Mike Long – Rest In Peace

November 10th, 2010 - Mike Long speaking and smoothing the way as we meet the executives of American Express for the first time.

November 10th, 2010 – Mike Long speaking and smoothing the way as we meet the executives of American Express for the first time.

It’s with very sad regret that I woke up this morning receiving the news that Mike Long passed away this weekend.

To some the name may not resonate, but, to those in the Merchant Risk and Financial/Fraud circles, Mike was a pioneer and well known fixture in this industry. He was also someone I had the honor to call friend.

Mike was one of the founders of the company I work for now (Accertify), and he was instrumental in the strategy and development of our fraud fighting platform. Mike was also instrumental in building the relationships that would land our largest clients.

It was with great honor that Mike and the other founders endorsed me to head up the day to day stewardship of our largest client. In that, Mike was a tremendous mentor to me in understanding the nuances of the industry, and we would collaborate and talk often on strategy and fraud trends._31F1498

Mike Long was a very dynamic individual. He was selfless and passionate about what he did. In that regard, when it came time to internationalize Accertify, Mike up-rooted his family and moved to the United Kingdom to open our first office in London.

As General Manager of the EMEA region, Mike continued his legacy as the consummate “cheerleader” for Accertify. Doing what Mike did best, he spent years building networks with a whole new continent of clients, and cementing our place in the EU financial space.

_31F1228Even as busy as he was, you could always shoot him an email and keep tabs, and he always made time for you.

Mike was that guy who cherished the relationships he had, and he never forgot a single detail about anyone he met.

It always was great to see him when he’d visit the Itasca office, and it always was a great time to have a beer and catch up on his latest stories from abroad.

He truly had a charisma that allowed him to control a room, knowing how to captivate an audience.

_31F1229

I learned a lot from this man.

As one of the cornerstones of this corporation, Mike started as my superior. But, since those first days when I was wet behind the ears (September of 2010), Mike personally became my mentor, my collaborator, and finally someone I would grow to call dear friend.

I will truly miss you, the laughs, “SMH” moments at some of the stories you’d tell, and the awe with which others in this industry were equally enthralled by your presence.

Rest well my friend…

-Jorge

September 27th, 2010 - On a conference call, with a water bottle in one hand, and still one handed catching the ball in the other.  He was just that good.

September 27th, 2010 – On a conference call, with a water bottle in one hand, and still one handed catching the ball in the other. He was just that good.

The exact details will be shared through more formal channels as is appropriate, but to his Wife and family, I am truly sorry for your loss.

God bless you during this time of mourning..

Life After Loss: Joy? The paths are there.

St. Lucia - A place which brought me joy and new memories.

St. Lucia – A place which brought me joy and new memories.

You know, in certain aspects, we all have something, some gift, that God gave us which we identified with early on.

For me, I was cursed (or blessed) with the gift of total recall. Sights, sounds, smells, sensations, pain… and joy. I clearly have memories I can vividly recant as far back as 2 years old. I still blow family and friends away with the exact details of what I was doing, what they were saying, people who were in my life, etc.; small details they have all but forgotten.

Cool, right? To a point..

Anyone who’s ever known me, understands that my love for photography is rooted in this gift. Just like “Bruce Banner” learned what triggers his “gift/curse”, I learned that imagery is the catalyst for taking me down a very lucid journey of recall. Imagine taking a DVD with a photo on the front of meeting the person of your dreams for the first time, or the birth of your child, and putting it in the DVD player; then, sitting back and hitting play. We’ve all had family nights like that. Everyone is laughing and smiling! Everyone talks about the good times they’re seeing on the screen, and yet the whole room falls silent when someone enters the frame who may have recently left them…

Brainstorm (1983) - Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood

Brainstorm (1983) – Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood

What I have reminds me of a very classic movie I loved as a child. “Brainstorm” was about two scientists who found a way of recording the experiences happening to someone, and being able to play them back in every detail. In the end, someone who was dying recorded themselves. This tape, and the desire for others to experience it, was to be a large part of the plot in the last half of the movie. That said, you can imagine that those who had to relive the horrors contained in that tape suffered their own near death.

So imagine, for those close friends and family on Facebook, or on this blog, you’d remember that I had dozens of albums (containing thousands of pictures) of what my life was over the last 5 years. My ex was such a fixture in my life that you couldn’t turn anywhere, expecting to see or hear about me, and not see her or our children. I coped overwhelmingly with the hurt and abuse she would inflict on me (for the longest time mainly consisting of her emotional withholding) by photographing anything that was a good time in our lives.

Truth: I told her all the time that I’d go through some of our pictures at least once a day. I never explained why (what good would come of it?), but it was one way I made the bad times tolerable.. By living in my past memories of good times.

When I finally had my own conversation of closure with her (months after we had broken up), the hardest thing I knew I had to do (because I was still holding onto hope we could reconcile) was destroy and dismantle my life with her.

Any joy I had in my memories were forever tarnished. Even to the end, she used me. As I’d mentioned before, even after breaking up we were still “hooking up” for sex, going on dates, seeing each other, etc (all while she was dating others) But, on our last date she flat out told me she wanted nothing to do with me, there was no hope, and after the date we were on was over, and the last one we had planned later that week was over (Great America), she was done for an extended period of time with no contact. Telling me right then that everyone wanted sex, and she could have called anyone (yet she wanted me to satisfy her?), and not read into that motive as a chance for hope. That she wanted to cancel the date were were on that night, and what she had committed to already, but was a woman of her word and wouldn’t.

How I took that: “I do, and always have loved how you spoiled me, and I’m going to milk these last moments and just give you that last smash between the eyes because I know you want any contact with me and you won’t ruin these last nights with me.”

Well, as you read a few weeks ago. Shortly after was when I prayed for a clear sign of what I needed to do, and I got it.

But like I mentioned a moment ago.. any good that she did for me (even sincerely) is forever tarnished. So I had to burn everything. It was the singularly hardest thing for me (like a crack addict throwing his pipe in the dumpster and watching it be taken away) to throw the stuff in the garbage and watch the garbage truck tip that dumpster over. I honestly was having a panic attack and red out standing on my deck watching this happen.

To this day, if I run across a picture I forgot to delete on a device or on a server, my body is trained to automatically de-focus the image. I know it’s her, but I look at the caption, or the scenery, but I don’t focus her in my mind. I just instinctively click on it, and hit delete, then empty the recycle bin. No good, none, will ever come of this woman ever coming in contact with me, or my family. She doesn’t deserve to be in any of our memories after the selfish hurt she inflicted.

Ironically, weeks after she realized what I did, she asked me between then, and this coming spring, to get her the pics of her kids for her oldest 8th grade graduation. Again, needing something, using me.. I told her flat out, if I went into any archive, and started looking, she’d get them with my epitaph.

I owe her nothing.

According to Webster, “Joy” is defined as follows:

1
a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2
: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3
: a source or cause of delight

After any major loss the thought of “bliss or delight” being experienced again is a non-starter. It’s hard to even form words like that into a coherent sentence.

In Philippians 4:4-9 I finally started to find a way to find joy again.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Ever hear a believer use a saying like “Put your fears and burdens at the foot of the cross and give it to God”?

This is where that comes from. Rejoice! This is the type of “joy” the Bible is talking about. Not one rooted in our circumstances, but one rooted in our connection with God. When we can give it all to Him, ask him to make sense of it all, and trust He will work it out for us; that is when we will find we can start to focus on the positives.

It’s hard to let go and do that. I understand this. But, when you finally can, there is something tremendously liberating about it. That’s when you finally “hear” Him. He guides and compels you. He gives you the faith to “let go”. You learn to finally take hold of the things you actually can control, and leave it to Him to handle the rest. Death, divorce, grief. Don’t we learn quickly just how powerless we are over so much? Realizing just how little we actually can control. But, one thing we can control is our attitude and our response to our loss.

The pain causes us to grieve deeply.. that’s ok.

The pain causes us to be extremely sad… that’s ok too.

So how do we get there?

First: You need to honor grief. Understand that many well-meaning expectations that you or others may have are simply unrealistic.

Did you know, that at the turn of the 20th century, people were given 12 months to wear black during a period of grief? That was to signify to others that you were at some point of suffering, and to give you latitude and compassion. The reality is, after 12 months, you were expected to “get over it” and move on. Anyone who’s struggled with grief and loss for years or decades will profess that you don’t ever truly “get over it”. But, it’s shown that 99% of people can at least “move on”. I’ll take that percentage to heart.

Second: Give yourself (as a sufferer) or others (as a good friend) who you are supporting room for wide variations in mood. I know this all too well. The proverbial slinky I talked about in the past. A journey through grief isn’t a ruler you travel down with clearly defined milestones. It’s more like a slinky.. you always work your way up, but sometimes you can find yourself at the bottom of a coil, or at the top. We expend a tremendous amount of emotional and spiritual energy through the process of healing. I can find myself in the middle of the day just hitting a funk where I just want to curl up into a ball and just cry myself to sleep, then wake up an hour later and go out with friends.

Third: You want to find safe people who will let you talk about your loss. In my case, my ministry, as well as this blog has helped me tremendously.

Fourth: Learn from the grief process you’ve seen others go through.

Fifth: Don’t panic.. It’s very normal and good to question values and beliefs. Think back to my article on where is God in our hope?

Sixth: Remember that grief is a catalyst for life change. I have changed tremendously. I’m much more thoughtful, accepting, and aware then I ever was.

Finally, let me put this into perspective. Here’s a story I’m going to publish verbatim, because it was just that good..

—————–

In 1871, Horatio Spafford, a prosperous lawyer and devout Christian, and his wife, Anna, were living comfortably with their four young daughters in Lake View, Chicago.
In that year the great fire broke out which devastated the entire city. For the next two years Horatio and Anna devoted their time to welfare work amongst the refugees of the fire.

By November 1873 the Spaffords needed some respite and decided to join friends in Europe but just before their departure Horatio was detained on business. Anna and their four daughters were persuaded to set off without him but en route tragedy struck. The steamship they were travelling on, the Ville du Havre, sank after colliding with another ship in mid-ocean.

Of the hundreds on board, Anna was one of only 27 who were rescued having been kept afloat by a piece of debris. Her daughters did not survive. Overcome with despair at the loss of her childern, Anna felt strongly that she had been saved for a purpose.

In Chicago, Horatio received a tragic telegram from his wife: ‘Saved alone.’

Setting off to bring Anna home, he crossed the Atlantic and the watery grave of his four daughters. Moved by the experience he wrote a hymn, ‘IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL’, which expressed his faith. The hymn remains one of the most popular Christian hymns in the USA.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot,

thou hast taught me to say:

It is well, it is well, with my soul”

Having returned to Chicago, the Spaffords were blessed with further children, a son Horatio, and a daughter, Bertha. However, another crushing blow was dealt when little Horatio died of scarlet fever at the age of three.

—————–

Clearly, Spafford had discovered that in God alone, can be found peace and joy in ANY circumstance. May we all strive for that wisdom and clarity as we grapple with the impact of LOSS in our own lives.

-Jorge
jorge@projectwrx.com

Life After Loss: The Mind of the Abused

The scene on the evening of 11/05/2013

The scene on the evening of 11/05/2013

One year ago today I was sitting in this exact same chair, in this exact same room, with a bag of ice on my neck and shoulder. I was staring down at the darkening bruises while looking at my “prize” for the night. Still sitting in my lap was one of the instruments used on me that night; the laptop she used to do this to me.

The subject matter expert for this week’s article is… me.

I had spent four years getting used to the guilt manipulation, the emotional withholding every month; the psychological abuse in general. But then on November 5th, 2013 a line was crossed that would just open the flood gates for the next 6 months.

Normally I write for the benefit of others, some way to connect with someone who reached out. Today, I’m writing about my own struggle that broke something deep inside me. So here’s a glimpse into my mind, several layers deep.

For what it’s worth, because I know there will be some who think I may be exposing too much, hit “back” now.

I’ve prayed quite hard about this, and this is the toned down version. One thing I’ve learned lately is that I need to advocate for and nurture myself. It’s been very therapeutic unpacking the wrongs done to me. So hopefully this helps seal this wound, finally.

Luke 9:62 - Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."   I live in a region with lot of farms.  Every season I see the farmers on their tractors plowing the beautiful, rich soil into unbelievable straight rows. I'm told that their method is to focus straight ahead as they plow, looking neither to the right, nor to the left and certainly never behind. Jesus wants us to put our past behind us; we can't change that. Yes, we have learned from our past, but we must focus straight ahead on our future with Him. Then we can be fit for His service!

Luke 9:62 – Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I live in a region with a lot of farms. Every season I see the farmers on their tractors plowing the beautiful, rich soil into unbelievable straight rows. I’m told that their method is to focus straight ahead as they plow, looking neither to the right, nor to the left and certainly never behind. Jesus wants us to put our past behind us; we can’t change that. Yes, we have learned from our past, but we must focus straight ahead on our future with Him. Then we can be fit for His service!

One day before that evening (November 4th) I was celebrating my birthday with my Ex. Frankly, in the years prior to this, we struggled. Just a month before this incident, we were “done”. But, she reached out several weeks later wanting to reconcile. So, two weeks later we are celebrating that Monday night and it was just incredible!

For those who’ve been following along at home, here’s just one example of the peaks and valleys which were the hallmark of our lives. Beautiful day the night before, and…

So what can possibly derail this? Well, for right or wrong (I’ll lean on the side of wrong and own this), she had left herself logged into one of my computers at home, and I wasn’t forthright and open about it. So, for that month before, she had started talking again with an ex boyfriend who was her first choice on wanting to be married to. Someone she stressed to me our entire relationship was her high water mark.

There was a tremendous amount of jealousy there. But also hurt because, while she started those conversations when we were “done”, this was someone who had propositioned her when we were dating. He clearly still had an interest in her at that time, and while I’m not judging or making a statement one way or another of where he was fall of 2013, it was the principal of the matter that was upsetting me. Just the dishonesty about the contact.

Needless to say, we go from a perfectly normal, and surreal day on Monday the 4th, to talking on her way home on the 5th; and then.. all of the sudden, she needed to go. Reason being she was at a car dealership and needed to talk to someone who was installing something on her new car (mind you, this is a guy who also wanted to date her, and she did end up eventually going out with him on a “date” weeks later).

What you need to understand is she was someone I spent HOURS on a phone talking to. Truly, we both spent years keeping each other company all the time (Heavily enmeshed relationship). So when all of the sudden she had to go, it honestly didn’t sit well. A week before, she was in the same situation and just kept me on the phone (Bluetooth earpieces were our friend), so needless to say, this wasn’t typical behavior to the prior 4 years.

So, I checked that logged in computer…

Sure enough, even talking to me, she was in the middle of a conversation with him (the ex BF) on Facebook at the same time. Arranging a time to talk right then. Thus, her rapid departure.

At best (and that’s being very kind…), I can say she wasn’t actively doing anything “wrong” with him. They weren’t sexting or anything like that. Well, in hindsight, that I’m aware of. But anyone who has heard this always asks the same questions.

“Why hide it then if you weren’t doing anything wrong in your heart? Also, if he was her high water mark, why is she seeking him out for companionship and conversation when she has you? Especially if she’s so conscious of image and reputation.”

Very good questions. But, regardless, I KNEW what I had to do. So I printed it out and went right over to her house. Her mom and kids were there, and I walked up to her phone, pulled up the conversation, looked at her, and just showed her privately.

“I know…” is what my face said to her as I then looked back and smiled at everyone. I started to then talk to her mom and the kids about their day. Can you imagine the tension at that moment as no one in that room was any the wiser to what was going on between us?

Well, that escalated fast. To her flat out denying wrong doing, justifying to her mom what happened, to telling her mom to not listen to me (My Ex, sadly, lives and breaths for her reputation and the court of public opinion. Which was more important to her then me, or my feelings, through countless examples throughout our relationship..), to finally me pulling out the print out when I was done with the lies and cover-up.

That’s when things went from bad, to worse. As you’re about to see, this was NOT her finest moment.

Her mother and children then witnessed all of this, and to them, I am truly sorry they had to experience just what she was capable of. I apologized directly to her children weeks later and they accepted that apology, but I’m getting out of order.

..a punch thrown at my face, stopped just a second short, a vase of flowers I had given her, thanking her for the night before was being smashed into my chest, and a laptop I had purchased and given her (when her own computer had broken) was being smashed into me.

Children crying, her mom crying; I’m just standing there. She wants to call the police, but her mom stopping her (obvious who would have gone to jail that night…). Finally, me leaving with the laptop in my hands, half destroyed.

Right or wrong, I was tired of being used, lied to, hurt, and abused. Loved when she wanted to love, hurt when she wanted to hurt, a door mat when she needed to wipe her feet.. Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.

Fast forward… later that night, I KNEW I did the right thing because it was something I had caught her doing very early on in our relationship (with another lover). But, I chose to forgive her. Who knows what else, or what other situations I don’t know about. Clearly doesn’t matter anymore, but it’s something that makes you go “hmmmm..”.

Yet, as is typical in abusive relationships.. Two weeks later, we are back together, trying again. Just that this time, the aggression from her ended up being much higher when things would go south. I remember her freaking out and getting in my face, and I actually pulled out my phone when she wasn’t listening to reason, to calm down, and started videoing it telling her she needs to see herself. Well, at that point, I could see her veins pumping in her neck as all 5’2″ of her (I’m 6’1″) was in my face trying to rip the phone out of my hands. For what it’s worth, she took my phone after that, found that video, and deleted it without telling me what she was doing. It just kept getting worse until the end.

Hell, even after the end, in the few dealings I had to have with her, she was still that old her. Blunt, aggressive, demeaning, just tearing me down if something wasn’t to her liking. Ripped apart an online profile I had on a dating site we both were on; mocking me and laughing at it. Ripped me down for having a conversation with my son after I was baptized, and not liking the explanation I was giving him about something even as I’m proud of the moment with my children. Just a selfish cruelty overall. Not realizing (or not caring) how much her words hurt the people who love her.

Her mom (bless her heart) really tried to help us reconcile after that incident and ministered to both of us, telling her she was honestly afraid I was going to kill her for attacking me. I’ll say this, I loved that girl so much I could never harm a hair on her head. Even though I could (and did) pick her up with one hand without any effort, I just let her attack. I did nothing to defend myself.

A birthday wish from Stefano, one of my best friends since we were 3.

A birthday wish from Stefano, one of my best friends since we were 3.

But the damage inside was done. I just celebrated my birthday, and honestly it was a meloncholy event. One of my best friends posted this picture on my Facebook page and he was right. The entire day was an outpouring of love and support from hundreds of people who know my story, know what happened a year before, and did everything they could to make me feel loved. To them, thank you. I have an incredible support network. But there are some wounds that won’t heal soon. Like my birthday.. It will be scarred for a long time.

Someone who grew up with her was talking to me about this the other day and she asked me:

“Is she really worth anymore of your heartache or tears?”

The simple answer is… “No”. Of course not.

I have every reason to HATE her. EVERY reason to want to see the relationship she’s now in suffer, for no other reason than to vindicate me (it’s truly his problem now..). But, despite having every reason, I can’t, and don’t want to be that person. I guess it’s because before we were lovers, we were friends, and that’s what I miss.

That friend I talked to daily. The friend who’d send me that random selfie and text through the day. The friend who’d call me, or I them, meet up for lunches, look forward to dinner, or catching up on a show… My Dr. Jekyll. Until Mr. Hyde reared his head days 10-12, and 23-28.

SIDEBAR:
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Cycle Calculator by SoundTells

Cycle Calculator by SoundTells

Come on girls... you know what I'm talking about. ;) How many guys do you know have the rhythm cycle mastered? I kept a calendar for the prior year and a half and just quietly kept a log (Red dot, yellow dot, green dot) and subjectively kept track. I knew when she was going to wake up as a different person. I really tried to do my part to back off, walking on egg shells to not set her off. Figuring.. that's love. You accept someone for right or wrong. I was all strapped in for this ride with her until she crossed these new lines. Then I was honestly lost again... torn.

I knew, for my own health, I did the right thing.
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Or is it the psychological tracks of abuse still tattooed in my head?

She had me really thinking for years that I could never do better than her. That no one would understand me like she could, and that she was my best friend who’d always care for me. She promised me she wouldn’t treat me the way other women had, that she’d never take advantage of me… She knew my wounds, and knew exactly how to rub those hurts and make them feel better… or be the one to punch them when I’d least expect.

I don’t know.

All I do know is a very important lesson my mom taught me after 40+ years of marriage. Advice she gave us both after my birthday last year, and the honest concern she had knowing we were going to try again..

Very wise words (translated from Spanish)”:
“After all this time, I know EXACTLY what can hurt your father. But I also know what helps him grow and lifts him up. What I don’t understand is, when you say you love someone so much, why you would not protect them and be that shield for them, especially when you KNOW how to be that protector for them?!”

She’s right. In hindsight, I realize now that for years, the things that she KNEW would hurt me were brought to bare against me out of anger, spite, or need for control.

Was I perfect? No. None of us are. But I was NOT the one to draw first blood (literally or figuratively). I remember very vividly the first red flags late summer of ’09 and the first real smash between the eyes winter of ’09. I remember being at work and having a conversation and seeing the first of that side of her… honestly scratching my head after, hurt, confused, wondering where the beautiful girl I was falling deeply in love with, and had now become part of my kids lives, disappeared to. I knew then that something wasn’t right. But my ego and pride kept me there. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever dated (ego), and I was already harboring guilt for having ripped one woman out of my kids lives (their mom) to be with this woman. I wasn’t about to do it again (pride), and I started immediately rationalizing what happened.. “If this is the worse she does…”. I endured and withstood this abuse far longer than anyone had in her past, and I really tried to live the below.

Ephesians 4:29-32: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

God have mercy on her soul. Though I want to say I can feel the same, I’m not there yet. I pray daily for the will of God to be able to forgive her, for the health of my own soul.. but I’m not there yet.

Thanks for listening. Perhaps in writing this all out, I can finally take a large step towards healing one more wound left in her wake, and 2015 will be a much more memorable birthday.

Keep your emails and comments coming. Just as much as I am finding out my tale helps you, it equally helps me.

-Jorge
jorge@projectwrx.com

Life After Loss: “Hope?” ..or is it “Hope!”?

fallen-angelI had mentioned a few weeks back how a friend of mine had lost their Mother abruptly. I reached out to them after class last night to check in and they had slammed home, finally feeling their loss, where they had been in denial the weeks before.

One of the things my friend kept asking me about was hope and hopelessness. Ironically, or as a twist of Grace, it was the topic we had unpacked last night in class.

So, to my friend, I dedicate this article to you. I promise. “Hope?” will turn to “Hope!”. Yes, we will always carry our losses and scars in our hearts, but life moves on, and you will find your light again.

This song was played in my church around the time I really started falling apart, and it broke me; and continues to break me. But today, it’s good tears. A reminder that, from the ashes, I’m making something beautiful from all the broken pieces.

“You can rise up from the ashes
Make something beautiful of all the broken pieces
And I’m believing you’ll come running
Into the arms of Jesus”

——————————
I really had to go back and unpack where I was when this all went down for me. Like my friend, I had a relative peace early on. My own best friend even commented to me about 2 weeks later that I seemed “at peace” with everything that happened. Sadly, that’s short lived for those of us who suffer through grief.

But I digress.. I do that sometimes.

Last night I went and did an inventory of the things that are motivating me currently. Broken into three general categories (Routines, People, Responsibilities), I realized it was a woefully small list. But, today it is a list of things that bring me joy, pride, and a will to see them through to their next level.

People: My children
Responsibilities: My job, Fatherhood, Survival, Ministry
Routines: Fitness

Just as the sun and the moon wax and wane across the sky, there will always be a new sunrise after the sun has set in a season of your life.

Just as the sun and the moon wax and wane across the sky, there will always be a new sunrise after the sun has set in a season of your life.

If I back up to a point relatively recent in my life, that list had nothing in it. Even “Survival” was subject to debate. I remembered driving in my car, eyes just glazed over, instinctively turning the wheel, and simply not caring at all about self preservation. A car could be bearing down on me and a very real part of me simply didn’t care. A dark part of me wished something would take me right then, and end the tears (which would typically be flowing anytime people were away from eye shot).

In those days, I was that person who lived on pure instinct, truly wearing a mask of happiness that fooled 95% of the people in my life. But there were some who saw right through the mask and understood the very real trauma and pain I was enduring. Some people texting or calling me dozens of times a day because they knew I was at a very dangerous point in my feelings of self preservation. As I’ve mentioned in the past.. those people who became my rock had suffered in kind themselves. Or, were still in the process of suffering, but were only a little bit further ahead themselves.

Time off, work from home schedules, weekends; any time in my life I couldn’t will my mind to focus on something else, I was focusing on her.. I would honestly pray to God to see me through hours at a time. Any attempt to think or plan beyond that was a lost cause of frustration, anxiety, fear, and despair.

There were many a week where I’d average 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I’d just lay in bed, and stare up at my ceiling fan, and didn’t know how to will my body to go back to sleep, much less “GET UP!”. I’d just sit there in an endless cycle of masochistic thought, reminding myself of everything I had, what I lost, and just torture myself, putting all the blame on myself, and punishing myself for all I’d done. In hindsight, now realizing how distorted and brainwashed she had left my psyche. But, I was not to be the first (and I will not be the last) lover in her life who’d tell her she was manipulative and controlling.

That’s when I solidified my dependency and relationship with God. He is what pulled me out of it, and to this day I still rely heavily on his whispering and touch in my life for guidance on what to do next.

You know… One teacher last night said it best.

“I wish others in my life could build this relationship with the God I know without having to suffer as I have!”

It’s true though. It’s in these moments of intense pain that most people “Get it.”.

I had attended a class for people who had hard questions about God and faith (Alpha) several months ago. I was asked by one person who was on the fence how I knew God talked to me. I remember telling him point blank that I wish he could understand the God I knew.

I can freely talk to him, and he compels me and answers my prayers. I truly am able to run everything by him and I get very clear answers back on how I should be reacting to an opportunity or scenario in my life. Including this blog and this ministry.

11k+ views for this Ministry category in the last 4 weeks!  - Keep your stories and topic requests coming (jorge@projectwrx.com)

11k+ views for this Ministry category in the last 4 weeks! – Keep your stories and topic requests coming (jorge@projectwrx.com)

The sheer number of people (childhood friends, childhood acquaintances and new friends I met and reconnected with through my Ex, family, strangers, etc) who’ve reached out to me has been inspiring. Thank you! I was touched by God to tell my story; that it would help others. I never imagined the response I’ve gotten from it.

It’s one reason to wake up and live my life.

I’m now at a point where God has provided blessings and opportunities in several aspects of my life. These are part of the reasons I can even begin to build the list of things I actively work towards every day.

Hope

It’s not a question anymore, but a cry of victory.

-Jorge
jorge@projectwrx.com

GEEK TIME: Video and Photo Editing – Full Resolution GoPro video

Sony Vegas 12 for video processing.  Sure, Adobe Premier may be more powerful, but I seem to do just fine with Vegas.  - Camera used in this video:  GoPro Hero4 Black

Sony Vegas 12 for video processing. Sure, Adobe Premier may be more powerful, but I seem to do just fine with Vegas. – Camera used in this video: GoPro Hero4 Black

I’ve had quite a few people ask me over the years just how I do what I do with my pictures, and now videos.

I also had some people who’ve been on the fence over the new GoPro Hero4 Black ask me to put up an uncompressed copy of the video I made a few weeks back. Well, that’s 22GBs.. so that’s out, but I did make a super high bit rate version that is only 2.2GBs.

http://1drv.ms/1yItt1t <--You can download it here. Click download at the top. Yes, you'll need a OneDrive account, but it's free, and most of you already have Microsoft accounts (Xbox Live, etc.. so it'll take moments).

Vegas is what I started learning on back in 2007 when I worked as the General Manager/Tuner for a Tuning Shop I was at. I've upgraded through the years but have realized (recently with this new camera) that the workstation I originally built as a photo process deck is really having it's moments burning through some of the plugins I'm running.

I use a second generation i7 with 8GB ram, Vertex 4 SSDs, Geforce GTX 750 TI, and Windows 7. It works AWESOME for my photo work flow, but took about an hour to render 5 minutes of video with the settings I use.

On the other hand, Vegas seems to not be friendly in the GPU processing realm with serious issues with it’s OpenCL and CUDA implementations (These are programming interfaces software developers use to leverage the stupidly insane processing power of modern GPUs… video cards), so I’m stuck rendering with the CPU only. I’ll have to see what the latest version of Vegas does to solve some of this, because the 750 TI I use is not a slouch. I can play a mean game of Diablo III at 1920×1080 with everything cranked at >60FPS.

RawTherapee - Freeware, community driven photo processing software for those who shoot RAW (...think digital negative).  - Camera used in this video:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III - EF 24-70L f/2.8 lens.

RawTherapee – Freeware, community driven photo processing software for those who shoot RAW (…think digital negative). – Camera used in this video: Canon EOS 1D Mark III – EF 24-70L f/2.8 lens.

But, back to the photo processing for a moment. I have a very simple workflow. I shoot in what’s called RAW. RAW is the equivalent of a digital “negative”, and like anyone who’s ever developed film in a dark room, you know there’s TONS of stuff you can do to enhance, correct, or tweak the final result you transfer to your print. This is the same way. Sure, you can load up Paint, or Photoshop and do tweaking of contrasts and brightness, but it’s not the same at all. Since you’re working with the raw sensor data, and not a compressed version of the image (which, like JPEG already has tons of data lost in compressing it down in size), the tweaks are more exact to what you want. The end result is a picture that has more dynamic range, and better overall image quality.

2014-10-29 17_04_45-Noise Ninja -- [_31F3816.tif] [Auto matched_ CanonEOS1DMarkIIIiso16010mpjpg28e03
I render out the RAW negatives into a 16 bit TIFF file (uncompressed) and then run them through Noise Ninja. This software uses calibrations made for specific makes and models of cameras and does an incredible job of cleaning up artifact noise introduced when you run high ISOs in low light conditions. For those reading this on a whim and don’t follow.. take a picture with your cell phone camera late at night and notice how it looks “grainy”. This piece of software goes a long way to making that picture look awesome again.

From there, I load everything through Photoshop, but honestly, not for any more post processing. I have actions built that automate my water marking, as well as the final conversion from TIFF to 8bit JPEG (including resizing for web sized images).

So you can see, very straight forward! But, back to some of the video editing in closing.

Encoding settings for Sony Vegas 12.

Encoding settings for Sony Vegas 12.

Over the years, I’ve used just about every major type of encoder, always looking for that right blend of size and quality for web work. What has worked great for me is a public domain (free) encoder called x264vfw. Google it. It’s available with installers for a variety of platforms from Windows, to *NIX. In Vegas, you can access it from the Video for Windows options in the rendering dialogues.

From there, you can configure it for your own personal needs. The 2.2GB version I made for sharing is rendered at 30MB/s which isn’t exactly BlueRay quality, but it’ll let people get a real good idea of what the camera can do. Download it and check it out, then compare it to the YouTube version I posted up a few weeks back.

X264VFW codec is a public domain video encoder that's highly customizable and free (h.264/x.264 standard).

X264VFW codec is a public domain video encoder that’s highly customizable and free (h.264/x.264 standard).

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for (at least) the photo processing. Seems that Nikon and Canon are putting out some cool new “Prosumer” model every few months now. But, all of them are capable of doing photo as well as HD video. While I’m no fan of that concept (I’ll buy a camcorder to take videos… WAIT, I did!), at least now you can explore other ways to seriously get some more quality and mileage out of your investment.

Life After Loss: …depression

Depression can be masked by a person if they are committed to putting on a front of happiness.

Depression can be masked by a person if they are committed to putting on a front of happiness.

Month’s before I was supposed to be married, my soon to be wife suffered a tremendous blow in her life.

I’ll never forget this day. We were making breakfast on a Sunday morning when I look out the window and I see her brother walking down the sidewalk towards our house. I look at her and I say “Hey look, it’s your brother!”. I welcomed him in, and was concerned when he had a very stoich and somber look on his face. He simply looked at me and said “…Jorge.”, then looked at my fiancee and said “Amy…” and proceeded to simply say in one sentence that someone close to them had taken their life to suicide.

I look back at my fiancee and she just fell to her knees just repeatedly saying “No… No… No… No..”. All I could do was walk over to her and hold her. Until you’ve been in that situation, you don’t understand the helplessness and powerless place you’re in, where no words come to you; and if they did, they’d be meaningless.

Depression hit her family with the ultimate price. In ignorance, I said I’d never see myself there; how could anyone let themselves get there?!

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This is going to be a bit longer, as this is very close to my heart.. something I supremely empathize and relate to. So, make a bag of popcorn and settle in.

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Well, after my loss in my last relationship, I allowed and enabled myself to do the worst thing possible. I kept contact with my ex girlfriend. Not only kept contact, but over the next several months she told me about the dates she was going on, the guys she was getting intimate with, and how great some other guys were. All this, while still hooking up with her for a late night rendezvous (yes… I’m talking about sex), dinners, dates, day trips; all hoping there was a chance we’d still reconcile.

Like I talked about weeks ago, I was rationalizing the pains she put me through. Forgetting that I was the one who ended it and stood my ground the days after. But, then longing for her and missing the good we had weeks after the breakup. Finally taking advantage of the opportunity she presented to still have her in my life when we finally had that “closure” conversation.

It was hands down the stupidest and worse thing I could have enabled in my situation because it simply sent me down the rabbit hole of depression and borderline suicide. If you read my entry from last week, that’s the metaphor I describe in my essay when I was baptized, being in that barren wasteland of my life.

But I had to somehow, survive…

Isaiah 61: “He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to free you from the prison of darkness … and to comfort all who mourn.”

smiley-plate-237x350I had mentioned in the past that I was told near the end of this “tryst” that it wasn’t about love or relationship, but about what I could provide. Ironically, or as an act of Grace, I had prayed for a sign from God (the night before this conversation) to clearly show me where I stood with her. I got it alright!

I remember that night going to a restaurant I frequented and just sitting at the bar and simply sobbing all night long. The bartender I had grown to know the last several months, and even the people on either side of me could clearly see my distress and let me be. But then in a sheer act of kindness and empathy, my bartender (who felt like the only person on Earth who understood me right then) put a plate down in front of me, made of whatever she had at her disposal, in the form of a smiley face. I looked up at her, tears streaming down my face; eyes as red as coals, and forced a smile. She looked at me with such compassion with a napkin outstretched and simply said… “It’ll be OK, I promise.” Not having any idea why… but still selflessly offering herself to someone she barely knew who was suffering and dying all over again on the inside.

I was touched. I made it through that night, but still had another month of turmoil with that ex until I finally started to find peace. It really drove me to understand and develop tremendous empathy for those of us who have hurts and wounds we simply can’t see from the outside.

In that understanding I quickly came to realize that pain is a natural part of grief.

The sad thing is, the differences between the natural process of grief and depression are hard to see sometimes. One could easily slip from a natural stage of grieving to a level of clinical depression due to the choices they make. In my case.. my lifestyle with her took me to the next level.

So what does normal grief look like?

1: Little interest or pleasure in doing things
2: Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
3: Trouble falling or staying sleep. Too much sleep!
4: Feeling tired or having little energy
5: Poor appetite or overeating
6: Trouble concentrating
7: Lethargy or being fidgety.

By comparison, what’s clinical depression look like?

1: Little interest or pleasure in doing things
2: Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
3: Trouble falling or staying sleep. Too much sleep!
4: Feeling tired or having little energy
5: Poor appetite or overeating
6: Trouble concentrating
7: Lethargy or being fidgety.
8: Feelings of.. guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, self-loathing
9: Focus on negative memories, alienation, inconsolable mindset
10: Self harm, suicidal thoughts, lack of self preservation

What’s the difference between these lists? Simply, anger; turned inward against the self, grief rapidly turns into depression. I was VERY angry with myself for enabling her to use me. Very angry at myself for letting her continuously put the blame on me for everything, always twisting things around to make it look like it was my fault; knowing I’d cave, because I just wanted to make things better, and make it work.

Any level or form of depression results in a chemical imbalance in hormones.

Any level or form of depression results in a chemical imbalance in hormones.

A few things most people don’t realize about depression that I’ve learned:

1: Any form of depression is a chemical imbalance.

Depression starts with stress. The human body is an extremely fine tuned machine. When too much stress occurs, the body ups a variety of chemicals and hormones to compensate for what’s happening. The problem is that you then have an imbalance that affects your physiology. This affects everything from appetite, to the ability to fight off disease and infection, to even how we distort our logic, thinking, and reasoning.

2: The latest research shows that upbringing and lifestyle examples at a very early age predispose us to depression.

It was pretty profound to learn that depression is not genetically linked. It’s a factor of culture and lifestyle. At least, that’s the current theory some counselors and psychologists now are researching. The proverbial question is no longer “What pill to take?”, it’s “What is happening in the family to plant this seed?”

How our role models handle crisis and grief directly wire us for life.

A good metaphor a teacher I listened to used was that a kidney serves the same function from your first breath until it finally fails. The brain is, by comparison, malleable..

Here’s an excerpt from an article in Psychology Today that talks about this:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/driven-distraction/201401/your-brain-is-not-the-hard-wired-machine-you-think-it-is

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For many years, it was believed that the human brain is essentially hardwired—that we are born with a set of cognitive abilities, which are more or less unalterable for the rest of our lives. But the discovery of neuroplasticity—our brain’s ability to selectively transform itself in response to certain experiences—has proven to be one of the biggest paradigm shifts that neuroscience has seen over the last 25 years. Simply put, neuroplasticity refers to our brain’s malleability—its ability to respond to certain intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing and building its structure, function and connections (NCBI).

Faculty at the University of Washington illustrate neuroplasticity through a simple camera analogy. When clicking the image of a tree, the camera film must react to light and ‘transform’ itself to record the image. Our brain is like the film—it reacts and transforms itself when recording or experiencing certain stimuli.

The fact that our brain doesn’t just absorb—but can also re-wire itself in response to certain repeated activities and experiences—has opened new opportunities for cognitive therapy. What it means is that cognitive functions such as attention, memory, critical thinking, decision making, multitasking and abstract reasoning may be managed and improved.

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Families who suffer dysfunction from the very top with the parents, or grandparents before them, who bottle up emotions, and never encourage their peers or children to talk out their feelings are more disposed to planting the seeds of anger, suicide, and depression. Families who have, and encourage, constructive means of communication tend to avoid the proverbial powder keg.

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One of the tools I have used in counseling was the “Burns depression checklist”.

http://healingheartscc.com/docs/first_steps/FS_DepressionQuiz.pdf <-- You can find it here, online.

I remembered taking this within weeks of the start of this season in my life and I scored a 24. I took it tonight, to simply show what God has done in my life as well as the ministry and people I've surrounded myself with, and I'm now at an 8.

So I've gone from mild/moderate clinical depression, to being normal/borderline depression.

----------------------------------------

So how do you begin to solve depression?

Professional services:
Individual or group counseling works wonders! There is almost a 90% success rate to pull people out of where they’re at. This is much higher then medication! Massage, or if absolutely necessary (because you simply can’t will yourself out of bed) evaluation for medications to pull you out of that deepest spot while other methods go to work.

Lifestyle:

Exercise! Hands down, the hormone dumps, breathing, and discipline have proven as effective as an anti-depressant medication. I learned that Yoga is huge for those suffering from PTSD and returning from active duty in the military.

Diet Changes:

Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, etc. Well, anything in excess, really. I have learned something about myself. Alcohol takes whatever I’m feeling and amplifies it 10x over. When I was sitting in that restaurant I was a beer in, and I went from being composed, to just coming unglued at the seams. I’ve learned something about myself and alcohol since that day.

Sunlight:

That shocked me, but it made sense. Sunlight hits the retina and the brain releases serotonin. The bodies natural “feel good” drug is released at that time, affecting mood dramatically. Tons of research is available online concerning this, and the “fall/winter blues”. So, especially during this time of year, try and go for a walk during the day… I do all the time and it helps!

Spiritual Practices:

Be in Community:

When you’re depressed, being around the water cooler at work can be a good thing, or a bad thing based on the empathy of the person you’re talking to. Where, if you’re plugged into a small group (like I am in my own church) you are then surrounded by like minded people who relate to you, and empathize with you. In the sharing of those experiances, intense healing arises.

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There are others for sure, and I’m no psychologist, but I’ve learned a lot over the last half year about myself, about the unhealthy life style and habits I had, and what’s good for me.

In finally being open about the feelings and thoughts I’ve shut out from the world, a tremendous healing has finally started in my soul. I encourage you to do the same if you find yourself in this season of your life.

“It’ll be OK, I promise.”

Life 3.0: Fall Colors – 2014 – Final Cut

Starved Rock State Park - Lovers Leap - 2014

Starved Rock State Park – Lovers Leap – 2014

Finally got a chance to get out this last weekend (probably the last good one of the year) and get some awesome footage of our local parks. Also took advantage of a gorgeous Sunday to spend the afternoon at our local track with the car guys.

Can’t believe this short Summer/Fall is already over!

Make sure to click the gear in the lower right of the video screen and select 1080P HD!

Fall Colors - 2014 - Final Cut

Hanging with my boys at the race track and enjoying the beautiful Illinois fall colors!

Fall Colors through the Wisconsin Glacier Lands - 2014

A weekend going through the scenic Glacier Lands of Wisconsin.

Life After Loss: Where is God in our grief?

"The Light of the World" - Painted by William Holman Hunt in the 1800s - Revelation 3:20 - Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

“The Light of the World” – Painted by William Holman Hunt in the 1800s – Revelation 3:20 – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

A sad (because of the context), but true example of what I’m about to talk about:

Last night, I was compelled to reach out to a friend I hadn’t talked to in months. Just… felt this compulsion to text them and see how they were doing. Within minutes, they told me that earlier that day they received notice that their mother had died. I spent the next 3 hours on the phone consoling my friend and praying with them until they finally willed themselves to fall asleep.

But, here we go…

I received an email the other day from someone I could relate deeply to. Divorced, children, in a relationship with someone he’d known since childhood who was also divorced with children, etc. He was the provider, that rescuer and champion; trying to pour everything into her and their children. All he wanted in return was to be appreciated and affirmed for how much he’d sacrifice for them. Half the time she treated him like her king, the other half the time she was cold and selfish; thinking and focusing on her own agendas and plans. She was very status driven, always needing to be the best dressed, with the best guy, only showing the world her best side, but on the inside and behind closed doors, it was anything but.

We’ll call him.. “Tom”.

I can relate Tom.. Those who know my story, and by testimony to those who’ve known my ex and I both for decades, can relate as well.

One thing in this email that stood out though, was a very simple question we’ve all struggled with, even as believers.

“Why did God let this happen to me? I’m so angry at him!”

To digress, as a nation that’s a typical question. Prior to 09/11/2001, religion as a whole in our country had started to become politically incorrect. People had minimized God in their daily lives. I mean.. Life was good, right? Why mess with a good thing, right?

But after that day, people started to pray like never before. Places of worship overflowed that weekend, and songs like “God Bless America” suddenly had meaning again.

But, in all of that, people also approached God in one of two ways. We sought him out, or we become angry. I had been saved at 18 as a Christian, but never really embraced that relationship and “got it” until I had the infamous “closure” conversation a few weeks after my ex and I finally broke it off. I’ve since been baptized and one of the things you do is write an essay about what drew you close to God. Here’s just a small excerpt from mine.

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“…I just felt myself continuing to struggle with the losses I had self inflicted. I was spiraling out of control and I could see the barren ground below. I slammed home… My body battered and broken.. but I digress.

While I had accepted God as my personal savior back when I was a teenager, I never really embraced the gravity of what that meant. At this point in my life, through tears and desperation, I did something I never had done before.

I prayed. But, I didn’t just pray like we do when we’re saying grace, or putting our children to bed. I found myself broken, sitting in the wasteland that was my damaged and empty heart, turning around and seeing nothing but the apocalypse which was my life, and crying out at the top of my lungs for God to please help me! To please give me a moment of peace from the pressure in my chest, my racing heart, and the depression that was threatening to truly kill me.

Truly, something mysterious happened. I felt a touch (even typing this brings me to tears), a peace and calmness I had never known before. I knew something awoke in me that offered me a peace that no therapy or pill, had been able to at that point.

Since then, God has continued to nurture me, and truly carry me through my depression into healthier states. The hardest part for me (being as controlling as I could be) was being able to close my eyes and let go, and trust in my faultless companion’s ability to guide my life. To trust that God knows what’s right for me, and to trust in his will.

I find that as I start to have true trust in him in my heart, the waves of guilt, shame, and loss in my heart have started falling off my body, soul, and heart.

Now, where those tears land in the wasteland of my life, I’m starting to see something special happening. Where there was nothing, flowers now are starting to push through the burnt soil, trying to reach for the sky.”
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I sought him out. That’s a response born of humility. Being angry with God, as much as he can take it, is born out of pride. We want things to go our way, and if life won’t be played by our rules, then we will take our life and go home. We’re too angry to allow God to be God. WE want to be God and rule our own lives.

Mathew 7:7 says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

If we truly and sincerely seek him, he will come. But don’t always assume he will give us what we need in the way we need it. God isn’t a cosmic bell-hop who is waiting to meet every wish and demand we have. In fact, it’s the opposite. Listen to him and follow his ways and he will bless our lives. That doesn’t mean that pain and suffering like what we had, or the loss of a loved one, or some other tragedy won’t happen. But, he does promise to walk with us and support us during those times. God works through others. How many people come out of the wood work and are there for us when we REALLY need them?

There’s a song by Scott Krippayne called “Sometime he calms the storm”. Part of the lyrics go: “Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes he calms the child.” Think about that for a moment. More often, it’s not the storm he’s calming, but us, if we’re willing.

Have you ever noticed that some of the kindest, loving, and gentle people in your life are those who’ve suffered the most? That’s because, during tough times, we grow. We develop intense empathy and compassion to those who are suffering as we have, and we’d do anything to take their hurt away; less judgmental and more forgiving, because we know what it felt like.

There’s a Psalm that brings me peace. Tom, check out Psalm 23. We all know it, even in pop culture for a non believer.. they’ve heard it.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Even though you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, goodness and mercy will follow you. I promise.

X-Cache, W3 Total Cache and Varnish – Geek time..

After some tweaking and the right optimization website performance is up 3600%!!

After some tweaking and the right optimization website performance is up 3600%!!

I’ve hosted my own websites, and run my own servers for years. So it’s nothing new for me to understand load balancing and server management, but in the last 3-4 months my site readership has increased dramatically, really affecting web performance.

I’m a big fan of the open source movement, and utilize it extensively in my boxes. This site is hosted off a quad core x64 based hardware with 4GB ram. PLENTY for the Ubuntu 14.04LTS LAMP role I utilize it for.

For a quick primer, WordPress (this blog software) runs on an Apache/PHP/MySQL backend. I’ve done a lot of tweaking to optimize and multithread as much as I can in this box, but realized that my Achilles Heel is PHP itself.

X-Cache dramatically improves performance by acting as an OPCode and data cache.

X-Cache dramatically improves performance by acting as an OPCode and data cache.

PHP is a server side scripting language that’s used extensively in web development. It’s honestly the foundation of a large percentage of the websites you travel to daily. The issue with PHP, is that every time you ask the website to do anything, it has to read that programming code, compile it, and then execute it. That’s extremely expensive to the server, and when you guys hit me 40-80 requests at a time, you bring my poor little box to it’s knees. ;)

But that’s where X-Cache comes in. It’s what’s called an OPCode (Operational Code) cache. So, when something is compiled, X-Cache stores it all into a real time memory cache and serves it up as opposed to asking the PHP engine to recompile the same code again. You can see from the screen shot above that there have been tens of thousands of hits to the cache in less than 20 minutes. That’s tens of thousands of CPU cycles saved, improving performance by letting the CPU do other stuff.

W3 Total Cache - for WordPress

W3 Total Cache – for WordPress

X-Cache works hand in hand with a plugin for WordPress called W3 Total Cache (W3TC). This nifty little gem allows you to totally customize what is stored up in X-Cache (they are directly linked) as well. The nice thing is that there are extensive tutorials and online documents discussing how to integrate X-Cache and W3TC in your Apache/WordPress configuration.

The final segment here was how to stop Apache and PHP from continuously having to generate all these dynamic pages. Since I rarely EDIT a page once I’ve created it, those are instances where a more static approach to web design would be beneficial. The solution to this was to integrate a reverse proxy called “Varnish”. Sounds simple, but Varnish is actually used by Fortune 100 companies, high profile publication sites (I.E. New York Times), and it’s completely 100% free!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varnish_(software) <-- Varnish HTTP accelerator software on Wikipedia.

https://www.varnish-cache.org/ <- Varnish Cache main site.

What Varnish does is it sits in front of my Apache instance, and it listens across the internet for requests. When you type in www.ProjectWRX.com, Varnish asks if a cached, static version exists. If not, it then goes to Apache (hidden behind the firewall now), and asks it to provide that page. Then, Varnish stores it for a definable period of time and serves it out. The integration is slick and seamless, and I’ve gone from being able to serve about a dozen pages a second, to about 3600 pages per second now!

So, needless to say.. this little Quad core just scaled up considerably. So if you have that old computer laying around in your closet and it would struggle to run Windows Vista, or 7…. don’t discredit it. *NIX derivatives like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, etc… all are wonderful, low resource needed alternatives that will stretch that hardware out for years!

My little bruiser has found his calling… Baseball

Sebastian at the end of his 1st year of baseball.  -Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final

Sebastian at the end of his 1st year of baseball. -Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final

I’ve spent the last 10 years, 3 weeks, and 3 days wondering just what my prodigy would aspire to pursue.

For back story, it’s worth noting that Sebastian has tried everything from Soccer, to Karate, to Cub Scouts (which I still wish he’d pursue), to now.. Baseball!

Sebastian’s Mom and I have always shared the mindset to offer our children every possible opportunity we could afford. But, for me, I always want them to “stay” with it; so I was understandably hesitant when Amy approached me early this year and said Sebastian wanted to go into Baseball.

OK.. Here we go!

Sebastian rips a solid single during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

Sebastian rips a solid single during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

What ended up happening was pretty awesome. Just imagine this timid little kid walking up to the batter’s box for the first time, and literally and proverbially smashing the ball on his first swing.

Pretty much sums up how he’s matured and grown since.

During the Spring season, Sebastian’s team (the Cubs) went through to the league championship and took the whole thing. He was stoked for “Fall Ball” to start, and has spent the last several months working on his game.

Sebastian did a great job playing as catcher and 1st baseman during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

Sebastian did a great job playing as catcher and 1st baseman during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

Sebastian made great contact the entire game, scoring RBIs for his team during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

Sebastian made great contact the entire game, scoring RBIs for his team during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

But, back to the final.

There was a solid showing by the team, with Sebastian making solid contact with the ball during the entire game.

He advanced his team mates around the plates continuously, and also contributed several of his own runs. The highlight being a white knuckled run to home which I captured here. It could have been a coin toss, but our entire side of the diamond got on our feet and cheered when we heard. “SAFE!”

Sebastian sliding for home and scoring during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

Sebastian sliding for home and scoring during the Crystal Lake AAA Fall League Final.

It’s almost sad at this point. I’ve spent the entire summer and fall carting kids around to their ball practice and games, and am actually going to miss photographing my little bruiser.

I’m looking forward to the spring…

Thanks Amy, for talking me into it. ;)

http://gallery.projectwrx.com/6697501 <– Photos can be found here.