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...


Friday, July 7, 2017

Re-Inventing Furniture: One Piece At A Time


I've been quite busy lately. 

But no matter how busy I get, I will ALWAYS find time to do the things I love... 

And clearly, one of the "things" I love... is seeking out neglected and forlorn furniture, and giving them a new lease on life. 

I refer to this process as "Re-Inventing furniture: One piece at a time."

A few months back, I bought 4 iron and glass Mid-Century end tables at a local estate sale not far from my house. The faded and chipping paint on the bases were what I can only describe as Grapefruit? Well anyways, after weeks of deliberation, design, and sweat equity, I have completed this project. You be the judge, but I like to think that I've done an adequate job reviving these pieces...

The "Design Goal" with these tables was to bring them up to date and into the new modern era. But I also wanted to bring a natural element to the design. I eventually chose to go with wood, however, instead of one solid piece of wood, I decided to go with various planks in a patterned design.

Originally a set of 4, I decided to split the 4 into 2 sets of 2. One being a White set, and one being a Black set. Each table is unique, however the White pair was intended to go together as a set, while as the Black pair is much better suited individually...


Let's look at the White set first...

This is White #1


And White #2

The White Set


Now the Black set...



Black #1

Black #2

The Black Set

And now all together...






In order to assess where we are, let's take a peek at what these tables used to be and the process involved in bringing these tables back to life.

Set of 4 iron and glass tables in a "Grapefruit Yellow"









So that's really about it... 

Overall, I think the Re-Invention of these Mid-Century end tables turned out way better than I could have expected. It was a lot of fun to do, and it was not a difficult job at all. If I find more of these tables, I just might make more just for the fun of it... At the end of the day,  I'm just glad the vision I had for these came together. On to the next project...






Friday, March 31, 2017

2.8 Seconds

Every morning.  
Before I officially roll out of bed.  
I settle myself, and quiet my mind for 2.8 seconds.
In that one breath, I hope to find that moment of clarity where surely all wisdom dwells... With enlightenment just beyond my reach, a prodigious yawn once again overtakes me, and sucks up any available oxygen necessary for further brain function.  
And so is the case this morning, as with every morning before... I got nuthin'.
Shrugging it off as I do all my other failings, my mind drifts to bike riding. My buddy Howard was already shooting up the 605 to meet me. If there was a better way to spend a Tuesday morning than biking and chatting around the Rose Bowl, I don’t know of it. I feel strong today. I feel confident. I had been working out with a fresh vigor lately, and I was ready to Rock This Town!

My first laps around the Rose Bowl were a virtual breeze. Wind through my hair and with legs that never seemed to tire, it finally dawned on me that this is how it feels to be in shape. I smiled with that secret pride in my chest as I continued to circle the venue where I saw my first Journey concert. So bolstered with confidence, we decide to ride through Linda Vista and up to the Colorado Street Bridge. To be honest, I had to look up the official name of the bridge, as everyone around here only refer to it as “Suicide Bridge.”
We work our way up the winding hills, passing home after home we cannot afford. My heart rate quickens. My temples showing the first beads of sweat from the effort. I am absolutely killing it today...
I get so caught up in the zone, I don't even realize that Howard is now nowhere behind me. U-turning back down the hill on my one-speed beach cruiser, I come to find his sorry self slouching over the curb with his shiny new Trek laying unceremoniously on the ground. Superiority washes over me as I feign concern for his plight. I nod in mock empathy as excuses stream out of my friend like water from a fountain. After the unsanctioned rest, we finally pull in to the west entrance of the Colorado Street Bridge. Immediately, I start to scan the landscape for the perfect "Selfie Spot." I find it. The perfect spot.
But as I'm hopping off my bike, I see some hooligan not 20 yards from me looking suspicious. I just stand there as he then climbs over the fence of the bridge, in order to achieve God knows what. Righteous indignation swells up within me. With all the authority invested in me as an Asian Parent, I call out to him saying “What the hell man?” 

Does he even hear me?

With seemingly not a care in the world, the man slowly turns my way. 

Faces me directly.

And smiles...

Our eyes lock. The light of realization finally triggers in my mind. And before I could utter a word, even contemplate a response... With a flick of his wrist in the tiniest of goodbyes, he releases his grip from the fence. Leaps out in a perfectly formed arc. 200 feet down to his death... 
It seems incredibly trite to say that time stood still in that moment. It might be better to say, that in that moment, time had certainly lost all meaning. What seemed like an eternity from the time he let go, until I heard the "crunch" of his body impacting the stones below, was probably only… 2.8 seconds.
I think about that day often... I wonder what he was thinking. I wonder if he was thinking at all. Did he finally get to have his one moment of clarity before he hit the ground? Is there such a thing as a moment of clarity at all? And when you DO find it, what the heck do you do with the thing? Do you frame it and put on the wall next to your “Footsteps” poster? Do you safeguard it and lock it up in a vault? It seems to me that even if wisdom is attained, it must be applied to have any real significance.  

As I look upon my life and the road that sprawls before me, I settle myself down and take 2.8 seconds to quiet my mind.
I am an empty slate waiting for chalk. A Dominos guy waiting for the phone to ring...
And in that moment, the clarity comes:

My future is open.
And in my hands, I hold every infinite possibility...

Thank You my friend. This is the gift you gave to me. I only knew you a split of a second. But for some reason, you intentionally chose in your last moment, to meet me... I still don't understand your decision. And I don't make light of your circumstance. But from this day forward, I promise to be just as intentional as you were with me. To meet others. To touch hearts. If only for 2.8 seconds...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Christmas Story


You don't believe in Christmas miracles? That's fine... But let me tell you a story anyways: I got into a car accident today... First off, I'm fine and so is the other driver. The fact that we are both safe is a miracle enough, but then the story gets better...

Let me start at the beginning; I had just purchased my morning cup of coffee in South Pasadena. I was driving back to pick up the family when I was faced with crossing a busy intersection. I looked left, the car there was stopped. I checked right, the car on that side had a left turn blinker on, but was also stopped and waiting. Being an opportunist, I took this as a sign to go ahead... I accelerate into the intersection, and make it past both cars when a BIG WHITE VAN appears out of seemingly nowhere! The van had sped past the "blinker car" where it was blocked from my vision. It all happens so fast! I SLAM the brakes as hard as I can, but it's too late... I spear the van directly in the driver's side door... After the collision, I look up and lock eyes with the other driver. We both hold up our hands, wordlessly telling each other that "We're OK." We then pull over to the side of the road... Exciting right? Well, this is where the story gets good...

Both of us then calmly get out of our respective vehicles. Instead of anger or frustration, both of us show only concern for the other person's safety. Once we confirm that we are both OK, the van driver tells me that this is his company's work van, and that he needs to call his Boss. I of course tell him that is totally fine, as I need to call my wife too. I finish my call quickly and stand idly by as the driver finishes up his call. I overhear some of their conversation... "Yup Boss. We're fine... What? You want to talk to him? Now???" The driver then turns to me and says, "Ummm, the Boss wants to talk to you..." Until this very moment, there was a certain PEACE surrounding this whole situation. Calm and Civility reigned. There was no anger, no tension...until now. As the driver of the van passed me his phone in movie-like slow motion, my mind reeled with negative scenarios... Now I'm thinking, "The Boss wants to talk to me? Right here? Right now? This surely can't be good..."

I receive the phone, take one long cleansing breath, and put my most charming voice on... "Hi, How are you today?" I quip. "I'm fine" the Boss says. "Are you OK?" "I'm good thanks" I reply. Then he says this... "OK, you are not going to believe this..." "Umm OK. What's up?" "So this the last day for this particular van." "What do you mean by that?" I reply. "I mean that this is officially the last day this van will be in service. The guys are actually driving the van right now to the site where the new work van is. They will take what they can salvage from the old van, transfer it to the new van, then this van will be scrapped..." "Oh" I say, not fully comprehending what he is telling me... So the Boss continues, "So what I'm saying is... Don't worry about it." "Umm what?" "I mean it... Don't worry about the damage to the van. We're all good. It is going to be scrapped anyways. Don't worry about it..." I just stood there silently and took it all in... In a court of law, I am at fault. I just caused over 1,000 dollars worth of damage to this vehicle, and now he's telling me "Merry Christmas. Don't worry about it?" At this point, I am beyond incredulous! "Are you serious?" I ask. "Totally" he replies... A wave of relief washes over me and I thank him twenty times over. "Merry Christmas to you" I say. "Merry Christmas to you too, and be safe out there."

No harm. No foul. No police report. No dealing with insurance. All is forgiven. No names were even exchanged...

I hand the phone back to the van driver and shake his hand. I look him in the eye, and tell him to NEVER leave this job because his Boss is a Man unlike any I've met... The driver agreed and we wish each other Merry Christmas once more as we part...

Did that really just happen? Is God really that good? It's a Christmas miracle people!!! Believe it!

I drive away feeling blessed. I drive away feeling watched over. Do I live a charmed life? I certainly do... Christmas miracles do happen. It happened to me today...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Evan's Brand New Room




OK guys. My next Room Renovation is now complete... This latest project was to provide my 11 year old son Evan, with a Brand New Room and His very own space. You see, Evan has never had his own space. For all of his years, he's always had to share a room with his sister or his older brother... With that in mind, I put a lot of time and consideration into this space. I wanted to make this room special for him, and him alone. I love how the room turned out. And most importantly, so does Evan...

 Enjoy the tour! (Click on the individual pics to see a full size photo)


1st shot of the Evan's actual bed. Doesn't everyone want Godzilla to watch over them as they sleep? (That's a rhetorical question)
 
Here's the full view of the bed side of the room. It's a Queen bed, and much too large for an 11 year old. So I had two side bolsters made specifically to fit along the wall. I wanted to make the bed smaller, more intimate, and also more functional. Now Evan can lie, sit on the bed sideways up against the bolsters to read or just hang out.
Here's a shot of the desk area... In actuality, this is not a desk. I bought it at The Salvation Army store and I'm pretty sure it's a retail store display table. But with adjustable height legs, it makes for an awesome desk with a ton of real estate...


Here's a shot of the 2 desk chairs. Who has 2 desk chairs? Well, Evan does... I love the modern lines, but with the fabric backing and seating area, it's still very warm, especially with it's brown tones.


OK, transitioning to the other side of the room... Usagi waiting on the other side.


I love these chairs... I originally bought them as additional party seating with additional patio lounge duties. They will still serve those purposes when duty calls, but on a daily basis, they will serve Evan well.


Here we see my chairs and a huge print I had made of Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi is my, and my kids' favorite comic book character. It was important to bring Evan's interests into the space as it was starting to look too much like KYLE's space...


Little corner shot of my brother's old dresser, another vintage radio, a cactus, and a vintage sketch of the Guggenheim museum. Love the lamp too (Target).


Tried to balance out the sophistication of the room with a little whimsy here and there... Lunchbox, Kubo poster, and this tiny little red kid's nightstand add a little fun to the space.


Here's a "Before" shot... This room was once my "Junk Room" as you can see.  Much work, hours, and sweat was involved in transforming this space.


This final shot is actually the first view you see as you enter the door from the hallway. I smile every time I walk though this door...

So that's the end of the tour... Like I just said, I smile every time I walk though this door... Frankly, I think I am smiling more out of jealousy than happiness... I so want this room for myself! This room renovation was a pleasure from start to finish. I had a blast doing it and to be able to express my creativity and channel that toward benefiting a more than deserving son, all the better...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Welcome to The Igloo

    Today is April 29th, 2015. And my 2nd Room Renovation of the year is now complete. For this project, I transformed what was a Kid's Playroom and created a new space that I like to call a Kid's Lounge. It's basically an age appropriate space where my kids and their friends can hang out, play video games, play board games, read comics and just chill... Come take a look inside.

    But before we move ahead, we have to remember where we came from...


    I remember creating this playroom for my kids when the twins were barely 2 years old. The twins are now 9 and Nash is nearly 12. It was certainly time to move on from the princess castle and plastic kitchen, and create a new space for the next chapter of their lives. This picture fondly takes one last look at the old space and a bygone era...
With that, let's move on to the New Space shall we?



As I was creating this Kids Lounge, I thought the space was deserving of a name. I was thinking along the lines of "The Loft," but my kids had other ideas. They now call it "The Igloo" because it's so COOL in here. FYI, my daughter McKenna made this sign. Chill Peeps...


As you come up the stairs, this will be the first thing you see... a 4ft x 4ft wall decal of an AT-AT Imperial Walker. This thing is MASSIVE! Once you see it, you instantly know that you are not in Kansas anymore...


Welcome to Star Wars Corner... When I first visualized this room, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of my kids' favorite things (and let's be honest, mine too).


The original concept for this room was based on incorporating 3 things into the room design: Star Wars, Comic Books, and Video Games. However, I wanted to showcase all of those things in a "Vintage Style," more specifically a Mid Century Modern Style...


This is how you represent Classic Star Wars in a vintage fashion. I love these prints. They keep to the overall theme while still staying well within the design scheme.


This Paul McCobb vintage desk located in the center of the room is basically the transition between the 2 distinct areas. Vintage Radio and a Bluetooth speaker all on a vintage desk... Angry Birds, Mameshiba, R2D2., TMNT. All coexisting in harmony...


In keeping with the 50's period. This class photo is from 1953. It is my father's Junior High School Graduating Class Photo. It was important to me that we include my father, who has since passed away, into the space. You can find him on the top row, second in from the right side. Handsome fellow... Love you Dad.


Here's the other side of the transition space. On the wall is an actual Disneyland Map from the late 50's that my brother Kenny bought me years ago. I heart Vintage Disneyland. You will see Vintage Disneyland represented all over my house. Inside the bench below the map, you will find board games and various fun things that are available to play anytime. We've never had a Scrabble Night as a family until recently. Now we all love Scrabble Night!



Here's the first shot of the Lounge, Video Game, and Comic Book area. Whenever I don't know where my kids are, and the house is much too quiet, I can usually find them here...reading comic books.


Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Green Lantern, and Captain America. I grew up with these stories, these characters... Now my kids can too.


Now transitioning over to the media side of the area.


This little media area was the first area of the room to be completed. It holds PS2 games, the coveted NEO GEO games, comics, dvds, and assorted Pokemon, Avatar, and random figures.


I tried several iterations of posters on this wall, but nothing seemed to work until I found these...  I knew that I wanted art that was video game related for this wall, but whatever I put up also needed to stay with the vintage theme. These prints fit the bill perfectly. These are the actual US Patent design sketches for the Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo Gameboy. To be honest, they probably mean more to me than my kids, but they still appreciate them.


Now here are some wider shots of the bigger space. Here you can see the transition desk and lounge area working together to make a cohesive space. No one will notice this but me, but do you see that little yellow pillow on the bottom left hand corner? I use that to bring some of the yellow from the left side of the room to the other side. Conversely, I use the white of the pillows to balance the white chairs on the other side of the room. When you are dealing with a space this long, balance and marrying the 2 sides is key...


Here's a shot of the full room from the back. Overall, I'm very happy with the space. And more importantly, my kids love the room and generally hang out here everyday...


 One last shot. May the Force Be With You...