Happiness (2/15/20)

While at the gym tonight, I heard a quote from Lewis Howes’ podcast, The School of Greatness. The episode was titled ’10 “Happy Habits” Successful People Do Differently.’ Lewis opens the podcast with a quote from Gandhi that goes, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in Harmony.” Of course, I listened to the rest of the podcast, but that opening quote lingered in the back of my mind the whole time. I thought genuinely about where my happiness is at today.

“What you say… what you think…” 

 I feel like I have a healthy outlook on life. Through my life experiences, I’ve developed a level headed ability to “not sweat the small stuff,” pause in times of abnormal circumstances, back up and try and take in the big picture. I take a moment and ask myself, “what significance will this particular moment have on the bigger outcome of my life?” It’s not always easy to do that, especially when emotions and stress are high in the moment. But I think it’s one of those things, like a muscle that needs to must be developed through repetitions. In a way, it’s like meditation. 

I know one method of meditation is to focus on the breath. Whenever the mind wanders into other thoughts, and when you become aware of it, simply bring the attention back to the breath. Don’t feel mad or disappointed that it wandered. Acknowledge that it did, and move on. After enough consistent repetitions, the time it takes to notice the mind wandering lessens. You spend more time focusing on the breath and less time “wandering.” Being able to recognize when to take a step back is a lot like recognizing the wandering mind. 

What does this have to do with my happiness? I think what I say and what I think are pretty harmonious. I come off as a levelheaded guy with levelheaded advice (when it’s asked for, most of the time haha). I know all the steps I need to take to be successful, and I say those things out loud. I believe in what I say. 

Now about, “What you do…”

In many facets of my life, what I do lines up with what I say and think, while in other aspects, it hasn’t. For example, I know to better my musicality, I need to practice consistently. I say that I need to out loud, but doing it is another story. I say I want to hang my hat on songwriting eventually, and I know to better my craft at songwriting, I need to write consistently. I say that I need to out loud, but doing it is another story. I know that to become healthier, I need to eat better consistently. I say that I need to out loud, but I have no problem doing it. Honestly, I’m pretty good about eating healthier. The musicality and songwriting have been the cause of dissonance between saying, thinking, and doing.

So, where is my happiness level right now? I think it’s been as high as it’s ever been! Sure, I have a ton of things to be grateful for in my life. But besides that, I think the leading cause of happiness is, across the board, I’m doing those things I say and think more often. I’ve been trying to take time daily in writing. Maybe not songwriting specifically, but writing in general (which is a start). I’ve been learning piano, which in turn is making me study music theory. And I’ve been picking up the guitar at home more often. 

Based on fresh personal experience, I think there is a lot of merit to that quote. So I’m saying and thinking right here and now, that I want to do all of these things. Like Nike says: JUST DO IT. 

Chilly Balboa Trot (2/10/20)

I take pride in being okay in climates that most of the people I know would find uncomfortably cold. I take pride in growing up in Wahiawa heights, where, as far as I know, it has some of the coldest weather on the island of Oahu.

One of the things I remember growing up was an old school thermometer encased in aluminum, hanging on by chicken wire to a decorative horizontal board skirting at face level on the garage outside, nearest the back porch. Every morning at around 5:50am, when we were being mushed out the door to the family van to get to the school bus on time, I’d have a look to see what the temperature read. Almost every morning, it was cold enough to see my breath, usually in the 50’s and sometimes the low 60’s. However, on some mornings, those mornings where you needed to fight all kinds of internal biological red flags to get out from under the quilt, you just knew it was going to say something crazy. I can’t remember exactly, but I swear I remember seeing that thermometer dip under 40º F one morning. It often got in the 40’s, especially during the winter and spring months. But high 30’s is some other kind of beast, in Oahu of all places. Unless I’m visiting my parents, I rarely experience anything remotely close to those childhood morning temperatures on Oahu.

On that note, I’m in San Diego right now, visiting Catherine. For the last five or so weeks, I’ve been slowly building up my tolerance for cardiovascular activities; Jogging. It’s one part of my overall regiment of improving my health, including eating better and sleeping more. But I actually started jogging so that eventually, when I got enough mileage in the muscle memory and the lungs, I could run with Cat and her handsome dog Ili in SD. Tonight we officially got our first run in as the Oriental-Eyed Trio Run Club. I understand the current climate surrounding that word, “oriental,” but it’s more an inside joke since someone said Cat’s dog had oriental eyes once. Why was I talking about the temperature to start off this entry? Well, that’s because it was cold enough to see my breath and make me hide my hands in the long sleeve dry-fit shirt I wore during said inaugural run.

We did an easy two-mile course through the Balboa Park Museums via the Cabrillo Bridge. The bridge crosses over the Cabrillo Highway 163 into the west side of Balboa Park from Bankers Hill above downtown San Diego. At 7:00pm, it was already dark, and a handful of other runners and dog owners were hitting the pavement with us. The air hit me with a gentle hand when I exited the car, and I thought about how nice it is and how much more I’d run if it was this cold on Oahu. Cat, on the other hand, was visibly and audibly not having it. We walked a little bit away from our neighborhood parking stall towards the park and stretched for a minute on the sidewalk of a street corner. I squatted and spread my legs to stretch out the quads and hips, and Cat opted to do toe touches for the hamstrings and raise the front of her foot on the base of the streetlight post to stretch the calves. We started north along Sixth Street till we hit the bridge, and I could immediately see it was going to be a beautifully scenic run through the park. The bridge is more than adequately lit up, with wide sidewalks on either side. There was something about the way the different colors lit up the sides of the buildings, creating dramatic shadows, completely changing the feel of them from normal daytime viewing. We did a stop on the way back out of the park at the amphitheater, where Cat said they sometimes had the symphony play and also held a big beautiful organ. As we were walking, I looked around and said, “I could do this run every night.” It really was beautiful.

We finished up the run, made it back to the car. Cat said, “did we earn burritos?” I said, “yes, also I flew all the way over here, so. Yeah, burritos.”


Checklist 2/9-2/11 (2-8/9-20 on the Plane)

Currently “trying to sleep,” on the plane ride to L.A., but failing miserably. So of course, if I can’t sleep, I’ll do some math. Let’s see I’ve got roughly 72 hours in Cali. To be on the safe side of immunity, I should probably try for 6-ish hours of sleep a night, so I don’t get sick again. So there goes 18 hours. It leaves me with 64 hours. Cat will have to be at work Monday and Tuesday for let’s say 9-10 hours if the case she’s working on will be as tough and involved as she thinks it will be. So that’s another 20 hours. That leaves me with 44 hours. She will probably have to do some work at home, so let’s tack off like 5 more hours. 

Alright, so that leaves me with 39-ish precious hours. Here’s my checklist of things I want to get done in that time:

  • When Cat picks me up at the airport, I want her to put the car in park, get out and hug me till we melt into each other’s arms. I will try to kiss her. Multiple times.
  • Cat’s been having some pain in her shoulder/arm recently, so I brought my massage impact gun with me on this trip. Also, I used a 3oz travel bottle I bought at Target one night and filled it with a pikake scented massage oil that I purchased from Whole Foods a few nights ago. I disguised that visit as a mission to get smoked salmon since I was FaceTiming her at the time. I did purchase smoked salmon. I’d like to massage her until her muscles melt into pain-free submission, and she never has to be in pain for the next couple weeks till her doctors’ appointment to get that checked on. 
  • Last Fall, I may have really hyped up Sous Vide steak to her, then never actually made it for her while she was visiting Oahu during The holidays. So I packed my Anova Sous Vide machine in my carryon. I made sure, while going through the security checkpoint at the airport, to take out both the Anova and the impact massage gun, and put them in their own tray. I wanted to make it easy for TSA to see them. I watched an older looking TSA agent spend about two minutes looking at my tray on the X-ray machine. Finally another younger agent came over and immediately told him what both things were. So while Cat is at work one day, I will make the trek across to Ralphs to pick up some grossly underpriced steak (in relation to Hawaii’s red meat prices) and make some sous vide steak for her. I want to watch it melt in her mouth and completely fulfill all of the expectations, hopes, and dreams, that I impressed upon her during my Sous Vide hype tour.
  • I want to go running with her, and her handsome, handsome specimen of a dog, until my legs and lungs melt, because I know that will amuse her. The reason I started running last month was so that I could do exactly this when I came to visit the next time. I know she appreciates my hard work, running the lonely streets of Kailua at night, or the boring treadmill at the gym. 

Well, that’s about all I want to accomplish in those 39 hours. And if I can’t do any of those things, I really won’t mind as long as I get to spend it with Cat. Let me try and melt my consciousness into a quick session of REM sleep before we land. T minus 3-ish hours till Operation “Melt It All” commences. 

Update: I caught a Lyft from the airport. Will have to relocate melty first hug. 

Chicken Skin Sharks (2/7/20)

This will be a quick 15 minute write today. Got a few things to do today.

I woke up on my own this morning! Cat did send me a text afterward, to make sure I was up. She wasn’t able to call today on account of being slammed at work — all good. I get to see her in a couple of days anyway 🙂

I think today I’m going to run over to the gym in town for a quick workout before my gig in Kailua, so when the gig is finished, I can just worry about getting the rest of my things packed in my carryon and get the house tidied up before tomorrow. Once I leave the house in the morning, I won’t be coming back till Wednesday.

With so much anticipation and excitement, I don’t know what to write about besides that. I’m going to be honest; I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to see someone. Last night I was thinking about seeing Cat, and my hands felt tingly. I had ‘chicken skin’ on my arms. I know I’m going to meet her and her friends for a concert, which will be fun, but I probably won’t be paying much attention to the music. All that will matter is that I’m there with Cat, and I’m going to be as present as I can.

I think we’re going to walk around the Aquarium there as well, and in that case, I think I’ll pay attention to the sharks in the “petting zoo” section, cause that’s pretty damn cool. See you soon, Sharks. And Cat 🙂

Whoop Whoop (2/6/20)

Cat had to do a little traveling for work today, so I never got a wake-up call this morning, but I still woke up to a pleasant wake-up text! I had a productive night of recovery, according to my WHOOP app. It’s like a Fitbit, but there’s no display screen on it. It purely collects data. I spent nine hours and twenty 5 minutes in bed, with nine hours and eleven minutes of actual sleep — 98 % efficiency.

So I don’t remember where I heard about the whoop thing, but it was on a podcast I listen to maybe. It’s made for athletes to understand their workload, recovery, and sleep better. All of which are tied together. The reason I got it was for the sleep aspect. I’ve had trouble sleeping in the past, so I wanted something to be able to track that to see where I could get better. Also, the effect of just having something to follow psychologically makes me want to “beat” myself at sleeping every night. Like have better sleep than the last, or have a better average sleep this week than last week. So far, with this little wrist band, and the occasional help of some melatonin, my sleep this last month or two with it has been much better. I still have bad days where I need to wake up early for something, and having that on my mind makes it hard for me to fall asleep, and I end up getting 3-5 hours instead of 8. But I’d say 80% of the time I’m having much more effective sleep than the last two or three years. As I said, it tracks your cardiovascular workload displayed as “Strain,” and based on this and your recovery (and some other factors), it produces your recovery score, or effectively how much you can workout today! It’s pretty cool, but again, I bought this for the sleep aspect.

I realize I’m posting this a day late, but I wanted to post it anyway, since I think sleep is very important. The more I read about it, the more I’m convinced that all though people can say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” They’re gonna “sleep” many years sooner than if they’re not getting adequate sleep every night. I know you can’t predict what will happen to you, and we could depart this existence at any point without warning or reason, but that’s not a good reason to take care of yourself and be prepared to stick around for a long time. But anyway, you do you. I’ll keep trying to get my 8-ish hours of sleep every night. Sweet Dreams.

15 Minutes (2/5/20)

Let’s face it, I’ve been quite comfortable, in every sense of the word. Straight up, too comfortable. Like zero growth comfortable.

The maybe last year and a half to two years, I fell into a routine of sleeping late, and waking up late, then going to gigs, perhaps the gym afterward, maybe watch a movie (or two), and sleep late again. Sometimes two to three weeks straight of gigging every night was the only excuse I needed not to touch my guitar or sing when I was at home.  

In a month, sprinkled here and there, would be a few good days where I woke up before noon (and got 8 hours of sleep), took care of my emails and invoices/contracts, picked up my guitar, practiced and studied some theory, and tried to learn something new. Sometimes I’d even do a little songwriting. 

In the last month, I’ve had more good days than I probably had all of last year. It’s sad to say that, but I’m still happy to say it at the same time. I’m hoping I can keep this up for as long as possible. Maybe I’ll have more good days in the next two months than I did in the last three years! It’s been a comfortable last few years, and I thought maybe I needed some poverty to be uncomfortable. It looks like I just needed to build some daily habits, with the help of some friends. Being uncomfortable in the beginning, but feeling proud and accomplished afterward. 

Oh, the title of this entry, “15 minutes.” That’s the minimum amount of time for certain things like “writing,” practicing piano, learning some music theory, listening to/learning new music, moving of some kind, that I want to commit to every day. If I happen to go over 15 minutes, great, but 15 minutes isn’t too daunting for me to not start at all. Baby steps.

Keeping up with these things as a daily habit would be amazing, but if I happen to take a day off or two in between, it’s still better than I’ve been doing the last five or so years. Here are a few of those things I’d like to stay on top of:

  1. Running. After two years of saying I missed it, I started running again. I can’t run everyday, cause I’m pretty sure at this bodyweight, it’s not great for my joints. I need some recovery time between what feels like marathons. For the last few weeks, running two to three times a week has been the norm. I’m okay with that! From my triathlon days, I was told by my coaches that endurance exercises don’t hurt less the more you do them, you just start going faster. It’s still true.
  2. Diet. Diet is a loaded word, but I’m comfortable using it since I think I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. Luckily I don’t have a sweet tooth or unhealthy food cravings, so I generally, to the best of my knowledge, make smart food choices. I’ve been overweight most of my adult life. Never seen my abs, though I’m sure they’re nice under there. Not that having visible abs is a sign of good health, but just my way of saying I’ve had excess body fat. It’s sometimes hard because when I eat around other people, they tell me I don’t need to eat like that, they say, “you’re not fat!” For whatever reason, the way my clothes fit on me, and the way my body holds onto excess fat (mostly in my midsection), it’s true, I don’t look to the outside eye to be “fat.” Sometimes they’d convince me, and I’d grind whatever. But I have no illusions or delusions of my body fat percentage; it’s some number that’s not in a healthy range. I see more and more young people in their 20’s and 30’s, with health complications from having too much body fat. It’s heart stuff, diabetes, and even gout. That shit scares the hell out of me! I need to decide for myself not to care about other people’s perceptions of my body and know that what I’m doing is for the benefit and betterment of my own health. 
  3. Writing. It starts here, just writing anything. 15 minutes of something on my mind. A song idea. A to-do list. Write. Write anything. Let’s keep it simple for now.
  4. Music. I decided to leave my engineering job to pursue something in music. I believed that I could positively affect more people through music than I ever could as an engineer. What I’ve learned in the last year was just how expansive the music business world is, and how many different types of jobs are included in that. It’s almost overwhelming, but luckily I can play to my strengths for now and use that as a filter. I’m pretty good at singing. Like not to toot my own horn, I’m objectively a better-than-average singer, and I can check that off as one of my strengths. Musicality, however, is not one of my strengths. But I’m not willing to concede to that just yet. 15 minutes of musicality practice a day. I primarily play guitar, but I also want to learn to play the piano. Music theory has been quite daunting to me for years, but from what tiny glimpse I’ve had, it conceptually clicks more with me through the piano than on the guitar. 
  5. Email. I’m not terrible at replying to emails promptly, but I’m not great at it either. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been really on top of it. Since Cat has been waking me up and says, “go write,” I listen (when I’m not playing dead for 30 minutes). I open up the computer to write, and when I’m done, I just pop on over to the Mail app and get to work. 
  6. Catherine. I never get tired of seeing her or talking to her. Even when she’s venting to me about work or a case she’s working on, it feels like watching a TV show, and I want to know all the details. Sometimes she smiles at me and says, “what?” I don’t realize I smiled at her first, and she’s just smiling back. She makes me smile, shoot me. I definitely want to spend more than 15 minutes a day on this part of my life. I’ll take all the time she’ll allow me, and try and facilitate more 🙂

Catherine said the other day, after reading one of these posts, “if anyone actually reads this, what are they going to think you ever did without me?” I said, “Nothing. I did nothing without you.” Thanks, Cat 🙂 

Carryon (2/3/20)

I started packing a carryon suitcase last night. Opened the zippers, all 3 of them, and felt around in the pockets that I was too lazy to do a visual inspection of. It wasn’t even a month since I last used this particular suitcase, and I looked at it with a smile. No, Mari Kondo, this suitcase doesn’t give me joy, but what it represents this week does. The end of this week will be quite hectic with gigs and whatnot. Saturday will be especially eventful!

9:00 am Wake up
9:05 am morning poop
9:15 am hop back into bed and rest my eyes
9:57 am wake up in a panic and look for pants.
10:30 am speed into Natsunoya Tea House parking lot
11:00 am Downstrum for our classmate Drew’s wedding 🙂
1:00 pm Finito! Pack up everything
1:20 pm Hopefully be done packing, grab our shoes at the door, book it out of there
2:00 pm Hopefully be at Nutridge estate to set up for another fellow Kamehameha grad, Winston, the ‘blue eyed beast’s wedding.
4:00 pm Ceremony starts
4:30 pm Cocktail hour, we’re on!
7:15 pm start packing up my gear
7:45 pm Hopefully I’ll be in my car heading down the mountain
8:00 pm Arrive at Honolulu Club for a shower
8:30 pm Leave Honolulu Club
8:45 pm Leave car at an undisclosed location, catch a Lyft to the Airport
9:00 pm get in TSA line
10:50 pm take off for LAX 🙂

Yeah, I’m going back to the west coast — the third time since September. On my last visit, during the New Year holidays, Catherine told me she and her friends were planning on going to the One Love festival in Long Beach, a weekend-long reggae concert. She said I should come, I said, I’ll be there. Last night on the phone, I mentioned to Catherine that I was going to start packing my suitcase, and she said it’ll make the week go by slow if I see it all week. So I have it hiding behind a wall of hanging close in my spare bedroom. Problem solved. I was too excited today to not do any packing.

If I could, I’d go to sleep right now and wake up Saturday morning. I’m on my way Cat.

Udemy? (2/4/2020)

I think I’m going to sign up for a Udemy course to learn piano/keyboard.
It’s been fun just doodling on it the past week, but I think it’s time to get some actual instructions.

I signed up for a few Udemy classes in the past, and I enjoyed them. One for photography, and another for guitar mastery. Neither of which I mastered yet, but that’s because I stopped logging onto Udemy and taking the lessons. You know life. But new year, new me, as they say. Thanks to Cat, who’s been waking me up a few hours earlier than I would on my own, I’ve been much more productive these last couple of weeks, and it feels good to be more on top of things. I felt like I had all the time in the world since I only “work” a few hours a night. However, I wasn’t putting in the work that I needed to at home, that I’m sure my other musician friends are. I’m doing them a disservice by slacking off at home.

Since I’m talking about that, let’s talk about that. I think it’s a misconception that a lot of people have about us “gigging musicians” that our life is so easy since we only “work” maybe 2-3 hours at gigs. But that doesn’t include the setup and breakdown of equipment. When we play new songs, it’s hours and hours put into that one song. The part I’ve been slacking off on was the overall improvement of my musicality, or practicing guitar and music theory. Taking care of the voice is a whole other task. According to my voice coach, Renson Madarang, the vocal folds are one of the last places in the body that receive hydration. So, as singers, we need to have the perception that we’re overhydrating to have adequate hydration for good vocal fold health. He also recommends doing certain singing drills throughout the day to “massage” the vocal folds. Then there’s all the correspondence and bookkeeping. If you’re lucky enough, you have a lot of inquiries and business opportunities, and your inbox needs regular maintenance and upkeep. There are emails to respond to, contracts to sign, and invoices to send. Being self-employed has a fair share of “things you didn’t need to worry about as an employee.” The big one is taxes. Without an employer to withhold taxes, you’re left to manage that yourself. Maybe you’re completely on top of your finances, but I’m sure for some, it’d be hard to hold onto 30% of all the checks coming in to set aside, just for taxes. So not savings, just money you can’t use, because you’re going to have to pay self employment, State, and Federal taxes eventually. Let’s not talk about dental and health insurance.

Well, that was exhausting. Going to finish up my emails, then I think I’ll browse Udemy for a piano course, and spend an hour on that. Then another hour or two on learning some new songs, and maybe an hour trying to write original stuff. After that, it’s time for “work.” Merriman’s tonight! While I’m at it, maybe I’ll throw another article of clothing in that carryon I started packing.


Five things.

  1. A super generous uncle
  2. Catherine
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Orchestra in intermediate and High School
  5. Sodastream

My uncle that I live with, is more generous to me than I deserve. First of all, he lets me stay with him and his family for almost nothing (which I will stick to for legal reasons, haha). He’s saved me in a pinch when I needed speakers for a wedding ceremony since he happens to have battery-powered Bose speakers that some of my friends gig with, but he just uses to listen to music while working in the garage. He lets me borrow his expensive camera to take photos with when I need it, like when I went over to the Big Island to shoot some photos of the owls with my friend Darcy. He even lets me take over his home to host parties and cook massive amounts of food. The latest example of generosity was allowing me to borrow one of the two keyboards that he owns. It’s much nicer than anything I’d ever know what to do with. One day we were talking, and he asked me how my music was going. I mentioned that I was thinking of buying a keyboard on craigslist or amazon to fiddle around with, and he said, “Nah no need, just take one of mine.” I’ve spent maybe an hour on it, and it’s crazy just how much easier it is to learn music theory than on a guitar. In theory, I knew what inversions of chords were, but the visual of it on a keyboard makes the theory party stick a bit more in my mind. I’m very much looking forward to doodling more on this thing.

I didn’t mention that I had this conversation about the keyboard with my uncle months ago. Catherine told me to stop procrastinating and borrow it already. Thanks, Cat. Also, she got me to write on here two days in a row!

Wikipedia… Music theory. That is all.

This whole post is kind of about the keyboard. But if not for orchestra in intermediate and high school, I wouldn’t have this general grasp of music theory knowledge to pull from. I didn’t think learning the notes on a piano, so I could have a reference note to tune my standup bass from, would come in so much handy today. Clutch. 

I lied, the whole post isn’t about the keyboard. I purchased a Sodastream machine from Target like a month ago. It’s one of those contraptions that allows you to carbonate your water. Safeway and Costco were getting a ton of money from me in the form of bottles and bottles of sparkling water purchases. In turn, I have piles and piles of trash bags full of plastic bottles that need to get taken to get recycled. Figured it might end up costing more to buy the CO₂ cartridges, but it’d save me time and would probably be better for the environment in the long run. Doing the keto diet right now, and the one craving I have isn’t rice, or candy, or ice cream. It’s “bubbles.” Sometimes, all I need is a little bit of carbonation in my life. Hits the spot.