Dear Js,

Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a dad. I screwed up this week.

It was Monday. The sun sets at 5 now. Related – there are increased incidents of depression this time of year. It didn’t help that we just got back from PR. The house was a mess and we were jetlagged. Bad combination of bad things.

I came home one evening and the house was quiet. No family shouting “DADDY!” as soon as I opened the door. Just toys in the living room. Lights were on, shoes were still by the door, house keys by the clock. No, all of you are home. Must be upstairs. I emptied my pockets and climbed upstairs. Still quiet. No laughter or giggles or running. Hallway was dark, but your room was lit.

I saw Julie sitting on the carpet. Joshua reading a book to himself. Mama sitting on the rocking chair – hunched over, elbows on her knees, head buried in her hands.

“What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know”
“What happened?”
“I don’t know?”
“When did it start?”
“I don’t know”
“How long has it been?”
“1-2 hours”
“Go take a break or lie down or something”

I scavanged together dinner for you that day. Mac and Cheese and I made you eat some broccoli to feel better about myself. Mama checked out early. So we stumbled through the rest of the night’s schedule. You kept asking WHY this or that about mama, which was frustrating because I didn’t know either.

Next day, I had some good news related to work. I was exhausted but excited to share the news with the family. But when I opened the door, same thing. Happiness erased. No dinner. House a mess. Not that I cared about those things, but I knew mama did. She didn’t like things out of place and she liked to prepare nice meals for us. So the fact that she didn’t was a bad sign. The dark cloud above her rained acid on the living room. We were supposed to go get Julie’s booster seat so she could eat with us.

I was getting mad at this situation. Mad that this felt like that last time my parents visited and I had to send them home. Because they turned my house into a toxic place I didn’t even want to come home to. And mad that your mom wouldn’t discuss it with me. She dismissed and deflected everything with a gloomy glare. I would try to have a conversation and just get a grunt and nod as she fiddled with her phone.

So I started driving to pick up the seat. I didn’t know where, because she didn’t tell me. I asked. She said Toys R Us. Fine, I’ll use GPS. I would flip out if I got turn by turn directions like that. I just needed some silence. So I punched it in. And just the way I am, I zoned out and made a wrong turn toward my usual route. “WHY ARE YOU GOING THIS WAY? We are supposed to go North not South!”

Goddamnit. First you don’t want to give me directions, you don’t want to talk to me, and now you make a fuss. I took my frustration out on the next right-hander. The car pitched. “What’s wrong?” She didn’t understand. Of course not, no one knows anything when you don’t talk. Now you sensed something was up and you started saying one WHY a second from the backseat; and you replied every answer we gave you with another WHY.

I tried to stay silent. But then I lost it. I shouted, “JOSHUA NO MORE WHYS!” Silence. 30 seconds later, I heard you whimpering. As if you were trying to hold back your tears and trying to be as quiet as possible because you thought I wanted you to be quiet. Then a little peep, “why did daddy say joshua no more whys?” Mama hugged you and consoled you. But you kept repeating the question. You didn’t understand. You just wanted to understand. You wanted to know why we were upset. Because you were happy until I made you sad.

I put you in a cart, we went into the store. Then you wanted to come out. You put your excavator in the seat and you pushed. The cart went around in circles, you lost sight of mama. I whipped out my phone to kill some time as you bumped into everything next to the aisle.

When we got home, I took you out of your car seat. You said, “I want my excavator.” I ask you where is it. You tried to think hard. I looked in your car seat, next to it, on the floor… NO. Don’t tell me… I remembered the last place I saw it — it was in your cart. This steamed me up more.

I set you down in the house, and said as calmly as I could muster, “I’m going to get excavator. I’ll be back.” Mama tried to stop me but I had made up my mind. It was selfish but I could use some alone time too.

20 minutes later, I was back at the store. I checked the carts, hopeful. Then I stopped and snorted a laugh. Of course I wasn’t going to find it. We’re outside a toy store. Only Buddha could tear a free toy away from his son’s hands to teach him the lesson of returning what is not his.

People are animals. So, I wrote it off as a lost cause, and went inside to look for a compromise. I could return empty-handed, weave a story and teach you a lesson. But there’s no reason I had to be empty-handed. I was at a toy store.


One of the most powerful triggers for parents is Guilt. Not only had I hurt you with my behavior, I also lost your excavator. Now I didn’t care about price. I just wanted to come home with something that would put a smile on your face. This was an emotional purchase. I shall describe my thought process in case it gives you any insights into how parents think:

First, I looked for the exact match. Nothing. Then I looked for a near match. Nothing. Then I looked for something superior. I found radio-controlled toys, and giant excavators bigger than Kimi. I could see how a dad could go overboard and overcompensate like that, but I kept myself in check. I circled the trucks section 10 more times, and gave up.

Next, I looked for something else you liked. Trains – FIFTEEN BUCKS for a 4-inch train? I was okay getting ripped off to make you happy, but not that much. Then I thought… if I was going to get something, I don’t want it to be yet another car or train or something that you already have. Grandma said that we have enough of those to start a toy store. So I wandered into the “building toys” aisle…

An excavator! But one that you could build from scratch, piece by piece. It brought back memories. I used to build airplanes, dinosaurs, robots, … but you weren’t ready for them yet. I reminded myself I wasn’t buying this for me. It was for you. We’ll have fun building stuff later. Then I saw Megablocks! Bigger blocks for littler kids. It was a truck transporter that came with a bulldozer and a dump truck. The transporter’s bed could open and tilt and had multiple levels and even a carrying handle. That was the one.

When I came home, the house was dark. I went upstairs and heard splashing. I hid the truck. I changed my mind. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to give it to you then, because that would get you excited and derail bedtime. I was only going to use it if I absolutely needed it. I tagged mama out, and finished up our usual bath-time.

I apologized said I should not shout. I said next time, I will just talk. I said you can ask me whys now. I read you every book you wanted.

“What happened to excavator?” He went to see his friends – cement mixer, dump truck. Maybe his friends will visit tomorrow. You were okay with that.

I snuck back into your room while you were a sleep and left it somewhere you’d see it as soon as you woke up.



Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Your sister loves to play with you but you’re worried she’ll eat your toys – “I put them safe from anything”:

An irresistible offer to a friend

Driving home on Wednesday, I got a few more ideas for the project I’ve been working on with Jardy. He has a solid stream of YouTubers following him for House dance tutorials, and he teaches classes in the Bay Area. The project is to put the two together into a monthly membership for online lessons. This will be the core backend, with a DVD to launch the front-end.

My previous strategy was to let him work at his own pace. I wanted to do as little work for him as possible, so he earned his keep. I’ve learned my lesson trying to help ungrateful people and even non-profits before. Since then, I promised I’d never help anyone for free again. It’s true – people who pay, pay attention. And people don’t value what they get for free.

But after dragging on for years, I got sick of it.

It was almost 2 years ago that I gave him a website and hooked up his YouTube channel to build an email list. Since then, his YouTube videos have been converting consistently into more than 100 new email subscribers every month. And since the system was automated, it didn’t matter if he was online, offline, making new videos, not making new videos, at home, away at another country — subscribers kept rolling in.

But wanna know what made me sick? He did nothing with them! He now has 2000 people subscribed by email, with tens of thousands subscribed to his videos. Just wasting away. What’s more, he’d get emails and messages practically begging him to sell them a DVD, classes… anything! They were hungry for more.

So I decided to give him a one-time offer. I pulled into my garage, turned off the engine and picked up my phone. I texted:

“Are you ready? Let’s finish. I’ve never done this for anyone else because people love to waste my time. But if you want, I’ll sit with you and finish this month, by hook or by crook. Lemme know before I realize it’s a terrible idea.”

He replied instantly, “OK. let’s do it. When are you free? You’re still in PR, right?”

I love the little productive time I have at night (some of which I use to write these letters to you), so I hope I don’t regret giving him my Friday. But I love work too. This will be fun. I didn’t ask for anything from him. It’s just been pissing me off that it dragged on this long. I just want to finish this project. And to give a friend the gift of a good business.

After all, if not for him, your mom and I might have never met.

"Oblivious dancer"

“Oblivious dancer”

Once upon a time, I didn’t know how to dance. When I was younger, I complained I didn’t understand dance. My friends looked at me funny. I thought that all actions should have a purpose. This was because I knew sports and martial arts. But I didn’t get dance. When I started dating, I avoided social situations that involved dancing. When I couldn’t, I preferred packed clubs so you couldn’t see or do anything, and I’d hide my awkwardness by drinking and bouncing.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties. Out of grad school, in the workforce, single and more or less recovered from my failed relationships. I got tired of feeling like a lonely loser, drinking by myself in my apartment. I decided that if I wanted my circumstances to change, I needed to change. If I didn’t do anything, I forsaw my future self still being sad, lonely and drinking alone.

One thing I promised myself was that no matter how tired I was at night, if there was a chance to meet new people anywhere, I would go. Even if I had to drive 1.5 hours to get there. I would never say No again to any opportunity. “Wanna do ___?” LET’S DO IT was my default answer. Don’t think, JUST DO.

In addition to that, I was going to do things that made me uncomfortable. Because the only way to change is to do something uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing and nothing will change. This meant that I was going to learn to dance.

Believe it or not, I tried hip hop, popping, breakdancing, salsa and even line dancing. It started with a coworker girl who loved to dance. We’d try classes together. Then as time went by, my dancer friends grew. But in the end, I was drawn to one style of dance, and ended up going religiously to a class in Campbell, taught by Jardy. We went there after work on Mondays, and a bunch of us would go for dinner and dancing on Wednesdays — when the clubs were empty.

Anyway, long story short – one night, my buddy Alvyn and I went to check out an underground House thing called Rhythm Ritual in Downtown San Jose. I was looking forward to whatever the night would bring inside. But what I didn’t expect was getting my gut checked outside.

A group waved at us from the sidewalk across the street. It was the people we were supposed to meet. But there was a girl I didn’t know. She had mocha skin, dark hair. Pretty eyes. I’ve been to many places around the world but I had no idea where she could be from. How did someone like her end up in California? Most of the people here were Asian.

Then she caught me looking at her as I caught her looking at me. I felt a strange feeling tickle me inside that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I’ve also seen that look a girl gives you before. But this wasn’t just lust. It was excitement… combined with a sense of comfort, like we’ve known each other for ages.

And I wouldn’t have met her had I said I was too tired to go out that night, or if I never tried to learn to dance, or if I didn’t end up falling in love with House… like she did.

This week in pictures (and videos):

Nose picker:

First foods:

Firefighter and train conductor

Firefighter and the cutest train engineer ever

I don’t know if it’s because I yelled at you, or if it’s because that’s how it is. But we’re not best buddies anymore. E.g., during bathtime, you’ll say, “I want mama… I want mama…. I want a hug and kiss from mama.” I tried giving you a hug and kiss, but you thrust your palms into my chest and said, “NO! I want mama.”

Mama says it might just be how it is. At this phase, boys love mama and girls love daddy. I feel hurt when you shoo me away and mama feels hurt that you J2 only use her like the milk delivery lady. Whenever you see me or hear my voice, you smile like you’re seeing for the first time and you just set your eyes on your hero. You stare at me like nothing else matters in the world, and you bounce up and down and stick your arms up so far you almost fall over. I always feel like you’ve mistaken me for someone else, because I don’t deserve it.



P.S. Tambourine girl:



P.P.S. – Tambourine girl rolled off the bed today. Thud. Onto your elbows and knees. You cried and mama was shocked, worried and mad at herself. She checked you all over and even your reactions and I think you’re okay. I still haven’t told her about the time your brother cartwheeled down the stairs.

P.P.P.S. – Mama is fine now – she decided to start working out again. That is something that has always helped in the past. She’s trying Crossfit.