Today is my brother Billy's 35th birthday. Just two months ago, we didn't think he'd make it past 34.
At the end of January, he went to the E.R. for back pain. They discovered he had a herniated disc...but they also discovered something much worse--Stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer.
The past few months have been an emotional roller coast for our family and our friends. The cancer was discovered so suddenly and things went downhill more quickly than anyone could ever have imagined. There were some really dark days.
We have been blessed with additional time because they found a genetic mutation; he is doing a targeted therapy that has given him back a year or two with quality of life. Each day brings new challenges, but he's happy and grateful to have more time to spend with Noah (10) and Sophia (5).
Billy is now able to care for himself, but he's unable to work. Money is tight and life is not fair.
In honor of his birthday, I'm going to ask you to skip your Starbucks today. Instead, how about making a donation? His work ohana set up a GoFundMe to help with his medical and living expenses.
CLICK HERE TO HELP SUPPORT BILLY DURING THIS BATTLE.
I love industry awards. It's important to recognize innovative products, industry leaders, and future talent. Publishing SCN's The Nine each year is one of my favorite things to do. The honorees are excited, but what's even cooler is the industry is excited for them.
It's so fun to see all of the congratulatory tweets and LinkedIn posts when awards are announced. People love to brag and say "Hey, that's my friend and I'm so proud of her!" or "This is so cool that he's being recognized." And I completely love that.
But there's one thing I don't love about awards season...industry professionals taking credit for "discovering" people or even taking credit for their accomplishments. We don't discover talent—we take notice and let them shine. The accomplishments of honorees are their own. We all get by with a little help from our friends, but, ultimately, a person's success (or failure) is his or her own.
So, my friends, choose your words carefully. Celebrate the successes of your friends, but don't try to make their success your success. And to award winners who are politely biting their tongue while other try to claim a piece of their pie, never let them dull your sparkle!
You've seen my Twitter and Instagram posts about reading. You may have even seen my 2017 and 2018 reading lists on this blog. But do you know why I read so obsessively? It's not solely for my love of reading and learning (although that definitely plays a role)—it's because there was a point when I couldn't read.
Let's start at the beginning. I grew up with a love of reading, inherited from my mom. She read to us constantly, and I believe that is that foundation for my love of books. I could read before most of my classmates, even though I was the youngest in the class. I was embarrassed when my first grade teacher would make me read to the class for storytime, but also a little proud.
As a child and teen, I always had my nose in a book. I wore out the pages of Anne of Green Gables, and, owned nearly every Babysitters Club book, thanks to my older cousin Abigail who had outgrown them. Nights were often spent reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my mom. Books filled my birthday and Christmas wish lists.
But in my late 20s and early 30s, my eyes were exhausted from working all day on a computer. Of course, I still read, but not with the voracity that had previously consumed me. A book here, a book there. Maybe one a month, but probably less if I'm being honest. I was busy living my best life.
Then came May 2016 when I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was in denial about the seriousness of it all for a long time (and sometimes I still am); more realistically, my brain was unable to process that I couldn't do the things I used to do. I was off work for a long time, and didn't understand why. I was unable to write any kind of cohesive sentence, and couldn't focus for more than a few minutes at a time.
Most devastatingly, I couldn't read. Yes, I could see the words and I knew what they meant. But I could not process more than a page at a time. The words would jump around on the page—nothing made sense. And I definitely could not remember what I had read a few paragraphs before so it would take me around five minutes or more to read one page. I don't know if you could even call it reading a page, because I would inevitably forget what I had read within minutes. This was not the brain I was used to. This was not my brain.
My doctor suggested trying books on tape. I tried, but could only listen for around 10 minutes at a time before I would lose all comprehension. Reading, even auditory "reading", was a painstakingly slow process. My ability to read quickly and comprehend easily was something I was so proud of, and I had lost that ability nearly entirely. At one point, the doctors weren't sure I'd ever be able to go back to an office job because they couldn't guarantee that my reading and writing abilities would ever return to where they were prior to the TBI.
After several months of not being allowed to work, I returned to the office. It was a painful process; I was exhausted all of the time. Using your brain, especially when it's broken, depletes so much of your energy. I would get home from work, and go to sleep within an hour or two. But, slowly, it started to get easier. I wasn't transposing words as much as I used to; my newly developed stutter was subsiding. Every day, I was able to process more and more.
I was listening to a lot of podcasts, which were easier for me to comprehend than audiobooks. Then I started listening to more audiobooks and—slowly but surely—my attention span and comprehension increased. Then one day in late 2016, I opened a book a friend had given me to read once I was feeling up to it--Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. It took me awhile to get through it, longer than I was used to. But it awakened something within me. That love of reading that I once had slowly started to return.
Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I started visiting the library again, checking out a few books at a time, and making my way through them faster than I'd imagined. I decided I would read 25 books in 2017, but I knew I could do better. So I challenged myself to read 50; an ambitious goal, one that I knew I probably wouldn't meet, but one I was excited about. I didn't meet that goal in 2017, and was two books short in 2018. But none of that mattered to me. I was—and am—so damn proud of myself for how far I've come. To go from not being able to read a single page in mid-2016 to reading over 48 books in 2018 is an accomplishment I'll treasure, goals be damned.
I guess that old cliche is true, if you love something, set it free, and if it comes back to you, it's yours to keep. Looks like I'm stuck with books and my love of reading forever, and that's a-okay with me!
Author's Note: All of this is something I've never shared with anyone outside of my immediate family and a few close friends. It's scary to even put it down on paper, because all of the memories—the struggles, the sadness, the frustration—come flooding back; it's a place I hope I never have to return to.
What I've written today is just a small portion of the struggles I experienced with my TBI, and, maybe one day, I'll be ready to share more of the story. But, today, I'm sharing this part with you in the hopes that it helps someone else who is struggling with a TBI or a learning disorder or anything that prevents them from doing what they love. There is hope at the end of the tunnel, and things do get better. It hasn't been any easy road, but it's a road worth taking.
Last year, I set a beautiful word of the year--explore. I had more adventures than I could count in 2018. I explored a lot—the earth, myself, my feelings.
What I didn't know at the time was that this exploration would also have negative connotations. It was a tumultuous year for my family. We loved, we lost, we struggled. In every way you could imagine. But we made it through, because that's what we do—we persist.
So my word for 2019 is hopeful. I'm hopeful that there are better things to come. I hope that 2019 brings us peace, prosperity, joyfulness, and that we continue to be surrounded in love.
Best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful new year!
As you know from last year, I'm a huge book nerd. I love to read. But I also forget how much I've read. So for the second year, I'm keeping track here.
Here's what I've ready in 2018, and I've asterisked my favorites so you can add them to your 2019 reading lists.
January - 4 Books
A Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks
I'm Fine...and other lies by Whitney Cummings
Lucky Charming by Kate Chastain*
Unqualified by Anna Faris
February - 5 Books
I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True by Peter Engel
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo*
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Behind Closed Doors: A Novel by B.A. Paris*
March - 5 Books
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz*
Pretty Girls: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth by Eddie Yoon
I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
April - 4 Books
The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Scranton Lace by Margot Douaihy
Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work by Piyush Patel*
The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic
May - 3 Books
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The Party by Robyn Harding
Go Set A Watchman By Harper Lee*
June - 3 Books
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
July - 2 Books
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Billy Blockade by Stephen King*
August - 4 Books
Believe Me by JP Delaney
I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
September - 7 Books
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish*
So Close to Being the Sh*t Ya'll Don't Even Know by Retta
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Running Against the Tide by Captain Lee*
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
October - 5 Books
The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
Map of Days: The Fourth Novel if Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Final Girls by Riley Sager*
The Merciless by Danielle Vega
November - 2 Books
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Suck It, Wonder Woman! by Olivia Munn
December - 4 Books
I Don't Know Where You Know Me From by Judy Greer
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel*
Bond Girl by Erin Duffy
Have your Aladdin lyrics ready? Good. Now sing along with me "A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew."
Why are we AVraoking a Disney score? Because that sums up my experience at CEDIA Expo 2018. I've been to CEDIA at least eight times—I've done set-up over enough Labor Days for a life time—but this year I saw it differently. Could it be that I wasn't chained to a booth? Probably has a little bit to do with it.
The bigger difference is that I've spent the last 13 months totally immersed in the world of pro AV and resi had fallen to the wayside. Sure, I'd reach the occasional article from Residential Systems, but I wasn't really keeping up with the trends. When Tony asked me to help out with the CEDIA Expo Daily, I said "An all-expenses-paid trip to San Diego? I'll take it." Because, you know, California.
When I arrived at the show, WOW. Just wow. It was truly a whole new world for me. Who are all these security vendors? Why are there mini-houses on the show floor? Exhibitors were getting creative and I loved it.
Making things pretty has always been a part of residential AV. But this year, it seems the show managers and the manufacturers were taking it very seriously. Things were made to be beautiful...AV is bringing sexy back.
The CEDIA Expo staff definitely spent a significant amount of time talking about design thinking. There were several sessions where experts discussed how to unify technology and interior design. There was even a tour specifically geared towards uniting the design and custom integration communities. CEDIA Expo is taking a page from AVIXA's playbook and bringing new people into the fold, and I'm digging it.
Alexa, Create a Smart Home
We're all buzzing about IoT. But I saw it in action on the CEDIA Expo show floor. Design thinking didn't just apply to the way things look—things are being designed to work together. Both exhibits and classrooms were abuzz with discussion on how to flawlessly create a truly connected smarthome (shameless self-promotion: read my article on 5 Things You Need to Know About IoT for the Home). I've never heard the name "Alexa" so much in my life!
I left San Diego thinking, man, residential AV is RAD! Which is a good thing because pro AV is preparing for resimercial. I'm ready for beautiful products that function well together. Are you?
Fun Fact: each and every year in college, I won my sorority’s Princess Procrastination Awards. A test at 10 a.m.? No problem, I’d start studying at 8 a.m. I actually started my 75-page thesis about three days before it was due. Some of you may be surprised by this as I love structure, organization, and planning, but, as I’m writing this a few hours before we go to print on our August issue, I can see how old habits die hard.
Read my full August edit letter here: https://www.avnetwork.com/insights-and-blogs/old-habits-die-hard
I grew up within walking distance to Wrigley Field. Both my mom and my stepdad grew up on that same block (shout-out to my fellow Whipple Street residents!). Needless to say, we're a Cubs family. Our love for the Cubs runs deep—we bleed Cubbie blue.
I love this year's team motto: Everybody In. It's been a rough year for our family, with my stepdad being very ill. We've had to have "Everybody In" because it takes a village sometimes. I'm so grateful to have such an amazing network of friends who have helped my whole family get through the tough times—from bringing hot meals to my parents to lending me a should to cry on and even those simple "I'm here for you." text messages. Everybody was in.
It also applies to my professional life. But I can't give away all the secret sauce in this blog so pick up the July issue of Systems Contractor News (SCN) or read it online here: www.avnetwork.com/insights-and-blogs/everybody-in.
Your vibe does attract your tribe as the cool kids say these days. So what kind of vibes are you sending into the world? Let’s welcome those who may be new to the industry. Let’s embrace and learn from professionals seeking different perspectives on AV, from experience designers to VR developers.
When we welcome new contributors into the fold, our tribe grows stronger, not weaker. We can find new synergies as our tribe evolves to create new opportunities, perhaps ones you never imagined.
Read the full version of my June editor's letter:
InfoComm is less than two weeks away and I'M SO EXCITED! This is the first time in over a decade that I won't be on the exhibitor side of the fence so it'll be a whole new world for me.
I can't really say I'm sad to not be setting up in 100-degree heat, but I will definitely miss the camaraderie that comes from bonding over the aches and pains of putting a booth together. I also miss the Exhibitor Committee where I met a ton of new friends, and did a lot of idea-swapping. If you're exhibiting, you NEED to be a part of the committee (it's open to all!); contact Kurt St. Clair to get involved.
Speaking of bonding, I'm really looking forward to all the networking opportunities the show provides. I'm also stoked about my very cool friends teaching a variety of classes and educating #AVTweeps. With that said, here are some of the places you'll find me during InfoComm 2018 (and some shameless promotion for my friends!).
Tuesday, June 5
Emerging Trends Day
I could tell you all about this but I already did in the VIP issue of the InfoComm Show Daily. Missed it? Read more: www.avnetwork.com/news/emerging-trends-day-2018
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
I'm sure you've all heard me rave about TIDE at the InfoComm 2017 show in Orlando. This year's TIDE is going to be even better because my girl Margot Douaihy is moderating a panel session—Designing the Customer Experience: Nike NYC Headquarters Case Study. While it's a full day event, Margot goes on at 10:45 a.m.
Read more: http://tideconference.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-schedule-at-a-glance
Park MGM, 8:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.
SCN InfoComm Installation Product Awards
We received many cool entries, and a team of top-secret integrators narrowed it down to three finalists per category. Who will take home the trophies?
Read more: www.avnetwork.com/systems-contractor-news/voting-opens-for-2018-scn-infocomm-awards
LVCC, Room N252, 2:00 p.m.
InfoComm Opening Reception
It's free to all attendees and at a super hip nightclub.
Read more: www.infocommshow.org/event-info/special-events/networking-receptions
Omnia Nightclub, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
SCN The Nine Meet Up
This year's class of #SCNTheNine is so cool that they independently planned their own meet up...and all via Twitter!
Read more: www.avnetwork.com/features/the-nine-2018
Nine Fine Irishmen, 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 6
As the reigning 2017 Young AV Professional, I'm particularly excited for this crown-passing ceremony (totally dramatizing this). Catch up with all of the 2018 AVIXA Award winners and hear about their achievements on Day 1 of the show.
Read more: www.avnetwork.com/news/avixa-announces-2018-award-winners
LVCC, Booth N1646, 4:00 p.m.
AV Tweet Up
The AVNation AV Tweet Up is a chance for those of us who have connected online and through social media to meet IRL. Grab me for an #AVSelfie and tag me on Twitter @MeganADutta.
Read more and register: www.eventbrite.com/e/avnation-infocomm-2018-tweetup-tickets-45417651418
LVCC, Room N217, 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 7
AVIXA Women's Breakfast
This is one of my favorite events each year. It's where I first fan-girled Hope Roth (winner of this year's Educator of the Year!), and have met a ton of really cool women in the industry.
Westgate Hotel Las Vegas, Ballroom A, 7:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Friday, June 8
Center Stage is FREE to all attendees throughout the show and features 20-minute Ted-Talk-style presentations. But Friday is going to be especially powerful. Lady Gaga's producer DJ White Shadow and the famed Alesia Hendley within hours of each other? Need to see.
Read more: www.infocommshow.org/education--conferences/center-stage
LVCC, Booth N1646, 10:30 a.m. - 2:50 p.m.
As soon as the show floor closes, I'm off to enjoy a weekend in Vegas with my bestie. I plan to do some hiking, eat some good food, and have lots of girl talk.
Tell me: How will you recover from the show?
Megan A. Dutta