Pushing Code, 730

A year ago I wrote “Pushing code, 365”. A year later and I’m happy to share that the trend has continued as I’ve now officially completed 730 days of pushing code.

Of course this past 365 hasn’t always been a walk in the park. There were once again, many days when I just didn’t feel like writing code…this year mostly because of a lot of personal losses.

The biggest being that we had four deaths in my family’s inner circle this past year, and while I don’t want to make this too much of a downer post, I do want to take a minute to briefly touch on each before I cover some of the positives that also made up the past 365.

Ron Marshall (my father)

I wasn’t really close with my father, and though I knew him and he was around throughout my childhood, I never lived with him or spent that much time with him. I think he only met my wife and kids once, and that was many years ago.

The truth is that I never hated him, but I’m not sure I really ever loved him either (at least not in the traditional father/son sort of way). In many ways, he was just a man that I knew throughout my life.

Still - I literally exist because of him, and I can honestly say that I owe a lot of the man and the father I am to observing and reflecting on his life and choices that I was exposed to. I appreciate him now for that. And if I’m totally honest, I’ve also used him as an crutch/excuse/scapegoat more than once when I’ve let my ‘wild side’ get the better of my judgement or my actions.

All of that aside, he was actually a well liked man that had many friends and could be loyal to them to a fault. He had four children with three different women (I am the youngest of those four) and each has grown up to make a real positive difference in the world (IMHO). He knew how to have a good time, and I like to think that though he often struggled with it, he really did try to be a good guy and do the right thing (don’t we all?).

So I will forever think fondly of him when I’m riding my motorcycle; and continue to use what I learned from my experiences with him to guide my actions and try to shape my children’s as well.

Karen Taylor (my aunt)

Losing her hurt – deeply. And I have to say, though this loss hurt me personally because of my own memories and connection, it reaches a whole new level of grief for me when my kids lose someone that cared so much about them too. It’s a weight I can’t bear for them, and that’s especially hard to deal with as a parent.

Since my father was often absent in the day-to-day of my childhood, the slack was often filled by a combination of my grandmother (who passed away about 10 years ago) and my aunt (who was also always my mother’s best friend).

My aunt had a strong personality and was never afraid to share her opinion or thoughts. As a kid this sometimes embarrassed me, but I grew up knowing that she always had my back and my interests in mind. She taught me that you can’t get what you want if you aren’t willing to speak up and stand up for it. It might be uncomfortable at times, and it might not always go your way, but there is no shame in trying, sharing, and caring.

She was most happy sitting around a campfire with friends, enjoying a beverage or two and playing games or telling stories. Our annual trip to her campsite was something my kids would talk about and look forward to from the moment we left the campsite each year. Casual family get-togethers will just never be the same.

I was only one of a number of nieces and nephews, as well as a bunch of 'kids of friends’ who she always treated like family, and of course there wasn’t an animal alive that she didn’t instantly bond with and care about. For everyone one of us, she was always 'just picking up something small’ when out shopping; randomly saving something that she thought we might like; or just texting/calling to catch up and make sure everything was going well.

It might seem odd, but when we were young, my mother and my aunt would sometimes take my sister and I for drives around the Fairview cemetery. It seemed like they knew the family history of everyone buried there, and they were always filled with fond memories and smiles. I like to think that other people still do this sometimes – and that when they come across my aunt there now, they are filled with nothing but great memories, stories, and smiles as well.

Amy Pizzi

While at my aunt’s wake, we got word that Amy had also passed away. It was a complete shock to my wife and I as we knew she had had some health issues, but had no idea they were that serious.

She was tutoring Brady about once a week off-and-on for a little over a year, and now that the school year had started (with Brady in his new school and somewhat adjusted), we had been negotiating a tutoring scheduling with her just a few weeks prior. We had no idea how, or what, to tell Brady (we waited a few weeks to tell him and he ended up taking it OK; but can’t understand why everything is dying this year – to add to it, his hamster also died a few weeks ago).

Though we had hired her to primarily tutor Brady in reading, she always took extra time to talk to him about everything that was going on in his life. She often brought him small gifts, and prepared projects, that showed she was thinking about him beyond just the one-hour, weekly, tutor session.

Working from home, locked in my basement alone as much as I am, it was also often a highlight of my week to have a few minutes of socialization with Amy chatting about country music (we were both fans of The Highway on Sirius) or trips that one of us was planning or whatever else came up as she packed up from her tutoring session.

She was only 37 (which also makes it hurt so much more), but as a teacher, she had already touched and made a positive difference in so many lives. Brady is just one example of that.

Linda Finnigan

Linda was the gym teacher at SVdP throughout the time my kids attended the school but honestly I didn’t know her that well myself (aside from a few quick/small hallway chats). Still, my kids really loved her, and often came home with stories about how great gym class was on a given day (in fact, almost 90% of their SVdP stories were gym and Mrs. Finnigan related).

Most of my exposure to her was through two of her children, Nicole and James.

My first year or two of coaching track for SVdP, James was on the team. Since that time I’ve coached lots of different sports (and probably hundreds of different youth athletes), and yet James remains one of my absolute favorite kids to have coached. He was always respectful, wanted to get better, gave 100%, and always tried to take and apply (my) advice in practice and events. He was the type of kid that makes you fall in love with coaching and truly feel like your time is well spent doing it…and I think all of that is a direct reflection on his parents and how they were raising him.

Meanwhile, Nicole also became a teacher at SVdP while my kids were in attendance. Since she was a recent graduate, she came with a very fresh take on the job and lots of energy & ideas about how to help the kids (a trait I’m a HUGE sucker for). She was great at especially challenging Timothy to do a bit more, work a little harder (he has my lazy gene), and engage in class more as well. She also spent a ton of time volunteering for many of the fundraisers and activities that helped the school go for as long as it had. She quickly became one of my favorite SVdP people – and again I have always felt that, the work ethic, attention, and empathy that she always displayed were direct reflections of her parents and how she was raised.

Every picture I’ve ever seen of Linda, she had a HUGE smile. Every person I’ve talked to  (including my own kids) about Linda has a deeply personal and touching story to share. Her kids are young, model, members of our community. Frankly she was an inspiring role model, and very much the type of parent I aspire to be.

As if these losses weren’t enough to knock the wind out of you.

The only school our kids have ever known closed this past year as well.

The numbers had been dwindling for a few years now, but we were really hoping it would hold out for at least one more year. If it had, Timothy would have finished up and gotten the 8th grade experience he had been looking forward to since pre-k. Instead, the school closed and many of his closest friends are now finishing up their last year of middle school at a variety of other schools.

Brady didn’t have as much time in the school, but he was still very attached and loved the environment (again it was all he had ever known). His friends are also now spread out over a variety of schools.

Cell phones and other technology mean they are still in close contact, but it’s just not the same.

And then of course there was the election.

I wrote a little bit about the fallout from this election before - so I won’t go into here again. But it’s clear that the election revealed the great divide in basic beliefs that still exists within our country. I can’t stop thinking about it and continue to struggle with how I can address/fix it – at least in my own little corner of the world.

OK - all that being said, there was a lot of good things too.

My wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. In that time we’ve lived in three places, had two amazing kids, and made countless new friends. Most important, she’s still my best friend and I’m looking forward to at least another 15 together.

My Kids had successful football seasons, made a number of new friends, and have adjusted fairly well to their new schools.

I haven’t really talked about it publicly much, but we had a successful exit for PubGears this past year. Not a huge financial win for me personally, but not a loss and at least gratifying to know the thing I built had value and will live on without me.

Catherine and I made our first official monetary investment/commitment in the startup sector. It will be years before we know if this was a good or a bad move, but since I got involved in the NYC startup scene I’ve wanted to do investments as well as build. So this is the first step into that dream, and I’m hoping to be able to do more down the road.

I officially joined Veritonic as a co-founder.

As we were talking about selling PubGears, I was flirting with the idea of going corporate and joining Amazon (I even went so far as to work my way through the gauntlet of interviews there) but also got introduced to Scott and Andrew. The Amazon opportunity was very intriguing, but I simply fell in love with the idea and potential of Veritonic and was thrilled to be able to join the efforts.

We’re still in the early days and so the odds are still long, but I’m loving the path we’ve been on so far and things continue to trend up and to the right.

As far as the year of code goes (remember pushing code 365 is what this whole post was supposed to be about)

The PubGears and Veritonic code bases were probably 98% of the code I wrote this past year. Most of which is really only available to clients or admins of each of these systems (but trust me, it’s great). :-)

On the public front, I did release the Alexa math mania skill, made a number of Coach Wizard upgrades (and used it in my own football coaching experience this year), and started at least three other small personal projects that I haven’t finished/released yet (yes, there are still plenty of projects I hack on that never see the light of day).

So it’s been a bit of a roller coaster.

Emotions have been down a lot throughout this past year, but it makes me appreciate the ups even more.

A big project came to a close for me, but it freed me up to focus on a new and exiting one.

Important people to my world have been lost, but it drives me to connect with those that remain a little more.

And through it all, I code.

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).