Aside from promoting that I was included in Chris’ eBook, I’ve been off the radar for nearly two months. I mentioned the “holiday from hell” but only now have some time to talk about it. The story is so huge, convoluted and involved that it’s difficult to explain at your average holiday party so I haven’t talked much about it. Since we’ve been doing Marketing Over Coffee and the LinkedIn group has been growing like crazy I rarely talk about pure marketing topics here so hopefully you are used to me rambling on about my goals, absurd hobbies, etc.
To give you a feel for the scope, this story includes Cancer, My Career, and a TV show, an unlikely combination. To get the whole story we have to rewind the clock all the way back to 1983 or so. At this point my Mom was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. I was young enough then that I didn’t really understand much about what was going on besides the fact that my Mom was sick, and her treatment went well that round. The second time I was in college and understood what was going on and things turned out alright then too. Around 1998 was when things got very bad, now it was bone cancer and she aged 20 years in about a year. She saw my brother married in 1999 and was able to vacation with her family after the wedding but a few months later, after a day or two in the hospital she was gone. My father had taken care of his parents and then my mom, and in many ways our family had to start anew.
I was married in 2003 and by then Dad was spending time with Helen. I’ve had friends that have had difficulty dealing with a parent being with someone else, but I always saw it as a blessing. He lives on the other side of the state so I knew he had someone to talk with, enjoy a meal with, and travel. Carin and I wanted to have children so over the next 5 years we saw doctors and did everything we could to get our little family growing. Carin has dealt with chronic lyme disease that had been misdiagnosed for many years so that complicated things a bit. Throughout all this time we had become fans of Extreme Makeover Home Edition and never missed a show. Carin’s Dad is an electrician, my Grandfather was Plumber and Electrician (and my Dad worked with him) so we’ve always enjoyed working on projects around the house. Between both the altruism and optimism of the show, it’s ability to market by creating DVR-proof content, and telling honest stories of how challenging daily life can be, we always found it inspiring.
I know, this is rambling all over the damn place, just a bit more set up before it all collides. The last piece was changing jobs less than a year and a half ago. I had been at AccuRev for more than 5 years and had two former co-workers at different companies who asked if I might be up for something different. As a proof point for a recent article that said Marketing Tech jobs are one of the 5 hardest jobs to fill, I was fortunate enough to get offers from both.
And so our stage is set at 2011. This year I have been living the “responsibility of the weird” as Seth Godin has called it – the fact that if you have an offbeat hobby, or you want to see a specific kind of art, you have to vote with your wallet. Depressed about all the Disney Musicals on Broadway? When was the last time you caught an independent show there? Yeah, me neither. We get the Gotham City we deserve. Extreme Home Makeover never really had any cool schwag on their website so I had a standing eBay search set up for T-Shirts, Jackets, whatever. In March I got an alert of a charity auction to buy 2 days on the set of EMHE where you could work on a house and meet the cast (benefit for a cancer charity ironically). I won the auction and used it as a killer wedding anniversary gift.
Unfortunately the back half of the year started to get ugly. Both Helen and Carin’s Dad had been diagnosed with cancer and were going through treatment so we spent many weekends driving out to Western Mass to help with projects and have some quality family time. I had the hope of going to the EMHE build, getting photos of us with the cast, and maybe even having the chance to tell them our story of how they inspired us to never give up and share our happy ending of the birth of our son. I have a huge debt of gratitude to Dawn, Krissy, and Rachel for putting up with our scheduling problems, thank you for your kindness. I have strings of emails 20 and 30 deep of them helping us line up our visit. As we were unable to make one week or the other for family reasons, the season of the show was winding down. We had one last shot at what appeared to be a perfect opportunity in December – the 4th from last show would be in North Carolina. Carin’s aunt lives there so we would be able to bring her parents along with us to Charlotte and we’d have babysitting covered, hang out with the family, and be part of building a house.
At the start of December everything seemed to be on track, I was free to ramble on about my scientific evaluation of Tree Toppers as part of my holiday preparations. And then everything went to hell.
Helen became very ill late in December and was admitted to the hospital. For the second time my father was having to take care of someone losing their battle with cancer. My brother came out from California to spend time with us, and we had no choice but to cancel our trip. As Helen was set up with hospice I remember getting a Google alert that EMHE was going to be cancelled, the two January shows would still be filmed but they would be the last. I actually laughed by that point, trying to do the trip had become absurd, an effort in futility and not important with everything else going on around me. Also remember that this is year end, the busiest time of the year at work trying to wrap up any deals that can could close. Thankfully people were very understanding and I was able to spend the time I needed with my family.
Helen passed away the Friday before Christmas. Christmas was her favorite holiday, she loved decorating her home and buying gifts. There’s really nothing that crushes my spirit more than thinking about the fact that my son has now lost two Grandmothers who would have done anything for him. Her ceremony was beautiful, the church decorated for the holiday and Christmas carols used as the music during the mass.
We missed our shot at the trip. Our holiday was one of the saddest things I have ever gone through. By the second week in January we were just happy to have a “normal” week.
So. That’s what I’ve been up to. Not much besides fighting through it a day at a time. Now that I have a chance to breathe for a moment I’ll get back to my normal practice of setting out some goals for the year. I hope your holiday was better than mine and you are looking forward to a bright 2012.