Monday, July 29, 2019

Living Spaces

Every once and a while, your kids will do something or act in a way that is so clearly YOU... At the moment, The Wong House is in complete upheaval with various projects. And also right now, I am in Full Re-Decorating Mode.

So today, I dragged my kids to Living Spaces to look for Living Room accessories. Clearly, my kids would rather be doing something else in the waning days of Summer. And even though this side trip was clearly for DAD, my kids CHOSE to make the BEST of the situation, and took it upon themselves to MAKE their own FUN!!! Nash and McKenna had an absolute BLAST today walking around the store looking for that PERFECT SHOT.

 That kind of silly nonsense is EXACTLY something that I would do! I personally LOVE Cellphone Photography. And have been making my kids pose for me since they were tiny... However, THIS is the first time my kids have struck out on their own to create their own MAGIC. It makes me smile to view these pics and see how much fun they're having in Living Spaces of all places! And I gotta say, these shots ain't half bad!!! 

On a sidenote: My kids are very new to cellphones and cameras in general. In fact, I've only just bought phones for Evan and McKenna 2 weeks ago! And Nash for only a year. They are 14 and 16 respectively. On a sidenote to the sidenote: I'm very glad I waited this long to trust them with cellphones, but that is another blog for another day...

 In conclusion, I love that my kids CHOSE to MAKE their own FUN, instead of choosing to complain or grouse... ALSO, I love that they CHOSE to be SILLY. Because SILLY is AWESOME. And lastly, I love that my kids at least experimented with something that their Father also loves to do... That is the ultimate joy isn't it? When your kids love the same things that you do??? 

On a sidenote to the sidenote to the sidenote: The whole Wong Family went to the Ahmanson Theater last night as another Family Activity we ALL LOVE to do... Parents, keep introducing your kids to STUFF you love. It may work. It may not. But if you're lucky... YOUR THANG could very well turn into OUR THANG...

Monday, June 3, 2019

Bitter Taste of Success

Tucked away into the deep recesses of my life, I hide a Chamber of Secrets…  And in this Chamber, resides a trove of “Stories I Never Tell”.
But as I continue to write. As I continue to open myself up. As I continue to share my life. The more and more I feel compelled to unlock this chamber. And release its contents into the world.
My hope is that by bringing these stories to light, that SOMEONE, somehow, in some way... will find help. Will find answers. Will find solace. Will find peace...
So, here’s the story
By now... Most of you who know me or have read this blog in the past, know of my crazy “weight loss” story and my ensuing journey to health.
But did you know that I was “successful” in losing a significant amount of weight one other time before this?
The year was 1989. My last year in college... It was a tough year for me in a lot of different ways, but if memory serves, I think I was reasonably happy overall during that time??? But that happiness quickly eroded as one particular area of my life started to take over. That area was my weight and physical appearance… Throughout my college years, I had steadily and continuously put on weight. Each pound an anchor around my neck. Until eventually, I had reached my heaviest weight at the time of 215 pounds...
In that same year, I remember needing to take a new picture for my Driver’s License. I smiled as I stood in front of the camera that day, but when I finally received my license in the mail, I was no longer smiling. No longer happy… The person in the photo wasn’t me. This person was a stranger. And more importantly, the person in the picture was not who I wanted to be going forward.
So as anyone would do, I started to diet. With the goal of losing weight…quickly.
Fast forward to 6 months later… I was SUCCESSFUL! I was able to lose 50 pounds total, going from 215 down to a normal weight of 165!
But do you know how I did it? Do you know how I achieved my Stunning Success?
My memory is a little bit hazy, but I was probably Bulimic all the way from 1988 to sometime in 1993.
For people who don’t know anything about Bulimia. Let me break down what that term specifically means for me:
For almost every meal I ate during that time period… Within 30 minutes after ingesting my meal, I would find an excuse. I would find a hiding place. And force myself to throw up the contents of my stomach fully and completely until I was satisfied…
Yeah… I understand what you might be asking yourself right now,  “Kyle... WHY? Why would you do such a thing?”
The only answer I can really give you is that... I was tired. I was so beat up and battered from all the constant self loathing that my only thoughts were, “I WANT IT TO STOP.”  “I JUST NEED IT TO STOP.”
If you ever have a chance to talk to any addict of any substance, they will often tell you the same thing. That they don’t drink alcohol or do drugs to chase a specific “High”. They self medicate to “Make it stop... Make the pain go away. If just for a moment.” Such was my life too...
The next question being, “Why Bulimia? Why not other methods or even other eating disorders?”
The short answer is... Bulimia worked.
Also, Bulimia offered me one benefit that the other eating disorders could not… Bulimia offered me “The Appearance of Normalcy”.
For when you are doing something in the shadows. You are always on your guard and have to be constantly vigilant for fear of being caught. Trust me. I tried good old fashioned starvation… But when you don’t eat. When you push away your plate at the dinner table... The questions come. The disapproving frowns and the “Holier than thou” judgments come… But with Bulimia, I could safely maintain the appearance of eating “normally” with friends and family. And I could present to the world that “I’m fine. There’s nothing to see here.”
But I wasn’t fine.
Soon after sitting down to enjoy our “nice meal together,” I would smile to your face, pull away, then retreat to my own personal slice of Hell... Always handling my business in the shadows. You were none the wiser. It’s probably better if you don’t know anyways...
My life became a “dangerous game”. Every meal eaten had to have a well thought out game plan and exit strategy. Every meal was accompanied with a convenient lie to excuse myself for 10 minutes as I puked my guts out. Over the years, I have thrown up in toilets, trash cans, yards, streets, and flower beds. I even kept a stash of plastic bags in my car for the specific purpose of throwing up “on the go.”
I could easily take you down into the mind of a Bulimic. And explain to you the sheer amount of effort involved in outsmarting everyone you love. But, if I can share one insight with you, it isn’t really about the food. And maybe, it’s not even about your feelings of inadequacy or the lack of self worth, though that’s certainly a part of it.
The realization that I came to is... It’s really all about the guilt.
When I threw up. I wasn’t throwing up food. I was throwing up all the guilt and shame I felt for eating food in the first place... Every bite was shameful. Every bite an indictment on my flagging and nonexistent willpower.
After every meal, the guilt would come for me. And I needed to get rid of that guilt as fast as I could. In the only way I know how...
Bulimia like any addiction, becomes a cycle of shame, dragging you further and deeper than you could ever imagine. To think that I told lies to everyone close to me every day for a period of 3-4 years is unthinkable to me now.
Not to mention Bulimia’s other costs… Bulimia essentially destroyed my health for years to come. My metabolism wrecked. My esophagus shredded by the constant bile and acid it had to endure. The enamel on my teeth stripped away. The four front teeth I have? FAKE… All of them crowns. I had damaged my teeth so severely that they became pitted and rotten.
Looking back, I really can’t say what pulled me out of that pit of despair... If I had pearls of wisdom to drop on you, I would certainly drop them here.
But I got nothing…
I got nothing but LOVE, COMPASSION, and EMPATHY for anyone who has gone through what I have. All I can offer from here, is a HEART, an EAR, a SHOULDER for anyone trapped in a similar cage.
I tell this tale not for me… I tell it for anyone out there, who is currently dwelling in that bitter place.
If this resonates with you at all… Just know that I have walked in these shoes. I know this place. And I know it well...
Do you see my hand? It is outstretched to you… Reach out and take it. For you are worthy. You are loved so much more than you think you are.
I know right now that you only see 4 walls and no doors. But if I can find a way out of that Escape Room. You can too…
FIND ME. And hopefully. We can find our way together...

#bulimia #eatingdisorder #health

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Giving Value

So, I may be a weirdo… But I have these little credos and concepts, that I try to live out in my daily life.
These credos may change or evolve over time, but for the last decade or so, ONE little concept has grown into a Core Principle for me. And it has truly become a foundation for “How I am to live my life” and “How I am supposed to walk this Earth...”
The concept I’m referring to is what I like to call, “Giving Value”. I stole the phrasing from the business concept, “The Creation of Value”. But what the phrase, “Giving Value” basically means for me is this: For EVERYONE that I happen to meet, whether it’s a Barista or a Bestie… In some small way, I am tasked to offer that person, a sense of value or being valued…
I can flesh out this concept in more detail in a future post, but one of the smaller credos sitting under the Foundational Umbrella of “Giving Value” is such that: Whenever I happen to see someone, who is doing a good job. Or is going above what is asked for. Or is showing kindness beyond what is required. Or simply a person who is conducting him or herself the right way... I make it a point to recognize that person. And affirm them. Usually, right there on the spot...
Which brings me to this picture of Me and my new friend Jesse… Jesse is a tow truck driver in the Pasadena area.
Can you guess how this story begins? Yeah… My car wouldn't start this morning. Engine refused to turn over. My car just sat there. Making clicking noises at me. Mocking me...
Once I embraced the futility of turning the key 20+ times with zero results, I finally call AAA in disgust.
Very soon after, Jesse pulls up in a flatbed tow truck usually reserved for much fancier vehicles than my 2006 Honda Odyssey. As soon as he got out of his Ginormous truck, I was already in appreciation of this man’s style. Jesse met me with a winning smile and a firm handshake. And he called me by name right off the bat...
Jesse and I got along famously from the jump. And on the car ride up to the shop, we get straight to talking…
Right away, I tell Jesse that I really appreciated his friendliness and courtesy toward his customers... I look over to see his face. And Jesse is beaming...
Jesse immediately begins to tell me that unlike many of the other drivers, he treats EVERY customer like HE himself would like to be treated. He tells me that he always take pride in his work. He tells me that he takes the time to look clean cut and presentable so that customers (especially women) would feel comfortable, not intimidated.
I then ask him about “unruly customers”. Jesse nods and says that he runs into that all the time. But he doesn’t take their abuse personally. That he understands that sometimes customers have been forced to wait for an hour or more… “So how do you deal when you get a customer like that?” I ask.
Jesse smiles… “Over the years, I’ve learned how to calm customers down, and how to help them to Feel Safe.” Now Jesse is talking my language… Jesse goes on to tell me how he keeps a cooler of chilled water bottles that he provides on his own dime. And often, just the act of offering a cold water bottle to an irate customer can turn the tide. Add a little chit-chat, and magically, the WORST customer can turn into your BEST friend by the end of the ride...
I tell Jesse that “YOU are my kinda dude!”
We finally get up to the shop, and Jesse goes above and beyond positioning my car into the perfect spot. With his job now complete, Jesse and I shake hands warmly, and I slip him a Twenty… “Go and have a nice lunch” I tell him. But Jesse being Jesse, he tells me that instead, he is going to take this money and buy something special for his 13 yr old daughter…
And because I can’t help myself from prying into people’s lives, I start to ask more questions about his family... I find out that Jesse’s wife, Diane passed away a year ago. And with her gone, he now finds himself a Single Father of FOUR kids on ONE tow truck driver’s salary… I’m not sure why Jesse singled out his 13 yr old daughter Monica for that Twenty Dollar Splurge, but suddenly, I wish I had given him more… But I know that Jesse works for Dickson Towing, so I know where to find him if I want to drop off a little "sumthin sumthin" for him and his family in the near future…
I always say that EVERYONE you meet has something to teach you regardless of their station in life… Today, Jesse taught me how to treat people with love and respect, while still respecting yourself… I started off with the intention of blessing Jesse the tow truck driver. But in the end, this man leaves me with so much more. Through his story, Jesse showed me a glimpse into a life of love, integrity, and hospitality toward others.
As Jesse started to walk away, he suddenly turns back to me and asks if I would like a ride back to my house. “Free of charge” he says with a chuckle. I laugh too, but decline his kind offer, as a good friend was already on her way to get me. “Next time” I say to Jesse. And I mean it... There definitely will be a next time.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Simple Return

As I am want to do, I will often share stories from my daily life. These so called “stories” are nothing more than an account of things that happen to me sometimes. But today was an especially good day. And this is what happened...
Earlier today, I ran into a friend that I haven’t seen in a very long time. I refer to her as a “friend”, but honestly, we’ve never really hung out socially. It’s just that whenever I run into this person, she will generally seek me out for conversation.
On this particular day, my “friend” who we will just call “Katie” for anonymity, spotted me from afar and waved emphatically to grab my attention. For context, whenever Katie and I talk, our conversations are almost always pretty heavy. The girl has her struggles. Psychologically. Emotionally. Spiritually. And even Practically... But, I will always hear her out. I never judge. And I just plain feel for the girl. Because I too, have walked more than a few miles in those same shoes.
The main focus of our conversations typically revolves around Anxiety. We will often discuss how crippling Anxiety can be. And how those spiraling, self-defeating thoughts can drag you into that deep abyss very quickly. But as we talk, Katie’s breath starts to settle. And she beings to relax... We are finishing up our discussion on how best to cope, when I abruptly redirect the conversation and throw out, “Hey. Can I ask you a question completely out of left field?”
She says, “Sure you can”
I then ask her, “How are you financially?”
That’s when her face falls to the floor… Visibly defeated, she goes on to say how tough it’s been. How her dad is on disability. How she can’t even afford the medications that her doctor prescribed for her current ailments. And how she is currently looking for a second job just to make ends meet.
I nod in understanding and say, “Well, I guess I better return this back to you then...”
“Return back to me?” she exclaimed. “What do you mean by RETURN TO ME?” Then I told her this story:
I met Katie over a year ago. I’ve always enjoyed our conversations, but my heart always went out to Katie, for her financial struggles as well as struggles in other areas in her life. Around that same time, I remember coming into a little bit of money. It wasn’t a lot, maybe a couple hundred dollars. Standing in my bedroom with that money in hand, I thought to myself that I have no need of this money. That I already have everything that I need.
And right at that moment, Katie’s face just popped into my head. So, without even taking a second to consider it. I took that money. Put it in an envelope. And wrote Katie’s name on it…
For 5 straight weeks after that day, I carried that envelope with me, in hopes that I would run into Katie again.
But I never did. For a whole year. Until today...
As I told her about the envelope, Katie begins to cry… But then I apologize saying, “I’m so sorry Katie! I had no idea I would see you today. And I don’t have the envelope with me.”
She smiles and says, “It’s OK. It’s the thought that counts.”
And while that might be good enough for some, if you know me at all, you know that ain't good enough for me... So I turn to her and say, “Here’s what I’m gonna do. All the money that’s currently in my wallet is yours. I have no idea how much it is, but if it’s in there, what’s mine is yours…”
And thank goodness for small favors, I take a quick peek into my wallet and it’s a pretty decent amount. I fold it up and hand it to her quietly as to not embarrass her. As she takes the cash from my hand, tears on both sides are pooling up like oceans. She says, “Kyle, I can’t take your money!” But then I remind her...
“That money is yours. That day. One year ago. When I wrote your name on that envelope. That money became yours and yours alone... Katie, I’ve been holding this money for you. Until such day when I would see you again. So take the money. It’s not a big deal. I’m only returning to you what was already yours...”

#kindness #simplekindness #payitforward

Friday, January 4, 2019


2018 is officially behind us. And as I look back on the year, certain stories stay with me even today. But the funny thing is…These are not my stories. I am not the protagonist. I am not the conquering hero in ANY of these movies. Not even close...

Each of these stories are unique unto themselves. Different places. Different times. Different circumstances. But there is ONE common thread running through all of them. In each story, the central figure is the same. The person who saves the day is the same. The person who de-fuses the bomb is the same. The daring, swashbuckling, sword wielding “Hero” who rides in at the end of the movie, is the same…

In ALL of these stories, that HERO... is a SINGLE MOM.

I’m not sure why in particular I’ve been privy to Single Moms telling me their stories this year. Maybe it’s because I always have a ready ear. Or maybe it’s because I actually took the time to ask… But whatever the case may be, I am honored to know such valiant heroes. I am chastened by their acts of bravery, love, and perseverance.

I hear their stories. Listen to their trials. But then I just get to sit back... As I watch them OVERCOME.

I am not saying that all Single Moms are perfect. Nobody is perfect. Everyone trips on the sidewalk from time to time. Heck, I’ve tripped on the friendly neighborhood sidewalk before too. And I have a crushed cell phone and a cell phone sized bruise on my left thigh to prove it! :)

But the ability to LOVE and CARE for your family does not require perfection. Standing up for your family can be done on just ONE good leg. The Single Moms I know don’t make excuses. They make solutions…

In comparison, my life is easy. I can call for a “pinch hitter” to sub in for me whenever I want. All the tasks and responsibilities of running a family have been halved with me. God willing, I will never have to bear the weight of being the sole “breadwinner” alone. I am the luckiest dude in town, and I know it...

But every life is different. And we all must play the cards we’ve been dealt. So, as I play my hand to the best of my ability, I take a moment to honor those HEROES that push me. That raise the bar. That rise above their circumstances. That show me what TRUE PARENTING really looks like...

To all the Single Moms I know and have yet to meet,

Your stories. Your trials. Your hard fought victories. Have not gone unnoticed. They have made me a better parent to my kids. They compel me to be a better citizen of the world…

So, for this and so much more… THANK YOU.

#singlemom #hero #parenting

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Nothing To See Here

This morning before dropping the kids off at school, I had a 3-minute, run-of-the-mill, seemingly innocuous conversation with my son Nash. During our brief interaction. Not an eyebrow was raised. Voices stayed even-keeled. Heart rate remained in its “pre-coffee” un-stressed state.
Honestly, I didn’t think anything of our interaction… Until about a few hours later.
Today started like any other day at The Wong House. Wake up the kids. Get breakfast ready. Glance longingly at the coffee maker, weighing the benefits of a nice warm cup vs getting the kids to school on time…
At this point, Nash calls out from his bedroom, “Dad! I need you to sign something!”
“OK. What?”
“My Report Card. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter!”
Without hesitation, and frankly without much thought at all, I locate the report card. Grab a pen. Sign it. And just go back to wondering if I can crank out a quick cup in the 4 minutes I have left.
Nash then emerges from the bedroom, grabs the newly signed report card, and shouts, “Did you look at it?” And I reply calmly, “Nope…”
Nash doesn’t flinch and continues loading up his backpack. Then a second later, he casually throws out the question, “Why not?”
“Because Nash, I don’t need to…” Nash looks up quizzically, hoping that I might expand on that a little bit.
I explain my position.
“Nash… I already see how hard you work. I see how many times you are up past midnight doing homework and completing projects. I ALREADY KNOW YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST. So what is this card going to tell me that I don’t already know?”
Nash just shrugs... And that is the end of our conversation. Nash doesn’t think anything of it. And neither do I.
For all of their lives, I’ve preached to my kids that I really could care less about the grades they bring home.
As their father, All I've wanted for them is to KNOW, UNDERSTAND, and LIVE OUT the concept of “Doing Your Best In All Things." That they should take pride and full ownership of ANY project or paper they put their name on. That if they truly DO THEIR BEST on any given project. They can rest easy and feel good about the work that they put in. And lastly, “Doing Your Best” can and should FREE YOU UP from the anxiety that can easily come from misfortunate results or the curse of un-met expectations.
“Guys. Just do your best. Do what you can do. I have to believe that it will always be good enough. And even if it’s not. Just know that it will always be good enough for me…”
Trust me. As a kid growing up, I very well remember the anxiety, the fear, the trepidation of REPORT CARD DAY. I well remember the soul crushing weight sitting atop my shoulders. I well remember the desperate thoughts of “Will my parents still love me after I show them this.” Oh, I remember those times all too well...
Nash, Evan, and McKenna have been entrusted to my care. And I never want them to think that my love or acceptance of them, is hinged upon a silly piece of paper. I simply refuse to assign any value to what a report card really is… A piece of sheet.
Will Nash ever realize the significance of this day? Probably not. But through both of our actions, we proved that REPORT CARD DAY is just like any other day... In that, I feel like a traffic cop that shouts “Move along! There is nothing to see here!” And indeed, there is nothing to see here. Today is like any other day. Even if it is, REPORT CARD DAY... #parenting #reportcard #teachingmoment #school #learning #kids #father #fatherhood #highschool #teach

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Nash's Terrible Day

Parenting Stories Ep #274 (Or the Blog Post when Nash and I see the same situation completely different)
Nash is now a freshman at San Marino High School. And on most days, he will walk about a mile home from school. But on this day, Nash walks through the back door a little later than usual. The kid looks ragged and bedraggled…His eyes glazed over. His hair, an unkempt mess that seems only suitable for a bird looking to make a nest.
Speaking as a parent with 15 years of hard earned experience, it is painfully obvious to me, that in this situation, my wisest course of action would be to give the boy some space and refrain from “Poking The Bear.” But... As a parent who is sometimes relentlessly upbeat. And also a parent who just might be a sadistic glutton for punishment, I of course ask the question NO TEEN ever wants to hear, “Hey Nash, how was school today?”
The reaction I received from the Zombie-like Creature was exactly what one could reasonably expect.
Nash utters NOT ONE WORD. He doesn’t even look at me. But as he sets his backpack down in the slowest motion that only sloths could admire, the kid finally turns toward my side of the room. And graces me with the most PIERCING DEATH STARE that would make even Satan jealous.
It takes a little time... But slowly my kid starts to return back from the Land of the Undead. And we begin to talk.
“What happened?” I ask. He then tells me that at the end of the school day, he got dragged into an uncomfortable situation not of his own making. “It was just so awkward Dad!” he exclaimed, but even still, he goes on with the story…
Nash leads with the following statement, “Well, I can’t tell you ALL of the details because I promised that I wouldn’t.” And of course, I reply that I totally respect that.
For brevity's sake, I will now give you a “Cliff’s Note” recap of the situation as relayed to me:
One day last week, a student who is a friend of Nash’s, got sent to the Principal’s office for a reason that Nash promised not to disclose. Randomly, this student’s mother arrives to the high school, apparently phoned by the school office. The mom knows Nash by sight, and calls out to him from the parking lot. She asks Nash for directions to the Principal’s office. Nash then walks the mother to the office. There, she is told to wait for the student because the principal is finishing up with their meeting. At that point, Nash waits with the mother, trying to calm her down. The student eventually comes out from the meeting. Nash stays. The student goes on to explain the situation to both Mom and Nash. By this time, it is well after the Final Bell. The mother then offers to drive Nash home, at which he accepts. In the “Car Ride From Hell” as Nash describes it, the student and Mom get into a shouting match. Being tugged in both directions, Nash does his best to intercede and smooth things over. It’s a short drive, but with tensions still running high, Nash exits the feud and the car. He then walks through the back door of our house with that “bedraggled” look I mentioned earlier. And now we're back to the beginning...
“Dad, it was a TERRIBLE DAY!!!” he exclaimed. “WORST DAY EVER!” he tells me.
But I just sit there… with a smile on my face as wide as Kansas.
“What are you smiling about???” Nash asks in exasperation.
“OK dude. You told me your story and how you view it. Now, let me tell you what I see…”
Nash, let me walk you through every decision you made in this situation:
1. I LOVE that you honored your friend’s request to keep the reason for being sent to the Principal’s office a secret. That’s what friends do. And I admire your loyalty to that person.
2. When the mom asked you for directions to the office, you had a choice. You could have just given her directions OR “Walk with her” to the office yourself. You chose the latter.
3. When both of you arrived at the office and were forced to wait. You again made the decision to stay with the mom.
4. While the two of you were waiting, you talked with the mom. Tried to calm her down. In that very conversation, you eased a parent’s nerves while at the same time advocated on your friend’s behalf. Both intentions are admirable.
5. When your friend came out to explain the situation, you again stayed when you didn’t have to. Add to the fact that your friend explained the details of a bad situation in front of both YOU and the mom. That just speaks highly of the trust your friend places in you.
6. When the mom offers to drive you home, you surely could have declined the offer and safely made your escape, but once again, you chose to stay.
7. And on this particular “Car Ride From Hell.” You intercede. You mediate. You walk that fine and narrow line of trying to smooth things over between the two, without officially taking sides. This is surely a difficult task for any adult, much less a 15 year old teenager.
“So Nash, from my point of view: Today, at every turn, you made EXACTLY THE RIGHT DECISION. When things got truly uncomfortable, you had several opportunities to walk away and excuse yourself, but you didn’t...”
“I understand that today was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for you. HOWEVER, in many situations you will have yet to face, ‘Doing The Right Thing’ will oftentimes be VERY uncomfortable. Yet, regardless of the outcome, of which had little to do with you in the first place, YOU PLAYED EVERY DECISION PERFECTLY. And I couldn’t be prouder of you than I am right now…”
So Nash, I’m gonna have to disagree with your assessment of the day. IMO, this was not a TERRIBLE DAY. It was an AWESOME DAY. A day in which my son came of age. A day when my son stepped up and PLAYED THE RIGHT WAY regardless of the outcome.”
And if I can just tell you one more time... I am so freakin’ proud of you right now…”