Back To The Future and Back Again

Liz and Ferarri at 16 1981-2

1980 — Liz likes to time-travel in a  Ferarri 308 GTSi

      It’s Back to The Future Day today!!  And I am totally stoked!

For me, and many of my friends, we remember the genius of the sweet and laugh-out-loud funny 1985 movie classic “Back to the Future” starring Christopher Lloyd as the quirky, creative, hyper-active  mad-scientist inventor Doc Brown and of course Michael J. Fox as the adorably frustrated Marty McFly.  We remember, like it was yesterday how McFly and mad Doc Brown had to go backwards and forwards in time in their time-traveling DeLorean to save McFly’s parents George and Louise and orchestrate their meeting and eventual marriage, otherwise Marty would never have been born.

Oh how I love that movie!  We all intuitively knew back then, we were a generation sitting on the eve of one of the biggest technology booms in history! It was fun to imagine:

Just what will the world actually be like on October 21, 2015?

Lengthy BTF header

     Ah yes, 1985.  These were the  days before I forked over my quarterly savings for an over-priced brand-name  low-fat, extra-frothy latte.  They were the days of my first job at an electronics company where I was mesmerized by a friend who had started her own word-processing business on the side.  She had just purchased an Apple MacIntosh.  I still remember her plastic-encased off-white computer.  She showed me how you can insert graphic images and do all kinds of crazy things like change fonts and the structure of a document.  No more simplified block-style letters for her.  No, she was a mover and shaker and on her way to financial independence.  I had the opportunity to join her.  I declined.  No doubt, that was a Dipsy Doodle ding-dong move.  She probably moved on to Cupertino and changed her very life I’m sure.

1985 Apple

       Making multiple trips to see that great movie, little did my child-bride twenty-year old self know that someday I would no longer be struggling to thread camera film in total darkness onto a spiral wheel in order to see a picture come to life!  Only a couple years before the movie came out, I first learned about stop-baths and f-stops.  Every camera was a manual camera then.  Whatever picture you took, well it was going to be a surprise when you finally brought it to life in the magical red room of film photography.   While I was fumbling around with film canisters and  laughing with way-ward boys in the darkrooms of high school, young Michael J. Fox was most likely finding his way too on the lots of Hollywood as he perfected his skateboarding and his characterization of McFly.

          Yes, as my love of photography was blossoming, I remember how fun it was to bring twenty four, maybe even thirty-six half-way decent prints to life on a contact sheet.  Then you pick the best ones and print a handful.  In black and white.  Because that’s as far as I got in high school.  Who knew back then that thirty years later, we would all feel like master photographers as we post 24/7 not just twenty-four or  thirty-six, but unlimited amounts of  digital selfies?  Zillions and zillions of daily photographs of our vacations, meals, kids, kittens, and various other adventures are now sent (often unfiltered and uncensored by common sense) to all of our contacts,not  contact paper, to our magical, collective social diary known as Facebook. 

       Of course the secret to the time traveling DeLorean  in the movie,  was the pièce de résistance; the flux capacitor!  I worked at an electronics company in 1985.  We had large contracts with large defense contractors–names like Northrop-Gruman, Sandia Labs, and Lockheed Martin. I figured I must be important simply by job name-association.   At twenty I was learning the process of how to make memory boards that inserted into motherboards.  You add a fan, a power supply, and a floppy 5 1/4″ disk drive, and write some hexidecimal code and VOILA!  Magic!  You now have a computer.  And though I was only two decades past wearing diapers, I thought I was one rad chick.   Never mind the fact I wasn’t an engineer and didn’t even earn $10 an hour.  I was there man!  At the beginning of this magical world that was opening up and would forever change our future.

Flux capacitor

        I remember one particular endearing geeky programmer.  He was losing his hair though he was not yet thirty and had the palest skin I’d ever seen.  I don’t think he ever spent a single hour in the sunshine.  He always had a powdered doughnut and a coke in his hand.  He was so patient with me!  Trying to teach me how to speak binary.  Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time.  It didn’t matter.  I just kinda relished in all the geek-speak and tried to absorb what little bit I could.  I could feel it, just like  the Tom Petty song:  The Future is Wide Open! The sky really was the limit!

      I couldn’t have possibly imagined then the incredible journey of marriage, three kids, multiple jobs, pets, friends, locations, and vocations I’d experience over the next thirty years.   See back then, we lived in one time zone:  The Present

      Back then, before the future, I didn’t shoot a text to my friends.  I actually picked up a clunky plastic phone and dialed them.  Ok, I admit it.  I was rich kid.  My phone actually had push buttons.  But still, my mom could hear what I was talking about because I couldn’t even leave the kitchen in the 1980s.  Yes, we pitiful ‘80s kids had those spirally leashes that kept us attached to the wall within eaves-dropping range of our parents.  We couldn’t have known then that silly phone cord would eventually serve as inspiration to GE as they would find a way to  quintuple the price of an ordinary light bulb simply by making it take a bunch of hairpin turns.  Perhaps GE executives took Edward Hammer’s CFC lightbulb to the next level because they too were fans of Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

      So here we are.  Thirty years later.  The Chicago Cubs are doing pretty darn good!  Or at least they were until this past weekend.  Don’t know if their odds are actually 100 to 1 yet, but they’ve been living with those odds for a while anyway.  One can hope.  So I hope and pray, cross my fingers, and show kindness to goats whenever I see them, to lift the Cubs Curse, I pray that at least this remaining unfulfilled promise of Back to the Future may actually still happen.

       And here I sit too, at the half century mark.  I know longer feel young enough to actually call myself young.  After all, thirty-somethings now seem like kids to me.  But I don’t feel old enough to justify those damn annoying AARP cards that keep appearing in our mailbox.   I write this as I ponder the next thirty years:

  • Will the Cubs have a World Series win by then?
  • Will people still use Facebook or will we start relating again “old school” with actual face time?
  • What new technologies will be invented that can actually improve, not further clutter our lives?

And most importantly, who will I be?  What will I become?  If I could punch the date on a time-travel DeLorean thirty years forward, what will I see?   So as we get on our daily hoverboard of choice,  and continuously romance our phones, I pray I can live like McFly did.   I”ll get plugged in–plutonium amp like and become part of my experiences.  I won’t always pic and post it, I’ll actually live it.  

When seeing the future as a someday past, it makes me ponder what do I have to do now, to keep my family intact?  Most importantly with all this technology, how do I prioritize my time to live with purpose and have a meaningful life?  How do I live and love now in case one day, I too, get to go back to the future and see it all from a past perspective?     May we all choose wisely and not miss those moments of destiny where our past and futures collide.

Happy Back to The Future Day!!

Double Digit Man Builds an AM Radio

“Single digit years are for learning,

but the double digit years are for earning”….The Wisdom of Tyler at 10

Tyler radio

Double Digit Man and his AM radio

How’d we get here so fast? It seems like only yesterday, I was holding our little peanut, our tiny precious baby boy, this last precious child.  The weeks quickly turned to months, then years, and now here we are: The first decade is in the memory vault now.

Day One:

I still remember your birth like yesterday. You were born twenty minutes exactly after we got to the hospital. Yes, twenty minutes. You were almost born in the car, stuck in traffic between a State-Carolina game and NC fair traffic. Then we went to the wrong hospital entrance, the one for heart attacks, which your dad was about to have I believe.   When asked my name at the admissions desk for cardiac patients, I screamed, “THE….. BABY……. IS…… COMING…….. OUT!!!!”   No further questions were asked. I was wheeled faster than a NASCAR pace car across the hospital campus straight to maternity. I was stripped, pushed down, and not anesthetized. A few excruciating moments ensued. BOOM! You arrived.

We hit the ground running that day. We haven’t slowed since.

Mom and baby Tyler

Day Two:

But you started leaving me a little too. And every day forward, it’s been a little bit here, a little bit there, but always something each day slips away from those first moments we shared, never to return.

Year One through Five:

You changed completely. And then changed again.

You started out speechless, and pooped your pants a few thousand times those first few years. And though it felt like forever, finally, you reached hygienic independence once you saw your preschool peers do the same thing.   Those victories were so huge then. Still–we forget them.

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Many sleepless nights were then followed by you learning to walk, and talk, and then talk back. You also learned to count, say your ABCs, read, write, build, create, and understand.   Like the caterpillars we ‘re currently watching transform into butterflies, how quickly our baby transformed into a little boy.

Punk Rock Tyler DSCF8697

 Years Six through Ten: You became even more of you:

You became my creator extraordinaire.   Somewhere between your starter set of Duplo blocks and your attic room’s current infestation of countless Lego kits, you changed. No longer content to just build a Lego kit, you now can design a Lego Masterpiece from scratch, or take a kit and rebuild it into something extraordinary, functional, and new that is NOT in the instructions either. You do this and don’t even have any pieces left over.

You’re a stroke of genius, and sometimes madness. You are our pint-sized genius who sometimes struggles to write legibly and “stay focused” on school work; yet somehow manage the most complex concepts. As a toddler you didn’t speak until two and a half, and then you went from barely babbling to a string of sentences literally in a matter of a few days. There were few first words, only big ideas.

You memorized complex lyrics to the Phantom of the Opera by age four. You can tell me now who produced or starred in every Batman movie ever, and what year it was made, where it was filmed or who produced it, etc. You’re the king of trivia and Monopoly, but can’t seem to quit using your fingers to do basic math.   Despite ten thousand requests, you still forget to wash your hands after a bathroom break!

Queen Skelly

You are my Doctor Doolittle. You are the sensitive lover of animals who helps me bury and pray for the souls of the severed remains of every creature killed by our Lion King-like cat Toby the Hunter. You have begged (successfully, I might add) to keep all the strays we’ve ever found.   After all, four pets is NOT too many, right? Then there’s the rescued birds, bug collections, and caterpillar hatcheries.  With our four-footed friends, we both giggle and squeal over what we call “cuteness attacks”. You tell me you feel like your heart might explode from happiness when you watch our cats cuddle together, or the dog sneaks a kiss with Toby. I feel the same way when I watch the joy on your face.

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You are my Mr. Business. You are my competitive child who is determined to get Boardwalk & Park Place first in Monopoly. You understand money, and amazingly, how to leverage OPM (other peoples money).   You actually think of things like propositioning your parents to buy raffle tickets for your unwanted toys in order to buy more toys. You beg me to show you how to sell stuff on eBay, and have asked me to teach you how to monetize your own YouTube channel. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know yet how to do these things, never mind the time, you’re willing to wait, or better yet– pester me until I find myself doing that which I really don’t even want to do. I watch you “take over” when in a group of kids, immediately assigning the tasks of the playground, and wonder how do you even do that? Charm and confidence will surely compensate for any lack of knowledge or skill sets,  I have no doubt.

You are My Connoisseur of Culture: You’re my partner in a shared love of history,art,  science, drama, and music. It delights me to no end that you appreciate going to museums and enjoying visual or performance arts with me.   And in our first year homeschooling this year, I like it when we work together—the blissful moments where the whole house is quiet, even the dog and cats are asleep and then our little one room school magically fills with the sounds of opera. Or U2.   Or Vivaldi. Or Lindsey Stirling—YOU introduced me to the music of this amazing violinist. How did you know? You just do this all the time. Telling me things I don’t even know. Wonderchild. That’s what you are.

Forest Tyler

You are the best little brother and grandson ever.  Though you’re growing up mostly as an only child, you are all over the big brother and sister who helped me when you were a baby and who now laugh and revel in your presence when ever they visit home. You’ve found a way to worm your way into their hearts too.  They are like hip parent substitutes around you, alternating playing Santa to your childhood desires and being dutifully annoyed by the little brother who took over one room and then another, claiming more house real estate then they were ever privy to.    You bring them so much joy and laughter, just like us.  You are also the delight of your grandmothers and other relatives.   You are a baby with extra time and toy benefits with them.  You have kept their hearts young with your exuberance for discovery.  Nothing beats seeing life the second and third time around through the lens  of a child.

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Fast Forward to Now — The Birthday:

For your birthday all you wanted was a Play Station 3. You said you’d rather have that than then a party. I acquiesced, as after having choreographed thirty-four kids birthday parties for you and your siblings before this one, I woke up this year and realized: I’m toast.

I gladly “traded” a high-value gift for a high-chaos party. We were both happy. You got your Play Station. But you also received a microscope and a Snap Circuit electronics kit.  After eating cake,  instead of zooming to your highly coveted video game system, you did something that surprised us. First you got out your microscope. Then you built an AM radio. By yourself. By following directions with your Snap Circuits. Yes, follow directions.  Those two little words I often say, as though I’m a foreigner from a strange continent, speaking to someone with selective hearing loss.  But these things you’re interested in?   You’re laser-focused and assembled the radio independently like you’ve been doing it forever.

These are the moments where it’s so COOL to be a parent. The ones where your kid just totally surprises you. So hours after the family birthday dinner ended, Daddy and I, couched and tired, watched you create your radio. In a matter of minutes, we were listening to the static-laden AM broadcasts of war in the Middle East that was immediately followed by the soft sounds of 70s singers Olivia Newton John and Kenny Rogers.

Oh son. Life is more like this AM radio world then you know.   We’re nestled inside our cozy little home, but just beyond our walls, lies a darker world of death, destruction, and a multitude of wars for our very lives and souls.  I want to shield you forever from evil, and fear, and anxiety, and worry, and stress and hurt and just blanket you with Olivia and Kenny or musical theater. I want to lay out a blanket of furry critters for you to always be able to cuddle with. I want to spread overhead a sky full of rainbows and eclipsing moons and falling stars.

I want you to grow up, but not at the expense of losing the magic.

I want you to experience all the triumphs and love of being an adult outside the limits of this family, but wish I could spare you the pain too.

I won’t be able to stop it. Loss and hurt and hard are as much a part of life as discovery and wonder and amazement are.

All I wish today is for you to stay awhile. Stay a child a little bit longer.

I kiss you goodnight, and as this decade closes, I silently thank our God for being so gracious. This beautiful baby boy born in the autumn of my mothering years—I am blessed by your presence in our lives, beyond what I ever could have dreamed.  I love you!

Happy 10th birthday. Love, Mom

Cuteness attack

This is what a cuteness attack looks like! 

Tyler IMG_4516IMG_5002 Tyler IMG_4518