Friday, June 1, 2018

Crossing Guard Story

Do you guys know your Crossing Guards? Do you know the actual name of the person looking out for your child’s safety everyday at school, rain or shine? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, because until today, I didn’t either…

Our neighborhood Crossing Guard, who can be found most days on the corner of Sherwood and West is Salvador Castillo.

As one of those parents who mindlessly drive by in “insulated car cocoons”, I’ve come to know Salvador only as “The Waving Crossing Guard”. I call him that because EVERY time I see him, he is empahtically waving and smiling at EVERY kid, EVERY passing vehicle, EVERY single day. Most Huntington parents know of him. But did you know that Salvador was a POET? And a PUBLISHED AUTHOR??? Did you also know that Salvador is currently going through an incredibly difficult time in his life, yet he still shows up EVERY morning with a smile on his face to ensure our kids’ safety?

Yeah... So that’s the teaser. And here comes the full story if you so choose to read it:

So, today is the last official day of the school year. And also the day my son Nash graduates from Huntington Middle School. You would think that especially today, I would be more focused on buying a lei or planning a grand celebration dinner. But that just wasn't the case...

This morning, as I dropped Nash off at Huntington for the last time, I once again drove past "The Waving Crossing Guard”. And for some reason, my thoughts went NOT to Nash, the upcoming graduation, or my daily checklist. My thoughts went out to “The Waving Crossguard,” and how much I appreciated his service. My mind also rudely pointed out to me; that for all those years driving by and waving to this man, I don’t even know his name...

So this afternoon for pick-up, I show up a few minutes early, park the car, and make it my mission to personally express my gratitude, and yes... maybe even learn his name.

I park and make a bee line straight for him, trying to reach the man before all the kids let out. I greet him, shake his hand, and give him a hearty “Thank you for all that you do” type of comment. I also bestow upon him a Peet’s gift card from the stash I keep on-hand, surely for occasions such as these. In our conversation, I learn finally, that "The Waving Crossing Guard’s” name is Salvador Castillo. And in that moment in which he tells me his name, he flamboyantly rolls the “R” in Salvador for what seems like 30 seconds. I repeat his name back to him and recite “SalvadoRRRRRRRRRR,” rolling my tongue like it was dripping with queso… With my ridiculous pronunciation, my new friend just laughs and puts his hand reassuringly on my shoulder. And soon, we just end up laughing together...

And as is my nature, he and I begin to talk. He asks me about my kids, and I tell him a few details. But when I ask him about his family, his eyes light up like little LED’s. Salvador cannot physically pull out his phone fast enough to show me pictures of his beautiful wife. And next a picture of his beautiful daughter… Then, he says “Oh! I want to show you something!” And he immediately runs to his car to look for something. After a few seconds, he runs back and hands me this book. He energetically points to the cover, and says “See? My wife.” And there on the cover, is a stunning photo of his wife taken many years ago… As I reverently take the book from his hand, Salvador is simply beaming. The love Salvador has for his wife is palpable...

I didn't notice it right away, but at the bottom of the book cover, there was a name. The name, Salvador Castillo! This is a book of HIS POETRY! I turn to him and exclaim “This is YOU? You wrote this???” “Yes” he says with a wide smile. I mean, the guy writes a book of poetry dedicated to his lovely wife! And then it gets published??? This dude is MY HERO! I then ask if I can buy the book. He says you can find it on Amazon. And it IS on Amazon! I checked! But I wanted this copy, the copy he put into my hands. He says I can have this book for 10 dollars, so I give him 20. It’s in Spanish, I can’t read it, but I don’t care. I’m honored to own it…

As we continue our conversation, the tone gets heavier. Salvador tells me that his wife passed away a few years ago. And that it’s now just him, his daughter, and his grandson. Then he drops it on me…

He tells me, his daughter Leslie,  who is a mere 39 yrs old, suffered a stroke just 2 weeks ago… She had been in the Huntington Hospital for those 2 weeks, but was thankfully released to come home with Salvador a few days ago. He tells me that his daughter’s recovery is slow, but that he has been encouraged with Leslie slowly regaining her ability to speak. But now with his wife gone, his daughter recovering from a stroke, it is up to him to take care of both his daughter, and her 11 yr old son, on his own.

Even with all this going on his life, Salvador continues to show up, smile, wave, and protect our kids from harm.... My heart breaks for him in that moment. And I don’t really care where you fall in religious affiliation, I felt compelled right then and there to take that opportunity to express my concern for him, and pray for Salvador and his family. Once I did that, and encouraging words had been shared, we shake hands and part ways. But as I walk away, I tell him that I will continue to pray for his family and that I will be back to check up on him and his situation.

As I walk away, in literal awe of this man and his grace under fire, I am reminded that NO ONE on this Earth is face-less. That every person here, is a distinct individual with his or her own story, hopes, and dreams. And that Crossing Guards deserve our respect just as much as anyone else.

As a parent, I am constantly drilling into my kids that EVERYONE deserves respect no matter their station in life. That there is no such thing as the random guy, waitress, or bus driver. All are people. Distinct individuals. With distinct faces. And distinct histories. I remind them that EVERY PERSON regardless of their economic status or color of their skin, knows something that you don’t. And if you listen carefully, that person most assuredly has something to teach you…

Today, the crossing guard, Salvador Castillo, taught me well about strength, perseverance, the love of a Father, and the love for a Wife... These gifts, I will accept gladly. In hopes that one day, I might be able to pass these gifts on to my own children.

This story is not over. I will continue to check on Salvador and his family. Cuz at the end of the day, that’s just what friends do...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

American Idiot

OK. Some of you might feel me on this… But doesn’t it just kill you when some idiot steals your parking spot when you were clearly waiting there first? Or how about when some idiot takes a left turn directly in front of you when you clearly have the right of way? And oh… How about this one? When you’re at Costco, trying innocently to get some shopping done, and some thoughtless, careless idiot rams a full grocery cart right into the back of your heel, shooting sharp pain throughout your whole body???

Yeah, well… Today, I was that IDIOT.

My regretful story begins at the Costco in Alhambra... I had just finished up my weekly shopping, and was now proceeding towards the register with an exorbitant amount of paper goods. But my momentum soon came to a halt when a traffic jam suddenly materialized in front of me. In my efforts to skirt around this "pop-up" mob, I maneuvered my cart directly behind a mother pushing a cart with her child. At this point, there is no sugar-coating this story in my favor. There were no mitigating factors. No justification for my actions. I wasn’t pushed. I wasn’t on the phone. Wasn’t texting. There just isn’t a scenario here, in which I am not at complete and total fault.

In my haste, I misjudged the distance between us. And RAMMED my cart directly into this poor woman’s achilles tendon right above the heel. I would like to tell you that she was wearing high tops at the time, but sadly that was not the case. She was wearing low-cut, slip-on shoes with her achilles taking the brunt of my cart full on… I was instantly aghast as I saw the pain contorting on her face... As I stood there, helplessly apologizing over and over, she remained silent, biting her tongue and wincing in agony...

Throughout the whole exchange, she said not one word to me. I don’t blame her at all. I wouldn’t want to talk to me either... After all my apologies fell helplessly to the ground, I decided that it might be best to just get out of her sight and out of her way. Surely, I was not helping matters.

As I slinked away in shame, all I could do is ruminate in my mind about what just happened. “What could I have done?” “What should I have done?”

I’m not so na├»ve a person to think that “everything happens for a reason.” But on the other hand, I always try to use any experience I have, good or bad; To learn. To grow. To be better…

“So what did I take away from today’s encounter?”

As I sat quietly in the car, the biggest realization that came to me was this: That in so many occasions in life, "I AM THE IDIOT."

That all too often, I make mistakes. Big ones… Heaven’s sake, just yesterday, my son Evan requested that I buy him an orange he needed for a school speech. I told him not to worry, and that I would take care of it. The day came, and you guessed it, I forgot to bring him the orange... It had completely slipped my mind. I failed him. I let my son down... As I think more on that situation and today’s as well, Evan showed me grace. He made the best of a bad situation, still completed his speech, and forgave me when I asked for forgiveness. And while the woman today said not one word to me, I believe she also showed me abundant grace… She had every right to tear me a new one, but she didn’t.

Today’s incident forces me to take a hard look at my own imperfection. My own fallibility… I’m not saying that everyone who cuts you off is an idiot. So often times, there is a back-story to any situation. The person who’s rude to you at the restaurant could be going through an ongoing divorce proceeding. The older man driving 20 miles an hour in a 45 mile zone that you honk at while whizzing by, might be completely lost and has no idea how to find his way home.

In my life thus far, I’ve learned the hard way to “cast not the first stone” or any stone for that matter. You never truly know the full story. And even if you do... Good people still make mistakes. I know I do.

I can’t take away that woman’s pain. But I can pay it forward by extending that same amount of grace to the next person who wrongs me justly or unjustly. But even as I pontificate on “paying it forward”, this really isn’t about re-paying kindness, tit for tat... This about realization. That WE ARE ALL IDIOTS at various points in our lives. That we all make mistakes. A lot of them…. How our parents still love us as much as they do is surely a wonder to me!

So, whenever the next occasion arises, where I even dare to consider casting that first stone, whether it be: That driver. That waiter. Or that co-worker. I need to think back to how many times that I myself, was THE IDIOT, the one at fault, the one pushing the cart.

I think once we come to the realization how imperfect we truly are, the more perfect this world can truly be... #weareallidiots

Sunday, February 18, 2018


My son Nash is 14, going on 15. Not yet a full blown teenager, but certainly no longer a kid. For lack of a better term, I like to consider this stage, the “First Trimester” of his Teenage Years.
As such, all the warning signs have made their appearance:
Interest in girls – [Check]
Acne – [Check]
Moodiness – [Discount Double Check]
The first two items on this list are being handled; the first by the expert tutelage of his father, and the second by the dermatologist. The 3rd item however, is the one truly giving me fits...
This weekend’s Mammoth Trip is a pretty good example of this: Nash is never rude, mean, or disrespectful, but he will often enter into what I call, “Full Zombie Mode”. Glassy eyes. Constantly furrowed brows. A mumbling monotone voice. And exudes about as much enthusiasm as a wet dishrag or a pair of Dockers khakis.
Saturday morning was especially tough for me. Nash woke up in “Full Zombie Mode” and continued to be Walking Dead for much of the day. Taking his cue, I in turn, morphed into a lovely version of the “Overbearing, Overly-Critical Father”. Suffice to say, portions of that day were NOT fun. For either of us...
As a Dad, is it my responsibility to correct and guide my kid on how to act and how to behave? Sure it is...
But I make sure that those corrections, and those discussions, are NEVER AT THE EXPENSE OF THE RELATIONSHIP.
I will ALWAYS put the relationship with my son FIRST AND FOREMOST over any amount of instruction, correction, guidance, or any other nonsense we parents think is important.
Nash eventually came around. And he repeatedly tried reaching out to me with tiny white flags. But I wasn’t ready. I was still too frustrated. And because of my own stubbornness, I definitely kept Nash in the “Hurt Locker” for far too long…
Later that day, when we had a quiet moment, I went to Nash. And apologized… I said many of the things that I described above. How OUR RELATIONSHIP meant way more to me than “his behavior”. And that I never wanted anything to come between him and I. But even before that… I led the whole encounter with a warm embrace and a “I love you”.
Things are good between Nash and I. I love the relationship we have. But I also don’t take that for granted...
"So Kyle. What’s with the picture of the LOST DVDs?"
Good question... As a parent, I’m always looking for activities that my kids and I can do TOGETHER. Things we can sink our teeth into and can enjoy equally. A great way to do this, is by sharing your individual interests with your children. That’s something that I’ve done with my kids for all their lives.
Case in point; my kids have all read my original copies of Harry Potter and assorted fantasy novels. They still re-read all my old comic books, and going to the Comic Shop has turned into a “Wong Thing”. We all love Anime Movie Night, musicals, and playing old school 8-Bit 2D video games. We watch some TV together but that's not a thing yet...
Which brings me to “LOST”. LOST is one of my all time favorite TV shows. And I kinda miss it... So, I thought, “How cool would it be to re-watch the series of LOST?” And then I thought, “How cool would it be to re-watch LOST with my son Nash and introduce to him the mysteries of The Island?”
This not merely a “Parent” thing. I’m genuinely excited to dive back into this world and bring my son along for the ride! I can’t wait for the discussions that will surely ensue. “Dad, what is the light coming from the hatch?” “What happens if he stops pushing the button?”
My relationship with Nash will continue to evolve over time. I know that. But for now, Nash and I are going to get “LOST”. And I’m sure our relationship will be all the better for it…

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ukelele for McKenna

My kids don’t ask for a lot. They rarely pester me for the “latest and greatest” anything… And from my side as a parent, I rarely if ever, force my kids to do anything they really don’t wanna do. Sure, earlier on, I exposed them to all sorts of ball sports and activities, but never for more than 1 season if they did not wish to continue of their own volition…

And while I’ve never been out rightly criticized for my laisses faire attitude toward my kids, I’ve certainly received... the occasional “eye roll” from various parents over the years.

But as more and more time passed, even I, began to question this “free-range” approach to raising my children. Up till a few years ago, I had not yet seen my kids develop their own individual interests or passions as quickly as I had hoped. At this point, I had to take a hard look at the culture I was creating. I was forced to consider that the approach I was taking as a parent, was simply NOT working…

Fast Forward to today, and I can happily say that these last 2 years or so, have been the “funnest” for me as a parent.

Without prodding and without warning, my kids’ identity and interests have slowly begun to manifest. I never thought of my kids as vocal “Choir” kids. But here we are, with 2 soloists at the last winter concert. I’ve always had a love of musical theatre. But to be able to pass that down to my kids, and then to have the opportunity to watch them act and sing on stage warms my soul way more than chicken soup ever could.

Just last week, McKenna asked me for something. And she NEVER asks me for anything…
The girl wants to learn to play Ukelele. I want to jump through my skin, but I keep my innards in place and say to her calmly, “Research it, figure out if this is something you really wanna do, and how much it might cost.” I had already silently clicked “Buy It Now” in my head, but I couldn’t let her know that… By the end of that same day, she had already learned how to tune the instrument, watched several beginner lessons online, and prepared an information packet for me. For those who haven’t met her, McKenna is a small honey badger when she sinks her teeth into something…

That night, McKenna presents the information she’s gathered and makes her argument (like that was even needed). She directs me to a Ukelele on Amazon and says “I like this one, but I don't want to spend too much money.” Yup... My daughter is indeed Chinese. I then take that information, throw it out, and of course buy her the better model twice that amount, because that is my right as her daddy…

The Ukelele arrived via UPS today at noon. McKenna is nowhere to be seen. She only comes out of her room occasionally to eat and go to the bathroom. With strumming and humming, coming from down the hall, I am a Happy Dad...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

5 years and 50

I had my annual check-up today.

And as it's generally gone for the past couple of years, the doctor and I talk more about the weather than we actually do my health. At this point, I think it's very likely that I've taken my good health for granted...

"Hey Betty, how are you? How are the kids?"

"Terrible!" the nurse at the reception desk replies.

"Oh, I'M FINE." she quickly clarifies. "But the kids? TERRIBLE!"

We both laugh. And so it begins... Another year. Another "physical." More discussions about the weather...

I know it's going to be a few minutes, so I plop into the first available chair, and go full "Zombie Mode" on my phone until they call me up. After what seemed to be 20 or so Facebook minutes, Betty is already walking me back. I get weighed in. I get my blood pressure taken, with Betty tallying up all my numbers like I'm some prize cattle at the fair... That's when Dr. Ho decides to make his grand entrance. And like every time before, we greet each other and immediately begin to discuss all things weather. We actually take turns lamenting how hot it's been lately while Dr. Ho nods and gathers up my chart. But eventually the chit chat slows down, and then stops.... From there, I just watch as Dr. Ho proceeds to flip page after page. Each subsequent page flip adding deepening creases and lines to my poor doctor's face...

After what seemed like an eternity, Dr Ho finally remarks, "So, your weight is 167 pounds. Is that correct?"

"Yup" I answer back. "That's what I always seem to weigh these days."

Dr. Ho again starts flipping sheets. "Yeah, but... Hmmm."

"What?" I ask.

"You're 50 now."

"Yup" I answer.

"And you lost over 100 pounds. Correct?"


"And how long has it been since your dramatic weight loss?"

"5 years. So basically since 2012. Why?" I ask. My curiosity piqued.

"I'm looking at your chart and... In 2012, you weighed 167. And once again in 2013, you weighed that exact amount of 167."

Dr. Ho continues to call the numbers out,

"2014: 167
 2015: 167
 2016: 167

And now in 2017: Exactly 167."

"Yup. That sounds about right," obviously clueless as to the point my doctor is trying to make.

Dr. Ho then gives me one of those smiles a parent saves for when chiding a small child... "Considering that you are now Fifty years old. Factor in the considerable amount of weight you lost. And now add the fact that you have not fluctuated even ONE pound in 5 years? Don't you find that kind of... Remarkable?"


"I guess so" I lamely answer...

Dr. Ho laughs out loud. "Well, I find what you've been able to do quite remarkable even though you clearly don't!" And with that, we laugh, shake hands, and end our brief time together...

But as soon as I arrive at my car, I pause and take a moment to digest the information I was just given. "Is what I've been able to achieve truly REMARKABLE?" Inwardly, I groan in protest... But if I want an honest assessment of what I've done and where I've been, I need to stay as objective as possible. So with that, I go to the science...

Do you know what the success rate is for an individual to achieve a significant amount of weight loss, and then keep that weight off for a period of 5 years? I don't even have to look it up. I know it by heart.

It's 5%... Only 5% of people who attempt to lose weight, actually accomplish it, and keep it off for a span of 5 years.

And with that statistic looming over my head, I simply cannot deny that these following statements are indeed true:

*I have successfully lost over 100 pounds.

*I've been able to maintain my weight for a period of 5 Years.

*I am currently 50 years old.

*I am now in a select 5% of people who can actually say they have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off.

And while membership in the 5% might make some proud. In a lot of ways, it just makes me sad... I know what it feels like to be part of that 95% failure rate. It's not fun, let me tell you... In a perfect world, I just wish everyone could be blessed with the same amount success I've been lucky enough to achieve.

Oh! I forgot!

Toward the end of our appointment, my doctor did ask me one more question. As I was walking out, Dr. Ho leans in furtively, like somehow a spy organization might be listening, "So what are you doing that seemingly everyone else is NOT?"

Good question.

While my approach was certainly different than most, I think the MAIN REASON I've been successful where maybe others haven't is:

I was able to create a healthy lifestyle for me, that I simply LOVE living...

I enjoy every day of my life right now. I enjoy every bite of food I eat. I enjoy being a part of the world and my place in it. I love the fact that at my age, I am more than capable to engage in any FUN or STUPID activity that might come my way. Because of my good health, the world is WIDE OPEN to me. And for that, I am humbled... and eternally grateful.

So where's the Action Step? What can a person do to start their own journey?

*I write this particular section specifically for those who are deep in the struggle as I once was... To those who are suffering, know that I understand... And as YOUR first step, I lovingly implore you to just STOP: Stop beating yourself up. Stop hating your body. Stop saying hateful things to yourself that you would never dare say to another person. Take a ginormous breath, and then exhale. Give yourself the GRACE you truly deserve. Find forgiveness within yourself and for yourself. Learn to Love You. BE the person that's ahead of you, not the person behind. Then... Do something you've always wanted to do. Be silly for no reason. Have fun in ways that make absolutely no sense. Seek out the things in life that will indeed bring you true happiness.*

Look, we all want to lose weight. I get that. But at the end of the day,

This journey is NOT about LOSING WEIGHT. It's about GAINING HEALTH. And ACQUIRING the ability to live out your best life possible... THAT my friends, is what it's all about.

So, for your first Action Step: Start by taking SMALL, PRACTICAL, INTENTIONAL steps toward improving your health. Things like: Going to sleep earlier. Taking a daily walk. Switching from Coke to Water. Playing basketball with friends. It really does matter. It all matters, however small...

Start there.

I can't encourage you enough in this. My heart is brimming with excitement for the rest of your journey...

Picture your best life. Start building it. Invent and Create your new normal. Automate these newly formed habits so you can perform them without thinking or stress. Then just lean into it... Live. Ride. Embrace. Love...

Happy Trails my friends,


PS: If you don't know my original story, you can keep scrolling down for my older posts, you can use Google for a few more available links, or use the link provided below for a quick well done video recap.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Kindness Matters

I've always believed that KINDNESS MATTERS... But today, I was gently reminded of that lesson. Here's the story:

This is Me and Pilar. Pilar is my friend and pen pal. We're actually Very New pen pals as we've only exchanged one letter apiece. A few Sundays ago, I ran into Pilar and invited her to a Calligraphy class my friend was holding. Pilar was willing, but needed a ride. And of course, I am that guy...

The day finally comes around, and I go to pick up Pilar. She greets me with a warm smile, and beckons me into her tiny apartment. I poke my head in, and all around the room are Pilar's trinkets and treasures. Clearly, my friend surrounds herself with the things she loves...

Pilar smiles at me, and says, "Do you see it???" I actually do not. So I turn toward where she's facing,

then I see it...

And in that moment, my HEART BREAKS... but in a good good way.

In the ONE and ONLY letter I wrote to Pilar, I had also included the most recent family photo of The Wongs...

Sitting right up on Pilar's mantle, next to her beloved trinkets and treasures, was The Wong Family Picture I had sent her.

Pilar had framed it.

She had placed OUR picture upon her mantle, next to all the other things she loves...

I look up with misty eyes, and Pilar is there smiling like a Cheshire Cat. She couldn't wait to show me that...

Life lesson time: If you ever come upon a situation where you think that you wouldn't make a difference, or that random acts of kindness are reserved for Helpful Honda folk, THINK AGAIN.

This one little letter earned me a spot onto Pilar's mantle, and into her life... Love was shared in both directions. Both gifts received. Both gifts cherished...

Wiping my eyes, I give Pilar my next gift. The gift of 3 letters... One Introduction Letter from each of my 3 children. Pilar takes the letters reverently into her hands, and places them upon the mantle as if they were seemingly made of gold...

And in a closing bit of comedy, Pilar then gives me her next gift. Hidden inside a blue gift bag, is a musical instrument of sorts, shaped like a FROG? I express my thanks and ask how it's played. Then she says to me,

"Sing a song."

I'm like, "Really? Right now?" She says, "Right now!"

I set all embarrassment aside and start singing "The Way" by Housefires. And while I'm making a joyful noise, she starts playing "The Frog" right along with me... To have Pilar playing accompaniment on a "frog" and grinning from ear to ear, was Comedy and Beauty all rolled into one. I will always remember that moment...

Pilar will continue to be my friend and pen pal, but every Fire Starts with a Spark.

If I can encourage you in one thing... It would be to Start with the "Spark" of KINDNESS, and I think you'll be surprised by the BLAZE you might ignite. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

That Thing You Do

As parents, we are all looking for that "thing". You know what I'm talking about... That thing. That interest. That sport. That individual passion we all hope our kids develop.

In our quest, we endure each beaten bush. We stand on the sidelines as our kids pick daisies on the soccer field. We sigh as our kid gets hit in the head with yet another tennis ball... But sometimes,

Lightning Does Strike.

From out of the blue, that morning will come. When your kid wakes up before you do, makes her own breakfast AND lunch, and tells YOU, "Hurry up! We are going to be late!"

Take heart parents.

It does happen. Lightning does strike. Not always, but when it does... Man, is it GLORIOUS!

For McKenna, that "thing" is Theatre.

She just loves it... She's been a part of a few productions now, and with every performance, her confidence grows.

And because I'm her parent, I think it's OK to say this: McKenna at this point, is not the most talented actress, nor the most gifted singer in the class.

She isn't. She knows it. And she doesn't care.

In a recent conversation I've had with her, McKenna shared with me how excited she was for Middle School. Because in the fall, she would have the opportunity to audition for the school play. I tried to temper her expectations, saying that it might be tough for her to get a good part as a incoming 6th grader. But then she just smiles at me and says this:

"Oh, I don't care Daddy. I just want to be a PART OF IT. If I don't get a part or make the ensemble, then I will join the crew. And if I don't make crew, I will just help build sets. Dad, I just love being a PART OF IT."

I'm misting up as I type this, because THAT is my girl right there. She is more about community than accolades. More about togetherness than spotlights... Last weekend, McKenna was a PART of her cast family as Ethel P. in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

As a "Thoroughly" biased parent, I thought she was spectacular...

As I told her so, McKenna just shrugs... She doesn't care.

She is just happy to be PART OF IT.

My McKenna has found her "thing". Well, for now at least...