial contributions, Stevie’s road might have been far more difficult.

Like so many who make life look easy, there is more to Jenna than meets the eye.

Through her prodigious work ethic, she has assembled around her some of  life’s most wonderful gifts, including two healthy, radiant children, a solid, high character husband, great friendships, and a lovely home, all during her early twenties. Her accomplishments may not be unique but because of her hard work, she has won the sincere respect of everyone who knows her.

Like Nadine and Stevie, Jenna had grown-up watching me struggle with career. Although by the time she was born, I was just launching my mask designer job phase in Silicon Valley, by the time she was in her teens, my anxiety, and restlessness was on full display for our whole family.

I don’t know that she was sympathetic, but as my daughter, that wasn’t her role.

In later years she would confess to  me she didn’t want to get stuck the way she observed others getting stuck in their careers.

I knew who she was talking about.

Between Nadine, Stevie, Jenna and myself, Jenna and I have personalities that are the  most similar – amicable, yet on occasion, forceful and opinionated.

No one wanted to get on Jenna’s bad side – the way back, if one existed, was painful and uncertain.

128) Nadine

Greetings!

I  am glad you are here.

In the previous post you read about Stanley and Braun – my new internet marketing company.

In this I provide an update on Nadine’s activities.

On a dark day in February of 1978, a young lady approached the door of a grand but slightly worn out looking Victorian mansion high atop Nob Hill in San Francisco. She was greeted by a young man dressed in a gold, one-pieced jump suit, the kind a laborer might wear in a posh hotel. The young woman had only just arrived in the city and was in need of a room. Her looked was that of a fresh-scrubbed sorority girl, not so plain as to be from the farm but without a spec of makeup, not a city girl either. Straight nose, brown hair, freckles and bright smile, her health and gentle, yet dignified manner radiated throughout the entryway of the San Francisco Residence Club.

The young man who greeted her had been painting room 51B, the one with high ceilings and a view across Nob Hill to the China Basin.

“Nadine, I’d like you to meet Oliver Stanley, he is our manager,” Mrs. Williams said, as she introduced me to this person. This person who literally took my breath away.

As you might know, the description above tries to paint a picture of the first time I met Nadine in San Francisco.

Looking back, neither of us realized we were going to be spend the next 35 years together.

By the year 2009, Nadine had been working in her northern Colorado college teaching career for 13 years.

It is my belief that Nadine was still very much in love with me – there in our 29th year of marriage – but our two failed businesses had strained our relationship. I felt Nadine had lost faith in my ability to put us on a financial path to build a nest egg.

I still believed in myself.  And I was frustrated Nadine stubbornly clung to the mentality that, to get ahead, you took the best job you could find and held onto it – no matter what.

I had started my engineering career in 1985 but by 1995 I realized I had made a big mistake and wanted out. I turned to independent contracting in 1996, which had the effect of extending my career. But I discovered that I was essentially a family man and that no amount of money was worth being away from home.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, you may be thinking this poor SOB doesn’t realize how lucky he is; living in America, robust health and every chance to succeed. Relative to other people of the world, I was one of the luckier ones. But please  keep in mind however, I had already overcome considerably bad circumstances earlier in my life to make it to this point.

More to the point, my story is about persistence. Every story of achievement, however insignificant relative to the worlds more important issues, is rooted in persistence.

From Nadine’s point of view, remaining in our marriage for over 30 years, was also an exercise in persistence.

Nadine is a bookworm. Maybe she is able to escape her troubles through the worlds that are created within the books she reads.

During the year of 2009, she continued to work with students from all  over the world, teaching them English.

But during the year I  began to notice a change in Nadine. It was if a giant weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Except during social occaisions – mostly to put her guests at ease – she still didn’t laugh much. And if I am being honest, we had lost the intimacy in our marriage. I blame myself for that.

Her mood was lighter.

Our son Stevie was beginning to make a miraculous recovery from a dozen years of pain, self-pity and drug addiction.

Nadine, Stevie and I had each began our own personal journey through recovery.

Nadine and I began to sleep through the night.

We had worried night and day about Stevie from 1996 to 2009.

Here, only a few months into Stevie’s new life,  we began to feel  hope this  would last.