My 2015 in review … Part 2 of 2
For the last six years, I’ve found it rewarding to reflect on the past year as it ends (read: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). It’s fascinating how much happens in a single year, and looking back in this manner for the 7th year now has proven to be one of the most fascinating yet. It was a big year … most interestingly, for me personally; Typically my life and the events in it all revolve around work, but with a new addition to my family, among other things, I have a lot to note about those few hours a day outside of Carrot too. :) A lot happened this year … so I have broken it up into two separate posts. This one is about the more personal side of my life.
I ended last year’s note with comments about certain people (Victoria & Mike ;) pushing for us to have a baby … and the funny thing is, we were about ready to try anyway. After a good amount of “make up travel” - that is, catching some trips we’ve wanted to do for years but couldn’t for various rea$on$ (and time) - we decided we might be ready to consider the next adventure: family. Our mentality going into 2015 was “if /when it happens, it happens,” fully expecting this sort of thing to take some time. It happened immediately. In fact, because we didn’t expect it at all, we were riding the shit out of Harry Potter World, Sea World and Epcot attractions during a Winter-escape for a long weekend in February. Thankfully, it was too early in to make a negative impact, which we were of course nervous as hell about once we realized that Beth was pregnant, for realz. And so began a fascinating year of observing Beth come into pregnancy (and own the hell out of it), and starting to make small adjustment to our life and things we planned. It is sort of a “I know this is real, but I don’t know what this actually means yet” period for months … even for Beth, who obviously was the closest to it :). Once we knew for sure and that everything was okay, we had a lot of fun announcing it … first to our closest friends and family and coworkers (I did a “I’m working on a side project” tease presentation at our a weekly company-wide meeting), and then to the world!
So between finding out in February and meeting our little girl in October, a lot happened. One of the very last things we did in 2014 was purchase an apartment in Park Slope. Between getting an architect and contractor and all the things planned and in action, it took months before it was ready to actually move into. Beth PM’d things, and somehow we managed to get (most of) it done before we moved in in May. A quirky but “very Beth and Chris” space transformed into a home, with room for a baby and even a Star Wars addiction. We put in a spiral staircase, redid the kitchen and built cabinets to store the various things we have collected in our lives so far. Beth did a fantastic job of decorating it with our things, as usual: she transforms our art and my collectibles and her taste into a very inviting and somehow perfectly arranged decor. It’s her forte, for sure. Our home looks like our home. It looks amazing. It was sad to leave our much smaller 1.5 bedroom on Prospect Park West, our first home together and a truly wonderful place … but it was time. Lady Mary and Captain Rex, our fur family members, absolutely love the new place … which is effectively a cat playground that they kindly share with us :) The bathroom at our house outside of Rhinebeck was also being renovated this year, the final piece of that year and a half, weekend-project. It looks amazing and the place is truly a comfortable escape where we breathe differently and don’t stress. We can see the stars, eat under moonlight, and enjoy simple pleasures of nature and outdoor space that probably seems so obvious to those who don’t live amidst 8.4 Million people, but we absolutely love and need :)
The Force was strong in 2015
This year was also a big year of Star Wars fandom. I am somewhat obsessed as you might be aware … We started off with a trip to Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA in April, an event I have wanted to go to since it began in 1999. Ashley and David Eckstein were there in a big way for Her Universe (and Ashley’s character Ahsoka in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels), and hooked us up with some very special access passes. The first day was amazing … we skipped the line and were on hand to cry (twice) with excitement and joy as the second teaser for The Force Awakens premiered live with the cast (”Chewie, we’re home”). We walked away with a really cool poster that is now framed and hanging at home :D Day Two granted us access to the Star Wars Cantina set recreation where Ashley filmed a fashion segment, and we walked around the floor a bunch, as well as some great Clone Wars panels. Carrot client ANA was there with a giant model of the R2-D2 plane! Day three was also a blast, as we sat in for a photo for “Ahsoka Lives” Day, enjoyed more front row seating to panels, and had a stellar time soaking up all things Star Wars. It was pretty awesome to see girls and women of all ages walking around with the shirt I designed for Her Universe (”Salacious Crumb’s cupcakes”) :D We spent our last day at DisneyLand for the first time - it was cool for sure, but very different in scale from Disney World in Orlando. Speaking of …
For my little brother’s graduation from Rutgers, my parents pitched in and we gifted him a trip to Orlando for a week of Disney and Universal Studios in late May, a few days after we moved. While Beth couldn’t do some of the rides while pregnant, we all managed to have a fantastic time. It was also the middle of Star Wars Weekends, so our first day was at Hollywood Studios, front row for the parade. Once again, we got a major hookup from our friend Ashley of Her Universe with some VIP passes the entire weekend, getting close to and meeting some Star Wars celebrities :D Beth took it easy one day while I took Jeffrey to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley for the incredible immersion into the magical world of Harry Potter. We also met a Raptor. Every time we visit Disney, etc. it gets harder to leave. I am pretty sure I would live in the artificial paradise of imagination quite happily if I could.
The Hard Stuff
Not everything this year was roses, Star Wars and fantasy … I know there is a stigma that Facebook and social sharing tends to be the “best of” life, where you more or less see peoples’ optimized and edited versions of their lives and best selves. In contrast, I think I tend to share my life pretty broadly … we are just very fortunate to enjoy very serendipitous and generally positive lives, partly because we are generally optimistic people. That said, I dealt with some stuff this year that I did not know how to share as casually as we do most things. There was a point in May where I found myself completely overwhelmed by anxiety. It was at a time when some sub-conscious baby reality was starting to set in, work was as busy and intense as always, we were in the middle of packing to move, and I was being tested for a potentially life- threatening genetic disorder while simultaneously trying not to get denied life insurance (for Beth and the baby’s benefit) should something happen to me. This anxiety began to manifest as twitching muscles in my quad, which led to a google search that convinced me I had a neurological disorder and that I was going to die. Because of the mental place I was in, I lost control of it and gave into a completely irrational fear that was intensely real for me. After a sleepless and foodless couple of nights and days I saw a Neurologist. Tests were negative and symptoms confused the hell out of her as, it turns out, they were all manifested, physical symptoms driven by anxiety. I realized how powerful and dangerous stress can be - it is more real than I ever imagined. For someone who has thrived on 10 years of stress and built a company successfully riding it, I was shocked to succumb to it so suddenly. Brain scans, MRIs and many doctor visits later, I finally accepted it for what it was: I had lost control (or maybe never had any) over anxiety. I was not going to die of a neuro disorder: an incredible Neuro doctor at Columbia looked me in the eye and told me that, and after a couple of months of doubting every doctor’s reassurances and demanding more tests, I finally believed it. I cried, because I realized that my biggest fear was that I was literally dying and was going to leave a baby not even born yet without a father. I had no idea and was completely caught off guard. I owe a major thanks to the doctors at Sherpaa who worked tirelessly to help me meet with the right specialists, find a light medication to aid the issue (I was totally against, but after completing it, I understand its importance in beginning to gain control), and meet with a psychologist / therapist to talk through and understand it all. The service is truly amazing and I recommend it highly - Dr Gonella, Dr Chung and Dr Blohm were incredible. Holy shit. It turns out I do have some sort of OCD, which now, looking back, makes complete sense … I imagine a lot of entrepreneurs might as well. In hindsight, I can totally see it: My Star Wars passion is a full-fledged obsession … I don’t just see shows, I’ve been to 93 Dave Matthews Band concerts alone … I didn’t show up to Carrot everyday for work for 10 years: I lived and breathed and dreamed and am consumed by it everyday (though to general positivity). Those are all generally positive things, but when that intense commitment is focused on a fear, as in this case with what was effectively a bought of hypochondria, it can be physically destructive. As therapy helped me see, this didn’t come from nowhere irrationally either … having my lung collapse twice in the same year (in 2012) spontaneously and without warning was fairly traumatic. I realized that since then fear around my health has been just below the surface, and in May, it erupted. The first genetic disorder I was being evaluated for, Marfans Syndrome (which I don’t have, thankfully), has multiple collapsed lung episodes as a major symptom among other things that made me a candidate. The scary thing is the very slight boundary between reasonable concern and irrational fear, and that is what I have been working on for the last seven or so months. It is getting better though, and I am in a 1000% better place having done the legwork of coming to terms with and understanding anxiety and OCD. It’s humbling for someone used to control to realize there are some things that cannot be controlled … and controlling what you can to remedy a situation you find yourself in is important. It’s not just optimism, it’s an inherent need to fix problems when I see them - I just didn’t see this one until it knocked me over the head. Once it did, I could and have taken all steps to fix it, and have been rewarded successfully for it. I discovered what “balance” actually means … it’s not working less or shutting off email after 9pm … it’s the entirely of your life: what you eat, working out, and lots of perspective on how you focus energy and allow yourself to stress (or don’t). Thanks also to Matt Knell, Mike, Ryan McGinnis, Jillian, Brittany and Nick Perold for their support during this entire ordeal. And of course, Beth, who couldn’t quite understand and relate, but who pushed me to fight and get help with it.
The best part of surviving this mental trial was that the next ridiculous health crisis, which apparently we are prone to, was a breeze. I don’t tend to get colds or “regular” things - just the weird stuff. Shortly after returning from a truly wonderful babymoon in St. Lucia with Beth this summer (where I befriended a local bird - look!!), I scratched a bug bite in my sleep and BAM: a staph MRSA infection. Some good ’ol, common city grit must have found its way in and suddenly I was off my feet for several weeks with a foot infection that resisted antibiotics for a week and eventually landed me in an urgent care center for a procedure > an NYU hospital stay with intense antibiotics delivered via IV. Apparently this was a pretty serious thing, as my PC Doctor and friends at Sherppa all breathed a collective sigh of relief after, but the good news is that I kept my cool and didn’t freak out during it at all: I dealt with it and survived.
Beth’s Health Scare
It also prepared me to handle a very scary ordeal a few weeks back in December, when Beth woke me up in the middle of the night suffering from “the worst headache of her life,” a high fever, and pain that rivaled her medication-free labor and delivery. After checking in with Dr Blohm from Sherpaa via emergency phone call, we rushed to the ER down the street at Methodist while our friend, neighbor and Saint Jenn Gordon watched our baby in the wee hours of the morning until my parents could arrive from NJ and relieve her. After a spinal tap, some meds for the headache and evaluation, we thought we were looking at a potentially serious case of rare bacterial meningitis. Beth was moved to isolation in the ER, every doctor who saw her took a special preventative antibiotic, as did I … but the biggest concern aside from Beth was the baby, who was obviously completely exposed via breastfeeding. That was a different sort of fear … a helpless infant potentially facing something life-threatening to even the strongest of adults will send you reeling. The good news is that any concern for myself was completely absent, and I survived more or less a few sleepless days of concern for wife and child with flying colors. Of course, the support from my parents at home with the baby once she got her antibiotic shot and didn’t prove symptomatic, was incredible. Victoria came over and helped us out immensely while Beth was in the hospital, as did our friends Cassy and Kelly, and baby natural Emily Okey once Beth was home and we both needed some recovery time. It turned out Beth just had a viral form … despite some suspicious and odd initial findings that confused the Infectious Disease folks … but in this case, that is the best case scenario and Beth is returned to herself now. So, that’s the real stuff and the full story of everything that wasn’t rainbows and happy times. All said and done, we survived and came out stronger in all ways from the trials this year … and are blessed with an incredible, adorable, beautiful and life-changing baby
Olivia Autumn Petescia was born at 4:35pm on October 22, 2015. 7 lbs and 4oz of miracle entered our lives after an 18 hour total labor (12 hours of which were contractions), at the Natural Birthing Center (read: no drugs and totally bad-ass wife) at Roosevelt Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. I cried when I saw her, and was speechless when I held her. Words cannot describe what it is like, but something changes in you when you have a baby. There is a shift … in focus, in attention, in your soul. I think there is a divide between parents and non-parents, a small barrier of understanding that you have to step over to truly comprehend. Olivia has changed everything. In an instant, the minor things that stressed me or I dwelt over didn’t matter. She has made our lives better, and touched everyone who has met her … and she is only 10 weeks old as of yesterday. Every sleepy smile, every bit of baby chatter, every dance to her sci-fi mobile (or just watching her enjoy it) … every first for me and every first for her, when she falls asleep cuddled on me, or looks at me and brightens with a smile … every happy outburst and giggle. We brought her home and started a new adventure that feels like we are already chasing. Every day is new, she is developing and growing so fast. Soon she will be attending shows with us (ears protected), traveling and doing things with us that I thought would go away. I realize now, things will be different as I thought they might be … but that it’s totally okay. It’s different in a good way, and it is amazing. Thank you Uncle Mike and Aunt Victoria, for leading the way and helping me get here :)
So, What Else?
A lot happened this year. We did a lot, and there was all sorts of fun and good people. Jillian Augello, who started at Carrot earlier last year, has become a very close friend and important person in my life. I am so glad to have met her and thrilled for her as she starts her own family with adorable Minerva and her fiance. There are so many amazing people at Carrot these days, and I am proud to call many of them good friends. I am okay with that :) Before Olivia arrived, Beth and I ate around Park Slope plenty, and escaped to the The Burrow every weekend we could … starting with a number of times in the winter to enjoy the season and woodstove fires (where we discovered ice damming and roof shoveling)… but unfortunately only a few times during our busy and eventful summer. I managed to take some paternity leave here and there, and it was nice to immerse in our new family for a few days at the Burrow after Olivia was born. We spent some other great weekends at The Burrow with regulars Ryan, Meli and Pat and some special guests, including John and Tony. Bruno, Bridget, Tony and I caught an opening day showing of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, I took Beth to Les Mis, she took me to Aladdin, and we enjoyed Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk Live at The Beacon Theater. The Fourth of July was spent deliciously at Fornino (Pier 6) with Beth’s parents, Ryan and Meli … and we ate there a LOT this summer in general :D I spent the my 32nd birthday in NYC, with Ryan joining us to check out The Cloisters, night celebrations with Jaime and Amanda Yang at Zombie Hut, and received a very special birthday message from MGIII. We had a fantastic time celebrating Brittany and Joe Morelli’s Wedding as a Carrot group! Not only was it incredibly beautiful (particularly the bride) but it was really a treat to get together like that with Ryan & Trish and Adam & Pacey, as we don’t often get to. Oh, and there was that awesome moon eclipse that we could see from our Brooklyn rooftop!
I made the most of Force Friday … but nothing in that haul compares to the excitement of finally receiving my screen-accurate, custom-fit and professionally-crafted Boba Fett (RotJ) costume! This was my personal splurge when we sold the company, and I was already on a waiting list that took 2.5 years total until it was my turn :) We attended New York Comic Con as VIPs once again (Beth, due that same weekend, was a trooper and a saint for dressing me in the many components), where I premiered the costume to great fascination by all attendees and particular excitement from the kids there. It was exhausting but a huge, huge thrill! We enjoyed the perks of BAM membership, and hit a few games with our awesome season seats to the Islanders’ first year in Brooklyn. We had a professional photographer do a maternity shoot with us, but I took some photos during my own shoot with Beth too. We took baby Olivia to visit Carrot in December, where the adorable little nugget looked impossibly cute on our big orange couch. The Carrot folks loved her, and Brittany and Jillian were quick to snatch her for some baby hang time. We also visited CNN and toured the set of Beth’s show, before saying goodbye as Beth let them know she is taking a leave to be a Mom.
A big thanks to everyone who showered Olivia with gifts … from her amazing Star Wars tee from Mary Grace, to her Japanese kimono from Miki, to hand-knit yoda cap from Cassy to the amazing week’s worth of food for Mom and Dad from Bridget. The end of the year was very good to our family, and we even escaped as a couple to the Carrot Holiday party to dress in Havanna-themed attire. We began a tradition of cutting down our own tree at a farm nearby, where Olivia met Santa and Mrs Clause for the first time! Christmas at my parents’ place was made special by Olivia, as she really brought everyone together in a brand new way - including Aunt Sara-Jane, who was visiting from CO and met her for the first time! We managed to fit in a visit to the Star Wars Costume Exhibit in Times Square with Christine, but failed in our attempt to get Olivia to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens … it was supposed to be a baby-friendly showing but wasn’t, and way too loud for even protected baby ears. So, I ended up seeing SW:TFA 3x total in 2015 … more to come in 2016, for sure (including a necessary baby-friendly viewing when Court Street begins to do that).
Congrats to Ryan and Meli on their engagement (finally!), and to my sister Marybeth and her fiance Luis. A lot to look forward to in the next year for some very important people in our lives :) Thank you so much to Mike for introducing me to his trainer as well, Gyasi Grant, whose hard work with me and genuine concern have helped me build physical and mental strength. My back and stress-reduced mind are grateful. I am still a very happy and optimistic person despite some of the aforementioned setbacks in my life, and a large part of that is the circle of friends and family (and now baby) I am lucky to have :)
Music & More
Typically, I list the concerts we saw during the year… this year we practically missed out on as many as we attended, with so many things happening in life.
- Governor’s Ball (Randall’s Island) - VIP
- Florence & the Machine (Olivia’s first show - in the womb)
- Weird Al
- Lana Del Rey
- The Black Keys
- Dave Matthews Band (Hartford)
- Hozier (Radio City Music Hall)
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (Prospect Park)
- Willie Nelson (Prospect Park Bandshell)
- Global Citizen’s Festival (Central Park) - VIP
- Ed Sheeran
- Common (with Sting)
- Pearl Jam!
- Hozier (Beacon Theater)
- Wolf Alice (some venue in Brooklyn)
- Sleater-Kinney (T5)
- A Place to Bury Strangers (St Vincent)
- … and several more I probably have chosen to forget.
I was really saddened by the closing of RDIO this year … where I listened to most of my music for the last few years. I made the difficult switch to Spotify, and between them my music stats are as follows: Ludovico Einaudi, a fantastic Italian composer, completely stole my attention. It became our “Burrow music” soundtrack. Following him, were Hammock, Pearl Jam, Lana Del Rey (still a guilty pleasure) and, of course, Dave Matthews Band. Top Artist, Top Album and Top Song (90s much?) stats provided by last.fm.
A new addition, books read … a LOT of graphic novels and comics. It seems I needed an escape :) Check out my Goodreads wrap-up here.
Holy shit … I need a break. I’ll buy you a coffee if you made it this far: verbal coupon code “you write too much.” I am really looking forward to everything 2016 will brings :) Let’s do it. Cheers!
Missed Part 1? Read it here.