Levelling Up

Experiencing my life, its pain, its pleasure, leaving no path untaken, no heart piece uncollected

Crossfit - 07-30-2013

I got back into Crossfit. I hated it when I did it three years ago, but I kept thinking about it. How it would discipline me, how I liked the variety of it. So, here goes nothing again!

Today’s WOD was a progressively increasing AMRAP of power cleans, toe-to-bars, and kettleball swings, increased on the order of 3. I got to my set of 12s but didn’t finish the power cleans.

Man, what I do to get this body back into gear!


"There will be bodily resurrection." With hearing that, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of serenity, and tears welled up in my eyes uncontrollably.

Death. As a child, you really don’t think about death. At least, I didn’t. The first time I experienced death was when my mother’s mother, Nanay, passed away sometime in the early ’90s. That was the first time I saw my father cry, and I missed her so much after she was gone. But I still didn’t think that much of death. It seemed so far away, so foreign.

It was only sometime in college when I was faced with death. When I fell asleep at the wheel of my car on the way home from college was when I first got the sense that death was possible, was immediate, and was close to home. I started to realize that death could happen to me. It could happen to anyone around me, and, not only that, it would happen to people around me eventually. That realization made me closer to my parents because I wanted to know them better as people and not just as parents. It made me more compassionate and more hungry to take advantage of life.

Yet, death scared me. Not for me. At some point I accepted that I was going to die. Of course, I convinced myself that it would only be in old age when I passed. I was scared for my parents, my brother and sister, my family and friends. And, very recently, my fiancee.

I was scared because death made me doubt my faith. I asked myself, “What if death is it? What if it’s final? What if there’s nothing after it?” And, thinking of all the people I loved and have come to love, I screamed in my head, “THEN IT’S NOT ENOUGH!” All these people whom I care so much about…to think that I’d never see them again. To see them smile or hear them laugh. To hug them, to tell them I love them. Death made me scared that this life was all the time I had with them. And, yes, I told myself that I’d better appreciate my time with them. That these years and years—I better fill my life with their happiness. But it still nagged at me that that time, the time here on this earth, was still finite. And it wasn’t enough.

So, this past weekend at an Engaged Encounter weekend, when we were given the opportunity to ask questions about marriage anonymously, I asked, ” ‘Til death do us part.’ Does that mean we won’t see each other or be with each other in the afterlife?”

The priest who answered the question first admitted that we don’t know much about the afterlife. But he said that Scripture tells us that there would be some sort of bodily resurrection…and I cried.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when we die, but I’m not scared anymore. My faith tells me that someway, somehow my loved ones and I will be together. And, though I don’t know what will happen, I am comforted by my faith. And, for now, that’s all I need.

No More Grasshopper-y Ways

The Grasshopper and the Ants (one of Aesop’s Fables)

In a field one summer’s day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content.  A group of ants walked by, grunting as they struggled to carry plump kernels of corn.

"Where are you going with those heavy things?" asked the grasshopper.

Without stopping, the first ant replied, “To our ant hill.  This is the third kernel I’ve delivered today.”

"Why not come and sing with me," teased the grasshopper, "instead of working so hard?" 

"We are helping to store food for the winter," said the ant, "and think you should do the same." 

“Winter is far away and it is a glorious day to play,” sang the grasshopper.

But the ants went on their way and continued their hard work.

The weather soon turned cold.  All the food lying in the field was covered with a thick white blanket of snow that even the grasshopper could not dig through.  Soon the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger.

He staggered to the ants’ hill and saw them handing out corn from the stores they had collected in the summer.  He begged them for something to eat.

"What!" cried the ants in surprise, "haven’t you stored anything away for the winter?  What in the world were you doing all last summer?"

"I didn’t have time to store any food," complained the grasshopper; "I was so busy playing music that before I knew it the summer was gone."

The ants shook their heads in disgust, turned their backs on the grasshopper and went on with their work.

When I first started working, I couldn’t spend money fast enough. Clothes—sure. Pay for everyone’s dinner—why not? Online shopping—thank you 21st century! But, now, I wonder where all my money has gone. Now, when I have a clear future that I am building, I wonder why I couldn’t put some away for the rainy days and the just-in-cases and the times when my kids will ask for “just this one thing ever.”

Of course, they* try to teach you when you’re young. They try to tell you that you need to save money for later, but, when you’re young, when is later? In an hour? The next day? A year seemed like a whole lifetime back then! And, now, a year passes by in a second. In a blink of an eye, a year passes, now your whole life could be different…my whole life is completely different.

So enough of those grasshopper-y ways for me. Winter is coming, and I need to focus like the ants.

*they - my parents, teachers, cartoons

Language is beautiful

I have come to believe that the written word is an important, albeit taken for granted, way of expressing ourselves.* That a well placed period can have such gravity or finality. That one exclamation point, not three to five, is enough to express passion.

Today, the desire for immediacy has devolved the written word to acronyms and txt-speak. Though I would have to admit that I use the occasional LOL or ttys, to me, well written text is almost an art form, one that is slowly dying.

This post I found about the poem “Fish’s Night Song” only confirms that to me. Though it is nonsensical inasmuch as no actual words are in the poem, there are many beautiful interpretations of it—both visual and meaningful. Fascinating.

*Thank you Mr. Cooper (my high school English teacher)!

Paranoid Android

The public pool: you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.*

It was only at the exact moment that my niece jumped into the kiddie section of the pool did I notice things I hadn’t noticed before. It was as if, when her feet left the pavement, time stood still, and I was able to look around. And what I saw was atrocious.

Babies in the water with their diapers on. Kids spitting pool water out of their mouths. Countless other things that they let you get away with at public pools. And, based on my past experience, -er, I mean, based on statistical data collected in the past, almost all those kids were peeing in the pool at that exact moment. I could only imagine what was happening at the microscopic level: germs commingling with bacteria, having a pool party with margaritas.

But my niece didn’t seem to care. Armed with her floaties, she went wherever she pleased. At some point she grew tired of wading around the foot-deep water in the kiddie section, got out of the water, ran to the deep end, and jumped in. This was the first time I was in charge of keeping an eye on her at the pool, so this literally made my jaw drop. Panicked, I stood up and was about to run over there and jump in the water to save my little 3-year-old niece.

On a tangent, it’s funny what your mind thinks about in these kinds of situations. Of course, I was thinking about saving my niece, recalling all that I had learned in my CPR course. But I was also thinking about how my cellphone would get wet, wondering about what kind of phone that I’d get to replace it, and I was also thinking about how I’d probably swallow some pee in the water when I jumped in. But back to my impending Baywatch moment!

It turns out I didn’t have to save my niece. Those floaties allowed her to, well, float in the deep end. And she was having the time of her life.

*Obiwan Kenobi, introducing Luke Skywalker to Mos Eisley

Full Circle

"You do it!" she exclaimed.

"Oh…uh…okay…" I stammered.*

I was standing in the bathroom over my 3-year-old niece, who was sitting on the toilet. Holding four, neatly folded squares of toilet paper, I had just asked my niece if she wanted to do it or if she wanted me to do it. “Do it” meant helping her clean herself up after her doing some business on the toilet.

You have to keep in mind that this was my first time to babysit her and her brother all by myself. Well, there were a couple of times before, but babysitting sleeping kids doesn’t count. Plus, this was my first time helping a kid with the final procedures of a “toilet transaction.” Finally, keep in mind that when I asked her what she had just done in the toilet, she proclaimed triumphantly, “Doo-doo!”

One of my first memories ever is of me sitting on the toilet and my Tita Bhabes helping me clean up. Looking back on it, it seems like such a simple task: grab some toilet paper and wipe—bam, done. And to have an adult do it for me, I would have to have been quite young not to grasp something that just seems so obvious to do.

My Tita Bhabes is my aunt-in-law. She didn’t have to help me. She could have refused. She could have passed the buck. She could have done anything but help me out. But she didn’t do any of those things. She helped me wipe my butt, and she didn’t complain about it. She just did it. And I am so grateful to her that she was there to help me when I was a wee toddler. I have so much love and admiration for her, not only for the bathroom thing, but, looking back on it, for everything else that she did for me and my family.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it takes a certain level to do that. A certain amount of love and maturity that the 21-year-old me probably did not have. And I’m surprised at myself for being at that level. There is no instruction manual given to you when you “grow up.” There is no call from a doctor saying, “Your blood work came back in. You’re grown up.” It just happens. There are choices you are faced with. Decisions you have to make that you never thought of making before. Things you just have to do because no one else is around, or you’re the best person for the job or because you love someone that much. You just do it. You don’t complain. You don’t seek out credit. You don’t wait for a pat on the back. You just do it. So, for me to realize that I’m at that level—it’s a bit surreal.

As I slowly reached down behind my niece, toilet paper extended, hand trembling, I was afraid of what I’d find. But when I pulled it back after the wipe, there was nothing. False alarm—just a peeing episode.

"All right. You’re all done. Just flush and come meet me outside."


I was jumping up for joy and doing a little dance in my head. There’s always the next time, but I’ll be there, toilet paper in hand.

*I wanted to start off with Darth Vader’s quote to Obiwan, “When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master,” but it didn’t quite fit the wiping-a-kid-on-the-potty situation.

The Name Game

"So, what’s my name then?"

When I flew to Seattle to finally meet my fiancee’s extended family and friends, who had hitherto been only Facebook profiles or subjects of fascinating stories told to me about “this one time when…,” I expected that I’d have to start memorizing names and memorizing names fast. In fact, on several occasions before the trip, I pleaded with Laya to make me a yearbook replete with photos, bios, likes, dislikes. I wanted to study that yearbook and be ready, but Laya tossed my pleas aside as jokes, leaving me to fend for myself in that cold, desolate wasteland of expectations.

So, when I got to Seattle and started meeting everyone, every chance I got, I would slowly scan the room of people and silently name them. I hadn’t put this much energy into memorizing something since I was required to memorize the capitals of all 50 states of the US. Istilldon’t know what the capital of South Dakota is,* so I wasn’t expecting much success. But I had to try.

The immensity of my task was not lost on me. So many Titas, Titos, names ending in -ia, daughters of this cousin, brother of that uncle. But I felt secure thateventuallyI would get everyone’s name down. That was until we all sat in a circle one night, and they asked me to name all of them out loud.

What?! This is preposterous! You can’t do this to me! There are rules you must obey; procedures you must follow. You didn’t give me sufficient notice!I have rights—the Fifth Amendment!

Thankfully, with a promise from me to accept the challenge at a later, albeit undetermined, date, they let me off the hook.

The great thing about memorizing things like state capitals or people’s names is that it becomes easier when you can attach some kind of meaning to the word you have to memorize. Something you can recall in your head to connect that word to that face or place.

And, after spending time with Laya’s family and friends, name remembering was easy. Not only that, but I was getting to know them. They weren’t just names and stories and 2D representations on the computer—these were the people that Laya cared about. These were the people she missed because we live in Texas, and these were the people she loved.

When we left Seattle, I’m pretty sure I still hadn’t gotten everyone’s names down, but I am certain that I know who those people are and what they mean.

*Google says it’s Pierre.

Cloak and Daggers

"She already knows, you know."

My friend Aubrey seemed to think that my girlfriend knew about my plan to propose to her. My grand scheme to get her the perfect engagement ring, to hand her a Viewmaster with the last picture on the reel being of me kneeling in front of her (picture and real life matching in location and my attire), to surprise her with a dinner whose guests included my close family, our close friends, and her mom and sister from out of town.

So began the game of cloak and daggers: the secret meetings with friends and family, the late-night phone call to her parents in a grocery-store parking lot, the quick glances over my shoulder when I was writing emails, and extra chairs for the dinner hidden in between my winter coats.

There were times when I thought my cover was blown. My girlfriend is very observant and likes to ask a lot of questions. When I took my road bike to use in a photograph of how we first met on a bike ride in Galveston, she called me and asked why my bike was missing from the guest room. A hasty answer about having to get my bike fixed after my triathlon season was sufficient but I thought I still heard a tinge of suspicion in her voice. And how many times does someone ask you if we have plans the weekend of the proposal? Certainly not as many times as she asked the weekdays leading up to the it.

The jig was up! She knew everything! She found the engagement ring in my North Face Apex jacket, tried it on, and put it back so I wouldn’t know she was on to me. She had cracked my Gmail account and was reading each and every email I sent to Aubrey, Catherine, and my sister—my main agents on this mission. She had tapped my phone and knew what to expect on Saturday.

In fact, it was all in my head. She had no idea what was in store for her that day, and my subterfuge made for a perfect proposal.

We woke up on Saturday with her thinking we had no plans other than to do our workouts in the morning, eat lunch at our favorite restaurant Ruggles Green, and then go to the mall. Aubrey had the mission of taking photographs of the actual proposal at the Japanese Gardens in Hermann Park, and I told him to be in his hiding spot at 5:45pm. So, I had plenty of time to kill before then.

The physical act of killing time is easy. It’s the mental toll that’s the hard part. There’s the thousands of glances at the watch. There’s the constant thought stream of “okay, if we leave here at X time, then we’ll arrive there at Y time.” And, of course, there are the doubts that everything planned will fall apart or be found out. But with everything set for the proposal, I could do nothing but hope that everything worked out.

It was hot that afternoon at Hermann Park. Hot and humid. Which was bad because I was sweating like crazy, but it was good because that made my excuse of carrying a bag with bottled waters and a towel plausible to Laya. In fact, the bag held my personalized Viewmaster. As we walked onto the bridge in the Japanese Gardens of Hermann Park, and as Aubrey stood by behind a tree ready to take pictures, the one thousand and one voices of my conscience shouted in unison, “This is it!”

As Laya was clicking through each picture of the Viewmaster, slowly understanding what its purpose was, I knelt down on one knee. I fumbled for the ring in my pocket, hoping what I picked out would match how I felt about her. When she finished going through the pictures, she said, “I think I’m at the last picture…is this for real?”

I had to assure Laya, that, yes, this was for real. That my increasingly shaky hands were holding a ring, that the promise I made to her that I’d love her forever, that the question I was about to ask her—all of it was real. Even after my assurances, she was in shock, but she said yes.

And even on our way home from the park, she couldn’t believe it was real. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it was all real either. That all that secret scheming had come down to a “yes”—it hadn’t hit either of us that we were engaged.

But that all changed when Laya opened the door of our apartment. We were greeted by our family and friends. Greeted with words of congratulations, hugs, and tears. It became real at that point because it wasn’t just me and Laya in our own world anymore—other people knew about it too.

So it all worked out. She said yes and she knew nothing about it until it was happening. Aubrey was wrong.

Levelling Up

It’s a metaphor for my life.

And, more importantly, it’s the best sounding name of a tumblr blog that I could get that describes how I feel about my life and what focus I want this blog to take that hasn’t been taken by someone in Eastern Europe who last posted in 2007. (Seriously, try it. Think you have a cool-sounding name for a blog that’s catchy and rolls off the tongue?Taken.)

I chose levelling up because that’s what I’ve been doing with my life and what I continue to do in my life (and the gamer in me appreciates the metaphor like a warm, soft blanket on a cold winter’s day). Every time that I think I’ve figured life out or feel that the me at a certain point in time will be the me for the rest of my life, I come to find out that there’s more to life. There’s a new level to explore.There’s more growing. More living.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not the type who likes to oversimplify things in one cliche. No “life is like a video game.”It’s not! Again, coolest name I could get + warm blanket.

This blog will be mundane. It will be exciting. If it’s like my 6-7 other blogs in the past, it will be deleted in a few months. But, hopefully, it will be a place for me to share my thoughts, my adventures, and things that I’ve picked up on the way.

So, enjoy.