Friday, May 31, 2019

A Life of Passion

Headlines scream from every conceivable media outlet around the world. 11th climber dies on Mt. Everest this year! After briefly identifying the climber, the stock article quickly moves to more general issues of the numbers of climbers on the mountain and the cost of such a climb. Media commentary amps up controversy. Lost in the fog is the life of the individual.

So, let's burn off the fog and see the light of a life of passion. How do I know? Chris Kulish was my work colleague for 15 years, a fellow associate working his way to partner in the largest patent law firm anywhere near Colorado. He also was my friend.


Chris Kulish after summiting Mt. Everest. (photo by Chris Kulish)
This picture appears in print, broadcast and on-line media reports around the world.

Chris excelled in the rarified air of complex electrical engineering patent prosecution. If you're thinking that's pretty specialized, you are right. Very few individuals are capable of thoroughly understanding state of the art electrical engineering applications and then translating that technical know-how into the arcane world of patent prosecution. Even fewer do it well. 

When Chris started with the firm in 1987, he immediately bolstered the promising electrical engineering patent practice. Through the 1990's, both Chris and the firm grew and prospered. However, the unrelenting workload eventually took its toll. Chris left in 2002 to seek an environment more conducive for carving out blocks of time to pursue his passion of climbing.

Although we rarely worked together directly, I enjoyed regularly talking with Chris. For example, the interplay between patent prosecution and litigation provided limitless questions for his inquisitive mind. Almost always, our discussions resulted in him offering a fresh insight that moved forward my analysis of a pending project.

While an exceptional patent lawyer, Chris was exceptionally passionate about climbing. All kinds of climbing. That's what he did. That's what he was about. That was him.

So, we never just talked about work. Sometimes, we didn't talk about work at all. Chris loved to share stories of climbing big mountains and big walls, such as Long's Peak in Colorado and El Capitan in California. He climbed as much as he could during those years, but yearned for time to pursue bigger peaks on longer expeditions in more exotic locales. I know that, due to work commitments, he reluctantly turned down several invitations to join friends on expeditions to the Himalayans.

But Chris kept at it. He kept climbing. He kept working to keep climbing. He lived a lifestyle to be able to keep climbing. He spent a lifetime climbing. He lived his passion.

Reaching the summit of Mt. Everest not only fulfilled a life long goal, it also propelled Chris onto a very short list of individuals who have climbed the highest peak on each of the Earth's seven continents. The commitment of time, energy, work and skill to accomplish such a feat is staggering. That's a lifetime living his passion. That's a life to celebrate.

Rest in peace, Chris.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunshine On My Shoulders

If I had a tale that I could tell you,
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile.

John Denver, Sunshine On My Shoulders (1971).

Soaking in the late afternoon sun, I roll toward the last checkpoint of the last Odin's Revenge.
Such a memorable day is possible by riding other days that were not so ideal.

If truth in advertising laws applied to calendars, March would show 93 days this year. This long, cold, lonely winter seems to relish revealing momentary glimpses of spring, like Lucy repeatably offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown. Then another snow dump abruptly plants us flat on our backs.

Throughout this never ending March, you keep going out there. Sometimes it's fun to be outside in harsher weather, but not always. Sometimes you just go out there because that's what you do. In any event, you know winter won't last forever and you want to be able to ride well when the weather finally improves. So you go.

In the midst of a long, wintry ride a few weeks ago, the sun burst through the persistent clouds to briefly brighten my day. At that moment, this old John Denver song popped into my head and made me smile. I sang it, off and on, sometimes loudly, for the rest of the ride, well after the sun disappeared under its covers. It changed my ride.

This day on this road will come.

I later learned that John Denver wrote that song while enduring a lingering winter. How appropriate. Here's his story, as recounted in Wikipedia:

"I wrote the song in Minnesota at the time I call 'late winter, early spring'. It was a dreary day, gray and slushy. The snow was melting and it was too cold to go outside and have fun, but God, you're ready for spring. You want to get outdoors again and you're waiting for that sun to shine, and you remember how sometimes just the sun itself can make you feel good. And in that very melancholy frame of mind I wrote 'Sunshine on My Shoulders'."

Time for some Sunshine On My Shoulders.




Go ahead. Sing along.




Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine for all the while
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high
Sunshine almost always

Songwriters: John Denver / Michael C Taylor / Richard L Dick Kniss

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cheerleader In Chief

The subtitle to this blog refers to "the people and rides to make it happen." One such person who has made many things happen for me is my Mom. Among other things, she always has been my Cheerleader In Chief.

From an early age, I played sports, especially football, basketball and baseball, the conventional sports in small town middle America at the time. Because Dad was almost always my coach, he took me to practices and games. See, 2018 post, The Best Coach I Ever Had. But not always. If Dad didn't, Mom did. And Mom was at every game year round, regardless of the sport, regardless of the weather, and regardless of anything else. She was always there, sharing every victory and defeat, every high and every low, with the right words and the right presence. Always.

Decades later, my wife Colleen experienced first hand the depth of Mom's involvement with my sports. Thirty rows up behind home plate at a Colorado Rockies baseball game, Mom quietly called balls and strikes on every pitch. Sitting beside her, Colleen expressed surprise at Mom's knowledge and accuracy. Mom gently patted Colleen's arm and said, "Dear, I've seen a few baseball games."

Carol Ann Rist, Salutatorian, Centerville High School 1954.
Carol Ann Rist grew up on a small family farm near Centerville, South Dakota, surrounded by a legion of cousins, aunts and uncles. With essentially no high school sports available to girls, Mom excelled in the classroom, graduating Salutatorian, played in the band and performed on the sidelines as a cheerleader. After high school, Mom graduated with a teaching degree from Augustana College, where she also was a varsity cheerleader. After college, Mom generally stayed home with her growing family, but occasionally substitute taught to keep her teaching credentials current.

Through it all, Mom kept everyone balanced and grounded. In a culture often dominated by athletics, she required from us a healthy dose of household chores and emphasized academics. From the very beginning, Mom spent countless hours reading to us, allowed us time to read ourselves and demanded that we attend to school work before "extra curricular" activities. You always knew that school came first. And it did.

Mom further insisted that we take piano and dance lessons in elementary school and that we played in the band or orchestra through high school. She steadfastly made sure we practiced and took us to years of lessons, rehearsals, recitals and concerts. Although I never developed a passion for creating music, I enjoyed playing and hanging out with a completely different crowd from sports. None of those experiences or relationships would have happened without Mom. And even back then, I attributed my footwork as a quarterback, point guard and shortstop to both Dad's coaching and Mom's dance lessons.

In addition to inspiration and encouragement, Mom also ran interference for me with Dad, who generally preferred that I work in the family business, if not playing sports. Mom appreciated the value of investing significant effort into academics. More importantly, she understood what it meant to me, so she created time and space within the family dynamics for me to study. My academic goals and achievements directly result from Mom's influence on me and on the rest of my family.

She has always been my Cheerleader In Chief.

Thank you, Mom.

Carol Ann Rist, Student and Cheerleader, Augustana College 1954.


Augustana College Homecoming 1954.


Mom also kept us well-dressed, at least when off the field.
Craig, Candace and Cyler at Dad's International Harvester office in Grand Island, NE in the mid-1960's.


Mom still going to baseball games well into the late 1970's for Chris, my youngest brother.


Mom and Dad still in the stands, sporting team colors and supporting me in 2016
at the 40th year celebration of the 1976 Yankton Bucks State Championship in football.
Being Mom never ends.