Happy Birthday Mom, thanks for the new brother

My mom passed away a little more than 14 years ago. Today would have been her 65th birthday.

A year or two before she passed, she shared a secret with me that she had been carrying around her entire adult life. She told me that when she was sixteen she had become pregnant, that she had a baby boy and had given him up for adoption. She told me I had another brother somewhere out there in the world.

My mom told me that she often thought about that baby boy. She wondered how his life had turned out. She wondered if she made the right decision. She told me she hoped she would get to meet him some day.

At the time, I remember being taken aback by this new information. I was surprised to learn I wasn’t her first child after all. But the thing that struck me the most was realizing my mom had been carrying this secret around for so long. I was in my thirties before she told me. It was clear that talking about it made her uncomfortable. It was a pained conversation. I’m sure talking about it stirred up feelings of shame, guilt and worry that she had been carrying around and wrestling with for more than three decades at that point. I remember wanting to do something or say something to ease her pain, and not really knowing what to say or do.

After that conversation, we didn’t talk about it again. Sadly, my mom died before she had the chance to meet that baby boy and to answer her questions and put to rest the worries she carried with her most of her life.

Mom, I’m very pleased to share with you, and everyone, that your baby boy turned out just fine.

Mom, you made the right decision. You don’t need to worry or feel guilt. You should not be ashamed. Instead, you should hold your head high, with pride, knowing that the sacrifices you made, the anguish and doubt you endured, they were all worth it.

A few weeks ago, thanks to the wonders of Facebook and a change in Colorado state law that opened up previously sealed adoption records, I received a cryptic message from someone trying to locate my mother. He had her full maiden name and date of birth. I had a hunch who this might be when I saw that first message. My heart was racing. After a few more tentative exchanges with a few more details, and some fact-checking with some other relatives, I was able to confirm that my mom was, in fact, the birth mother of my mystery messenger. My long lost older brother had found me, at last.

My excitement of finally connecting with my newfound brother was tempered by having to break the news that his birth mother was already deceased. I sent him one of the last photos I have of my mom, sitting with my two young boys eating cotton candy at a school carnival. She loved her grandbabies. They called her “Nawie” (it rhymes with Maui).


I also sent a copy of her obituary, listing her children and surviving relatives. Pulling up those photos and re-reading that obituary stirred deeply buried grief in me. But it also underscored the hole that was still unfilled when my mom died. I was sad to break the news that she was gone, but sadder still to feel the regret that she would never get the chance to meet him, to get to know him, to hug him. She would have really liked that.

I don’t believe my mother shared her secret with many people. I’m sure she must have told a few close friends. I don’t know whether or not my mom would have made this revelation public if she were still alive today. And when I thought about sharing this story, I worried about revealing a secret that she would rather have kept private. But at the same time, I know my mom would have been excited to share this good news with her friends. She would have wanted to tell anyone she had confided in that this story had a happy ending. Because I don’t know who my mom shared her story with, and I don’t want a cloud of secrecy to hang over the relationship I hope to have with my new older half-brother, I have decided to share this story with the world. My mom took her secret to the grave. I think that’s plenty far enough for anyone.

If you know me, you probably know I already have a lot of brothers. Both of my parents had multiple marriages and between them and combinations of “yours”, “mine” and “ours”, growing up I had eight step and half brothers, and no sisters. It was like an all-male Brady Bunch, only bigger. The step- and half- designations have never really mattered. We have always just been brothers. And now I get to put another one on the board. My daughter Katie asked me when I told her this news, “How many uncles do I have now?” Believe it or not, I now have NINE brothers. Along with my two brothers-in-law, Katie now has ELEVEN uncles. I think that is freaking awesome.

A couple weeks ago, my new brother and his wife drove up from Houston to meet me and my wife for dinner. We traded questions and answers. We shared forty years worth of stories over nachos and margaritas. We laughed. We fought back tears at times. But most importantly we got to know each other for the very first time.

My newfound brother’s name is Dan. He lives in Houston with his beautiful wife and family. He’s a good dad and a proud father. He was a college athlete. He’s had a successful career. He’s built a good life for himself and his family. He’s happy and healthy.

Mom, he told me he wanted to thank you for giving him the greatest gift he could have ever asked for. He grew up in a great family with loving parents. He’s had a great life.

You would be very proud.

Happy Birthday.



The End of Summer

I know that metereologically speaking, the current season is still Summer, but with three kids, for us, Summer effectively ends when the kids return to school. The first day back to school was last Tuesday. Our Summer ended in a whirlwind of activity. You wouldn’t know it looking at the blog postings here. It seems that for me at least, blog activity is inversely proportional to the amount of non-blog activity in my life. I wonder if this holds true for others in the blogosphere?

I finished my master’s report and have been awarded a Master of Science in Engineering (yipee!). The last few weeks of writing were an ordeal — many late nights, lots of coffee, lots of anxiety. I had planned to wrap up my paper early and head out for our annual family vacation to Corpus Christi on the Texas coast. Alas, I was not quite done when our departure day arrived (that last 10% is a bear) — and so I took my laptop (and my anxiety) with me and worked on my paper a few hours a day. It’s done now and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out. I’m going to do a little reformatting and give it another round of editing before posting it here.

Despite my paper ordeal, we managed to have an excellent vacation, I played some golf, took the boys fishing and worked on teaching our daughter to swim. She turned 3 at the coast, and we celebrated with a poolside birthday party. We made tie-die shirts, did the limbo and ate birthday cake and ice cream. As they say, “fun was had by all.”

No sooner had we returned from the coast than we dispatched our oldest son to two weeks of camp in the rolling green Texas hill country. He spent 16 hours a day outdoors doing things they do at camp: swimming, hiking, shooting, eating, singing and playing. He learned a new game, gaga, and made some new friends. When I first saw him, two Saturdays later, I was struck by how relaxed and confident he seemed. I was amazed how much my little boy had grown up in two short weeks. Instead of a homesick boy, here was this healthy, happy kid — glad to see me — but also a little sad to see his camp experience come to an end.

School started the Tuesday after we picked him up from camp — and now we are back to our usual school-year routine. The days at camp proved to be good training for waking early, and so getting to school by 7:30am was not as painful this year as in years past. I too am picking up a routine, one that, I hope, includes more frequent blog postings.


Where’s Mason?

Sorry for the lack of traffic here — it’s been a very busy month for me. At work, we’ve had several projects wrapping up and new ones kicking off. Still we found time to hold a 2-day technology summit in Austin. We brought everyone in my group together to talk strategy, discuss process, share best practices, and repeatedly hurl 14lb. balls at formations of wooden pins. 😉

On the personal side of things, I’ve got less than 4 weeks to go to finish my thesis(!), so I’ve been spending any spare time on the weekends working on it. Finishing that paper is the most important thing I’ll do all year.

This weekend, I finally found time to spend on the blog. After making sure all my old links would still work, I removed the final remnants of MoveableType from the server. I’ve started on a new look and feel template, but won’t finish tonight. Maybe check back next month?


Sunday Night Movie

My wife and I wrapped up another busy weekend last night with what has become our Sunday night ritual — take-out Chinese and a movie. We started this habit when we were newlyweds (we celebrate our 9th anniversary this week), but back then we were watching the X-Files with our Mongolian Beef and Lemon Chicken. These days, NetFlix has replaced the X-Files. Last night’s movie: Big Fish. My fortune cookie read: “You are imaginative in using your skills.” Ha!


Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a little hard for me — my Mom passed away two years ago this February. So when this day comes around, it reminds that I can no longer call her up and make her laugh, send her flowers, whatever, something… anything. And it makes me think about the past Mother’s Days I “wasted” — by missing them entirely or just leaving a message on her answering machine. I wish I could call her now, but I can’t.

So call your Mom, if you can. Tell her you love her. Make her laugh.

Still, I am lucky to have some wonderful women in my life, that are mothers or like mothers to me. So to Colleen, my wife; my step-mom Pat; my Grandma-Kaye; and my mother-in-law Sharon — today is your day — enjoy it. I love you all very much.

About Me

A little late to the party, but happy to be here

Today I had the honor of being Scobleized. Given my measly two posts and the plain vanilla look of this blog, Robert has been most generous to point his readers in my direction. Thank you. I’ve just joined this party, and I feel welcome already.

First, I should apologize for the lack of personal information available on this site. I will fix that. I’m glad Robert was able to dig up a press release to introduce me — but it’s a shame that it is more than 6 years old.

So who is Mason Hale?

I am Chief Technologist at frog design, a highly-regarded design firm that has been consistently churning out great products and customer experiences for some 34 years now. I founded and manage frog’s digital technology consulting practice. We design, prototype and build websites and software for clients including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, General Electric, and T-Mobile. We specialize in creating rich, intuitive user interfaces using technologies such as Flash, Dynamic HTML, ASP.NET/C#, and Java.

However, this site is my personal site, and the views expressed here are my own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer. In addition, because the work we do is highly-confidential — I am generally not at liberty to to discuss the projects or clients I might be working with at any given time. So don’t expect this to be the “inside frog” blog.

That said, I am very lucky to work with some really smart, creative people on challenging, thought-provoking projects. That is bound to influence my thinking, and by extension this blog.

I am a husband and father of three — two boys, one girl. I live in Austin, Texas — and love it here. My undergraduate degree is in film production (radio-television-film) from the University of Texas at Austin, where I was a classmate of Robert Rodriguez and Matthew McConaughey. I went to high school in Fort Worth. Before that I moved around a bit, with stops in Breckenridge, Colorado; Casper, Wyoming; and Houston.

Some of you may remember me from my early involvement with Userland Frontier — the predecessor of today’s Manila and Radio Userland products. With Dave Winer, I spearheaded the development of the Frontier CGI Framework — a popular toolkit (at the time) for creating web-based applications on Mac OS web servers. I learned an amazing amount during that period of my life, and I’m very grateful to Dave and the rest of the early-Frontier community for that.

Today, I am in the final throes of completing my master’s degree in engineering management. I’ve completed all the coursework and am working on my thesis now. You can be sure I’ll be floating some of my ideas here.

That’s a brief, but more current and well-rounded introduction. I look forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones. Sorry I didn’t get here sooner.