November 20, 2017

Choices - A Follow Up

I wrote a few weeks ago about some difficulties in getting our children to sleep. Actually, there have been a couple posts about it...I guess this is just the season we're in. Anyway, I found something that really works that I thought would be a good follow-up, and hopefully worth the share.

Katie and I have based a lot of our parenting style on the Love and Logic books, which seem to be doing pretty well for us. One of the big things that they preach is giving your child choices, all of which result in situations you are okay with. This is done in order to make your child feel like he or she has some degree of control of said situation, putting forth that many of our battles with the little ones are about control. So naturally, giving control away should help alleviate the problem.

We have done it with our oldest, but I didn't think the younger one was ready for it yet. However, when trying to get her to nap, it seems that the best thing that works has been to give her lots of choices during the nap time process. "Do you want this blanket or that one? Do you want your socks on or off? Do you want to lay on this side or that side of the bed?" All of these things are inane decisions, but it gives her several ways to control the situation based on a decision she has no control over: whether or not to take a nap.

I have been surprised at how well this works, even for a one year-old, and so I thought I would share. I hope it helps!

November 13, 2017

Difficulties in Endeavors

I wrote last week on our new adventures in sleeping/napping. In the midst of change, I had a thought I'd like to share here...

If you read that last post, you know we have recently moved both of our daughters into one bedroom. I have to admit I was kind of excited about the idea in a way. We have always talked about the girls sharing a room later on, my wife and I preferring to live a little more simply with smaller spaces. My youngest's enhanced ability to climb just sped up the transition.

The night of the incident, as we moved Waverly's matters into Ellie's room and moved out Ellie's bed, both became extremely excited at the prospect of sleeping in the same room. They wanted their mattresses next to each other, so they could be closer, and then proceeded to jump on them like trampolines. Great, I thought, this will be easy, they love it already! Not so. Even after keeping them up late because of a church meeting, Waverly did not take to the new bed well. Ellie prefers more lights on in her room than Waverly, and Waverly isn't used to the freedom to get out of bed. I figured these things would happen, and that the transition would just take time; but it also made me think of something else: We often get really excited about a new idea or new adventure, but when it comes time to actually perform the task at hand, somehow we lose steam.

Ellie and Waverly were pumped to sleep in the same room, but when the reality hit, it was difficult. Ellie kept asking for Waverly to go sleep "out there," and Waverly wanted the same thing. The fun disappeared as the work began. I have seen this happen countless times with creative projects, with myself and others. We have a great idea for a script, movie or concept album even; but when we hit a snag with the outline, or songs don't fall from the sky, it's easy to lose steam. More often, a newer, more fun idea hits, and the previous one takes a backseat. Well, do this enough times, and you end up with about a dozen or so half-finished ideas, and nothing to show for it.

The same applies to most endeavors in life that don't have to get done. Your sink backs up and you rarely lost steam fixing it -- that needs to be addressed. But if you get an idea to build your kids a play set in the garage, or you decide to buy fog lights for your car and install them yourself -- things like this can be delayed when the actual work hits.

Maybe it's kind of odd how my mind went from my kids learning to sleep to this, but I think I've seen enough abandoned projects to note it and then want to share. The solution, I believe, is two-fold. First, be a finisher. "Bickerstaffs are finishers," I tell my family, and I believe it. Finish what you start, whenever it is in your power to do so. If you get a new, "better" idea in the midst of the first one, write it down and revisit it later. (This has applied heavily to me in writing projects.)

Second, involve other people that won't let you quit. Accountability Partners the church-world calls them. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, sometimes for good. If others are expecting you to finish that book, and continually ask about it, you just might do it. They will also help refine your ideas, helping you to invest in the best ones and leave behind the rest. This principle also applies to heavier things, like your marriage or an important job. Telling your friends you are thinking of ditching out of something like that, and their words may just keep you in the boat long enough to go the distance.

As for us -- the girls went to sleep in about 30-45 minutes. That's not so bad. Maybe tomorrow will be less and the day after even less. Just one step closer to our tiny house near the beach with a chicken coop in the backyard and a halfpipe too. Maybe next I need to replace the "white noise" sound machine with the soothing sounds of skateboarding and rooster calls!

November 10, 2017

Stormy Skate

Rain is the enemy of skateboarding. It rusts your bearings, ruins your trucks, mushes up your board and diminishes your grip tape. It's no wonder why California is the skateboarding mecca of the world -- because it never rains there. Growing up, a rainy day would spell certain disaster on any attempt at a skate adventure. Many-a-times I made plans to hang out at a friends house, certain to skate, and ended up only playing skateboarding video games instead, longingly watching the rain drip sadly down a clear glass pane, like tears down my sad pimply teenage face.

The other day my wife went for a run after work, and then came home and told me I better go skateboarding quick because it was about to rain (I have a good wife). I rushed out the door and into a super windy session at the nearest skatepark to me. It was fun skating in stormy weather, the leaves flying around as the trees were jostled about like broccoli flung across the dinner table by my as long as the rain held out, that is. Which it didn't. I got a few tries on a fakie frontside flip I've been working on, but the ramp quickly got too slick and therefore too dangerous (I am a responsible father, you know).

Though the ramp was wet, a ledge nearby was dry enough to keep skating, and so I did, despite the ground spotting up with rain drops. Actually, the ledge slid better because of the water, so I was all over the place with out of control crooked grinds and wild 50-50s. I was working on a full-length crooked grind to 180 out, and then a frontside nosegrind (those things have eluded me lately), trying desperately to land one before my grip tape changed colors -- a sure sign it is time to leave. Here is a video of what came out of it, just a few shots with a little song I'm also working on.

So why am I wasting internet space (and your time) writing all of this? The whole thing just reminded me of the yonder days, skating no matter what, desperate to land the trick despite the odds. Many times I skated into the dark of the night, soaking wet with sweat and my feet hurting, begging my friends to stick around to keep video taping because I was so close to landing the trick. Those days have slowly disappeared the older I've gotten, but every once in a while they creep up again and remind me of the passion I had, and still have, for skateboarding.

Sure, my body won't hold out like it used to, and I rarely have more than an hour to skate before I have to get back to the girls. But I still love it and am still learning new tricks. In a way, that night's slick session is what this blog is about -- maintaining your passions throughout the changes of life.

Our responsibilities will grow and free time will lessen, but the things that once made you come alive still likely do just that, and so you should keep pursuing them, as long as they don't throw the rest of your life out of balance. Your family will thank you as they have a man or woman of passion to follow, knowing that you are rested and ready for each day, having recharged doing the things you love. I don't think we were designed to totally abandon everything that makes us individuals, just because we become parents. Of course, I write that in knowing that selflessness is a must in parenting; but again, it all must stay in balance.

As I examine all of the arts and actions that interest me, I find that one of my favorite things to do is inspire people to dream and chase after more. More of God, more of life, more adventure, more risk. Our God is too good to not expect more. So try something new today, or pick up something you used to love doing but haven't done in a while. Then let me know how it goes! I hope it's fun, brings you joy and won't break your arm.

November 6, 2017

The Disappearance of Nap Time

Ask any parent and they will tell you that nap time is pretty much the only respite you get while parenting. I recently spoke with a dad to a one year-old who still naps twice a day. Ah, I remember those days, I thought with a tinge of jealousy. Nap time is when parents can sort-of get things done (quietly, of course), and maybe even rest a bit themselves. I mentioned in another post that our oldest hasn't napped much in the past several months, but our youngest is still pretty solid on once a day. Well, a couple weeks ago, this happened:

That's our youngest climbing out of her crib. We had put her to bed one night and, after a little crying, heard a knock at the door. There she was, standing on the floor. "Did you put her in her crib?" my wife asked me, which I did. We put her back in the crib and left a phone on a table to record the video. Sure enough, she climbed out in less than a minute.

Of course I am proud of her physical prowess and climbing abilities, but this was a blow, especially after we thought we had had a bed time victory not two weeks before. Our solution was to put both girls' mattresses on the floor in Ellie's room and let them sleep together, which is fine since they will likely share a room later anyway -- we're just speeding up our plans. It went alright that night, but the next problem was a little less easily resolved: what would become of nap time?

Over the next few days, I tried putting them both to bed for a nap: no dice. Even if the youngest is tired, the oldest will keep her up. I put Waverly's mattress back in her crib for a nap time and let the older do "rest time." This worked a little, but with Waverly's newfound abilities, she has to be pretty tired to go down quietly. And so, every day we just wade through uncharted waters, trying new things to get her to bed. Sometimes I stand there and rub her back to coax her to sleep. Sometimes I'm too exhausted myself to do that and just give up on the whole thing altogether. Let them play a little while I try to rest or get things done, and then maybe do some TV time in the late afternoon so I can finish up or cook dinner.

I wish I could finish this blog post with some solid lesson I learned, or even a tip to get the kids to go to bed more easily, but such is not the truth. I am writing this post while Ellie makes an art project and Waverly is (thankfully) sleeping after a busy morning at a friend's house. Who knows what tomorrow holds for this once sacred time? Every day is a coin toss of unpredictability and hope. One thing I do know is that it is with a heavy heart that I learn to let go of one of the last little bits of personal time we parents enjoy. This gift of God for weary moms and dads to make the already difficult transition into parenthood a little less abrupt.

Or maybe this is it, and "my time" is gone. I guess that's parenthood -- forced selflessness. So if these blog posts get a little shorter or less frequent, now you know why! 

October 30, 2017

Jah Works #2: Music - 200th Blog!

"Think about how many songs you have stored in your brain," I remember telling my co-worker Angie during some down-time while working at Baskin Robbins. "Is there a better way to spread ideas than through music?" I said, with a hopeful glint in my eye. Okay, maybe I didn't have a glint in my eye -- after all, I couldn't see myself in the dull reflection of ice cream-stained plexiglass -- but I imagine that I did.

I was finishing up high school at the time, and getting really into music. My punk band, Minus the Standard, was a lot of fun, and we were actually playing some small shows. Even though the end of high school and different colleges brought about the dismemberment of what I'm sure was to be the next MxPx (Who is MxPx?, the collective readership asks...), I was all about music and investing most of my graduation money in a new guitar, amp and pedal board. I was also writing some of the best songs to-date, though I had no avenue to share it.

MTS at Charleston Baptist Church
Fast forward twelve years and most of those songs have still not been heard by human ears. Music has been a funny journey for me. I got started playing the viola in 5th grade, thanks to my aunt who kept hers from when she was in middle school. The thing was old, smelled bad and was too big for me, but a friend of mine was playing in the orchestra, so I wanted to be there too. It's funny how God lines up things like that, because, had I played the violin, that would have very likely been the end of my musical career. The big thing to do at my elementary school was to try out for the School of the Arts, which I did, for both Visual Arts (drawing, painting, etc.) and Orchestra. I think I was only one of about three people who auditioned for the viola, but one of a hundred for art. I wasn't all that great at viola, but where there is great need, those with lack of talent flourish; and so when I didn't get into the art program, but was accepted into the orchestra, I wasn't about to turn them down.

In the orchestra I made friends with a skinny violinist named Eric, through whom I later came to know Christ. He was sold out on Jesus and I, a moderate church-goer at the time, enjoyed our interactions. We were into the same Christian bands, Five Iron Frenzy, Blindside, Switchfoot, and so when his church went to Creation Festival 2000, I couldn't wait to go. Little did I know that God was working on my heart, taking me down a path in pursuit of popularity in the months prior that brought me away from God. That summer I was ready to admit my need for him, and accepted Christ on the first night of the music festival.

That moment literally changed my life. Eric and I continued to be friends, later starting Minus the Standard with a friend Heath, and one of my best friends in the world, Jason, both of which also attended Creation Festival. (The band name was an homage to humanity's always falling short of God's standard, thus emphasizing our need for a savior.) I played a sick flying-V guitar in the band, a gift from my uncle, who is still one of the best guitar players I've ever known. During that time I also started playing in my youth group worship band (with that same flying-V), which gave me tons of experience playing in front of people, complete with plenty of embarrassing moments. (Like the time I was supposed to start the song, but couldn't remember how it went. During the prayer before, I leaned to the guitar player next to me and asked if he knew. "No," he replied with a laugh and a shrug. When I started, I just strummed something that was totally wrong. It nearly fell apart, but the drummer kept it together. Lesson learned -- never stop playing.)

The cover for our album, "Campfood," available somewhere...
I later picked up drums and bass guitar, playing in a band after college called Campfield with one of my best friends, Chris and our drummer Roger (a good friend now, but I didn't know him well at the time). The whole time I was writing songs independently, but the one thing I wasn't doing much of was singing. I had a public speaking professor in college tell me I should try singing, based on the tone-quality of my voice, but I dismissed her. Others gave me the chance, but it was something I just couldn't bring myself to do, outside of quiet recordings in meager attempts to get songs out of my head. The idea of hearing my own voice just jolted me, made me uncomfortable, terrified me. It still does most of the time, actually.

Still, music came easy and it seemed to be something God was leading me into. I made most of the music for the movies I was making, and continued to write some. I made a couple attempts at starting a band with others, but it never seemed to pan out. Even when we did play, I was pretty nervous to sing my songs. (It doesn't take much to know that that makes for a weak band practice.)

One big moment in the midst of this was when we were going to Ecclesia Church in Hollywood. A expert on prophecy came in one day and gave a talk on how to hear from God. Then he concluded by going through the crowd and pointing out people he thought God had given him a word for. After several folks, mostly agreeing with what he said, he took a look at me and said, "You in the blue shirt...I've been avoiding you." I don't know why he said that, but whatever... "I just see the word 'music' over your head, does that mean anything?" I played it cool, but the thought excited me. Music? God wants me to do music? Film was my interest at the time, with music certainly being a part of it, but never the focus. I left that day encouraged, but also a little lost. "Music" is a big topic and can mean a lot of different things. Which did it mean for me?

They call me a closet musician...
A year or so later, I was playing in the worship band at a church plant called Kehila, and on one fateful weekend practice, the worship leader told me she wanted everyone to sing something during the church service. I choked up, overcome by nervousness. But deep down, I was excited for the chance. I had passed it up so, so many times before, and now I was being pushed into it. (I regret to inform you that often times that is the only way I accomplish anything -- with a push. I even wrote a song about it one time!)

Anyway, the Sunday morning service went okay and I sang in public, "Beautiful Things" by Gungor. I later went on to sing a few more times at the church, mostly during our "Folk Sundays" (I picked up the banjo and harmonica during this time too), and they all went fine. My voice was weak, unrefined. I struggled with pitchiness, which is a cardinal sin I remember, from all those early American Idol episodes I watched with my parents as a kid.

Rehearsing for our second Folk Sunday
During this season, I had a mentor who God very clearly placed in my life. We met a few times in his amazing house on a hill overlooking the ocean in San Juan Capistrano, with the purpose of helping me find what God wanted me to do in life. As he looked at my life map, with all the ups and downs I had detailed, he quickly concluded, "I see music all over this thing." I agreed, but didn't know what to do about it. "Can you lead worship?" he asked. "Not well," I replied with honesty, and it was true. My voice is pretty deep and most worship music is for the masses. We pressed on in our course with only the conclusion that I should probably work in ministry and in music, but that conversation always stuck with me.

About this time I was a stay-at-home dad and had a little more time to invest in creative activities. Also about the same time, my friends Alex and Arne lost their jobs, and so with our increase in free time, also came a lot more recording. I was writing more music than ever, having spent much of my commuting hours the two years prior recording songs onto my cell phone while driving. Combine this with all those years of writing and not showing, and I had quite the list of songs. We recorded a lot, one of us watching Ellie in the other room while the other sang or played. It was fun, and a lot of creative stuff came out of it.

The drive to play live during those two years was also there, but I never could bring myself to get out in public and play something. About that time, I had a telling dream. I was standing in what seemed like the busiest street that runs through Hermosa Beach, not too far from where we lived. Over some kind of loud speaker, on the radio, I heard one of my songs playing, but it wasn't me singing. I then heard a voice, or felt an impression rather: "If you don't sing these songs, someone else will." My next thought was one of insecurity, and then, Well, even if I don't sing, at least I know they are good enough to be on the radio. The impression was so clear that I know it was from God. A couple years later I had another dream, again pushing me into music.

My second open mic night ever
And so, here I am, all these years later and still mediocrely pursuing the thing that God seems to have been pushing me into all along. What is wrong with me?! Insecurity, fear, logic -- it doesn't really make sense that anything could come out of my voice. I'm really not that great of a singer. But hey, if God tells you to do something, you do it, right? That is why music is part of this website, even though most of my blogging has been about God, fatherhood and surfing in the past.

I am reading a book my wise wife gave me called Restless by Jennie Allen, and it is bringing all of this stuff about music back up in me again. So far Music has been like a wandering companion, one of those friends you see for a while and connect, and then don't see again, often for years. The next time he drifts into your life, it feels like no time has passed and you immediately enjoy each other's company; but just like that, in a season he is gone. You know you will see him again sometime in the future, but you don't know when.

Well, this time I'm hoping Music stays. I regret the days of setting aside something God has so clearly placed in my heart and am working now to explore the reason he put it all there. If you have read this far, thank you for investing even that much in my journey. I will work hard not to disappoint, as I clumsily navigate these steps of realizing what I have to say and what it means for the world to hear it. After all, music is one of the best way to spread ideas, right?


By the way, this is the 200th blog post I have published! Thanks for those who have been reading since #1, and those who just jumped in. I always appreciate a listening ear and attentive eye. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing all of it!