This year was especially trying for me and my wife. First, my wife and I got sick at the same time. We were both out with the flu. It never happened before that we got sick at the same time. Usually one is available to take care of the other. One midmorning, I managed to get up from my weak, nauseous condition and looked at my sleeping wife in a separate room and thought “what’s gonna happen now, how are we to take care of each other?”

We survived that one. Then the following months our workload doubled because of 2015 reports. Then we had to sell our home overseas which presented some really unique challenges. There was no blueprint and no clear path to follow. We did the negotiation mostly by email and phone calls.

At the same time, we mapped out the process for moving to a new residence while we prepared another comprehensive report for the first Quarter of 2016. We moved into the new residence without a major hitch. But then we had to go overseas to complete the home sale process. It was a complicated process because the banking procedures were archaic.

We got back home, and a family member needed to go to the hospital.

In any medical emergency (as I experienced in my 2012 surgery, all the issues of life (tasks to be done, bills to pay, buying or selling a major thing, possible investments, etc. etc.) fade to the background like they never exist.  The focus switches to the medical issue. Everyone’s focus suddenly becomes: “How do we fix this?”

In all of the above, the common denominator is prayer. My wife and I don’t have the answers so we always prayed. I prayed harder and longer on my knees. Sometimes we went on mini-fasts. I even asked several groups and individuals to pray for this recent medical problem. The Faithful people asked a group or other individuals to pray. The more serious the problem, the more people were asked to pray.

Does thing turn out for the better? It always does. Sometimes I can’t believe how the things get resolved, but it does. Life has many trials, but they’re only temporary.


Almost Paradise

We just went on a trip to one of the islands of Hawaii a few weeks ago. If you noticed in my previous 201 posts, I very rarely mention names of any country, mainly because people can misinterpret things sometimes. From reading the comments on any news item – I notice that people’s opinion vary.  No matter how beautiful or optimistic the message, someone somewhere always come out in the negative sense. I am trying to avoid negative input.

Hawaii is a different place though. I think 99.5% of the world’s population think of Hawaii as a paradise – and I believe that it’s the closest place to paradise. Except of course, it has bugs, strong waves and ocean currents in some areas, and stormy weather sometimes and other things not present in paradise.

I really didn’t take that much photos, even with my smartphone. I’d rather soak in the experience. I wish I spent a few more minutes soaking it all in but I was still in a “rush” mode so I didn’t.  However, I felt that I slowed down a bit after the experience.

One of the places we went to was a private area which Hollywood uses for movie locations. It was lush but it doesn’t feel that you are in the wild. I felt that even if left alone in this place, I could easily survive on the fruits and the sugar cane and rainwater.  I could easily find help in a matter of days because if I keep walking on a straight path I will definitely reach a beach front. And people frequent beaches.

One of it’s mountain peaks boasts of being one of the rainiest place on earth – how’s 450 inches in one year? That would take San Diego about 30-45 years to reach that much rainfall. The same peak would be very hard to explore because all the rain makes it so slippery to walk or climb. Most of it remain untouched by humans.

In any place I visit, I attribute the coolness factor of a place based on the food. And Hawaii doesn’t disappoint most of the time. There’s fresh tropical fruits and veggies. And for pescetarians – fresh fish abounds.  You like meat? I think all their beef are grass fed.

It seems that things slow a little bit when we are in the Islands. You can’t drive really fast because the roads are not designed for fast driving. There are stop signs in the middle of a long highway and when it rains, it forces drivers to slow down. The views are spectacular so driving fast will make us miss the unique scenery.

Would I like to move there? For extended vacations, I won’t have a problem. But for residence – I think it would be hard for me to live in an island. Maybe I would feel too restricted on what I can do. But since I stay home most of the time, hate crowds, hate traffic, love pretty views, prefer a less hurried life – I think I’m compatible with island living. So if I get asked the same question five years from now – I might have a different answer.


Longer Drives

A few weeks ago it was really hot – as in a heatwave. Temperatures were 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some places. I experienced 108 degrees for the first time. My previous record was 105. To those who live in the desert this is nothing new. I’m a newcomer to desert living – and to me this is something unpleasant.

After sunset, I noticed the temperature went down to 99. It actually felt pleasant even though on any regular summer day, I would consider 99 to be oppressive. So it’s all relative I guess. The harder the experience, the easier life feels later even if there’s still hardships. Does that mean we should train or work harder so things get easier?  I can’t really answer that for you but here’s another life experience:

After our move to a new residence, my work commute was somewhere between 42 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. My previous commute took only 27 minutes. My best commute time in the last few years was 12 minutes from 2009 through end of 2014. My shortest ever was about five minutes but that was in the early 90’s.

But then, the worst was yet to come.

My wife and I picked up my grandson James from a location close to the coast. The drive to it took about an hour but the return trip took us around two and a half hours (including a quick stop for early dinner) due to traffic accidents. I was dizzy after driving that long even though it was only about 100 miles total.

The next day, we had a big fire next to the freeway we were about to drive through. Traffic slowed to a crawl. I mumbled that a crawling baby would probably get to the freeway exit before we can get there. It took us 1.5 hours to travel a little over 3 miles. But armed with the 3.5 horrendous drive the day before, I thought this time it will be a cakewalk. However, we had to turn around because the police temporarily closed the freeway.

So now I have two horrible drives under my belt. After that, everything seems easier. I drive more relaxed now and don’t even try to hurry up. I accelerate gently and not push the pace. I notice that maybe 90% of the people around me were doing the same thing. Every time traffic slows down to a crawl, I just have a quick flashback to the previous 3.5 hour of driving and it calms me down. I figured that long horrendous drive will be tough to beat.

I conclude that all my future drives to work will seem easier. It has been that way for several weeks now.


Cutting The Cord

I think I may have mentioned before that one of my objectives for a few years now is to completely cut off cable dependency?  No?  Well, maybe I did some hints in the past. But just recently my wife and I just decided to cut off cable television completely. Eight million U.S. household have done so – and now we are a member of this group.

I started watching cable many many moons ago. I really like the clearness of the connection. Before that I watched TV using an antenna. For those of you that has experienced watching an antenna fed TV, it was quite a chore to point the antenna to the right position and maybe add aluminum foil or two just to get some kind of decent reception.

Decades later, digital broadcasting was born, and then there is High Definition TV, now it’s 4K. The screen is getting very clear and sharper. The TV channels started increasing through the years. If you’re like me, you probably noticed that the high number of channels are inversely proportional to the number of channels you actually watch.

So what helped our decision to cut it completely? Ready for a long story? We moved to a semi-remote place in the Inland Empire. It’s not as glam as San Diego county but people here are nicer. The cable company lied to us a few times thinking that we didn’t have a choice but to hire them if we need cable.

What they didn’t expect is us saying no. In fact, I got at least three calls from different reps confirming our cancellation. I think it’s highly unbelievable to them that a customer would cut cable but they actually helped us in a big way. We refused to be held hostage to this kind of lousy service. I was with this company for at least 15 years, but they seem to have changed.

I won’t tell you which company but their first initial starts with 20th letter.

We actually feel liberated. We have internet connection and we use the web to watch shows or movies we want to watch when we want to watch, without commercial advertising. There’s quite a few apps or services providing those.

We have more time now and we spend only about 35% of what we used to pay the cable company for internet, cable and phone.

We have cut the cord and it feels good!


Off The Grid

We moved late last month to a new place. It was a long way from where we used to live – about 50 minutes if I drive conservatively, which I do less than half the time. I dreaded moving because we moved 9 times since 2003 (not counting this one). That’s about one move every 18 months. It included one trip overseas where we thought we would stay for the rest of our lives but it didn’t work out.

I was so happy to be back here after that experiment in living overseas. The best thing is once we came back in 2008, we only moved three times (including this move).

Every move requires adjustments: we lived in a big house, then moved to a small apartment then moved to an even smaller condo overseas, maybe 300 sq. We got used to the smallness but then came the roach and rat infestation. Within days, we moved out. At that point, I thought that we have reached bottom, and everything after that will be better. We learned “how to be abased and how to abound”.

But I wasn’t prepared for this latest move. The move was one of our fastest move  from the old location to the new one (five moving specialists helped us). But when we arrived we didn’t have internet, phone or cable access.  We had water, electricity, trash collection and mail service but since it’s kinda remote – the cable company took a little while in attaching the “cable” from the junction.

I consider it being off the grid. To get wifi, we went to the nearest fast food place two miles away. We have cellular access but I was afraid we will overload our monthly data usage so I seldom used it.

It has its benefits.  We spent more time talking, reading and devoted our time to unpacking, putting up curtains and adding a frosted film to a window for privacy. I think being less dependent on electronic communication frees up more time to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do.

The best benefit: We get to sleep more.

In a few days, we may go back online again. That is, if the cable company does not have another excuse why they can’t install it. Watch for the next episode!


Unsolicited Advice

I remembered when I was young and all I had to do is make a statement on people twice my age and I instantly get some form of advice or suggestion. For example, I mentioned once that I bought a used car (my first one for $300 payable in three months). One of the guys said “Why buy used?  When I was your age my first car was a brand new xxxxxx”.

Or this one, after I bought my very first brand new car:  “You know, you could have gotten it at $500 less more, because my friend bought one at a discounted price”.  Did I get irritated? Of course, but I didn’t show it.

But there is value to those statements.

Over the years, I learned that the best way to avoid a trouble-free car is to buy one of the top three brands and it’s widely known who they are. Then I kept it for at least 7-11 years, lowering the overall cost as the years rolled by.

It saved me from countless trips to the mechanic, and sweating out what’s wrong with it. Of course, this doesn’t happen to people that are knowledgeable with cars. At least before electronics took charge of the functioning of all types of vehicles.

I also learned to find the best bargains for major purchases from all the statements I heard from people. Of course, my “advisers” saying all those wise words were intent on giving me wisdom learned over the years. But it irritated me at first.

I may have over a two dozen relatives and more than four dozen friends and acquaintances that gave me advice all through the decades. Some I ignored but some I kept in my memory banks. Then when it’s time to use them, I take them out of my brain files and heeded their advice.

I think my parents even tried to mold me into becoming a businessman but I shied away from it, preferring to hang out with friends or do cool things other than becoming an entrepreneur. That’s one unsolicited advice that I didn’t choose to follow. Over the years, I think it was better that way because I needed to learn how it is start from the very bottom so I would appreciated people more.

One advice (in the unsolicited category) that I will appreciate for the rest of my life are the people that preached God’s teachings to me. It took decades before I fully understood what they’re talking about, but my life was so much better because of that.


The Invincible Young Me

I don’t know about you but when I was young (teenager and even years later) I felt almost invincible up to a certain point. I walked dark and suspect alleyways without any weapons on me but I felt that if anyone accosted me, I would feel sorry for the guy who tried it after a few minutes or so.

Another thing is eating vegetables:  When I was young our diet is consisted mostly of fish, rice and vegetables. I hated vegetables so when I had the chance of not eating it in my early twenties – I avoided it. I figured I didn’t need it. In fact one of my colleagues tried preaching to me about eating a vegetarian diet. But she has tons of pimples so I was thinking – maybe the vegetarian diet will be bad for my face too.

Then I reached middle age.

When one sickness after another started affecting me I started to think about getting a better diet. My wife and I went to a few licensed experts on nutrition and I get to slowly change my diet. Don’t get me wrong – I still eat unhealthy sometimes but no longer all the time so that’s progress.

Some kids learn early in life that they need to watch what they eat and I admire them. I never really took the time to learn what’s good nutrition because I preferred tasty food. The sweeter and fatter the better.  I had to live with the consequence.  I had a multiple bypass surgery at an early age which I think I could have avoided by having a healthy diet. My fitness was excellent because in the navy, we had mandatory fitness programs and evaluation. My nutrition, however – was mediocre.

I’m glad I had the chance to tweak my lifestyle a little bit, and eat more veggies, fruits and good grains. Would it help me live longer? Maybe! But it’s not about living longer but rather living a life free from pain and unnecessary illness.

Studies prove that at any age, if we change our nutrition to healthy choices, it will benefit us tremendously. We will experience a big improvement in our well being even if we are in our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

I am a good guinea pig for that lifestyle change. I suffer less pain and illnesses because of a newfound dietary inspiration. Don’t worry, I adapted to the change in taste after about three weeks of eating formerly “boring” food.

If I can do it, anybody can!