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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

31 January, 2012

A Year in the Life, part II

Hi, here's the second half of my 2011 recap. Enjoy.
Nationals. This trip would be our big family vacation. We’d stay at our friend’s place in Marina, just outside of Monterey, and the tournament was in San Jose. So, right now, I can say “yes” to Dionne Warwick. I do know the same to San Jose. I loved it there. Even the drive was nice. Everything was great - fantastic scenery, great farmers’ markets, cool and no humidity weather. We stayed with my wife’s friend Marsh, also a martial artist and a Monterey firefighter. Jude was so comfortable with Marsh. Guada, Marsh and Marsh’s girlfriend got to show Jude the Monterey Aquarium, where she works, and Jude got to feed the seals. I wasn’t able to go because I shot into San Jose to train and watch a friend compete in her division - a new friend, mind you, I’d made through the seminar and test in June – but just knowing my son was able to experience something as cool as feeding the seals made me happy.
Nationals itself was nice. I attended a small but meaningful opening ceremony. Each state walked in with signs, just like the countries do in the Olympics, and we heard opening speeches, pledged an oath to compete fairly and we watched some Taekwondo demonstrations. Was I excited after that? Heck, yeah! I couldn’t wait for the tournament to begin.
My actual competition was on the Saturday before July 4. There were 11 competitors in my division and I went right to the staging area. There, I warmed up, practiced my forms, relaxed. Then I’d repeat. While doing so, there were others doing the same thing. There were also lots of US team members, some I’d seen and competed against in Team Trials. What made Nationals and the year’s return to Taekwondo so rewarding was this: not only did I get to introduce my son to the thing I love, but, at Nationals, some US team members came up to me and greeted me by name. They’d remembered me from Trials and said they’d wished they could’ve helped me at Trials because they knew I was doing the forms the old way. I had pictures taken with some of them and made Facebook connections, too. We’re not all ‘buddy buddy’ and I’m nowhere close to becoming an elite athlete but I feel like I’ve become a part of the larger Taekwondo community. It’s easy to be the master of my school and keep it local and simple. To be a part of the entire community, however,  – making connections with US team members (one, incidentally, Facebooked me a birthday greeting today), making connections with the state association masters (the president served as my coach when I competed at Nationals), making friends in and through Taekwondo around the country – is what doing anything is about. Even as a writer. To make connections through the WDC and with other writers via Twitter, puts everything into perspective: that there’s a whole world out there that I am but a small part of and, yet, I can help it grow; that I do have a part to play.
I came tenth at Nationals. I thought I’d done well enough to place higher but I can accept my position. This was my first time doing this and, really, I pursued so intently for Jude. Sure, I did have notions and hopes – however, very thin ones – that I might medal but it’s okay that I didn’t. I committed, competed and have no doubts or regrets. If I do it again this year, I’ll be better prepared.
Things settled down and got back to normal. I still trained but didn’t have a tournament to compete in. I also saw myself in the mirror and noticed that I’d dropped a good 15 pounds and several inches around my waistline. There’s still a long way to go but I’m heading in the right direction.
My wife’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Due to scheduling and budgeting, we couldn’t all go to Manila and celebrate with them so my wife went and I stayed in New Jersey with our son and dog. It was an interesting and fun father-son bonding time but it was also a little scary. I didn’t know if Jude was going to meltdown every day without his mother but he did fine. We enjoyed going to the pool, playing soccer in the park and watching movies. I wouldn’t want to play ‘single parent’ all the time but it was a nice, like I said, father-son bonding time.
This month also saw me take over, again, as head volleyball coach at my district’s high school. My second time around in this position, I knew better what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve and how to go about doing it. We had some success and some failures – and most of the credit goes to the players – but we did get to do things our volleyball team hasn’t done it a long time. We beat some of the ‘bigger’ title contending teams. We advanced to the second round of our county tournament. Some of our players were voted onto the all-conference team.
Also in this month, I made the decision to indie-publish my novel. I’d gotten lots of praise for it but no one wanted to pick it up and I found that not finding a place for it was stifling my other writing pursuits. So, I decided to self-publish and so began my foray into being a publisher, of sorts. Sure, I wish I could’ve gotten a nice fat advance and all that but, especially for a first book, I’m okay with self-publishing. There are lots of reasons why agents didn’t pick up my work. It doesn’t have to mean my novel is junk. There are simple taste reasons, economy reasons, including shifts in the publishing business with e-books, who knows? Maybe I was just targeting the wrong agents.
It’s funny but these months really didn’t have much going on. Yes, the volleyball season ended in November with the team having done better than it has in recent years. Yes, there was Halloween and the strange snowfall before it. And, of course, there’s Thanksgiving but, really, nothing much happened to write about.
We did take Jude to see The Radio City Christmas Spectacular for the first time and its magic and the glamour of the Hall got to him, even as a three year old, instantly. “This is amazing,” is what he said. He actually said those words. I love the show. It’s a fun and meaningful program and I was ecstatic that he loved it, too. I hope he continues to enjoy it as he gets older and, hopefully, after I’m long gone, he can take his children and they’ll enjoy it too.
Oh, and about that freak snow storm, it really put me in a foul mood for weeks. I was in Brooklyn, with my wife, a mile or so away from Dumbo and The Powerhouse Arena, when the snow really started to come down. We were on our way to the Page Turner Festival, the annual literary festival and awards event hosted by The Asian American Writers’ Workshop. I’ve always wanted to attend but something always got in the way. This year, having committed to publishing my book, I bought tickets and we were set. As much as wanting to attend the event and hear speakers talk about their work, I also wanted to make some connections as an Asian-American writer, to get my book out and all that.  Well, so near yet so far. The snow forced us to go home. It’s a good thing we did because we would’ve gotten trapped in Brooklyn otherwise. As it was, we got stranded in Newark when the train wouldn’t go and our friend had to get us in his 4x4.
Christmas this year was very special. With Jude more aware of things, the idea of Santa became very real to him. So, Guada and I played it up. As a result, Christmas was brilliant. Jude loved it; getting into the songs, lights, decorations, the gifts, the food, everything. For me, his excitement brought back a renewed joy for the season. I love Christmas but there always seems to be a touch of melancholy around the holidays. Through Jude, I got to feel his innocence and unblemished enjoyment of all things Christmas.
So, that’s what I have to look back on in 2011. As I venture in my 44th year of life, let’s see what comes with it. My novel will be out in February. Maybe it’ll lead to some things big and exciting. The marketing people at the publisher think it’ll make for a good movie. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get on that US Poomsae team; with dual citizenship, if not the US one, how about Team Philippines?
I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. If you didn’t know me, now you do. I’d like to get to know my readers, too. What stands out for you in 2011? What do you have planned for 2012?

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