Dear Js,

(I’m going to apologize up front, in case you were expecting some cool pictures or videos of us at the pool. Cameras, water, children and concerned/suspicious parents just don’t mix.)

We’ve been struggling to get back into the routine after Abu left. Mama’s stressed out worst. So I suggested why not go out with your friends this Saturday? She needed it. She was calling her friends before I finished my sentence. So that night, I had both of you. j slept first. I am typing this in the hallway while waiting for you to sleep. You said you wanted to read the page about Meganoura from your dinosaur book. When I went back to check on you, you were curled up to make space for the book above your head. You looked down at your cupped hand. I said, “Is that a Meganoura?” You said, “Yes.” I said, “Is he sleepy? Let’s help him sleep.” You whispered, “I’ll put him next to my bed.” You lay him down gently and I hugged and kissed you good night.

Mama fit into her skinny jeans. She tried it and her thighs fit. She thought no way it’ll button. But it did. They were jeans from before you were born; from our road trip when we stopped at Barstow. Five years ago? (“It’s official, I actually fit into some of my pre-Joshua pants!! Size 8 that run true to size!! Next goal: the size 8s that run small so I can fit back into my Joe’s jeans that I loved so much.”

So she giggled and skipped off to meet her friends at the Korean place we went to last time. The one with the flavored soju. Meanwhile, I was looking forward to a night by myself. It was awesome for the first 20 minutes… until you woke up. Guess which one? Yup, the one that wants mama.

First I tried the trick Abu said worked for her. To the sink, water on, splish splash. You stopped crying. 15 minutes later I said how about we go back to sleep. No objection, so out of wet clothes and back into crib. You didn’t try to sit up and I saw your eyelids droop. 5 minutes later, you flipped onto your knees and started crying again. You wanted me to carry. I picked you up, we looked around the closet, you calmed down, and I put you back down with your two favorite hangers.

You almost drifted off, but you popped back up again.

The closet light was on. You kept waking up and pointing to it, “MAMA!” I said no, it’s just the light. Each time you’d cry until I carried you there. You pointed at everything in the closet, then I’d say let’s go to sleep and you would let me put you back down. But you would sit up 2 minutes later and point at the closet again. So I tried turning off the light. But that made you cry more, like I just took mama away from you. You cried and cried and I tried. I sang, I begged, my ears bled, I cried, I gave up. I stared at the ceiling while you cried. Then when a little energy flickered inside, I picked you up and followed your finger like a compass. OK. What do you want. We spun around a few times until we were back at the closet again. I turned on the light and you stopped crying. All that crying made you hot, so I took off my shirt. I was really tired so I dropped to the floor. You snuggled up next to me and let me hold you. I drifted in and out of sleep. Each time I woke up, I was happy to find that you were still alive. First you grabbed a bottle. Then you picked up one of mama’s boob teaching props. Then you poked my belly button and pointed at my nipple. “Leche.” No stop that, I don’t have any. You looked curious. You looked at your tools and then back to me like you were trying to solve a puzzle. You tapped the bottle like a drum. Then you tapped the bottle on my chest. I said, No, I can’t make any. Finally I said, I’m sleepy, let’s go back to the bed and try to sleep. For some reason you were okay with that. You gathered up your bottle, your bag and your fake boob and you let me put you in your crib. I laid face down and you lied face up, fiddling with the fake boob. You looked calm and cheery. Then the garage door opened. I was saved.

I felt depressed. I slept in the guest room that night. I think what hurt the most is my feelings. You were screaming and pushing me away and crying and hitting me and shouting for mama. All while I’m just trying to make you feel better, for a few hours, hopelessly. It’s hard not being able to communicate. I can’t explain anything to you. You don’t understand how it’s making me feel. And I have to remind myself you’re still a baby. But it still hurts, you know? You go no, no, no, mama, mama, mama — SCREAM — mama, carry, go. And in the back of my head I’m stressing and praying you won’t wake J up. What also hurt me were the thoughts that flashed in my mind and feeling angry. How could I think such things? How could I think about doing such things to my daughter?

That’s why when mama asked me why I didn’t call, I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” But the truth was I didn’t because what I was thinking of texting her was, “I don’t think I’m meant to be a dad.”

The next day, mama said, “Her molars are coming out. That’s why you had such a hard time that night.” Oh. I guess that makes me feel a little better. You’re enjoying your molars. Great. You can finally chew stuff.

It helps to write about it, like in this letter. It helps sorting out my thoughts, figuring out what’s making me feel. It gives me the illusion of being in control. This is important because sometimes the illusion is all I have.

Summer pool fun. Last week was the first time we went to a public pool. There was a long line. It opened at 11am, after a birthday party. First you walked around, observing the other animals at the watering hole. I invited you in, you said you were scared. So I said let’s look for a way to go in. You tried the ramp. When it got deeper you scurried back up. I said let’s try here. Look at the numbers. 1 1/2 ft. Look at the numbers there. 2 ft. I said this is how you go in. You sit on the edge and put your feet in. You tried, and slid in onto your tippy toes. Soon you found a circuit under the water fountain, up the ramp and back down the 1 1/2 ft section. j – you walked in with mama. You looked stable, so we let you be. When we looked away and looked back, you were floating face down in the water. I scooped you up and passed you to mama. You cried. I wiped the water from your face. You seemed okay. Nothing broken.

Then you said, “I want my tiger floaties.” You climbed up and to our bags. I put them on and you went back in. I said you can float with your floaties. You leaned over and splashed onto your face and spat the water out. I said, “You need to go deeper, so your floaties are in the water first. You can try lowering your body, or you can walk over there.” You held my hand and we walked. When a wave lifted you, you said, “I’m floating!” I said, “Like a fish!” You said, “No! A Plesiosaur.” Then off you went with your whyWhyWhyWhys… “Why do Plesiosaurs have long necks so they can stick their head out of the water?” Little by little, you let your body sink into floats. Then you started experimenting. You leaned over the edge and we showed you how to kick. You tried to lower your body and drifted a little. Then j jumped into my arms and mama chased you around. She was a great white shark and you said, “Noooo don’t chase me.” Then I said you could practice being a Tricky Hunter (Archer Fish) from your book. You filled your mouth and squirted your prey. Then you wanted to splash me. I said I will want to play how you play. “I want to splash you on your face.” Okay, I want to splash you on your face too. You laughed when you got me wet but you didn’t like when you got wet. “I want to splash you on your nipples.” I splashed back and you still didn’t like water splashing your face. “I’m going to splash you just on your arm here, under your shoulder.” You tried cautiously. That was OK, so we did that for a while.

j – you came back after mama took her under all the water falls and fountains. You wanted to be carried. But I said want to fly? You shook your head, “No no no no no.” I floated you around anyway and you crinkled your nose and smiled huff huff huff huff. When we got back up the ramp, you said no no no no no and pointed back to the water. So you made us fly you around from then on until our backs cramped. Mama came over and said, “I’m taking J to the trampolines.”

Trampolines? I carried you out. I had to investigate. She meant diving boards. I said he’s too young to do that. She said, “It’s okay, we’re just looking.” You weren’t sure if it was fun, so I said, “Want to see me jump on it?” You looked at me and frowned, like you weren’t sure if you were going to see me again. I waved and smiled and waited in line while each kid got the courage to jump. When it was my turn I waved. It got bouncier closer to the edge. Bounce, bounce… (try not to hurt your back like the last time, dumbass… OK that’s enough bounces… jump and wave)… and… SPLASH – water in my nose. I guess you never forget how to swim. I couldn’t see but I found my way up and popped up. You were still frowning and looking above me at the board behind me. You didn’t know where I went. I waved and you slowly started smiling. Like you decided that maybe this was a contraption of fun, not terror. “I want to see you go again.” Again? OK… I tried to jump higher. I didn’t realize how much fun those things could be. I started thinking maybe we should come back here more often. SPLASH – I swam back and you were already looking at something else. You pointed behind me, “What is that?” Oh, those are also diving boards, but those boards are not bouncy. “I want to see you jump on that.” What? OK. I tried to look cool going in but on my way back mama had a cringey face and pretended to massage her chest to me. “I want to do that too!” We said it’s for grownups. But see the kids over there? You can float in there with your tiger floaties.

“No I don’t want to.” I persisted, and you agreed to sit at the edge. I said look at her, she has yellow floaties. Look at him, he has no floaties. Then we talked about how swimming is like riding a bike. Remember how you first ride a tricycle, and then when you get older you learn to ride a balance bike. And then you ride a bike with pedals. I said when you’re learning to swim, first you practice with floaties. Then you learn how to swim with no floaties. “And then when I get taller, I can jump off the trampoline.” I hopped in and said, I’ll hug you. I will not let go. You hugged me. Then I slowly lowered your body deeper and deeper. I towed you to the other side. I said, Do you think we can get to the other side? A challenge! You said, “When I kick, I push you faster and faster!” When we made it to the other side you didn’t even want to touch the wall. “I want to swim back to the other side.” I said but there’s mama, I want to say hi- “NOOOO!! I WANT TO GO BACK TO THE OTHER SIDE!” And so we swam from end to end. Mama and j joined us until j got to sleepy and started crying. We swam a few more laps and left for lunch. You two fell asleep in the car before we got anywhere.

The following week, you said you wanted to go to the pool again. So we did. Mama was surprised she fit into her old swimsuit. You took me straight to the deep pool that time. j, you were even more adventurous this time. You splashed to every corner and even walked to the 2 ft part by yourself. You dunked your face in and you didn’t mind getting wet. Looks like this might be our regular Saturday thing for the summer.

The Disney story. I’m still working Walt Disney’s bio. It’s a fun read with many insights into Walt’s thinking, as well as how he revolutionized feature-film animation, entertainment and theme parks.

I saved a paragraph that I wanted to share with you:

Disneyland became a crusade with Walt, more so than sound cartoons, color, animated features and all the other innovations he had pioneered. He told a reported the reasons for his zeal: “The park means a lot to me. It’s something that will never be finished, something I can keep developing, keep ‘plussing’ and adding to. It’s alive. And it will be a live, breathing thing that will need changes. When you wrap up a picture and turn it over to Technicolor, you’re through. Snow White is a dead issue with me. It’s gone. I can’t touch it. There are things in it I don’t like, but I can’t do anything about it. I want something live, something that would grow. The park is that. Not only can I add things, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful year after year. And it will get better as I find out what the public likes. I can’t do that with a picture; it’s finished and unchangeable before I find out whether the public likes it or not.”

What he touched on was the future. It’s interesting to me, and maybe to you too when you read this, that once upon a time, all arts were static. Michaelangelo’s finger of God above the Sistine Chapel died as soon as it was completed.

These days, our mediums are dynamic. In Walt Disney’s case, he built a mechanical fantasy world operated by cast members. But today, our world is digital. And digital worlds never die. Some of the most fun you’ll ever have will be tinkering with your digital creatures. Especially if you share your creations with other people.

That’s what happened this week. Remember Jardy? He finally did it. It was the sloppiest accidental half-assed launch I have ever witnessed. But he did it. It only took him… what… 4 years since I first started prodding him by hooking up his YouTube videos with auto-email list building. Until he passed 2000 subscribers and he had to start paying because 2000 was the limit for the free tier. So he thought, “I guess I better do something about this, if I have to start paying $30 a month.” But even that thought stalled.

It took him getting a girlfriend, having 2-3 near death experiences, and his gf leaving him for Ireland for 2 weeks before he finally decided “Now’s the time.” No wait, after he got going, he stalled again for 6 months until he finally made a public commitment, “I’m going to release this on my birthday.” Actually, even then, I doubted him. Because in all this time, we had you two kids. But whatever, I decided earlier this year on Project Miracles, so I wasn’t going to turn down anyone who comes to me first. Whenever he disappeared, I forgot about it. But if he came back ready to work, I’d help him get to the next step.

Well, I didn’t think he’d do it, but he did it. Finally, he did it. That bastard finally did it. And I’m happy for him.

Here’s how that train wreck of a launch played out. After he shot his DVD, he asked me, “Do you think we can release this on Tuesday?” (It was Monday night, and all he did was finish shooting the DVD.) I said sure. We hadn’t tested the website or the payment systems, or finished the sales page, but I didn’t want to make it sound complicated. He’s a perfectionist, so if I told him the details, I feared he would disappear and obsess about them for months.

So the next morning, I said, “Make sure you test the payment buttons before opening the doors.” I didn’t hear back so I got a funny suspicion and I checked his Facebook page. This is what he posted:

Thank you for all the birthday wishes so far! Ya’ll make me feel more special every year, haha. So I’ve been super busy putting the final touches to my website. As some of you know, today is the release date of my Footwork Style Course! If any of you are interested, please check out http://house.jardysantiago.com. Thank you again! 🙂

I had just installed tracking the night before so I opened it up to see what the damage was.

Yup. Orders started coming in. My first thought was, “I guess the payment buttons work.” And what does he do? He saw how “successful” his half-assed post was, so instead of polishing up, following the campaign we discussed, I think he said fuck it and went all in. He blasted his email list, his social media channels, and made a YouTube announcement… while he was babysitting for his brother. Of course, all kinds of things broke, like emails bounced, people didn’t get their welcome emails with their login info. So I scrambled to fix it for the rest of the day.

The orders kept coming in. They came in after bedtime from people around the globe. I checked the numbers the next morning and sent him a message: “So, how does it feel like to make over $1700 in one day?”

I don’t think he knew what to think about it. He said that people like me and his gf believed in him more than he did in himself. A few hours later, he asked me for my Paypal to give me $250. He promised more when he made more. I said, I don’t want your funny money. I wanted to show you how to make money appear from nothing, selling something invisible. Because if you can make money appear from nothing, what does it matter how much you have? You can always make more! This time I wanted him to have it. There wasn’t enough for me anyway. There will be more for me later. What I’m really interested in is what comes after this. This was an investment. Instead of investing in a house or stocks or products, I have been investing my time in people. Earlier this year, I decided that the only way I want to create wealth or get ahead in life is by raising the people around me up.

Besides, this was also a test. What we did was take someone with a YouTube following in a tiny tiny market, and transform it into an information/education business. What we’re testing is the formula – pull eyeballs from YouTube to build list, website, sales process, payment systems, tracking systems, follow up, upsells, stick program, subscription model, community, etc. And the other test is if the model can reward me financially. And it can. Because this way, all the “author” or “star” needs is his/her following. We supply the system and they just have to show up and play. But by doing so, this is the ideal “electric company” model. First, no risk – we make money only if you make money. Second, it’s lights out if you don’t pay the bill, and lights out hurts because we control the whole system. I guess Jardy is lucky I’m a nice guy. I don’t know if he realizes that his whole business is running off my properties for free, and how comfortable he feels knowing I can pull the plug at any time. Or what would happen if something happens to me. At least for him, I know that since I made him to a lot of the dirty work setting it up himself, he should know how to build it up again. It’ll just be a big pain.

1 week update: 85 buyers and 33 subscribers. He has yet to execute his follow-up campaign because he disappeared with his gf again. He has also not done anything to upgrade one-time buyers to subscribers. He basically hasn’t done anything since that day, and I’m okay with that. It’s his business now, with his customers and his neck on the block. It was my birthday gift to him. Kinda like a Golden Goose.

You might be interested in the sales page. Can you think of how to make it better? This should be easy, because he pretty much went live before it was done. And each time he asked me how it looked, I said fantastic, because otherwise we’d never finish. We can always fix it later.

One of the most important things I made him put on there was the 100-student limit for his online classes. It is always a challenge to give a sense of urgency with digital products, when they are free and virtually infinite. Besides, you should always design your digital business with the expectation that your digital product will one day become free, pirated or obsolete. So the scarcity cannot come from the digital product. It comes from the non-digital pieces. In this case, it was access to him. Why 100? I just picked a number. But see how it lights a little fire under their butts? Any offer would be so much weaker without a sense of urgency. But the limit also has another purpose — retention. The first month is free, so passing the first month into paid subscription is the biggest challenge. Delivering tremendous value is the bare minimum. But to help stick, there has to be pain of disconnect. Having a limit of 100 gives you the idea that after 100, people get queued into a waitlist. And if you ever decide to leave, someone else will take your spot and you get sent back to the back of the line.

But you see, all of this is imaginary, don’t you? All these are just pictures you draw in someone’s head using words. That’s why words are so important. Without this conjured up world, all you are left with is a digital product that will eventually be worthless. The world and the experience you create around the digital product is the business.

Check out what effect words have…

I wanted to confirm cuz I’m still not absolutely sure if I made it in the top 100… if the paypal let me pay the $37 monthly, am I in the top 100 and able to participate? Maybe at the bottom of your story — which I’m super excited to read cuz dancers have always seemed so enigmatic to me and I feel like I never get a very good picture of why/how they started dancing — said something about the confirmation, but I’m driving home from work at the hospital right now and pulled over just so I could pay ASAP, haha.

I don’t know how he was reading/watching while he was driving… that he needed to pull over to pay. But reading that made me giggle inside.

And check out this awesome review that made him “embarrassed, like a schoolgirl getting a note from her crush”:

…I believe so strongly in a new dance project by Jardy, his Footwork Style Mastery Course, that I signed up for a paid monthly subscription just so I can support Jardy’s journey, even though I won’t have time to partake in it…

Back in 2008, when I became enthralled with learning house dance, there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of a systematic or thorough collection of online resources for the dance. If you weren’t lucky enough to live in New York City or a handful of other places with a house dance community, information on the dance was hard to come by. I know because I looked, and there wasn’t enough out there to feed my hunger. In fact, I remember feeling, in those first few years, like no one in the online dance community was stepping up to meet the needs of a new, global generation of people eager to learn the dance.

It’s within this context that Jardy has been so instrumental to the scene, and it’s the reason I’m so excited to see what Jardy does with his new Mastery course, which is basically everything I would have wanted to have access to back when I first discovered the dance: a full lexicon of movements, regular lessons, and direct access to one of the world’s best house dancers. Here is someone who cares deeply about the dance, knows it intimately well, has a vested interest in preserving it, and has dedicated a significant amount of time to using modern tools to expose the largest possible audience to it in a way that remains authentic and respects the culture. Jardy should be applauded for the visionary that he is, and for taking a risk by actually attempting to follow his calling—to “live his genius”.

I’ll let you read all about his new course here, and though it’s a very long read, I admire Jardy taking the time to tell his story in such a personal way and in full before asking for your support.

… Jardy is the hero House Dance always needed, and I’m thankful that the house dance community has him as a mentor, friend, teacher, ambassador, and advocate.

You know what the best part of this adventure is? I made a friend that I can talk with about all this stuff. You have no idea how hard they are to find.

I’ve disconnected from you kids. Maybe it was that night you screamed for mama non stop while I was right there. Or maybe it’s watching you do mean things to your sister. I don’t feel like I love you as much, so you just got a lot more annoying and I am losing my patience more often. My theory is maybe because you hurt me… and my typical defense mechanism for someone hurting me is to cut them out of my life. But the problem now is that I can’t do that with you guys because you are my kids. I gotta learn a new way to deal with this. But until then, I have to recognize that I’m disconnecting when I am hurt, and the correct response is not to shut down but to run toward the pain. Because the only thing I see coming out of me shutting down is one day I am no longer a dad and I no longer have a family.

The other reason I am sad is I realized that I’m jealous of Jardy. I was confused at first, because I’m happy for him, and it made me happy to help him start his biz. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have done it. So why was I depressed? I think it’s because he is successful and I can’t join him. I built him a ship and I have to wave goodbye as he pushes out to sea. I can’t go with him. Family takes time. Not single anymore. That’s okay. I keep reminding myself it’s okay.

j, mama moved into your room. We’re going to reclaim it as an office because you sleep in our room and we would like the lights to be on after 9pm. We bought some fun internet relays that plug into power outlets to send internet there using the power circuit. Mama loves it. She has been in the dark and in the quiet all this time. Now she has her desk in the corner by the window. Most important of all is feeling like a grownup with her own space again. It’s easy to lose your identity to kids because kids demand so much and will take everything if you let them.

Latest developments

Girls do different things. I’m still amazed by how much personality is encoded in genes. j, you like to walk to me, turn around and back into me to sit on my lap and snuggle. J didn’t really do that, he runs head first like a Pachycephalosaurus into my nuts. By the way, I never knew these names until all these books you made me read.

Mama has nursing anxiety when you latch. It triggers hormones that stress her out. It’s only happened once or twice before and we don’t know what causes it. It makes her freak out like she has snakes crawling all over her and she has to push you away. But once you’re unlatched everything is fine again. The body is weird.

“Mom, why do stars first burn ‘hydrogent’ and when they’re out they start burning helium?”

“Joshua goes straight for the piano as soon as we go into the classroom 🙂
He asked me to sit Julie with him and they had a duet lol”

j, you said your first sentence the other night. You were crying and mama asked you, “Agua?” You said, “I don’t want… AGUAAAAAA.” You pretty much understand everything we say now. I talk to you like I talk to J and you get everything. It’s going to be crazy when you start talking. Or more like you’re going to drive me crazy.

This week in pictures

Abu said you’re ready for reading so we’ve been practicing. I’ve been pointing at the words and encouraging you to read the big ones with me…

Reading for sister

Reading
v

Reading for sister again

Water slide

More water fun

Wonder cabinet

Muah

Sleepy and goofy with no naptime

Me and my music

Peekaboooo

Peekaboooo

Coin slide

Coin slide

That was awesome!

That was awesome!

Splish splash

Splish splash

Following brother reading

Following brother reading

Paintings from school

Paintings from school

Picking J up from school

Picking J up from school

Bunny sliippers

Bunny sliippers

Spearing Zucchini

Spearing Zucchini

"I'm going to miss this"

“I’m going to miss this”

:}

:}

"Center Room. PM means afternoon." You like looking at the picture of your teachers. You never did this at your old school.

“Center Room. PM means afternoon.” You like looking at the picture of your teachers. You never did this at your old school.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Spiral mountain: