HIMMW: Enter Hormones

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

Previously, I talked about Elementary School and how things were so free spirited and innocent.  It might have been just me, but I feel like the jump from 5th grade to 6th grade was pretty significant.  Let’s take a moment to talk about Middle school.

You go from staying in one classroom to having class periods.  Which thankfully, our middle school tries to help you transition by having 6th grade Math/Science and English/History being taught by the same teachers, respectively.  You lose those desks where you could store all your stuff to having locks and lockers. You have to wear PE uniforms now (and with that, change in front of other kids).  Recess is shorter and is now called snack break..

Middle school is a weird time for a lot of kids, myself included.  Add to that the fact that my siblings and I spent the Summer before at my grandparent’s house under my aunt’s and grandparent’s care.  My dad was in the hospital battling Meningitis and my mom stayed there with him. Even after he fully recovered and was discharged, we all stayed at my grandparent’s house as my parents made plans to remodel our home.  It felt uneasy being away from my bed, my toys, and most of my things.

In addition, my cousin, whom is only 10 days older than me, entered our school system when we were in 5th grade, and we would be attending Middle school (and high school) together.  For the most part, this was a good thing, but it spawned this inadvertent rivalry between us. You see, he also played the piano and violin, and probably did lots of things better than me.  I’m sure our parents, aunts and uncles couldn’t help but compare. It was never anything that caused too much strife between us, but it was always looming, whether we liked it or not.

Also, I was pretty chubby.  At some point in 5th grade, I took what my grandparents were saying too literally.  They kept saying I was too skinny, that they could see my ribcage and that I should eat more.  And eat more I did. To the point where I had set some random goal to be 100 pounds by the end of the year.  To the point where I would be eating and I would think “I’m not hungry.. I don’t care! I need to eat more!” And yeah, I actually put on something like 20 pounds and hit my goal.

Combine all of this and try to imagine being me as I enter my first week of middle school.  Kids are swearing like sailors. Kids are talking about vulgar things that don’t really make sense to me because I was pretty innocent.  I wouldn’t say I was “hanging out with the wrong crowd”, but rather I was being influenced by the wrong crowd. By chance, I was put in classes that didn’t have many kids that went to the elementary school(s) that I didn’t go to.  So, I didn’t have much comfort in familiar faces and people. And when you’re in sat in groups facing each other, you just talk. I got made fun of for being “fat”. My legs were still bald, so some kids would say I “shaved my legs”.  Looking at my peers and the older kids, I suddenly felt the need to care about what I wore. Spiked hair, sagging pants, and if you wore shorts you wore ankle socks. For whatever reason, I deemed this as “cool”. Though I never asked my parents to buy me any of that stuff, I would look from afar and think how “uncool” I was.  I would, however, try to compensate. I wore jeans as much as possible to hide my bare legs and my non-ankle socks. I purposefully wore larger shirts to hide my waistline. These kids that I sat around gave me the impression that you needed to be or to act tough. My shyness was escalated by thinking that asking questions or not knowing the correct answer was a sign of weakness.

Above all, the thing that stuck out the most in middle school was the public displays of affection.  Though it usually meant nothing more than holding hands, hugging and walking each other to class, this concept of boyfriends, girlfriends and couples was intriguing.  Slowly, my hormones churned and I began thinking that I wanted a special someone. I have to admit, it was interesting learning about who was “dating” who and how long it lasted.  In fact, I recall a time when two boys liked a girl and it was settled by a fight to the death. And by fight to the death, I mean 1 on 1 basketball game. And that girl accepted the results of that game.

It wasn’t that rough of a time, but it was certainly very different.  I managed my way through 6th grade, doing my best to be a good student and be “cool”.  I entered 7th grade with a bit more confidence, having a better grasp of middle school.  And then, almost as if out of the blue, I met Lissa


How I Met My Wife

It’s time I tell my readership the story of how I met my wife.  Very similarly to the How I Met Your Mother TV Series, it will be long and drawn out because it’s important to convey the process of what I went through.  The struggle, the climb, the journey.. all relevant to understanding the psychology of Josh and how he thinks and why he did what he did.  For sake of anonymity, I will be using different names, specifically those of characters from the popular Fire Emblem series. I will be reminding you of this often as to not be mistaken for some sort of weird fan fiction.

So, let’s start from the beginning, the very beginning.

Elementary School was a fun time.  Classrooms were decorated, there was a sandbox you didn’t care to get dirty in during recess, themed parties, dress up days.. It was great.  More importantly, it was so easy to make friends and talk to other kids. Sometimes friendships started for having just one small thing in common.  I know I might be losing your interest already, but I tell this because I feel it’s important to show you where I stood in terms of self-confidence in each chapter of my story.  All this to say that talking to and interacting with girls was a normal thing. Naturally, I was also shy when it came to talking to adults that weren’t family or my teacher.

To a set the precedent on how these stories will be told, I’m going to tell you about a girl we’ll call Fae.

She was the first girl I ever felt some sort of affection for.  She was a 5th grader and I was a 1st grader. Frankly, I only liked her because one time a couple kids were picking on me and she shooed them away.  Perfect 6 year old logic. Fae would hang around the monkey bars during recess and lunch time, and I remember purposefully running by to see if she’d notice me.  There was even an instance where those same kids were picking on me again. Even though I was faster and could pretty much get away easily, I had the genius idea to have Fae save me from them again.  I ran to the monkey bars and pretended to be winded. When those other kids showed up to pester me, Fae got down from the monkey bars and..

Then a lunch lady showed up to reprimand the kids that were bothering me.  The School year ended not too long after and she went to middle school and I moved on with my elementary life.  And that was that.

A silly little story to start things off, and I assure you, it will only get better.  I also guarantee that a certain Cheeseburger Eddie will love every word of it.

Etude Toccata

During all of my classical music lessons while growing up, there was only one song I truly enjoyed playing; Etude Toccata.

I remember it vividly still.  My piano lessons were always on Tuesdays at 4pm.  That was ample time to be picked up late from school, grab my piano books and head to the piano teacher’s house.  Before my time slot, there was always a Brandon having a lesson.

What do I mean?  Under her tutelage, Mrs. Chiu taught two Brandon’s, whom she decided to differentiate as Brandon A and Brandon B.  So, one of those Brandon’s always had the time slot before.  For this story, it’s Brandon A.

Remember him?  He’s from this story.

Sometimes I would arrive a little early, or the lesson was going a little late, so I would wait out the last few minutes of Brandon A’s lesson.  He was a level or two ahead of me, so it was so interesting to hear him play this song one day.  Have a listen:

The ending is so satisfying when you get it right.

It’s interesting because the first half of the song, you’re playing one note over and over again.  Granted, there’s much more depth to it than that, but I couldn’t help but think “that song is easy”.  But as he finished it up his lesson and I heard the song a few more times, it grew on me.  Given my lack of effort, it probably took me about two months to learn any song, and then another month to fully memorize it.  But not for this song.

In fact, I was able to play most of it after hearing it a few times.

This was a weird turning point for me.  Because in terms of piano, I considered myself to be a  “waste of God-given talent”.  I never practiced.  That might have worked out for me until late middle school, but then songs started getting longer and more intricate.  Anyway, for the first time ever, there was a song that I wanted to learn.  Before, it was just songs Mrs. Chiu picked out at her discretion.  I was so eager to learn it, I had it fully memorized and master within a week.  And from there, I started to care a little more about honing my musical skills.  This was around the same time I began tuning into kMozart more (when it was still on 105.1 FM).


A Review of 2017

Though I wasn’t undefeated, I started the year off by taking down another Prerelease by myself

Aether Revolt, 4 wins 1 tie, 1st Place!

Wow, I went to 8 weddings!  Congratulations to the Chow’s, the Hai’s, the Woon’s, the Chan’s, the Su’s, the Chau’s, the Yoshiba’s and the Fong’s.

Groomsmen for 3 of them.  Best man for 1 of them.

Generally speaking, I do not enjoy travelling.  Despite that, I still did a quite a bit of travelling by going to..

-San Francisco, CA for a day trip with Rachel to celebrate Valentine’s Day

-San Diego, CA for Eddie’s wedding

-Sacremento, CA for weekend family trip to visit my sister

-Escondido, CA for Lauren’s bachelor Party

-Orlando, FL for a Disney World adventure planned way in advance

-Portland, OR for Marty’s bachelor Party

-Pleasant Hill, CA for Marty’s wedding

I spoke at an EPIC general meeting.  It’s something I always wanted to do, to impart whatever little wisdom I have

I went to the Ice Cream Museum

I became an uncle

I proposed [on my birthday]

I got a new job and I moved into an apartment

Rachel will move in in February

Despite excelling at like 6 of the 8 events, I got the Silver Medal at the 2017 Yuan Olympics.  You’d think there’d be bonus points for turning in your banner on time or solving 71 math problems in 1 minute.

..and of course, I did an escape room

Central Bank @ Fox in a Box [23% completion rate]


So, I was Unemployed Again..[The God Factor]

Let’s rewind it again, but a little further.

During my long period of unemployment before I started working at Kaiser, I was actually interviewing with LA Fitness’s corporate office.  Unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t quite right.  LA Fitness offered me a job the day after I accepted the job offer from Kaiser.

Fast forward to the tail end of contract at Kaiser.  I had a few phone calls and interviews, but no luck.  Remembering I still had the contact information of the manager that interviewed me at LA Fitness, I reached out.  After some back and forth, I got an interview.  That was followed by another interview the next week.  The next day, I got a job offer!  I was also able to negotiate a later start date to to give me time to find and move into an apartment since the job was located in Irvine.

Let’s talk about God’s timing and how perfect it is.  Even from the beginning.

  1. Initially, LA Fitness wasn’t ready for me.  When they contacted me with a job offer the first time around, they kind of just made up a position for me.  I probably wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to grow professionally if I was some sort of advanced intern.
  2. Getting the job at Kaiser was clearly act of God.  If you recall, I was initially rejected for a more qualified candidate.  It was about a month before they revisited me.  I didn’t learn about this until much later, but apparently there were 5 other candidates before they settled on me.  The first turned down the offer for a better one.  The second accepted the job offer, but then had a family emergency, forcing her to fly to China for an extended period of time.  The third was an in-house hire, who decided he didn’t want to leave his old team, so he turned down the offer.  The fourth was fired after her first week because she refused to adhere to the dress code policy.  The fifth wanted to accept the job offer, but wanted 3 months before she could start working.  6th place is the best place I guess.
  3. Working at Kaiser allowed me to be close to home.  I had planned to continue serving in college and youth ministry at church until certain senior class graduated from their respective ministries.  I’m glad I was able to see this through
  4. Kaiser employees are required to fulfill a certain amount of service hours, trainings and extensive surveys every year.  Being on contract meant I got to sidestep these minor inconveniences.
  5. Being on contract meant being paid hourly, which meant I was properly compensated for working overtime.  I worked a lot of overtime since Helen (the new director) started there.
  6. Kaiser is considered to be technologically ahead of its competitors in terms of the medical field.  Yet despite this fact, it quite behind in general.  I worked in an environment that had poor coding practices, no version control and no developer peers for me to bounce ideas off of.  I was the only software developer in my department.  All this to say that working there wasn’t great, but it was tolerable.  And the thing is, for a lot of people (including myself), tolerable is enough to stay at a job.  Had I been a full time salaried employee, it might be easier for me to be “stuck” there.  Being on contract meant the decision to leave was made for me.  God had bigger plans.
  7. Everything about moving to Irvine came together so seamlessly; God’s hand was in everything.  Technically speaking, I was only unemployed for about a week.  The job offer given to me was pretty generous, factoring in that employee prospects are expected to do some negotiating.  The only thing I really asked for was ample time to find an apartment, which was given to me.  Within 4 days of the job offer, I had an apartment lease signed and ready to go.  Conveniently, I’m exponentially closer to my fiance now.  No longer do I have to commute 1 hour 1 way just to see her.  The extra time I had to move in was used to furnish and settle into the apartment and even take a trip with friends without having to worry about nonexistent vacation days.

All Glory to God

It was a tough journey.  I remember praying a lot, asking God to let His Will be done and not my own.  I remember asking God to show me His plans, since things were not looking too promising for me.  I remember learning a lot of patience and trusting in God.

I thank God for what He has done for me.  He gave me the strength to push through it too.


So, I was Unemployed Again..[A Preface]

First, let’s rewind a little bit.  In March 2016, I was suddenly laid off.  But after several grueling weeks of unemployment, I was given a job offer at Kaiser Permanente in May.  A blessing considering it was so close to home, and allowed me to continue serving at church.  It was a contract-to-hire position, meaning I was considered a contractor until they onboarded me to a full time employee.  That also means I don’t accrue any vacation time, don’t get paid during national holidays, get paid hourly (as opposed to salary) and I don’t get to enjoy Kaiser’s great benefits.  I don’t really know the advantages of a contract-to-hire role, other than having an arbitrary probation period (standard is 60 or 90 days).

What are these great Kaiser benefits?  The standout perk is if you retired with Kaiser, you basically receive Kaiser health insurance for free for the rest of your life.  Why is this important?  Before I began working there, it was announced that this perk would no longer be supported starting 1/1/17.  So, if you wanted to keep the old system benefits, you would have to retire before then.  For ease of following along, here are some names (not their actual names):

Alex – the vice president of the financial department, and David’s boss
David – a director of the department and Ned’s boss
Ned – the manager of my team, and my boss

I’ll admit, I had a shaky start learning the system and getting a hang of things.  I don’t think Ned really liked me all that much at first.  But David liked me, and that mattered more.  Unfortunately David was retiring in September for the benefits.  As I sat in his office during his last week, David said he liked me and wanted to onboard me, but he didn’t feel right doing it as he was leaving the company.  So, he didn’t.  Even though I’ve worked there for 3 months and should be off the probation period.

Yup, that sucked.

In time, I proved my worth to Ned.  After 7 months of being on contract, we had a conversation where he said he liked me and wanted to onboard me.  He even said he would give me a small raise.  About a week later, Ned got back to me saying he was vetoed by Alex.  Alex wanted the decision of onboarding to go to whoever replaced David.

Yup, that sucked.

It was around here that Ned announced his retirement.  He didn’t care about the benefits since he’d be starting a company and travelling the world to teach underprivileged kids.  At the end of April 2017, 11 months of being on contract, Kaiser finds and hires Helen, who fills David’s vacant spot.  You can imagine some of my anxiety during this time, since the contract was originally supposed to end after 1 year.  After Helen goes through the motions of meeting the whole team and reorganizing things, she gets a chance to sit down and talk to me about my contract situation.  She barely knows me but at least acknowledges that I have some value here, so she extends my contract to the end of June.  I’ll shorten this story a little bit and say this pattern repeats itself 4 more times!  So, for 4 more months I have this back and forth uncertainty of whether or not I’ll have a job at the end of the month.  Until finally Helen said she wouldn’t extend the contract past the first week of October.

Yup, that sucked.

Of course, I had been applying to jobs and seeking other opportunities for a while.  More on that next time.

All the negative stuff aside, I could tell my presence there was appreciated.  I had like 3 or 4 goodbye lunches and parties before I left, and it was topped off by cupcakes and a card signed by the team on the last day.


After all the major projects I worked on, the reason my contract ended was because there just wasn’t much else for me to do.


A Good Bad Example?

On one of the my missions trips to Thailand, I recall a story that bothers me, even to this day.

As you know, we visited an orphanage that was kind enough to house and feed us for about a week.  I imagine they did this often as there seemed to be more than enough rooms for our small team.  These rooms were unused by the kids themselves, but were certainly optimized for guests.  Not too long after we arrived, the orphanage welcomed in a group of missionaries from Hong Kong.

They arrived in a mini bus, similar to how the rest of team and I did.  But as they disembarked and unloaded, I couldn’t help but conclude that they were all very well off.  Lacoste polos, Gucci bags, among other designer brand things.  We were informed that they had their own agenda, so it’s not like we would interact with them.  The rest of the day and evening was spent settling in and acclimating to the heat and humidity.  Of course, as if a natural instinct, most of our team spent time playing with the kids despite the language barrier.  Admittedly, it was so hot and humid, I couldn’t function unless I was standing in front of or under a fan when outside.  

The next day was Sunday, where we woke up early to join the service held in the orphanage’s main hall.  For some context and visual aid, the main hall was set up like this:

Notice that the chalkboard and podium were on the right, in front of the right section of chairs.  And even as we got there, many of the kids were already sitting in the right section, where one of the orphanage leaders was also standing in front of.  I think you get the point that everything is on the right and that’s a natural prompt for you to sit there (on the right).

So, the Hong Kong missionaries came in and sat in the left section…  They certainly stuck out with their bright yellow team shirts as well.  Now, it all could have been a simple misunderstanding, and they could have migrated over, but no, they stayed there despite the urging of the pastor to shift over.  They elected to turn their heads to the right.  And it wasn’t an slight head turn either, it was an inconvenient chin hovering over your right shoulder head turn.

So service started with a couple of canaan hymns.  Afterward, there was a moment where we greeted those around us.  Despite some people on the right side greeting those on the left, the Hong Kong missionaries mostly remained to themselves.

Notice the word “mostly”.  Their saving grace?  ONE of them took the prompt to come over and sat with us during the sermon.  She spoke English and even translated most of the message.to me and others sitting nearby.

A couple days passed and we only really saw them in passing.  But there was one afternoon where we came back and they were gone.  I stumbled upon this information as I went to one of the rooms our team stayed in.  I was putting some things down when I heard a faint but constant noise.  We were in the mountains, so unless its the noise of big trucks driving by or kids playing, it was often pretty quiet.  I went outside and went over to the room next to ours to investigate.  It was one of the rooms the Hong Kong missionaries were staying in.  The room was cleared out, yet the fan was still on.  Upon closer inspection, they left a bunch of ash on the window sill where they had been burning their mosquito coils.  They also left a stack of mosquito coils and the room was a mess.  After turning off the fan. I still heard something.  It was the bathroom their room was next to, and the shower was left running.  For context, the first day we got there, the orphanage told us go easy on our water usage, as they were running low on it.  It’s as if they left in a hurry.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they had a sudden change of plans or they were being hunted by the Thai police, and one of them had to leave mid-shower.  Maybe they were diseased and that’s why they didn’t want to sit or interact with us or the kids.  Or maybe they actually were a group of pretentious snobs.  I’ll never know

And it’s at this point in writing all of this, that it might just be me.  So, after those encounters I decided that as much as possible, I will do my best to not come off the way they did.



As mentioned a few times already on this blog, I was kind of an idiot in high school.  But despite it all, there were still a few classes that caught my interest and that I genuinely enjoyed.  One of those classes was Spanish.

Rewind back to 8th grade where we were first given an opportunity to take Spanish as an elective.  Although I don’t remember the criteria to qualify for Spanish 1-2, (it was probably just to be “smart” or something silly like that) us regular folk could freely elect to take a semester of Introduction to Spanish.  The beloved Senora Norberg did a great job of garnering our interest of Spanish in 8th grade (whether introductory class or not).  Yes, it’s a pretty easy language to learn, but I still picked it up quick and enjoyed learning and studying new vocabulary.  I thought it was such a fun subject, I actually contemplated being a Spanish translator when I grew up.

Moving on to high school, my joys of learning the subject carried over as I was taught by Señora Snider.  Conjugating verbs, practicing conversations in class, the Spanish alphabet.. It all came naturally to me.  This was probably the only subject where I could say I didn’t study but aced all the tests and quizzes.  Learning Spanish was fun for me; the cooking projects and watching movies in Spanish were just icing on the cake.  It was more of the same the following year with Señora Cobos.

And then junior year came around and I would be taught Spanish by Dr. Graciano (she prefered that we address her as ‘profe’).  Up to this point, every Spanish teacher’s classroom I’ve been in or simply passed by was decorated from floor to ceiling.  Posters, projects, pictures of food, pictures of the culture, anything and everything covered the walls of those classrooms.

I stepped into her classroom on the first day and there was.. nothing.  I didn’t know the walls were white until that day.  The whiteboards were spotless.  She had a small desk and podium in the front of the classroom, clear of any knick knacks, figurines or clutter.  The only thing that sat on the tables along the windows was a CD player boombox and this framed poster of Enrique Iglesias that leaned against the wall:

(I’m a little surprised I was able to find this poster via google)

Needless to say, there was nothing fun about this classroom.  I probably should have taken that as some sort of foreshadowing.

I want to say it was a culmination of the classroom, her teaching style and just her personality in general, as I didn’t do so well.  In fact, I’d venture to say that she sucked the fun out of Spanish for me.  More likely to be the reason would be trying to learn how to conjugate verbs in the tenses I didn’t even have a firm grasp of using in English yet (like future perfect continuous or future continuous tense).   I could no longer do well on tests without studying and my grades took a hit.  Although, my classmates actually did a pretty good job of convincing her to lighten up.  We got to watch some movies and have a food party in class.  By the end of the year, there was one row of projects taped to the wall.

But it wouldn’t be enough to reignite my joy in learning the language.  To my credit, I still remember some of it; I was able to use it the few times I went on trips or cruises to Mexico.  Later, I took one quarter of Spanish as a GE to get the easy A in college.  Other than that though, it’s all just another thing I learned now.


My Brother’s Alarm Clock

As probably mentioned before, my brother and I shared a room while we grew up together.  At some point he got a new alarm clock.  It was a fancy one that was also a radio and a CD player.  It was pretty bulky, as the built in speakers were loud enough to make it double as a boom box.

As we all know, right out of college, he got a job at Raytheon at a location that required him to wake up at 5am to make a reasonable commute time.  So, naturally he used the alarm clock mentioned above with it set to CD mode.  To prevent himself from getting too comfortable with the song being played, he would cycle through his songs and CDs.  This nostalgia trip is brought to you by the songs that I can recall hearing all the time:

Even though I woke up about an hour later to get ready for zero period orchestra, he was still pretty good about waking up and turning the alarm off within a few seconds.  Some days he woke up to the sound of the CD player starting up and he was able to disable it before any music played.  Other days, the whole intro of the song would play out and then he would wake up.  And once a blue moon, he would turn off the alarm and fall back asleep.  Several minutes later my dad would come in to wake up him up, followed by an audible “oh shoot!” as my brother sped through his morning routine.

It’s hard to fault him on it though, waking up at 5am is no fun.


A Snapchat Study of Sacremento, Day 2

4/23/17, Sunday

Commentary: (Read along as each picture or video appears)

-It was cold that night, so I curled up in my sleep, causing this to happen.  It’s a blister of some sort I think.  It has since healed.

-As a thanks for letting us stay in his house, we did his dishes while he was still sleeping in the morning.

-We wouldn’t have time to pack up after church, so we had to do it now.

-Cruising in his FJ Cruiser.

-City Bible Church, a church plant that meets in a high school auditorium.  Great church with solid teaching.  Also coffee and bagels every Sunday.

-My mom special requested that we go to this place after seeing it on Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives.

-Too much cheese.  Just the way I like it.

-No odd balls here.  Everyone got the squeeze burger.

-After lunch we still had time to kill before our flight, so we walked to this place.

”Take a look, it’s in a book..”

-When in Sacramento, see the capital, right?  But first, stop by the rose garden in front of it.

-Supposedly, this was a good spot to take a picture since it’s in the background

-We walked all the way around it to get to the front

-If Epic Meal Time ever needs another “Muscles Glasses”, I know just the guy.

-Do it for the snapchat.

-Only because everyone else was doing it.

-It was time to catch our flight.. And say bye to the giant airport bunny.

Never gets old.

-I bought one macaron from Ginger Elizabeths.  We ate it now as a snack.

-We sat next to this man.

-Back in Southern California, where my nose is safe from Sacramento allergens

-We had Chinese food, since we had non-Chinese food all weekend.

-Lots of sitting that day.