Self Improvement

artist kids, kid art

Inspiring Friends

Life can get pretty crazy.  Especially when you’re doing a balancing act between what you love to do and what you need to do.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Alanna posted a picture of her tomato harvest on Facebook. “I’ll trade you for some basil,” I commented. More people started chiming in until a pasta dinner was proposed to happen at her house. During the pasta dinner our friends Karen and Dabney who had recently had a baby were telling me how they expected and planned on slowing down the pace of their lives once their daughter Alice was born. They are dance performers and instructors and travel a lot, so they naturally expected to settle and find more steady work. Instead, the opposite happened. They started getting more teaching and performance gigs, to which they were able to bring baby Alice with them.

I thought about mine and Shelly’s journey with the kids and it was very similar. The time that we started having our children was when her career started moving forward at an insane pace and mine started changing from technology to something more artistic. When we got pregnant with Trystan, neither of us were working; I got a job as an engineer at 3M just in time before the baby was born. Then, shortly after we had Zoey, Shelly got a career bump and we moved to New York for 6 months where we had many adventures and my life as a stay home dad started my journey to career self discovery. After doing so many creative things with the kids and getting out of my daily technological grind, I realized that I don’t want to be an engineer any more. Now I am a technical writer in pursuit of unleashing my creativity into my vocation and a career that I love. It’s so crazy! We’re about to have baby number three and we feel even more dependent on providence to make ends meet.  It’s new and scary but we know we’re doing the right thing. One thing that makes it possible is that we have lots of support.

We have surrounded ourselves with brave friends who are leaping into the future guided by their hearts instead of the promise of stability offered by a “steady job”. I look back at my past, and I am so grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made to give me and my siblings the opportunities that we have to follow our dreams today. My mom was a successful sit-com screen writer and piano teacher when we lived in the Philippines. She was happy doing what she loved to do. My dad on the other hand, never pursued a career in what he really loved. We moved to the United States because my dad wanted to chase the American dream. My mom left her dream job and eventually became a Court Reporter. We owned a keyboard and she was able to teach all six of her children the fundamentals of music and launched all of us into band and orchestra programs while we were in school. My dad taught me guitar as I took to that more than I did the piano. From a young age, it was evident to me that both of my parents were very artistic. But the message that I got from them was that I had to become an Engineer so that I could provide for my family with a steady income. Not only did I hear it with words, I also saw it with how they lived their lives. They were martyrs for their children.

Many parents did that in their generation. I remember watching a movie where a son wanted to become an artist but his parents wanted him to pursue “computers” so he could have a steady income to be able to provide for a family. One day, during his sister’s debutante ball (filipino coming of age celebration) his dad, a blue collar worker, goes up to the microphone after many of his sister’s friends had finished performing for her, and dedicates a song for her.  His singing captivated the crowd and blew everyone away. The son finds out from the older guests at the party that his dad used to be a professional singer and gave it up when they got pregnant with him.

It is important to teach your children how to be responsible adults. It is important to teach them to be selfless especially when it comes to their own children. I also believe that it is even more important to teach them how to listen to their hearts and take leaps of faith in the direction of their dreams. Don’t be reckless about it, and blindly jump into the future. A lot of listening is involved. This is the kind of example that I want to show Trystan, Zoey and Zachary. I want them to see their daddy following his heart, pursuing his dreams, while providing for their daily needs. Mommy is doing the same thing too. It would almost be impossible if she wasn’t. The ebb and flow of providence switches back and forth. It breathes. It has rhythm. Just like dancing sometimes she shines, sometimes I shine but both constantly listening to the music. And both listening to each other.

Now I know that I don’t have to walk the same path my parents and many in their generation did. Each person has a different learning style and for myself, it is definitely by making mistakes and going through what not to do before figuring out how to do something properly. So maybe my parents’ sacrifice was God’s gentle way of letting me know how to raise my children instead of making my own mistakes with them. Each person is created for a purpose, so parents need to teach their children how to listen to their inner compass. Without learning to listen to that voice within, then it will be difficult to hear the call to your vocation.

People get paid for everything!  If your personality and talents inspire you to love skydiving, there are jobs out there that would require you to skydive. Whether it’s as a stunt actor, sky diving instructor, paratrooper in the military, etc.  There is a career out there that fulfills each and every person’s desires. You may have to be creative in monetizing your passion, but the fruits are out there for the picking.

I consider myself so blessed to be surrounded by so many friends who are willing to go out on the limb to do what they love. We are breaking traditional models while keeping traditional values, we are breaking the mold while enhancing the flavor. Some are riding the waves of new trends while others are riding old waves with a new style.

After such a long time of pursuing something I wasn’t passionate about, I am still listening for my vocation. With grand plans and a desire to create, I am exploring options in writing and music. Pursuit of writing prompted me to create this blog and my pursuit of music inspires me to DJ (www.soentertaining.com) and play guitar and sing for church services.  Over 16 years of training and experience as an engineer in aerospace and biometrics has also given me a skill set that is very unique.  I am aiming for what I love; though it is more likely that somewhere between what I love and what I have experience in… that is where I’ll find my calling.

With all that said, I dedicate this blog post to all my friends who inspire me to soldier on into a brave new world of pursuing what I love. I will not post their names on this public forum but will list some of their websites below (most of them don’t have websites or blogs). I am so proud of all of you and thankful to have you in my family’s lives. Shoulder to shoulder let’s move forward!

Check out some of our friends’ websites:
http://www.paxbaby.com – All about babywearing and carrying, get in touch with activities in the local Los Angeles area
http://www.mamabirdpostpartum.com – Lots of information for new parents from a post partum doula.
http://www.retromodernmom.com – The title speaks for itself. A retro mom living in today’s world.
http://www.rhythmjuice.com – Learn how to swing dance from some of the top instructors in the world

If I missed anyone, or if you are one of the dream chasers post your site in a comment 🙂

Speaking of being artistic; here is a self portrait that Trystan drew at 3 years old.  He ran out of time at daycare so he doesn’t have any arms.

kid self portrait

and here’s a picture of him for comparison:

IMG_2398

 

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Happy Sunday

After a 19 hour day yesterday and a 6 hour night of sleep I feel refreshed, inspired and ready to go.  Here’s my words of wisdom for today…

“It’s better to be on the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up a ladder you don’t.”

I finally made that switch in one of the most uncertain times of life and it feels like I am learning to fly.  In a couple of days I will be the only one in our family to have a full time job.  I went from engineering to becoming a technical writer which created a gap between our income and our cost of living.  However, gigs for playing guitar, dancing, DJing and MCing have been pouring in!  It feels like the shift I want is about to happen.  It definitely feels like I’m going in the right direction.

I was dancing at Third Saturday Swing last night.  I looked at my watch and it was 10pm.  The surprising thing was that I still wanted to stay and dance, hang out and chat with my friends, and make new friends.  This was the moment that I knew my life was changing.  Normally, after a long day, I would have felt exhausted and would have been whining about what’s coming up next.  Whining about what I had to do, about maybe not getting enough sleep, whining about not having gotten enough sleep the night before.  But as I looked at the time and looked back up at Shelly’s face, I felt happy. The underlying tone of whining was gone.

I am still not at my destination.  Very far from it, I tell you but I am definitely on the way there.  Daddy IS finally chasing his dreams.  I feel like Elfaba from Wicked…. I feel like now I’m beginning to defy gravity.

Chasing Daddy’s dreams

Booked from 11am to 9pm, it’s going to be a long day and I’m starting it at 4am. What’s on my plate? Well, I’ve been getting up between 3 and 4 in the morning to pray, write and exercise. Today is extra special because I have a ton of anxiety
about my to-do-list, so I had trouble going to bed last night as well.

Today is a living witness to “Son, don’t stop chasing your dreams.” I will never stop telling my children that, with my words and with my actions. Today I get to DJ and MC my first Bat Mitzvah, which I am so excited and grateful for. I’ve been preparing for a month on a setlist, practicing transitions and researching what kids like to listen to nowadays. My favorite music to DJ is 90’s – 2000’s hip-hop basically hitting the 20 and 30 somethings crowd, which is very convenient for weddings since, that’s about the age people are getting married in nowadays. This event has an age gap right in my sweet spot so I feel like I have to do some research to see what tweens like.

Gig number two is as an Emcee for a polynesian show, which I love to do because I have the “gift o’ gab” on the mic I strike, I make your party my lab and unleash the hype… yeah, I wish I could free flow when I’m actually on stage. I probably could if I didn’t get so self conscious and afraid about failing.

The third gig is teaching an introductory swing dance lesson at http://www.thirdsaturdayswing.com in Pasadena, CA. A once a month pleasure for me, since it’s probably my favorite monthly event.

Pretty crazy. It will be over 11 hours of being on-the-go and not seeing my kids. Well kids, daddy is chasing after his dreams and I want you to do the same. Whatever the obstacles, whatever the difficulties, whatever you’re afraid of, however long it takes, however old you are, get focused on what you love to do and go for it. And if your dream happens to be the same as mine, then I’ll teach you as much as I can; if it isn’t, then I’ll help you get started and be cheering for you the whole way through.

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar

Zoey catches the chicken pox at one and a half years old.  Two weeks after my shingles subside, she starts breaking out with little blisters all over her crotch.  Shelly and I didn’t know what it was at first.  We thought it was a rash from sitting in her pee filled diaper, but that’s never happened before.  The day after I noticed them, I called the Dr Mechoso who was able to see us that same day; our appointment was for an hour after I called.  She verified that it was chickenpox and prescribed antiviral medication and suggested that I give Zoey baby tylenol for the pain once the blisters start breaking.

My little girl was clearly in pain the next couple of days as the blisters spread throughout the rest of her body. Yet, she didn’t scratch as much as I thought she would.  Zoey is so patient.  She would have moments where she would just cry and whimper while trying to get comfortable. She would shudder from the pain.  The Tylenol and Wonder Salve helped a lot but still she had some discomfort to deal with.  I found that a bottle of milk and a nice movie is a good distraction for her.  One movie that I put on this past week was Mary Poppins.  I love the quality of that movie.  From the graphics, cinematography, humor, costumes, and the many subtle messages embedded in it to inspire and instruct.  I cuddled with Zoey on the couch as the movie played and we got to the scene where George Banks gets fired, he comes home to a house full of chimney sweeps and his kids are covered in soot.  “It was that Mary Poppins! She tricked me into taking the children to the bank.” and Bert putting away his brushes replies, “…she’s the one what sings, ‘just a spoon full of sugar to ‘elp the medicine go down…”  It was during this interaction with the chimney sweep that Mr. Banks has a change of heart.  And it was at this time watching it that I realize what triggered that change.

I have seen Mary Poppins so many times.  It was my favorite movie as a child, and I even had a crush on ol’ Miss Poppins.  I’ve seen it with Trystan and Zoey before and we sang to all the songs.  But this day as Zoey lay on my chest, riddled with blisters, whimpering periodically;  I saw that Mr. Banks came to realize that HE should be the one giving his children the spoonful of sugar.  He realized that one of his responsibilities as a dad is to ‘wipe their tears’ and help them face the difficulties in their lives.

I cannot take away my daughter’s pain, but I can try to make her as comfortable as possible while she goes through it.  I have no control of the virus or her immune system, but I do have influence over her spirit.  How we deal with our children during their times of suffering will form their response to suffering later on in life.  We can teach them how times of tribulation can strengthen their spirit, or we can teach them that they become a burden when they need to depend on others for help.  Another image that came to my mind is from the movie Life is Beautiful.  I imagined Guido carrying his sleeping son through a misty night in the concentration camp.  He is trying to find his way back to their barracks and instead they end up in front of a pile of corpses.  Guido was a father who was able to bring a piece of heaven to one of the most hopeless and desolate places on earth; a Nazi concentration camp during WWII.  He made his son think that it was a game and that he had to follow certain rules to win it.  In the end, his son has no memory of tragedy, only a loving game that his father had played with him, that saved his life.

These realizations inspired me to smile while washing Zoey’s blistered body, so she doesn’t feel like it is a burden for me.  They inspired me to make sure we make moments just for laughter.  Things that would normally make me react with disgust or surprise or anger, were seen as sources of humor.  I want one of my responsibilities as a father to be to bring a little piece of heaven wherever I am on earth, so that my little angels will feel right at home.

A Better Man

Back in December, instead of coming up with resolutions for the new year, I started praying about one word that I can focus on for 2014.  One word that will be on the forefront of my mind, something that will give me purpose for the year.  Little did I know that after a lifetime of not knowing what I really wanted to “do” when I grew up, I had been asking the wrong question the whole time.  The question is not “What do I want to ‘do’?”  The question is, “What is my purpose?”

Asking the question “what do I want to do?”, will give me a job as an answer.  Either that or a job description.  Now, asking the question “What is my purpose?”, gives me an action.  A verb that I can do in whatever job I get.  For over 12 years I have liked engineering, but not loved it.  I have been looking outside of my proverbial window looking at other more “exciting” professions.  This past week, when I was listening to a Podcast called “Living Your List” Ryan Eller talked about that VERB, your purpose in life.  And as he was describing the traits of that verb, I knew exactly what my one word was.  My word is INSPIRE.

My purpose in this world is to inspire others.  The want and the need for it lies deep in my bones.  No wonder I am on fire when I am on stage, singing in front of a band, or when I’m giving talks at retreats, or when I’m acting on a stage, or talking one-on-one with someone trying to get them to see a bright side of life.  I get close to tears when others inspire me.  Armed with this new knowledge and fueled with the confidence that I have a mission, I hit the ground running while I was quarantined at Alan and Marlene’s house.  I started thinking about things that I am already doing that will give me a foothold or handgrip into a career that will nurture my calling.  And what I needed to do so that I’m ready when the time comes that I should come across that job or opportunity…

I started looking at my priorities and using the Eisenhower Method, organizing the tasks in my life based on whether they are important and/or urgent.  After a couple of days, I renamed the sections to:

Kill Quick = Important and Urgent
Focus = Important but Not Urgent
Avoid = Not Important but Urgent
Leisure = Not Important and Not Urgent

My Life Priority Matrix

My Life Priority Matrix

A couple of things on there that I added after my reflection were couch time, and play time.  I know I spend time with my family and I am pretty sure that they are not neglected or abused.  I also wanted to make a deliberate effort to spend at least 1 hour of quality time with Shelly each day.  I called this couch time.  I also want to make a deliberate effort to play with the kids.  For me, writing it out as a priority means focus.  I’m not going to multitask while doing things in the Focus quadrant.

I also noticed that the tasks in the Kill Quick quadrant are things that I tend to procrastinate.  These are the things that I set aside and then get frustrated at myself for not doing because I end up in a crunch.  I mostly set them aside because of the pressure put on by the urgency of the task.  Well, seeing them as things that I need to kill quick has definitely changed my perspective on how to deal with them.  Don’t think, just kill it.

Making myself a better man means slowly but surely moving toward the man I want to become.  It’s about forming new habits, even little ones.  It’s about changing the way I think about the things that I do (and don’t want to do).  I have started a bucket list.  I’m actively tracking my priorities.  I’m not saying I’m doing everything perfectly, far from it.  There are still things I haven’t done that have been on my priority list from the beginning of the week.  I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep, though I was supposed to be resting.  I’ve been so motivated that I think I am at the edge of burning myself out (that’s why I added sleep as a priority).  I have been trying to do so much that I’ve been going to bed at about 2am and waking up at between 5 and 6am, my brain full of plans and schemes and my body full of adrenaline.

It’s my first full day back home after staying at Alan and Marlene’s place.  Still had some trouble napping, but am definitely throttling down the adrenaline flow.  Our family is so blessed to have friends like Alan and Marlene in our lives.  It was Marlene’s invitation to stay with them to prevent the kids from contracting chicken pox that gave me the isolation I needed to reflect.  I was Marlene who watched the kids while Shelly was at work.  It was my chats with Alan that got my mind thinking about possibilities; real possibilities about pursuing my goals and how to achieve them.  Thank you for giving me a place to mend and recover (physically and spiritually).  I know I am never going to be perfect, but hopefully, with the help of grace I am going to be a better man each step of the way.